“Jesus says that the only kind of power that shall characterize the disciple community is the power of servanthood, of slavery, of sacrificing oneself for others.”1
- Through the whole transfiguration experience in Mark 9:2-8, Jesus says and does nothing.
- The reference to Gehenna (hell; Mark 9:45) is derived from the name “Valley of Hinnom,” which was a literal garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. This is the only reference to Gehenna in the book of Mark.
- When the Pharisees come to test Jesus about marriage and divorce (10:1-12), they are in the region where John the Baptist was thrown into prison for taking a stand on the divorce and remarriage of Herod and Herodias.
- The name Bartimaeus (10:46-53) means “Son of Honour.” This is the only time Mark gives the name of the person that Jesus has healed.
Marriage & Divorce
In Mark 10:1-12, Jesus has the opportunity to teach the Pharisees about marriage and divorce. These texts, among others (Matt. 19:9; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor. 7). For people in the church who are struggling in deteriorating marriages frustrated to figure out what the Bible’s word is on marriage and divorce, it is more helpful to focus on marriage texts, rather than divorce texts. In Mark, this is exactly what Jesus is doing.
The Pharisees want to know when it is okay to divorce someone but Jesus refocuses his answer on God’s intention to preserve marriages. It’s unclear as to exactly what situation Jesus had in mind as he was describing this. Perhaps he is addressing a situation where a man finds another woman more attractive than his own wife. He then divorces his wife and marries the other woman in order to pursue his attraction. Jesus responds to this by saying that, in this case, even if he had gone through the legality of divorcing her, it is still adultery. The man has given into his lusts after a woman who is not his wife. He has not followed God’s ideal for the existing marriage.
People often find themselves in situations that are not directly addressed in any of the divorce texts in Scripture. Folks in these situations need to hear texts of Scripture that direct them away from divorce texts and to texts that show them how God speaks to their situation and the church as a place of supportive community.
If I were a rich man…
Mark 10:17-27 tells a story of a rich man who seeks eternal life through following Jesus. As other texts we have reflected on this Sunday in the sermon, this is a text about power. It is about the power that wealth has to hold people captive. Ultimately, the man does not want to give up his wealth and turns the other way. Jesus turns the conversation from eternal life to the kingdom of God (10:23). It is not so much about eternal life but rather about a person’s participation in the fulfillment of God’s present, here and now, personally and in community.
The statement that Jesus gives (10:25) is a hyperbole. It is not possible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God; it’s also not possible for anyone else. Neither the rich nor the poor are capable of “being saved” apart from God’s grace.
As we learned in the first chapter of Mark, the call to follow Jesus is a call to follow Jesus at any cost. The call for the rich man was to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor. From following the journey of Jesus’ disciples, we can see that this is not a call that is required of every single disciple. However, it is also true that a disciple does not truly possess anything as we are stewards of what God has given us. God calls us to be ready to use the resources that God has given us in ways that are consistent with the furthering of God’s kingdom and our call to be a disciple of Jesus.
Questions for Reflection
- What are some of the explanations that you have heard for divorce and remarriage? Do they satisfy you? Why or why not? What do you think Jesus’ is trying to teach the Pharisees in the ‘Marriage and Divorce’ passage?
- What are some ways you can use the resources that God has given you in discipleship to Jesus?
1Geddert, Mark, 257.
These additional notes on the Gospel of Mark are taken from the Believers Church Bible Commentary written by Timothy J. Geddert.
Geddert, Timothy J. Believers Church Bible Commentary: Mark. Herald Press: Scottdale, Pennsylvania, 2001.