“Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road” (Mark 10:52).
The last section of the book (Mark 8:31-16:8) centers on the cross. Here is the culmination of Jesus’ obedience to the Pactum Salutis. At the cross Jesus took the death sanction of the redeemed fallen in Adam, and merited their Kingdom glory. Three times Mark cycles through this message: Jesus went to the cross to bring the redeemed into the Kingdom of God. The reader is invited to follow this King.
Following the King
A Passion Prediction (Mark 8:31-33
B Following Christ (Mark 8:34-9:1)
C The Kingdom (Mark 9:2-29)
A’ Passion Prediction (Mark 9:30-32)
B’ Following Christ (Mark 9:33-10:12)
C’ The Kingdom (Mark 10:13-31)
A* Passion Prediction (Mark 10:32-34)
B* Following Christ (Mark 10:35-45)
C* The Kingdom (Mark 10:46-52)
In the first cycle (Mark 8:31-9:29), Mark starts with the clear words that He, the Son of Man, would be rejected by the Jewish leaders, would be put to death, and rise from the grave after three days (Mark 8:31). No ambiguity; no parables. He told the disciples clearly what was going to happen (A). But this didn’t begin to match what the disciples were expecting. Peter rebuked Jesus. Jesus looked at the disciples and rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but man’s (Mark 8:32; trans.).
This leads to the (B) element: what it means to follow this King. The words are so familiar to many that their meaning is lost. Jesus gave the context when he said the Son of Man must go to the cross and those who follow must take up their own cross and follow Him. Add to this the contrast between the “things of God, and man’s.” Here is the dividing point between the world and Satan on the one hand and the King and His followers. It echoes the division between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15). Satan came as a counter-king and promised the world to Adam and Eve, and they lost it. The one who continues their legacy and seeks to gain this world will lose the world and their own soul. They have shunned in shame the King on a cross. That King, the Son of Man, will be ashamed of them when comes again in the glory of His Father in heaven with the angels on judgment day. But the redeemed follow this King who goes to the cross. He is the faithful Son of Man, vassal king, who obeyed the King of heaven, even to pay the judgment owed by the redeemed. Those who put their trust in this King, though they die as martyrs with Him, will be saved and enter into glory with Him. Paul would write of them,
“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 6:17).
Jesus concludes with the promise,
“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1)
The path to glory is through the cross of Jesus.
This leads to the (C) element: the Kingdom (Mark 9:2-29). Six days later Jesus was transfigured in glorious radiance on a high mountain before Peter, James, and John. Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus! Peter saw the glory of the King and misunderstood the meaning. He thought the Kingdom has come in all its final glory, so “let’s build the booths that are built at the end of the harvest, celebrated by the Feast of Tabernacles! We’re done! (No cross); we’re there!” But both Elijah and Moses had seen the glory of the King of heaven when they were being confirmed in their respective missions of judgment. God the Father, from the throne in heaven out of the glory-cloud theophany, said “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him” (Mark 8:7)! They looked and only Jesus remained. Here is not the mediator of the Old Covenant, or the prophet of the Old Covenant, but the very vassal Son of the Kingdom of God.
They had seen the Son of Man glorified and heard the words of approbation from the suzerain from heaven. The Son who would go to the cross, who they would follow, would be glorified in His kingdom! The disciples are dense and started trying to figure out what rising from the dead meant, and didn’t Elijah have to come before the Kingdom? Jesus is so patient. He explains that Elijah does come first, and the Son of Man would be rejected and suffer. Elijah did come and they rejected him. Suffering will precede the glory of the Kingdom.
When they come down from the mountain, Jesus is confronted by the father of a demon possessed son who the disciples failed to help. Jesus casts the demon out. Afterwards the disciples asked why they couldn’t cast out the demon. Jesus answered that the only way cast a demon out was by prayer! So hard; so simple! The disciples of the King had authority to cast out demons, as they had before! But now they acted as the disciples of the King, without using the power of the King! They just needed to ask God! They were disciples of the King, but suffering would precede glory, and their power for ministry still rested with God!
Mark introduces the second cycle (Mark 9:30-10:31) with Jesus again clearly and plainly telling the disciples that He would be killed and rise from the grave after three days. This was the second time Jesus said this. The disciples didn’t understand, but didn’t want to ask again what it all meant (A’ Mark 9:30-32).
This leads to (B’). Jesus asks what they were talking about. They didn’t answer because they had been discussing which one was the greatest. How did they get from His words about suffering and being killed to their discussion which of them was the greatest? The contrast is polar? He told them the greatest was the “last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Jesus was the greatest; they sought greatness.
Receiving the Kingdom is not a matter of their greatness or merit. Jesus stood a child in their midst. They are to be like children who have nothing in themselves to offer as they minister in Jesus’ name. Their citizenship in the Kingdom was not based on or enhanced by what they achieved in ministry. Those who receive them receive Jesus, and those who receive the Son of Man receive the King of heaven who sent Him (Mark 9:37). That is true greatness!
(B’) continues with the discussion about other followers of Jesus. They are still seeking greatness and ask about someone they saw casting out demons in Jesus’ name, something they had failed to do! Maybe if they can demote him, they will be great! Jesus smells the stench and immediately says,
“Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40).
Those who follow and serve Jesus’ followers “will not lose his pay (misthos; Mark 9:41).” Though the translators cannot bring themselves to let Jesus say what Jesus says, Jesus actually used the word for a wage or pay (misthos). The modern idea of “reward” is actually absent from the Old and New Testaments! There is no add-on bonus reward! Jesus promise that His followers will not lose their wage! Before the protests drown Him out again, He is not denying grace! Nor is He talking about a misthos added onto grace. The Kingdom blessings of the New Covenant are received by grace through faith based on the meritorious obedience of the Son of Man under the Pactum Salutis. He is the believer’s federal head. His obedience is legally their obedience! His earned covenant blessing is their earned wage! As it is a matter of justice for the employer to pay the laborer, so the suzerain pays the vassal for His covenant obedience. What the vassal merited as the federal head of the redeemed is legally and justly theirs. His earned wage is their earned wage! Jesus says more than the disciples or translators can imagine. Jesus escalates the conversation to a level that they were unable to imagine. Discussing greatness in the kingdom as they move towards the cross, Jesus warns them of hindering any who follow Him. Those who truly follow don’t hinder the followers. Those who hinder his “little ones” (cf. 9:36-37), followers, will be cast into hell. But the follower will not lose what the Son of Man has earned – they will not lose their pay (He earned for them)!
The Pharisees seek their own righteousness in the Law, and attempt to show Jesus unrighteous by asking Him a much-debated question regarding divorce. Jesus explains Moses permitted divorce because of Israel’s hard hearts. But then the faithful Son of Man, the Second Adam, proclaims that the righteousness of God’s kingdom has not changed. God created “male and female” and took the two to be “one flesh” that none should separate (Mark 10:6-9). The followers of the Son of Man are called to Kingdom obedience.
This segues into the roll of obedience in the Kingdom (C’ Mark 10:13-31). The disciples were trying to stop the people from bringing their children to Jesus to be blessed. Jesus rebuked the disciples and said,
“Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as (toioutos) these” (Mark 10:14).
Covenantally, these were the children of the kingdom. The kingdom belonged to “such as these.” “Such as these” (toioutos) doesn’t mean “like these” or “analogous to these.” It means “of the class of.” The kingdom belongs to these, so the blessing of Jesus. Then Jesus adds,
“’Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.’ 16 And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them” (Mark 10:15-16).
Modern notions of children get in the way of understanding Jesus. Jesus doesn’t bless the children because of anything they have done! The child had to be fed and cared for, but didn’t do anything! So are the recipients of the Kingdom of God. They don’t receive based on what they have done or in accord to their greatness! But like a unproductive child, they receive it by grace! And Jesus blesses! If one doesn’t receive the Kingdom like this, he will not enter at all! This brings the next story.
The rich young ruler comes to Jesus based on what he had done. He asks the question how he could “inherit eternal life.” Jesus aim is to show the man he couldn’t do anything to inherit eternal life! He starts by challenging even the man’s words, “Good teacher.” No one is good except God, and the man is not calling Jesus God. Then Jesus refers to the commandments, not to show what he had to do to inherit eternal life, but to show the man couldn’t obey to inherit eternal life! The self-righteous man boasts he has obeyed since his youth! Jesus felt love for the man and told him to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor – and then he would have treasure in heaven! And “come, follow Me.” Jesus is not just pointing to a law the man obviously couldn’t and hadn’t obeyed, “thou shall not covet.” Jesus, in love, invites the man to a whole new way of life, “sell it all; give it to the poor. Follow me in faith. You want to inherit heaven? Come and you will have treasure not on earth, but in heaven!” But the left; he was wealthy.
This brings the focus back to the disciples. The question is still about receiving the Kingdom! It is received without doing anything – like a child. It changes one so one does – sell and give, and follow! Jesus said to the disciples,
“How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23).
The disciples don’t understand. He continues,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24-25).
This didn’t help at all! It only made their consternation worse! The Law said God blessed obedience with material blessings! This man was obviously blessed by God! So how is Jesus saying it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a sewing needle than for the rich to get into the kingdom! (There is no historical basis for taking the “eye of a needle” to refer to some low entry in Jerusalem). Jesus is saying it is impossible!
The disciple understood this! They said,
“Then who can be saved” (Mark 10:26).
“With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
The subject remains the same, receiving the kingdom. It must be received like a child who receives but didn’t do anything! It is not received by those who try to do something to receive it. In fact, when offered, the kingdom would not be received if God did not change the receiver. It is grace from start to finish.
The disciples continue to be thick, but Peter doesn’t miss the opportunity to ask what they will get for all they have done!!
“Behold, we left everything and followed You” (Mark 10:28).
“What do we get?!” Jesus doesn’t stop to try to bang it into their thick heads again. He assures them,
“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
Mark moves to the third cycle (Mark 10:32-52). A third time Jesus tells them the Jewish leaders would condemn Him to death and he would rise from the grave after three days (A*). Two of the disciples seek positions of prominence in the kingdom (B*). Jesus tells them they don’t understand what they are asking. His is the cup of God’s wrath to drink, to be baptized in God’s judgment. Their failure to understand is impenetrable, “We are able.” The disciples then start fighting over who is greatness. Jesus then contrasts being in Jesus’ kingdom with the kingdom of the world. Gentile rulers lord it over and exercise authority. But Jesus followers serve; the greatest serves all. Jesus is the greatest. The Son of Man came to “give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
The final element (C*) then moves to the kingdom again. Blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was coming. He cried out,
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47)
The crowd couldn’t shut him up. Jesus called for the man to be brought. Bartimaeus jumped up and came to Jesus. Jesus asked what he wanted. Bartimaeus said,
“Rabboni, to regain my sight!” (Mark 10:51; trans.)
“Go; your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10:42)
And immediately he could see. And he followed Jesus! He knew Jesus was the promised Son of David, the King of the Kingdom. He followed the King!
William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark (NICNT)
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
trans. indicates my translation
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