This is a commentary for you and me. It isn’t complicated, because Jesus wants you to understand it, so you can be healed physically and even more importantly, in your relationship with God, which was broken by sin.
So what does the Holy Spirit want us to see in this chapter? The effects of blindness.
Verses 1-12 — Jesus is teaching. He does not only heal and deliver, but He teaches. Take heed of His words, and you will be blessed, indeed!
Of course, the blind Pharisees do not receive the truth that Jesus is teaching. The effects of blindness! They are only present because they very much want to make Him stumble in His words. So they ask about divorce. I am sure they were being convicted of their sin, as He spoke.
At that time, Jewish men with roving eyes divorced their wives for the slightest thing — maybe the food was not hot when she served it. That way, they could marry the one that caught their eye. So they used the law Moses wrote (not God) regarding divorce, for their own selfish interests. Moses wrote that law because Israel’s hearts were hardened, even then.
Jesus says that law was written because their hearts were hardened. What does it mean to have a hardened heart? It means you follow the letter of the law, but you use it for self-interest.
A person (I’ll use the pronoun “he,” just to make it easier) goes to church and does good works like feeding and clothing the poor, singing in the choir and going to the church every time the door is open. Others admire him and say, “What a great guy!” Yet he is secretly disobedient to God, sinning against Him in private.
And if a friend comes and speaks to him about the state of his soul, the friend is rejected and rebuffed. The great guy doesn’t want anyone to make him feel bad about what he is doing. He just wants to keep doing what he’s doing. It was the same with the Jews and divorce for selfish purposes, and Jesus was the Friend they rejected and rebuffed.
After Jesus reminds the Pharisees of why Moses made a divorce law, He uses the Word of God to remind them of the heart of God. Male and female, a man leaving his father and mother, the two (male and female) becoming one flesh. Then Jesus says, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” That is God’s heart and that is a command.
The disciples privately question Jesus about what He means. If you are a man and divorce your wife so you can marry another woman, you commit adultery, He says. If a woman divorces her husband so she can marry another man, she commits adultery, He says.
Notice the reason Jesus calls divorce adultery, in this case. Lust. You have your eye on someone else. You lust after that one. So you divorce your husband or wife. That is adultery. That is exactly what the Jews (including some of the Pharisees) were doing at the time Jesus walked the earth.
Jesus says,”Let no man separate.” Let no man or woman separate. Husband, do not lust after another woman who will separate you from your wife, and wife, do not lust after another man who will separate you from your husband.
Instead, ask God, by His Holy Spirit, to fill and thereby purify your heart so you have no desire for anyone but your own spouse. Amen!
I do not believe that a man or woman whose husband is incurably unfaithful (after counseling is attempted), or abusive, is held to this commandment of Jesus Christ. Such situations have nothing to do with roving, lustful, adulterous eyes.
I support that belief with scripture, and Jeff’s and my case —
1Corinthians 7:15 and 7:24 speak of what happens when you are married and you become a believer. Your husband or wife does not believe, and they leave you. It is not a sin to let them go and to divorce them to avoid legal issues later. You are not bound to them, in the eyes of God. And when you come to the Lord, you remain in whatever condition you were in when you believed. If you are a divorced unbeliever who married another divorced unbeliever, you don’t leave them when you come to faith in Jesus Christ. He forgives those sins.
Jeff and I were both divorcees. We did not know the Lord. We got married. Then we became believers. All of our past sins were forgiven, praise God!
Jeff did not divorce his first wife because he liked me better. He didn’t even know me. Jeff’s first wife abandoned him. I did not divorce my first husband because I liked Jeff better. I didn’t even know Jeff. I divorced my first husband because he beat me until I bled internally. I didn’t have a roving eye, but I had a black and blue body! If we were adulterers in God’s eyes, Jesus never would have healed me, and He never would have filled Jeff and me with His Spirit.
Verses 13-16 — The Pharisees were so blind they couldn’t receive the truth Jesus was teaching. Now the blindness continues, this time with the disciples. They do not see the kingdom of God that Jesus had told them about previously. They do not understand that little children are as welcome as any others. Everyone is welcome! They see the children as a bother, and rebuke those who bring their children so Jesus can touch them. Do you know what “touch” means? To put a light in them, to set them on fire (with His presence)! The disciples rebuke people for bringing their children so Jesus can put a light in them! Now that’s blindness, a blindness Jesus heals when He fills us with His Spirit. Then we understand, then we see.
So Jesus tells them they have it all wrong. Do not hinder them, let them come! The kingdom of God belongs to those who are like little children before Me! As a matter of fact, if you don’t receive My kingdom like a child, you won’t enter it at all.
What does it mean to receive the kingdom of God as a child? Complete trust in God. If a family functions as God designed it, a child trusts his father and mother completely. That requires a humble heart. The child knows he can’t fix what’s wrong, but if he brings it to his father or mother, it will be fixed. And the child seeks an innocent intimacy with his parents — appropriate hugs and kisses.
Jesus is saying you cannot be a child of God unless you trust God the Father, even to the point where you tell Him your greatest perplexities and problems, trusting that He will take care of them, and you, knowing that He is a perfect Father. That requires a humble heart. You know you can’t fix what’s wrong, but you know He can. A child of God seeks holy intimacy with God, a holy embrace between Him and His child.
The disciples can’t see that yet, because they are not filled with the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God hasn’t come to them with power, yet. But it will.
Verse 17-27 — Now we see another kind of blindness. A rich young man comes up to Jesus, calling Him “Good Teacher.” Jesus immediately says only God is good. His implicit question is this — do you call me good because you know I am God the Son?
Jesus speaks the last six commandments. So do you do good things, rich young man? And the young man proudly says, I keep all six of them. I do good things. But notice that Jesus doesn’t ask him if he does the first four commandments, which relate to love for God.
Jesus feels love for ones who are physically blind, and He feels love for ones who are spiritually blind and don’t know it. This young man doesn’t see that God must be in you, working through you, in order for you to do the kind of good that God does.
Jesus knows what issue God has with the young man. He is rich. That is his idol. That is his god. So sell everything and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then you can come and follow Me! Jesus knows what the response will be — sadness and retreat, because the young man knows he can’t let go of all of his property. The young man’s riches are his god, but he is blind and can’t see it. The effect of his blindness is that he cannot enter the kingdom.
So he does not follow Jesus, and Jesus does not go after him, either. Instead, Jesus exclaims that it is hard to enter the kingdom of God. Even harder than a camel going through the eye of a needle. He means this literally. It looks impossible.
The entrance to the kingdom of God is not large and grandiose, with a wide path. It has just a small gate, and the way is narrow, and few find it (Matthew 7:14). Few! It is hard to enter. You must be humble.
The disciples are not humble, so they do not understand. Then no one can be saved, they imply, when they say, “Then who can be saved?”
Then Jesus tells us that what looks impossible to man is possible for God. All things are possible with God!
IMPORTANT POINT: Jesus means this in every way — All things are possible with God. With God, it is possible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, for the proud to be made humble, for the spiritually blind to see, for the incurably sick to be healed and for the demon-possessed to be delivered. With God, it is even possible for a human heart to be filled with God’s actual love!
Verses 28-31 — As usual, Peter (and the rest of the disciples) try to figure out what Jesus means, and Peter takes a stab at it. We’ve left everything! That’s not what Jesus is talking about. The requirement for a humble heart, in order to enter the kingdom of God, is the point He’s making. It isn’t about giving up things. It’s about giving up YOURSELF!
But He tells them (and you) that if, for His sake and the gospel’s sake, you leave your house and your family (He doesn’t mean permanent separation from family) and your work, you will receive 100 times as much now — houses, family, houses, and jobs. All of the coming church will share what they have, every church member will be your brother or sister or mother, every child of a child of God will be like your own, everyone’s home will be your home! That was true of the early church, but as you may have noticed, that is not true in today’s church, because there are proud and spiritually blind ones among us.
And you will also endure persecution, but ultimately, eternal life! It’s a narrow way. Unless you love the world system, it will not love you and it will come against you, even violently (John 15:18-20). They can kill your body, dear one, but you’ll simply go on to be in heaven forever.
But many who are first will be last. The first to have the offer was the Jews. The Pharisees are blind. The young man is blind. The effect of their blindness is that they will not be the first to enter. But the humble ones are able to see, so they will be the first to enter. And the last to see will be the last to enter.
Verses 32-45 — Now Jesus walks ahead of His disciples, not with them. He is on a mission to get to Jerusalem. They follow, astonished at His behavior and His words. And they are both alarmed and in awe. And with greater detail than ever, Jesus once again tells them that He will be killed and rise three days later.
The blindness of the disciples is once again obvious. James and John want preferential treatment, when Jesus reigns on the earthly throne they are expecting. He will come into Jerusalem on a white horse, and the Romans will be defeated. Their behavior is not humble. They think they deserve to have their request honored by Jesus. Their self interest is clearly in view. It will be to their advantage to have the King’s ear.
He tells them they don’t know what they’re asking. Can they take His cup — a baptism of death? Blindly they say, “We are able.” They don’t know what He’s talking about.
But He tells them they will experience a baptism of death. It will happen at Pentecost, when they die to all of their pride and self-interest. That’s the baptism they will undergo. That’s the cup they will drink. For James, his physical body will die when he is martyred for his faith, with a sword. John will live on, to receive the Revelation before his physical body dies a natural death.
Again, He admonishes them that none is better than any other of them. They must be humble, serving one another, not trying to “best” one another, not trying to jockey for position.
Do you want to be first, He says? Then be a slave to everyone, just as I am!
I did not come for you to serve Me, but to serve you by dying for you, in your place, taking your punishment upon Me; rising again, that you may have eternal life; and pouring out the Holy Spirit, so your spiritual blindness may be healed!
Verses 46-52 — Bartimaeus (whose name means “son of one who is highly prized”) is blind, but he can see before he sees! He knows that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. How do I know that? The crowd says, “It’s Jesus the Nazarene,” but he calls Him by a Messianic title: Jesus, Son of David. Have mercy on me!
Everyone wanted him to be quiet, to leave the Master alone. They spoke sternly and harshly to Bartimaeus. But he kept shouting!
Keep shouting! Pay no attention to persecution from those who are yet blind.
He will have mercy on you, when you see Him for who He really is, and cry out for mercy and refuse to stop crying out!
Jesus heard him calling, and said to the crowd, “Call him here.” And the crowd said, “Take courage (comfort, be of good cheer), stand up! He is calling for you!”
When you refuse to stop calling out to Him, He will call for you and you will be of good cheer. Bartimaeus’ continuous calling out was an indication of his faith. He knew he was coming to his Healer!
He threw aside his cloak, which was probably everything he owned. He was a blind beggar. The alms he received were likely stored there. But he didn’t care! He jumped up! He didn’t just slowly rise. He jumped! And he came to Jesus, feeling his way through the crowd. Can you see it! He was desperate!
Jesus asks a seemingly foolish question. The man is obviously blind, yet Jesus asks him what he wants Jesus to do for him!
What do you want Jesus to do for you? He wants you to tell Him, just like when I had MS and I had to tell Him what was wrong in my brain and spinal cord, what needed to be healed and recreated. It was an act of faith to tell Him. And so it was for Bartimaeus, the blind man who could see, even before he was healed!
And the man said, “Rabboni (Teacher, a title of respect), I want to regain my sight!”
And Jesus says, “Go! Your faith has made you well.” Does that mean the faith Bartimaeus exhibited had some kind of healing power? No! It means that his faith brought him to the One who heals. So, in that sense, his faith made him well. When?
Immediately! Immediately! No waiting! When you have faith, when you know Who you are coming to, the Christ, the Son of God, when you know He is able to heal you and you are so desperate that you’ll throw away everything when He calls your name —
immediately! At that moment, not when he had faith, but when he stood before Jesus and healing power went forth from Jesus. Immediately!
I challenge you, because I love you with God’s own love — if you say, “I can’t wait until Jesus heals me,” you are not yet desperate, and I will tell you that He is waiting for you to come to Him.
Immediately he regains his sight. His response? Does he just walk away? Does he just say, “Thanks, Jesus, now I have my life back.” No! He immediately began following Jesus on the road. Will you?