MARK 10 COMMENTARY

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?

 

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JESUS’ LETTER TO PERGAMUM

Above all things, Jesus’ great concern and reason for rebuke is that if they continue, they will become what they worship . . . and it is just as true for today’s church.

[SW129] 2/21/14 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Pergamum”

Text: Revelation 2:12-17a

Background:

While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.

The unveiling of Himself:

When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:

Revelation 1:17   When I saw Him, I  fell at His feet like a dead man. And He  placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid;  I am the first and the last, 18 and the  living One; and I   was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have  the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore  write  the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place  after these things.”

What is to come:

Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281 in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands like candelabra (the churches).

Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He commands five of the seven churches to repent.

Background on Pergamum:

The Christians there were persecuted by both Romans and Jews, as with Smyrna.

A great throne-like altar to Zeus was located in Pergamum, and the city-hill itself was shaped like a throne. He was worshiped at the time of this letter, and he is still worshiped today.

Jesus’ words to the church at Pergamum:

He begins by saying he has the sharp two-edged sword. What is that sword? The Word of God:

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and  active and sharper than any two-edged  sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Why does He identify Himself this way, in His first words to this church? I see it as a preview of His call for them to repent. He is about to reprove this church.

He says He knows they dwell where Satan’s throne is. As I noted above, the altar to Zeus, king of the Greek gods, is large and prominent there.

Just as Paul referred to Satan as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2), Zeus’ kingdom was the sky and air. So indeed, it is Satan’s throne, for he is the one behind Zeus and other false gods. It is an indication that Jesus’ letter will warn this church about idol worship.

Jesus encourages the church at Pergamum in some things:

In spite of persecution, they hold fast (2902 retain, take hold of, cling to) the name of Jesus (3686 His authority, His character), and do not deny their faith in Him, despite the martyrdom of their leader, Antipas.

According to church history, Antipas was burned to death in a bronze bull-shaped altar. Again, it is a reference to Zeus, who often appeared in Grecian art astride a white bull. And again, Jesus Christ repeats that Pergamum is where Satan dwells.

Jesus had one thing against Ephesus: they had left their first love. But is it all that different for some at Pergamum?

Jesus has not just one, but a few things against some at Pergamum:

First, some hold to the teaching of Balaam. Second, some hold to the the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

The teaching of Balaam:

Balak, the king of Moab, wanted to destroy Israel, which had encamped in Moab. He called on Balaam, a diviner, to pronounce curses on Israel, but all that would come out of his mouth were blessings. God spoke to Baalam, and God made it so.

Since Balaam couldn’t curse them, he advised Balak to tempt the men of Israel with Midianite women, daughters of Moab, who were very sensual and beautiful (see Numbers 31:16).

The men took the bait (Numbers 25:1ff), and sinned against the Lord, eating things sacrificed to Baal of Peor and committing sexual immorality. The Lord struck them with a plague, stopped by the intercession of Phineas, a priest of the Lord.

In Pergamum, the false gods were the Roman emperor and Zeus, and orgies and feasts were part of emperor worship. Some of the church at Pergamum had taken the bait just as Israel did, committing adultery and eating food sacrificed to idols.

Even today, sexual immorality is part and parcel of the worship of false Gods. Cult prostitutes are used to “worship,” and orgies and feasts using food offered at the altars of these false gods are part of the “worship service.”

We become what we worship! This is the Lord’s warning to us today, from Psalm 115, and I will speak from that scripture later in this message.

The teaching of the Nicolaitans:

Jesus rebukes the church at Pergamum because some have followed the teachings of the Nicolaitans. He describes that teaching as being “the same way,” as the teaching of Balaam, meaning there is encouragement of sexual immorality and idol worship.

Why does Jesus rebuke Pergamum regarding idolatry and sexual immorality?

In all ages, God says idolatry and sexual immorality are the same as committing adultery against Him. We are worshiping something other than Him, and it is really ourselves that we worship! Moses says this of Israel:

Deuteronomy 32:16 “ They made Him jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
17 “ They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.
18 “You neglected  the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.

In their selfishness, they satisfied their sexual and material lusts, becoming their own gods, and the Lord was dethroned.

It is the same at Pergamum, and the same today. We spurn the One who bought us with a price and join ourselves to another (1Corinthians 6:20). And in doing so, something happens to us spiritually. We become one with what we worship. Go to Psalm 115, and see that you lose your spiritual senses when you participate in idol worship and sexual immorality. What do you become? Unable to speak the things of God, unable to see or here or smell or feel Him, unable to walk with Jesus Christ. That is His great warning to you, and to the church at Pergamum!

We spurn the One who loved us and stretched out His arms for us so sin is put to death in us.

Lust is still alive and well in some of the church in Pergamum. But Jesus Christ came so they could be set free from slavery to sin, which includes lust — not just sexual lust, but “gotta have it right now,” lust, whatever “it” is.

Some at Pergamum have not asked for the Refiner to cleanse their hearts (Acts 15:9) so their hearts are totally, completely His. So they remain infants in Christ, like some in the church at Corinth.

Can God really take away lust? In 2Peter 1:3, Peter says God grants us divine power in order to live godly lives, if we truly and intimately know Jesus Christ. The result?

2Peter 1:4  For by these [His divine power and intimately knowing Him] He has granted to us His precious and magnificent  promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having  escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Paul exhorts the church at Corinth about participating in idol worship, for some of them did the same as at Pergamum:

1Corinthians 10:19 What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything?  20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles [unbelievers] sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.  21  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and  the table of demons.

It is spiritual adultery to worship false gods, and you will lose the spiritual senses the Lord gave you when you do it.

Jesus is the Bridegroom of the church at Pergamum. Some of them have left Him and gone after orgies at the Roman feasts.

This is really important: Even though the church at Pergamum does not renounce Christ and acknowledge the emperor as god, some commit adultery against Jesus Christ by participating in emperor worship, even while they say Christ is Lord.

When some at Pergamum offer themselves to cult prostitutes at these pagan feasts, a physical oneness is created that binds them spiritually to the prostitute. They cannot be “one” with a prostitute, part of her or him, and still be “one” with Christ. That’s why Paul warns the Corinthians of the same sin (1Corinthians 6:15ff). He did not want the Corinthians to become like that which they were worshiping.

Jesus warns that He is coming quickly (5035 tachu), unless the “some” who do these things repent. The Greek word can mean “in a short time,” but it also means a sudden and unexpected appearance. I believe Jesus means the latter!

When He suddenly and unexpectedly comes, He will make war, He will battle with those who follow the ways of Baalam and the Nicolaitans.

His weapon? The sword of His mouth — the Word of God! He now sits as Judge and will judge them through His word (John 12:48, Hebrews 4:12).

Look to the description of Jesus in Revelation 19:15 —

Revelation 19:15  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that  with it He may strike down the nations, and He will   rule them with a rod of iron; and  He treads the  wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

How does this apply to the church of today?

Are we selfish? Do we put our sexual and material desires before our desire to know God intimately? We become what we worship!

We may not literally partake of food sacrificed to idols, but what do we “eat” with our eyes, in magazines, on the Internet, and on television? Again, Satan is the prince of the power of the air, and he controls what comes into your living room every night. What is on television is a product of Hollywood, where worship of self is very visible. You will become like that which you are allowing to enter into your spirit via television and the internet and movies and magazines. It will become one with you, and you will become like it.

And what wisdom do we look to, in order to grow bigger churches?

What are we lusting after?

Certainly we lust sexually, because the divorce rate is the same in the church as in those who do not know Jesus Christ. Many hearts remain unchanged from the way they were before they confessed Christ. They have not asked the Refiner to cleanse their hearts of lust.

Many have decided that Jesus Christ cannot cleanse their hearts, or they do not want Him to do so. They like what they are doing, regardless of the consequences. The wages of sin, beloved, is death and hell, where their worm never dies and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:43-46).

Some say, “I will visit You on Sunday, Jesus, and then dally with the world the rest of the week.” They thus make themselves their own god and worship themselves and their lusts, committing adultery against Jesus Christ, regardless of our confession at an altar.

Today’s church brings the world into her midst, offering the world’s idea of entertainment instead of worship, selling trinkets and coffee in the church’s shops (Jesus called the Jews who did the same at the temple “robbers” who had made the temple their den), and demanding that pastors avoid powerful truths of God that might empty a pew or two.

Today’s church says, “Let us the world’s business practices to attract people to us. Since Jesus is not among us but is outside our doors, knocking, let us continue to do it our way.”

Oh, he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches! Repent, or else Jesus Christ will come to you suddenly and unexpectedly, and use the sword of His mouth, the word of God, to slay you.

It was not too late for Pergamum, and it is not too late for us. If you will turn back to Him, if  you will ask Him to cleanse your heart so it is pure, without mixture, and totally His, He will do it. But you must act now, because He will suddenly and unexpectedly come to judge.

This is a love letter from the Lord. Those whom He loves, He disciplines:

Hebrews 12:5  You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;  5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “ MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR  FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
6  FOR THOSE  WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”
7 It is for discipline that you endure;  God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  8 But if you are without discipline,  of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

He loved His church at Pergamum, and He loves you. Do you have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to you today?