Mark 10 and the World Turned Upside-Down

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Have you ever spent time in a place so foreign that you could do nothing but look around with scrunched up eyebrows? Have you ever watched a group of people act in a way so strange that all you could do was gawk? Maybe you moved to another country. Maybe you met your in-laws for the first time. Or maybe you were watching someone else's kids.

I think that's how the disciples felt in Mark 10. They knew that Jesus was different. But good-different. Like, If I hang out with this guy, good things will happen to me-different. There were still come confusing bits, like every single parable He told. But by-and-large He was a good man, predictable in a Jewish culture kind of way.

In Mark 10, the disciples learn that Jesus is not predictable. No matter He was born and raised in their culture, no matter He looked Jewish and read the Torah. He was really, disorientingly different.

In one chapter, Jesus struck down several things the disciples had grown up believing were good and right. And, instead, He elevated a lifestyle so counterintuitive it felt criminal.


In Mark 10:1-12, Jesus talks about marriage. The Pharisees ask him a question about divorce. Jesus says marriage for life. If you get married, stay with it.

In verse 10, the disciples "asked him again about this matter." Matthew 19:10 expands on their reaction. They actually said, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry."

Good, Torah-following Jewish businessmen actually said that if they didn't have the freedom to divorce their powerless, dependent wives, it was better not to get married in the first place. Jesus responded, if you want to be a functional eunuch, go right ahead. But this is the way it is: be a eunuch, or stick with your wife. That's my final answer.


In the next passage, verses 13-16, Jesus turns their paradigm on its ear again. People were bringing their children for Jesus to bless. The disciples tried to turn them away. Because Jesus was a big deal. He fed thousands with the equivalent of one Lunchable. He could heal the blind — which had never happened before. And He was destined to be the king over all the Jews. Kids were great and all, but a lot of times Jesus and the disciples didn't even have the chance to eat and sleep. Taking care of other people's kids was not a good use of time.

Jesus basically says, You're not getting it. You think it's so important when thousands follow to hear me teach. Or when I argue with the Pharisees and demolish their arguments. You think these displays of power and authority are precursors to My Kingdom. But My Kingdom is right here, in these kids. All these things are secondary because without people with hearts like these kids, there won't be anyone in the Kingdom. Debating and healing is so people will understand Who I am. But when little ones run up with nothing but love and gratefully take away blessings, that's what this is all about.


We all know about the Rich Young Ruler in verses 17-31. About how he wanted to follow Jesus, and he'd obeyed the law from his youth, but he couldn't give up his money. Jesus points out that it's really hard for rich people to "enter the kingdom of God" (vs. 23). Rich people don't tend to act like those kids, filled with love and hungry for love and blessings in return. Rich people consider and prioritize and use their wealth to fill their own needs, whether that be security or power or attention.

It's not just that having money makes it hard to confess your sins and accept Jesus as your savior. It's that it's really hard to stop thinking that the needs money fill are nothing compared to the needs Jesus can fill. Because money fills some pretty significant needs. But to rely on money is often to miss out on the blessings God has ready for us.

Life and Safety

Combine verses 32-34 with 38-39 and you have a pretty disconcerting picture. In the first passage, Jesus explains that He will be beaten, mocked, spat on, and killed. In the second, He says His disciples will face the same.

This message is a bit confusing because Jesus willingly faced torture and death, but He didn't want to because it was unpleasant and painful and horrible. We understand the last bit — torture and death is not something we should desire because it's bad. But Jesus had to impress on the disciples that sometimes it's necessary. And when it's necessary, we shouldn't back out. Saving your own life is hardwired into us. Following Jesus may mean going against our most fundamental instincts.


I suppose James and John thought they had justification to ask Jesus what they did. They were two of His three favorites, so why shouldn't they sit at His court in positions of prominence when He became king? That's kind of the way these things work, right? If you're with the guy from the beginning, of course you're going to be with Him when He gets His big break.

Jesus lets them down easy. First He says His authority isn't going to be as all-encompassing as they think — He won't even get to choose who sits at His court. He has to submit to a Higher Authority; He is a servant to Another. Then He simply tells them to follow His example: "whoever would be great among you must be your servant." Jesus not only exhorted them to think of honor a different way, He lived it in front of them.


It's kind of funny how Jesus treats adults like Bartimaeus and the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34) the same way He treats the kids. They come to Him with reckless abandon, acknowledging that it's worth making a fool out of themselves to get it. And he honors their perspective with blessings.

How many times have you tried to work harder, save more, be smarter, and hide your need so that you wouldn't be ashamed? When Bartimaeus heard Jesus was coming, he gave that up. He didn't care what others thought. Jesus was there, and he needed Jesus, and he was going to do everything in his power to get Jesus. Because of that odd combination of humility and foolishness and disrespect, Jesus willingly gave him what he needed.

Jesus interacted with people as if He lived in the Kingdom of God and not the kingdom of the world. This was foreign to the disciples who saw respect, honor, safety, money, position, and freedom as inherent to success and demonstrable proof of their devotion to God. It was only those who were truly in need who understood that to live in the Kingdom of God, you simply need to come to Jesus with love and seek only His love and blessing.

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Jesus-Christ

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Published 2-25-14