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Bible: What Does Mark 10 Teach Us About Divorce, The Rich Young Ruler, and Bartimaeus?

Updated on August 21, 2016

Jesus Confronts the Pharisees about Moses' Teaching

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Another divergence of order in comparison with Matthew’s gospel occurs in Mark’s recording of Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisees on the subject of divorce (vv. 1-12).

Instead of writing that Christ first inquired of the Jewish leaders if they had ever read what God said about marriage in Genesis (cf. Matt. 19:4-6), Mark first records His asking them what Moses commanded the Hebrews about divorce (v. 3).

[Jesus undoubtedly meant them to respond (as they did) from Moses’ instruction in Deuteronomy 24, not from what the patriarch had written in Genesis.]

According to Matthew, only after Jesus had quoted Genesis to them and given them His conclusion on the matter did they question Him about Deuteronomy’s teaching (cf. 19: 4-7).

Mark, however, has Jesus answer their assertion about Moses’ “certificate of divorce” (vv. 4-5) before quoting Genesis and articulating His conclusion to them (vv. 6-9).

Matthew also indicates that Christ told the Pharisees His ruling on divorce, remarriage, and adultery (v. 9), whereas Mark pens that Jesus taught this judgment to His disciples in the house (vv. 10-12).

[It is conceivable, however, that Christ repeated to His disciples what He had said to the Pharisees just a few moments earlier.]

In addition, the apostle includes Jesus’ short discussion about celibacy (cf. 19:11-12).

In the next section, Mark’s account differs from Matthew’s in two ways:

(1) he inserts a “Truly, truly” statement that Matthew omits from chapter 19 but includes in 18:3, and

(2) he indicates Jesus’ great displeasure over the disciples’ mistreatment of those who brought little children to Him for a “blessing” (vv. 13-16; cf. Matt. 19: 13-15).

"What Good Thing Must I Do?"

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The Young Ruler


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The Rich, Young Ruler

Five fascinating stylistic divergences appear between Matthew and Mark, as the latter’s narrative relates Jesus’ encounter with the rich, young ruler.

First, Mark records the fellow as running toward and kneeling before Jesus, whom he addresses as “Good Teacher”; Matthew does not mention this observation that indicates the youth’s fervent, yet ignorant zeal (v. 17a; cf. Matt. 19:16a).

Second, Mark points out that Jews considered “eternal life” as something that they “inherit”; Matthew merely pens “have” (v. 17b; Matt. 19:16b).

Inheritance assumes land, the kingdom realm—something that Peter noticed but Matthew, the former publican, left out.

Third, Mark omits from the ruler’s question the noun phrase “good thing” after the interrogative “what”; Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, includes these words because “Jews of the time believed that performing some single act would guarantee salvation (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible, 41) [v. 17b; cf. Matt. 19:16b].

Fourth, before delineating a sample of the commandments that the young man needed to obey, Matthew indicates that Jesus told the ruler the requirement of entering into “life” (the kingdom of God): keep the commandments; on the other hand, Mark omits this clarifying transition (see Matt. 19:17).

[The Law states, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the LORD” (Lev. 18:5).

One could inherit eternal life if one kept the commandments perfectly: thus, Jesus’ response.

He, however, stated this answer, knowing that the youth was a sinner; Christ cited a certain commandment to show the ruler his greatest weakness, so that He could then offer him mercy.]

Fifth, it is interesting to note that Mark appends “Do not defraud” to his list, and leaves out “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 19); Matthew, on the other hand, omits the former and tacks on the latter.

[Neither precept is one of the original ten “words.”

Incidentally, Jesus does not quote the first four commandments—those addressing man’s relationship with God—but instead focuses on those dealing with a person’s relationship with his fellow man.]

When Jesus hears the ruler’s response—in essence, “I have performed perfectly; what else can I do?” (v. 20; cf. Matt. 19:20)—He looks upon him with divine love, acknowledging the sincerity of his desire to have eternal life but lamenting his lack of moral and spiritual understanding of personal sin (v. 21a).

Again, what Christ commands the youth to do aims to motivate him to admit his love of money; when he recognizes himself as a sinner in need of a Savior and turns to Jesus for forgiveness, he will realize the fulfillment of his quest (v. 21b).

Until that epiphany comes, however, the rich young ruler will experience only sadness and sorrow because he still believes that his money belongs to himself, not to God (v. 22).

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So important is this issue that Jesus and His disciples discuss it at length (vv. 23-31).

Mark records their “double astonishment” regarding the Lord’s statement about the rich man and salvation, while Matthew chronicles their great astonishment only once (vv. 24, 26; cf. Matt. 19: 25).

[Apparently, they believed that if anyone stood a good chance to enter “life,” it would be the rich man.

Jews understood riches as a blessing from God, not as a possible impediment to belief.]

To Peter’s statement—Matthew records that the apostle inquired on behalf of the others if they would receive a reward for their sacrifice (19: 27)—Jesus responds, in effect, “Yes, great reward in this life, but also persecutions; and after those pass, eternal life in the age to come” (v. 30).

[See Matthew for more details.]

The apostles continue in astonishment, this time about Christ’s determination to go to Jerusalem.

Their amazement, however, transmutes into fear as they approach the city (v. 32).

Mark adds these nuances of emotion to his account; Matthew does not.

The rest of the passage—Jesus’ third prediction of His death and resurrection—is essentially the same in both gospels (vv. 33-34).

Matthew includes an interesting feature about James and John’s request to receive honor in the Messianic kingdom that Mark leaves out: he brings their mother into the picture as their spokesperson (cf. 20:20-21).

[Text reconciliation is difficult here.

Did the apostles actually ask Jesus for the privilege of sitting alongside Him, as Mark records (vv. 35, 37)]?

Verses 38-45 differ little from Matthew’s account.

The Faith of Bartimaeus

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Bartimaeus

As occurs more frequently than does its reverse, Mark adds details that Matthew does not, personalizing his accounts a little better.

For instance, whereas Matthew records the appearance of two blind men sitting by the road—neither with a name or an occupation—, Mark focuses on one of them in particular—their spokesman named Bartimaeus—whom he describes as “begging” (v. 46).

He also records the attitude shift that took place in the “great multitude” when Jesus called the blind beggar to Himself.

Initially, they warn him to be quiet, but then they convert into his well-wishers (vv. 48-49).

Also significantly, Bartimaeus casts his beggar’s garments aside, knowing by faith that he is not going to need them anymore (v. 50).

Asked for his request, the blind man shows genuine reverence for Christ by prefacing it with an endearing address: “Rabboni” (“My Great One”) [v. 51].

Finally, Mark records that Jesus actually verbally replied to Bartimaeus (v. 52).

Mark, though a shorter gospel, oftentimes presents a more complete picture than does Matthew.

© 2014 glynch1

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