Mark 10:1-16 1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
There is a natural tendency in all of mankind to compare ourselves with others. When a child is young their knowledge of the world is very limited. What they know of the world is seen primarily through their home and through the eyes of their parents or guardians and siblings. As they begin to go to school and ride a bike and go to different places their understanding of the world will grow beyond their family. And as they grow there is a natural desire to feel accepted and to be praised by others. Their identity is intrinsically associated with how their parents view them and love them and then as they grow based upon their friends and peers and eventually coworkers and society as a whole. But every person’s true identity is found in their relationship to God. This is the most important thing.
The disciples had a direct and personal relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. They walked and talked with Him. They believed that He was the Christ who came to save them. As Jesus walked upon this earth as a man over two thousand years ago He was establishing a new kingdom- the Kingdom of God. But Jesus acted in a manner that was very different than what the disciples had expected. As the disciples continued to follow Jesus it became harder to still believe that He was the Christ. And yet they kept following Him. When Jesus questioned them about His identity Simon Peter still identified Jesus as the Christ. At this point Jesus makes it clear to them all that He will soon formally establish His Kingdom but then He adds that He must die and rise again. Once again, this is not what the disciples expected and instead of humbling themselves and seeking God for the meaning of this hidden truth, they reverted back to their false beliefs of the Christ and believed that soon Jesus would rule over Jerusalem and they each would be given power and authority in His earthly Kingdom. They still struggled to see that Jesus was establishing a spiritual kingdom of individuals from every tribe and nation. They were in confusion and their unbelief blinded them.
At this point the Pharisees enter the picture again. They were among the religious elite in Israel. They were highly regarded for their religious fervour as they performed all kinds of external religious acts. But in fact they were separated from God. Their identity was found not in their relationship with God but in their favour with the people around them. And so they try to trap Jesus in a question about divorce. Jesus directs the conversation from divorce to adultery. The irony is that the Pharisees had committed adultery in their relationship with God. And adultery according to the Old Testament law was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:10). The Pharisees had condemned themselves from the very question that they asked to try and trap Jesus.
But what was the underlying problem of the Pharisees and the struggle of the disciples at this point? They were not willing to humble themselves before God. Their relationship with God was not the most important thing but rather how they were perceived by others. They desired to be great or at least better than the closest people around them. Their identity was not found in and through Jesus Christ. And so once again Jesus uses children to teach them. He says in verse 15: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Jesus had previously taught the disciples in Mark 9:36-37 using a child but it is obvious by His repetition here that they still did not understand. They still had not repented of their sin. Here He declares His teaching even more clearly. To enter into the Kingdom of God requires receiving it like a child. The Gospel message, the Good News of Jesus Christ, at its foundation is not difficult to understand. You don’t have to become a great person in society to make sense of it. You don’t have to have a great intellect or become a Pharisee or a philosopher or have lots of money to enter into the Kingdom of God. Rather it is often more difficult for those who are considered great to enter in. Why? Because it is a spiritual kingdom that is spiritually discerned. And God will never reveal this Kingdom to those who are filled with human pride- whose identity is found only in how other people perceive them. But He is willing to reveal His Kingdom to those who will receive it like a child- who will humble themselves before Him and recognize that the most important thing is what God thinks of them. Their relationship to God is the most important thing. Their sin has separated them from God and they are condemned to eternal death apart from Jesus Christ’s saving work upon the cross by dying in their place. Everything that they have believed about themselves and the world around them up to this point has been based upon a broken relationship with God. Until their relationship with God is restored it does not matter what their relationship with other people is like. To become like a child is to stop dead in your tracks and re-examine everything that you have known in light of this truth. To become like a child is to turn to Jesus Christ as the only means by which you can have a relationship with God. And when we get off track in our understanding of the truth as the disciples had at this point, we need to return to the simple truth of becoming like a child.
Do you know that you have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ? The only way to receive the Kingdom of God is to become like a child. Humility before God is the only way in.
Pastor Murray Hack
Isaiah 9:2-6, 7 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 3 ... 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
At this time of year we celebrate the incarnation- the Son of God entering into creation. God is an infinite, all powerful being. He is soooo great! He has to be greater in size than the universe that He formed and He created all things simply by speaking them into existence. He can make something out of nothing. It is impossible for any creature within creation to ever create something out of nothing. He exists outside of creation as well as transcends all of creation. His handiwork is seen in all of creation as His fingerprints exist everywhere from the human eye, to the birth of a child, to DNA and so on. God is awesome! He is above all and no one is greater than He is. God, in all of His attributes, is perfect in every way. There is no fault in Him. There is no way to defeat Him, to overpower Him, to trick Him, or to cause Him to sin. He transcends time and knows the end before the beginning. He knows who are His from the foundation of the world. He rules over all of creation and is exalted above all as the only non-created being. He exists in three persons and determined the plan of salvation before Adam and Eve fell. Everything goes according to His perfect plan. He is sovereign over all.
And because of who God is He can never be viewed as anything less than who He really is. He is unchanging: absolutely perfect and glorious and majestic. He is worthy to be praised! But there is only one way by which mankind could be saved. God had to enter into creation not in all His glory but to be exactly like us in every way apart from sin. The only way to save us was for the Son of God Himself to live in perfect obedience to the Law of God and to stand against all the temptations of the devil. This was the preliminary requirement to provide for our salvation.
And so the Son of God entered into creation in weakness exactly as we enter into creation: as a baby. A baby is weak and fragile. It is completely dependent upon its parents for survival. A baby cannot live on its own. And yet the Son of God could have been born into a family of power and privilege among men, as in the home of a great king. He could have been raised by Pharaoh’s daughter like Moses was. He could have had all the advantages and protection among men. Also, His physical weakness could have been only temporary. A baby is weak but a child can grow up to be strong. As the Son of God entered into creation as a man He could have grown physically to be taller and greater than all of mankind. He could have still appeared as a “lion” among men.
But this was never God’s intention. The Son of God would not enter into creation demonstrating great power and majesty but rather humility.
Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
Not only is it more humiliating to be defeated by someone who appears to be weaker than you as Jesus would defeat Satan as a man upon the cross, but by the Son of God appearing in creation in humility rather than majesty, this only magnifies the greatness of God. The infinite, all glorious, perfect God becomes even greater to us in light of the humility of Jesus Christ. For in glory, the Son of God cannot demonstrate humility. Jonathan Edward writes:
“Infinite glory and the virtue of humility, meet in no other person but Christ. They meet in no created person; for no created person has infinite glory: and they meet in no other divine person but Christ. Humility is not properly affirmed of God the Father, and the Holy Ghost, that exist only in the divine nature; because it is a proper excellency only of a created nature; for it consists radically in a sense of a comparative lowness and littleness before God, or the great distance between God and the subject of this virtue; but it would be a contradiction to suppose any such thing in God.”
God cannot be humble because of who He is. But as a created being the Son of God could be humble. Do you understand this profound truth? Jesus Christ chose to be humble in order for His glory to be more glorious. The salvation that He provided for mankind is more amazing and astounding because He, as a perfect, infinite, all powerful being became the least among men. His victory over the devil is more astonishing when you understand how He defeated His powerful enemy. The greatest manifestation of power ever displayed was in perceived weakness as Jesus provided the atonement for our sins as He died in our place upon the cross.
Jonathan Edwards also writes, “It was in Christ's last suffering, above all, that he was delivered up to the power of his enemies; and yet by these, above all, he obtained victory over his enemies. Christ never so effectually bruised Satan's head, as when he bruised his heel. The weapon with which Christ warred against the devil, and obtained a most complete victory and glorious triumph over him, was the cross, the instrument and weapon with which he thought he had overthrown Christ, and brought on him shameful destruction. Colossians 2:14, 15, “Blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances- nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” In his last sufferings, Christ sapped the very foundations of Satan's kingdom; he conquered his enemies in their own territories, and beat them with their own weapons; as David cut off Goliath's head with his own sword.”
Isn’t the humility of Jesus Christ amazing? Do you recognize how far down He stepped in coming into this world to die in our place? We all have our times where we are brought low, when we feel everything is stripped away and we are as nothing. But any decline in our position is absolutely nothing in comparison to what Jesus Christ has done. He came into this world as a baby for you! He suffered all on the cross for you! He died for you! At the same time He is filled with majesty. He desires to raise you up to glory! Cry out to Him! Worship Him!
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 9:42-50 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
No person in their right mind would think that it is okay to abuse a child. A child is dependent upon their parents or guardians, teachers, and others for everything in life. They cannot provide for themselves. They are vulnerable and weak and trusting in all things. They are innocent and sweet and deserving of love. Jesus is using a child as a picture for His own disciples who were in confusion after Jesus first reveals to them that He is going to die and rise again.
Although the disciples did not believe that the Christ, their Savior would die (for how could salvation ever be provided through death?), they did recognize that Jesus was soon going to formally establish His Kingdom. In the book of Matthew we read that Jesus even uses a new word: “church.” Jesus would establish the church when He later sent the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended into heaven. This is the first time the word “church” is used in the New Testament and the disciples would have recognized the change in Jesus’ ministry at this point.
Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
But most of all the disciples thought about themselves. I suspect they were disillusioned at first on hearing that Jesus would die, then tried to fit Jesus’ teaching into their wrong understanding of the Christ. They justified their unbelief and they continued down a wrong path of understanding. They fought amongst themselves about the authority that they would receive in the new Kingdom. They became jealous of someone else casting out demons in Jesus’ name who was not among them. Jesus would leave them in charge of the Church but at this point they were not ready to be given such spiritual authority hence the illustration of the child. At this point Jesus would not trust them with any of His children. Jesus had renounced the teaching of the Pharisees and the religious leaders but how foolish were the disciples to think that at this point they were ready to replace them. There was no unity among the disciples at this point. They would individually rule and not Jesus Christ if they keys of the Kingdom were given to them at this point.
Right now, If Jesus gave the disciples little ones who believe in Him to care for they would cause them to sin. Why? Because of their bad example and their limited understanding. One of the many qualities of children is how they copy and imitate their parents. They become like them. They trust them. They believe them. A little one still has limited understanding and can be easily misled. Jesus is saying to the disciples, “If I give you the authority that you desire right now I will have no choice but to bring judgment upon you.” And Jesus gives them a very strong and powerful rebuke about a millstone hung around the neck of those who harm His little ones (new Christians). Such false leaders are to be thrown into the depths of the sea. How great is the responsibility of any who are called to authority in Jesus’ Church.
Jesus’ rebuke of His disciples does not end there. He then speaks about hell and reiterates that no sin will be permitted in His Kingdom. Sin must be cut off and cast away into the lake of fire forever. It will not be permitted in the presence of God. It doesn’t matter how great or small our disobedience to God is. God is holy and the servants in His Kingdom must be holy. Jesus expresses the urgency of the disciples recognizing their sin and repenting. He brings hell before their eyes and shows them how terrible it will be: ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ (verse 48). Our only hope is to be united to Jesus Christ through faith and for the Holy Spirit to be actively at work in us as we walk with God. The disciples needed to repent. How often do we need to be reminded of the seriousness of sin and the severity of hell?
Jesus closes with another illustration about salt very similar to what is recorded in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Salt is a picture of preservation from the contamination of the world as it is used to preserve meat and is very important without refrigeration. But old salt is useless. So too would the disciples be as leaders at this point. They would ultimately become like the Pharisees and they would be useless and ultimately be destroyed. Jesus calls them to have salt in themselves and to be at peace with one another. Jesus gave them a similar command right before His death upon the cross:
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
At this point the disciples did not have peace with one another. They did not love each other as Jesus loved them. They were competing with each other. But in the future they would be united to each other and to Jesus Christ by the Spirit of Christ. They would be ready to lead the Church. Jesus later said of the disciples:
John 17:21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The blessing of the Church is that true unity can be found in the body of Christ as we are all united to God through Jesus Christ and to each other in the Spirit. There is no competition or disunity in the true body of Christ. In the true body of Christ we are one in the Spirit and we are led by those whom God has specifically prepared for leadership in the Church. Do you know this unity in Christ? Have you experienced the true Church of God? Do you know Jesus?
Pastor Murray Hack
Mark 9:38-41 38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.
Immediately after Jesus revealed to His disciples that He was going to the cross we see how ill prepared they were for His departure. First, they flipped the teaching of Jesus to fit their pre-existing ideas of what the Christ should be like. Secondly, they showed the pride that remained in their hearts as they had been told a secret by Jesus of whom no one else knew. And now thirdly, they show their jealousy of someone who was not of their own special group.
The secular world teaches in many ways that jealousy is a good thing. Those who are so driven to rise to the top in sports, entertainment, business, etc. often do so as they are looking over their shoulders. They may be passionate and competitive but often underneath it all is a constant comparing themselves to those around them and a sense of insecurity. Often unhappiness is revealed if anyone rises above them and gets the recognition that they are striving for. Usually when someone rises to the top they compromise their beliefs to achieve their goal. They do whatever it takes to become successful and to receive the accolades of their fellow man.
But not so with those who are in the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught the disciples just before this passage in verse 35, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” There is no concern for the Christian to compromise their beliefs to achieve the top for the Christian never makes this their goal. Our goal is to glorify God in any way that we are called to serve Him and it does not bother us if someone else in the Kingdom of God receives more recognition than us. For we do not desire our own glory but that God would be glorified through us. This is a profound truth and removes any desire for us to become better than anyone else if we are truly living within this reality. We are not concerned about the unbelievers around us who may walk over us as they are clawing their way upward. We are not looking for the recognition of man but of God Himself. We are content just that we are in His Kingdom and that we can serve God in any way. We are so thankful for the salvation that Jesus Christ provided for us in dying upon the cross in our place and we are amazed that He would choose us to carry on any of His work here upon this earth in furthering His plan of salvation in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We are content simply in our relationship with God as we are right now at this very instance and we rejoice in Him! While we still desire to grow in holiness and to honor Him in a greater way and to love Him even more than we do now, we have peace with God even now. And because we have peace with God we are not jealous over anyone. We have complete trust in God and our relationship with Him. We do not struggle with insecurity or fear. We are satisfied. We are content. We are full in Him and yet we desire to know Him more, please Him more, and to love Him more. We have all that we need and yet we seek Him.
But the disciples were not yet in such a place of trust and faith in their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In all of this we see that the disciples still had a shaky foundation. They have a very limited view of the Kingdom of God and yet I’m sure they all thought that they were ready to rule in God’s Kingdom. They desired to be at the top and were influenced by the religious leaders in Jerusalem in how to get there. Their understanding was limited. You can see how the things of God can only be spiritually discerned and are foolishness to the world for they are often the very opposite of what we expect. Who would expect that to receive a child in Jesus’ name would be receiving Him? Who would expect that someone would get a reward for simply giving a follower of Jesus a cup of water? These are not great and amazing acts and yet they can bring glory to the infinite, all powerful, all knowing, ever present, unchanging, all loving God.
Imitation is flattery. This man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name was trying to copy what he saw either Jesus or the disciples do. Was his understanding limited? Yes. Absolutely. He was not among those who were directly following Jesus. But so were the disciples yet limited in their understanding. How often is the very thing we condemn in others a reflection not upon the one we accuse but upon our own condition? How blind we can be to see the true state of our own heart!
Why would Jesus allow this man to cast out demons in Jesus’ name if his understanding was so limited? Ultimately to bring Himself glory. To show love and compassion to the people who were set free. Also, to draw them to Himself as well as the man who was used to set them free. And finally to show the disciples that the Kingdom of God did not belong only to themselves. God is always working through others to complete His purposes. There is only one way of salvation but there are many people beyond ourselves whom God is using in this world to fulfill His purposes in advancing the Kingdom. Often they may be people that we believe have a limited understanding of God and His plan of salvation. While that may be true the reality is that all of us are limited in our understanding of the infinite God. The born again Christian knows Jesus Christ. They have repented of their sins and their sin nature and have looked to the Son of God as the only means of their salvation as He died for them and rose again that they may have new life in Him. They are true followers of Jesus as the disciples were and yet their understanding is still limited. They are still growing in their walk with God.
If the disciples only knew where Jesus was leading them. As Jesus was going to the cross He was bringing the disciples with Him. They would yet be refined by fire and they did not know it. They would be brought lower: lower than they could comprehend. Jesus knew what was needed to purge these evil desires from their hearts. While now they were deciding who among them was the greatest and jealous over another man it would not be so as Jesus died upon the cross. As Jesus died the disciples would flee. They would be afraid for their lives. They did not understand what Jesus was doing. They would be filled with guilt and shame and there would be no jealousy at this point. But as they were brought low Jesus was preparing them to be leaders in His Kingdom. The way up is down. Don’t believe that God cannot use you because of your low estate. Seek Him with all your heart and God can glorify Himself where you are.
Pastor Murray Hack
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.