The gospel writer begins by telling us that, “as was His custom”, Jesus is teaching the people. As was their custom, the Pharisees want to trip him up with a question, this time about divorce. Jesus brings us back to creation and to God’s perfect plan for marriage: man and wife, leaving and cleaving, becoming one, not to be severed. Jesus teaches that because of hardness of heart Moses permitted divorce. However, God’s perfect plan was that we would never experience the pain and brokenness of divorce. Although Jewish law considered a man the head of the marriage, Jesus points out that God is the head; “What God has joined together, let man not separate.”
In the next story, we see people bringing their children to Jesus, but the disciples ‘rebuked’ them (pretty harsh, I think). In response, Jesus was indignant (equally strong in his sentiment). His attention to children was probably very different from the norm in this ancient culture.
He welcomes the children… He puts His hands on them… He blesses them!
And He challenges the crowd…
Do not hinder them…
Receive the kingdom of God like a child.
Like a child… with nothing to bring… only to receive…
Neediness, not merit, is what’s needed.
In contrast we see the rich young man who has everything he could want, and who asks about eternal life. We were struck by Jesus love for this man, recognizing his sincerity.
Jesus seems to declare that the keeping of the law is not what brings eternal life. Jesus invites the man to follow Him – offering Himself as a substitute for all of the man’s possessions. Twice Jesus claims that it’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom… is he speaking to us, to our culture, in these times?
Even the disciples are baffled, “Who then can be saved?” They recognize their own inadequacy; perhaps we need to come to a place of realizing our own inadequacy. Jesus responds that “with God, all things are possible”. He promises blessing and suffering… and eternal life.
Jesus predicts his death once again, and His disciples ask for preferential seating in the kingdom. Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach them about being a servant.
And finally, we read the story of Bartimaeus, a persistent blind man who ironically recognizes Jesus as the Messiah (calling him the Son of David). He throws aside his cloak, likely his only possession, and comes to Jesus. Jesus gives him dignity by asking what he wants Jesus to do. (It’s interesting to note that James and John had just asked Jesus to do something, but they got quite a different response.)
The blind man, who already knows who Jesus is, asks to see, and Jesus says, “Your faith has healed you”. Immediately he becomes a disciple, and follows Jesus on the way to Jerusalem.
Eternal life in the Kingdom… like children, we bring nothing. And yet, what we have may be standing in the way of our fully receiving Jesus. Can we, like the blind man, throw aside our ‘cloak’ and come to Jesus? Can you hear Him say, “Your faith has healed you.”?