The Book of Mark - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 3 Lesson 08 - Teaching Disciples: Part II

Teachers Comments
Aug 17 - Aug 23

Key Texts: Mark 10:15, 21, 22, 44, 45

Study Focus: Mark 10

Introduction: In the previous chapters we have studied, Mark emphasized the special consideration that Jesus gave in His preaching about the kingdom of God. In chapter 10, however, Mark notes the impact of the kingdom of God on the hearts of people who have accepted its principles into their lives. Mark also shares how we, too, may experience the kingdom as we wait for its great manifestation at the end of the time.

Lesson Themes: Our study this week addresses the question of how we may enter the kingdom of God. We also look at the challenges that people face in their intention to enter the kingdom or to experience the kingdom now. We will look at the following three points:

  1. Mark illustrates that people who want to enter God’s kingdom must possess the natural attitude of little children.

  2. God calls the rich, as well as the poor, to enter into the kingdom of God.

  3. To experience the kingdom of God now, we must keep certain principles in mind.

Part II: Commentary

God’s Kingdom and Little Children

As in previous chapters of Mark’s Gospel, the topic of the kingdom of God is likewise a central theme in chapter 10. In this chapter, however, the author ponders a related concern: How do people enter into the kingdom of God? That is, how difficult is it for people to do so? Mark embodies this inquiry in the form of two questions: “ ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ ” (Mark 10:17, NASB), and “ ‘Who can be saved?’ ” (Mark 10:26, NASB). In essence, these two questions express the same idea about who may enter into God’s kingdom. Furthermore, the answers to both questions affirm the importance that Jesus gave to the kingdom of God in His preaching.

To enter God’s kingdom, people must accept it and believe in it with the implicit trust and faith of a little child. Mark 10:15 specifies, “ ‘Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all’ ” (NASB). Parents would agree that when they give their little children presents, the children do not ask what they must do to receive the gifts. The children simply reach out their hands and take hold of the gift. Jesus yearns to see this same kind of eagerness and acceptance in the hearts of His listeners in their response to His message about the kingdom and to the kingdom itself. The Greek language seems to support this idea. The verb translated as “receive” in the verse above comes from the Greek word dechomai, which means “to take hold of something, to readily receive information and to regard it as true—to receive readily, to accept, to believe. To accept the presence of a person with friendliness—to welcome.”—Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), pp. 220, 372, 453. In other words, Jesus tells His disciples, as well as the rest of His auditors, that if they want to enter the kingdom, they need to believe in the kingdom, they need to welcome the kingdom, and they need to take hold of the kingdom with the enthusiasm of a little child when he or she takes hold of a gift. In short, we can enter the kingdom if we accept the good news about it. When we believe the good news, we make the kingdom ours.

Christ Calls the Rich, as Well as the Poor, to Enter God’s Kingdom

The story about the rich young man follows immediately after Jesus pronounces His benediction upon the little children. The rich young man most likely was among the people in the crowd who witnessed Jesus take the children in His arms and bless them. Now Jesus speaks about how people may enter the kingdom of God. Perhaps the young man was moved by Jesus’ compassion toward the children and his question welled up from a heart melted in that moment by the Savior’s mercy. Drawn to Jesus, the young man asks, “ ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ ” (Mark 10:17, NASB). In this question, Mark connects two ideas: inheriting eternal life with the kingdom of God. In the sections that follow in chapter 10, Jesus presents two impediments that may prevent or hinder people from experiencing and entering the kingdom of God. From Jesus’ response, we learn that entering the kingdom is not complicated. At the same time, we must be aware of the challenges or pitfalls that may ensnare us on our journey toward the kingdom. The first snare involves our material possessions.

After reading the story of the rich young man, we note that the heirs of God’s kingdom have a strong knowledge of His law and the Scripture. God loves those who follow His instructions. But obedience alone is not enough to ensure entrance into God’s kingdom. In Mark 10:21, 22, Jesus identifies an important point that reinforces the principles He inculcated in the scene with the little children. Mark writes of Jesus and the rich young ruler: “Looking at him, Jesus showed love to him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But he was deeply dismayed by these words, and he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property” (NASB). Jesus loved the young man and appreciated his allegiance to God’s law. However, the young man did not believe in the kingdom of God and all that it entailed. Only a person who has accepted and believed the kingdom of God can enter into it. The rich young man did not believe in it; or at the very least, he was unwilling to believe in it or to accept it.

The rich young man, as did some of the disciples of Jesus, conceptualized the kingdom of God in earthly terms, with wealth and power as the main components. One could say that the rich man already was the citizen of a “great kingdom” on this earth; that is, the kingdom of mammon or riches. “For he was one who owned much property” (Mark 10:22, NASB). But even if the rich young man believed Scripture, he was not willing to detach himself from “his own kingdom.” It may be argued that he did not believe that the kingdom of God could ultimately bring him the better life he was looking for. The issue in this narrative is not about the morality of wealth but rather the priority that those who claim to believe in Jesus give to His kingdom. Unfortunately, too many people build great empires in this world that prevent them from seeing the relevance of the kingdom of God in their lives. As a result, they do not put God’s kingdom first.

It is also true that a rich man or woman does not need to forswear his or her possessions or family in order to become Jesus’ true follower. In His discussion with Peter, “Jesus says, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life’ ” (Mark 10:29, 30, NASB; emphasis added). What is implied in this verse is a radical change of the old priorities in life.

The important issue here is that the kingdom of God must be elevated in the human heart above allegiance to every earthly kingdom. Thus, Mark emphasizes God’s Lordship over our lives. When the Lord reigns over our lives, He reigns over our possessions. If that does not happen, we have removed ourselves from God’s kingdom.

Experiencing God’s Kingdom

The issue discussed above focuses on a major hindrance to entering the kingdom of God: prioritizing earthly possessions over the kingdom of God. Our next topic concerns how we relate to one another. How should the citizens of God’s kingdom live in community with one another? This subject is now our focal point.

To begin with, we note that the phrase “among you” is emphasized in this portion of Mark 10. Mark 10:31 connects the previous discussion about possessions to the discussion on relations. Jesus states, “ ‘But many who are first will be last, and the last, first’ ” (NASB). In other words, entry into the kingdom of God is not based on human hierarchy. To illustrate this point, let us turn for a moment to the story of Jesus and His disciples on their way to Jerusalem. The disciples thought that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to establish His kingdom. Thus, two of them appealed to Him, “ ‘Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory’ ” (Mark 10:37, NASB). Do you see that the disciples do not ask to enter the kingdom? Instead, they lobby for prime positions in it. In His answer, Jesus explains that those of His followers who endeavored to enter His kingdom would receive blessings (Mark 10:30) and persecutions alike in this life.

In Mark 10:38–40, Jesus emphasizes, once again, that His kingdom included the cup of suffering, not a life of lordship over others. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to excellence in any institution or organization, including within ecclesiastic communities. However, Jesus emphasizes how such striving for excellence should be conducted. In Mark 10:42–45, He specifies what the right attitude of leaders in their communities should be. “ ‘Whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many’ ” (Mark 10:43–45, NASB).

In other words, our citizenship in God’s kingdom—particularly for those in leading positions—implies a life of sacrifice and service, rather than a life of dominion over others. Jesus is the example we should strive to emulate.

Part III: Life Application

What does Jesus mean when He says, “ ‘How hard is it to enter the kingdom of God?’ ” (Mark 10:24, NASB). The verse does not say it is impossible to enter God’s kingdom, only that it is “hard” to do so. Why? Perhaps, one reason is that very rich people may not see their need for God or what He can do for them.

The author of this set of lessons remembers a time during his college years when he had the chance to do a Bible study with a rich man. One day, when they were studying a lesson, the rich man looked directly into the author’s eyes and said, “It is great to know more about the God of the Bible. But I think I do not need God. If I need something, I just go and buy it. That’s all there is to life.”

Can we get everything in life apart from God? Explain. Are there some things in life that we cannot buy with money? What are they?

Are any of your class members acquainted with very wealthy indi­viduals or people in positions of leadership or prominence in society? If so, how can your class members help these individuals to believe that the kingdom of God is also for them? Keep in mind that nothing is too hard for the Lord. From a human perspective, entry into God’s kingdom may seem difficult, if not impossible, for some people. But remember Jesus’ words: “ ‘With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God’ ” (Mark 10:27, NASB).