Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Hi, would you turn in your Bibles to Mark's gospel, chapter 10. I got a text a little bit ago from Dr. Collins, Dr. Steve Collins who's here, saying—there he is—said, "Fifty-two verses in one night, you can do it!" [laughter] You got more faith than I have. Nah, I think we can do it. Let's pray and get started.
Father, we do thank you for the opportunity to sit in what we simply consider a large living room, the family gathered in a very informal way, but in a reverent way; where we are gathered, we're focused, we're still before you, and you get our full attention. And just in the simple act of reading and reflecting on the Scriptures, like in Nehemiah's book of old as Ezra stood up and read from the Law and gave the sense so that people could understand, as we gather, Father, pray that we would receive the sense from your Spirit of what is going on here, and apply truth to our hearts in a way that we would grow from glory to glory and from grace to grace, in Jesus' name, amen.
As we open up to chapter 10, Jesus is on the move, and he is making a journey that I have made many times myself. The big difference is that I made it by bus; Jesus made it by foot. And you have to consider that when you read the New Testament. We read that Jesus went here, and Jesus went there, and his disciples went to that place. And then we take a trip to Israel, and we go, "Oh, man, this is great. It's such a small little place." Try it on foot, and you get an appreciation for what it's like to travel with Jesus and how arduous it was, especially in that part of the world where there are some pretty hefty topographical elevation changes.
Nonetheless, Jesus, beginning in chapter 10, is on the move from north to south, from Galilee down to Judea. He's really on the way to the cross, but he has some ground to cover before he gets there. Leaving Galilee and in particular leaving where he has headquartered for three to three and a half years, and that is, Capernaum, a beautiful spot right on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. He now moves south. He is finished with his Galilean ministry. He's on the way to the cross, but there's still some ground to cover, there are still places to go, and there are people to see.
I say that he's going to Judea; actually he's going to be crossing the Jordan River, going east of the Jordan River into modern-day Jordan, into what was called, at his time, Perea. But since Perea was part of the land given to Herod the Great at one time, though it's technically not part of Judea—and you can look at all this in the back of your Bible if you have a map. Nonetheless, though it was not technically Judea, it was all put under the name of Judea, because Herod the Great once reigned over it.
Now at this point, Herod Antipas is in charge of that area. Remember Herod Antipas? He's the guy who got John the Baptist's head cut off. Now, that'll be important as we get into chapter 10. But I'd always wanted to see the place of Jesus' baptism. And that's really the crossing point where most people would go over across toward the east side, was at the place in ancient times called Bethabara; the place of the crossing of the children of Israel under Joshua's time, and also where Jesus was baptized.
On this last trip we made over to Israel, a new site was opened up, and you were able to see not only the Jordan River in that spot, but also that area that you can see toward the eastern side, toward Perea where Jesus now goes with his disciples.
In verse 1, "Then he arose from there," there being Galilee, there being Capernaum. "He arose from there and came to the region of Judea by the other side," or eastern side, "of the Jordan. And the multitudes gathered to him again, and as he was accustomed, he taught them again. The Pharisees came and asked him, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?' "—notice was it says—" 'testing him.' " The Pharisees come to Jesus for one simple reason: they're losing popularity. The grip of their authority is being slackened. They don't have the power. They don't have the pull they once had. People are following Jesus in mass. That causes a jealousy to erupt.
So, they want to test him. They want to ask him a question to get him in trouble. That's the idea. Now, how can it get him in trouble? Well, who's reigning over this area? I just mentioned it. It is?—Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas had John the Baptist's head cut off because of John's view on marriage and divorce, because Herod Antipas unlawfully took his brother's wife to himself, and that riled up his wife. And so at a party—you know the story, we've covered it—John the Baptist's head was delivered on a platter to Salome the girl, the daughter.
Hoping that that could be a repeat performance, they come to Jesus and they test him asking him about this question of divorce: "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" I suppose that no ancient nation had a higher view of marriage than the Jewish nation. They believed that it was a responsibility of Jewish men and women to be married. They looked highly upon marriage; they looked unfavorably on somebody who wouldn't get married. In fact, the rabbis used to have a saying that "the very altar itself sheds tears when a man divorces the wife of his youth."
So, having that as their background, wanting to test Jesus, they ask him this question about marriage. There was a problem passage. The problem passage in the Law was Deuteronomy, chapter 24. It's the only passage in the Old Testament that actually speaks about the divorce procedure. I'll just read it to you since I have it marked in my Bible to turn to.
When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man's wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, and puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if this latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then the former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife. She has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord. You shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
The issue, the problem with that passage is: what does the passage mean by uncleanness, if a husband finds some "uncleanness" in his wife? At the time of Jesus there were two main schools of thought. The first school was the conservative school headed by a rabbi named Shammai. He believed uncleanness meant, in context, some sexual immorality. He had a very narrow view, a conservative view.
But on the other hand there was a more liberal view, a wider view, and that was the view of Rabbi Hillel who said, "Uncleanness, well, it could mean a lot of things. If, for example," said Hillel, "if a wife cooks a meal and she overseasons the meal so it's not to his liking, that to him is unclean and grounds for divorce." How crazy is that? If the wife speaks to another man in public—grounds for divorce. If the woman is a brawling woman—grounds for divorce. If she speaks disrespectfully of his parents—grounds for divorce.
That was a very liberal view—uncleanness. That broadened it out quite a bit. In the school of Hillel, the liberal view, another rabbi came later named Rabbi Akiva/Akiba who even said uncleanness could even be if the husband eventually finds a woman more beautiful than his wife. Well, eventually that could include everyone. So, which view do you think was most popular at the time of Jesus, the very narrow conservative view, or the very wide liberal view? The wide, liberal view, like in any period of history. "Let's not take it to mean so literally. Let's broaden it out and kind of make it whatever we want to make it." People still do that with the Bible.
So, they try to trick Jesus with this question hoping that he's going to answer one rabbi or the other, and alienate one group over the other. I love how Jesus answers it. Basically he says, "Let's go to the Bible." Forget what that rabbi says or what that rabbi says, that's not the issue. Their opinions of Deuteronomy 24 aren't the issue. The issue is what Scripture says; that is always the issue.
So, back in Mark, "He answered," verse 3, "and said to them, 'What did Moses command you?' " What does the Scripture say? "They said, 'Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.' And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of creation, God "made them male and female." "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh"; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.' "
Jesus takes them back to the beginning. "What did Moses say?" "Well, Moses said this . . ." "Well, now let's go back even before Moses. Let's go back to the very beginning." Why does he do that? Because he wants them to understand what God's view of marriage is, because you'll never understand God's view of divorce till you understand God's view of marriage.
And the way God originally intended marriage, according to Christ and in context of Scripture, is that it is to be intimate and it is to be permanent. "One flesh," intimate. A husband and wife come together; they exchange souls, if you will. They eventually have offspring that blends both of their personalities, both of their genetic structure into one, and it's permanent. "What God has joined," Jesus said, "let no man put asunder, or separate."
When God first created man and put him on the earth, and God created a woman and brought the woman to the man, and he said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called woman because she was taken out of man." God immediately said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave, or be joined unto his wife." The word in Hebrew means to be glued permanently together.
I love superglue. It's just one of the best inventions ever. It's amazing how that superglue seems to make the joint even stronger than it was before. I've had so many things break, and I just go, "Get out the superglue." When God brings a man and a woman together, he's got his own superglue. They form a unit. They become one flesh. God joins them together. He glues them—his intention—inseparably.
Now, there is a problem with superglue. If you try to separate what you've joined together, you make a bigger mess out of the project. Go home and try it. Take a couple things, just take paper, two pieces of paper, glue them together; the next morning say "Nah, I've decided to separate those two." Try to separate them. Now, if you come and you go, "I did it." I'll ask you this question: Do they look the same? Were you able to separate those two entities without damage?
Answer, in every case, will be no, because that was not the intention. Once you glue it together, effectively it's one unit. That's God's intention in marriage. You need to understand that. Jesus is telling them to understand what he feels about divorce. "What God has joined, let no man put asunder."
"In the house his disciples also asked him again about the same matter. He said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.' " What we need to understand about Deuteronomy 24, the passage in question, "Moses permitted or commanded a certificate of divorce," depending on which text you read, is that Deuteronomy 24 really isn't an issue about what constitutes cleanness or uncleanness in that situation.
It's really a chapter written about the divorce proceedings in order to protect the rights of a woman and the reputation of a wife. If her husband lets her go, a certificate has to be in place, because if she's not guilty of sexual immorality, then she is let go unlawfully and her reputation remains intact; his reputation is on the line. So, it was to protect her. That's the idea of those first few verses.
But notice that Jesus said, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her." So here's the deal: according to Scripture there is one reason why a person or persons can get a divorce, and that is, adultery, sexual immorality. And according to Deuteronomy 24, that has to be stated. So that if somebody says, "Well, we're divorcing because we're not compatible"—well, who is compatible? Eventually you will find an incompatibility in anyone, because we're human, we all have our own will. We have our own propensities, proclivities, bents.
The other reason for a believer is that if an unbeliever, First Corinthians, chapter 7, wants to depart, Paul said, you're free in that matter, let the unbelieving person depart. But if the unbeliever wants to stay married to the believer, tells the believer, stay in that marriage. And so when Jesus says what he says, he's simply saying, "If you divorce for any reason, like Rabbi Hillel and Akiva are telling you, just know this: if it's not for the reason of sexual immorality, adultery, when you marry somebody else, you will be perpetuating adultery all over the place. You'll be proliferating adultery by an unlawful remarriage."
There is a lawful reason for divorce, and thus, remarriage. But if it's for a wrong reason, you will be proliferating adultery all over the land, and, again, according to Deuteronomy 24, the land becomes defiled. Well, the disciples had to ask him about that again, and he gives them that answer.
"Then they brought little children to him, that he might touch them; but the disciples"—yup, those crazy disciples. They've been with him a few years, but they sure don't get his heart. "But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was greatly displeased and he said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it. And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them."
It was very common for parents to bring their little children to a rabbi that the rabbi might pray for them, give them a blessing, pray for their future, etcetera. It was very, very common. In fact, the Jewish Talmud encourages parents to do that. Part of the oral law that was codified and written down tells parents to do that: "Get your child blessed by the rabbi." They bring their children to Jesus—now, the idea, the word here for children, it was little children, toddlers, little, little kids—that Jesus might hold them, that Jesus might bless them.
I love that. I would encourage parents to do the same. Get your kids to Jesus as young as you can. Bring them to him. You've heard me quote Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He used to say, "Before a child reaches seven, teach him all the way to heaven. And better still the work will thrive, if he learns before he's five." As impressionable as they are, as open as they are, as much as they'll receive—get your children to Jesus early that he might bless them. Parents, you are partners with God in making disciples of your children. Think of yourself in that capacity: "I'm God's partner to train this child in the ways of God. That's my role on this planet."
"When Jesus saw it, he was greatly displeased." He's rebuking his disciples for this. " 'Let the little children come to me. Do not forbid them; for of such' "—notice that—" 'of such is the kingdom of God.' " That's an important little phrase. That's an important little nugget of truth: "of such is the kingdom." These were toddlers. These children were probably too young to have a mature knowledgeable kind of a faith that we would expect people who make decisions to follow Christ to have.
I believe embedded in this truth is the idea that God extends salvation to little children below what we would call—typically, it's called the "age of accountability." What happens to little children? Do they go to limbo? That's what I was taught growing up. No, they go directly into the presence of God. And I believe anybody who is mentally—even if they're physically an adult—mentally they're inhibited and they have a capacity of a child, it's extended to them as well. I've given a whole message on this.
" 'Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.' And he took them up in his arms." I'm sure it was a delight to the parents, and probably looked at the disciples like: "See, he does like my kids." "He laid his hands on them, and he blessed them. Now as he was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before him, and asked him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' "
This passage is typically called "the story of the rich young ruler." All three gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—all three Synoptic Gospels tell us that he was rich or wealthy; he had great possessions. Matthew tells us he was young. Luke tells us he was a ruler. So you put them all together, he was a rich young ruler. However, I don't know how rich he really was; he walked away from Jesus. I look at him, I go, "Poor guy. Poverty stricken." Wealthy, perhaps, but only materially, not spiritually, not eternally.
So, I know he's called the rich young ruler; I look at him as a poor fellow. But he runs to Jesus and he asks a question that betrays two flaws in his thinking: number one, that Jesus is merely like any other great human teacher, a good teacher, a good master, putting Jesus on the same level with any other great rabbinical teacher. Second flaw in his question is that it's possible to earn your way to heaven. "What must I do"—emphasis on "I"—"to inherit the eternal life?"
"So Jesus said to him"—I've always loved this. " 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, and that is, God.' " Jesus is saying only one of two things: number one, "I'm no good"; or, "I am God." "Why do you call me good? You call me 'good Teacher,' there's only One good intrinsically, by nature, and that is, God himself. You call me 'good Master,' is it because you recognize something within me?" It's not denying his deity; it's actually affirming his deity and giving this poor young ruler the ability to affirm, "I do recognize something about you. I've heard you. I've seen you. I recognize who you are."
" 'Why do you call me good? There's only One good, and that is, God. You know the commandments: "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not bear false witness," "Do not defraud," "Honor your father and your mother." ' "
Jesus mentions six of the Ten Commandments, and interestingly they're the second table of the Law. Remember the Ten Commandments are divided into two sections: the first four deal with your relationship vertically with God; the second six deal with your relationship with people. And the law is summed up—do you remember what the law is summed up in one word? What's the word? Love. Love. "You say you keep the commandments, you know what the law says. Do you really love your neighbor as yourself? Do you really love God with all your heart? You know what the law says, are you really keeping it? Are you really doing it?"
"And he answered"—and by the way, notice how many of the commandments are put in the negative: Do not commit adultery. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Now, this guy's going to go, "I've done all those." How many people do you know that have a self-righteousness, like this guy, built on negatives? "I must be a Christian because I don't do that, and I don't do this, and don't do the other thing." What do you do? What's the positive spin of that? What's the positive part of that?
"He said, 'Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.' " Wow. H'm, could you say that? I don't know that I could. I couldn't. Jesus, "Then Jesus"—this is a tremendous verse—"looking at him, loved him." What that look must have been like. But it's something that Peter remembered, because Peter tells Mark who writes this, "The day that I saw Jesus look at that wealthy, successful, young man was a look of sheer love." Maybe it's because Peter remembers it was the same look that Jesus had for him the night that Peter betrayed Jesus. Same look, perhaps—a look of love that melted his heart.
"Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me.' " Now, please, don't misunderstand what he's saying. He's not giving people a call to poverty or philanthropy, that if you give or sell everything and become very poor and become a philanthropist that you'll earn your way to heaven; that deifies the very point of the context. He's simply exposing the true heart of a self-righteousness young man who says, "I've kept the law since I was young."
When I was at the dentist last time—and I never like going to a dentist. I love dentists, so if you're a dentist I'm not saying I don't love dentists, but I don't love the experience of the dental chair. And especially when he takes the little sharp probe and he starts probing around: "Does this hurt? Is that tender?" "Yeah, let me just tell you, yes. Just before you even start with that little thing, yes, yes, yes, to all of the above." [laughter] But they love to poke until: "Well, tell me how that felt." And then they ask you a question and you go, [mumbles]. "What?"
But last time I was in the dental chair and they gave me a shot of that Novocain, they happened to hit right at the nerve so that I could feel it all the way through my head and up toward the back. And I said, "You nailed it. Man, you got that nerve. You didn't get around it, you got the nerve itself." And he was trying to describe the anatomy and how the body works. I didn't care, just—whatever, it hurt.
Jesus is not saying you're saved by the law; he's using the law as a probe to expose his heart, to show him how this young man has not kept the law from his youth. He says, " 'One thing you lack: Go sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; come, and take up the cross and follow me.' But he was sad at this word, and he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." The idea was to stop this young man dead in his tracks to get him to realize that he was owned by another God.
He said, "I know I've kept all those commandments." "Yeah, but there's one commandment, young man, you haven't kept, and that's the first commandment which says, 'I am the Lord your God and you will have no other gods besides me.' I can prove that you are serving another God. Go sell what you have, give it to the poor, and then follow me." "Well, I won't do that." "And because you won't do that, that proves that that money owns you, that wealth owns you, those possessions possess you. That's your God. That's the God that you serve."
And that's the probe, that's the needle with the Novocain on the nerve. And the saddest verse in the narrative, one of the saddest verses in all of Scripture is: "But he was sad at this word, and went away." He walked away from salvation. He walked away from Jesus.
"For he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, 'Children, how hard it is in those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' "
I've heard many comments and read many things and heard many sermons on these verses over the years. And I'm always intrigued when preachers try to explain this away as saying, "Well, you know, what Jesus is really saying by going through the 'eye of a needle' is there was a gate next to one of the main gates in Jerusalem that was very short and very narrow, and a beast of burden like a camel couldn't go through that eye-of-the-needle gate next to the big gate."
That's what they say it was, "unless that camel were bowed really low and stripped of its saddle and any of the goods it was carrying. And though it wasn't impossible for the camel to go but the eye of that needle, that small, short gate, it was difficult. You had to strip it down and get it through."
The only problem with that interpretation is no such gate has ever been found. There's no evidence of one existing. Number two, when Luke tells the story, the word he uses in Greek for needle, beloné, means the eye of a surgeon's needle, a small little needle. So, it's beyond doubt that he was referring to a needle in one's hand, a surgeon's needle, not a little gate that didn't exist next to a big gate.
And so he said, because they were astonished, "It's easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven." In other words, you cannot buy your way, nor can you earn your way into heaven. I'll tell you in a minute why it astonished them so much. "And they were greatly astonished," verse 26, again, "saying among themselves, 'Who then can be saved?' "
Now why is this such a difficult thing for the disciples? Here's why: they were raised in a Jewish culture. The Jewish culture in which they were raised taught them to believe that if somebody has wealth, it is because God has greatly blessed that person because that person is a righteous person. A couple of passages that were used, really misused, to apply to this is Deuteronomy, chapter 8.
There's two different verses: one that talks about you, God's people, being brought into the land of Israel: "And when you eat of the fruit of the land and you are filled, you shall bless the Lord"; and then in Deuteronomy 8, I'm guessing around verse 18, if I am correct, the second passage. It says, "For it is the Lord your God who gives you a power to get wealth." They put all of that together and said, "A wealthy person has a greater capacity to give to the poor, to give alms; therefore, a greater chance of entering heaven by giving alms and by working hard to get a place in the kingdom. It was their belief system.
So, they're, like, blown away, it's like, "Well then, like, you know, if the rich can't be saved, these people who are obviously blessed by God and able to give a lot of alms, who then can be saved?" "Jesus looked at them and said, 'With men it's impossible.' " Now just let that sink in tonight. Because if you're thinking, "I want to get saved. How can I—what can I do to enter the kingdom of God? What good thing must I do?" like the rich young ruler. It's impossible. It can't be done. You can't save yourself.
" 'But not with God,' " he continues, " 'for with God all things are possible.' " What is a human impossibility is a divine certainty, because salvation is a free gift of God, Ephesians tells us. You can't earn it, but you can receive it. "Then Peter"—love this guy. Love, love, love, this guy. I'm so glad that soon we're going to be going through 1 and 2 Peter. "Peter began to say to him, 'See, we have left all and followed you.' "
Now, you know what he's saying; he remembers the whole conversation with the rich young ruler. "We've done everything you told the rich young ruler to do that he didn't do; we've done it. Been there, done that. Got the T-shirt. Did it." "Jesus answered and said to him, 'Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children' "—think of all the sacrifices some have made to follow Christ.
Some have lost their family, lost their marriage, lost their job, lost their status, lost their life—" 'or lands, for my sake and the Gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, lands' "—notice—" 'with persecutions' "—it's part of the deal—" 'and in the age to come, eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.' "
You know what bugs me? Can I just give you a little personal thing? You know what really bugs me? When people say, "Let me tell you what I've sacrificed for the Lord." Oh, shut up. [laughter] "I've given up so much to go, like, do what God has called me to do." Oh, really? You know what you've given up? Hell, eternal damnation, eternal condemnation; you received eternal life. "Yeah, but it's hard." Okay, "with persecutions"—part of the deal. Don't be surprised at that.
And there are people in the world that really get persecuted. I remember the first time somebody laughed at a Christian bumper sticker I put on my Datsun pickup truck. I know, I'm dating myself when I even say, "Datsun pickup truck." [laughter] And people laughed at it and I thought, "Oh, I've been persecuted. They laughed at my bumper sticker."
Reality check! There's people who are dying for their faith with persecution. But Jesus says, "You know what? You've be given back so much even now," here and now. I lost so many friends when I gave myself to Christ, I gave my life to Christ. My old friends wanted nothing to do with me. But you know what? I got a whole new set of friends. I got a whole new family. I got a whole new mom, dad, sisters, brothers. [applause]
"Now as they were on the road," as they were going on the road, "going"—notice—"up to Jerusalem." Now this is—let me just set the little—paint the brush here. This is a final movement of Jesus toward Jerusalem where he will be tried after he's arrested and crucified. He's left Galilee. He's moved east of the Jordan, down in Perea. Now he's going to cross back over the Jordan River in the area of Jericho, and from Jericho make that fifteen-mile hike up to Jerusalem. It's a very, very steep road.
He's making it now with his disciples, and notice it says they're "going up to Jerusalem." Jerusalem is about 2,500 feet above sea level. The Dead Sea area where Jesus is at is 1,290 feet below sea level, that's at the shore of the Dead Sea. Jericho is a little higher than that. Sort of like Palm Springs, you know, kind of raised up, but still really, really hot in the summer. And so wherever you are around Jerusalem, if you want to go to Jerusalem, you always have to go up.
Now, that's important because the Bible measures in terms of its directions. Instead of north and south, east and west, it measures it by topography, because you walked in those days. So, when it says, "Let's go up to Jerusalem," you actually may be north of Jerusalem and say, "Let's go up to Jerusalem." Now today, we would see the map and go, "Oh no, you've got that wrong. You mean go down to Jerusalem." Because you're up here on the map and so in latitude you're going to go down. No, I'm walking, and I'm walking up that hill, so I'm going up to Jerusalem. So you might be way up in Galilee and say, "Let's go up to Jerusalem," even though you're going down on a map. You follow me?
Also, it was believed that whenever you make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, no matter where in the world you live, you're always going up when you go to Jerusalem. You might live in Rome, and it might be the most beautiful villa you live in in Rome, or Beverly Hills, but when you leave Jerusalem and go to Beverly Hills, you're going down. [laughter] When you leave Beverly Hills and you go to Jerusalem, you're going to the place of worship; it's always a step up to go worship God. Think of that every Sunday or every Wednesday: "Let's go up to church."
That's why if you are Jewish and you live outside of Israel and you immigrate to Israel, you know what they call it? Aliyah/Alah, aliyah means to go up. "We're going—I'm moving to Israel. We're going to make aliyah. We're going up in life." So it has a kind of a dual connotation.
They were "going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them," and notice it says, "and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. And then he took the twelve aside and began to tell them the things that would happen." Now there's a lot in that verse and I just want to quickly explain it. You know, I'm going to move very, very quickly and talk very fast so we can get through this. But number one, I went going up. It says they followed Jesus, "they were amazed." Question is when you read that, you go, "Why were they amazed?" It doesn't say why they were amazed.
Luke's Gospel says that Jesus "set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem," or as the King James, "set his face like flint to go to Jerusalem." I believe what they were amazed at is that Jesus Christ was dead set, steadfast, "I'm going to Jerusalem, nothing's going to keep me from that." He was so centered on that, that they were amazed. He kept going back to the goal. "Going to Jerusalem. Let's keep going. Going up to Jerusalem."
They were amazed that he was so intent, and then they got afraid because he'll explain what's going to happen. Now, there's already lots of controversy following Jesus wherever he's at. Going up to Jerusalem is going to fuel the fire a lot more, so they go from amazement to fear, because they know that something bad could really happen. And he's going to explain to them, indeed, that is the case.
Then it says, "He took the twelve aside again," what does that mean? They're going up to Jerusalem; they're not the only ones traveling. It's almost Passover time, so there's lots of pilgrims from around Israel going up on all the roads from all the villages to worship in Jerusalem because there were three mandatory feasts. Do you remember? Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. This is Passover, lots of people are going up. So, because there's so many people, the Lord wants to tell them something. So, he takes them aside from the rest of the pilgrims going up on the road and tells the things that would happen.
Here's his message to them; here's his sermon: " 'Behold,' " or, hey, check this out, " 'we're going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests, to the scribes; they will condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and scourge him, and spit on him, and kill him. And on the third day he will rise again." It's the third time Jesus tells them this. Chapter 8, chapter 9, he said it, now here in chapter 10 he tells them again.
"Okay, news flash, boys. Word up on this. Just so you know, priming you for what's going on here. I'm going up to Jerusalem; you need to know what this means. They're going to hate me, mock me, spit on me, and kill me." So they were afraid before; they're really afraid now. And the last sentence just went over their heads. They forgot all about it. "Third day I'm going to rise from the dead." Foom! over their head. Didn't even pick up on it. They do not expect a crucifixion, and I can prove that because it says later on after Jesus rose from the dead they forgot that he actually said that.
"And the third day he will rise from the dead." I want to make a comment really quickly. There are people who try to put Jesus in a couple different camps, and I hear this, oh, every Christmas and Easter when these lame television networks have a new show about Jesus: "New Facts We've Uncovered." They're just old lies in new documentaries. One, they try to cast Jesus as some gentile, naive, do-good philosopher, just kind of like happy, but really naive, who got caught up in the Roman government machinery and got himself crucified; or a revolutionary who started a coup and is the victim of his own issues, pride, whatever. He's a victim of his own popularity.
What I see here by Jesus three times telling them in advance, "This is what's going to happen to me," it shows me none of those are even a possibility. According to the New Testament record, the fact that Jesus could tell his disciples in one of these predictions in another gospel, he says, "They're going to crucify me." He tells them the exact manner by which he's going to die. It shows me this is a planned event.
It's not, "Oops, I'm really in trouble now; they're going to kill me. Oops, I got caught up in the Roman government machinery and I'm going to get myself crucified. Oops, I'm a victim of my own popularity." Bologna! It's a planned event. Revelation 13, he's "the Lamb who is slain before the foundations of the earth." "For God sent his Son into the world." He's not a victim of anything. It was a planned event long before the universe existed, from the foundation of the earth.
"Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him, saying, 'Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.' " [laughter] You laugh, but I know you have prayed a prayer like that. [laughter] "Lord, now I'm going to pray something, and I want you to do exactly as I tell you." [laughter] "He said to them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' They said to him, 'Grant us that we may sit, one on your right hand and the other on your left, in your glory.' "
Now I suppose they had an argument even before they approached Jesus about who's getting the right hand and who's getting the left hand. Both were places of honor, but the right hand clearly was the highest place of honor. So once they had that ironed up, they come to Jesus.
"Jesus said to them, 'You don't even know what you're asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?' They said to him, 'We're able.' " This is called zeal without knowledge. " 'Jesus said to them, 'You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I'm baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, it is for those for whom it is prepared.' "
Matthew gives us some very interesting insight into this particular story. Mark—Peter, is gentle and generous with him, saying, these two boys went to Jesus, but Matthew rats on them and tells us how they went about asking Jesus. Matthew said they used their mother to be the voice. Can you imagine, you sent your mom to ask him that question? [laughter] Jesus asked them a question: "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?" Now, the word for cup, the idea of a cup is to enter into the full experience of an ordeal. "Are you able to go through what I'm going to go through? "
And they go, yeah, not even knowing—he just said, "I'm going to get killed. Are you able to follow me all the way and go through what I'm"—"Oh, yeah." So, you guys really weren't listening a couple of verses ago, right? "He says to them, 'You will indeed drink the cup, you will be baptized with the baptism, but to sit on my right hand and my left hand is not mine to give, but for those for whom it is prepared.' "
"Yup, you guys really are going to enter into suffering and pain." James was the first martyr of the church, Acts, chapter 12. Herod had his head cut off. John will be exiled to Patmos for his faith, entering also into suffering. Not a whole lot has changed when it comes to the kingdom of God now and Christian service. There are people who—well, let me put it to you this way. When I first left the beach and came out to New Mexico, I told all my friends where God had called me to go, and asked them to come join me and serve the Lord with me, and—"You're going where? What's the name of that state? New—what?"
They'd, like, never heard of it. "Yeah, I'm just going to see what the Lord has. Come and serve. Come and"—"Well, you know I don't know if the Lord's called me." I can go with that. But what was interesting is after the church was established here, and some knew that they could have an actual job, that, like, pays money with benefits, insurance—"I feel called." "But are you guys able to be baptized and to drink this cup?"
"And when the ten heard it"—remember, two came to Jesus using mom. "When the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John." You can imagine what that sounded like, and I think they were just mad because they didn't think of it first. [laughter] "Jesus called them to himself and said to them, 'You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles, lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
"Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man' "—that's Jesus himself—" 'did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.' "
In the world that's a pyramid. The guy on top is on top of the pyramid, and the lesser people are below him in the pyramid. Jesus says, "Turn it upside down; that's my kingdom." Richard Lenski, R. C. Lenski, great commentator, one of my favorites in New Testament stuff, talks about this pyramid. And he says, "Great men don't sit on top of lesser men; great men bear lesser men on their backs." That's what Jesus did.
I find even among Christians this idea in ministry of a celebrity status: "Well, we have handlers for everything we do." Now, why don't you be their handlers, buddy? Why don't you serve them? Jesus came to serve people. He didn't have handlers. He served them. And notice the word "servant," verse 43, and "slave," in verse 44; realize you are a personal property of another. You're his servant; you're his slave. Maybe we should put that in all of our business cards. Instead of "Dr., Reverend, Pastor Skip, his holiness"—how about "slave of Jesus Christ"?
"Now they came to Jericho"—hey, man, I think we're gonna do it. [laughter] "Now they came to Jericho." We're in Jericho already, man. We left Galilee and we're in Jericho; that's a long walk. "They came to Jericho. And as he went out of Jericho"—now it's leaving Jericho going upwards toward Jerusalem, what we would call south, but it's "up" topography—"with his disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus"—now we don't know his name.
I know, you're looking at him going, "Yeah, it's Bartimaeus." "Bar" means son, Timaeus was his dad, and that's the explanatory note following it: "the son of Timaeus." He's called Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus means "son of Timaeus." That's who he was; we still don't know his name. He's the son of Timaeus. He's Bartimaios.
"Sat by the road begging. And when he heard it, that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Then many warned him to be quiet, but he cried out all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!' " Blindness was common two thousand years ago in this part of the world. The sun was very bright. People didn't have sunglasses. Sand blew a lot like it does around here. There really weren't eye drops like we have today, or protective contact lenses. Unsanitary conditions prevailed in that part of the world.
And I've also told you about a common condition that produced a blindness from the birth where the baby picked up in the birth canal during the birth process in the conjunctiva, the mucus membrane of the eyelid, a certain bacteria, ophthalmia neonatorum. So, they were born, where after a few days after puss filled the eyes, eventually, within a week or two the baby would become blind.
Now, Jericho was interesting because Jericho had a balsam plant that grew around it that was used to treat blindness. So, there was an inordinate amount of blind people who lived in Jericho hoping for a cure, a medicinal cure, since that was one of the medicinal centers, research centers, for lack of a better term, in that part of the world.
If you become blind, if you don't have a family to support you, you often become a beggar. And you go to a gate, an opening of the city where travelers gather and come in and out of, and you take advantage of their hopeful generosity. That's the idea. He heard, he couldn't see, but he heard this crowd and he heard that it was Jesus, so he just cried out. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"—stop right there.
This man lacks the faculty of physical eyesight, but he saw better than anybody else in that crowd, because he called Jesus the "Son of David"; that's a messianic term. To him he's a rabbi. He's a good man. "Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" To this man he's Jesus, the Son of David, the Jewish Messiah.
Don't know how he knew that. Maybe he, just being a beggar in the gate of Jericho, heard the news of travelers for years going back and forth of Jesus healing the blind and the deaf and raising the dead. And when he knew Jesus was in his town, he identified him, "Jesus, Son of David," it's the very term they will use in a few days on the Mount of Olives. "Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' "—a messianic term. So though he was blind physically, he could see better than anybody else in town.
Helen Keller, one of the most famous visually impaired people in history said, "It is better to be blind than to have two good eyes and with your heart see nothing at all." He saw in his heart who this was. "Jesus stood still," verse 49, "and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, 'Be of good cheer.' " Now they just said, "Shut up!" Now they say, "Hey, dude, cheer up."
" 'He's calling you.' And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, 'What you want me to do for you?' " Was that really necessary? Wasn't it unnecessary for Jesus to ask him a question? He's blind. Everybody knows he's blind. He's crying out for mercy. "What can I do for you?" "Uh, three guesses." I mean, anybody can answer the question. Why does Jesus ask him the question? He wants him to articulate specifically. I think there is a principle. He didn't say, "Lord, just bless me generally." "Uh, I'd like to be cured of my blindness," he asked that specifically.
"The blind man said to him, 'Rabboni,' "—it's the intensive personalized form from rabbi, my personal rabbi. " 'That I may receive my sight.' " A specific prayer will lead to a specific answer, which will generate a specific praise. Be specific when you pray, so that when it gets answered you can praise him specifically for the answered prayer. "Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well.' And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road."
Don't you find it interesting that they tried to tell him to be quiet. "Be quiet!" You know, "You're bugging Jesus." Please learn this lesson: you can never bug Jesus. You can never bother him. He's never, like, "I'm too busy. I'm, like, God. I'm, like, running the universe. Could you, like, lay off for a while. You're always talking." [laughter] Never-er! [laughter] Don't let anyone dissuade you. Press in, come.
"Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road." So now he can see and he's following Jesus. What did he see? Well, he saw Jesus go up to Jerusalem then, didn't he? He saw Jesus get up on that donkey on the Mount of Olives, and he heard the shouts of hosanna. He would see Jesus get crucified in a few days and rise from the dead. But the first thing he would ever see beside those things, the first thing he would ever see would be Jesus. Wow! How's that? How cool is that!
There's a hymn writer—I close with this. I've told you this story. I love this, true story. Fanny Crosby was her name; they called her that. She wrote eight thousand Christian hymns of worship—eight thousand. And a minister said to her one time, "Miss Crosby, God has blessed you with so much talent, it's a pity that you were born blind." She said, "If I had but one request, it would be that I would be born blind, because that means the first face that will every gladden my sight will be that of my Savior."
First thing this man saw when his eyes were open standing in front of him was Jesus Christ. What a thing to wake up to. And unless you see Jesus, you're blind.
Father, we thank you for the time we've spent in this chapter, this wonderful chapter of love, of Jesus with his disciples from Galilee to Perea, Jude, Jericho, and then up to Jerusalem. Thank you that we've been able to follow through this Gospel and be transformed by these truths, in Jesus' name, amen.