Mark 10:1–31 breaks down into three separate interactions: a question about divorce, the children approaching Jesus, and the rich young ruler. From these three interactions, we see a clear message about the heart of a true disciple. In all three scenarios, someone is leaving—a man from his wife, the children from Jesus because of the disciples, and the rich young ruler after not receiving a favorable answer.
The story of Jesus and the little children is the positive example. We read this and think about the phrase “child-like faith.” But consider also that, although the disciples tried to turn these kids aside, Jesus wasn’t having it. These kids wanted to be close to Jesus, and that reflects the heart of a true disciple—nothing stops or distracts a true disciple from seeking Jesus.
In the first 12 verses, we have the Pharisees questioning Jesus about divorce. Of course, in the words of General Akbar, “It’s a trap!” King Herod had recently divorced his wife, the daughter of the king of Nabatea. Considering the political upheaval and war that was caused because of Herod’s divorce, the Pharisees figured that Jesus would inadvertently criticize the king and be in hot water.
Jesus, of course, parried and turned the tables. He essentially says that divorce was not God’s plan, “it was not that way in the beginning” (Matt 19:8). However, because of sin, divorce became a means of protecting women from the “death do us part,” clause in a society when women’s rights were lacking. Additionally, in the culture to which Jesus was speaking, it was considered adultery for a man to have relations with an engaged or married woman because of the offense to her husband. Again, women still had very little rights. Thus, when Jesus says that when a man has relations with another woman, he commits adultery against his own wife, that was something new and unheard of before. That statement elevated women, granting them dignity in a society that offered little. Men were no longer only responsible to other men, now they were responsible to women as well.
Divorce always occurs because at least one person puts themselves first. This hard-hearted selfishness does not reflect the heart of a true disciple, one that seeks self ahead of Jesus.
The story of the rich young ruler is a lot like the scenario with divorce. The rich young ruler wants and seeks Jesus, but not at the expense of his stuff. While divorce illustrates a love of self, this ruler illustrates a love of stuff, neither of which represent a heart of a disciple, which loves and seeks Christ above all else.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate