A ReMARKable Life Series
  • The gospel of Mark is a short, action-packed book that focuses on how Jesus Christ is the Messiah for every man, woman, and child. Christ – fully man, fully God. But Jesus wasn't the rescuer God's people had imagined, and many didn't recognize Jesus as their answer to prayer. We, too, can miss out on what God wants for us if we're only looking for answers that fit our expectations. Join us for this series as we explore Jesus' heart for people and we can change the world by serving one person at a time and helping them connect with God.
8. A Kingdom of Children (Mark 10:13-52)
  • As He travels, Jesus blesses children and teaches about child-like faith, shows how riches can block one’ coming into the Kingdom of God. In teaching more about the Kingdom, He speaks to the 12 about His death, and of true servanthood. In a picture of the opening of one’s spiritual eyes, He heals another blind man.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • Jesus bids all to come in simple, child-like (i.e, innocent, dependent, selfless, open, receptive, unselfconscious) faith. (Mark 10:14b)
  • Jesus' followers must give up their selves and whatever would otherwise hold their allegiance. (Mark 10:21 & 22, 43 & 44, 50)
  • Salvation is of God and by His initiative. (Mark 20:27-30, 45)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • What does child-like faith look like?
  • What does it mean to give up one's self?
  • Is the exercise of faith from God?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why did Jesus allow the children to come to Him? Why did the 12 not want the children to come to Jesus?
  • What was the rich young man's misunderstanding regarding eternal life? What did he think was the way to eternal life?
  • Describe how Jesus interacted with the rich young man. Why did Jesus tell him that no one is good but God alone?
  • What was it in the rich young man's life that kept him from following Jesus? Why did the young man go away from Jesus sad?
  • What is it about riches and wealth that keeps one from following Jesus? Is wealth a permanent barrier to a relationship with Jesus?
  • What principles for kingdom living does Jesus give us in these verses? (hint: one principle might be treating others the way Jesus would treat them.)
  • Why didn't the 12 understand what Jesus told them about what would happen to Him in Jerusalem?
  • What was wrong about the request of James and John? What does it mean to drink the cup that Jesus drinks and be baptized with Jesus' baptism?
  • Describe the faith of Bartimaeus. What was the outcome of his faith?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • Are you open to all kinds of people coming to Jesus? (e.g., children; those considered lowly by the world, etc.)
  • What does it mean to you that Jesus was effusive in his love and how He dealt with the children as they came for a blessing?
  • The 12 were slow to understand Jesus and the implications of following Him, and it is easy to criticize them for that. But in what ways are you slow to understand Jesus and the implications of following Him?
  • What is your take on how Jesus responded to and treated the rich young man?
  • What is your attitude to wealth and money? Would you be willing to sell all you had and give to the poor if that is what Jesus asked of you?
  • What is the importance of Jesus predicting His death and the circumstances surrounding it in such detail?
  • Are you willing to give up your self and to be a servant?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Remember that Jesus is now headed to Jerusalem and the culmination of His ministry on earth, namely His death and resurrection. He is still ministering, but is principally concerned now with teaching the 12 about the Kingdom and what it means to follow Him. In the midst of His teaching, people were bringing children to Him to be blessed (Mark 10:13), which was not out of the ordinary, for in Jesus’ day it was customary for people to bring their children to great men to have them blessed. Why does Mark place this story at this juncture in his gospel? Perhaps it comes on the heels of Jesus’ teaching about marriage as children come as a result of marriage. More likely, however, is simply the point that the kingdom is open to all (even children!) who exercise child-like faith, but is closed to those who do not respond with such faith. At first, the 12 sought to keep the people from bringing the children (Mark 10:13), presumably to protect Jesus; however, Jesus is indignant of their attitude as it represents spiritual insensitivity and is antithetical to His call and invitation for all to come to Him. So after pointing this out to them, and teaching that one’s faith must indeed be child-like in the sense of coming from a place of openness, weakness, dependence and unselfconsciousness, He takes the children in His arms and blesses them. The actual Greek words used in verse 16 give a sense of fervency – Jesus loved the children and was effusive in showing that love to them. Thus He is to all who come to Him!

Verse 17 has Jesus setting out on His journey which ultimately will lead to Jerusalem. On the way, a man ran up to him with a question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) We learn from the rest of the text, and from the Matthew (Matthew 19:16-30) and Luke (Luke 18:18-30) accounts of this story, that this man was young, rich, and some kind of official. We also see that he was sincere in wanting the answer to his question, though it turns out he was not ready for Jesus’ answer. Before responding to the question, Jesus first points out to this man that he doesn’t even understand or recognize the One to whom he is addressing his question; “good’ is a designation reserved for God, and Jesus in fact is the “God-man” not merely a teacher. (Mark 10:18) In short, Jesus is telling the man that eternal life is from God, and he needs to understand the implications of what it means to follow Jesus,and that eternal life is not a function of “doing” but derives from a relationship with a Person. Nevertheless, in order to open the man’s spiritual eyes, Jesus recites 6 commandments from the Law relating to human relationships, and asks if he “knows” them (Mark 10:19). Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask if the man has “kept” the commandments; Jesus is interested to show the man that he doesn't really understand who God is, and what one's response to Him should be. Sure enough, the man’s answer comes in terms of “doing” when he says he has kept these commandments from the days of his youth (Mark 10:20). In that regard, the man was a good Jew, and he considered his keeping these commandments merited God's favor, which was a common understanding of Judaism. What the man missed was that he didn't keep all the commandments all the time and therefore he was not really good; only God is good. Out of love for him, Jesus thus leads the man to the truth that eternal life is not earned by works; rather it is a gift from God that comes from giving up one’s life, submitting one's will to God and serving others. Jesus does this by zeroing in on what was the man’s focus, on what it is that had his heart. And it is not God; rather, it is riches, for the man loved his wealth and position. So Jesus tells the man to sell all he possesses and give to the poor (Mark 10:21). In other words, Jesus says give up what you are holding onto as lord and instead hold on to God. The man was thus faced with a choice: hold on to his wealth, or let go and follow Jesus into the kingdom. Unfortunately, the man did not accept Jesus’ invitation, and he went away grieved (Mark 10:22).

From this incident, Jesus then teaches the 12 a lesson, namely that riches are not the way into the kingdom (Jewish thinking was that riches were an indicator of God’s blessing), but actually are a stumbling block and deny entrance into the kingdom (Mark 10:23-25). The 12 are “exceedingly” astonished (Mark 10:24 – their first amazement; Mark 10:26 – their even greater, subsequent amazement) and ask Jesus how anyone can be saved to which Jesus replies that with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27). In other words, it’s not what one “does” that gains entrance into the kingdom; works cannot earn that entrance. It is only what God does, namely through His grace, that one is afforded entrance. At this point, Peter notes that he and the other 11 have left everything to follow Jesus. His hidden question seems to be, “since we've done this can we have eternal life?” Jesus’ replies that giving up everything and following Him indeed promises riches of fellowship in this life and the next, but also brings persecution, and results in eternal life (Mark 10:28-31). The way of the kingdom is not the way of the world; in the kingdom, things are turned on their head, and the first will be last, and the last, first.

The journey to Jerusalem continues in verse 32, and Mark is quick to point out that Jesus is taking the lead. Clearly, Jesus is set on Jerusalem, as that is where He will accomplish His mission of salvation. The 12 don't understand this, and are “amazed” and “afraid.” (Mark 10:32) What they do understand, however, is that Jerusalem is where the religious authorities are, that these authorities have followed Jesus around and have rejected Him, and that surely there will be trouble of some kind if Jesus continues to Jerusalem. Jesus has already told them what is to come for Him (Mark 8:31 and 9:31), and He takes this occasion to tell them again, and adds more specifics to His prophetic words. In fact, Jesus tells them six things will happen: one, He will be delivered up to the religious authorities; two, He will be condemned to death by those same authorities; three, He will be delivered over to the Gentiles (which implies He will die by crucifixion as the Gentile authorities were the Romans and crucifixion was their method of punishment by death); four, He will be mocked, spit on and flogged; five, He will be killed; and six, after three days He will rise from the dead. (Mark 10:33 & 34) What a remarkable prophecy! As we know, all six of these things came to pass. But more than that, they all needed to come to pass in order that Jesus would effect salvation. This is why He came to earth; this is why He was resolutely moving ahead to Jerusalem.

It is clear that the 12 did not understand what Jesus was telling them (cf. Luke 18:34). Their lack of understanding is hard for us to appreciate because we read of what happens through the lens of history … we know the rest of the story. The 12 didn't know the rest of the story, and simply could not believe Jesus. Instead, they seemed to think that Jesus was about to usher in the glorious Messianic age and become the Messiah ruler-king of Israel who would oversee the return of its national greatness. Jesus was about to ascend His throne, they thought. In the context of such thinking, they wondered what their place of honor would be, and thus James and John came to Him with the request that He give them whatever they ask. (Mark 10:35) Jesus was willing but asked what they want, which turned out to be to sit on either side of Him when He reigns in His glory (Mark 10:36 & 37). They were thinking in terms of sovereign rule, power and authority, and their somehow sharing in that, not understanding at all the path that lay ahead for Jesus even though He had told them what that path was going to entail. Their minds were still filled with themselves. Jesus, ever patient, commented that they don't know what they are asking, and asked if they are able to walk the path set out before Him (Mark 10:38) to which they in effect replied, “Of course we are.” (Mark 10:39). Jesus told them that they would walk His path, but that it was not His to grant them to sit on His right and left; that is up to God the Father (Mark 10:39b & 40). The other 10 heard the interchange and were indignant at James and John (Mark 10:41). But why? Was it because they had been thinking the same thing but were afraid to ask Jesus the question? Was it because they wanted to be more important than James and John? Was it because they didn't think James and John were worthy? Status, importance, power and authority was on the minds of all the 12, and Jesus had to teach them that such is not the way of the kingdom. He reminded them that the way of the Gentile rulers was to “lord it over” others, that they exercised tyrannical power that put down the lowly, and then said that such is not the kingdom way. Instead, He said, the kingdom way is the way of servanthood; the one who would be first must be “slave of all!” (Mark 10:42-44) And Jesus went even further and said that He is the model of servanthood, as He came to earth not to be served but to serve, and to “give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) In other words, Jesus came to give everything, including His life, so that all who come to Him would live. His death would thus be substitutionary in the sense that He would give His life in the place of others so that they could be made whole. He, the Messiah, was the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:10-12, come to offer His life for sin, a reality that blew away the preconceptions of the 12 about the Messiah.

So it was on to Jerusalem, which meant that Jesus and the 12 traveled through Jericho which was about 5 miles west of the Jordan river and 15 miles southeast of Jerusalem. In Jesus' day, there was an old Jericho, which was largely uninhabited, and a “new” Jericho which had been built by King Herod and was a prosperous city which flourished with the construction of numerous villas, the cultivation of date palms, and the production of wine, spices, and perfumes. On the way out of Jericho, Jesus and the 12 were part of a “great crowd” consisting of people simply following Jesus, but many who were pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. On the road, they passed by a blind beggar, Bartimaeus sitting by the road who, when he heard it was “Jesus of Nazareth” passing by, shouted out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:46 & 47) Blind people in Jesus' day were generally illiterate, socially powerless, and reduced to begging for their support. Although Bartimaeus had family (he was the son of Timaeus, Mark tells us), he nevertheless had to beg. As they did when people brought children to Jesus, the 12 and others in the crowd rebuked the man and tried to quiet him down, which only caused him to call out all the more loudly (Mark 10:48). Why try to keep Bartimaeus quiet? Perhaps the 12 and the crowd thought this traveling procession was indeed a royal procession, with the Messiah-king at its head, and that such a procession should not be interrupted by anyone, much less a blind beggar. Not so Jesus. He stopped and told them to call the man to him which they did, and the man immediately came to Jesus, presumably following the sound of his voice or being helped by others. He threw off his cloak, an outer garment, as he came (Mark 10:49 & 50). As a test of of the man's faith, Jesus asked him what he wanted, to which Bartimaeus answered “… my sight.” (Mark 10:51). Jesus told Bartimaeus that he was healed because of his faith, and to go his way. Bartimaeus, with his sight fully restored, immediately followed Jesus on the Jericho road. Did Bartimaeus follow Jesus as his Savior, or was he just joining in the boisterous crowd to see what was going to happen. Mark does not tell us, but one would like to think that Bartimaeus, like the demon possessed man from the region of the Gerasenes, was following Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of David. In any case, Bartimaeus stands in contrast to the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus. Bartemaeus knew his need, and that he was totally dependent on Jesus, even throwing precioushis cloak to the side (his cloak being a coat for cold weather, bedding for the night, and likely used to hold whatever funds he received from his begging) as he hurried to Jesus and sight, both physical and spiritual. Bartimaeus had apparently responded to the on-going question posed in this gospel, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” with an answer born out of his faith – He is Jesus, the Son of David, the Messiah, and I will follow Him.

The path to Jerusalem and the cross continues inexorably, as does the big question of Mark's gospel, “Who do you say that Jesus is?” And the related question of who can enter the kingdom is set before us as well. As to the latter, even children can come; those with simple, child-like faith can come; those with wealth can come but only if they eschew the lure and hold of that wealth; and those who recognize their need can come. The common denominators of all who come to Jesus is faith in who He is and a setting aside of one's self and pride. The choice of following Jesus or not following Jesus is presented just as it was in the passages covered in prior Notes. But now, the choice to follow is laid out somewhat more clearly – one must become a servant, set aside self-aggrandizement, self-sufficiency, and self-glorification and put God and others first. And for this salvation to be fully available and efficacious, Jesus must go to Jerusalem, be rejected, killed and rise again. Though the crowd thinks He is headed to a coronation as Messiah king, Jesus knows, and has told the 12, that the way of the suffering servant is the path, and He will take it. Jesus must indeed give His life a ransom for many.