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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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Mark 10

This chapter records a few of the events of Jesus' Perean ministry, recorded much more fully by Luke, but here comprising only this single chapter. It is nevertheless a kind of dividing line between the first nine chapters devoted to the public ministry of our Lord and the last six outlining the events of the Passion and subsequent resurrection.

The following sections make up Mark 10: Christ's teaching on marriage and divorce (Mark 10:1-12), the Saviour's blessing little children (Mark 10:13-15), the interview with the rich young ruler (Mark 10:16-22), the Lord's teaching on riches (Mark 10:23-31), further prophecies of the Passion (Mark 10:32-34), the request of the sons of Zebedee (Mark 10:35-45), and the healing of blind Bartimaeus between the two Jerichos (Mark 10:46-52).

Verse 1
And he arose from thence, and cometh into the borders of Judaea and beyond the Jordan; and multitudes came together unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.

This is a transitional statement setting off Mark 10 from events previously recorded. The Lord is here leaving Galilee for the last time and turning his face toward Jerusalem and the cross. The days of seeking privacy and seclusion have ended. Some scholars believe that "what is indicated here is not a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem, but rather a ministry in Judea and Perea." F1 The sacred authors have not provided sufficient details for the resolution of all such questions; but this should not be viewed in any manner as a fault on their part.

Verse 2
And there came unto him Pharisees and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? trying him.


Mark's account here is briefer than Matthew who gave the true form of the question as "Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" (Matthew 19:3). We have no patience with scholars who insist that Mark's account of the question is true and that Matthew has "glossed" him, or that Matthew "represents a later modification of the teachings of Jesus." F2 Such allegations are not merely inaccurate, but they are contrary to the plain indications in Mark that Jesus' answer had regard to the very limitation of the question as it appears in Matthew. William Barclay pointed out that:

The exception noted in Matthew is implied in Mark's version. It was Jewish law that adultery did in fact compulsorily dissolve any marriage. F3

W. N. Clarke also pointed out that Mark's account presupposes the statement of the question exactly as it is found in Matthew:

In Mark, "except for fornication" is omitted; but it is sufficiently implied ... Indeed, Mark 10:12 distinctly enforces the principle of equal responsibility (of the sexes) regarding the matter of fornication (the exception noted by Matthew). F4

Thus, here is another instance of falsely interpreting the gospels resulting from acceptance of the Markan theory of viewing that gospel as the "original" and most dependable gospel. This is not true at all; in fact, Mark, shorter than the others, is actually the most limited of them all.

Trying him ...
This indicates the true reason for the Pharisees' question. It was not for the procurement of information but only for the purpose of seeking some charge against Jesus. They might have had in mind opening up a conflict between Christ and Moses, instinctively recognizing that Christ's teachings would be superior to those of Moses; or they might have had in mind the Lord's entrapment with regard to the marital status of Herod, who had already beheaded John the Baptist for his comment on Herod's incestuous marriage.

Verse 3
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?

Thus, as always, Christ sent his questioners back to the word of God. It was true that Christ had greater authority than Moses, but the authority of Moses was still the binding law upon the Pharisees.

Verse 4
And they said. Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.

The duplicity and deceit of the Pharisees appear in this answer which quoted Moses inaccurately and without regard to the circumstance under which in some cases, he permitted divorce. The Mosaic regulation regarding divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) was definitely not a blanket permission of divorce for any cause, but only in cases where the husband had found something "unseemly" in his wife. To be sure, the Pharisees, following the most liberal interpretation, allowed "divorce for the most trivial of reasons." F5 The great Jewish authorities held divergent views:

Shammai was extremely strict, allowing divorce only for unchastity; but Hillel allowed it for many trivial reasons, including even the burning of bread in preparation of a meal. F6

Verse 5
But Jesus said unto them, For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.

In this, Jesus took account of the principle that earthly laws must sometimes take account of situations arising out of human perfidy and depravity. There seems to be here a differentiation on Jesus' part between the true law of God and the legal regulations delivered by Moses and made necessary by the problems of governing Israel. As Cranfield noted:

A distinction has to be made between that which sets forth the absolute will of God, and those provisions which take account of men's actual sinfulness and are designed to limit and control its consequences. F7

Christ here was not critical of Moses, nor was he setting the commandment of God over against Moses. Furthermore, he was not brushing aside the Scriptures. Moses' permission, under certain circumstances of divorce could not mean, nor did it ever mean, that God approved of divorce, except in the very limited context of its being, under some conditions, the lesser of two evils. The same is true of divorce in all generations. It must never be viewed as something God approved; because from the beginning it was not so.

When our sinfulness traps us in a position in which all the choices still open to us are sinful, we are to choose that which is least evil, asking for God's forgiveness and comforted by it, but not pretending that the evil is good. F8

Marriages indeed may fail for reasons of human sin; but there can never be any way to make the failures a good thing, nor change the ideal of marriage as God intended and purposed from the beginning of creation. Jesus stated at once the sacred ideal.

Verses 6, 7, 8
But from the beginning of the creation, Male and female made he them. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh: so that they are no more two, but one flesh.

Thus, God's ideal for humanity is "monogamy, which rules out both polygamy and divorce." F9 People have no problem at all in knowing what is the will of God; their problems stem from efforts to make what they do bear the light of it! There is an extreme view, however, which should be avoided, and that is making a violation in this sector to be the unpardonable sin. As Taylor said, "The seventh commandment has no uncommon sanctity; and the guilt of the transgression does not surpass the provisions of grace." F10

One flesh ...
"This is Semitic, or Biblical, idiom for `one,' as in RSV; and thus not only rules out polygamy but divorce also." F11 God's purpose, from the beginning, was clearly that of making the home a permanent institution; and, in keeping with that purpose, marriage is final and permanent.

Without that finality, the security of the home is gone, the social fabric is torn, and the finest school on earth for the discipline and growth of character is on the way out. F12

By this appeal to Gen. 1:27 and Gen. 5:2, Christ bypassed Moses altogether, founding his teaching on this subject in the eternal and invariable purpose of the Almighty, and not upon the accommodative regulations which had been laid down out of considerations of man's sin. Thus, our Lord triumphed over his enemies. He had not condoned divorce; and, at the same time, he had not contradicted Moses. For further comment regarding the questions raised by these verses, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 19.

Verse 9
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Like many of the magnificent pronouncements of Jesus, this one is true both in context and intrinsically. God hath joined a man and his wife in marriage; and men are not allowed the authority to dissolve it. Appropriately, these words are used in the marriage ceremony. Christ did not, by these words, prohibit states from making laws in this sector which are required by the sinful conduct of people, the same being implicit in the fact of his not condemning Moses for doing so. Of course, Christ was not dealing with the problem of governing earthly states, but with that of revealing tht true will of Almighty God to his human creation.

Intrinsically, these words apply to anything and everything that God has joined together. Thus, faith and baptism are joined as preconditions of salvation (Mark 16:16): glorifying God is to be "in the church and in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:21), thus joining Jesus and his spiritual body the church.

Verses 10, 11, 12
And in the house the disciples asked him again of this matter, and he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her: And if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery.

To divorce one's wife and marry another is to break the seventh commandment; and the rule applies with equal force to putting away one's husband and marrying another. This pronouncement of Jesus went far beyond anything the Jews taught.

According to Rabbinic law, a husband could not be said to commit adultery against his wife. So Jesus goes beyond Rabbinic teaching by speaking of a husband's committing adultery against his wife. F13

Mark's record of Jesus' application of the rule on adultery to both sexes is thought to have been prompted by Gentile readers to whom this gospel is supposed to have been directed. The view here is that Christ spoke all that is recorded of him, both here and in the other gospels; and the fact of one writer's having recorded one thing and another's having recorded different things (though not contradictory) is due to the difference of intention and purpose that each had. This means that the total of Jesus' teaching must be determined by the composite record of all the gospels. Such a view is in line with what Jesus himself said regarding the belief of "all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25).

Verses 13, 14
And they were bringing unto him little children, that he should touch them: and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me: forbid them not: for to such belongeth the kingdom of God.


Evidently, the disciples thought that Jesus would not have the time to bless little children, and their efforts would appear to have been due to misguided efforts to protect Jesus from such an encroachment upon his time and strength. How wrong they were!

Moved with indignation ...
Some translate this, "was sore displeased with them." They had totally misunderstood the Master's mind. As Clarke noted, the words here are the same as in Matt. 21:15, "where the chief priests were `sore displeased' at the children in the temple who were crying, `Hosanna to the Son of David.'" F14

Suffer the little children to come unto me ...
Christ loved little children, and the scene here is one of beauty, love, and concern.

To such belongeth the kingdom of God ...
They are wrong who read this as if it said that the kingdom belongs to little children. Again from Clarke:

He does not say that children are in his kingdom. Membership (in that kingdom) as Christ was preaching it, and as we must preach it, implies intelligence and personal faith. Here is no allusion to baptism; and here was his golden opportunity if he had ever wished baptism to be associated with infants. This is a place where we are justified in drawing a negative conclusion from the silence of the Scriptures. F15

Regarding the qualities Jesus might have had in mind by his statement that those who are "like" children possess the kingdom, there are three schools of thought. Some, like Barclay, thought Jesus had in mind such subjective qualities as humility, obedience, trust, and shortness of memory (not holding grudges, etc.). F16 Erdman rejected such subjective qualities as those cited by Barclay but accepted their trustfulness (a subjective quality), and the objective facts of their helplessness and dependence, as qualities in those receiving the kingdom. F17 Still others, like Turlington, see only the objective qualities as applicable. Thus: "The kingdom does not belong to the mighty, the strong, the influential; it belongs to the weak, the insignificant, and the unimportant. F18

While not denying that the objective qualities of little children are included, this student cannot exclude the subjective qualities as also having a place in Jesus' thoughts. It was clearly the subjective qualities of "spoiled children" that he made the basis of a comparison in Matt. 11:16,17; and that forbids ruling out the subjective qualities here.

Verses 15, 16
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. And he took them in his arms, and blessed them, and laid his hands upon them.

As a little child ...
How does one receive the kingdom of God as a little child? Clearly, the reference is to well-behaved, normal, loving children; and the qualities in view are: trustfulness, humility, obedience, spontaneity, forgetfulness of injury, slight, or hurt, and a total lack of prejudice. Teachableness is perhaps another.

And he took them in his arms, and blessed them ...
One is amazed to find an argument for infant baptism in such a place as this. Adam Clarke wrote:

If Christ embraced them, why should not his church embrace them? Why not dedicate them to God by baptism? - whether that be performed by sprinkling washing, or immersion? (He even went on to add:) It is grossly heathenish to deprive little children of such an ordinance. F19

See the refutation of Adam Clarke by W. N. Clarke under Mark 10:12, above. The great prophecy of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:31-35 absolutely denies the concept that would include infant children in the kingdom of God, since it is declared there (by necessary inference) that one must know the Lord before he can be in the kingdom of God. The violation of God's will in this regard through the inclusion of unregenerated infants in the kingdom has been the historical gateway through which every possible type of unbeliever has found his way into what is called the church; and this, perhaps more than anything else, has made of the historical church a kingdom, not of God, but of the evil one.

If the so-called baptism of an infant can make him a member of the kingdom of God, then such a person is saved without being taught, without repentance, without confession, without the new birth, and without anything under the sun except a few drops of water. That is truly "water salvation," and it should be rejected as foreign to everything in the New Testament. And, as for the allegation that sprinkling and pouring are permissible "forms" of Christian baptism, such is denied by every text bearing on this question in the whole New Testament. See my Commentary on Hebrews, Heb. 6; also my Commentary on Romans, Rom. 6.

And he took them in his arms and blessed them ...
This verse is peculiar to Mark; but it is no basis for the fulsome comments which refer to this as "a matchless touch," proving of course that Mark is the "original gospel"! F20 This is not a "matchless touch" at all, as there are many examples of some vivid gesture, look, action, or saying of Jesus being given by Matthew and omitted by Mark. One should therefore be careful to avoid the implied conclusion based upon this type of exegesis.

Verse 17
And as he was going forth into the way, there ran one to him, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?


This is a picture of youth at its glorious best. The subject before the Lord was presented as a rich man by all three synoptics; but Matthew (Matthew 19:22) added the detail concerning his youth, and Luke supplied the information that he was a ruler (Luke 18:18). These "matchless touches" were not supplied by the so-called "original" gospel; and they are another of the hundreds of examples proving the composite nature of the gospels. The rich young ruler was a lovable and beautiful character; willing to brave the scorn of the ruling class to which he belonged, he cast himself at the feet of Jesus; and, in sacred writ, there is hardly a more thrilling picture than the opening scene here. How pathetic it is that nothing was to come of it (presumably)!

Good Teacher ...
McMillan thought that "the young man's words consist only of conventional flattery"; F21 but Cranfield was of the opinion that:

There is little justification for regarding this as a "somewhat obsequious piece of conventional flattery ... from the unreality of which our Lord recoiled." ... His use of the epithet is surely sincere. F22

What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life ...?
For the answer Jesus gave to this question, see under Mark 10:19 below. The question itself is the most important that ever engaged human attention, and the presence of such a query in the heart of the young man indicated true concern in his life for things of eternal value.

Verse 18
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good save one, even God.

Erdman is certainly correct in his comment on this: "It is a mistake to suppose that Jesus denies his own sinlessness, or disclaims divinity." F23 "The perfect goodness of God was a universal doctrine of Judaism"; F24 and it is evident that the Lord was here building the young man's thoughts toward the recognition of Jesus as God. It is the equivalent of our Lord's saying, "Look, don't you know that if I am good, as you say, then I am therefore God?"

Of course, the Arian heresy was partially founded upon an intepretation of these words which alleged that Jesus here uttered a disclaimer of absolute oneness with God; but, as Turlington said:

Mark nowhere else hints of any limitation or lack of goodness in Jesus; and it is unnecessary so to understand this passage. F25

If Jesus did have any limitation of himself in mind here, it would have been the limitation inherent in the incarnation, and was not in any way a diminution of his claim of deity. Cranfield (as quoted by Sanner) took note of this as follows:

In an absolute sense, goodness belongs to God the Father alone. By contrast, the goodness of Jesus was in some sense subject to growth and testing in the circumstances of the incarnation wherein he learned obedience by the things which he suffered (Hebrews 5:8). F26

Even David Lipscomb supported such an explanation, writing:

The explanation of it, I think, is that Jesus had the nature of man ... So long as he felt the emotions to sin in his members, he did not call himself good, nor did the Holy Spirit call him perfect (Hebrews 5:8). F27

Despite the views of such respected and learned men, however, it is the conviction here that Jesus was trying to guide the young man into a more exalted appreciation of God incarnated in the person of Jesus.

Verse 19
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor thy father and mother.

In these words, wherein Jesus quoted from the second table of the Decalogue, our Lord answered the young man's question with regard to what he might do that he might inherit eternal life. Matthew supplied the connecting link, "If thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). When the young man inquired as to "which," Jesus quoted the Decalogue. In view of this, there is utterly no way to separate keeping the commandments from the requirements God has made of them that would inherit eternal life. How absolutely opposed to the word of God is such an opinion as that of Sanner, who said, "This is a rejection of the idea that goodness is by achievement. There is nothing one can do to inherit eternal life." F28 Humanity faces the mystery of redemption in this; for it is altogether true that men do not have it in themselves to keep God's commandments perfectly, However, JESUS KEPT THEM PERFECTLY! Men are saved, therefore, by believing and being baptized INTO CHRIST. Thus, they are identified with Christ and AS CHRIST. (See Galatians 2:20). No man can be saved as John Doe; if ever saved at all, he must be saved "in Christ" and "as Christ."

That Jesus was actually attempting to lead this young man into a higher understanding of the truth is implicit in the fact of his quoting only from the second half of the Decalogue, omitting the first section's requirement of loving God with the whole heart, mind, soul and strength. That part of the Decalogue the young man had not fully kept. Thus, the Lord here stressed the portion of it in which the life of the young man was most nearly acceptable to God.

Verse 20
And he said unto him, Teacher, all these things have I observed from my youth.

Mark omitted the key words, "What lack I yet?" (Matthew 19:20). Still, it is perfectly evident that the young man's keeping of God's commandments had nevertheless left a void in his heart. Many a person in his circumstances would have said, "I need nothing"; but it is to the great credit of this man that he recognized his soul's need, despite all of his own sincere efforts to do God's will. It is ever beyond the power of men to achieve eternal life through their own keeping of sacred law, and yet eternal life is dependent upon the perfect keeping of the sacred law. Christ achieved eternal life for all men (potentially) by his perfect keeping of all of God's commandments, and by setting up a plan by which men become a part of his true spiritual body, thus enabling them to be saved "as Christ." Yet this does not deny that salvation results from (Christ's) keeping all the commandments.

Verse 21
And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

The one thing lacking in the young man was his renunciation of all trust in worldly things and following Christ.

Go sell ... and give to the poor ...
This may not be viewed as an invariable requirement of all who would be saved; why then did Jesus lay down such a requirement here? It has been suggested that the Lord saw the cancer of greed that was eating out his heart and prescribed the drastic surgery of getting rid of his wealth. A more likely explanation is that the Lord was calling him to be an apostle, all of the apostles having been required to leave all that they had and follow Jesus. The words "Come, and follow me," are exactly the same words used in the call of an apostle (Matthew 9:9); and, as Peter would shortly point out (Mark 10:28), the leaving of all earthly possessions was a requirement the apostles had met.

And come follow me ...
Salvation, or eternal life, may be inherited only by those who follow Christ; and, in this requirement of total submission to Jesus' will and of following his commandments, one finds the invariable and universal condition of inheriting eternal life.

Thou shalt have treasure in heaven ...
The Lord did not mean that such an act on the part of the young man would in any sense "earn" eternal life. It was not in merely giving away his property that he could have eternal life, for that blessing could come only of following Jesus. If Jesus had permitted this rich young man to become a part of his company of followers without meeting the test which the apostles had all met, it would have had a disastrous consequence in their sacred fellowship; but Jesus was incapable of showing partiality merely because of the wealth of his questioner.

Verse 22
But his countenance fell at the saying, and he went away sorrowful: for he was one that had great possessions.

In the last analysis, he only thought he wanted eternal life. The allurement of this world's emoluments was, in his eyes, a benefit too great to forego. Having a choice between eternal life in the world to come and the good life here and now, he chose the latter. This is not hard to understand, because it is a choice being made by millions of people every day.

He went away sorrowful ...
This was the price required by his choice; and it is a price that all must pay who renounce eternal happiness in favor of temporal comforts. Sadness must ever be the lot of any man who deliberately turns away from the world's only Saviour. One may see a hundred fallen countenances on any street corner in a few minutes. For comment on Matthew's fuller account, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 19:16-17. Turlington observed that "Only here in the gospels is a command of Jesus to follow him clearly rejected." F29

Verse 23
And Jesus looked round about him, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!


What Jesus said here was prompted by the departure of the rich young ruler a moment earlier. It was a fact then, and a fact now, and a fact in every age that the possession of riches militates against the acceptance of Jesus Christ and his saving message. This does not deny the possibility of rich men being saved, but it underlines the difficulty of their making the decisions prerequisite to redemption.

Verse 24
And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God.

In this elaboration of what he meant, Jesus distinguished between them that "have riches" and them that "trust in riches," the latter being the great deterrent to entering God's kingdom. The same distinction was honored by the New Testament writers, Paul, for example, making "the love of money" and not merely "money," to be the "root of all kinds of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10). As Dorris stated it:

A man may have great wealth and love God more than the wealth, and be a Christian; just as a poor man may have a little and love the little more than God, and never be a Christian. F30

Nevertheless, the temptation to trust in riches is augmented and intensified for the person who possesses them.

Verse 25
It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Of course, it is impossible for a camel to go through a needle's eye, and the Lord's words are therefore hyperbole, used for the sake of emphasizing the difficulty. As Turlington put it, "The `impossible' figure is given, not to be taken literally, but to emphasize how hard it is." F31 In view of the Lord's plain statement in Mark 10:27, all efforts to understand such a thing as possible must fail.

Verse 26
And they were astonished exceedingly, saying unto him, Then who can be saved?

The amazement of the apostles was not so much in the principle as generally stated, but in the application of it to so lovable and personable a rich man as the one who had just departed. Taken literally, the Saviour's words would mean that no rich man can be saved, but he quickly moved to counteract such a literal application of his words.

Verse 27
Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God.

Only God has the power to cause a rich man to leave off trusting in his wealth and turn to God for salvation; and such heavenly power has often been evidenced. In the Old Testament, Abraham, Job, and David were men of immeasurable riches, as were also Isaac and Jacob; but of such Jesus himself said that they shall be in the eternal kingdom (Luke 13:28). In the Christian era, there have been many rich men who were saved; and in John's Revelation, the final view of the Eternal City took account of the "kings of the earth" bringing their glory into it (Revelation 21:24). Only God's power can do such things, but that power is sufficient unto all things. As Taylor expressed it, "God can put the camel through, but it takes divine power to do it; and the process is hard on the camel!" F32

Verse 28
Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

Only from Matthew 19:27 may Peter's intention here be read. He added: "What shall we have?" Whatever the reason for Peter's question, it was legitimate in every way; and the Lord promptly answered it in the most thorough and convincing manner.

Verses 29, 30
Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel's sake, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

This tremendous threefold promise of: (1) possessions and (2) family being multiplied a hundredfold in this present life, and (3) of eternal life in the world to come is one of the grandest in the word of God. No man ever tried this promise without finding it true; and yet, as Taylor said: "Such an utterance cannot be tested by human observation, because the motives that impel any man to give up temporal comforts cannot be known." F33

The rich young ruler would have been far better off if he had followed the Lord, giving up all of his wealth. If he lived so long as 70 A.D., everything that he owned was wiped out in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state. Whereas the Christians survived that debacle without the loss of a single life, the non-Christian portion of Israel was utterly destroyed, some 1,100,000 of the population being put to the sword. F34 Thus, when the rich young ruler turned away from Jesus, he turned his back upon his highest secular interests as well as the promise of eternal life. The Lord knew what was best for him; but it is also true that the Lord knows what is best for every man!

Houses ... and lands, with persecutions ...
That the material and temporal benefit of Christ's disciples is enhanced through their following of the Master is here categorically stated. The very qualities of truth, integrity, honesty, dependability, diligence, thrift, humility, self-denial, etc., which virtues are an essence of Christianity, are inevitably rewarded. Every corporation on earth is trying to find employees who will manifest such qualities. Persecutions however, are also to be expected.

And in the world to come eternal life ...
One may only be astounded at such a work as The Interpreter's Bible omitting this clause from both the exegesis and the exposition. This is the most important line in Jesus' entire reply, carrying the promise of eternal life in the world to come and a necessary inference of the Lord's deity. Who but Almighty God come in the flesh could make a promise like this? The conviction of Christ's church for nearly two millennia has found here in these eternal words of Jesus the most confident expectations of life after death and of an eternity of happiness with the Lord in the hereafter.

Verse 31
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

This was addressed particularly, in this context, to Peter's question of "what shall we have?" What every man is to receive does not derive from his being first in the service of Jesus, but depends upon how faithfully he continues in the Lord's service. Judas was one of the first; and, among the apostles, Paul was the last; but in the events recorded in the New Testament, it turned out that Judas was last and Paul first. Matthew's account placed the parable of the laborers in the vineyard next after the events here; and, in that parable, this principle was elaborated (Matthew 20:1-16).

Verse 32
And they were going on the way, going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus was going before them: and they were amazed; and they that followed were afraid.


There seems to be something very significant in the narrative at this point. Jesus' determination to go on to Jerusalem in the face of certain death and the reluctance and fear of those who followed are dramatically presented here by Mark. Turlington said, "They were frightened by the course of events, and by Jesus' determined path." F35

Verses 33, 34
And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them the things that were to happen to him, saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: and they shall mock him, and shall spit upon him, and shall scourge him, and shall kill him; and after three days he shall rise again.

See complete discussion of this under Mark 8:31 and Mark 9:32. This is a very full announcement of the Passion and subsequent resurrection; but there was no mention of his coming in glory, as in Mark 8:38. The fullness of Jesus' teaching is found in a composite of all that the gospels relate.

Verse 35
And there came near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Teacher, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee.


Matthew, as frequently, gave a fuller account, relating the part that the mother of James and John had in this incident. This was not to "spare the Twelve" as the Markan theorists allege; for Matthew did not spare the Twelve at all, even relating the indignation of the group against "the brethren," not against their mother (Matthew 20:24). Of course, this request was childish in that they supposed Jesus would agree to their request even before they had stated it. The request itself, stated immediately afterward, had all kinds of things wrong with it: (1) It showed a lack of faith in what Jesus had just said regarding his being raised "after three days." (2) It was founded in human vanity and conceit. (3) It represented an effort on their part to gain ascendancy over the other apostles. (4) It showed a fundamental misconception of what God's kingdom would be. (5) It was a selfish maneuver prompted by the Lord's repeated announcement of his forthcoming death and resurrection in which they appeared as desiring the chief places in the presumed absence of the Lord. (6) It was a request founded in ignorance (Mark 10:38).

Verses 36, 37
And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand in thy glory.

This was equivalent, in the eyes of James and John, to a request to be the chief administrators in the forthcoming kingdom of God, as if one would be the Secretary of State and the other the Secretary of the Treasury! Mark here represented the brothers as uttering the request themselves, which of course they did, through their mother. Mark's briefer account included the essentials.

Verse 38
But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

The "cup" and the "baptism" mentioned here are both references to the sufferings and tribulations through which our Lord was passing and which would culminate on the cross itself. "The `cup' is one Jesus is already drinking, and the `baptism' is one which is being experienced .... The `cup' will not be drained until he is taken from the cross." F36 As Dorris said:

This baptism began with his personal ministry and was completed at the cross. He was completely overwhelmed with suffering. Note that he used not the past nor the future tense, but the present. F37

Verse 39
And they said unto him, We are able. And Jesus said unto them, The cup that I drink ye shall drink; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized.

James was to be the first martyr (Acts 12), and if the tradition that John was finally martyred is allowed, it would appear that a kind of mystical granting of their request was allowed, James being the first of the apostles to be martyred and John the last. It is more likely that Jesus merely meant that they, along with all of the apostles, would drink the "cup" of human scorn and hatred and be baptized with the "baptism" of persecution and opposition from them that hated the truth.

We are able ...
is a rather naive reply on their part. There was so much that they did not at that time know concerning the kingdom of God. Their confidence here reminds one of Peter's boast that he was ready to go to prison and death for the Lord.

Verse 40
But to sit on my right hand or on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for them for whom it hath been prepared.

The Arian allegations founded on this verse should be rejected. We disagree with McMillan who interpreted this as saying that "they were asking him about something over which he had no control." F38 A glance at any rendition of the literal Greek shows that the limitation was not in Jesus, for it is implied that such honors, when given, would still be given by Jesus.

The Greek has these words: "But to sit at my right hand, or at the left, is not mine to give except for whom it is prepared." F39 The addition of "it is for them" by the translators is incorrect. The clear meaning is that Jesus could not give such honors except to them for whom they were prepared. This writer once asked a wealthy man who was more than two hundred times a millionaire for a certain gift and he replied that "It is not mine to give," meaning not that he did not have the power to make the gift, but that my particular request was not in line with his purpose. This is exactly the meaning of Jesus' "not mine to give" in this verse.

Verse 41
And when the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation concerning James and John.

This unfriendly feeling of ten apostles toward James and John showed that the same virus which had infected the sons of Zebedee was also present in the others. Their indignation was clearly due to their fears that James and John might seize something which they also wanted. The Lord at once instructed them all concerning the true values to be received and honored in his kingdom.

Verses 42, 43, 44
And Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you: but whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister, and whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all.

This amazing passage has the style of a Hebrew parallelism in which the same thought is repeated in different words; but it definitely goes beyond a mere parallelism. "Those who are accounted to rule over the Gentiles" contrasts with "their great ones" who "exercise authority over them." Those who are accounted to rule are merely presuming to do so, whereas the great ones actually exercise authority. The same appears in the second parallel where "great" is a much weaker word than "first" or "chief." From this, it is plain that the passage allows the deduction that Christ here condemned the pyramided structure of authority prevalent in all earthly governments. In this manner of interpreting the passage, "great ones" in the first parallel exercise authority over those "accounted to rule." This would make those presuming to rule to be the antecedent of "them" instead of "Gentiles."

But it is not so among you ...
The government of Christ's church was not to be patterned after earthly government and organizations with their pyramided echelons of authorities in rising tiers of dignity culminating in some "head"! An utterly different conception was to prevail; but, historically, churches have slipped into conformity with the old and forbidden ways of the world.

Whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all ...
Only Jesus Christ was "chief" or "first" among the apostles, being designated by the Holy Spirit as "the Apostle and High Priest of our confession"; and, although the rule of greatness being determined by service applied to every apostle and to all Christians of all ages, this must be understood primarily as a reference of Jesus to himself, as the next verse emphatically proves.

Verse 45
For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Coming, as it does, at the climax of a series of statements leading up to it and actually demanding it, this verse is secure against all efforts to make a gloss out of it, malignant skepticism having assailed it repeatedly, its authenticity having "been denied on various grounds." F40 See Cranfield for a thorough and most convincing refutation of skeptical fulminations against this text. We need not concern ourselves with denials regarding this verse, since they are not founded upon logical premises nor supported by any true scholarship, being in lack but the natural reflexes of the unbeliever's inherent bias against truth.

And what a truth is here! This is truly one of the most magnificent declarations in holy Scripture. Its teachings include the following:

  1. This verse gives the ground of the principle uttered in Mark 10:43, "Whosoever would become great among you, shall be your minister." Secular notions of rank and privilege are forbidden in God's new Israel on the grounds that such rankings are out of harmony with the Saviour's own mission to humanity.

  2. "And to give his life ..." The words thus translated were understood by the Jews as applicable to martyrs, and they indicate the voluntary nature of Christ's atoning death. People did not take his life, except in a limited sense, for Jesus gave his life as a ransom for men (John 10:17,18).

  3. "A ransom ..." The Greek word thus rendered denoted the ransom of a prisoner of war, or of a slave. The Old Testament use of the word in the Septuagint (LXX) meant the money a man paid to redeem his life which was forfeit because his ox had killed someone (Exodus 21:30), the price paid for the redemption of the firstborn (Numbers 18:15), or the money by which the next of kin ransomed an enslaved relative (Leviticus 25:51) F41 Thus, the vicarious nature of our Lord's death is eloquently proclaimed by the use of "ransom" by the Saviour in this verse.

  4. "For many ..." This is the same word Paul used in Rom. 5:15, and it refers not to any restricted number but to all the millions of every generation who will receive salvation through Jesus Christ. Cranfield said the word carries the meaning of "all." F42

  5. In this verse, as McMillan noted, "Jesus established himself as the greatest, not because he was the mastermind of some organization, but because he, in his self-sacrifice, gave the greatest gift." F43

  6. Cranfield, Sanner, and many others have seen in this verse from the words of Jesus the presentation of himself as the suffering Servant of Isa. 53, Jesus' words having a clear connection with Isa. 53:10,11. Sanner said, "This great passage shows clearly that Jesus knew himself called to fuse in his own destiny the two roles of the Son of man (Dan. 7) and the Servant of the Lord (Isa. 53)." F44

Verse 46
And they come to Jericho: and as he went out from Jericho, with his disciples and a great multitude, the son of Timaeus, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar was sitting by the wayside.


And as he went out from Jericho ...
Luke has it, "And as they came nigh unto Jericho" (Luke 18:35); and of course this is the type of pseudocon seized upon so gleefully by skeptics. All thoughts of any contradiction in these passages disappear, however, in the fact of there being two Jerichos, the old city destroyed by Joshua, but continuing to exist as a village, and the new city built near the site of the old. Any beggar would naturally have chosen a location between the two places in order to take advantage of more traffic. William Taylor mentioned both Jerichos as follows: "Joshua razed the old Jericho ... a town grew up near the ancient site (which was) fortified in the days of Ahab by Hiel." F45 Likewise, J. J. Taylor noted that "There were two adjacent places of that name, the miracle being wrought at a point between the two, so that passing out of one was entering the other." F46

Regarding the additional alleged difficulty arising from the fact of Matthew's mentioning two blind men as being healed by Jesus, whereas Mark and Luke mentioned only one, Trench has this:

That rule, which in all reconciliations of parallel histories must be applied, is that the silence of one narrator is no contradiction of the affirmation of another; thus the second and third evangelists making mention of ONE blind man do not contradict St. Matthew who mentions TWO. F47

Of course, the fact pointed out by Trench is elementary, but it needs repetition to silence skeptics who scream "contradiction" upon the slightest pretext.

Verse 47
And when he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Luke gave the detail of the blind man's inquiry which prompted the reply to it recorded here.

Thou Son of David ...
This was a common title of the expected Messiah in use throughout Israel in the times of Christ; and there is no way to deny the implications of it as used by Bartimaeus. Significantly, the Phariees were blind to the fact of Jesus being truly the Son of David, but the blind not only knew it but shouted it to high heaven. This is a clear case of the blind seeing and the seeing being blind as mentioned in John 9:39f.

Verse 48
And many rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried out the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

And many rebuked him ...
This indicates that those who rebuked the blind man were not the Lord's apostles, for they were not "many." The supposition that the great crowd rebuked the blind man for fear that his cries would annoy Jesus or impede his progress appears unreasonable, because great crowds are not thoughtful on behalf of anyone. The rebuke so ardently administered here, in all probability, was instigated and principally spoken by people who strongly objected to the shouted testimony to Jesus' Messiahship, implicit in the repeated cries, "Thou Son of David." This points squarely at the Pharisees who were a definite component of every crowd that gathered around Jesus. Thus, there is an element of humor in this situation wherein a blind man was shouting himself hoarse with cries hailing Jesus as the Son of David, and the Pharisees were trying to hush him!

Verse 49
And Jesus stood still, and said, Call ye him. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good cheer: rise, he calleth thee.

Such faith as the blind man already had Jesus rewarded by demanding that he be brought into his presence. Even on the way to Calvary Jesus had time to minister to human need.

Verse 50
And he, casting away his garment, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

The desperation of destructive critics challenging the historicity of this gospel is nowhere more evident than in the allegations of some to the effect that the blind man's casting his garment away shows that he was a Greek, making the narrative a misfit. Such pettifoggery, however, is exposed in the fact that Mark himself described a young man in Jerusalem (most probably himself) as "having a linen cloth cast about him" (Mark 14:51).

Verse 51
And Jesus answered him, and said, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? And the blind man said unto him, Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.

Jesus did not ask the blind man for the purpose of procuring information but to bring out his faith. Christ generally healed only those who expressed a desire to be healed and who made application to him for benefit.

Rabboni ...
Dorris noted that "there were three titles used by the Jews for their teachers: `Rab,' meaning MASTER as the lowest degree of honor; `Rabbi,' meaning "my master," a higher dignity; and `Rabboni,' meaning "my great master," the most honorable of all." F48

Verse 52
And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And straightway he received his sight, and followed him in the way.

Thy faith hath made thee whole ...
may also be translated, "Thy faith hath saved thee" (see the English Revised Version (1885) margin). From this, Turlington concluded that "the story is not only historical but a parable." F49

Cranfield concluded that Bartimaeus became a disciple of Jesus and supposed that fact to underlie the fact of his name being remembered. This would also explain why Mark mentioned only one of the two blind men actually healed, as indicated in Matthew; Mark gave an account of the one who became a disciple.

The use of this narrative as an example of how men are saved from sin is seen in: (1) the condition is a figure of sin; (2) the blind man believed in Jesus as the Messiah; (3) he cried out to the Lord for mercy; (4) he persisted in spite of the rebukes of many; (5) he answered Jesus' call; (6) he cast aside all hindrances (the garment); (7) he pleaded for mercy; (8) he was saved; (8) he followed Jesus.

This is the last healing reported in Mark; and this tenth chapter which is viewed as a condensed narrative of the entire Judaean and Peraean ministry of the Son of God is thus concluded.

Significantly, no other part of God's word any more effectively portrays Jesus as God among men, the Dayspring from on high, than does this. The great passage in Mark 10:45, especially, is one of tremendous import; and we conclude this chapter by another reference to that declaration of Jesus as the "ransom for many," words which, according to Bruce, "echo the portrayal of the Servant who makes himself an offering for sin, thus making many righteous (Isaiah 53:10f)." F50

Footnotes for Mark 10
1: C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to Saint Mark (Cambridge: The University Press, 1966), p. 318.
2: Richard Erdman, op. cit., p. 154.
3: William Barclay. The Gospel of Mark (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), p. 248.
4: W. N. Clarke, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: The Judson Press. 1881), Vol. II, p. 145.
5: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 24.
6: Henry E. Turlington, Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1946), p. 346.
7: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 319.
8: Ibid., p. 320.
9: A. Elwood Sanner, Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1964), p. 354.
10: J. J. Taylor, The Gospel according to Mark (Nashville: Southern Baptist Convention, 1911), p. 132.
11: Frederick C. Grant, Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1951), p. 796.
12: Halford E. Luccock, Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1951), p. 796.
13: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 321.
14: W. N. Clarke, op. cit.. p. 146.
15: Ibid.
16: William Barclay, op. cit., p. 250.
17: Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Mark (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), p. 153.
18: Henry E. Turlington, op. cit., p. 348.
19: Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible (London: T. Mason and Company, 1829), Vol. V, p. 322.
20: Encyclopaedia Britannica, (Chicago: William Benton, Publishers, 1961), Vol. 11, p. 510.
21: Earle McMillan, The Gospel according to Mark (Austin, Texas: R. B. Sweet Publishing Company, 1973), p. 125.
22: C. E. B. Cranfield, op cit., p. 326.
23: Charles E. Erdman, op. cit., p. 155.
24: Halford E. Luccock, op. cit., p. 801.
25: Henry E. Turlington, op. cit., p. 349.
26: A. Elwood Sanner, op. cit., p. 357.
27: C. E. W. Dorris, Commentary on Mark (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1938), p. 233.
28: A. Elwood Sanner, op. cit., p. 357.
29: Henry E. Turlington, op. cit., p. 350.
30: C. E. W. Dorris, op. cit., p. 239.
31: Henry E. Turlington, op. cit., p. 350.
32: J. J. Taylor, op. cit., p. 136.
33: Ibid.
34: J.R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Whole Bible (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1937), p. 704.
35: Henry E. Turlington, op. cit., p. 351.
36: Ibid., p. 352.
37: C. E. W. Dorris, op. cit., p. 245.
38: Earle McMillan, op. cit., p. 130.
39: The Emphatic Diaglott (Brooklyn, New York: Watch Tower Society), p. 166.
40: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 343.
41: Ibid., p. 342.
42: Ibid., p. 343.
43: Earle McMillan, op. cit., p. 129.
44: A. Elwood Sanner, op. cit., p. 362.
45: William Taylor, op. cit., p. 400.
46: J. J. Taylor, op. cit., p. 140.
47: Richard Trench, Notes of the Miracles (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1943), p. 467.
48: C. E. W. Dorris, op. cit., p. 253.
49: Henry E. Turlington, op. cit., p. 354.
50: F. F. Bruce, The Message of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 21.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Mark 10". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  


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