Here, Jesus was teaching the crowds that gathered around Him; and once again the Pharisees came to test Him. As He once again condemns divorce in verses 2-12, the exception for adultery is not mentioned here as it is in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. This is because there was no disagreement about adultery where divorce was concerned in Jewish, Greek or Roman cultures. But the message is clear – God has always taken marriage seriously, intending one man for one woman from the beginning (Genesis 2:24).
The rich man in verse 17 wants to know what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. In verse 21, Jesus tells him to “sell all that you have and give to the poor.” This is not a command for everyone to give away all of their possessions, nor does it mean that being wealthy is wrong. Jesus knew what was in the man’s heart, and his wealth was his god – his idol; and no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). The reason that He says it is difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven is because of the tendency of man to love earthly possessions so much that they come to believe in their own self-sufficiency. This makes us believe we do not need God. When the Israelites were wandering the desert, God was providing the manna for them (Exodus 16) daily, teaching them to depend on the Lord. It is when we forget how much we need Him that we lose our way, and fall away from God. Most of us are not wealthy, right? Maybe so, but just remember – a person today making less than $50,000 per year is still very wealthy compared to the majority of earth’s population. And we still have our “idols” today.
Jesus again foretells His death in verses 32-34 – this time giving His apostles even more detail – “they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” But apparently they still aren’t “getting it.” In verses 35-37, James and John ask Jesus to give them each a special place beside him when He comes into His glory. It is hard to imagine all that is going through their minds, particularly following Jesus’ last prediction of His death. But clearly they have a mistaken understanding of the Kingdom. Jesus tells them they don’t know what they are asking. The baptism he is speaking of in verse 39 is of suffering. Jesus uses the occasion to explain that serving others is the work of His Kingdom (verses 42-45) – a point He will continue to drive home before His death. Verse 45 is a fitting summary – “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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