As Jesus turned toward Jerusalem and the cross, His messages became more specific regarding His suffering and death. Jesus told His disciples that they should also expect to suffer as they faithfully participated in the kingdom of God. In the Gospels, discipleship is never a casual commitment. For the disciples, following Jesus “on the road” (Mark 10:32, 46, 52) to Jerusalem and the cross required viewing marriage, money, and spiritual motives in light of God’s purposes in His Son. As the disciples listened to Jesus confront the Pharisees and the rich ruler, they heard Him describe His authority in light of Scripture.
(1) In Mark 10:6-8, Jesus quoted from Genesis 1-2 to refute the Pharisees when they questioned Jesus regarding His understanding of marriage and divorce. As Jesus traveled toward Jerusalem and the cross, some Pharisees approached to ask Jesus about His views on divorce (Matt 19:1-12//Mark 10:1-12). Jesus replied to their question with a question of His own, saying, “What did Moses command you?” (Mark 10:3). The Pharisees responded by citing Deut 24:1-4, where Moses commanded that if a man wished to divorce his wife, he was required to signify his decision with a paper so that he could not later change his mind and take her back. The paper signified that the divorce was public and permanent. The divorce paper protected the woman from being treated like property after the divorce. Jesus said that Moses made the divorce allowance because of the hardness of men’s hearts in Israel (Mark 10:5). In Jesus’ frame of thought, marriage should be viewed as a place for manifesting one’s discipleship, not maximizing one’s convenience. Based upon the creation of male and female genders and the ordinance of marriage as a permanent institution in which a man and woman leave their parents and are joined as one flesh (Gen 1:27; 2:24), Jesus concluded that “what God has joined together, man must not separate” (Mark 10:9).
(2) In Mark 10:19, Jesus quoted from the Ten Commandments to confront the rich young ruler’s self-sufficiency. Matthew, Mark, and Luke arranged Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler in the midst of Jesus’ blessing of children and teaching on possessions (Matt 19:13-30//Mark 10:13-31//Luke 18:15-30). Taken together, this sequence accentuated humility as the foundation of discipleship. The rich young ruler’s question to Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17), betrayed the man’s pride. He thought he was able in and of himself to accomplish whatever commands God had set forth. When Jesus quoted the commandments against murder, adultery, theft, deception, and dishonoring parents, the man replied that he had accomplished all of these since his youth (Mark 10:20). Mark observed, “Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me’” (Mark 10:21). Without a faithful commitment to Jesus, even scrupulous, faithful adherence to the Mosaic law would not gain one an entrance into eternal life.