And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.
Verse 1. - Instead of the words, into the coasts of Judea by the farther side of Jordan, the passage, by a change of reading from διὰ τοῦ to καὶ. He will run thus: into the coasts (borders) of Judaea and beyond Jordan. Our Lord was now on his last progress towards Jerusalem. It would appear from St. Luke (Luke 9:51) that in the earlier part of his journey he touched the frontier of Samaria. Putting the accounts together, we conclude that, being refused by the Samaritans, he passed eastwards along their frontier, having Galilee on his left, and Samaria on his right; and then crossed the Jordan, perhaps at Scythopolis, where was a bridge, and so entered Peraea. As Judaea and Galilee both lay west of the Jordan, this route above described would be literally coming "to the borders of Judaea and beyond Jordan." Again multitudes flocked together to him, and again he taught them. St. Matthew (Matthew 21:1) says that "he healed them." His miracles of healing and his teaching went hand in hand.
And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
Verse 2. - And there came unto him Pharisees - the article should be omitted - and asked him - they came forward before the people, and publicly questioned him - Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? St. Matthew (Matthew 21:3) adds to the question the words, "for every cause." There were causes for which it was lawful. They put this question to our Lord, tempting him; of course with an evil intent. This question about divorce was one which was much agitated in the time of our Lord. In the century before Christ, a learned rabbi, named Hillel, a native of Babylon, who afterwards came to Jerusalem, studied the Law with great success, and became the head of the chief school in that city. One of his disciples, named Shammai, separated from his master, and set up another school; so that in the time of our Lord the scribes and doctors of the Law were ranged in two parties, namely, the followers of Hillel, the most influential; and the followers of Shammai. These two schools differed widely on the subject of divorce. The followers of Shammai only permitted divorce in the case of moral defilement, while the followers of Hillel placed the matter entirely in the power of the husband. The object, therefore, of this artful question was to entrap our Lord, and to bring him into collision with one or other of these two opposing parties. For if he had said that it was not lawful for a man to put away his wife, he would have exposed himself to the hostility of many of the wealthy classes, who put away their wives for any cause. But if he had allowed the lawfulness of divorce at all, they would have found fault with his doctrine as imperfect and carnal, although he professed to be a spiritual Teacher of a perfect system, sent down from heaven.
And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
Verses 3, 4. - And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you? They professed much reverence for Moses; he therefore appeals to their great lawgiver. And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away. If we now turn to St. Matthew (Matthew 21:4, 5). He we shall find that our Lord then appeals to the original institution of marriage. "Have ye not read, that he which made them from the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh? So that they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." He thus reminds them that marriage is a Divine institution; that as Adam and Eve were united by him in a union which was indissoluble, therefore he intended that the marriage bond should remain ever, so that the wife ought never to be separated from her husband, since she becomes by marriage a very part of her husband. To this purpose St. Augustine says ('City of God,' bk. 14:22). He "It was not of the spirit which commands and the body which obeys, nor of the rational soul which rules and the irrational desire which is ruled, nor of the contemplative virtue which is supreme, and the active which is subject, nor of the understanding of the mind and the sense of the body; but plainly of the matrimonial union, by which the sexes are mutually bound together, that our Lord, when asked whether it were lawful for any cause to put away one's wife, answered as in St. Matthew (Matthew 21:4, 5). It is certain, then, that from the first men were created as we see and know them to be now, of two sexes - male and female - and that they are called one, either on account of the matrimonial union, or on account of the origin of the woman, who was created from out of the side of the man."
And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
Verse 5. - St. Matthew appears to give the more full account, of which St. Mark's is an abbreviation. If we suppose the scribes here to interpose their question, "Why then did Moses permit a bill of divorcement?" t he two narratives fit exactly. Our Lord here answers their question, For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. He permitted (not commanded) them to put away their wives, lest dislike might turn to hatred. From the beginning God joined them in one indissoluble bend; but man's nature having become corrupt through sin, that sin changed and corrupted the institution, and so was the occasion of bills of divorcement, and polygamy. The Law of Moses put some restraint upon the freedom with which men had till then put away their wives; for thenceforth, a divorce could not take place until some legal steps had been taken, and a regular instrument had been drawn up; and this delay might often be the means of preventing a divorce which might otherwise have been effected in a moment of passion. Thus this legislation was adapted to the imperfect moral condition of the people, who were as yet quite unprepared for a higher moral code.
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
And in the house his disciples asked him again of the same matter.
Verse 10. - The discussion with the Pharisees, related in the previous verses, had taken place in public. But now in the house, and in private, the disciples asked him again of this matter; so that what follows seems here to have been said to them privately. But it would appear from St. Matthew (Matthew 21:8) that our Lord had already said this in public; so that here he proclaims a new law, or rather affirms the sanctions of the primitive institution, abrogating the "bill of divorcement" excepting in the one case of fornication, and restoring the rite of marriage to its primaeval and indissoluble character.
And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her.
Verse 11. - Committeth adultery against her (μοιχᾶται ἐπ αὐτήν). This must surely mean the wife that has been put away. The adultery is against her, against her rights and interests.
And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
Verse 12. - This verse should be read thus: And if she herself shall put away her husband, and marry another, she committeth adultery καὶ ἐὰν αὐτὴ ἀπολύσασα τὸν ἄνδρα αὑτῆς γαμήση ἄλλον μοιχᾶται. This reading is well supported. These words indicate that, according to our blessed Lord's teaching, wives and husbands have equal rights in reference to divorce; and so the Greek, according to the best authorities, is (γαμήση) "shall marry," not (γαμηθῆ) "shall be married." Josephus, however, makes it evident that in his time husband and wife had by no means equal rights in these matters ('Antiq.' 15:7, 10).
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
Verse 13. - It is worthy of notice that this touching incident follows here, as well as in the parallel passage in St. Matthew (Matthew 21:13). He immediately after the discourse about the marriage bond. And they brought unto him (προσέφερον) - literally, were bringing - little children (παιδία) - St. Luke (Luke 18:15) calls them "babes" (βρέφη) - that he should touch them (ἵνα ἅψηται αὐτῶν). St. Luke has the same word (ἵνα ἅπτηται); but St. Matthew (Matthew 21:13) says "that he should lay his hands on them and pray." The imposition of hands implies a formal benediction; the invoking of Divine grace upon them, that they might grow up into wise and holy men and women. Why did the disciples rebuke them? Perhaps because they thought it unworthy of so great a Prophet, whose business was rather that of instructing those of full age, to be spending his time upon little children.
But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
Verse 14. - But when Jesus saw it (ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς). The Greek shows that there was no interval between the acts of the parents and the disciples, and our Lord's seeing it. The parents were bringing the children, the disciples were rebuking them, Jesus was perceiving. He was much displeased (ἠγανάκτησε); literally, he was moved with indignation. His words imply eagerness and earnestness: Suffer the little children to come unto me; forbid them not. The copulative καὶ is not to be found in the best authorities. The omission adds force and vividness to the words. The simplicity, candour, and innocence of little children are very attractive. This narrative shows with what care children should be educated. For of such is the kingdom of God; that is, of such little children as these. The kingdom of heaven belongs in a peculiar manner to little children. We know for certain that little children who have been brought to Christ in Holy Baptism, if they die before they are old enough for moral accountableness, are undoubtedly saved. They pass at once into a nearer position to the throne. "They are without fault before the throne of God."
Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.
Verse 15. - Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. Observe the "verily" with which our Lord introduces these words. He here adds something which extends what he has just said to those who are, not literally, but figuratively, little children. We must first receive the kingdom into our affections before we can really enter into it. It is as though Christ said, "It is not unworthy of my dignity to take little children into my arms and bless them, because by my benediction they become fit for the kingdom of heaven. And if you full-grown men would become fit for my kingdom, you must give up your ambitious aims and earthly contests, and imitate the simple unworldly ways of little children. The simplicity of the little child is the model and the rule for every one who desires, by the grace of Christ, to obtain the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord's whole action here is a great encouragement to the receiving of little children by Holy Baptism into covenant with him.
And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Verse 16. - And he took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands upon them. This is considered the true order of the words, according to the best authorities. The word rendered "taking in the arms" (ἐναγκαλισάμενος) has already occurred in this Gospel at Mark 9:36 (where see the note). The description here is very graphic. Our Savior would first embrace the little child,. He folding it in his arms; then he would lay his right hand upon the child's head, and bless it.
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
Verse 17. - This verse should be rendered, And as he was going forth (ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ) - that is, just as he was leaving the house - there ran one to him, and kneeled to him, and asked him. St. Matthew (Matthew 21:20) says that he was "a young man." St. Luke (Luke 18:18) that he was "a ruler." He had apparently been waiting for our Lord, waylaying him, though with a good intention. He showed zeal - as soon as he saw Jesus he ran to him; and he showed reverence, for he kneeled down to him. He wanted advice from one whom he must have heard of as a celebrated Teacher; and he wanted this counsel as a matter of great interest to himself. Good Master. This would be the ordinary and courteous mode of accosting a person professing to be a teacher, so as to conciliate his attention and interest. What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? It is as though he said, "Rabbi, I know thee to be good, both as a man and as a teacher, and a prophet, well able to teach me perfectly those things which are really good, and which lead to blessedness hereafter. Tell me, therefore, What shall I do?" St. Matthew (Matthew 21:17) says, "What good thing (τί ἀγαθὸν ποιήσω) shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
Verse 18. - Why callest thou me good? According to the best authorities, the words in St. Matthew (Matthew 21:17) run thus: "Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good." The word "good" is the pivot on which our Lord's answer turns, both in St. Matthew and here. The question is doubtless put to test the young ruler's faith. If, as may be supposed, the young man used the term, "good Master," as a mere conventional expression, it was not the proper epithet to apply to our Lord, who at once transfers the praise and the goodness to God, that he might teach us to do the same. This ruler, by his mode of accosting our Lord, showed that he had not as yet a right faith in him - that he did not believe in his Godhead. Our Lord, therefore, desired to rouse him and lift him up to a higher faith. He seems to say to him, "If you call me good, believe that I am God; for no one is good, intrinsically good, but God. God alone is essentially good, and wise, and powerful, and holy. It is from him that angels and men derive a few drops, or rather some faint adumbration, of his goodness. There is none essentially, entirely, absolutely good but one, that is, God. Therefore seek after him, love him, imitate him. He alone can satisfy your longing desires, as in this life with his grace, so in the life to come with his glory; yea, with himself. For in heaven he manifested himself as the supreme good, to be tasted and enjoyed by the blessed for ever."
Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
Verse 19. - In St. Matthew (Matthew 21:17, etc.) the record of our Lord's conversation with the young ruler is more full; and it should be read side by side with the more condensed narrative of St. Mark. It will be observed that it is upon the commandments of the second table that our Lord here lays stress. For the love of God produces the love of our neighbor; and he who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
Verse 20. - Master, all those things have I observed from my youth (ἐφυλαξὰμην) literally, I kept, I guarded. St. Matthew adds here (Matthew 19:20). He "What lack I yet?" - "What is still wanting in me, that I may inherit the life to come in its fullness of glory and bliss? You seem, good Master, as a heavenly Teacher, to set forth a higher and more excellent way than that pointed out by our scribes and Pharisees. Tell me what that way is. Tell me what! still lack; for I earnestly desire to go forward in the right way that leadeth to everlasting life."
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
Verse 21. - And Jesus looking upon him loved him. (ἐμβλέψας αὐτῶ ἠγάπησεν αὐτόν) This is another of St. Mark's graphic touches - an exquisite piece of word-painting, probably supplied to him by St. Peter. The words express most vividly an earnest, tender, searching look. They seem, if it may be said reverently, to combine the Divine penetration with human sympathy and compassion. The counsel of our Lord which follows was not a general command, but a particular precept, which the young ruler specially needed. One thing thou lackest. In St. Matthew (Matthew 19:21) the words are, "If thou wouldest be perfect." But our Lord's words here, "One thing thou lackest," fit in excellently with the young ruler's question given just before in St. Matthew, "What lack I yet?" showing a substantial unity in the narrative, with just that variety which we should expect in the account of the same incident given by two independent but equally trustworthy witnesses. The "one thing thou lackest" of St. Mark, and "if thou writ be perfect of St. Matthew, both point to the same conclusion - that our Lord's object was to reveal this young man to himself. His stumbling-block was his wealth; and so our Savior at once pierces his besetting sin of covetousness. The precept was a special counsel to him; it directed him to do something which, as our Lord saw, was in his case necessary to his salvation. He could not follow Christ without parting with this sin, and with that which ministered to it. This was his particular spiritual difficulty.
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Verse 22. - But his countenance fell at the saying (ὁ δὲ στυγνάσας ἐπὶ τῳ λόγῳ). The same word is used in St. Matthew (Matthew 16:3) for a "lowering," "frowning sky" (οὐρανὸς στυγνάζων). And he went away sorrowful (ἀπῆλθε λυπούμενος)- literally, for he was one that had (η΅ν γὰρ ἔχων) - great possessions.
And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
Verse 23. - And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples (καὶ περιβλεψάμενος ὁ Ιησοῦς λέγει). St. Mark frequently uses this word περιβλέπω. Our Lord turned from the young man, who was now going away, and looked round about, no doubt with a sad and disappointed look, and said to his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! Why is this? Partly because the love of riches tempts men to heap them up, whether lawfully or unlawfully. Partly because the love of riches binds the soul to earth, so that it is less likely to think of Partly because riches are an incentive to pride and luxury and other sins. The heathen poet Ovid could speak of riches "irritamenta malorum." Poverty and contempt of riches often open that heaven which wealth and covetousness close.
And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
Verse 24. - And the disciples were astonished (ἐθαμβοῦντο) - literally, were amazed at his words. The Greek word here implies wilderment. It is used again below at ver. 32. We find it also at Mark 1:27. This doctrine of our Lord was so new and strange to them. They had been accustomed to think little of the danger, and much of the advances of wealth. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children how hard is it for them that trust in riches enter into the kingdom of God! He the enduring expression of "children" (τέκνα). He and takes off somewhat of the edge of the seventy of the expression, by changing the form of it into the words," how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" There is some authority for omitting the words. "for them that trot in riches;" so to reduce the sentence to the simple form, "How hard is it to enter into the kingdom of God!" Such is the reading in the two great uncial manuscripts, the Sinaitic and the Vatican. But on the whole the balance of evidence is in favor of that which was adopted in the Authorized Version, and has been retained by the Revisers of 1881; and it is reasonable to believe that our Lord qualified the former expression, in order to relieve the minds of his amazed disciples.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Verse 25. - It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, etc. This is a strong hyperbolic proverbial expression to represent anything that is very difficult to do. Dr. John Lightfoot, in his Hebrew exercitations upon St. Matthew's Gospel (vol. 2 p. 219). He quotes instances from the binical writings of a very similar phrase intended to represent something that is possible. For example, he quotes one rabbi disputing with another, who says, "Perhaps thou art one of those who can make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle; that i,s, "who speak things that are impossible.' St. Jerome says," It is not the absolute impossibility of the thing which is set forth, but the infrequency of it."
And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
Verse 26. - And they were astonished exceedingly (περισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο). saying among themselves - according to the best reading the words are, saying unto him (πρὸς αὐτόν) - Then who can be saved?
And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
Verse 27. - Jesus looking upon them (ἐμβλέψας δὲ αὐτοῖς). The Greek verb implies an earnest, intense looking upon them; evidently narrated by one who, like Peter, had watched his countenance. St. Chrysostom says that he looked on them in this way that he might mitigate and soothe the timid and anxious minds of his disciples. It is as though our Lord said, "It is impossible for a rich man, embarrassed and entangled with his wealth, by his own natural strength to obtain salvation; because this is a supernatural blessing, which we cannot obtain without the like supernatural aids of grace. But with God all things are possible, because God is the Author and Source, as of nature, so of grace and glory. And he enables us, by his grace, to triumph over all the difficulties and hindrances of nature; so that rich men shall not be hindered by their riches; but, by being faithful in the unrighteous mammon, shall make it the means of their being received unto 'the eternal tabernacle.'"
Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
Verse 28. - Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. Peter began to say unto him. He had been thinking of himself and his companions, the other disciples.. He in reference to these last words of our Lord. It is probable that the sacrifice which Peter and the rest of the disciples had made when they became his followers, was small, compared with the sacrifice which our Lord demanded of the rich young ruler. Nevertheless they forsook their all, whatever it was. They had forsaken their boats and their nets. They had forsaken their means of subsistence. They had forsaken things which, though they were not much in themselves, were nevertheless such things as they would have desired to keep. Cornelins a Lapide says, "Such things are forsaken by those who follow Christ, as are capable of being desired by those who do not follow him." St. Augustine says, "St. Peter not only forsook what he had, but also what he desired to have. But who does not desire daily to increase what he has? That desire is cut off. Peter forsook the whole world, and he received in return the whole world. They were as those who had nothing, and yet were possessing all things."
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
Verse 29. - St. Matthew (Matthew 19:28) here introduces the great promise, to be fulfilled in the regeneration, that is, at the second coming of Christ - at the second birth of the world to a new and glorious state. It may be that St. Matthew was guided to record it, inasmuch as his Gospel was written for Jews. Its omission by St. Mark and St. Luke may be explained by the fact that they were writing, the one to Romans, and the other to Gentiles generally. Omitting further notice here of this great promise recorded only by St. Matthew, St. Mark's words seem general, common to all faithful Christians. This leaving, of house, or brethren, or sisters, etc., might be rendered necessary from various causes. But they are all covered by that one expression, for my sake, and for the gospel's.
But he shall receive an 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.
Verse 30. - But he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time (ἑκατονταπλασίονα). St. Luke (Luke 18:30) says (πολλαπλασίονα) "manifold more" - an indefinite increase, to show the greatness and multitude of the recompense. He who forsakes his own for the sake of Christ will find others, many in number, who will give him the love of brethren and sisters, with even greater affection; so that he will seem not to have lost or forsaken his own, but to have received them again with interest. For spiritual affections are far deeper than natural; and his love is stronger who burns with heavenly love which God has kindled, than he who is influenced by earthly love only, which only nature has planted. But in the fullest sense, he who forsakes these earthly things for the sake of Christ, receives instead, God himself. For to those who forsake all for him, he is himself father, brother, sister, and all things. So that he will have possessions far richer than what earth can supply; only with persecutions (μετὰ διωγμῶν). This is a very striking addition. Our Lord here includes "persecutions" in the number of the Christian's blessings. And no doubt there is a noble sense in which persecutions are really amongst the blessings of the believer. "If ye be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you" (1 Peter 4:14). St. Peter, who must have had in his mind the "with persecutions" of our Lord when he wrote these words, here shows that the blessedness of the Christian when suffering persecution is this, that he has a special sense of the abiding presence of the Spirit of God, bringing with it the assurance of future glory. "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: far great is your reward in heaven." The words are also, of course, a warning to the disciples as to the persecutions that awaited them. And in the world to come eternal life. This is that splendid inheritance in which the blessed shall be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; and so shall possess not only the heaven and the earth, and all things that are in them, but even God himself, and all honor, all glory, all joy, not merely as occupiers, but as heirs for ever; as long as God himself shall be, who is himself "the eternal God."
But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
Verse 31. - But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Most fitly does our Lord add this weighty sentence to what has just gone before. For thus he places himself, his grace, and his gospel in direct opposition to the corrupt teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. Perhaps the disciples thought within themselves, "How can it come to pass that we, the poor, the unlearned, the despised, are to sit upon thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, amongst whom are men far our superiors in station, in learning, and in authority, such as are the scribes and Pharisees, and that rich young ruler just mentioned." Our Lord here teaches them that the future will reveal great changes - that some who are first here will be last there, and some who seem last here will be first there. The disciples, and others like them, who, having forsaken all and followed Christ, seemed to be last in this world, will be first in the world to come - most dear to Christ, the King of Heaven, in their lives; most like to him in their zeal for his cause.
And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid. And he took again the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him,
Verse 32. - They were now going up from Jericho to Jerusalem, going up with Christ to his cross and his death. He went before them, eagerly leading the way for his timid disciples, who were now beginning to realize what was about to happen, and that he would be condemned and crucified. Therefore the evangelist adds, they were amazed (Greek, ἐθαμβοῦντο); the same word which is used at ver. 24. The words in the original, according to the best reading, make a distinction between the utter amazement of the disciples and the fear of the others who followed (οἱ δὲ ἀκολουθοῦντες ἐφοβοῦντο). St. Mark draws a distinction between the disciples, who would be following him, though at a little distance, and the mixed company, who were also following him, though at a greater distance. The whole scene is before us. Our blessed Lord, with an awful majesty on his countenance, and eager resolution in his manner, is pressing forwards to his cross. "How am I straitened until it be accomplished!" His disciples follow him, amazed and bewildered; and even the miscellaneous crowd, who no doubt gazed upon him with keen interest as the great "Prophet that should come into the world," felt that something was going to happen, though they knew not what - some-thing very dreadful; and they too were afraid. In the case of the disciples, Bede says that the chief cause of their amazement was their own imminent fear of death. They were amazed that their Master should hasten forward with such alacrity to his cross, and they feared lest they too should have to suffer with him. He took again the twelve; and once more impressed upon them the dread realities which were awaiting him. They were still slow of apprehension; they required to be told again and again.
Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles:
And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
Verse 35. - And there come near unto him James and John, the sons of Zebedee, saying unto him, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. St. Matthew (Luke 20:20) informs us that this request was made by Salome, "the mother of Zebedee's children." The two accounts are readily reconciled if we consider that the request was made by Salome and her sons, and by her in their behalf. This request was made by them not long after they had heard our Lord's great promise that his apostles "in the regeneration" should "sit upon thrones," judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28). He and very soon after they had heard his repeated announcement of his sufferings and death. But the thought of the glory which was to follow swallowed up the thought of the suffering that was to precede it; and so these two disciples were emboldened at once to ask for prominent positions amongst the thrones. St. Chrysostom finds an excuse for the imperfection of their faith. He says, "The mystery of the cross was not yet accomplished; nor yet was the grace of the Holy Spirit poured into their hearts. Wherefore, if you desire to know the strength of their faith, consider what they became after they had been endued with power from on high."
And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?
Verse 38. - It will be observed that in St. Matthew (Luke 20:20). He while Salome is represented as the person who makes the request, the answer is given, not to her, but to her sons. Ye know not what ye ask. Our Lord knew that the sons had spoken in the mother and by the mother. They knew not what they asked
(1) because his kingdom was spiritual and heavenly, not carnal and earthly, as they supposed;
(2) because they sought the glory before they had gained the victory;
(3) because perhaps they thought that this kingdom was given in right of natural relationship (they were his cousins); whereas it is not given save to those who deserve it and take it by force. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? It is as though he said, "It is by my cross and passion that I am to attain to the kingdom; therefore the same way must be trodden by you who seek the same end." Our Lord here describes his passion as his cup. The "cup" everywhere in Holy Scripture, as well as in profane writers, signifies a man's portion, which is determined for him by God, and sent to him. The figure is derived from the ancient custom at feasts, by which the ruler of the feast tempered the wine according to his own will, and appointed to each guest his own portion, which it was his duty to drink. Our Lord then proceeds to describe his passion, which he had already spoken of as his cup, as his baptism. He uses this image because he would be totally buried, immersed, so to speak, in his passion. But it seems probable that the idea of purification entered into this image. It was a baptism of fire into which he was plunged, and out of which he came forth victorious. The fire of his bitter passion and death tried him. It was his "salting with fire." It pleased God thus to "make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings." Our Lord asks these ambitious disciples whether they could drink his cup of suffering, and be baptized with his fiery baptism.
And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
Verse 39. - James and John seem to have understood the meaning of the cup; and perhaps also of the baptism. They both of them drank the cup, though in different ways. St. James, preaching Christ more boldly and fervently, became an early martyr, having been slain by the sword of Herod (Acts 12:2). St. John also drank of this cup, and was baptized with this baptism, when, if we may trust the authority of Tertullian ('De Praescript.' c. 36.). He he was cast by order of Domitian into a caldron of boiling oil, before the Porta Latina at Rome, although the oil had no power to hurt him. Another legend states that he drank a cup of poison, and took no harm. On this account he is frequently represented with a cup in his hand.
But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.
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 Arians gathered from this that our Lord was not of one substance with the Father. But this arose from a misunderstanding of the words. For the antithesis is not here between Christ and the Father; but between James and John on the one side ambitiously seeking the pre-eminence, and those on the ether side to whom it ought of right to be given. St. Jerome wisely says, "Our Lord does not say, 'Ye shall not sit,' lest he should put to shame these two. Neither does he say, 'Ye shall sit,' lest the others should be envious. But by holding out the prize to all, he animates all to contend for it." Our Lord is also careful to point out that he who humbles himself shall be exalted. But Christ is the Giver, not indeed by way of favor to any one who asks, but according to the eternal and unalterable principles laid down by the Father. That Christ is the Giver is plain from St. Luke (Luke 22:29). "I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me."
And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John.
Verse 41. - And when the ten heard it, they began to be moved with indignation concerning James and John. How did they hear it? It is most likely that Salome and her two sons sought this favor secretly from Christ, lest they should excite the envy of the ethers. But they, the ten, must have noticed the approach of James and John with their mother to our Lord. They came in a formal manner, worshipping him first, and then making their request (see Matthew 20:20). The ten would naturally be desirous to know the nature of this interview; and when it was explained to them, they began to show indignation. Our Lord perceived that they were disputing; and he then called them and addressed the whole body. For he saw that they were all laboring under this disease of ambition; and he wished to apply the remedy at once to all, as we see in the words which follow.
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
Verse 42. - In these words our Lord does not find fault with that power or authority, whether civil or ecclesiastical, which is exercised by princes or bishops; for this is necessary in every state, and so is sanctioned by Divine and human law. What he condemns is the arbitrary and tyrannical exercise of such power, which the princes of the Gentiles were accustomed to.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
Verses 43, 44. - In these words our Lord enjoins him who is raised above others to conduct himself modestly and humbly; so as not to lord it over those beneath him, but to consider for them and to consult their security and happiness, and so to conduct himself that he may appear to be rather their minister and servant than their lord; ever remembering the golden rule, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, even so do to them." At the same time, our Lord here teaches all alike, whether superiors or inferiors, by what way we should strive to reach heaven, so as to sit at the right or left hand of Christ in his kingdom, namely, by the way of humility. For those who are the lowliest and most humble here will be the greatest and most exalted there.
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Verse 45. - A ransom for many (λύτρον ἀντὶ πολλῶν; from λύω. to loose, or set free). Not that Christ died only for the elect. For Christ died for all; and has obtained for all the means necessary and sufficient for their salvation. Yet the fruit of his death and his full salvation comes only to those who persevere to the end. When our Lord says that he came "to give his life a ransom for many," he regards the vast multitude of those who are included within his purposes of mercy. He "is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe."
And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging.
Verse 46. - And they come to Jericho. Jericho, situated in the midst of a fertile, well-watered country, celebrated for its palm trees, was situated about seventeen English miles east-north-east of Jerusalem, and about six miles from the nearest bend of the river Jordan. In the time of our Lord it was one of the most important cities next to Jerusalem. It is now known by the name of Richa or Ericha, and is almost deserted. The journey from the Jordan to Jericho is through a fiat country; but that from Jericho to Jerusalem is very hilly. It is supposed that it was upon the rocky heights overhanging this city that our Lord's temptation took place. Jericho derives its name, either from "the moon," or from the fragrant edours of the "balsam" plant, which was extensively cultivated in the neighborhood. Its palm groves and balsam gardens were bestowed by Anthony upon Cleopatra, from whom Herod the Great purchased them. It was here that Herod the Great died. It is now one of the most filthy and neglected places in Palestine. To this place our Lord came; and St. Luke (18 and 19.) gives a full account of his reception there. St. Matthew speaks of two blind men; but he agrees with St. Mark in saying that the cure took place as he went out from Jericho. St. Luke mentions only one; but he places the cure at the time of our Lord's entrance into Jericho. How do we reconcile St. Mark's account of one only, specially named, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus? St. Augustine says that there were two blind men; but that the one, better known, overshadowed the other. He also says that Bartimaeus was a well-known character, and that he was accustomed to sit by the wayside, not only blind, but as a beggar. It is of course possible that St. Luke may refer to another ease altogether. But on the other hand, with the exception that he mentions only one, and that he places the cure at the time of the entrance into Jericho, and not at the time of the departure, all the other circumstances are identical. May not this latter discrepancy be reconciled thus? - the blind man may have sought a cure from Christ at his first entrance into the city; but he may not have been able to be heard on account of the crowd. Or our Lord may have passed him by at first, in order to stimulate his faith and hope. So the day after, he may have placed himself at the gate of the city, close by where Christ would pass through; and there again he may have urged his request, and so obtained healing. Dr. John Lightfoot (p. 348) says that the careful description of Bartimaeus would seem to imply that his father may have been a person of some note. Dr. Lightfoot adds that it is possible that Timaeus, or "Thimai," may be the same with Simais, blind, from the use of the letter thau from samech, common amongst the Chaldaeans; so that Bartimaeus might mean nothing more than "blind son of a blind father."
And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.
Verse 48. - Many rebuked him, that he should hold his peace. They rebuked him, perhaps, out of reverence and regard for Christ, who might perhaps at that moment have been preaching to the people, and so might be disturbed by the blind man's loud and noisy appeal. But the rebuke of the crowd gave additional energy to his entreaties; and he cried out the more a great deal, that his voice might be heard above them all. He was in good earnest, and would not be restrained. A useful lesson is hem suggested to all. He who desires to serve God must overcome all earthly shame and fear; for, indeed, this unworthy feeling keeps back many from Christ.
And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
Verse 49. - And Jesus stood still (στὰς ὁ Ἰησοῦς) - literally, Jesus stood - and said, Call ye him. St. Jerome says that our Lord stood still on account of the man's infirmity. There were many walls in Jericho; there were rough places; there were rocks and precipices over which he might stumble. Therefore the Lord stood, where there was a plain path by which the blind man might approach him. The crowd show their, sympathy. There is something very genuine as well as touching in their words, Be of good cheer: rise, he calleth thee.
And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
Verse 50. - And he, casting away his garment, rose - the word in the Greek is ἀναπηδήσας. literally, sprang to his feet - and came to Jesus. He cast away his "garment," that is, the loose outer robe which covered his tunic. He was in haste, and desired to disengage himself from every ira-pediment, in his eagerness to approach Jesus. We seem here to have the description of a keen eye-witness, such as St. Peter would be.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
Verses 51, 52. - Our Lord well knew what he wanted; but it was necessary that he and those around him should hear from the lips of the blind man the confession of his need, and of his faith in the power that was present to heal him. And the blind man said unto him, Rabboni, that I may receive my sight. "Rabboni," or "Rabbuni," means literally, my Master. It was a more respectful mode of address than the more simple form "Rabbi." This expression shows that Bartimaeus had yet much to learn as to the Divine character of our Lord. But his faith is accepted; and he showed that it was genuine as far as it went, by forthwith following Jesus in the way. There were six occasions on which our Lord is recorded to have healed the blind: St. Matthew (Matthew 9:27; Matthew 12:22; Matthew 21:14); St. Mark (Mark 8:24; Mark 10:46); St. John (John 9:1). St. Chrysostom says of Bartimaeus, that as before this gift of healing he showed perseverance, so after it he shewed gratitude.
And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.