Sight!

The blind man said: “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:52).

Jesus has done a lot of healing in Mark: I count eight healing stories thus far.

All these have at least one thing in common: we don’t know their names.

The only healed person whose name we know in Mark is the subject of our text: Bartimaeus. We first meet him at Jericho sitting in the road begging.  He may be blind, but there is nothing wrong with his hearing!  He hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.  He’s heard of this Jesus fellow.  He’s heard of the amazing things he has done.  He believes Jesus can make him see and when he gets a chance, he asks for precisely that – despite the fact that a host of people stand in his way.

The story concludes a long section (beginning in 8:1) that has to do with blindness. The disciples are blind to what Jesus’ power means for their lives.  They are blind to the will of God.  They are blind to who Jesus is and what it means to follow him.

But Bartimaeus, blind though he is, sees Jesus as the cure and when Jesus heals him, he does what no other healed person does; does what few sighted people do: he casts everything aside and follows Jesus.

Spiritually blind people struggle with discipleship.  But those who see clearly have only one goal: to follow the Lord and they let nothing, particularly the influence of the crowd, deter them. At heart though is this: you gotta want to see.

Divorce as Illustration

He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery (Mark 10:11-12).

Not much “wiggle room” there.

Most folks don’t have a problem with this rule until they (or someone they know) break the rule.  Then what?

Mark does not address the “then what” – and neither should we (at least not from Mark).  He just lays down the rule.  The significance is why he lays it down where he does.

Mark 9:30 informs us of Jesus’ second prediction of his impending death.  From there, right through the third prediction and 10:45, Mark focuses on selfless living.  Almost squarely in the middle, he presents Jesus’ teaching on divorce.

It’s not just a “divorce” passage.  The passage is there, without compromise, to illustrate the seriousness of self-centeredness.  It leads to a condition described as adultery.  Every divorce is caused, at root, by selfishness on the part of one or both partners.  But it isn’t just in marriage.  In every phase of life, self-centeredness removes God from the throne in favor of self.  That action is called “adultery,” and when God wanted to talk about Israel’s faithlessness, that’s the word he used.

Marriage is serious business.  To make it work requires selflessness.  Failure is not consequence free option because selfishness is not a consequence free option.  It would be better to have an anchor tied about your neck and be thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42).  The illustration underscores the seriousness and personal impact of following Jesus.

Tuesday, October 21. Mark 8 – 10

When it comes to being Christ’s disciple, Mark cuts us little slack. It requires obedience to Christ, prayer, humility, attention to personal example, faith, and concern for those on the margins (all topics covered in the section 8:22 – 10:52, beginning and ending with stories of healing the blind).

Discipleship also requires faithfulness – a faithfulness that extends to marriage.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contain words of Jesus regarding divorce. Of the three, only Matthew allows an exception clause for divorce: marital unfaithfulness. Neither Luke nor Mark have this exception.

So which is it? Is there an exception or not?

By Jesus’ day, Moses’ law was being interpreted as allowing for divorce – and as long as there was a way out, few people thought anything of it. That, really I think, was the problem. Jesus’ words (as recorded by the synoptic writers) did not do away with the subject of divorce among the disciples – as can be clearly seen by Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 7. Mark recounts these words differently from Matthew and Luke. In Mark, Jesus applies the rule of faithfulness equally to men and women. Marriage is for life.

But what if things don’t work out that way? What if you get a divorce? What if you get remarried? What then?

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say. It happens. Paul will later acknowledge it and provide some path forward for those injured by divorce. It’s a sticky subject with a lot of uncertainty. Theologians offer their thoughts, but everyone should remember: If Jesus didn’t cover the contingencies and consequences, neither can we. It is enough to say this: “God intends marriage be for life. Period. Be careful as you enter it. Be even more careful as you exit it. Undoing a marriage is trifling with the creation of God.”