The Perfect Servant in Mark’s Gospel: His Itinerary

The counter-cultural claims of the cross should influence every relationship. Our treatment of others will exhibit how deeply the cross has shaped our thinking. Within marriage we should demonstrate Christ-like, self-sacrificial love (Mar 10:1-12; Eph 5:22-33). Accompanying this should be proper treatment of children. Having considered our Attitude to Marriage (10:1-12), we now look briefly at our:

Attitude to Children (10:13-16)

Young children were brought to Jesus by parents and relatives to receive a blessing. The disciples “rebuked those that brought them” (v13).[1] In the eyes of the disciples, intruding upon such an exalted person as the Lord with the needs of “mere” children was not fitting. Perhaps they assumed that Jesus’ use of a child was acceptable when He instigated it (9:35-37), but for parents to presume to use the Lord for the good of their children was too much.

Seeing this attitude in His disciples made the Lord “much displeased” (v14). The disciples, not the parents, had acted presumptuously. He rebuked them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (v14 ESV). They were to permit children to come, not prevent them from coming. Regarding children as intrinsically valuable, the Lord also treated them as spiritually capable. Child-like trust, the ability to simply depend upon another in recognition of one’s own weakness and helplessness, is essential for any person to receive the Kingdom. Correcting the disciples, the Lord took the children “up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (v16), leaving an object lesson for us all.

Serving children involves valuing them and recognising in them the capacity to believe the gospel. As parents we should encourage our children toward faith in the Lord Jesus without, of course, exerting unhelpful pressure. Any parent, evangelist or overseer who crushes a child’s interest in spiritual matters or in any way belittles the simple faith of a child acts in direct disobedience to the Lord’s exhortation and example. It should be a tremendous comfort to every parent to observe the Lord’s embrace and blessing of these children.

The cross teaches us to serve God (9:30-32) and others (9:33-10:16). In sharp contrast are the attitudes and actions of the natural man. Our next section considers:

The Service of Self (10:17-31)

The natural man wants to become his own Saviour and remain his own Lord. This is the antithesis to the message of the cross. In this article we will see how the Lord exposes the rich young ruler’s sin (vv17-22). In our next article we will see how he explains salvation (vv23-27) and encourages self-sacrificial service (vv28-31).

Exposing Sin (vv17-22)

A young man ran to the Lord and knelt before Him. He seemed to be in earnest as he asked for instruction about “eternal life,” but he “went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (v22). This promising incident ended in disappointment because, while this man had physically kneeled, he remained spiritually unbowed before the Lord.

The Lord’s words throughout were intended to expose sin. First, false assumptions were exposed (vv17-18). Kneeling before the Lord, the man cried out, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” and the Lord responded, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” This young man had a defective understanding of the word “good,” and the Lord exposed it. Only God is good when the subject is eternal life. The Lord’s answer is not intended to deny His own goodness (for He is God). Rather, he wants the man to think carefully about the implication of the word he has been carelessly using. Does he accept the implication that Jesus is God? Does he accept the implication that he could never reach such a standard of goodness?

Next, self-deception was exposed (vv19-20). The Lord directed the man to God’s law: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother’” (v19 ESV). God’s moral character is revealed in His commandments, and honest consideration of these commands should lead this young man to recognise his sinfulness. He responded, “All these have I observed from my youth” (v20). Justification by law-keeping demands complete and continual obedience to every command God has given; no man (except the Lord) has lived like this (Gal 3:10-11). This man was self-deceived.

Finally, his true condition was exposed (vv21-22). The Lord did not argue but placed before this young man a test: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (v21 ESV). The heart of God’s law is this: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength … and … thy neighbour as thyself” (12:30-31). The Lord therefore demands that self-sacrificial love be demonstrated toward the poor and that He be given first place in this man’s life. The law-breaker is exposed, for, rather than obeying, “he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (v22). Properly valuing God, others or even “treasures in heaven” was impossible for the rich young ruler.

The Lord’s goal was to show this rich young ruler his own sinfulness. By using God’s law He exposed the self-centredness which lies at the heart of every man. A sad and sorrowing man left the Lord’s presence; his bubble of self-righteous satisfaction was burst. Sadly, instead of turning to the Lord in desperation and appealing for salvation, he turned away. He could not save himself but he was, as yet, unwilling to trust the Lord Jesus alone to save him.

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.