The following post is mostly in outline form. I used the idea of a ballot when I preached what is represented here. Thus, the format (and the font)for this week is a bit different. Because of this site's restrictions on some formatting, the layout is not as reader-friendly as I might have hoped. Hopefully, you find it easy to follow.
This past week America had to choose between various visions for this country. Two particular candidates received much of the attention and presented a contrast on how America should move forward. By nearly all accounts the choice was a surprise to most of the so-called experts. It has been said the people have spoken and they are tired of the same, they want real change. But what we don’t know yet, is whether the change to come will indeed be positive. Furthermore, we do cannot know yet, exactly how, or if, God will be honored by the choice made.
Jesus came to die, but His life presented a contrast to what the people of Israel knew. They, too, wanted change, but they had no rights to vote. Or did they? While the election was of a different nature, the people did have to make a choice (cast a vote, so to speak) for Jesus or for the status quo. What is most interesting about this choice is that Jesus played the part of a major underdog, but for the people of that day, and the people of all days before or since, it was only Jesus being victorious that could truly bring hope.
And rest assured, the contrast Jesus offered was great. It required a very different way of living which would demand a different way of thinking. As we have seen in this study so far, not everyone liked Jesus nor the option He provided, in part, because it undermined their leadership. Today, we look at two more contrasts of following Jesus or following the world. At the end, I will ask you to cast your vote.
PROPOSITION A: A CHOICE BETWEEN THE PHARISEES OR JESUS
ISSUE: Is divorce acceptable? If so, under what conditions?
FACTS (no spin):
1. The Pharisees do not like Jesus.
a. They believe He is leading people astray.
b. They offer a test. (Really this is a trap).
i. A Win-Win Scenario for Pharisees (so they thought) because Jesus answer would either:
a) Be at odds with other rabbis and they could discredit Him OR (BETTER YET)
b) Jesus could be arrested.
ii. Jesus is in Judea near the Jordan. This is where John the Baptizer’s ministry took place. Remember what happened to him (read Mark 6.18)?
2. Divorce was acceptable, only the reasons were debated.
a. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
a) Depended on the rabbi – Shammai (adultery), Hillel (anything)
1. Failure in household duties – burnt food (actual case)
2. Not as pleasing to look at as another
b) Jesus did give a possible reason in Matthew 5.32 (infidelity)
1. Rabbis demanded divorce in this situation
2. Jesus allowed for it
a) Give a certificate (see point 3)
b) Man could divorce wife, wife divorce husband
1. Herodias, exception
2. In rare circumstances and wife could ask the judge to force the husband to divorce
3. Moses Did Allow For Divorce
a. What did Moses command?
i. Deuteronomy 24.1-3
ii. Moses did not command, he allowed
a) Pharisees admit – they just fell into their own trap
b) Allowance was due to hardened hearts
1. Was not permission to divorce, it was to regulate it
2. Purpose was to protect women in event of divorce
a. A certificate was to be given
b. Showed woman was divorced
4. From the beginning (Contrast – God’s design predates Moses and should be honored)
a. Genesis 1.27 – man and woman are equal
i. Jews and Christians use the created order to establish hierarchy
ii. Jesus shows God gives co-dominion to both
b. Genesis 2.24 – man leaves and the two become one
i. What God has brought together, let no man separate
ii. Just as God cannot be separated – 3-in-1
c. Divorce may legally unbind two people, but it morally unbind two people
CENTRAL IDEA: Man’s Law or God’s Design
Which do you choose? Man’s law or God’s design? Hold that thought because of the fine print.
FINE PRINT: Further teaching in the house: Read Mark 10.11-12. Jesus’ teaching requires great obedience.
Divorce usually leads to adultery. If someone is married and gets divorced and then remarries, then they are committing adultery. This is true for the male or the female. (Women remarrying were rare, but Mark’s audience was Roman where this was more prevalent, and thus the inclusion.)
PLAIN LANGUAGE: Jewish law gave man control over the marriage, Jesus gave God control over the marriage.
How do you cast your vote? Man’s Law or God’s Design?
PROPOSITION B: A CHOICE BETWEEN THE DISCIPLES OR JESUS
ISSUE: Do we have time for what Jesus desires?
FACTS (no spin):
1. Jesus is the Messiah.
a. Peter confessed this in Mark 8.29.
b. Jesus used this term in Mark 9.41.
c. The Messiah (God’s chosen One) is likely a very busy person.
2. Jesus and His followers are on the way to Jerusalem.
i. Northern Israel (Mark 9.2)
ii. Going through Galilee (Mark 9.30)
iii. In Capernaum (Mark 9.33)
iv. Judea near Jordan (Mark 10.1)
b. Luke’s story line adds a couple of different stories, and adds an important statement.
i. On the way to Jerusalem
ii. Read Luke 9.51. Not just going to Jerusalem. Jesus is going on purpose, with purpose.
3. The disciples are making their own plans for Jerusalem.
a. Jesus is Messiah and they are His followers (like those in a campaign)
b. They are jockeying for position.
i. Fighting among themselves on the inside (Mark 9.34)
ii. Stopping others from serving who are on the outside (Mark 9.38)
4. The disciples have appointed themselves as campaign managers.
a. Jesus doesn’t have time for children.
i. Remember children have no rights and no real place in society.
ii. However, Jesus just used a child to show how we must receive Him (Mark 9.36-37)
b. The disciples rebuked others.
i. Them is ambiguous, but likely means the people bringing the children.
ii. If people stopped bothering Jesus, they could all get to Jerusalem faster.
5. Jesus does more than touch children, He blessed them.
a. Let them come. (Contrast do not hinder.)
b. The kingdom belongs to these (Contrast – what you are doing is not kingdom minded.)
CENTRAL IDEA: Rebuke Others or Bless Others
Which do you choose? Rebuking others or blessing them? Hold that thought because of the fine print.
FINE PRINT: What did Jesus do? Read Mark 10.16. Jesus’ example requires great sacrifice.
The people wanted Jesus to touch their children. Jesus did more. He took them in his arms and blessed them. Yes, He laid His hands on them. But taking them in His arms goes beyond what they wanted or expected. And doing more than what is expected is one element of grace. This example by Jesus is from people who are seeking Him. Maybe their reasons are misguided, but Jesus gives a little extra because He knows it is worth it. Likewise, for those who are seeking Jesus, we should be willing to give a little extra. People may have misguided reasons, but if they are coming to Jesus and we give a little extra of ourselves, maybe they will find Him.
We can’t overlook that this story follows last week’s account of causing people to fall away from Jesus or next week’s story of one who turns away of his own accord. Thus, I think this story relates not only that the Kingdom of God must be received in faith, but helping others do the same may take a little more than we might first be willing to give.
PLAIN LANGUAGE: The Kingdom is a gift which should be received as a child receives a gift.
How do you vote? Disciples’ Rebuke or Jesus’ Blessing?
Before we cast our vote, we must recognize that each of these issues (and most any issue) has complexities. Even as I attempted to provide a no-spin look at this passage, questions arose in your mind. I understand, but that is why I am teaching this exactly as Scripture shows. Certainly, many interpret passages differently, but I believe what I have presented is a very accurate account of this situation. And the real issue with both of these scenarios, and the one we will see next week is that it comes down to following our heart or God’s.
Jesus said as much in Mark 10.8, it was because of the hardness of heart that Moses provided counsel on divorce. It is because of our hard hearts that we seek excuses to justify our actions when it separates from God’s law. So the fundamental issue…the true vote at hand is:
Do you vote to have: A Hard Heart or God’s Heart?
So what is your vote?
God’s heart says that men and women have an equal standing before Him. God’s heart says that children provide a good understanding of how one can receive the Kingdom.
Jeremiah 17.9 says that the heart is wicked above all things. But God! God offers us a new heart – His heart – and His spirit to live according to His commands. But God says in Ezekiel 36.26-27 that He will give us a new heart and His Spirit to help us live according to His commands. We just need to choose Him to make that happen.
Our JOURNEY letter for this week: O – Observe.
OPPORTUNITY: We need to encourage one another and then help others to choose Jesus each and every day.
Learn what Jesus says, then seek to apply it.
Live according to Jesus commands, and learn to love as you do.
Love: as Jesus loved, and make disciples as you go.
Lead: others to choose Jesus too, teaching them to observe all that He commanded.