Sunday

7 October 2018

Mark 10:2-16

Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. (v. 15)

Psalm: Psalm 8

Background

Jesus was a Rabbi, a teacher of the Torah. This may seem simple enough to state, but it has implications. For a start it means he is teaching from the perspective that the law is a given but needs interpreting. That was the job of Rabbis. You will notice how often Jesus says, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” This typical Rabbinical phrase is not about undermining a law, but effectively saying, “your previous understanding is insufficient”. Jesus was a Rabbi and he had much to say about some of the contemporary interpretations of the Mosaic Law. One of his repeated ways of interpreting the law is to emphasise how much more profound it is than one might imagine. We can recall in Matthew 5 his teaching on murder (v. 21), adultery (v. 27), divorce (v. 31), vows (v. 33), revenge (v. 38) and loving your neighbour (v. 43). A repeated point is made. The law is not only about the outwards signs or behaviours, but about the inner person, their intention and character.

In Mark, Jesus is underlining the teaching about divorce in a similar way. He seems to be making it harder and more rigid. His concern, however, is not to add a more severe level of rules and behaviours. His concern is about the character of the person, their very being. The Kingdom of God is not for those who simply obey the rules. Entry into the Kingdom is not be made easier by modifying the rules and making them a little bit easier; nor is it made harder by a more severe interpretation. You don’t get into the Kingdom that way at all. In fact, you only get into the Kingdom if you are a wholly new creation. Read again John 3:1-21. In the story from Mark’s Gospel, children are taken as an example not because of their innocence, but because our discipleship begins when we are born again. It is only when we are born of the spirit that we can behave as new creatures, bearing the fruits of the Spirit, “for which there is no law” (Galatians 5:23). In this new dispensation the way we are treated is about God’s Grace, our behaviour is not what we do to earn God’s love, but what we do because we find we are loved. To be in born again, like children, is to be in Christ and thus free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)

 

To Ponder

  • The law is not difficult to live by. It is impossible. How does that challenge you, encourage you or disturb you?
  • What is it about children that might make our entry into the Kingdom easier?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.