Visual Commentary

Mark 10:1-16

I see this section as a collection of three stories that illustrate Jesus’ teaching on greatness in the previous chapter.

First, the religious leaders test Jesus and ask if a man should be able to divorce his wife. When we read this text through our 21st century lens, we want to make this into a debate over whether divorce is a sin. However, I don’t think that is Jesus’ point. In those days, a man felt the right to dismiss his wife because she was more a piece of property, or an asset to his estate, than an equal human being.

It is important to note that Jesus goes back to creation and highlights that God created humanity as male AND female. They are ONE FLESH, not two species.

In other words, Jesus is proclaiming equal rights to women.

Jesus continues the liberation speech of equality in this text about children. Society did not view children as valuable. They were simply potential adults. When they reached adulthood, then they could take their proper place and have worth.

Jesus declares that the child is the most valuable in God’s Kingdom. How you treat the the child, the weak, and the vulnerable among you is the measure of your society.

Mark 10:17-30

When we read this text as the third in a trilogy of social commentary, it falls into place. 

It is easy to measure a person’s worth based upon their net worth, their intelligence, and their position of power in society. This is not the measure that God uses.

This man was possessed by his possessions. He followed the outward regulations of the Law, but his heart was enslaved by his status and privilege.

Until we can let go of these things and realize that every human being is equal in God’s eyes, it will be very difficult to see the Kingdom of God for what it is.

But, God is patient and loving, and will walk with us for as long as it takes. The camel will walk through the eye of the needle…eventually.

Mark 10:31

This one verse is the summary commentary from the author on three stories preceding it. The author of Mark is making strong social commentary by bringing these stories together.

Women are as valuable as men.

Children are as valuable as adults.

The poor are as valuable as the rich.

We still haven’t figured this out, 2,000 years later.

Mark’s Travel Narrative (part 2 of 3)

Each of the Synoptic Gospels–Matthew, Mark, and Luke–have a section of the story that happens between Jesus’ Transfiguration in the north and his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. This section is sometimes called the Travel Narrative. Each Gospel author uses this section to highlight a specific aspect of Jesus’ teaching. Matthew presents the Community Discourse in this section. Luke spends ten chapters for this section and uses it to present the bulk of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God.

Notice what Mark does. It has a chiastic structure, which is a Hebrew literary form that places the main point at the middle of the text like a symmetrical shape C-B-A-B-C. When you see all of these stories laid out you can see the pattern

The Disciples’ inability to heal. Warning about imminent death in Jerusalem. Argument about greatness. Teaching about value. SEE, we’re going to Jerusalem. Arguments about Greatness. Healing of sight.

To simplify, it seems that Mark wants us to see that the main point is to SEE.

Jesus heals when the disciples can’t. The disciples are blind about greatness. SEE, The disciples are blind about greatness. Jesus heals the blind man who can SEE.

I could be totally wrong about the structure. However, the fact that Mark deals with the disciples’ misunderstanding of greatness two times in such a short section, seems to indicate that this is a major point Mark wants to make in his travel narrative.

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