Chapter ten contains a series of final encounters and teachings that Mark considered important leading up to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Although Mark recorded that Jesus was teaching the crowds, he did not say what the topic was. However, since the Pharisees asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”, it is possible that Jesus was teaching about marriage (Mark 10:1-12). Jesus countered their trap with the simple teaching of Scripture, that divorce was a divine concession, but God’s plan is always a permanent union between a man and woman. Adultery was the only legitimately grounds for divorce Jesus gave that still fit within the Mosaic Law. (See my book, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage for more on this topic.)
Later, a man came to Jesus; Mark is the only writer to note that he was running (Mark 10:17-22). Although he was very careful to obey the Law, he knew that there must be something more. His question about eternal life was not about salvation in the Christian sense; he wanted to be sure that he was good enough to enter Messiah’s kingdom (see Matthew 5:20). Knowing the man’s heart, Jesus revealed that his money was his god, and that he would not part with it, even to get into the kingdom. Rather than seeing wealth as an automatic indication of God’s favor, Jesus noted that it is difficult for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom, because money and God require exclusive allegiance (Matthew 6:24). Peter must have thought that they would receive special reward for giving up their possessions to follow Jesus (Mark 10:28-31), but if that was the basic expectation, what would they gain? Jesus assured him that they would gain far more following him than they could ever give up.
Following another prophecy of his own death and resurrection (Mark 10:32-34), James and John approached Jesus to make a specific request about their kingdom inheritance; namely, they wanted the positions of power right next to him (Mark 10:35-45). Although this angered the other disciples, Jesus was more concerned with their lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation. Promising him they could handle anything they faced, they did not expect Jesus’ answer. Yes, they would face great suffering, but he could not promise them anything in the kingdom beyond what he had told them previously (Matthew 19:28). This led to yet another discussion on the link between greatness and service.
As his final miracle, literally on his way to present himself in Jerusalem, Jesus healed a blind beggar identified as Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). He had obviously been waiting for Jesus to come that way again and would not accept the crowd’s rejection until he could meet Jesus personally. When Jesus demanded that they let him come, Bartimaeus’ request was simple: “Rabbi, let me see again.” This simple faith was enough for Jesus. He healed him immediately, and Bartimaeus followed Jesus into Jerusalem.