Setting

Jesus concluded His ministry in Galilee. He headed south towards Jerusalem, first returning to the Jordan River, where He had been baptized. Jesus now focused His teachings on the things to look forward to: the kingdom of God, eternal life, the resurrection, and the last days.

Key Verse

(10:14)

Did You Know...?

1. Judea (10:1): The Greek and Roman equivalent to the Old Testament land of Judah the southern kingdom. [ref]

2. Certificate of divorce (10:4): The Old Testament law (cf. Deut 24:1-4) required a husband to clearly state the reasons for divorcing his wife in a public document. It was meant to protect a wife from hasty divorce and to absolve her of legal penalties. [ref] However, there were various interpretations to what were legitimate reasons for divorcing one’s wife. On one extreme, Shammai and his followers maintained that nothing less than adultery justified a man in divorcing his wife. On the other, Hillel and his disciples contended that divorce should be granted for any reason, however small, such as the wife burning a dish or going out with loose hair. [ref]

3. “From my youth” (10:20): “This probably refers to the age of thirteen, when a Jewish boy became “bar mitzvah” (“son of the commandment”). At that point, the boy became responsible to live by God’s commands.” [ref]

4. Camel (10:25): The largest animal in Palestine at that time. [ref]

5. Eye of a needle (10:25): Some identify this as a small gate in Jerusalem’s city wall. However, there is no evidence that such gates existed at that time. [ref] The vivid contrast between the largest animal (camel) and the smallest opening (eye of a needle) represents what, humanly speaking, is impossible. [ref]

Outline

  • Divorce and Marriage
  • Pharisees test Jesus on divorce
  • Moses’ law on divorce
  • God’s teaching on marriage
  • Little Children and the Kingdom of God
  • The disciples rebuke people who were bringing little children to Jesus
  • Teachings from little children
  • To Enter the Kingdom of God
  • A rich man asks about eternal life
  • Keeping the commandments
  • Selling everything and follow Jesus
  • Hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God
  • The rewards of following Jesus

Segment Analysis

  • 10:1-12

    1.

    How was the Pharisees’ question a test? (cf. Did You Know 2)

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    As was their custom, the Pharisees came up with a question to trap Jesus. If Jesus said, “It is not lawful,” He would be contradicting the Mosaic law. If He said, “It is lawful,” He would be in conflict with those who believed that divorce was not permissible except for sexual sins.

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  • 2a.

    Contrast the Pharisees’ question with Jesus’ answer. What does this teach us about marriage?

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    The Pharisees asked about divorce, but Jesus answered them with teachings on marriage. Instead of contemplating the possibility of divorce, we must live up to God’s intention for the institution of marriage.

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  • 2b.

    What is the difference between “command” (3) and “permit” (4)?

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    God commands us to do certain things that are good for us. But He knows our struggle with our flesh, and permits certain things in forbearance of our weakness (Rom 3:25-26). However, even if everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial (1Cor 10:23-24). If we do not strive to live by the Holy Spirit, we “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

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  • 2c.

    How does Jesus harmonize Moses’ law on divorce with God’s command on marriage?

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    God commanded that a man be “joined to his wife” (Gen 2:24). Jesus clarified the command—“What God has joined together, let not man separate” (9). God says unequivocally that He hates divorce (Mal 2:16). Paul also taught against divorce (1Cor 7:10-11). The Pharisees, on the other hand, emphasized what was permitted rather than what God had originally commanded.

    The law (cf. Deut 24:1-4) actually made divorce a serious, irrevocable decision. In fact, the thrust of the passage in Deuteronomy is not on divorce, but on the prohibition against remarriage in the event of a divorce. This Mosaic provision was God’s forbearance with (and not His endorsement of) “the hardness of your heart” (5).

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  • 3.

    What is the danger of focusing on what is permitted or not?

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    When we get caught up in what is permitted and what is not, we become preoccupied with the letter of the law, instead of focusing on what God has commanded us to do in the first place. We would be like the Pharisees, arguing over “loopholes” in biblical teachings. Rather, we must strive to live by the two commandments that incorporate “all the law and the prophets”—to love God, and to love our neighbor (Mt 22:37-
    40).

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  • 4a.

    Describe the ideal marriage. How does your description correspond to biblical teachings?

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  • 4b.

    How does/would your marriage help you serve God?

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  • 5.

    What does each of the following represent in the spiritual sense? What do they teach us about our relationship with God? a. Marriage (Hos 2:19-20; Jn 3:29; Eph 5:22-33; Rev 21:2); b. Adultery (Ezek 6:9; Mk 8:38; Jas 4:4); c. Divorce (Isa 50:1-2; Jer 3:8)

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    a. Marriage—Our relationship to God is one of everlasting commitment. God will not break His vow with us as long as we stay faithful. We must obey our Head Jesus Christ. As a bride preparing for the groom, we must be prepared to meet Him in the future.

    b. Adultery—We worship God but we still hold on to the world. God is a jealous God who wants us to be faithful to His teachings and commandments with all our hearts. However, sometimes we want to serve two masters (Mt 6:24) and commit adultery against Him.

    c. Divorce—Our severance from God when we sin and turn away from Him. When our sins fill His wrath, God will reject us and divorce us. It would be like the Israelites who turned away from God; they lost God’s protection and became captives.

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  • 10:13-16

    6a.

    Why did the disciples rebuke people who brought little children to Jesus? Why was Jesus indignant at them?

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    They probably thought Jesus had more important things to do than to be bothered by children. Jesus was angry because they forgot His teachings on welcoming the little children (9:37).

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  • 6b.

    How might we make the same mistake as the disciples?

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    In our zeal to serve God, it is easy to lose sight of why we serve. In the interest of efficiency, we might neglect the needs of those who seem unimportant. Getting things done might become more important than caring for the needs of the believers. Jesus warns us against looking down on the little ones (Mt 18:10).

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  • 7a.

    How would a child react to the issue of divorce (2) or selling one’s possessions (21)?

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    These are non-issues to a child. A young child probably does not even comprehend the concept of divorce, let alone think about whether or not it is lawful. A little child just wants his mommy and daddy to be together. Also, a child has few, if any, possessions. It is not as difficult to give up what little he or she has in exchange for something much better (“treasure in heaven” [21]). That is why Jesus teaches us to become like little children (Mt 18:3).

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  • 7b.

    List the qualities of children that we should keep as adults.

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    innocent, trusting, owns few things, etc. Also, Paul teaches us to live as children of light (Eph 4:25-32). The qualities he describes are the ones we used to have as children or new believers but often lose when we grow up

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  • 8.

    What is the difference between receiving and entering the kingdom of God (15)? How do we receive the kingdom of God like a little child?

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    God wants all to be saved (1Tim 2:4). When we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, we receive the kingdom of God. How we respond to God’s message determines whether or not we can enter that kingdom. “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14).

    We must adopt the qualities of a child. When we humble ourselves before God, He will guide and protect us, like a father cares for his child. The kingdom of God is revealed to the little children (Lk 10:21). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can continue to aim for the goal (Php 3:14) until we enter the kingdom of God.

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  • 9.

    How do you bring children to Jesus?

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    Children need to know Jesus just as much as adults. Whether you are a parent or a religious education teacher or a big brother or sister, it is your job to plant God’s teachings into your children’s heart (Deut 6:6-7; Prov 22:6). We must teach the Bible to our children at home, and take them to church services even when they are little.

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  • 10:17-31

    10.

    What does each of the following believe about the requirements of salvation? a. Rich man; b. Disciples; c. Peter

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    a. Rich man—Obey the commandments (20); find a good teacher (17).

    b. Disciples—Jesus requires impossible sacrifices.

    c. Peter—Proud that he had already left everything and followed Jesus (28). Perhaps he feels that he deserved to be saved.

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  • 11.

    How do you explain Jesus’ words in verse 18? Was Jesus denying His goodness or divinity?

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    1. The ruler addressed Jesus as a good teacher probably because he measured Jesus’ goodness with human standards. Because of his misunderstanding of goodness, the ruler believed that he may inherit eternal life with the good deeds that he had done. So the Lord corrected him by referring him to God’s goodness, emphasizing that no one is “good” except God alone. In other words, no one can be justified before God by his goodness.

    2. Jesus might have wanted the man to recognize Him for who He really was. Jesus was not just another “good teacher” (“good” by human standards). Jesus’ goodness transcended all human goodness. The man should have recognize that Jesus was God Himself, and the goodness that he saw in Jesus could only be attributed to Jesus’ divinity.

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  • 12.

    Based on this passage, what does Jesus teach about the requirements of salvation?

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    Keep all the commandments (18-19), sell everything and give to the poor (21), take up the cross and follow Jesus (21). If it sounds impossible, remember that all things are possible with God (27). Today, with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to live up to God’s higher standards.

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  • 13.

    What are the rich man’s strengths and weaknesses?

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    Strengths: managed his life well, in spite of his young age (Mt 19:20), eager to seek the truth (ran after Jesus as Jesus was leaving), humble (fell on his knees before Jesus), knew the importance of eternal life, kept the commandments.

    Weaknesses: saw Jesus only as a good teacher; could not give up his many possessions.

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  • 14a.

    Jesus loved the rich man (21). How did Jesus show his love toward the man?

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    Jesus told him what he lacked and provided a solution for his deficiency. (In the same way, the Lord Jesus has also sent His Holy Spirit to us to reveal our sins to us and to teach us how to live by the truth [Jn16:7, 13]).

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  • 14b.

    Why did the man go away sad? What could he have done differently?

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    The man had accomplished much on his own; he managed his wealth and he kept God’s commandments. But he left because Jesus exposed a void in his character (he could not give up his wealth). It was beyond his abilities. However, he could have asked Jesus to help him overcome his weakness (cf. 9:24). If he had spent more time with Jesus, he would have learned about how much he would be blessed if he followed Christ (30).

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  • 14c.

    What are your spiritual weaknesses? What can you do about them?

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  • 15a.

    How might one conclude that it is easier for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God?

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    We reason that if we don’t have to worry about our livelihood, it would be easy for us to obey God’s commandments. Common excuses we hear are: “If I didn’t have to work so hard, I’d come to church more often.” “If I were rich, I’d offer more money to the church.” “I’ll do more church work after I retire.”

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  • 15b.

    Compare what Jesus said in verses 23 and 24. Why were the disciples amazed by what Jesus said? How does Jesus’ response (24) answer their amazement?

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    Jesus first said how hard it is for those “who have riches” (23) to enter the kingdom of God. In response to the disciples’ amazement, Jesus said how hard it is for those “who trust in riches” (24) to enter the kingdom of God. This seems to imply that the disciples were the ones who trusted in riches; they assumed it was easier for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus taught them that it was the opposite.

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  • 15c.

    Why is it humanly impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God?

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    A person’s riches do not disqualify him from eternal life. However, the more we have, the harder it is to give up everything for Jesus. It is impossible to serve God and money at the same time (Mt 6:24). “Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). If the world is too valuable to us, it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God (Lk 9:57-62).

    In fact, without Jesus Christ, it is impossible for anyone (rich or poor) to be saved. The rich man appeared blameless in the eyes of men, but he fell short by Jesus’ standards. No one is righteous before God (Rom 3:10-11).

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  • 15d.

    Name one thing that you cannot give up. Why not? How do we apply Jesus’ command to “sell whatever you have and give to the poor” (21)?

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    We tend to cherish our desires, but being a disciple of Christ requires us to forsake what is valuable to us. We must give up our claim of ownership. We are just managers who have been put in charge to use God’s possessions at the proper time (Lk 12:42-44).

    Peter did not literally sell everything he had, but he did leave his possessions behind to follow Jesus (1:18). He offered what he had to Jesus; his house became a place where Jesus taught and healed. Likewise, before we can claim to lay down our life for a brother, we must first help him meet his daily needs (1Jn 3:16-18).

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  • 15e.

    How does God make it possible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? List examples of rich men who belong to the kingdom of God.

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    Jesus teaches us to have the correct priorities. If we seek first the kingdom of God, there is no need to worry about our life (Mt 6:25, 33). The Holy Spirit gives us the insight that only Jesus Christ has surpassing value (Php 3:7-8). Having riches in life is a means to an end, not the end itself. We must not trust in riches, but use them wisely to serve God.

    Abraham (Jas 2:23), Job (Job 1:8), and Cornelius (Acts 10:4) are examples of rich men who nurtured a relationship with God and used their resources to help those around them.

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  • 16.

    What is the hundred-fold reward in the present age?

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    There are many testimonies of believers who choose to honor God above their income. They close their businesses on Saturdays (the most profitable days) so that they can observe the Sabbath service. Not only did God spare them from financial hardship, He actually increased their income. Other kinds of present rewards for keeping God’s command include a close daily walk with Christ, a blissful family, fellowship with other believers, peace and joy in our hearts, meaning in life, mature spiritual character, etc.

    Even greater are the blessings that await us. Abraham obeyed God and left his homeland because God promised to make him into a great nation (Heb 11:8). Because he walked by faith, God gave him countless earthly and spiritual descendants. Not only is he the father of the circumcised Jews, he is also the father of everyone who shares his faith (Rom 4:11-12). Like Abraham, we must understand that we are “strangers on earth” (Heb 11:13). Then we can look forward to “a better country” (Heb 11:16), where we will enjoy the greatest blessing – eternal life.

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  • 17.

    How is persecution a reward?

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    Jesus is with us when we are persecuted because of our faith (Mt 5:10-12; 1Pet 4:13-14). Our suffering has value when we see the church grow (Col 1:24). Through suffering, we learn to turn to God (Zech 13:9). God uses persecution to refine our faith (1Pet 1:7).

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  • 18.

    Who are the first and the last?

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    In this context, the first and the last refers to our priority on earth, and our reward in heaven. Those who are first on earth will be last in God’s kingdom—those who value what they own will be last to enter the kingdom of God (if at all). If we have riches and honor but not spiritual understanding, we are “like the beasts that perish” (Ps 49:20). On the other hand, those who are last on earth will be first in God’s kingdom—those who are willing to give up everything to follow Christ will be first to enter God’s kingdom. Like little children, they might seem insignificant or even foolish in the world, but they will receive great rewards on earth and eternal life in heaven.

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