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Job 1:1; 2:1-10

Psalm 26

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Mark 10:2-16

1-2 From there he went to the area of Judea across the Jordan. A crowd of people, as was so often the case, went along, and he, as he so often did, taught them. Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time. They asked, “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife? MSG

One of the first things I did when I started research on the reading in Mark was to look up the divorce rate in America. It turns out that the oft quoted 50% is wrong. It also turns out that no one really knows the true percentage. It depends on too many variables to be properly calculated. Several states don’t even report their figures.

What is important to know is that divorce in the First Century was a hot topic, much like it is for us today. The Romans, Greeks, and Jews had different views on divorce, so it is of some value to know which group Mark had in mind when he put together his Gospel—most likely Greek.

You might also note that the question is one-sided. What about a woman divorcing her husband? The Pharisees didn’t bother asking the question because Jewish women had no rights.

I’m sure you will know by now that Jesus knew what the Pharisees had in mind before they asked the question. They were hoping to trick him in some way. We don’t know just what they had in mind. They may have heard what he said about divorce last year and wanted to catch him in an inconsistency. Being in Herod’s territory, they may have hoped he would say something to offend the king who ordered John the Baptist to be murdered.

As he so often did, Jesus asked them a question first. He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” ESV This is practical advice for all of us. It can clarify what the questioner wants to know.

Jesus asked specifically about Moses to prepare the Pharisees for his hard response. Deuteronomy 24:1. If a man marries a woman and then it happens that he no longer likes her because he has found something wrong with her, he may give her divorce papers, put them in her hand, and send her offMSG If she prepared a meal he did not like—grounds for divorce.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” NIV

Jesus has set them up, turned the tables on them. Now for the punch-out. 5-9 “Moses gave you that commandment,” returned Jesus, “because you know so little of the meaning of love. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female’. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’. So that in body they are no longer two people but one. That is why man must never separate what God has joined together.” Phillips

Genesis 1:27. And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created themNew JPS Translation [In his commentary on this verse, Robert Alter wrote, “Him, as in the Hebrew, is grammatically but not anatomically masculine.”]

Becoming ‘one flesh’ is the perfect setting. I have been privileged to know some for whom this seems to have been true. There are people who seemingly cannot live without their dearly beloved and die shortly after the other passes.

But most of us live all-too-mortal lives. Jesus made it clear, God did not intend for us to divorce. Nor did He intend for us to sin. As Jesus put it in Matthew: I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute youNIV God’s plan for us is perfection.


We do the best we can and trust God to make up the difference. Notice in verses 10-12 when Jesus was inside with his disciples, he did not change his statement. Nor did he say, “I’ll forgive you if you get a divorce.”

We know that Peter was married, and it was likely that most, if not all, the Twelve were married. But let’s pick on Simon Peter. He gave up a reasonably prosperous fishing business to travel around preaching and teaching for no pay. What do you suppose his wife thought? Grounds for divorce? Oh, yeah, the wife had no chance of getting a divorce. Today, spouses are not always on board with the ministry choice, and it can break up the marriage.

Perfection is not easy.

There is another consideration to this tough statement about divorce. Jesus is the groom, and his followers are to become his bride. For Jesus there will never be a divorce. Once his bride, always his bride. I think Jesus wants us to feel secure in that knowledge. More importantly, he wanted Peter and the gang to never doubt the presence of the Messiah/Son of Man/Son of God in their difficult lives to come.

Briefly, on the closing verses of this reading, Jesus gives everyone another lesson on how easy it is to join the bridal party.

13 Some people brought their small children to Jesus so he could touch them. But his followers told the people to stop bringing their children to him14 When Jesus saw this, he was displeased. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them. The kingdom of God belongs to people who are like these little children15 I tell you the truth. You must accept the kingdom of God as a little child accepts things, or you will never enter it.” 16 Then Jesus took the children in his arms. He put his hands on them and blessed themInternational Children’s Bible  

I’ve not used this translation before, but it seems appropriate.

William Barclay, in his commentary on these verses, makes the following points about children and their example for us. They are humble, obedient, trusting, and they have short memories.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Everyone Will Be Salted With Fire

Photo by Francesco Alberti on Unsplash

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Psalm 124

James 5:13-20

Mark 9:38-50

Last week’s lesson ended with verses 36-37. Then he took a little child and stood him in front of them all, and putting his arms round him, said to them, “Anyone who welcomes one little child like this for my sake is welcoming me. And the man who welcomes me is welcoming not only me but the one who sent me!” Phillips

In addition to the lesson about the Son of God, those two verses reminds us that even when Jesus is instructing the Twelve, other disciples are nearby, including some of their children.

John immediately says, “Master, we saw somebody driving out evil spirits in your name, and we stopped him, for he is not one who follows us.” Phillips

If John the Apostle is also the author of GJohn and Revelation, one can wonder when he finally understood what Jesus was teaching. Here, he still does not seem to get it. ‘You said something about little kids, but you should have seen us the other day when we put a stop to some ruffian who does not follow you.’

And Jesus wept.

Actually, 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his rewardESV

I suspect this passage puts a ding in the idea that the only way to God is through Jesus. By extension, only people who are baptized into Jesus have any chance of avoiding Hell. Give these verses serious study. He is not a follower of Jesus, but he can drive out demons. How can this be?

Clearly, Jesus had no problem with a non-follower doing miracles in the name of Jesus.

This episode has a kind of recurrence decades later in Corinth. Paul writes in his first letter to the church there to quell divisions.

 11 For I know, from what some of Chloe’s people have told me that you are each making different claims12“I am one of Paul’s men,” says one; “I am one of Apollos’,” says another; or “I am one of Cephas’”; while someone else says, “I owe my faith to Christ alone.” 13 What are you saying? Is there more than one Christ? Was it Paul who died on the cross for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? Phillips Several translations use at verse 13; Is Christ Divided?

Mark and Paul have the same answer; Christ now and forever, there is no other. Do not reject a cup of water from someone you know to be a serious sinner, he may be a follower of Jesus.

I believe that Jesus is the way to Heaven, but God and His Son can bring people in who have never heard of Jesus. We do not know all the ways of God.

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the seaESV It is likely that Jesus still has the child near him from verse 36 on. Possibly, he pointed to several children with the larger group of disciples.

The message is clear; do right with children—always.

But there is another important message—that millstone. Jesus did not invent the concept; it was another common form of execution all over the Roman Empire. It was likely that many of the crowd had seen or heard of such executions.

What is the meaning theologically? Jesus praised the welcoming of children into the fellowship in verse 37. Now comes the opposite, the punishment for turning them away. Jesus speaks even more broadly, do not hinder anyone from coming to Jesus.

There are so many ways we can discourage people from believing in Jesus. Tens of thousands have been sexually assaulted by priest, ministers, and rabbis—children and adults. How many have turned away after meeting a “Christian” who called them unpleasant names; engaged in public shouting matches; refused to serve a meal to a dirty person; or simply ignored someone wanting information? I suspect all of us are guilty of unknown—to us—slights and offenses.

43-49 “Indeed, if it is your own hand that spoils your faith, you must cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than to keep both your hands and go to the rubbish-heap, If your foot spoils your faith, you must cut it off. It is better to enter life on one foot than to keep both your feet and be thrown on to the rubbish-heap. And if your eye leads you astray, pluck it out. It is better for you to go one-eyed into the kingdom of God than to keep both eyes and be thrown on to the rubbish-heap, where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’. For everyone will be salted by fire.” Phillips

What are we to make of this strangeness? The maiming is found also in Matthew 5:27-30. You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your embers than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hellNET

Let’s take care of the big question: Jesus was not advocating chopping off hands. He is speaking metaphorically. If you cannot be in the same room as another person without wanting to commit adultery, stay away. There are any number of simple, if not easy, ways to deal with strong emotions. Ask yourself questions. Is she beautiful or is it makeup? Would I want her parents as in laws?

For everyone will be salted by fire.” 50 “Salt is a very good thing; but if it should lose its saltiness, what can you do to restore its flavour? You must have salt in yourselves, and live at peace with each other.” Phillips

The Greek manuscripts available today have three different versions of verse 49. The one above is found in the oldest manuscripts. A different version reads; Every sacrifice will be salted with salt. And the third version reads; Everyone will be salted with fire and every sacrifice will be salted with salt. The general rule in translation is to use the oldest manuscript, but that is not always the best. Here, the meaning of salted by fire is cryptic, whereas, salting a sacrifice was common practice in the Temple.

Salty Christians will add flavor to the world, also a little preservative. We are not doom-and-gloom robots spouting death to heathens; nor are we too holy to be touched by the dirty world.

We live sinful lives, even as we try to avoid sin. We believe in Jesus, that is how we differ from non-Christians. Give peace a try—every day.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence