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The relationships of nature re-established
Mark 10. It is a striking principle which meets us here — the relationships of nature (as God has Himself created them at the beginning) re-established in their original authority, while the heart is judged, and the cross the sole means of drawing nigh to the God who was their creative source. On earth Christ could offer nothing but the cross to those who followed Him. The glory to which the cross would lead has been shown to some of them; but as to Himself He took the place of servant. It was the knowledge of God by Him that should form them for this glory and lead them to it; for in fact that was life eternal. All other intermediate ways had, in the hands of men, become hostile to the God who had granted them, and therefore to His manifestation in the Person of Christ.
The family: the law and the heart of man; natural uprightness and man's true position
We find then (v. 1-12), the original relationship of man and wife as formed by the creative hand of God; in verses 13-16 the interest which Jesus took in young children, their place in the compassionate eye of God, the moral value of that which they represented before men. In verse 17 we come to the law, to the world, and to the heart of man in presence of the two. But at the same time we see that Jesus takes pleasure in that which is amiable in the creature as a creature — a principle of deep interest unfolded in this chapter — while still applying the touchstone morally to his heart. With respect to the law, as the natural heart can see it (that is, the outward action it requires), the young man had kept it; and with a natural sincerity, and uprightness, that Jesus could appreciate as a creature quality, and which we ought always to recognise where it exists. It is important to remember, that He who as man was perfectly separated unto God — and that, because He had the thoughts of God — could recognise the unchangeable obligations of the relationships established by God Himself; and also, whatever there was amiable and attractive in the creature of God as such. Having the thoughts of God — being God manifest in the flesh, how could He but recognise that which was of God in His creature? And while doing this, He must establish the obligations of the relationships in which He has placed him, and exhibit the tenderness He felt for the infant representatives of the spirit which He prized. He must love the natural uprightness that may be developed in the creature. But He must judge the true condition of man fully brought out, and the affections that rested on objects raised up by Satan, and the will that rejected and turned away from the manifestation of God that called him to forsake these vanities and follow Him, thus putting his heart morally to the proof.
The law used for self-righteousness
Jesus exhibits the absolute perfection of God in yet another
manner. The young man saw the exterior of Christ's perfection,
and, trusting to the power of man to perform that which is good,
and seeing its practical fulfilment in Jesus, applies to Him — and, humanly speaking, with sincerity — to learn, from One in
whom he saw so much perfection, though viewing Him merely as a
Rabbi, the rule of eternal life. This thought is expressed in his
sincere and cordial salutation. He runs, he kneels, to the Teacher
who, morally, stood so high in his estimation, saying, "Good
Master." The human limit of his ideas of this goodness, and his
confidence in the powers of man, are manifested by the words,
"What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" The Lord,
taking up the whole import of his word, replies, "Why callest thou
me good? there is none good but one, that is God." What God has
created he who knows God will respect, when it presents itself as
such in its true place. But God alone is good. Man, if
intelligent, will not make himself out good before God, nor dream
of human goodness. This young man had at least the hope of
becoming good by the law,* and he believed that Jesus was so as a
man. But the greatest advantages which the flesh could recognise,
and which answered to its nature, did but the more effectually
shut the door of life and heaven to man. The flesh used the law
for self-righteousness, man being not good but a sinner. And, in
fact, if we have to seek for righteousness, it is because we have
it not (that is to say, because we are sinners and cannot attain
this righteousness in ourselves). Moreover worldly advantages,
which appeared to render man more capable of doing good, bound his
heart to perishing things, and strengthened selfishness, and made
him attach little value to the image of God.
Peter's difficulty; man in the presence of God
But the instructions of this chapter carry on still farther the subject of man's condition before God. The ideas of the flesh accompany and give their form to the heart's affections, in one who is already quickened by the Spirit of grace acting through the attraction of Christ, until the Holy Ghost Himself communicates to those affections the strength of His presence, by giving them the glory of Christ in heaven for their object; and at the same time causing the light of that glory to shine (for the believer's heart) upon the cross, investing it with all the value of the redemption it accomplished, and of the divine grace that was its source, and producing conformity to Christ in every one that bears it with Him. Peter did not understand how any one could be saved, if such advantages as the Jews possessed in their relationship to God (and which were specially present in the case of this young man) only barred up the way to the kingdom of God. The Lord meets him upon this very ground; for man in the presence of God was now the question As far as man was concerned, it was impossible — a second profound truth — with respect to his condition. Not only was there none good excepting God, but no one could be saved, according to what man was. Whatever advantages he might have as means, they would avail him nothing in his state of sin. But the Lord introduces another source of hope — "with God all things are possible." The whole of this, indeed all this part of the Gospel, while it sets aside the Jewish system, does so, because, while that was founded on testing the possibility by the possession of divinely given ordinances of acquiring righteousness, and a standing before God as yet unrevealed, this revealed God and brought man and man's heart face to face, as a present thing, with Him; in grace, but still face to face as he was. The disciples, not having yet received the Holy Ghost, are still under the influence of the old system, and only see men as trees walking; and this is fully developed in this chapter. The kingdom indeed they could think of, but still with fleshly thoughts.
Following the Lord and its reward
But the flesh, the carnal mind, enters yet farther into the
career of the life of grace. Peter reminds the Lord that the
disciples had forsaken all to follow Him. The Lord replies, that
every one* who had done so should have everything that would make
him happy in his social affections, as God had formed him, and all
this world could give as to the real enjoyment of it and a
hundredfold, together with the opposition that He Himself met with
in this world; but in the world to come (Peter was not thinking of
that) not some private individual advantage, but everlasting
life. He went beyond the sphere of promise connected with the
Messiah on earth, to enter, and to make others enter, into that
which was eternal. As to individual reward, that could not be
judged of according to appearances.
The cross, the place of service, humiliation, and obedience
But further, they followed indeed Jesus, and thought of the reward, but thought little of the cross which led to it; they were amazed therefore at seeing Jesus deliberately going up to Jerusalem, where people sought to kill Him, and they were afraid. Although following Him, they were far from the height of realising all that the path implied. Jesus sedulously explains it to them — His rejection, and His entrance into the new world by resurrection. John and James, little affected by the Lord's communications, use their faith in the royalty of Christ to present the carnal desires of their heart, namely, to be on His right and left hand in the glory. Again the Lord assures them that they should participate in the cross with Him, and takes the place Himself of the accomplishment of His service and of bringing others into fellowship with His sufferings. As for the glory of the kingdom, it would be theirs for whom the Father had prepared it: the disposal of it was not in His hands save to them. This is the place of service, of humiliation, and of obedience, in which this Gospel always presents Him. Such should be the place of His disciples.
We have seen what the flesh was in an upright young man whom Jesus loved, and in His disciples who knew not how to take the true position of Christ. The contrast of this with the full triumph of the Holy Ghost is remarkable, as we find it in the comparison of this chapter with Philippians 3.
Human righteousness made worthless to Paul
We have in Saul a man outwardly blameless, according to the law, like the young man in the gospel; but he has seen Christ in glory, and, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, the righteousness according to which Christ entered into the glory in which He revealed Himself to Saul. All that had been gain to him was loss for Christ. Would he have a carnal righteousness, a human righteousness, even if he could have accomplished it, when he had seen a righteousness bright with the glory of Christ? He possessed the righteousness which was of God by faith. What was that righteousness worth for which he had laboured, now that he possessed the all-perfect righteousness which God gave by faith? Not sins alone were put away: human righteousness was made worthless by it. But his eyes had been opened to this by the Holy Ghost, and by seeing Christ. The things that engaged the heart of the young man and retained him in the world which Christ forsook, and which in Him had rejected God — could these things retain one who had seen Christ in the other world? They were but as dung to him. He had forsaken everything in order to possess this Christ. He considered them as utterly worthless. The Holy Ghost, in revealing Christ, had completely delivered him.
The disciples' amazement and fear contrasted with Paul's desire
But this manifestation to the heart of Christ glorified goes yet farther. He who thus breaks with the world must follow the One whose glory he would reach; and this is to put himself under the cross. The disciples had forsaken all to follow Him. Grace had attached them to Christ that they might follow Him. The Holy Ghost had not yet linked them with His glory. He goes up to Jerusalem. They are amazed at it; and, in following Him (although He goes before them, and they have His guidance and His presence), they are afraid. Paul seeks to know the power of His resurrection: he desires to have fellowship with His sufferings, and to be conformed unto His death. Instead of amazement and fear, there is full spiritual intelligence and the desire of conformity to that death which the disciples feared; because he found Christ morally in it, and it was the pathway to the glory he had seen.
Christ Himself desired, not a good place near Him
Moreover this sight of Christ purifies the desires of the heart with respect even to the glory. John and James desire for themselves the best place in the kingdom — a desire that availed itself (with a carnal and selfish object) of the intelligence of faith — a half-sighted intelligence that sought the kingdom at once, and not the glory and the world to come. Paul had seen Christ: his only desire in the glory was to possess Him — "that I may win Christ," and a new state conformed to it; not a good place near Him in the kingdom, but Himself. This is deliverance — the effect of the presence of the Holy Ghost revealing a glorified Christ.
The cross as faith's only path to God: Christ the leader in it
We may remark, that in every case the Lord brings in the
cross. It was the only passage from this world of nature, to the
world of glory and of eternal life.* To the young man He exhibits
the cross; to the disciples that follow Him He exhibits the cross;
to John and James, who sought a good place in the kingdom, He
exhibits the cup they would have to drink in following
Him. Eternal life, although received now, was, in possession and
enjoyment according to God's purpose, on the other side of the
Observe also, that the Lord was so perfectly, divinely, above the sin in which nature lay, that He could recognise all that was of God in nature, and show at the same time the impossibility of any relation between God and man on the ground of what man is. Advantages were but hindrances. That which is death to the flesh must be gone through: we must have divine righteousness, and enter in spirit (hereafter in fact) into another world, in order to follow Him and to be with Him — to "win Christ." Solemn lesson!
In result, God alone is good, and — sin having come in — it is impossible, if He be manifested, that man can be in relationship with God; but with Him all is possible. The cross is the only path to God. Christ leads to it, and we must follow Him in this path, which is that of eternal life. A child-like spirit enters into it by grace; the spirit of service and of self-renunciation walks in it. Christ walked in it, giving His life a ransom for many. This part of the Lord's instruction ends here. Lowliness of service is the place into which Christ brings us; in such He had walked. This chapter is worthy of all the attention which the Christian through grace can devote to it. It speaks of the ground man can stand upon, how far God owns what is natural, and the disciples' path down here.
Christ's last dealings with the Jews; the need and faith of the blind man met in power
At verse 46 another subject begins. The Lord enters on the path
of His final relationship with Israel, presenting Himself as King,
Emmanuel, rather than as the prophet who was to be sent. As the
Prophet, His ministry had been accomplished. He had been sent (He
told His disciples) to preach. This had led Him to the cross, as
we have seen. He must needs announce it as the result to those
that followed Him. He now resumes His connection with Israel, but
as the Son of David. He draws near to Jerusalem, from which He had
departed and where He was to be rejected, and the power of God
manifests itself in Him. By the way of Jericho, the city of the
curse, enters the One who brings blessing at the price of the gift
of Himself. The poor blind man* (and such indeed was the nation of
itself) acknowledges Jesus of Nazareth to be the Son of David. The
grace of Jesus replies in power to the need of His people, that
expressed itself by faith, and that persevered in, in spite of the
obstacles put in its way by the multitude who did not feel this
need, and who followed Jesus, attracted by the manifestation of
His power, without being attached to Him by the faith of the
heart. That faith has the sense of need. Jesus stands still and
calls him, and before all the people manifests the divine power
which responded in the midst of Israel to the faith that
recognised in Jesus of Nazareth the true Son of David, the
Messiah. The poor man's faith had healed him, and he followed
Jesus in the way without dissimulation or fear. For the faith
which then confessed Jesus to be the Christ was divine faith,
although it might perhaps know nothing of the cross which He had
just announced to His disciples as the result of His faithfulness
and service, and in which faith must follow when genuine.
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