TO WHOM DOES THE KINGDOM OF GOD BELONG?
Key Verse: 10:14b
“He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
Welcome back to Mark’s gospel study. We’ve had a long break from Mark’s gospel since the end of last year. We almost don’t remember what the last passage was about. So, it is good to be reminded of what we studied last time. The previous chapter, Mark chapter 9, shows that the disciples argued among themselves as to who was the greatest and Jesus taught them to be the last and the servant of all. In today’s passage, some Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce and Jesus taught them the original meaning of marriage. He also talks about what kind of people can enter the kingdom of God.
I. JESUS’ TEACHING ON MARRIAGE (1-12)
Verse 1 tells us that Jesus left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. We don’t know for sure where that place was. A couple of Bible versions say it was Capernaum. Jesus finished his Galilean ministry and ultimately headed south to Jerusalem where he was going to be sacrificed as the Lamb of God.
Again crowds of people came to him and as was his custom he taught them. Why did he teach them God’s word? Heb 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword; it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Jesus always taught people God’s word. He focused his ministry on teaching God’s word. Jesus believed that the word of God can solve all human problems. The word of God is life giving. It penetrates our hearts and reveals our hidden sins. It changes our way of thinking and perspective and provides a solution to our problems. During last weekend’s conference each team had its own program on Saturday. I heard some YDJs stayed up until 2am doing something. They are full of energy. Their Saturday program was tight divided even by minutes. Compared to their programs, the young missionary teams had a loose schedule with two Bible-reading sessions: one in the morning and the other in the evening. Each reading session took two hours. Our team leader was Missionary Luke Kim. He was kind of strict. He allowed us only one five-minute bathroom break in each session. It was kind of intense reading. We read most of the epistles of the New Testament. But through the intense reading of the scriptures, the word of God penetrated our hearts and revealed our sins. Missionary David Park from Baltimore said that the word of God encouraged and strengthened him. My heart was heavy during the conference because of one problem. I couldn’t sing from my heart while everyone sang joyfully. I tried to take it off from my head but couldn’t. But while reading the Bible, toward the end one verse penetrated my heart. It was 1 Peter 5:7 which says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I knew this verse but couldn’t remember it especially when my mind was occupied by a problem. But when I read it, I felt that God seemed to know my problem and told me what to do. I realized that God cares for me and wants me to come to him with my problems. It was like seeing a ray of bright sun light coming down through the thick darkness of clouds. It was like an exit from an endless loop. Patricia shared the same in her daily bread message last Monday morning. She said that when she worried she couldn’t sleep. But the word of God helped her to overcome her worries. Surely the word of God is living and it penetrates our spirit and sets us free from all kinds of fears and worries and sins.
Verse 2 says that some Pharisees came and tested him. Their question was, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” The Pharisees were experts in finding tricky questions to trap Jesus. From verse 4, we see that they already knew the answer. They asked this question to discredit and accuse Jesus. Why then was this question a test for Jesus? If Jesus said, “No” he would be against Moses’ law which allowed men to divorce. They would accuse him of being a law-breaker. If he said “Yes”, then they would slander Jesus saying that he promoted divorce. Divorce was a sensitive and hotly debated issue like abortion is today.
How did Jesus answer? Instead of saying, “Yes’, or ‘No’, Jesus answered with another question, “What did Moses command you? Jesus asked this question to start from what they already knew about divorce.
They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.” They replied based on Deuteronomy chapter 24 verse 1. It says, “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house.” In regard to what was “something indecent” there were two different opinions in Jesus’ time. One group called Shamai strictly interpreted “something indecent” as marital unfaithfulness. The other group called, Hilel interpreted “something indecent” as a broad term. For example, if a wife overcooked and burned food the husband could divorce her. According to their opinion, many women could have been divorced several times because they burned not just food but the cooking pots also. In Jesus’ time many men followed the second group’s opinion and divorced their wives freely.
Whatever “something indecent” might be, people misused Moses’ law to divorce their wives. But the original purpose of this law was to protect women’s rights. Moses gave this law so that women could remarry. In that male dominated society if a man dumped his wife without a certificate of divorce she couldn’t remarry and be protected. In verse 5, Jesus says that Moses gave them this law because their hearts were hard. If a sinful man decides to divorce his wife he does it with all kinds of excuses. He hardens his heart and rationalizes his decision and won’t listen to anyone’s advice. So, Moses permitted a man to divorce but divorce is not something God desired. So, Jesus taught them the original meaning of marriage from the book of Genesis.
Can we read verses 6-9? “But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” From these verses we can learn several things about marriage.
First, God established marriage. Marriage is not something people do when they grow up. It has a deeper meaning in it. If we know the meaning of marriage our life will be much happier. When we study Genesis we learn that God made the first man Adam and put him in the Garden. Adam was happy to work and to take care of it. But he had one problem. All animals had pairs but he had no companion to talk to and share his feelings. He looked lonely. God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone. So God put the man into a deep sleep and took one of his ribs and made a woman. Then he brought the woman to Adam. Adam was so happy to see her and confessed his love saying, “You are bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!”. It sounds pretty rough talking about bone and flesh. But we see how intimately he felt about his wife. In this way God established the first marriage between the two. Through this we learn that marriage is not something that man initiated but rather that God established. Marriage is not a contract, nor an agreement between two people. It is a part of God’s creation work.
Second the meaning of marriage. We see through the fact that God made them male and female at the beginning of creation he intended to unite them through marriage. When we read Genesis 1, God created this beautiful world in six days. At the end of the six days God created man in his own image; male and female to rule the world and subdue it. God blessed them by saying, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” Then God provided the best environment for the man to live in and established the first marriage between a man and woman.
When a man grows up, he becomes independent and joins his wife through marriage. And the two become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one. What does it mean that they become one? Living in a house doesn’t mean they become one. It means they become one body. They have the same feelings, same values and vision; they even have same taste for food. It means they become a whole being. A husband and wife come from different family backgrounds and have different characters. They are not compatible. But while living together in marriage they learn from each other and complement each other. For example missionary Joshua Kim likes to go out to watch baseball games with his son. But his wife, missionary Ruth likes to stay at home. Missionary Luke and Maria Kim’s family is the opposite from M. Joshua’s family. Missionary Maria Kim likes to go out while missionary Luke Kim likes to stay at home. When I look at shepherd David Brogi and missionary Mary Brogi, they seem to have two different characters. Shepherd David has a soldier style and so talks about wars and hunting often. But missionary Mary is a busy housewife taking care of her children. Their characters seem incompatible. But they complement each other and live in harmony. And under their love and care, their five children are growing beautifully serving God. My wife and I are different too. I can’t tell you all the differences we have. But there are a lot. Sometimes I wished she was like me. But I realize it is impossible. Through living together I have learned from her especially, her generous heart, to live by principles and considering others. Because of her attitude toward others, she wins other’s hearts. Sometimes I think that if she had been born as a man, she would have been a big boss with many followers. But thank God that she was not born as a man. My point is that she and I are different but we complement each other. She covers what I lack. By living together she and I have become one. For example, she liked ice cream but I didn’t. I began to taste it and now I like it too. What’s the purpose God made them one? Malachi 2:15a says, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.” We see why God joins them together and establishes marriage. It is because God seeks godly children. God wants to raise many godly children through the love and teachings of godly parents. When I look at our CBF children, who have grown beautifully in faith and knowledge of God, I agree with what the verse in Malachi says. Through establishing marriage we see the whole picture of God’s creation. God wants to bless the whole world through marriage. Marriage is a foundation of God’s whole creation. If this is broken, the whole creation will be broken. This is a reason God wants to protect marriage.
Third, what God has joined together, let man not separate. Let’s read verse 9 one more time. “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Jesus’ conclusion and answer to the Pharisees’ question is that what God has joined together man can’t separate. By this Jesus is saying that divorce is against God’s creation order. If we go against God’s creation order we will suffer in many ways. Jesus is saying that marriage is what God established and man has no authority to divide it. Marriage is a total commitment between two individuals: a man and woman, not a man and man or a woman and woman. It is a lasting and binding commitment between the two. During group bible study last Sunday Paul Kim was daunted in hearing this and asked, “So, there is no way out?” My answer was, “No, there is no way out.” He seemed to be afraid to make such a commitment. But I can tell you one thing about marriage. If you marry, your life will be much happier. Your wife will pack your lunch every day for you. Not every day but most days.
Look at verse 10. When Jesus and his disciples were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. Probably the disciples weren’t sure what Jesus was talking about. They wanted a clearer answer from Jesus. This time Jesus gave them a straightforward answer. Let’s read verse 11 together. “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Jesus is saying that divorcing a spouse and remarrying another person is adultery. In America, adultery is not illegal. And having a divorce is not illegal either. Divorce is common. We read about Hollywood celebrities’ divorce stories on tabloid magazines. Even people in their sixties and seventies divorce their spouses and remarry. According to ‘Divorcerate.org’, the divorce rate in America is close to 50%. This means one out of two families end up in divorce. According to Jesus, divorcing and remarrying is adultery, which is a serious sin against God.
From Jesus’ words, we can see the deep motive of those who divorce. When people divorce they have all kinds of excuses. But according to Jesus, people divorce in order to remarry. Divorce happens because of man’s sinfulness and selfishness not considering how much divorce hurts their children and their spouses.
God also talks about divorce in Malachi 2:14-16. “You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. I hate divorce.” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
What does God say about divorce? God says, “I hate divorce.” When we read the Bible we rarely come across a verse in which God says, “I hate something”. But here God says, “I hate divorce.” Why does God hate divorce? It is because man breaks his faith with his wife. When people marry they make a vow like this one: “I take you to be my (husband/wife), my partner in life and my one true love. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, love you faithfully through good times and bad times. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.” Then after living a couple of years they break up with excuses like, "I've met someone else who really understands me.” “We should never have married in the first place." "I didn't mean my vows." God is faithful. God keeps his word. He hates when people break their faith toward each other especially a husband and a wife. One interesting thing I find is that God acts as a witness between a man and woman when they marry.
How can a man or woman avoid divorce? God says twice to guard ourselves in our spirit. Before people divorce they are tempted and their eyes are blinded. Some people were overcome by their evil desires and committed terrible crimes and ended up losing everything. Therefore God warns us to guard ourselves in our spirit. We have to repent our evil desires and guard our hearts not to be tempted.
II. JESUS BLESSES LITTLE CHILDREN (13-16)
Let’s look at verse 13, “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.” Some parents brought their children to Jesus so that Jesus might put his hands on them and bless them. They loved their children and wanted them to be blessed by Jesus. At that time it was customary for a Rabbi to put his hands on children and bless them. All parents love their children and want them to be blessed. I appreciate when others pray for my children too when we pray together. How much more the people wanted their children to be blessed by Jesus!
But the disciples rebuked the parents who brought their children to Jesus. The disciples told them, “You children! Turn around and go back! Otherwise, we will do something to you.” They acted as if they were secret service agents for the president. The disciples thought that the little children would make a lot of noise and distract Jesus. They thought that the parents were senseless not knowing it was not a place for little children. Generally little children were ignored because they were weak and didn’t produce practical benefits.
How did Jesus respond to his disciples’ actions? Let’s read verses 14 and 15, “When Jesus saw this he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth,” anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Jesus told his disciples to allow little children to come to him. Jesus loved little children and welcomed them saying the kingdom of God belongs to such little children. He says that that anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Obviously Jesus is talking about good qualities little children have.
What are the good qualities little children have? First, little children are very cute. They are all handsome and pretty. When we look at a little child’s smiling face our hearts melt and we see the kingdom of God on the child’s face. Second, children are honest. They don’t know how to hide things. So, often you can know what’s going on in their families. Third, they are innocent and pure. They have not committed many sins as adults have. And children trust easily. When they meet a new friend they don’t suspect their new friend will take advantage of them and cheat them. For adults it takes many months and years to develop friendships. But for little children less than one hour is enough to make friends and play together. If there were only little children in the world there would be no wars. Little children don’t worry about their lives because they trust their parents will provide all they need.
Lastly, little children are humble and simple. They don’t boast and put down others. They don’t pretend to know everything. They keep on asking many questions. Little children are so simple that when they hear something they believe it as it is. One time missionary Sarah Lee heard what little Rebekah Jun said about her mom. Little Rebekah said that her mom’s height shrank after she had delivered two children including her. I think that she heard what her mom said and believed her mom’s word even though it sounds unreasonable. Sometimes I am surprised when my 14-year-old twin boys reiterate what I taught them when they were very little. They still pray with the prayer topics I taught years ago.
Little children don’t analyze or calculate as much as we do. They simply accept and believe. That’s why it is so important to teach them about God and His truth in their young age. Jesus wants us to become like little children who are simple and humble and trusting. Little children are always happy and joyful. You don’t have to teach them to rejoice in the Lord always. And they don’t harbor any revenge or grudge against others.
I have been serving CBF for several years. It’s been a joyful experience to teach our children and watch them grow in faith in God. Our children like Lego messages. They are so smart in understanding the Bible. God wants us to raise many children and restore his kingdom through them.
Jesus took the children in his arms and put his hands on them and blessed them. I think the children would remember how much Jesus loved and blessed them.
In conclusion we learned about the original meaning of marriage. We learned what kind of people we should be to enter into the kingdom of God. I pray that God may protect our families and raise many more godly families and children and restore his kingdom.
Let’s read the key verse 10:14b.