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Paradox and Paradigm

March 29th, 2009 by Vic

Mark 10

A paradox is an inconsistency, absurdity, irony, or contradiction.  A paradigm is an example, a pattern, the standard way, or prototype.

Jesus has been showing the disciples how they should live.  He has been trying to change the disciples’ paradigm about the Messiah and the kingdom of God.  In this chapter Jesus states at least 5 paradoxes designed to make us think and change our standard way of thinking.

10:1-12 Two become one.

Critics are never far away.  The Pharisees bring up a very controversial topic.  John the Baptist was beheaded over this issue.  In Jewish law a woman was regarded as a thing.  She had no legal rights whatever.  A woman could be divorced with or without her will, but a man only with his will.  The law for divorce went back to Deut 24:1-4.  The certificate of divorce had to be written by a Rabbi, but divorce was very easy for the man.

Rabbi Shammai taught that husbands could divorce only if the wife was caught in adultery.   She could be as bad a Jezebel, but if she was not guilty of adultery, there could be no divorce.  The law required those caught in adultery to be stoned.  Some churches teach that today, but have dropped the stoning part.

Rabbi Hillel interpreted the ‘matter of uncleanness’ as widely as possible.  If the wife burned the food, talked to a strange man, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband, if her voice could be heard in the neighbor’s house, or if the man found a woman who was fairer in his eyes than his wife was.  Some churches teach from this perspective.

The Pharisees set up this spiritual trap for Jesus.  They ask an either/or question.  Are you a legalist or a liberal?

Jesus answers with a question, “What does the Bible say?”  When people ask you about homosexuality, abortion, and divorce, this is a good question to ask them.  They are asking you to help justify their sinful heart.  If they can show that abortion is OK, then it isn’t sin.  Or if they can show that abortion is sin, then they can condemn all abortion and be like God.  If homo’s can marry and marriage is of God then homosexual practice must be OK?

10:5 Jesus says, “The certificate is not the cause of divorce.  Jesus goes back to creation.  Sin is the cause of divorce.”

10:6-8  Jesus defines marriage with a paradox.  Proverbs says A three cord rope is not easily broken.  When a husband and wife wrap themselves around Jesus, the marriage will be strong.  It is a mystery how a man and a woman can become one in Christ.  It’s a creation of God.

Adultery is a sin committed at a point in time and can become a lifestyle like any other sin.  The NT distinguishes between sin and sins.  When a man looks at a woman lustfully he has committed sin.  When the woman was caught in the act of adultery she had sinned, but Jesus said, neither do I condemn you.  This should be our attitude in the church.  Go and sin no more.  If we confess our sin, He forgives and cleanses from all unrighteousness.

10:12 A woman has rights and responsibilities.  This is a radical statement.  No one believed a woman could divorce her husband!  The woman is honored as an equal by Jesus.

A radical paradox – two become one in Christ.

10:13-16 Adults shall be as children

Jesus was on the way to the cross.  The disciples did not understand it, but they suspected something important was about to happen and they tried to protect Jesus.

According to the Jews, I child was free of the law until his 13th birthday.  So to receive the kingdom like a little child meant to ignore the Law as a way of pleasing God.  The child could rely on the promises, the love, and the grace of God.  Children are totally dependent, helpless, and trusting.  A child has a short memory and does not hold grudges and bitterness.

Note that the pronoun ‘they’ in verse 13 is masculine.  The fathers were bringing the children to be blessed by a distinguished Rabbi.

Jesus is ticked off at the disciple’s attitudes.

10:17-22 The poor will become rich

Note a couple words the rich young man used to question Jesus: ‘good teacher’ and ‘do’.  He is a humanist.  Humanism leaves God out of our lives.  The error of humanism is to seek goodness in human motives and actions without realizing that only God is good.  Putting man first for the rich man is not as costly as putting God first.

The Jews would not use the word “good” in addressing a rabbi, so Jesus asked the man why he used it.  Did he really believe that Jesus was God?  Are you calling me God?

The man had not done any harm, but had he done any good?  He thought he had kept the commands.  He felt self-righteous.

Jesus loved him and told him what he needed to do even though it was going to hurt.  Jesus knew what this person needed to do to become spiritually rich.  Not everyone is called to do this, but you may be called to get rid of some of your stuff.

1 Tim 6:6-10 Jesus nails down our relationship with riches.  Godliness with contentment is great gain.  Jesus is more concerned about rich people and how they deal with money than he is about salvation.  A historian of the Great Depression was reminding us that on PBS this week that those with the least shared the most.  The more people had the greedier they become.  He said we have to get rid of our consumer mentality even though it will mean a radical change in our financial system.

You can invest in heaven.  You can’t take it with you, but you can send it ahead.

No matter how kind and considerate the humanist may be, mere human goodness can never win entrance to God’s kingdom, but all things are possible with God.  God will forgive the humanist and the legalist if they repent.

10:23-31 The first shall be last and the last first

Jesus was turning popular paradigms upside down.  For Jews prosperity was a sign of God’s favor.  So, prosperity was the sign of a good man.  Wealth was the proof of excellence of character and favor with God.

Peter felt like he had left everything and was wondering what he was getting.  Jesus does not correct him.  But Peter still had a home, probably a wife and kids, and a fishing business.

What we give up in 29 is a little different from what we receive in 30.  We give up earthly fathers but God now becomes our Father.  In addition we also receive persecutions.

Are we willing to give up our stuff?

10:32-34 There will be a resurrection

Jesus always promises to rise from the dead.  The disciples did not get it.  We have not seen the Passion movie with Mel Gibson but I am told that it ignores the resurrection.

10:35-45 The servant shall rule

Competition in the church is ugly.  The disciples were not saints.  They were people just like us who Jesus chooses to use to change the world.  They were ambitious.  They believed in Jesus’ ultimate triumph.  But the resurrection was still a puzzle.

Leadership in the Church was intended to be a group of sinners saved by grace looking and listening for God’s will and ways.  God wants a love and unity among believers as they follow in the way of Jesus.

Don’t use worldly models of leadership.  Don’t use Herod’s methods to build God’s kingdom.  WWJD (what would Jesus do) means He became a slave and died.  They hung Him on a cross of wood, the One who made the ground on which it stood.  That WWJD bracelet or necklace means that you are an organ doner.

In this world the standard of greatness is how many people can help us not how many people do we care for.  There is to be no hierarchy in the church.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.

10:46-52 How can blind disciples see?  How can a church change?

We’ve been warned about wealth.  The church in Laodicea (Rev 3:17) made Jesus vomit.  They thought they were rich, but Jesus said they were poor, blind and naked.

How do churches become blind?  They let sin go without repenting.  They redefine sin.  They get hardened to it.  Samson is the poster child for this.  He was a Nazarite, not to eat grapes, drink grape juice or wine, not to touch any unclean thing, not to cut his hair.  When you read the story of Samson note how it started with a little sin and continued until the presence of the Lord left him and he did not know it.

Bartimaeus is an example of what to do when you are spiritually blind.  When we can’t see our humanism, our legalism, our hierarchical sins, our consumerism, we need to come to Jesus.

The Roman culture considered blind people a nuisance.   People thought they had been cursed by God, so tended to be brutal with their comments.

So what do we do if we are blind and don’t know it?  Listen to the voice of God.

1. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  He heard that Jesus was coming (47).  God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our blindness.

2. He cried for mercy.  I can’t heal my own blindness.  He had probably tried all the magic prayers, magic handkerchiefs, and bottled water from the Jordan offered by TV preachers.  There is nothing I can do or buy to deserve a home in heaven.  I must follow in His steps and let Him do it through me.

3. His answer came by persisting and crying louder (48).  He was not intimidated by criticism.

4. His help came after leaving his stuff, jumping up, and coming to Jesus.  When Jesus called he enthusiastically came.  Lay aside every weight that entangles you.

5. His healing came by asking (51).

6. His life was changed by following.

Jesus will stop the whole parade if you want to be made whole.  Confess with you mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and you receive God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation.  You can’t ‘do’ anything to please God.  We have faith in what has been done for us.  We trust and obey.  Follow in His steps.  Fear God and do good.

The Christian lives by faith not by sight.  That is a paradox.  To become a Christian is simple, but life changing.  That’s a paradox.

It’s a simple prayer.  I believe in You Jesus.  You died for my freedom.  You rose from the grave and forgave me all my sin.  Thank you for your gift.  Help me to hear You and walk with You.

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