Mark 10: 2-16 is a study in contrasts between two views of reality and two views of life, the universe and everything. It contrasts what we see and understand to be real and what God knows is the reality he made. They are not the same things.
Just prior to this passage in Mark, Jesus has a child in hand, and he has just admonished his disciples for their childish perspective on life. He offers a “child-like” perspective as an alternative. It is not who will be the greatest, but who is willing to be the least. It is not about gaining power, but about service. It is not about ruling, leading, controlling, but about who is willing to follow. I am not sure the disciples really understood.
So along come the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were adults, like the disciples and like us. And they believed they had life figured out, like the disciples and like us. Their view of the world was restricted, limited, or what we might call mature. True, they had great theoretical debates about things philosophic or theologic, but those debates were really only intellectual mind games. None of the theories were allowed to touch reality, like satellites meant to stay in orbit and never touch down on the earth.
Now, like all grown-ups, the Pharisees established boundaries around life, like a big box, and anything inside the box, like home, family, friends, the marketplace, the common people, the Romans, clouds, trees, money and power, were considered real. And anything found outside the box, like angels and demons, miracles, eternity, life after death, and to a great extent God Almighty, at least as far as God actually touching this earth was concerned, these things were considered theories, or fantasies or maybe crazy thinking, but certainly not exactly real.
We do much the same thing. Don’t think this was some Pharisee flaw. We were raised to think a certain way about life and reality, to believe certain things are real and count other things as fantasies or maybe crazy talk. We all have our cherished notions that were taught to us by our parents or grandparents or in school, where we learned to set boundaries and build a framework – our own box around what we accept as real. And we shut out some things as unreal. Oh, we may talk about them like some intellectual game or listen politely about them on a sunny Sunday morning, but that is as far as so many of us will go.
Think about it.
I mean, my God, if I suddenly decided that all of that stuff was real, that would bust my box to pieces. Anything might be possible. How would I ever be able to distinguish fantasy from reality? It would be like going insane. Life would feel totally out of control. No thank you. I’ll stay inside my comfortable little box if you don’t mind.
Did you ever wonder why the Pharisees hated Jesus? It is because his whole life and ministry, everything he said and did was outside the box. Just by being, he challenged the Pharisee worldview and drove big gaping holes into their comfortable boxes. As Shakespeare said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” But when you have been living your whole life comfortably inside a box with the lid closed, the sudden influx of light can be, at the very least, disturbing.
The Pharisees hated Jesus because he made them think and feel that everything they knew was wrong, and everything they believed about life the universe and everything was wrong. He made them feel like their box was way too small and they could not live inside of it anymore. He challenged their most cherished notions about reality, and made them understand that not only were they wrong, but their beloved parents and grandparents and teachers were all wrong as well. Everything that Jesus said and did proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe was much bigger and grander and more everything than they ever believed. And if suddenly anything was possible, there was no way to know what might happen at any given moment. My God!
The idea that they had been wrong all their lives, especially for the older ones who were, as we say, set in their ways, made the Pharisees angry. The idea that God actually cared about what was happening on earth and what people did and how they really lived their lives made them afraid. And don’t underestimate what fear can cause people to do. They had to destroy Jesus, somehow. They had to ruin him and trap him in some way to prove to themselves that Jesus was just as fallible and human as they were. They had to find some flaw in Jesus so they could use that to discount everything about the man. So they schemed and plotted and came at him like the devil on a bad day. And they failed and failed and failed and failed again until at last there was only one thing left for them to do. Kill him. They imagined if they killed him they could be done with him forever and free to crawl back into their nice, comfortable boxes.
Let me be clear about this. The Romans did not kill Jesus. The Jews did not kill Jesus. It was the adults of the world, when their comfort zone – their worldview was threatened by the larger universe of God. It was the grown-ups that killed Jesus. And that might be why Jesus blessed the children and told his disciples the Kingdom of God was made up of such as these.