Chapter XIV


Event or parable
115. Disputes about divorce
116. Jesus blesses the children
117. Teachings about wealth
118. The householder and labourers
119. 3rd forecast of his death
120. Request by James and John
121. The blind beggar of Jericho
122. The dinner with Zaccheus (Document P)
123. Parable of the talents (Document P)





Luke picks up the thread of Mark's story with the dispute over divorce with the Pharisees and then the incident of blessing the children. He then follows Mark for several incidents and then inserts two more incidents from document P, as shown above (Zaccheus and the Parable of the Talents).


Luke had inserted nearly all of document P between verses 10:1 and 10:2 of Mark, and Matthew reported those same two verses one after another, showing that they were really together in Mark. Mark and Matthew now report a discussion of the morality of divorce after a question from the Pharisees, trying to harass him:
(Mark 10:2-9;Matt.19:3-8)
PHARISEES: Tell us, is it lawful to put away one's wife?

JESUS: Well, what did Moses command you?

PHARISEES: Moses allowed us to write a bill of divorcement and then send her away.

JESUS: For your hardness of heart he gave you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, male and female created he them; and for that cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh, so that the two are no more twain, but one flesh.
        Therefore, what God has joined together, man should not separate.

Jesus here quotes from Genesis to make his point, verses 1:27 and 2:24. This appears to be an absolute prohibition of divorce, and when the disciples ask him about it, he says:
(Mark 10:10-12;Matt.19:9)
JESUS: Whoever puts away his wife, and marries another commits adultery; and if she herself puts away her husband she commits adultery.

So the basis for the absolute prohibition of divorce is the seventh commandment prohibiting adultery. It also sounds to me like he had discerned the natural world principle that most species mate for life. The disciples complain:
DISCIPLES: Well, if that's the case, then it is not a good idea to get married.

JESUS: All men cannot receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are celibates, who were so from their mother's womb; and there are celibates, who were made so by other men; and there are celibates, who became so for the sake of attaining the kingdom of God. So I say to you, He that is able to receive this, let him receive it.

Here the Greek word translated "eunuch", meaning castrated person, can also be translated "celibate" as I have done above, one who does not have conjugal relations with the opposite sex. This statement from Jesus is a harsh interpretation and teaching for us today, and divorce has become more and more common, so that half the population is either from or in a divorced family. Did Jesus mean that folks should stay in an unhappy marriage, and make the best of it? Is it possible that Joseph had divorced Mary some time after Jesus was grown, and that the unhappiness he saw created by that divorce gave him this harsh opinion? This idea is supported by the fact that Joseph his father does not appear at any time during the career of Jesus. Or perhaps it was just that Jesus saw it in the lives of other divorced women and families of his time.


After that Mark reports that the women all brought their small children to him, wanting him to bless them. And the disciples didn't want them to bother Jesus, so they told the mothers to go away, but Jesus remonstrated to them about that.

(Mark 10:13-16;Luke 18:15-17;Matt.19:13-15)
DISCIPLES: Leave the Master alone!

JESUS: No, no, let the little children come to me; do not forbid them; for they have the nature of the kingdom of God.

Mark tells us that he was moved with indignation towards the disciples. It is ever thus: those around a wise and good man are more worried about his comfort and condition than he is himself. But in any case the mothers brought their children, and he blessed them all, one by one.


Now he is approached by a young man, who kneeled to Jesus, and asked the same question that the scribe had asked back in Chapter X. Luke says he was "a certain ruler"; Mark and Matthew simply say "one came to him", but Matthew later refers to him as a "young man". Then they had the following dialogue:
(Mark 10:17-22;Luke 18:18-23;Matt.19:16-22)
YOUNG MAN: Good master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

JESUS: Why do you address me as "good"? none is good, save one, even God.

Matthew doesn't like Jesus refusing to be called "good", so he changes the sentence to read, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good." But Luke faithfully reproduces the answer according to Mark.

JESUS (continuing): You know the commandments: Do not kill; do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your parents.

YOUNG MAN: Master, all these commandments have I kept from my youth.

JESUS: One thing you lack; go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor; then you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.

Here Jesus includes one commandment that is not in the Torah: Do not defraud. Otherwise these are the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th of the Ten Commandments. Maybe by "defraud" Jesus meant "do not covet, and if you do, don't try to get it by fraud." Mark also tells us as an aside that "And Jesus looking upon him loved him." But then the young man's face fell, and he went away downcast because, as Mark tells us, "he was one that had great possessions."
(Mark 10:23-28;Luke 18:24-28;Matt.19:23-26)
JESUS (to the disciples): Truly, how hard it is for anyone who has wealth to enter the kingdom of God!

DISCIPLES (dumbfounded): !?!?!?

The disciples were amazed at his words, and Jesus repeated them with additional emphasis.

JESUS: I say to you, it is harder for a rope to go through the eye of a needle, than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.

The Aramaic word commonly translated "camel" is translated more correctly above as "rope", and George Lamsa discovered that there was an Aramaic proverbial expression, "as hard as threading a rope through the eye of a needle", which makes more sense. The disciples were still dumbfounded:
(Mark 10:29-31;Luke 18:29-30;Matt.19:27-30)
DISCIPLES (amazed): But then how can anyone be saved?

JESUS: With man it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible.

PETER: Well, lookee, Master, we have left all, and have followed you.

JESUS: I tell you truly, Peter, no one who has left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father or children, or land, to follow me, but that person will have an hundredfold more in this time, all those things; but with persecutions.

Mark adds, "and in the world to come eternal life"; but that is one of the few places where the gospels report Jesus as mentioning a future life. He has always described the kingdom of God as in the present, or as attainable in this life, so that last phrase in Mark is doubtful.

But does that mean that one with riches is not welcome to seek the kingdom of God? No, he is saying that their desire both to have wealth and to keep it will interfere with their practicing the principles he preaches, especially giving to the poor.

Matthew inserts a paragraph here, about how the son of man will come in glory and the disciples will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. But this verse is not found in Mark, and is clearly an anachronism written by some later follower after the notion of Jesus as king had been developed. Moreover, it would have been meaningless since the twelve tribes of Israel no longer existed.


Jesus goes on to tell another long parable, found only in the gospel of Matthew, as follows:

        For the kingdom of God is like a householder, who went to the village early in the morning to hire labourers to work in his vineyard. And when he had contracted with them for a dollar a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
        He went out again during the middle of the morning and saw men standing idle in the marketplace; so he said to them, Go work in my vineyard, and at dusk I will pay your wages. So they too went to the vineyard.
        He went out yet again about noon and hired others and again during the middle of the afternoon, and hired still more.
        Then at nearly five o'clock he went out for one last time, and found still other men standing idle and he asked, Why have you been standing here idle all day? They answered, Because no man has hired us. So he told them too to go work in his vineyard, and that he would pay them at evening.
        Then when dusk had fallen, he told the foreman to pay them all their wages, beginning with the last he had hired. So when the men who had been hired at 5 o'clock came, they each received a dollar for their hour's work.
        Then those who had been hired earlier in the morning came, and they were sure that they would be paid more than the last hired; but each of them too received a dollar. Then they complained about the householder and said, These last have worked only one hour, but you have paid them the same as us, who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.
        But the householder told them, Friend, I did not do you anything wrong; didn't you contract with me to work for a dollar a day? Take your wages, and go home now; it is all right for me to pay the last as much as I have paid you. Isn't it lawful for me to do what I want with my money? or do you think that you are better than I am?

Jesus introduces this parable by saying "the kingdom of heaven is like", so the parable seems to be about of the reign of God; he and his disciples are the first labourers, and those who come at later times are future followers of the movement. So Jesus seems to be saying that all of those who become labourers for the kingdom of God will be rewarded equally, presumably by being given "life", however it is that Jesus is or was using that word or what he means.


As they were going in the way up to Jerusalem, Jesus again took the twelve disciples to one side, and tried to tell them what was going to happen to him:
(Mark 10:32-34;Luke 18:31-34;Matt.20:17-19)
        Let me tell you one more time: we are going up to Jerusalem, and this son of man shall be arrested by the chief priests and the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall turn him in to the Romans; and they shall mock him, and shall spit upon him, and shall whip him, and shall kill him.
        But I predict that within three days my spirit will revive among you all and empower you.

No clearer forecast of his future was ever told by any man; but Mark says that the disciples did not understand a word. This is the third time that Jesus has foretold his death, but his words were incomprehensible to the disciples, and for all the perception they had of his meaning, they might as well not have heard it at all.


Mark and Matthew now report a short event involving the Sons of Thunder (James and John) which shows that they had not yet grasped Jesus' teachings about humility and service. Again it's in the form of a little dialogue:
(Mark 10:35-41;Matt.20:20-24)
THE BROTHERS: Master, we would ask you to do for us anything that we ask.

JESUS (not fooled): What is it that you want to ask of me?

THE BROTHERS: Grant that we may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left hand, when you attain all your glory.

Matthew seems to have been unwilling to say that the disciple John made this audacious request, so he says it was their mother who asked it. Either way, Jesus was not fooled by the question, but probably disappointed; he has told them when they were still in Capernaum to quit jockeying for position and just take care of each other and other people, as salt seasons and yeast leavens. So he answers sharply:

JESUS: You haven't the slightest idea what you are asking for. Can you drink of my cup, or be baptized with my baptism?

THE BROTHERS: We can, Master.

JESUS (sighing): Perhaps you can drink of the cup of suffering, and endure the baptism of fire; but to sit on a throne of glory, I don't care whether it is on the right hand or the left, I cannot give to you; only God decides that, and whoever it is must deserve it.

THE OTHER DISCIPLES(indignantly): Why should James and John get to be any higher than the rest of us?

(Mark 10:42-45;Luke 22:25-27;Matt.20:25-28)
JESUS (sighing again): The kings of the earth lord it over their subjects, and exercise authority over them; but it must not be so among you; whoever would be great among you must be your servant; and whoever would be first must be the servant of the servants.
        For this son of man did not come to be served, but to serve others, and to give his life so that others might be saved.

This little homily confirms that he expects to be killed when they reach Jerusalem ("to give his life"); and that he is disappointed at their lack of understanding. Luke reports only Jesus' last two paragraphs about the servant of servants.


Mark and the other two report one final healing event while they are in Jericho. There was a blind man in Jericho, named Bar-Timaeus, the son of Timaeus. When he heard that Jesus was there, he called out to him and begged to be healed, even though he was shooshed by the rest of the citizens.
(Mark 10:46-52;Luke 18:35-43;Matt.20:29-34)
BAR-TIMAEUS: Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me!

JESUS: What would you that I should do for you?

BAR-TIMAEUS: Rabboni, that I receive my sight.

JESUS: Go your way; I tell you, your faith will heal you.

This is the only place in the gospels where Jesus is called the "son of David", but that was an oriental way of praising someone and did not refer to Jesus' ancestry. Matthew tells us that there were two blind men, and that Jesus "touched their eyes", from which we can guess that here, as in Beth-Saida, he rubbed spit on the man's eyes to remove the cataracts. But both Mark and Luke merely report Jesus as telling him, as above, that his faith would heal him. All the gospels say that he "regained" his sight; and even in the gospel of John, Jesus uses spittle and clay to heal a blind man. All three gospels also report that Bar-Timaeus followed along with Jesus.


Luke reports an interesting event found in Document P that happened when they finally arrived at Jericho. There was a huge crowd that had heard that he was coming, and the streets were filled with folks trying to get a look at this preacher whose fame had spread throughout Palestine. And as Jesus was passing through the city, he spotted a short well-dressed older man clinging to a branch of a sycamore tree looking down at him as he passed. Jesus must have noticed that many of the people in the crowd were pointing to the man in the tree and muttering under their breath, and he also must have heard someone say the man's name, so he called out:
(Luke 19:1-10)
JESUS: Zaccheus, make haste, and come down from that tree; for today I must stay at your house.

We are told that Zacchaeus did indeed make haste, and scrambled down from the tree, and happily led Jesus to his own house. We can guess that he was very pleased to be the host for Jesus' stay in Jericho. But the crowd was less pleased; Zacchaeus was a rich tax-collector or publican, and disliked by the residents of Jericho, who muttered to each other:

CROWD: This man Jesus has gone to lodge and eat with a publican that is a sinner.

But Zacchaeus stood at the table, serving the guests himself, and finally he made an announcement to the assembled company:

ZACCHEUS: Look, everyone: today I am giving half of my goods to the poor; and if there is anyone whom I have cheated in his taxes, I will restore his own to him fourfold.

No doubt there was applause from the guests and from the crowd, and there must have been a pleased look on Jesus' face; here was someone who heard his teachings about riches and took them seriously. But Zacchaeus was merely doing what is prescribed in the Torah, in the 22nd chapter of Exodus, where anyone who has deprived someone else unfairly is to restore to them fourfold, or fivefold. And so Jesus answered:

JESUS: Today is the reign of God come into this house; and it is a cause for rejoicing, since Zacchaeus is also a son of Abraham.

However, Zacchaeus is not heard of again, either in the gospels, or in the rest of the New Testament. Perhaps he continued to live quietly in Jericho, giving half of his income to the poor, and without taking from anyone more than they owed, in keeping with the teachings both of Jesus and of John the Baptizer, as well as Moses.


Now we get another long parable in Luke, with a similar report found later in Matthew, called the parable of the talents:
(Luke 19:11-28;Matt.25:14-30)
        A certain nobleman was going into a far country, so he called his servants to him, and put them in charge of his finances. And he gave one of them five talents and another two, and another one; and he instructed them to manage his business until he returned.
        Immediately the servant that had received the five talents went and traded with them, and soon he had five more talents. The servant that had received two talents soon doubled his money also.
        But the servant that had received one talent went and dug a hole and hid his lord's money.
        And after many days the nobleman came back, and called his servants again for a reckoning.
        And the servant that had received the five talents came and brought the other five, and showed them to him. The lord was pleased, and set the servant over an even larger part of his wealth.
        And the servant that had received two talents came and brought the other two, and showed them to him. Again the lord was pleased, and set the servant over a great deal of his wealth.
        Finally the one who had received only one talent came and said, Sir, I knew you were a severe man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter; so I kept your talent hidden in the ground; see, here it is.
        But his lord said to him, You lazy servant, since you say that I reap where I do not sow, and gather where I did not scatter, you should at least have put my money in the bank, so that I could have gotten it back with interest.
        Take the talent away from him, and give it to the servant that has ten talents. For unto every one who has much shall more be given; but from him who has nothing, even that which he has will be taken away.

A "talent" was a considerable weight of coinage, varying in the countries around the Great Sea, but roughly about 2,000 dollars in modern money. But what is the point of this parable? It might be, Invest your money, and make more; but that seems like a commonplace observation, and also seems inconsistent with Jesus' teachings about wealth. But the point might be: Develop your talents, and you will be promoted; stripped of the taint of mammony, that may indeed have been Jesus' purpose in telling the parable. But perhaps the point of the parable is not the increase of an investment but the punishment of the person who does NOT invest, by the loss of his wealth. But it is most difficult to see what this parable has to do with the appearance of the reign of God!

And it is hard to see how increasing your wealth by investment is consistent with Jesus' earlier teachings: Sell all that you have; and, Lust not after possessions, for you cannot serve both God and mammon. Neither is the concept of taking away a poor person's little holding because they didn't invest it consistent with Jesus' teaching that the eleventh hour labourers are rewarded by the owner of the vineyard equally with the rest, or that his followers were to be poor, or that the poor were blessed. Such a concept would seem to be saying that the reign of God consists of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer! which we cannot believe Jesus would have supported. In short, perhaps the original meaning of the parable has been lost in transmission, so that we cannot really tell what this parable is telling us about the reign of God, or ethical behaviour, or anything else Jesus has been talking about so far.

But it is possible that Jesus may simply have been saying that the Jews were like the servant who buried his one talent, and that since they have not applied the teachings of John the Baptizer or the great prophets of the eighth century BCE, or the Torah itself, they will not count in the establishment of any kind of peaceful kingdom on earth, and will certainly not attain the reign of God of which he and John have spoken. But who can the servant with the ten talents represent? the Romans? the Herodians? the common people? anybody at all? And is it God who is supposed to be the lord who reaps where he does not sow? It is a most puzzling parable, despite being one of the best known. But we can see that his parables are certainly getting more political, and not at all as simple and clear as the ones he told at first back home on the plain of Gennesaret.