Of tyrants and servants

Mark’s Gospel chapter 10 verses 32 – end

Mark keeps giving us hints about the fate of Jesus. Here’s another one in verses 32 – 34 with its dramatic picture of Jesus striding ahead on the road to Jerusalem, the disciples struggling to keep up. “What’s he up to? Doesn’t he realise Jerusalem is a dangerous place for him?”

Verses 35 – 45 also give us another of Mark’s favourite themes: the failure of the disciples to get it. They think Jesus is going to turn everything upside down when he gets to Jerusalem by becoming the great promised Messiah, the king of Israel. James and John have a request: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  There’s a wonderful irony in Jesus’ reply:

“…..to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” (verse 40)

Of course he cannot grant James and John’s request! His ‘throne’ will be a cross and those on either side of him will be two thieves.

The other disciples are angry that James and John are trying to steal a march on them and get positions of privilege in the kingdom that Jesus keeps talking about. Remember, the gospels were written up to 40 years after the death of Jesus. The authors were part of the rapidly emerging Christian church. Did Mark keep returning to the disciples’ failure to get it because there were already struggles for power among the leaders of those young communities?

“You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognise as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.” (verse 42)

Hmmm! So nothing much changes then! Plenty of tyrants around today. How difficult it is for us to get it. Perhaps it really is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for us to become servants and give our lives for others.

Talking of tyrants, they don’t have to be political rulers. Think of the alarming spread of modern forms of slavery.

Chapter ten ends with the healing of a blind man. Mark is hinting at the possibility of healing for all of us who don’t get it:

“Go, your faith has made you well.’

Immediately Bartimaeus regains his sight (he gets it in ways that James and John obviously didn’t) and he follows Jesus on the way. Where were they heading? Jerusalem, where Jesus was to demonstrate the ultimate in not being a tyrant. We’ve got to chapter 11 in Mark’s Gospel which begins with Jesus entering Jerusalem. Let’s look at that in tomorrow’s entry in this blog.

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