October 20, 2012

29th Sunday - B

Mark 10: 35-45

The Master’s Trust

In Mark’s Gospel, James and John show their ambition after Jesus has told them three times of what awaits him in Jerusalem (8: 31-33, 9: 30-32, and 10: 32- 34).

Commenting on the first time Jesus did that, Mark wrote, “He spoke this openly” (8:32).  That was when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of it.  And Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get behind me Satan.”  He then told the disciples together with the crowd, ““Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (8:34).

After the second time Jesus told them of his suffering and death, the disciples argued among themselves who was the greatest.  Jesus then taught them, ““Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (9:35).

Now, Jesus’ third prediction of his passion and death has just taken place right before James and John make their request.  And this time, as if realizing that the disciples did not get it yet after the first two times, Jesus is most explicit. [1]  Mark recalled “taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.’”

And yet, James and John come up to him and make an outrageous request.  It is outrageous both in the way they ask, and in the content.  “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 

James and John are among the first of the disciples Jesus called (1: 19-20).  They are two of the three disciples (the third one being Peter) who Jesus has uniquely given new names, and taken to special events (the transfiguration, certain miracles, etc).  Yet, they still do not understand. 

With John, it is even worse.  After Jesus telling them of his imminent suffering and death the second time, John stopped a man from “driving out demons in [Jesus’] name” with the reason, “because he does not follow us.” (9: 38)

And here he is, with his brother, showing their lack of understanding once more.

The other ten, Peter included, do not fare much better.  “They became indignant at James and John.”

No matter how hard-headed the disciples are, Jesus does not give up on them.  First to James and John, then to the whole group, Jesus once more teaches them the meaning of true service.  [2]  

He does so by words and then by his own example, “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

[1] Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary.  Peabody, MA: Hendrikson Publishers, 2002; p. 204.
[2] Ibid,  p. 205.

No comments: