The gospel from last Sunday (Mark 9: 30-37) starts with two drastically contrasting stories. The first is one that begins with Jesus, the teacher, trying to prepare his disciples for the horrific reality ahead; he tells them point blank that “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him…” And the second story begins with the reaction of the disciples who spend their time together arguing with one another about who will be the greatest, the highest ranking in the kingdom.
How sad! How shameful! How totally human! Unable to understand or know what to say or do with the frightening information that Jesus has just given them, they allow their awkwardness to silence them and they yield to something that is less threatening to them: a struggle for power and prestige. Jesus has told them the depths to which he is willing to go for others as servant Messiah and they have told him the heights to which each wants for himself.
Admittedly sometimes in life we face issues that we dread. Sometimes we avoid them by running through more familiar fields, often selfish ones. It’s a very human thing to do. Can you relate?
I wonder how the passage would have ended if the disciples had had the courage to work through the whole story. If they had not run from the unbelievably painful issue of total gift of self, if they had stood at the foot of the cross with his mother, if they had helped to entomb the body of Jesus. In short – if they had thought more of how they could have helped / served / put the needs of others ahead of their own / maybe then they would have been better prepared to hear and understand the latter part of the message that Jesus had given them that day. “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”