To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45
The Gospel of Mark contains three passion, death, and resurrection predictions. These are found in 8:31, 9:31, and 10:32-34. It is only in Mark that all three predictions are “on the way”. This fact illustrates that Mark intends readers of his Gospel to realize, not merely that Jesus spoke these predictions while travelling with his disciples along the road, but also, and more importantly, that Jesus was speaking about his WAY OF LIFE and the way of life to which those who followed him were being invited.
After each of these predictions, there was misunderstanding on the part of one or all the disciples. After the first prediction, Peter is the one who misunderstands. He protests Jesus’ going to his cross. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding by insisting that the cross is the only way. After the second, it is all twelve who misunderstand. They discuss among themselves who is the greatest. Again, Jesus has to correct the misunderstanding by pointing out to them the least is the greatest. After the third prediction, it might seem at first glance that James and John misunderstand when they ask for places of honour. A closer reading indicates that, along with them, the other ten also misunderstand because of their indignation with the brothers. This indignation indicates that the ten were thinking in the same way as James and John. Jesus, however, is not indignant and again, sets about correcting their misunderstanding. He does this by explicating his way of life and the way of life that he will expect those who follow him to live.
This explication is done, not in words alone but, as both the first and second readings of today point out, in and through inconceivable and mind boggling action.
The first reading speaks of the prophecy of Isaiah. It is part of the fourth and final servant song that is contained in the Book of Isaiah. The suffering of the servant is a definite part of God’s incomprehensible and unfathomable plan. It is the servant who will show through his life, what true love and service really mean. Appointed by God, he will use his power, not to condemn, but to save. He will bring to completion and fruition the plan of God to save all peoples everywhere and for all time. This is the theme that Jesus takes up in his instruction to the disciples. His task in the world, like that of the suffering servant whom Isaiah had prophesied about, was to become ransom for all. This he would do, not by being served, but by serving. If the disciples wanted to follow him, as fully as they ought to, they had to realize that, in his view, authority meant service. They had to realize that wanting to be first meant willingness to be last. They had to realize that being master and Lord meant being slave and servant of all.
Jesus showed them how this was done through his willingness to embrace the cross, even if it meant scandal to those who did not believe and foolishness to others. He was willing to embrace the cross even if meant the end of his days, the end of his life. He was willing to embrace the cross even if it meant that he would be abandoned by all, abandoned even by his God and father.
This is why the second reading from Hebrews expresses, as confidently as it does, that we, as believers, need have no fear. We have before us a model that we can imitate. This model is not merely a heavenly model but rather, he is a model who has been, in every way, like us even to the point of being tested as we are. He did not show us the way from on high, but by becoming human, so that he could inspire, encourage, invite, and challenge us. Thus, he is able to understand us in all of our weaknesses and in our striving for position and honour and power.
While, on the one hand, we may be too quick to judge and even condemn the disciples for their striving, any attempt to practice detachment ourselves indicates how difficult it can really be. We often experience feelings of jealousy, envy, resentment, and antipathy or hostility towards those who have more than we, or who are in a “better’ position than we are. We keep craving for things that we mistakenly believe will satisfy.
Jesus shows us, in the Gospel text of today, what it means to be a true disciple. He challenges us to give up our acquisitiveness and take on, instead, the attitude of detachment. He has shown through his life, his mission, and his death, that this detachment is possible. He has shown us this by the totally human life that he led. He has shown us this by going ahead of us and leading the way. The way to do this is to be bold and to approach the throne of God’s unconditional love, mercy, and grace. The way to do this is in knowing that, even if we fall or fail, we can lift ourselves up because of his graciousness to us all. The way to do this is to believe that, with his help, we can be true disciples. Are we willing to believe that this is so?