The message of Mark’s Gospel is twofold: first he sets out to teach and demonstrate that Jesus is the messiah, the Son of God; but second and just as importantly Mark wants to convey Jesus’ radical reinterpretation of what it means to be the messiah.
Another King David is what the people expected: a wealthy, kingly, strong
conqueror, an exalted leader to look up to. Jesus challenges this expectation with the news that “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Our three passages are all taken from the important central block of teaching about humility, integrity, and simplicity spanning chapters 8 to 10. Up to chapter 8 Mark shows us the many signs that Jesus is the Son of God – nature miracles, exorcisms, and healing. After chapter 10 begins the passion narrative, as we see enacted the way of suffering by which the Son reconciles the world to Father God.
This middle block of teaching is the pivotal section in which Jesus explains that his type of power and leadership is demonstrated in humble, sacrificial love. This section thus links the power shown in the signs and wonders of the early chapters with the power of the cross in the passion narrative.
Three times in this central block of teaching Jesus predicts his death: once at the beginning of the section (Mark 8:31), once after the transfiguration, which is the apex of the Gospel and comes at the centre of this teaching block (Mark 9:30), and once at the closing of the section, before the passion narrative begins (Mark 10:32).
Our third passage (Mark 10:42–45) summarizes and concludes this important teaching section about what it means to be the messiah.
Jesus redefined leadership as suffering servanthood. Thinking of positions of leadership familiar to you – such as a parent, a head teacher, a church pastor, the owner of a small business employing staff – in what ways do you think a Christian leader might go about balancing fulfilment of the authority the role requires with the humility we see in Jesus?
• As well as willingness to accept suffering, Jesus identifies simplicity as an essential characteristic of his followers (Mark 10:15, 21, 25). How might we modern-day disciples begin to put into practice the simplicity to which we are called?
• To humility and simplicity Jesus adds integrity as a hallmark of his followers (Mark 9:47–50; 10:9, 18–19). Jesus hated hypocrisy, and it is arguably the greatest stumbling block to evangelism and the credibility of the church. Where would you draw the line between actual hypocrisy and the ordinary human weakness we all share? Have there been times when you have had to make a stand for integrity in the face of the ways of the world, in your neighbourhood or workplace, or even in your home?
Father of Jesus, creator of the world, how hard and high is our calling! Forgive us for the many times we have stumbled, the myriad ways we fall short every day, the choices we have made to build our own little empire instead of the peaceable kingdom. Have mercy upon us, and heal us. By your grace may we stay the course and stand firm in the faith. By your transforming love may we be made acceptable to you, and in the power of the cross prove victorious over the world, the flesh, and the devil. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.