Dispatch Two Hundred Sixty-Nine

Posted: January 5, 2018 in Fifty-Second Bundle
Tags: , , , ,

MARK 9:30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

In an ingenious use of irony Mark portrays the disciples bickering and debating their respective positions within the ranks – just after Jesus has disclosed to them the core teaching of his gospel. As the apostle Paul later understood, this “death and resurrection” event is not exclusive to Jesus but is the inner dynamic of salvation itself: dying to one thing (the old self, the part of us that asks wrongly) and being lifted into a higher, more integrated state (the new self).

Jesus speaks of the fate of every true follower of The Way, to be misunderstood by the world, persecuted, and betrayed; and wouldn’t you know it, but just over the next hill the disciples are already wrangling over who among them is the greatest!

When Jesus asks to know what they were talking about on the way, his disciples fall silent and sheepish, shuffling their feet and looking off in embarrassment. Sad thing is that they knew full well their behavior was in fundamental contradiction to everything Jesus taught and modeled to them. So why did they do it – why do we do it?

The answer must lie in the animal impulse that pushes up from deep in our biology and gets tangled in the obsessions, anxieties, and narcissism of the insecure ego. We can know something in our minds and have all passion for it in our hearts, but if our basic motivations are self-centered, these motivations and not the noble beliefs and affections we hold higher up will drive our behavior.


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