Within our hearts are both humility and arrogance, respect for others and a desire to outshine them, a desire to serve and a craving to be served. The one you feed wins. How do we feed the humility and spirit of service Jesus holds up as the model for discipleship in this passage from 10:35-45?
The Lively Lectionary New Testament is a blog by Rev. Dr. Alyce McKenzie that reflects on the gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary each week. It offers a 1000-1200 word post that relates the text to contemporary life.
There are many varieties of baggage that necessitate our wearing a sign that says "WIDE LOAD." All of them need to be left behind when we head home to Jesus to follow in his Way.
What Jesus does is take a traditional proverbial form used to offer clear-cut options and adds a dash of paradox and a big dollop of hyperbole. In everyday life when people exaggerate, they are stretching the truth. What is different about Jesus' use of hyperbole is that he is not exaggerating about the destructive potential consequences of our actions. Not really.
In reading this text, it struck me that the disciples were self-promoters when they should have been promoting Jesus and his message. I'm going to send them a memo, which I've entitled "Top Ten Ways You Are Failing at Promoting the Good News." In it, I make it very clear that they need to reverse their attitudes and actions if they want to spread the word about the gift (or in sales terms—the product) Jesus has to offer the world that needs it so badly.
The skies of Mark's gospel are full of spiritual skydivers. Jesus doesn't mean for you to go out and become a martyr. He does mean that there are times in our lives when we realize that in losing our agenda, our control, our wants, we find our true identity and purpose.
She had a crumb of confidence and that was enough to make her persist. He called her a dog, using the term of derision commonly used by Jews to refer to Gentiles as unclean. In her desperation, she comes back at him with a wise retort that revealed she was not a dog, but a lioness: "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs" (7:28).
Jesus knew that even the best intentions can become corrupted. They can become substitutes for devotion to God while our hearts are occupied with thoughts that promote our agendas and whittle others down to size. We can "honor God with our lips," while our "hearts are far from God" (Mk. 7:6 quoting Is. 29:13).
John's Gospel emphasizes that we are to invite Jesus to live in or abide in us. But John goes even further. As Jesus abides in God, so we already "abide in Jesus." We live in Jesus' heart.
Imagine if Herod could stand on a stage, dark except for the spotlight that illuminates him, and offer a soliloquy in which he introduces himself to the audience and attempts to justify his actions in the deaths of both John and Jesus.
We all have our own internal "Mount of Jumpification." Either we hurl Jesus over it or we follow him with a leap of faith.
In a Gospel where the disciples never seem to get Jesus, never seem to figure out his divine identity, Jairus and the woman with the 12-year flow of blood are better models of faith than the disciples.
People who think of the sea as a scenic view from the boardwalk as they slurp their snow cones don't understand where Mark is coming from in characterizing the sea. People who have been through a hurricane or a tsunami, however, get it.