22 February 2011Mark 9:30-37
"Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me." (v. 37)
It's easy to make fun of the Jesus' disciples as they are
portrayed in the Mark's Gospel. They are an uncomprehending bunch
of men, failing time and again to grasp what Jesus is about. They
require detailed explanations of Jesus' parables; they are
consistently blind to the implications of Jesus' ministry and to
the inevitably of the conflict and pain that it will stir up.
The first time Jesus foretold his death and resurrection (Mark 8:31), Peter (surely speaking for all the disciples) took him to one side and told him to stop talking such nonsense. For his pains, Peter received a sharp rebuke from Jesus, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things" (Mark 8:33).
That episode is echoed in these verses, in which the disciples' failure to understand what Jesus is submitting himself to gives way to a discussion about their own relative merits as disciples. It's a discussion that, as Jesus explains, is at best irrelevant and at worst puerile. May it also be a way of avoiding the inevitable? Is it possible that the disciples ignore Jesus' increasingly insistent predictions of his trial and death because they are afraid of what it may mean for themselves?
For the Jesus of Mark's Gospel, humility is about following a path that leads to crucifixion. It's a path that contradicts all our human instincts for personal preservation. Yet, by drawing a child into the centre of their conversation, Jesus highlights the vulnerability in all of us and heightens our sense of dependence on God.
When have you felt most dependent on God? Has it coincided with a feeling of vulnerability - and, if so, what can we learn from that?
Is there a time when you have avoided following a path that you felt God was calling you to? How might you have dealt with that situation differently?