Mark 10, 32-52 no. 33 Nov. 14

Mark gives us Jesus’ third passion/resurrection prediction; it seems reasonable to say that Mark had an eye on what he will soon report about the passion of Jesus, as he gives us more detail about Jesus’ sufferings. Again we note that here, as in the earlier predictions, Jesus asks his disciples to think of him as the Son of Man; this title essentially speaks of suffering before glory, and that is what will soon take place in Jesus’ life. This third prophecy is given ’on the way to Jerusalem’; certainly, they are going to the Feast of Passover, as is required by Mosaic Law for all adult males of Israel. But the mention of Jerusalem justifies the report that the disciples were amazed and afraid; Jesus had said enough, and more than enough, about what they all will meet there. Two stories fall under the heading of this third prophecy. The first is the rather audacious request from James and John, sons of Zebedee, that they sit on either side of Jesus in his glory. Jesus’ answer is that such places in the kingdom will be determined by God, not by Jesus. That should be the direct response to the direct question. But before his final answer Jesus suggests a criterion to determine who should sit at his right and left in glory: drink the cup he drinks, be baptized with his baptism. The ’contents of the cup’ is a universal symbol of the contents of life; in this case the focus is on the imminent death of Jesus. And Jesus had described his passion elsewhere with the words, ’I have a baptism by which I am to be baptized, and how I wish it were happening’. To be baptized is in the literal sense ’to be immersed in liquid’. Jesus longs for his immersion in the passion asked of him by his Father. Are these disciples able to share in the cup and the baptism? Whether it be their own sufferings for the faith or their own immersion in persecution – are they willing? They are; and Jesus assures them that they will share with him. That the two disciples asked for such a glorious end irritates the other ten Apostles; this leads to a teaching from Jesus. Jesus has nothing against wanting to be ’the greatest’, to be ’the first’. But when we find the person who is the greatest or the first, we find a person who is servant or slave of all. Once again, Jesus brings one back to the greatest commandments: love of God and love of neighbor as one wants to be loved. Finally he gives himself, under title of the Son of Man suffering and glorified, as the model for the disciples: I came to serve, not to be served. Jesus uses the image of ransom to clarify his death. He means to say that he dies as though paying the bounty which will then set a person free; unless that payment is made, the person remains enslaved. ’Paying a ransom’ limps, like all comparisons; it stresses the gift of a life to save another, without meaning to say that Jesus’ life is given over to Satan in exchange for our lives. Bartimaeus calls Jesus ’son of David’; this recourse to the ancestor of Jesus by a stranger can only be a statement of faith, that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of David. Jesus responds out of pity, another sign of his human make-up in a world stressing his divinity. It is interesting that people tried to stop Bartimaeus from salvation. The gift of sight is accompanied by the final words that end the three passion/resurrection reflections: "Your faith has saved you". The story certainly shows again the power of Jesus, but highlights faith, confidence, trust in him. To decide to trust one’s life to Jesus is the supreme act of faith. Most scholars note that, ever since the first announcement that Jesus must die, the abundance of miracles so visible in Mark’s first eight chapters has ended; miracles have served to show that Jesus truly does have the power, and more, of the Messiah. Now, the miracle serves another purpose: are you blind to who Jesus is, or do you, see him truly? John Kilgallen, S.J.
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