Thanks for reading the New Testament with me! Today is day fourteen in our journey, and the reading is Mark 10 through Mark 12.
As a personal note, this reading has stretched me in so many ways. It has been tough, and in some ways, tougher than last summer’s challenge of reading the entire bible through in ninety days. While last year it was a challenge of completion, this year, and this challenge, has become an exercise in listening.
Reading these chapters, and doing a little bit of outside reading, has opened these stories to me, again, in such new ways. Seeing Matthew as a kingdom gospel, and seeing Mark as a hero gospel has placed me in the middle of these stories in a fresh way. I hope that what I’ve written here has been a blessing to you.
Let’s back up for a minute.
Mark 8 details for us Peter’s confession of Christ. The journey in today’s reading actually starts there.
Because in those few verses, from 8:27 through 8:30, Peter answers Jesus’ identity question with the all-too-familiar refrain, “You are the Christ.” But don’t move so fast that you miss what just happened.
Peter’s confession, in Mark’s gospel, is the thrust for the remaining part of Mark’s story, because it is the first time the word Christ has been used, since Mark 1:1. Mark has paced this story, and has placed the big revelation right where you would expect to find it.
Peter has finally discovered what the reader of the gospel knew from the opening sentences. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
Once Peter understands this, and once that the characters and the readers know the same thing, Jesus, the hero and conqueror, makes the big twist, just like an M. Night Shyamalan movie.
And here’s the twist: as the hero, he will not survive these fights. He will be killed.
Yet he will rise again.
But the resurrection part of Jesus’ telling wasn’t clear to his disciples, and certainly wasn’t clear to Peter. The way of the hero is the way of suffering, and if anyone should desire this path, then they, too, must be willing to follow the way of self-sacrifice.
This is not at all what a conquering hero, a bullet-proof man, would say. Because surely a hero who heals the sick and raises the dead is invulnerable himself. Right?
Peter’s confession here, and the detailed finish to the story which follows, is the first of three such allusions to the ending that Jesus gives. He says something similar again in 9:32ff, and 10:32ff. Mark writes these allusions to make sure everyone knows that the Christ is ready to endure the unthinkable.
Today’s reading, in Mark 10:1, begins Jesus’ one and only trip to Jerusalem, where the unthinkable will take place.
This, then, is the beginning of the end of this hero story. For all great hero stories have the final battle, the last test, the ultimate enemy to defeat.
I couldn’t help, though, but think of Phil Driscoll’s song, Road to Jerusalem. Here’s the song, with a “one-of-those” YouTube videos. It’s the only place I could find it online. But, the song is awesome, and, for me, is the soundtrack to the arc of the story Mark begins here. Listen to it as you read these stories in Mark, or as you read the rest of this post.
The Christ, then, is prepared. On his way to Jerusalem he makes a stop in Jericho. Leaving the city he almost trips over a blind man named Bartimaeus. My heart literally jumped when Jesus called him, and the disciples said to this man these words:
Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you! (10:49)
Wow. Really. On Christ’s way to Jerusalem, to take on his most wrenching battle, he has time to find a man with such a great need.
This man only wanted to see. And Christ the healer gives this man his sight immediately. No delay. And Mark uses this as a brilliant way to tell this story.
Earlier, in Mark 8:22ff, the Christ healed a blind man, and it was a healing done in two parts. Christ the hero seemed to be faltering in his ability. Yet, as always, there is more to the story. Mark used the healing to push his story, to say that faith is a process. Belief is a process. And the man who was healed in Mark 8 had very little of both. His healing, then, took longer, because there just wasn’t enough faith to make it complete the first time.
It is no surprise that this two-part healing in Mark 8 was written prior to Peter’s confession of the Christ. It was the last bit of suspense before Mark makes the ultimate revelation with the lips of Peter.
It’s a powerful thing Mark says with this first blind man. Until we accept Jesus as the Christ, we will have great complexity in our own healing stories.
Now, Bartimaeus is the second blind man, and his healing is the final healing before the Christ enters Jerusalem. And his healing is done immediately. His faith activates the immediacy of the Christ’s healing power — Go, your faith has healed you — which is very different from the first blind man in Mark’s story, whose lack of faith delays the immediacy of the Christ’s healing power.
It moves us, stirs us, to see that faith and acceptance of the Christ are the beginnings an eye-opening adventure.
But the last verse of this passage is the most heart-moving. Here’s what Mark writes:
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (10:52)
This road is the road into Jerusalem. And Bartimaeus can now, for the first time, see the road, and can see the Christ, whom he follows as the Christ walks the road to enter the city of his death.
Upon arriving in this fated city, then, the Christ stands in deep thought, after the amazing journey written in this gospel. It’s a powerful verse, with a great sense of expectation. Here it is Mark 11:11 …
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The Christ stands on the steps of the temple. People behind him are stirring, buzzing with excitement. He looks at the place once built to contain his very divine presence. Teachers brushed his cloak walking beside him. And the sun was setting, casting long shadows across the portico, and the Christ shielded his eyes from the final intense beams of the day. It was a long pause on those steps, and his eyes lingered from scene to scene, and he saw the hearts, and even the thoughts of each. Whispered voices reached his ears, as some hoped he was a new customer for the lambs that would be sold for sacrifices. Others knew of his reputation, and had hushed tones of curiosity. He would return to those steps the following day, and with a vengeance.
The hero has a few more things to do.
Thanks for reading with me! You can read all of the posts for these ninety days by clicking here. Blessings to you today.