The NT365 Experiment: Mark 9-10
The second half of chapter 8 (beginning in verse 27) through chapter 10 are a turning point for Mark as he shifts from a narrative that illustrates and proves Jesus’ ultimate authority to his passion narrative (his final week before his resurrection). In these chapters, Mark clearly explains Jesus’ expectations of discipleship — that is, what he expects from his followers who have answered his call to follow him in faith.
Three Predictions and Instruction
The way he does this is interesting to me. He tells us of three instances in which Jesus predicts his death and resurrection and follows those predictions with Jesus’ instruction about the cost of following him. Accordingly, these chapters can be united under one common theme: Jesus’ disciples are to humbly trust him and live lives in which they put him and others before themselves. I’ll explain briefly.
- Jesus’ first prediction is found in 8:31 — “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” He follows this prediction with the most familiar call to self-denial and self-sacrifice — “If any one would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (8:34).
- Jesus’ second prediction comes in 9:31 — “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” It is followed by a teaching on the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. The one who is to be considered great in Christ’s kingdom is the one who serves, the one who receives a child with grace and humility. He is also one who willingly trusts and submits to Christ in childlike faith. Examples of this humility are: protection of others from sin (9:42-50), honor of one’s marriage covenant by humbly working to keep the covenant intact (10:1-12), welcoming children and shepherding them in grace (10:13-16), giving up of one’s possession for the glory of Christ (10:17-31).
- Jesus’ third prediction comes in 10:33-34 — “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” This request is followed immediately by James’ and John’s request to have positions of authority and power when Jesus comes into his kingdom. Jesus’ answer to their request is both a rebuke and an instruction. It is a rebuke because they have completely missed the point of the instruction they had received over a three year span. Humble servanthood is the goal, not powerful or authoritative rule. It is a gracious instruction because Jesus again teaches them what is the nature of his kingdom, and then he demonstrates in the healing of blind Bartimaeus. His kingdom is spiritual in the present though it plays out in physical ways. In the future it will be fully realized physically.
Demonstrated in the Life of Jesus
These chapters are a microcosm of Mark’s Gospel. For the first 8 chapters Mark tells of Jesus’ authority and power, and in the last 5 chapters he tells of Christ’s willing self-sacrifice on our behalf and his triumphant establishment of his kingdom in his resurrection. Jesus lives these chapters of transition. He is the one who willingly and humbly gives himself for the glory of God; he is the one who trusts his father in heaven completely; he is the one who welcomes the children; he is the one who lives a life in which he puts others before himself. He did it because he loves his father, and he did it because he loves us.
Now, you go and do likewise. Do it because you love him. Do it because he has told you to do it. Do it because he is glorified when you do it. Do it because people see his love for them in your love of him and them.