Summary: If we try to be great in some other way than by becoming a servant, we'll lose whatever greatness we achieve. Only by becoming a slave of all, will we achieve greatness in God's Kingdom. The result is a life of following Jesus along the road to the cross
I got a new pair of glasses this week. Not my everyday glasses. These are ones that are made so I can see what's on my computer screen without ending up with a cricked neck. They're fantastic. They make the characters on the screen look perfectly in focus. They just have one drawback. If I forget to change them over when I leave the office I can't see anything clearly unless it's right in front of me. It's not that I'm totally blind. It's just that I can't see clearly.
Of course being unable to see things clearly doesn't just apply to physical sight, does it? There's an even worse affliction of sight that some people suffer from. That's the sort of blurred vision that comes from prejudice or from unthinking acceptance of a particular set of presuppositions or perhaps from listening to too much talk back radio. For example it's the sort of blindness that might prevent us from understanding the various issues in the debate over asylum seekers. It's the sort of blindness that leads some people to suggest that the Churches have no right to speak out about social issues.
Well, both of these sorts of blindness appear in Mark chapter 10. There's physical blindness in the man, Bartimaeus, mixed with clear spiritual sight, and there's spiritual blindness on the part of the disciples and others we meet in this passage.
Let's look at the passage. (Mark 10:32-52) They're on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way. You can almost imagine Jesus striding on ahead, with the disciples a pace or two behind, and the other followers almost hanging back in fear. We're told that the disciples were amazed and those who followed were afraid. The disciples may have been wondering before this where he was going and now it's becoming clear. He's heading for Jerusalem. In fact this is the first mention in Mark of Jerusalem as his destination. So they're amazed. Why would he want to go to Jerusalem when he knows that's the centre of opposition to his mission? Obviously the disciples' sense of unease is transmitted to the crowd, because they're becoming afraid. You can imagine them not just hanging back, but perhaps dropping off, their ranks thinning as each step took them a little closer to the dangers of Jerusalem. It's all very well to be a fan but when the star goes somewhere dangerous the fans are often happy to watch from a safe distance.
But Jesus isn't worried by what his followers think. He knows what he's doing, so he takes his disciples aside once more and explains to them as clearly as he can what's going to happen. “Yes,” he says, “33We're going to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.” If anything is going to surprise them, it shouldn't be his going to Jerusalem. Rather it's that the Son of Man should be betrayed by the religious leaders of the nation; that they should hand him over to Gentiles to be tortured and killed.