True Discipleship

To be his disciple means a life of self-sacrificial service to others, especially to the weak and insignificant

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus explains what it means to be the Messiah, and not for the first time. In the city of David, he will face his final confrontation with the Temple authorities and death at the hands of the Romans. Was not that city the appointed place where the prophets are killed, and where the Messiah himself must suffer rejection and death?

What follows in the passage is the second of the three instances in Mark where Jesus predicts his death and resurrection. And all three such incidents occur only after he commences his final journey to Jerusalem and his inevitable death.

As before, the disciples do not understand his warning. The idea of the Messiah of Israel being killed by his enemies is something beyond their expectations.

DIRE PREDICTION

  • (Mark 9:30-32) - “And from thence going forth, they were journeying through Galilee, and he was not wishing that any should get to know it; for he was teaching his disciples and saying unto them, The Son of Man is to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will slay him, and being slain, after three days will he arise. But they were not understanding the declaration and feared to question him” - (Matthew 17:22-23, Luke 9:43-45).

In the account in Luke, this saying is said to have “become veiled from them that they might not grasp it.” The very idea of a crucified leader is contrary to human wisdom - (Luke 9:45).

In his saying, the Greek verb rendered “delivered up” is paradidōmi - “to give over, deliver, betray.” While some take this to refer to his betrayal by Judas, more likely, it points to him being “handed over” or “delivered” to his enemies by God, an outcome predicted in the Hebrew scriptures.

This verb is in the passive voice, signifying that he is acted upon. God is the one who hands him over to his enemies, then raises him from the dead. This is the same verb used in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, for the “delivering up” of the Suffering Servant in the book of Isaiah:

  • (Isaiah 53:6…12) - “The Lord DELIVERED HIM UP for our sins… Because his soul was DELIVERED UP to death, and he was numbered among the transgressors.”

Likewise, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter declares that Jesus was “delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” The sin of mankind is the cause of his death, for he dies on behalf of all men - (Acts 2:23).

Despite his dire prediction, the disciples begin to debate which of them will be the greatest in the Kingdom. While Jesus describes his mission as suffering for others, they measure “greatness” by grandeur, position, and power. They continue to think exactly as the world does.

SERVICE TO THE WEAK

  • (Mark 9:33-37) - “And they came into Capernaum. And happening to be in the house, he was questioning them: What in the way were you discussing? And they were silent; for with one another, they had discussed in the way who should be greatest. And taking a seat, he addressed the twelve and said to them, If anyone desires to be first, he shall be least of all and servant of all. And taking a child, he set it in the midst of them, and folding it in his arms, said to them: Whosoever to one of these children shall give welcome upon my name, to me gives welcome; and whosoever to me gives welcome, not to me gives welcome, but to him, that sent me” - (Matthew 18:1-5, Luke 9:46-48).

The Greek word rendered “servant” is diakonos, the term from which the church derived the title ‘deacon.’ In secular Greek, it often refers to persons that wait on tables - (Acts 6:1-5, Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-12).

By embracing the child, Jesus demonstrates what it means to become a “servant to all.” He does not use the child to symbolize child-like faith and innocence, but to show that the true “servant” is one who embraces fellow believers who are insignificant and marginalized. The point is how Jesus treated the child – (Mark 10:42-45, Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:3-4).

Jesus concludes - “And whosoever shall receive me does not receive me, but him who sent me.” He is the agent, the envoy and God’s designated ruler, and his ultimate representative. To reject him is the same as rejecting God.

Instead of fretting about their own positions in the kingdom, the disciples should be concerned about meeting the needs of the weak, the insignificant, the sick, the persecuted, and the outcast, and if necessary, laying down their lives for their benefit.

As Jesus puts it in John’s gospel - "No man has greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friend." And the Messiah of Israel most certainly gave up his life for his friends as well as his enemies.



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