The tenth in my series of papers for my Gospel of Mark class… This is another example of the strong literary qualities of John-Mark’s Gospel. But even as I find that fascinating, I find it reinforcing the point, and I have to ask myself the same question he posed several times… What do I want from God?
After the aggressive teaching of the previous chapter, John-Mark softens his delivery somewhat by including a healing miracle in Chapter 10, but even that joyful event serves to reinforce the call that has been issued to the reader. After Peter announced the Kingdom by confessing the Messiah, Jesus, with John-Mark as His scribe, has offered the world a deal, so to speak—citizenship in His Kingdom, citizenship that comes with both great benefits and great cost. Since then, John-Mark uses each passage to push his readers towards a personal decision, even as the story itself careens towards the decisive moment of the cross.
Chapter 10 contains four stories that follow the same format: 1) Someone approaches Jesus with a question or request; 2) Jesus turns the question back on them by asking, “What do you want?”; 3) the person then reveals their true desires; and, finally, 4) Jesus corrects any errant theology about the Kingdom and then repeats His offer: “Leave your interpretation of the world behind, and follow Me.”
By looking at these four stories in sequence, we can see how John-Mark is not only continuing his never-ending quest to dismantle his readers’ false perceptions about the Kingdom, but also is forcing the reader to make personal decisions on several critical issues. John-Mark knew, as Jesus did, that there were common pitfalls which men would frequently stumble over when accepting the Kingdom. Two of the ones featured in this chapter are wealth (vs. 17-31) and status (vs. 32-45).
Regarding wealth, Jesus is approached by the “rich young ruler” who wants to know the key to getting into the Kingdom of Heaven. After repeating the necessary commandments, Jesus exposes the real issue that is preventing the beloved young man from truly embracing Kingdom reality: love of money (and, perhaps, a fear of letting go of the security of riches).
Regarding status, Jesus deals yet again with the disciples desiring to “be greatest” and be granted places of honor. Although this seems like beating a dead horse by now, Jesus uses this particular event to expose a fallacy in the disciples’ belief about His ascension to Jerusalem: This will not be a triumphant conquest, after which He will sit as King with His honored men at His side. Rather, His ride to Jerusalem will end with a gruesome death that, like most workings of the Kingdom, will make no sense in the natural but have glorious results in the spiritual.
[The first story in this chapter, while a bit different in tone, nevertheless follows the same question-and-answer format and hits on misconceptions about family and the Law (vs. 1-16).]
These three stories show us some of the wrong “answers” people give to Jesus’ offer. But immediately following, John-Mark offers hope by presenting us with an example of the “right” answer to Jesus’ call. It comes in the form of a blind beggar who gives us a fourfold model of faith (vs. 46-52). He first cries out to Jesus for help (vs. 47); then, when Jesus bids him, he comes immediately with expectation of healing (vs. 50—leaving his cloak indicates that he does not plan to beg after this encounter); then, when Jesus asks him what he wants, he answers rightly with a true heart (vs. 51); and, finally, after being healed, he immediately invests the gift he has been given by following Jesus (vs. 52).
Just as He did when He walked the earth, Jesus is asking the same question of His potential followers: “What do you want from Me?” By ending this chapter with the beautiful example of the beggar, John-Mark gently shows us how to answer in a way that will allow us to receive the same glorious gift the beggar received that day: New sight, and a new life following Jesus.