This week we are continuing in Mark's Gospel reading chapters 9-12. This section begins with the Transfiguration, continues with Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and his confrontation with the leaders of Israel during Passover week. It is noticeable how Jesus spends much of his time here after he is transfigured with the Disciples, teaching them and showing them things of the Kingdom before completing his work in Jerusalem.
The Transfiguration, which is the revelation of the true identity of Jesus, changes his relationship with the Disciples. Previously they 'did not understand...but their hearts were hardened' (Mark 6:52) and 'are not setting [their] mind[s] on the things of God' (Mark 8:33); now the Disciples are beginning to comprehend. Their understanding and their transformation is incomplete, since they could not cast out the demon in Mark 9:29, but perhaps the new beginning which is signified by the Transfiguration is not an instant transformation; rather it is a new direction. The Disciples, once they had seen Jesus in his glory, no longer have their minds set on the 'things of man' but on the things of God. How then are they to live?
Children appear several times in this part of Mark's Gospel. To Jesus, they best demonstrate how one should receive and live in the Kingdom of God. Two difficult teachings also appear here on divorce and wealth. How might these teachings be received by the humble child? If divorce is allowed due to 'hardness of heart' (Mark 10:5), will the softened heart of those who have beheld Jesus' true identity make this less likely? How about the attitude of the man with many possessions?
There is a frustrating juxtaposition in this teaching. Ideas of marriage, wealth and leadership are interpreted through the grid of childlikeness. This is a difficult burden without the vision of God's glory in Jesus.
This principle of humility and childlikeness contrasted with the magnitude of the Kingdom of God is best represented by the vision of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. The various confrontations with the leaders in Jerusalem could then be understood as the pure-hearted voice of childlikeness challenging hypocrisy, greed and malice.
The new beginning for the Disciples which seems to come from the Transfiguration brings Jesus and his Disciples into conflict with the World. The shadow of the Cross begins to touch the story at this point, and soon we will see how the pure, childlike, glorious and brilliant Kingdom of God is devoured and trampled upon by the systems of the World.
- Does one of Jesus' teachings or parables in this section challenge you? Are you comforted by something he says or does?
- How can you walk in the childlikeness of Jesus?
- Who needs to see the childlike love and faith which comes from knowing Jesus? Can you imagine a way of reaching them?