Questions for going deeper with the Scriptures for Sunday: May 20th
The Way of Jesus is different than the way of the world. Today’s scripture point to that mystery, which supersedes any discussion that merely reduces faith to a particular set of morals or ethical actions. The Way of Jesus leads to and through the cross, and then out of the victory of the resurrection and the paradox of the empty tomb. Today’s passage closes the center literary nugget of Mark’s gospel which began with the healing of an anonymous blind man in 8:22, echoed and inverted in today’s healing encounter of another blind man Bartimaeus in 10:46-52. The Way of Jesus moves us from anonymity, to relationship with God through Christ. In that movement we confess, naming Jesus as the Christ and in the life-giving and universe-transforming love of that relationship we too receive our true name and discover our identity as servants of the Resurrected One.
Theologically this text wrestles with several themes: the meaning of suffering, the promise of resurrection, which both frame the Way of Jesus where all disciples are called to walk bearing their cross.
Jesus is the Suffering Servant, the Messiah or Christ, the Anointed One, who has come to call others to a new exodus from bondage, a new way of knowing and being known, a deeper and freer life in abundance. Underneath the talk of suffering and death are the inter-textual connections with the ancient prophecies of the First Testament, in particular of the prophet Isaiah. Read Isaiah Isa 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12 and Daniel 7. It’s in this context that Mark writes Jesus uttering three passion statements or declarations that he will suffer, be crucified and rise from the dead. [Mark 8:31-32; 9:31-32; 10:32-34] How are they similar? How do they differ? What might that mean?
The request for places of privilege from James and John lift up the theological question of power relationships in the dominion of God. Rather than privilege what is exalted is servanthood, it’s a paradox and inversion of power by abasement (not weakness), another way of saying that the first shall be last and the last first.
Spiritual Blindness is another key point. We don’t just need fixed eyes – we need new vision, to see the world and the Way of Jesus with new eyes. Faith isn’t an add-on to our life. It’s a radical transformation and shift of how we are in the world.
Underneath the talk of suffering and death are the inter-textual connections with the ancient prophecies of the First Testament, in particular of the prophet Isaiah. Read Isaiah Isa 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12 and Daniel 7. It’s in this context that Mark writes Jesus uttering three passion statements or declarations that he will suffer, be crucified and rise from the dead. [Mark 8:31-32; 9:31-32; 10:32-34] How are they similar? How do they differ? What might that mean?
In their misguided power grab, Jesus talks to James and John of an invitation to share in Jesus’ cup and baptism: suffering, death and resurrection. (verse 38) The cup is a metaphor for one’s portion in life; what one has been given to “drink” whether good or ill. Jesus is pointing to a different way of being, a different way of seeing how God acts and creates. True greatness comes not in power and victory at least how we understand it. True greatness comes from service and self-sacrifice, and emerges out of seeming defeat. True greatness points back to the teaching in Mark 9:33-37 and towards the beautiful hymn of servanthood found in Philippians 2:5-11. How do you struggle to understand this paradox of power and service? How do we struggle as a church to live out this mystery of victory and new life?
The healing of a blind man section in our text today 10:46-52 refers back to another such healing at the beginning of this section of the gospel in Mark 8:22-26. How does Bartimaeus react to the gift of sight versus the un-named man in Mark 8:22-26? Bartimaeus is healed in one encounter with Jesus. The other man needs two of them. What is that referring? While the first man in chapter 8 sees vaguely, mistaking people for trees, Bartimaeus see clearly and immediately responds, coming after Jesus and following him on the Way. What might this theological framing of sight have to say about us in our individual and community lives today? In verse 50 Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, leaving all that he owns to follow Jesus. How is it that he “gets it” where as Peter voices his fear in verse 28 about how much he and the other 12 have sacrificed to follow Jesus?
Questions for wondering and exploring:
• Last week we did a Godly Play lesson in worship, learning about the circle of the liturgical year the lessons dwelt on the mystery of time as a circle, the notion that every beginning is a sort of ending, and every ending contains a beginning. How does that apply to Jesus’ words about his passion and purpose in today’s text? How does that relate to the notion of resurrection and spiritual sight?
• We welcome this day brothers and sisters from Fruitvale Church which has chosen to close. It’s a death, one that has to be taken seriously in terms of suffering, grief, confusion and hurt. Much like the crucifixion of Jesus. We live in an age where many of our institutions are struggling with the perspective of death and closure: schools, city governments, hospitals, non-profits, even entire nations like Greece and Italy. We can choose to fight to preserve our institutions at any cost, or we can choose to recognize that the changes we need to undertake are beyond our means, strength and imagination. Only God can do a new thing that is required. Yet how is the promise of resurrection, or being raised to new life and new ways of being present in both this text and in our life as a church?
• How do you need spiritual sight – a new vision - and to practice resurrection in your life, work, relationships and identity? Where do you need God to save you, where only a new thing can set you free to truly live?
• How do you hear the Spirit of God talking to you, and to us through this text today? What invitation to action or a new way of being do you hear?