** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **
Studying the gospel of Mark has been (pardon the pun) eye-opening for me in many, many ways. One of the things that I have continually been amazed to see is that despite their initial display of faith in leaving everything to follow Jesus (Mark 1.16-28) and their brief success in ministry (Mark 6.7-13), the disciples remain ‘blind’ to who Jesus really is and all the he is calling them to.
They are the ones, we’re told in Mark 4, who are to receive the secrets of the kingdom of God, while the outsiders will receive only parables. They are the constant companions of Jesus watching his every miracle, hearing his every word. They travel with him and live with him and eat with him and pray with him night and day for about three years. And yet, when Mark writes his ‘discipleship’ section (Mark 8-10), nothing is clearer than the fact that the disciples don’t see the real Jesus. In fact, Mark even goes so far as to bracket that whole section with two healings of blind people to unite the themes from that section (Mark 8.22-26; Mark 10.46-52).
Three times in that section Jesus clearly prophesies his rejection and death. And each time the disciples just flat out miss the point and think about themselves first and their own standing with other people, or their own comfort, or whatever their own concerns are in the moment. They are completely oblivious to the fact that the Daniel’s Son of Man and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant is leading the way to Jerusalem, where they will witness the climax of history as Jesus is murdered on a Roman cross, dying to ransom his people.
They were so caught up in their own views, their own concerns, their own vision of reality that they were staring God himself in the face, but couldn’t see clearly. Boy, it’s easy to preach against those dumb disciples. We could rail on against them all day. Unless of course you have come to see, as I have, that I’m no better than them. In fact, I’m probably worse.
Sure, they had Jesus walking with them. But we’ve got the apostolic interpretations of Jesus and 2000 years’ worth of Christian reflections on Jesus to inform us. For them it was all happening in a moment; for us we’ve had years to consider who this Jesus really is. For me, I study the Bible every week for my job. And so often I still feel like a blind dunce, failing to make the connections between what my Saviour came to accomplish and what it means for me and my life.
I still think like the disciples. I still think I need to be made much of. I still think I know better than the plans of God. I’m still deluded enough to believe that I can somehow become great by demanding other people serve me. I still don’t feel the reality of my slavery and my desperate need of redemption. And I still think that even what I don’t know, I can figure out. I definitely don’t feel my need like Blind Bartimaeus, crying out for the help of Jesus as my only hope.
My life–my Christian life–has been a very slow process of growing in my perception of myself and my Saviour. As I look back over 30 years I can’t believe how little I really understand of Jesus and I can’t believe how much of my life I have lived and continue to live as if I’m self-sufficient. The disciples may have been slow on the uptake, but at least once they got it, they were owned by it and willing to lay down their lives for it. If God gives me another 30 years, I pray that I will experience even more grace to clearly see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, that as I gaze I might be transformed more and more from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3.16-4.6), increasingly conformed to and dependent on my Saviour.