Afraid to Ask (Day 29 of A Simple Lent) | Monday
I grew up in the rise of standardized testing to creative and artsy parents who read a lot. It means I can be either a model student or a pain in the butt, depending on your teaching style. A good student too busy trying to be right to learn how to be the greatest.
What I learned then, and it has only gotten worse since, is that asking questions didn’t help me. It was more likely to get me in trouble.
Instead, I should memorize and take tests and answer questions, not ask them. The same can’t be said for the real world, mind you. Succeeding there is dependent on asking good questions.
There is no place I sympathize with the disciples more than in Mark 9. Jesus is repeating to them that bad news he’s trying to pass off for good news: that he is heading to Jerusalem to die.
And they remember what happened last time one of them spoke up. Jesus called him “Satan”.
They aren’t going to be that stupid now. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t ask any questions.
Who Is the Greatest?
The presidential campaign we’re in has ruined me because I can’t ask this question the disciples are fighting over without thinking of Donald Trump. Walking alongside Peter and James and John, he’s calling them all “loser” and saying how, when Jesus is gone, he’s going to be “yuge”. No question who’s the greatest here.
This moment isn’t a good one for the disciples, is it? For not only are they afraid to ask Jesus what he was talking about before, but they are acting like children, arguing over nothing and letting their egos run wild. And then when Jesus catches them in the act, they can’t own up to it. They are too embarrassed to admit it.
Jesus was talking about going to Jerusalem to die and they are being stupid jocks.
Jesus is a good teacher, however, and sits them down and teaches them the essential lesson of their training: GOD’s kingdom comes in the reverse of their world. First is last and last is first. Children are wise and the aged are to listen to them.
And the greatest? They are the servants. When you welcome a child, you welcome the greatest. To welcome a child is to welcome your teacher and Lord and Savior.
The Greatest in Disguise
If we take Jesus at his word: that the kingdom is overturning our expectations of first and last and greatness and weakness and all that, then I believe we get the example right after the teaching.
We get this stranger, unaffiliated with Jesus and the disciples, healing and doing a bunch of Jesusy things. He just doesn’t have papers. He doesn’t have the accreditation or the diploma. He isn’t “one of them” they argue.
And more than argue, they try to make the guy stop doing what he’s doing.
Can you imagine people doing that today? Shutting down ministries for the poor because they aren’t Christian in the right way? Um…on second thought…don’t answer that.
But Jesus reminds them of what is self-evident: if they are doing the right thing for the right reason and in the name of the right Messiah, what really is the problem? Are they on the whole “who is the greatest” again?
Who is the greatest? At this point, I’m thinking it’s this random dude.
Of course, if they had bothered to ask a question of Jesus, they might not have had to be schooled. If they had simply asked
Why do you have to die?
How are we supposed to carry on without you?
Do I really have to go along with Peter? ‘Cause that guy is a tool.
If they didn’t worry so much about their precious ego. If they didn’t have to be right–to be the greatest. If they had risked to get a little clarification.
Or if they observed and listened to Jesus about the child and about the one healing in Jesus’s name. If they had opened their eyes to what is going on, they might have seen it.
They might have witnessed grace. And mercy. And the very hope of Christ. They might have known the way and what is to come. They might have heard the struggle and the joy and the new life. They might have gotten it.
Ask him now. What is this all about? You might learn something.
Daily Office Readings
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This week’s homework is to find how to best embody our core values.
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