The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52
2. Growing faith, 8:22-10:52
v] Jesus teaches suffering and true discipleship #2.Synopsis
Jesus now sets about preparing the disciples for the cross and beyond. First, he again predicts his passion and resurrection, v30-32, and then, after an unfortunate discussion among the disciples over seniority, Jesus explains, as he did with the first prediction of his death, the true nature of discipleship v33-37.
True greatness is found in acquiescence, not in status and prestige.
i] Context: See 8:22-30. Mark now records a series of discipleship sayings which run through to v50. In the gospels, such collections of sayings are often linked together by common phrases and subject matter, although they are most likely separate sayings delivered by Jesus on a number of different occasions. Such sets of sayings can sometimes have a common beginning and ending, so forming an inclusio. Some commentators take the view that in v35-50 Mark presents us with a linked set of sayings on the question of who is the greatest. Yet, it seems more likely that the set of linked sayings in v42-50 focus on the unofficial exorcist with its theme of inclusion, while the sayings in v35-37 are related to the theme of acquiescence, as opposed to seniority, status and privilege.
ii] Structure: The servant of all:
Jesus' second passion prediction, v30-32;
The issue of true greatness, v33-34;
Teaching on seniority, v35-37:
Humility determines seniority, v35;
Seniority is reckoned by a welcoming spirit, v36-37.
In this, the second of three passion predictions, we are reminded that God's way of establishing his kingdom is by Jesus being "handed over", as of being handed over to judgment, v30-32. The associated exposition on discipleship consists of a narrative concerning seniority, v33-37, along with two embedded sayings: acquiescence defines greatness, v35b, an embracing of the lowly, v37. "God's kingdom will come through defeat, not victory, and within it the world's values are turned upside down, the first are last and the last first", France.
As in the first prediction of Jesus' death, Mark again draws a comparison between Jesus' sacrificial humility, and the pathetic self-centredness of the disciples. Jesus' sacrifice is both the means for redemption and the model for ethics. The attached sayings on acquiescence / humility, as opposed to status and privilege, serve to provide the means of participating in Jesus' sacrifice and also serve to guide an ethical response.
The first saying, "whoever wants to be first must be last and and servant of all", calls for dependence on the cross-bearing of Christ - we are great when we are nothing in Christ. The second saying on the receiving of Jesus in the person of a child, reminds us that in the same way a child depends on an adult, so a disciple depends in faith on Christ. True greatness is found in union with the suffering messiah.
Both sayings also guide the Christian life; acquiescence / surrender to Christ's surrender to the Father's will is the model for our following Christ. Jesus seeks to condemn "all human desires to make religion an opportunity for personal aggrandisement", Hurtado; "True greatness is service, service is true greatness", Hunter.
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me", v36-37. Is this an illustration about welcoming / accepting Jesus, or welcoming / accepting others, or both?
On one hand, Jesus seems to be making the point that precedence in the kingdom is found in welcoming him, for in such an act a person welcomes God and in so doing discovers greatness in his grace, ie., Jesus is the child, rather than "the risen Christ .. is met in the child", Boring.
On the other hand, "Jesus actions of taking the child into the middle of the circle of the disciples, picking him up, and hugging him, illustrate the servant-like attitude that he wishes to inculcate", Marcus. Such is humble service and is regarded by Jesus as if done to him, and similarly regarded by the Father as if done to him. Thus, such service determines greatness / precedence / seniority in the kingdom of God. So, the service / servanthood that Jesus is referring to is the receiving / welcoming / accepting of a member of lost and broken humanity who grips the slender thread of divine mercy. The paidion represents the lost and the disciples are encouraged to receive the lost as Jesus received the lost (and received them), illustrated now in his receiving of the child. Such is servanthood of the Jesus kind, a kind defining greatness in the kingdom of God.
In passing, we should not that other interpretive approaches are suggested: The service is often understood in evangelistic terms; "whoever welcomes an evangelist (paidion) welcomes Jesus." Yet here, the context has nothing whatsoever to do with evangelism. Jesus' words are directed to the disciples, not unbelievers. The service is also sometimes understood as specifically done to a poor believer, or a believing child, or children in general, or even insignificant humanity, ....., but this seems unlikely.
It seems likely that the illustration of receiving a child encapsulates both the receiving of Jesus and the receiving of a fellow member of broken humanity who has found forgiveness in Jesus.
The second passion prediction: Matt.17:22-23; Lk.9:43b-45. Matthew is close to Mark, while Luke abbreviates the prediction.
The issue of greatness: Matt:18.1-5; Lk.9:46-48. A diverse handling of the tradition, with the sayings attached to separate narrative traditions: saying #1, v35, to v33-34 (Matt.18:1, Lk.9:46) - Matt.20:26-27, 23:11, Lk.22:26; and saying #2, v37, to v36 (Matt.18:2, Lk.9:47) - Matt.10:42, 18:3-5, Lk.9:48.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes The Servant of all.
Text - 9:30
Suffering and the nature of true discipleship: i] Jesus' second prediction of his death and resurrection, v30-32. Mark now records Jesus' journey toward Jerusalem. Jesus and his disciples move through Galilee and Perea, but this time his ministry is not a public one; he spends the time teaching his disciples. Again he raises the issue of his coming death. This passion prediction is different to the first in 8:31. In the first, the Son of Man "must" suffer, be rejected and killed. This time, the Son of Man "is" "betrayed" (delivered, handed over). Instead of a necessary suffering and rejection, there is a determined handing over to martyrdom by God, cf., Jer.33:24, Isa.53:6,12. God's deeper purpose is fulfilled in the death of Jesus. As in 8:31, Jesus predicts his resurrection. Sadly, the disciples' lack of understanding continues, and this because of their little faith. They are left to respond emotionally, too afraid to ask Jesus what he meant.
exelqonteV (exercomai) aor. part. "they left" - [and] having gone out [from there]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "they were passing", as NIV, but it may be treated as a temporal clause, "when they left there they passed through ..." The crasis kakeiqen, "and from there", is formed by kai + ekeiqen = "thence / from there", Zerwick.
dia + gen. "through" - through [galilee]. Spatial; "go through / pass through", TH, used with pareporeuonto, "to pass by."
ouk hqelen (qelw) imperf. "Jesus did not want anyone" - [and] he did not want. The imperfect, being durative, possibly expresses ongoing action.
iJna + subj. "-" - that. Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Jesus willed. A dependent statement in the form of an object clause would properly be formed by an infinitive, but hina + subj. had started to take over this role even though it was commonly used to form an adverbial clause, final, expressing purpose, cf., Zerwick #406/7. So, the sense may best be expressed as an infinitive; "Jesus did not wish [his presence] to be known", Barclay. Note that when qelw takes an infinitive, the infinitive is usually classified as complementary, but the above classification is acceptable.
tiV gnoi "to know where they were" - anyone should know. "Presence / where they were" assumed. Not for the purpose of maintaining the messianic secret, but for an opportunity to teach the disciples, cf., v31a.
The second Son of Man must suffer saying.
gar "because" - because [he was teaching the disciples of him]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus didn't want the populous to know he was in the vicinity. "For he was occupied with teaching his disciples", Cassirer. The verb "teaching" is imperfect, but it is not necessarily expressing durative action since it is common to use the imperfect in verbs of speech, cf., Zerwick #272.
autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [and he was saying] to them. Dative of indirect object.
oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of direct speech expressing what he was saying.
oJ uiJoV tou anqrwpou "the Son of Man" - the son of man. For the title "Son of Man", see Mk.2:10. The genitive "of man" is adjectival, relational. Jesus' self designation. As a messianic title it maintained the messianic secret in that in Aramaic the phrase could be understood as simply "a man", but of course the title refers to Daniel's "Son of Man", the coming one, the one who comes to the Ancient of Days to receive glory, honour and power and take up his eternal reign, cf., Dan.7:13.
paradidotai (paradidwmi) pres. pas. "is going to be betrayed" - is being handed over, given over, betrayed. Delivered up to "oppressive and violent treatment", Gundry. The present tense may express present action, "being given over to wicked men", although it is usually treated as a present tense with future force, "will be ....", Taylor, Moule. The possible meanings of the word prompt translations like "will be betrayed / arrested", but the word has significant LXX precedence, "is being handed over / delivered up" [by God = divine passive] into human hands, even of being delivered up to judgment. So Jesus, as the suffering servant, preaches and is delivered up [by God (through Judas??)], cf., Isa.19:4, 53:6, 12, Dan.4:14....; "will be given into the power of men", Cassirer.
eiV acc. "into" - to, into [the hands of men and they will kill him]. Expressing the direction of the action and arrival at. Not "given over / handed over by (dative) human hands", but "to / into". The NIV literal translation means "into the power of men", TH, Barclay, ... "Kill" in the sense of "execute him."
apoktanqeiV (apoktainw) aor. pas. part. "-" - [and] having been killed. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal, virtually redundant; "and when he is killed, after three days ...", ESV.
meta acc. "after" - after [three days he will arise]. Temporal use of the preposition, cf., Hos.6:2, Dan.7 = the suffering and speedy vindication of the Son of Man. The preposition meta + acc. is adverbial here, temporal. Resurrection = vindication.
The reasons for the disciples' lack of knowledge and their hesitation in seeking clarification is of no interest to Mark, and so should probably be of no interest to us! Mark's "emphasis falls on ignorance and fear as such, because they provide foils that make Jesus' foreknowledge and awesomeness stand out", Gundry.
oiJ de "but" - but/and they. Transitional, indicating a step from dialogue to narrative / editorial comment.
hgnooun (agnow) "did not understand" - were ignorant = not understanding [the word = prophecy]. The disciples did not fully understand the Christ event until after the resurrection.
eperwthsai (eperwtaw) aor. inf. "to ask [him] about it" - [and they were afraid] to ask, inquire [him]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "were afraid", while "him" functions as the object of the infinitive. "About it" added for meaning; "they were too afraid to ask him what his words meant", TH.
ii] The issue of true greatness, v33-34. In Matthew, the disciples ask Jesus "who is the greatest", but here Jesus is aware that the disciples are discussing the issue, and so, for the purpose of teaching, he asks them what they were talking about on the way. The disciples aren't very forthcoming, given the nature of the subject.
genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "When he was [in the house]" - [and they came into capernaum, and] being [in the house]. The participle is adverbial, probably introducing a temporal clause, as NIV.
dielogizesqe (dialogizomai) imperf. "[what] were you arguing about" - [he was questioning them, what] were you discussing, debating, disputing. Variant addition proV eJautouV, "among yourselves". Not necessarily "arguing", so possibly "what were you discussing ...?", Cassirer, but the NIV take is probably on the mark.
en th/ oJdw/ "on the road" - on the way. The preposition en is possibly adverbial here, temporal; "what were you talking about while we were traveling?" As with the first passion prediction, it is possible that Jesus has delivered the second while travelling from the region of Mt. Hermon and Caesarea Philippi, through northern Galilee to Capernaum, ie., while travelling (although detailed geographical movement in the gospel may be Mark's construction). Anyway, while travelling, discussion on the issue of seniority ensues.
oiJ de "but" - but/and they. Transitional, indicating a change in subject from Jesus to his disciples.
esiwpwn (siwpaw) imperf. "kept quiet" - were being quiet, silent. The imperfect is durative; "kept silent."
proV + acc. "-" - toward [one another]. Here expressing association, "with, in company with."
gar "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why they kept quiet.
en + dat. "on [the way]" - on [the way]. Adverbial use of the preposition, temporal; "while they were on the way." The repetition of this phrase used in v33 is not present in some texts. Obviously some scribes "did not recognise the deliberate Markan emphasis", Boring.
dielecqhsan (dialegomai) aor. "they had argued" - they discussed, argued. Used only here in Mark. Possibly "argued", but better "debated / discussed". The aorist is used to express a perfective aspect, ie., completed action, but obviously requires a pluperfect in English; "they had been arguing with each other", Barclay.
meizwn (megaV) comp. adj. "greatest" - [certain = who was] greater. Predicate adjective. Another example where NT Gk. uses the comparative for the superlative when the comparative should only be used for the superlative if the comparison is between two items. Origin notes that it was only natural for the disciples to discuss the issue of precedence, given that Jesus had selected three particular disciples to accompany him up the mountain. Mark does not say that Jesus was angry with the disciples for discussing this issue, nor does he actually say why the disciples were reticent to tell Jesus what they were discussing. It is usually understood that the disciples were somewhat embarrassed, and may not have wanted Jesus to know that they were discussing the why's and wherefore's of precedence among their number.
iii] Mark now records a series of discipleship sayings which carry through to 9:38-50, Partners in discipleship; a) The first saying - humility determines precedence / greatness / seniority in the kingdom of God, v35. Jesus explains that in the kingdom of God, greatness, in the sense of a high status, or rank, belongs to "the servant of all". In the kingdom, the "last" is assessed as the "first", last in the sense of a servant, a servant like Jesus. As the early church father Polycarp put it, we must walk "according to the truth of the Lord, who was 'the servant of all'". Of course, this does not promote the idea that we should strive to be last so that we can be first, rather that in the kingdom precedence is gauged on the basis of acquiescent service, Christ being the servant's servant, par excellence. The term "servant of all" is often understood as a form of cross-bearing discipleship which parallels Jesus' life-giving sacrifice - the way of glory is through suffering and death. Jesus does link his sacrifice with servanthood, although it does not necessarily follow that servanthood equals sacrifice. Note the similar context found in 10:41-45.
kaqisaV (kaqizw) aor. part. "sitting down" - [and] having sat down. Attendant circumstance participle, "Jesus sat down and called ...", or adverbial, Modal, or temporal, "when he sat down", or causal, "so [as a result] he sat down", Moffatt. This is the normal posture for a Rabbi, he sits to teach and his disciples stand to hear.
efwnhsen (fwnew) aor. "Jesus called" - he called out to gather [the twelve and he says to them]. The word expresses speech with a raised voice. It is probably used to emphasise what Jesus is about to say (assisted by the historic present "and says"), even displaying "the vigour with which Jesus exercises authority over his disciples", Gundry; "so Jesus drew his disciples close to him and emphatically told them ..."
ei + ind. "if" - Introducing a 1st class conditional clause where the proposed condition is assumed to be true, "if, as is the case, .... then .." Here introducing direct discourse.
einai (eimi) "to be" - [someone desires, wills, wishes] to be. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "wishes".
prwtoV adj. "first" - first in rank. Predicate nominative of the verb to-be.
estai (eimi) fut. "he must be" - he will / shall be. It is usually regarded that the future tense here has strong imperatival force, "he shall be" = "he must be", but a predictive future should not be ruled out, particularly as most imperatival futures are 2nd person. If we read the future as taking imperatival force we end up following Taylor who argues that Jesus is rebuking "personal ambition"; if, on the other hand, we read the future as predictive, then we are more inclined to understand Jesus' words as kingdom truth, namely that in the kingdom it is the servant who takes precedence; "whoever will be last, will be first of all".
diakonoV (oV) "the servant" - [last in rank of all and] servant, slave. Predicate nominative. "Servant", servanthood, exegetes what Jesus means by "last". That is, "discipleship corresponds to Christology; as the Messiah is the servant who gives himself for others", Boring. "True greatness is a matter of humble service", Cranfield.
pantwn gen. adj. "of all" - of all. The genitive is adjectival, partitive / wholative. Expressing a universal application.
b) The second independent saying, along with its introductory narrative, encapsulates the truth that precedence / greatness in the kingdom is appropriated by a welcoming spirit, v36-37. Jesus uses a child to illustrate and apply what he means. As indicated in Interpretation above, Mark's placement of this pericope serves to make the point that precedence in the kingdom is found in welcoming Jesus, for in such an act, a person welcomes God and in so doing discovers greatness in his grace. Yet, at the same time, as Jesus "welcomes", accepts, receives, all who come to him, disciples need to display the same willingness to accept those who seek God's mercy in Christ. When we embrace a forgiven sinner, we embrace Jesus, we embrace God.
Interpretations of this illustration usually rest on a specific understanding of the paidion, "child". Cranfield offers two possibilities which can be further divided:
a) "because the paidion belongs to me - as a believer":
•*A believing-child. Gundry argues that a believing-child is received "on the ground of my name" which "specifies the basis of that acceptance, viz., his (Christ's) own reception of such a child";
•*A lowly believer. The weak members of the Christian community who mediate the presence of Christ, cf. Boring;
•* All believers;
•*Evangelists/ministers. Evans argues that "in my name", which serves to qualify "welcomes/receives/accepts", is making the point that "if someone comes in the name of Jesus, he must be received, for that is equivalent to receiving Jesus himself". Note that in Aramaic the word for "servant" and "child" is the same;
•*Seekers. Disciples are to be like Jesus who receives/embraces the paidion, the lost - the hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick and imprisoned who seek the mercy of God, cf. Edwards.
b) "because the paidion (in his human need and without necessarily being a believer) is my representative":
•*Children in general;
•*Insignificant humanity. Forgiven sinners in general seems best - from the apprentice to the old tradesman.
labwn (lambanw) aor. part. "he took" - [and] having taken [a child]. The participle is probably adverbial, temporal, "then he took a little child", Moffatt.
autwn gen. "them" - [he set, made him stand in the midst] of them. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Possibly "in front of them", Zerwick; "made him stand where they could all see him", Barclay.
enagkalisamenoV (enagkalizomai) aor. part. "taking him in [his] arms" - [and] having embraced, taken into arms [him]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "he said"; "he took the child in his arms and said". Decker suggests it is adverbial, temporal; "and giving him a hug he said."
autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.
oJV an + subj. "whoever" - if who = whoever. Introducing an indefinite relative conditional clause 3rd. class, the first of two such clauses where the condition is hypothetical; "whoever, as may be the case, ... then ..."
twn toioutwn gen. adj. "of these" - [receives, welcomes, accepts one] of such as these [children]. The articular adjective serves as a substantive in apposition with "children", the genitive being partitive limiting "one".
epi + dat. "in" - upon, over, on. Probably parallel to en, "in my name", taking a causal sense, "on the basis of" = "on account of / because of (the person I am)" ; "because of me", CEV.
tw/ onomati mou "my name" - the name of me [receives me]. The phrase, "in my name" is idiomatic. The "name" represents the person, so "the name of Jesus" = the person of Jesus himself, his personal character and being, cf., Danker. Thus, invoking the name as the authority for the action. So "whoever receives one of these paidion out of respect for me ....", cf., Zerwick, ie. "on the basis of / out of respect for the person I am, my authority, etc. receives me". "Because this action is something I desire", Cranfield.
ouk ...... alla "not ......, but ..." - [and whoever receives me] not [receives me] but also receives. Counterpoint construction. "Not so much ..... as .....", Zerwick.
ton aposteilanta (apostellw) aor. part. "the one who sent [me]" - the one having sent [me]. The participle serves as a substantive. "The one who sent me forth", Cassirer.