After this section on “Stuff” Jesus issues the third prediction of his suffering, death, and resurrection to the disciples. We’ll look at the three as a group here and trace out their commonalities and developments (keep your Bible open to refer to each of the passion predictions in chs.8,9,10).
A first commonality is that all occur on the way to Jerusalem. But they occur at different stages on the journey. The first happens at Caesarea Philippi, the second passing “through Galilee,” and the third drawing near to Jerusalem.
All along the way on this journey Jesus presses this truth upon them. It is clearly the heart of his message. In the first and third predictions Mark says Jesus “began” to teach his disciples. Apparently, they are always “beginning” to try and grasp what he is telling them. And they always fail. Though he taught “quite openly” the disciples think they understand, do not understand, and are afraid. Mark demonstrates this by posturing the disciples as being alongside or ahead of Jesus (8:33) and then (apparently) lagging far behind him in fear (10:32). Their effort to understand results in them trying to squeeze Jesus into their own mold (Peter’s “Satanic” rebuke of Jesus’ prediction). Their failure to understand leaves them fearful of learning more, and then amazed and afraid.
That Jesus uses his favorite self-designation “Son of Man” in all three predictions tells us that he is deconstructing and reconstructing their conception of messiahship. And it is a tough sell. The episodes following each prediction serve as illustrations of the consequences of Jesus’ kind of messiahship. A messiahship of “downward nobility.”
-In ch.8 Jesus expounds the downward nobility of cross-bearing. Identifying oneself and fully embracing Jesus’ way whatever the consequences is what he is after.
-In ch.9 Jesus teaches the servanthood is his way, the first and greatest shall be the last and servant of all.
-In ch.10 Jesus voices the place of the leader in his people not as “lord” or “tyrant” but as servant/slave of all.
These, I think, these correlates of Jesus journeying to the cross with eyes wide open and summoning his followers to do the same, give substance to Bonhoeffer’s claim in Discipleship that “Jesus’ every command calls us to die with all our wishes and desires, and because we cannot want our own death, therefore Jesus Christ in his word has to be our death and our life. The call to follow Jesus, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, is death and life.” (Discipleship:2085).
Downward nobility is a work of grace, a severe grace for most of us. Ponder your own journey into Jesus’ downward nobility and where it needs to go from wherever you find yourself in relation to it.