Those who followed were afraid

February 4, 2015

Dear brothers and sisters,

The good news this morning is from Mark 10:32-34.

They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he began to tell them what was going to happen to him. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.”

This is the last time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus will tell his disciples of his impending death. I was having a hard time understanding why the disciples were amazed and who was it following who was afraid? Moloney in The Gospel of Mark explains that this is the first time that Jesus told his disciples that the end of the journey will be in Jerusalem. So, I can understand that they would be amazed considering the hostility of the Pharisees, scribes, and elders. Moloney believes that Mark is still referring to the disciples as the ones who were afraid. That makes logical sense, though the wording of the sentence is ambiguous. The Douay-Rheims Version, the first English translation predating the King James Bible, makes this more clear to me: “And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem: and Jesus went before them, and they were astonished; and following were afraid.”

Fear can be a debilitating emotion. Moloney writes, “These emotions have highlighted their [disciples’] increasing inability and unwillingness to accept Jesus’ agenda, for himself and for those following him. But the disciples are described as ‘those who followed.’” To me that’s the amazing thing — that despite their fear they still followed Jesus. That is faith and devotion! Especially considering that Jesus was very blunt in describing what lay ahead. As Moloney states, “[T]he final prediction leaves nothing to the imagination.”

True, they would fail him, but at this point they are still willing to follow him. Barclay notes that there are two kinds of courage, the first being an instinctive reaction. “There is also the courage of the man who sees the grim thing approaching far ahead, who has plenty of time to turn back, who could, if he chose, evade the issue, and who yet goes on….They [the disciples] had learned something which is of the very essence of life and faith — they loved so much that they were compelled to accept what they could not understand.” This immediately called to my mind the fact of death in general. Most of us I speculate are afraid of dying and death. I like to think I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying, of suffering. It takes courage to follow Jesus to suffering and death. I want to turn away, to evade it if only in my thoughts. I’ve always had tremendous admiration for people who are able to accept gracefully their impending death. They have a sense of acceptance, of peace, and even of joy that is very attractive.

We all face dying and death every day, of course. I don’t know when my hour will come. I think Jesus wants me to not be afraid, to know that through suffering I will be reunited with God, to turn my face toward God. Though there is no way of understanding what that means, but Jesus wants me to be so compelled by love that I will accept it gracefully, peacefully, joyfully. I don’t get much encouragement from the secular world, though!



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