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Mark 10:32 – On The Road to Jerusalem

Sunday’s service live-stream failed due to a blown fuse. Here are the notes that Ben preached from.

D was going to preach today on Mark 10, but with J being taken ill, I’ve taken over last minute. I’m hoping that maybe we can hear from D sometime, and so whilst I’m going to be talking from the same chapter, I’m going to leave almost all of it so I don’t step on her shoes. Instead, I’m going to do something I have almost never done. I’m going old school, and am going to preach on one verse…

This chapter is so well known, full of familiar stories – the Rich, Young, Ruler, the disciples James and John wanting Jesus to have them on his left and right, and the wonderful Blind Bartimaeus. But at the start is a verse that I’d never really listened to until last night. 10:32…

10:32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.

10:32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem…

I was lucky enough to go to Jerusalem a number of years ago, and fell in love with it straight away. I was so taken with it. It’s a place that is so different from here in every way. The sounds, the sights, the smells, everything is different. The sound of the call to prayer coming from the mosques. The bustle of the markets, thronging with people selling their wares. The smells of the bodies in the hot climate, the sound of languages that were alien to me. It is alive.

Of course, it’s not just the life that’s there today that draws people to it. This great city is the centre of three of the big world religions – Judaism, Islam, and of course Christianity. Yes it’s contested, yes these faiths disagree and clash, but there’s no getting away from it, faith is real there.

And of course, as you wander around Jerusalem, at least the Old City, everywhere you go you’re walking streets where these stories we know so well took place. This is the city David made his capital. This is where Solomon built his Temple. This is where the Babylonians conquered and exiled the Old Testament people, including Daniel and his three friends. This is the city that Ezra and Nehemiah came back to and started the long process of rebuilding it. This is the place that God lived in the midst of those he had taken to be his people. And these are the streets that his son, Jesus, walked.

Every year the Israelites would head to Jerusalem for the festivals, when they would celebrate what God had done for their forefathers and for them. Of these, Passover was probably the most significant, when they would remember their time in slavery in Egypt, and God sending the plagues to persuade Pharaoh to let them go, culminating in the Angel of death killing the firstborn. Except not theirs, they were safe, their doorposts marked by the sacrificed lamb so the angel would know they were God’s and passover. After this dreadful miracle, Pharaoh let them go, and they started what proved to be the long journey to the Promised Land, the long journey to Jerusalem.

And this journey is the journey the disciples are on now, and as now, the roads would be full of life, and the streets would be full of hustle and bustle. They heading into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Except this year, the Passover was going to take on a whole new significance.

They’re heading to Jerusalem, the place where God lived, the city that spoke of God’s choosing them, rescuing them, providing for them, blessing them, and making them his own. This city was the heart of their identity. It’s never just ‘heading to Jerusalem’ – all of this comes with it. This is where God meets them and where God is at work.

This is a journey of excitement, of expectation.

As disciples today, we’re on a journey. Being a disciple is not a static thing, it is a life of pilgrimage. We’re travelling from the world as it is now towards the world as God will have it, God’s Kingdom as the Bible calls this. A world which finally knows peace. A time when suffering will end. A world where God is known and seen face to face in all his love and glory.

God meets us still and is still at work. This is a journey of excitement and expectation.

Let’s continue…

10:32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way…

I wonder what pictures that conjures up for you – Jesus leading the way?

Is he in a rush? Does this say something about his determination? Is it all about the destination, not the journey. Now he’s made the decision to go in obedience to what God is calling him to, to accept what awaits him, he wants nothing to hold him back or distract him. He wants to get there as fast as he can and get on with it.

I’m sure there’s something of that here. Jesus is single minded in his faith, it’s all about the mission that God’s calling him on – although he always has time for people, compassion for those who call on him such as Blind Bartimaeus. But it’s more than that, he’s not just getting there as fast as he can, he’s leading the way. He’s taking his disciples.

Do you see something like the Apprentice? A business leader striding down a corridor with their suited lackeys struggling to keep up as they bark orders at them? Is this the kind of leader you can see here? There’s a touch of Alan Sugar’s boardroom with James and John seeking to win his approval and debates about who is greatest. Like the candidates in the Apprentice, some of them are competent, but others seem hopeless, and most of them have weaknesses that make us, the viewers, wonder what on earth Jesus saw in them.

But that’s not what I see here. Reading this I saw a Hebrew shepherd leading his sheep, caring for them, protecting them, leading them to food and safety. Of course for Jesus, Jerusalem isn’t safe, anything but, but through Jerusalem, they will be saved.

Although his sight is set on his destination, The Cross, this doesn’t mean Jesus has no time for his disciples. He always has time, even on the Cross he had time.

As a shepherd, he’s also a guide, showing the way, teaching them what it means to follow God, walking with them. Most adults learn best by seeing and doing, and that’s what is going on here, Jesus is helping them learn by following his example. This of course raises a question. What is it that Jesus is showing them? What is he helping them to see and do? What lesson is he teaching them?

What is he showing you as you walk with him to Jerusalem? What have you learnt? What are you learning?

And now we come to the final part of the sentence.

10:32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.

The disciples were astonished and those who followed were afraid.

What’s this about?

Do you know what, I’m not entirely sure, but these few words caught my attention. After all that the disciples have seen and heard by this point, all the miracles, the prayers, the acts of love, after all the surprises, what is it that happens on this walk that so astonishes them? Something dramatic, something surprising, some sort of eureka moment? What is it that takes their breath away?

You know what, I long for such a moment. I sometimes worry that God no longer surprises me. Like the disciples I have got used to him, comfortable with him. The fact that Jesus loves me is no longer surprising. The fact that he is the son of God and that he rose from the dead has become easy to say. I’ve got him sussed. I think this says more about me than him.

They’re astonished and those that are following are afraid.

As you know, in our Bible Study group, we’re going through Mark at the moment. One of the things I’ve noticed is how often it says that the disciples or the people were afraid or full of fear. This happens when Jesus does something or says something, or demonstrates in some way that he has the authority or power of God such as when he says be still and the storm stopped and waves were stilled.

As they walked into Jerusalem, Jesus demonstrated that he was God, and in a way that is both convincing but also stretches their understanding of who God is.

Have you ever had an occasion like that? A moment when your faith is changed? A sudden realisation when the penny drops and it makes sense or you see Jesus in a new way?

So what was it that they experienced? We don’t know for sure, but I suspect it is connected with what Mark records next (32-34):

Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’

What Jesus tells them is a paradigm shift. Later he will turn the tables in the temple, here he turns the tables theologically, turning upside down their definition of God.

And this is my prayer for us this Easter, as we travel the Road to Easter, as we travel to our Jerusalem, I pray that we will have a fresh experience of God as we walk with Jesus, that he would surprise us and take us deeper in understanding, faith and discipleship.

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