How do you respond to Jesus at an emotional level? Mark 10.32–52 portrays four responses: astonishment, fear, desire, and trust. Take a closer look at each one.
First, astonishment. “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished.” They had good reason to be astonished, of course. In their time with Jesus, they had witnessed him perform miracles great and small; seen him exorcise demons singly and in legions; heard him teach with authority, encouragement, and challenging words; and themselves performed miracles and exorcisms in his name. Jesus constantly astonished the disciples with the brilliance of his teaching and the power of his ministry.
But, Mark goes on to say, “those who followed were afraid.” “Those who followed” may refer to the disciples (who were following Jesus) or to a crowd that was following Jesus and his entourage. What did they have to fear? Not Jesus, of course, but perhaps the future that Jesus outlined for his disciples: “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” This is the third time that Jesus has explained to his disciples the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem. Did Jesus’ followers see the grim determination in his eye as he strode purposefully to a cruel end in Jerusalem? If so, what they saw frightened them.
Third, desire. After hearing about the cross—words that they apparently did not comprehend—James and John asked Jesus for seats of honor in his kingdom. This reflected an unhealthy desire for power over others. While such a desire for power was common in the ancient world, Jesus declared that it was forbidden in his kingdom: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Finally, trust. The order of events in this passage is ironic. Otherwise healthy disciples did not see what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah or for them to be his disciples. They did not see the cross, either Christ’s or their own. But a blind man saw Jesus for who he was. Despite the shushing of the crowd surrounding Jesus, Bartimaeus cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” In response, Jesus says, “Go, your faith has healed you.”
How should we respond to Jesus at an emotional level? With astonishing faith and a desire to serve.