The gospel for today occurs near the center of Mark’s 16 chapters. Up to this point things seem to be going rather favorably for Jesus. Many seem to be accepting Jesus as someone that is useful for them. Despite ominous rumblings from the religious authorities the crowds have responded to the healing ministry of Jesus and the disciples are slowly learning who Jesus is.
At the very center point of Mark’s gospel Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” After their answer to this factual question, he goes deeper and asks who they (the disciples) say that Jesus is. To this Peter responds that He is the Christ, the anointed one of God. And Jesus praises Peter for his insightful response.
But in so many ways, Peter and the other disciples haven’t a clue as to who Jesus really is and what their being his disciples really means. They are a rag-tag lot of persons and will have to wait till after Jesus’ resurrection to fully comprehend who he really is.
Today’s section of St. Mark centers on food and the concern that the disciples have that they will miss a meal. They had experienced the feeding of the multitudes, and yet they seem here to fail to understand what Jesus has in store for them.
When Jesus counsels them to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod, they think that he is referring to them having forgotten to bring bread on the boat with them. He then rigorously questions them and we see that their answers are inadequate. The final words of the passage (Do you still not understand?) are less of a question and more of a frustrated realization on Jesus’ part (and on ours, too) that the disciples really do not understand who Jesus is.
We had thought that they were insiders in the sense that they really comprehended Jesus’ message, but their actions and responses here show that they are far from insiders in the sense of being connected deeply with Jesus. They have a long way to go!
But on the other hand so do we all have a long way to go to really let Jesus into our hearts. We’re not so far from the disciples when they reveal their lack of understanding and lack of commitment to Jesus. Just as Jesus seems to be encouraging the disciples to get outside of themselves and their small concerns and worries and focus on him and what is happening to him; he is beginning his journey towards Jerusalem and ultimately his death on the cross. They too will share in his cross (and resurrection) but not right now and in the meantime they’ll miss the point.
Lord, help me to see that the disciples are models of my own hesitations, lack of commitment to your service, and slowness in coming to understand who you really are. Let me focus on You as the very source of my life; let me not get stuck in the ways that I fail, but show me the path to deeper and deeper love and service in and through you.
And to one and all, Happy Valentine’s Day.
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