Jesus introduces us to an upside-down world. It’s one that he inhabits and invites us in. Our problem, however, is that it’s a topsy-turvy universe, very different than the one we are used to. It’s much like Alice in Wonderland falling through the rabbit’s hole and finding herself in a world where her perceptions and understandings were continually challenged. She had to see with new lenses, hear with new understandings, and respond in ways that were not familiar. Jesus is asking us to enter into a whole new world; to see, hear and respond in ways that are very unfamiliar to us.
In this passage from Mark, Jesus is traveling with his disciples and begins to have a rather heavy conversation with them about his upcoming death, burial and resurrection. Instead of receiving their rapt attention, he is acutely tuned into some other “metacommunication” going on between them. Like a parent challenging his inattentive children, he asks what they are talking about and is met with silence. They finally admit that they were fighting among themselves about who would be first . . . first in line, first in importance, first in his favor. They were playing the game by a set of rules that we know well. The person who is first with the number of toys, wins. The person who is most popular gets the most attention. The one with the most skills gets the promotion. They live in the same kind of universe that we live in today . . . one in which we are scrambling to be “first” in some way or another. Jesus (most assuredly in frustration) introduces them to his new universe. He asks them to jump down the “rabbit hole” and to see a world that is different; a world where he has created a new set of rules. These rules are:
We aren’t familiar with these rules; they don’t make sense to us. But since they were acting like petulant children, Jesus used an example of a child to illustrate what was most important. . . . the least, the servant, the most vulnerable, the one who was open to learn and grow. He was inviting them . . . . and us into his topsy-turvy world.
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