"The night is darkest just before the dawn". A recent Hollywood blockbuster shared this cheesy line to suggest that the bleakest moment is just before everything gets resolved. The night is darkest, most depressing, most hopeless, just before everything gets sorted out. This certainly rings true in Mark, as we find ourselves at the end of another section (Mark 10:32-52) with a deepening awareness of the problem.
Once again Jesus set out His example of facing suffering and death, and then rising again, as the pattern of discipleship. Once again, the disciples failed to understand; they seemed to appreciate that glory was in the future, but had completely ignored the ‘losing your life now' part. Jesus' response showed them that losing your life means real suffering now - even following His example of a gruesome death. He also reminded them that losing your life means being the servant of all - a complete culture shock compared to society's striving after authority and power.
And so the ‘night is darkest' - we see the disciples still failing to understand, and the standard for discipleship at its very hardest. Even if they did understand, the disciples were unable to meet God's standard, irredeemably trapped in sin.
And then ‘the dawn'. Mark shows us the great solution coming from Jesus. The Son of Man, whose example they were called to follow, also came ‘to give his life as a ransom for many' (10:45). They were redeemed by Jesus, the penalty for their sin paid. And to show with great clarity the healing of their failure to understand (their ‘spiritual blindness'), Mark uses another miracle to show a physical picture of the spiritual reality. Jesus' miraculous gift of sight to Bartimaeus was an event that Mark uses to picture what Jesus offered to the disciples, healing their blindness to his teaching.
But Mark's structure shows us even more, and allows us to use the Copycat tool - a dangerous tool if used in the wrong way, but extremely helpful when that's what Mark wants us to do. The repeated offer from Jesus ("What do you want me to do for you?", v36 and v51) shows us we are supposed to compare Bartimaeus with the disciples. Who are you going to be like? Those seeking after glory and honour, or the dependent one who recognises Jesus' identity, calls for mercy, receives Jesus' salvation, and follows Him?
Questions to ponder
- What are your expectations of the Christian life? How has Mark 8-10 changed or developed your view?
- What is our attitude to Jesus and discipleship? How do we compare to the disciples and Bartimaeus?
- What makes Bartimaeus' example a ‘model' response? What would that look like for you?