Jesus Short Circuits the Disciples’ Minds

Free stock image of Mosaic of Vineyards and Olive Tree Groves - Douro Valley created by Jack Moreh
Jack Moreh

Proverbs 31:10-31

Psalm 1

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Mark 9:30-37

30-32 Then they left that district and went straight through Galilee. Jesus kept this journey secret for he was teaching his disciples that the Son of Man would be betrayed into the power of men, that they would kill him and that three days after his death he would rise again. But they were completely mystified by this saying, and were afraid to question him about itPhillips

These two verses are packed with information as well as the clear statement that is the basis of Christianity.

First, we learn that Jesus and his disciples—likely only the Twelve—were able to walk through Galilee, their home territory, without anyone knowing they were there. Once you understand the geography of Galilee, it is difficult to imagine 13 men walking around without being noticed. The photo above is a fair representation of the whole region in that time. Unlike today, people worked their crops nearly every day. It was all hand labor.

Second, Jesus had no misgivings about leaving thousands unhealed and untaught. His time on earth was limited and he had other things to do. Perhaps the second most important job Jesus had was to get his disciples ready to take over when he was gone. I could be argued to be job one. Considering how thick-headed they all seemed to be, that was a full-time job.

Third, we are told that Jesus wanted time with the Twelve for special instruction that was not intended for everyone—yet. Mark gives us a bare bones outline of what was perhaps a week as well as a skimpy teaching report. Matthew repeats this in nearly the same words. Luke does add more detail about what the Twelve were thinking. 45 But they didn’t understand what he meant by this. It had been concealed from them so that they would not grasp its meaning, and they were afraid to ask him about itCJB

We read this kind of thing throughout the Bible, giving us the idea that God does not want us to understand. In fact, the understanding comes later. First, they must get the idea, then when the resurrection happens, the disciples can begin to piece the teachings together. They do that in a shared setting where the disciples—the larger group—talk it out until they are ready at Pentecost for the full picture to fill their minds with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Consider this statement: the Son of Man would be betrayed into the power of men. Jesus did not suggest that one of his own would betray him. This early in the ministry, he may not have known that it would be one of the Twelve. We know two things about Jesus; he received from God everything he needed when he needed it; and he had a human body with a human brain that could not hold unlimited information.

If God told Jesus, ‘Pick Judas from Iscariot because he will betray you at the end,’ how difficult would that have been for Jesus day after day? I do believe God gave Jesus what he needed, and it could be that Jesus needed to love on Judas as compensation. That goes on my long list of questions for God/Son when I sit at the banquet table in the New Jerusalem.

Notice also that Jesus was to be turned over to humans. You and I might have joined the crowd that turned against Jesus. Clearly, Jesus does not blame either Jews or Romans; he blames us.

33 So they came to Capernaum. And when they were indoors he asked them, “What were you discussing as we came along?” 34-35 They were silent, for on the way they had been arguing about who should be the greatest. Jesus sat down and called the twelve, and said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.” 36-37 Then he took a little child and stood him in front of them all, and putting his arms round him, said to them, “Anyone who welcomes one little child like this for my sake is welcoming me. And the man who welcomes me is welcoming not only me but the one who sent me!” Phillips

Capernaum was the base of operation for Jesus and his followers. Phillips chose not to specify that they entered a house, we assume the house where Jesus—at least—lived when they were in the town. Likely it was the home of Peter who moved his family there from Bethsaida.

We can only speculate about the living arrangements of Jesus before his baptism, but some think he may have been living there, perhaps for years, preparing himself for his ministry. If so, the house could have been his. Again, is so, perhaps Mary moved there to be closer to him. This has large question marks?

The tradition throughout the Roman world of the day—but based on Greek tradition—when a teacher was traveling with his students, even walking a few meters, no student would dare walk beside the teacher unless invited to do so. We then should see Jesus striding along with the disciples strung out behind. No doubt, the discussion got a little heated and Jesus overheard enough to know what was going on. God did not have to tell him about it.

‘So….boys, what’s up?’

I would guess by then they knew Jesus had eyes and ears everywhere, but they still were not willing to confess to such teenage behavior. (It is hard for us to remember that they were mostly under age 25—best guess.)

Jesus takes a seat, a signal that the lesson was about to come. The students always stood. “If any man wants to be first, he must be last and servant of all.” Mark repeats this message at 10:45 in response to John and James’ request that they sit on either side of Jesus in Heaven. No, whoever among you wants to be great must become the servant of you all, and if he wants to be first among you he must be the slave of all men! For the Son of Man himself has not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life to set many others freePhillips

John gives us the ultimate repeat of the message in John 13:3-5.  By supper-time, the devil had already put the thought of betraying Jesus in the mind of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. Jesus, with the full knowledge that the Father had put everything into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the supper-table, took off his outer clothes, picked up a towel and fastened it round his waist. Then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel around his waistPhillips

Most of the disciples dressed like their master, that is, wearing a long robe over undergarments. They did not have to aske if it was boxers or briefs. The loins were girded with a cloth not unlike a diaper. Over that they wear a tunic which was like an extra-long tee shirt that covered the chest and groin. Men doing labor generally wore only the tunic. Ladies avert your eyes.

Jesus striped down to his tunic, just like household slaves, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, just like a household slave. Can the image of being a Christian be any clearer?

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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