September 21: wisdom from above. (Living The Word).
James' letter is so focused on ethical conduct that it is considered more of an exhortation, whose form and content echoes the tradition of Jewish wisdom literature. Here, the focus is "wisdom from above." Such wisdom is "pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy" (James 3:17). On the other hand, "bitter envy and selfish ambition" does not come from above, "but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish" (James 3:15). If only Jesus' disciples had access to this text, perhaps they would have been spared exemplifying the worst of "earthly, unspiritual, and devilish" behavior for the rest of us Christians. But they didn't, and Mark recorded their actions for all to see. The least we can do is learn from their mistakes and avoid doing the same.
In the typical pattern of Mark, Jesus' second prediction of the passion is followed by a particularly embarrassing example of just how completely the disciples fail to "get it." Peter himself responded "devilishly" when he rebuked Jesus after the first prediction ("Get behind me, Satan!"); following the second prediction, all of the disciples manage to demonstrate both envy and selfish ambition. After Jesus' prediction and still clueless because "they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him" (Mark 9:32), the disciples devote their energies to arguing who among them is the greatest. Jesus, with seemingly endless patience, tries to convey the message more clearly: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all" (Mark 9:35).
While the disciples could have been that clueless, we must wonder why Mark has placed this same pattern of ignorance after each prediction. In the end, his idea of the perfect disciple is not among the 12 at all, but a blind beggar (Mark 10:46-52). The disciples are blinded by their own agendas and cannot see what lies before them. Mark reminds us that proximity to power and privilege is not always an asset; it is from last place that we can see most clearly.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2003|
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