Passion Prediction

According to Jesus, religious anonymity seems to be the golden rule

Two boys grasping each other and smiling
Photo by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash; licensed under CC0.

February 14, 2024

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Commentary on Mark 9:30-37

In many ways this text shows something deeply profound about the movement in the life of Jesus and has something fundamental for us to ponder.

The text starts with Jesus passing by Galilee, where he had started his ministry. He was well known in that area, so he wanted a more private, silent place to be with his disciples. They had come from a very intense series of events, including the transfiguration, seeing Moses and Elijah. Imagine this group of Jews actually seeing two of their most important figures from the past! No wonder Peter wants to build a tent for them to hang out. A truly remarkable and full experience! Right after that they felt the intensity of a crowd and the remarkable healing of a couple’s son who had been possessed by a bad spirit his entire life. 

Jesus and the disciples really need time to hide and rest. On their way to rest, Jesus tells the disciples again that he is going to die. The Son of Man, the fully human Jesus, was about to face his death and, after three days, be resurrected. The disciples were clueless about what that meant. The whole sequence of recent events was very difficult to understand. What do they do with the event of the transfiguration? They didn’t understand why they didn’t have authority over the spirit of that possessed man and asked Jesus why. Jesus told them something like: “For some things in life, only the deep practice of prayer will get you through” (verse 29). 

They continued clueless in their journey as they engaged in a conversation we all continue to have today: about who is the greatest. When they arrived in Capernaum, Jesus asked them what they were talking about and they got embarrassed. Of course, they were all talking about nonsense.

Well, isn’t this all like a mirror to ourselves? It is very hard to understand the love of God for us. We see God transfiguring glory in our lives, time and again, but we still don’t quite know if it is God’s glory or what to say about it. We live as if very few things mark or transform our spiritual lives. We seem to always stay at a certain level of knowing God, experiencing God, often without expanding our knowledge. In church, we repeat the same troubles, we get hooked on the same concern, we pick nonsense fights and keep plights that should have been left long ago.   

Even in our political life we engage in the same kind of language. Every candidate in the United States, doesn’t matter which party, has to say something about how great this country is. But it only shows our arrogance and emptiness. And when we think we have lost our greatness, we have to make a campaign to be great again. Isn’t that exactly what the disciples were talking about?  

However, there is one aspect of the disciples’ discussion that is a perennial one: the quest for recognition. We all want to be recognized for what we do. We want to be seen, honored, respected. If you are a pastor, you want your church to be grateful to you. If you are a teacher, you want your students or the students’ parents to be grateful to you. If you are a professor, you want to be recognized as a great teacher. If you write a book, you want others to read it and say how wonderful it is. If you engage in church, you want to be noticed for all you do. 

But according to Jesus, religious anonymity seems to be the golden rule. In Matthew 6:3–4 Jesus says: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Right after, in verse 6 Jesus says: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, he shows that the towel is the most important symbol of Christianity. It is not what you do in public but the people you serve. That is the measure of God for us.

In this text, Jesus continues his form of spiritual thinking and teaching by showing a child. The most important person in the kin-dom of God is a child. Children know better; they approach things with a lighter sense of wonder and discovery. It is not about children’s purity, but about the disposition of the heart, the ways to pay attention and care for each other. Those are the ways we gain the kin-dom of God. Often it is those we know nothing about who are the ones to be lifted up by God. Those who have made us come this far without any recognition will be the ones who will sit at Jesus’ left and right. Not us. 

I pray I will become that person. But I am way far from it. Perhaps, to become aware of it might be a way of moving toward that. May God have mercy on us. 












Holy God, on this Ash Wednesday we reflect upon our sin, our failings, and the harms we have caused. Remind us that, although we are dust, we are also your children, and your love never fails. Amen.


Create in me a clean heart, O God    Various
Abide with me   ELW 629, GG 836, H82 662, UMH 700, NCH 99


Create in me a clean heart, O God, Various