Screen capture of Mark 9:18-32 in the Codex Sinaiticus.
Many experts on the Gospel according to Mark note that near the middle of the book is a pivotal set of teachings from Jesus.
In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus cures the blind man at Bethsaida
This is followed (verse 27) by Jesus asking the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Peter replies (verse 29), “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus then on three occasions teaches them about his death and resurrection.
Mark 8:31, Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Mark 9:31, The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.
Mark 10:33-34, See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.
This section is closed out with the healing of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) and Mark 11 begins to describe the final week of Jesus in Jerusalem that culminate in his death and resurrection.
As you can see the heart of this section and the very middle of Mark is the three teachings of Jesus about his death and resurrection. And just as the kingdom of God parables were about small and slow things, the disciple’s expectations are again turned upside down in this case by Jesus predicting his death and resurrection.
If you look at what follows after each time Jesus announces his death and resurrection, Mark recounts how the disciples did not understand.
After Mark 8:31, we find verses 32-33:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
After Mark 9:31, we find verses 32-37:
But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
After Mark 10:33-34, we find verses 35-45:
James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
The Gospel of Mark begins with Mark 1:1, the beginning of the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ. Jesus begins in Mark 1:14-15, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news (gospel) of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news (gospel).
The good news is that the kingdom of God is here! Jesus is the king!!
The disciples like this but they don’t understand that the central part of this truth is that Jesus must suffer and die. Like Peter they have set their minds of their own agenda not God’s plans. Their hearts are set on their own greatness and glory not on servanthood and welcoming the powerless. The “kingdom of God” they have inside their heads is not the same as what Jesus is proclaiming. And of course, they dislike the whole suffering, being rejected and dying part and overlook the resurrection part.
If you are helping to organize small group Bible studies or a Sunday school teaching series, consider Mark 8:22 to Mark 10:52. If possible consider going through the whole Gospel according to Mark. But certainly within Mark 8:22 to Mark 10:52 there is much potent teaching on what it means to be a follower of Jesus!