The Last Shall Be First
This story in Mark is not just another story about Jesus healing a blind man. It’s actually the end of a literary style of writing known as an inclusio. An inclusio is a literary device used by the author of Mark to draw the reader’s attention to something much deeper. It’s like a story within a story.
We can imagine an inclusio as a kind of sandwich or bookends. The outside of the sandwich are the buns or the bread, and the bread of the story begins in Mark 8:22-26; here is also a story of Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida. The end of the sandwich is our verse in Mark 10:46-52. The middle of the sandwich is where the author of Mark wants you to pay attention to in regard to the bookends or buns of the story; the healing of two blind men.
The first story of the blind man in Bethsaida depicts a man who is not able to be healed of his blindness right away. Jesus attempts to heal him, but the man replies that his vision is still cloudy and he is not fully able to see. After a second time the man is able to see fully.
In contrast, the man, Bartimaeus, in Mark 10, is healed immediately from his blindness due to his incredible faith. Unfortunately, the author is using ableist language to project equating lack of or inability to understand Jesus’ true identity to being blind. First, please don’t kill the messenger. I am simply relaying what the author intends to do and the author is writing from a first century, ancient perspective.
The use of these two stories is quite intentional in showing Jesus’ disciples’ lack of clear understanding of who Jesus is. It is also used to show that people of privilege and status are often the ones who misunderstand who Jesus is the most.
In an unexpected reversal, Jesus’ identity is actually the most clear to those in the “lowest” positions culturally and by sociological standards: the poor, those afflicted with afirmities, women, widows, children, etc., etc. Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God and the Davidic Messiah predicted to come in the Hebrew Bible is oddly not as identifiable by those closest to him, those in social positions of status, and even people who are technically the most obedient to Torah Law standards.
Take a look at the meat of the sandwich and see the stories of the disciples misunderstandings, their demands for power and glory, rich men unwilling to sacrifice their possessions to follow Jesus, and Pharisees who condemn Jesus for his actions.
In contrast, look at the people who easily receive blessing, healing, and love from Jesus. They are the kind of people who would be considered “deplorables” and the “marginalized” in that specific society.
The main point for the reader to understand is to beware if you are in a position of privilege (male, white, heteronormative, Christian, etc). These are all of the kinds of people who thought they understood who Jesus was and his purpose, but they do not fully.
In contrast, be overjoyed if you are despised, if you are marginalized, if you are LGBTQ+, if you are a POC, if you are afflicted, if you are suffering, or oppressed; because Jesus prioritizes these communities. His blessings are not only more accessible by folks in these positions, Jesus actually holds you in a special seat of honor and blessing.
We know this is true because just before our verse selection, Christ states, “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” (Mark 10:43-45).
Jesus came for you, the marginalized among us, to bless you, and to lavish you with love, peace, grace, and blessing. The God of all creation came to humanity in the flesh to serve you and to love you. Rejoice, beloved in your position before God.
A side note of blessing to our Trans family: I give a story about the chrysalis before it becomes a butterfly. In nature, the caterpillar disintegrates and its old body disintegrates and from that substance of death is a resurrection of life into a new body; the butterfly.
Many of us have much to learn from you because you have undergone or are undergoing a transformation that most of us truly fear to do inside of ourselves and inside of our own hearts. A transformation that we all must undergo in some form or another. In all of us, there is something that must shift, or be made new, in order for our own resurrections to occur and in order to manifest into new and flourishing lives. Many people in positions of authority and power fail in loving you properly and in understanding you the way you deserve to be understood. Just as Jesus was misunderstood by many, so is a large part of our LGBTQ+ family and we deeply grieve this.
Without a kind of death or change, no resurrection may occur in any of us. This is true of Christ and true of all of us. Our Trans family are light years ahead of many in this world and spiritual journey, in their understanding of full freedom and flourishing.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories with us and for being an integral part of God’s family and our family. We support you, we love you, and you are wholly and fully beloved by God.
Grace and peace,
Co-Executive Director, Brave Commons