“‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.’
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.”
I don’t think we can blame the disciples for their reaction. How would you or I react to someone we follow and admire saying something to us that is this shocking. Jesus is prophesying something that would completely upend the lives of His disciples and they just don’t know how to respond.
Looking back, we can see that Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection did not come out of nowhere. Passages in the Old Testament, such as the one from our first reading today and last week, foretold that the Messiah would allow Himself to be handed over to those who would harm Him. He would surrender Himself to death and God would raise Him up.
It’s one thing read about those prophecies - it’s completely different when your friend and master makes the prediction about Himself. So, the disciples sort of just keep quiet and continue on the journey.
How could it be possible that the one who was meant to be God’s chosen one would die? He is meant to be powerful, to right what is wrong and deliver the chosen people - not suffer death. Even the idea of rising from the dead wouldn’t seem like much of a consolation. That’s something that could only be appreciated when they had witnessed that it was real.
And so, as they finished the journey to Capernaum, they began speaking about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus must have been walking on His own because the disciples think he didn’t hear the conversation.
Jesus’ response to their thoughts of power and prestige also teach us about his suffering and death: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
The word that is used for servant here is the same Greek root that we use for the word “deacon.” Think about the origin of the diaconate. The apostles spent their time preaching the Gospel; it was the job of the deacons to humbly serve - especially to serve the poor, widows, and orphans.
Jesus came to serve the poor as well - us. We are sinful and often separate ourselves from God by putting ourselves first. We can’t overcome our sinfulness on our own, so Jesus took all that upon Himself and went to the cross.
As Christians who, through our baptisms, are joined to that sacrifice, we are called to live that kind of life. It should be our aim to be people of humble service, people who will sacrifice our comfort for the sake of someone else, to receive people with love even when there is no benefit to us.
Jesus uses the example of a child - someone who doesn’t have money or power. Someone who needs to be taken care of. That is who we are to the Lord. He gives us everything purely as a gift. Now He calls us to have hearts like His - not to be constantly looking for whatever will get us ahead, but to lay everything down.
To live a life on the cross.