I am not a fan of the phrase “servant leaders.” I think it’s a cop out phrase in large part. Just serve. If people notice and follow in that path, then you’ve led in some way. Just not the way that people who throw out the phrase “servant leader” meant to say “lead.”
In the middle of Mark’s Gospel is this constant reminder to the disciples that Jesus was going to go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and resurrect. In their world of power and liberation none of that made sense. No Messiah is coming to suffer. Period. Die? Ha! And by the way, what IS resurrection?
No. Messiah is coming to crush the enemy and make them suffer. This was their worldview.
So, Jesus constantly doing silly things like putting a child in their midst and saying to become like that was not sinking into their thick brains. No one wants the marginalized life of a child! Children didn’t get names until they were two years old! Children didn’t get doted on in their day. Become like a child? Get a life!
A rich man comes to ask what is needed for eternal life and Jesus insults the guy by telling him to go and sell all he has and give it to the poor! Jesus is stumped as to how the rich will make it into the kingdom, which just flattens the disciples! In their world, the rich were IN.
And, it turns out in our world, we aren’t far off in any of these scenarios. American Christians love power and influence. Too often, we’re jostling for position and exposure to larger audiences. James and John are looking to get a leg up on the seating assignments in the Kingdom. We are not too different.
And Jesus’ constant call: SERVE. Be like children. Be simple. Not noticed. Not applauded. Not doted on. Not praised in the crowds. Not sitting in the seats of prominence.
The middle of Mark is filled with three times Jesus warns his disciples of what is ahead and three times the disciples miss it badly. The opening to that section is the healing of a blind man. The closing of the section is the healing of a blind man. Mark is letting the reader know that the disciples were pretty thick headed. The warning also comes to the reader: Know you are indeed blind and, like Bartimaues, beg to be healed.