We’ve all seen Disney princess movies. We’ve all heard fairytales. Most of us have watched The Crown on Netflix. I haven’t watched The Princess Diaries, but I’m sure many of you will have. These all, invariably, involve kingdoms. All of these give us the same image of what a kingdom is meant to be like. It is run on opulence and grandeur: huge castles, giant banquets, gold, jewels, tiaras, big ball gowns, sashes, ceremonies. There are those in power; those who want power. There are the heroes, who get elevated to celebrity status, often with a whole fanfare and parade afterwards. Don’t forget the glitzy weddings, where anybody who is anybody attends.
However, the Kingdom that Jesus presents in Mark 10 is radically different. The only problem is that the disciples and other people who desire to follow Jesus haven’t realised this yet. The rich man is still consumed by ideas of worldly wealth, security and trappings. James and John want status and recognition. Jesus says outright that the kingdom is not for those who desire wealth, status, image, authority or power. It is for the least, for the humble, for those that give these things up.
The passages of the rich man who cannot let go of his possessions and the squabbles of James and John are ins stark contrast to Jesus’ prediction of his death and the attitude of Bartimaeus. Jesus is going to be handed over to be mocked, tortured and killed. He will be spat on, accused and executed. It is not a life of glitz and glamor. It is messy, painful, dirty, tragic, horrific. But in that, Jesus says that he will rise again. In submitting yourself to the pain, hardships, humiliation, Jesus gives us the power to rise in the midst of it.
Bartimaeus, a blind man, also has the right attitude. Rather than asking Jesus to exalt him and to give him status, he just asks for mercy. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” he cries. In our humility, we should all recognise our weakness and our vulnerability and our need for Jesus’ mercy. And in asking for this, he will show grace and kindness. We need to realise our spiritual blindness and our need for spiritual sight.
So, if you think the kingdom of God is about power and popularity, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, it is a kingdom of refugees all seeking mercy from the divine saviour. This is the kingdom into which you are all invited.