The Gospel of Mark hurtles towards its climactic end as Jesus of Nazareth enters the holy city of Jerusalem in the eleventh chapter. For most of the story, Jesus has been preaching and demonstrating the Kingdom of God to crowds of working class farmers, tradesmen, and laborers in rural Galilee. Now, at the center of the Jewish world, he is confronted by the social elite—and they have some questions for him. But their questions reveal more about who they are than they do about Jesus.

The chief priests ask Jesus who’s political and religious authority he is representing. [1]

The Pharisees and Herodians ask him about Roman occupation and Jewish liberation. [2]

The Sadducees ask him about the politics of his theology. [3]

Each of these groups represented a slice of a tenuously balanced power spectrum in Jewish religious and political life. But these questions go beyond an attempt to locate Jesus on this spectrum or as a defense of the territory each group occupied. Rather, these questions, though representing wildly different social and political perspectives, are unified in their assumption of, and the perpetuation of, the entire power structure itself.

In other words, whether from the far left, the far right, or the middle of the road, these questions aim to assume and protect the status quo of power.

For the modern reader it is ironic that for someone who has been speaking exclusively about a divine Kingdom, Jesus would be confronted with these types of questions. But beyond the fact that most first-century adherents of Judaism executive the divine Kingdom to look awfully close to a contemporary empire, it’s almost as if we humans have extreme difficulty in not cramming the promised Kingdom into the social and political spaces we already know. Even in our attempts to understand it, our questions betray our true lack of imagination.

Even Jesus’ disciples were not immune to this. Just a few vignettes before, James and John ask Jesus for favorable political appointments on their very way to Jerusalem. [4]

Perhaps that is why the author immediately includes the story of Bartimaeus thereafter—a blind man recognizing his blindness, asking Jesus for mercy. While others attempted to silence him out of annoyance, embarrassment, or their own sense of shame, he went on loudly shouting “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.” [5]

Interestingly, Jesus responds to the man, Bartimaeus, just as he did his disciples: “What do you want me to do for you?”

But in his acknowledgement of his blindness, Jesus gives him sight.

While the questions of the religious leaders and the disciples reveal their lack of imagination, this man confesses it.

In a world filled with so many questions, this simple confession, and its result, is remarkable. That it appears in a Gospel with other startling confessions—“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”—is all the more a reminder that though our questions betray us, our confessions will save us.

We are lost, Lord. Help us find our way.

[1] Mark 11: 27-28
[2] Mark 12:13-15
[3] Mark 12:18-23
[4] Mark 10:35-45
[5] Mark 10:46-52