Incline my heart to your statutes, Lord, and not to selfish gain. Open my eyes that I may see and behold beautiful things in your law. Unite my heart to fear your name. And satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love…
Tonight’s passage is quite short—just three verses. But there is tremendous, poignant truth in them. So read Mark 9:30-32 a few times, noting where they are, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it.
They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.
(Mark 9:30-32 ESV)
Jesus and his disciples are in transit, and Jesus doesn’t want the public to know where they are. Why? “For he was teaching his disciples…” What was he teaching them? Possibly the most important thing they would ever know: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” Now was not the time to be interrupted. Even though “they did not understand him,” Jesus was determined to communicate this to them.
This is the core, fundamental message for followers of Christ: that Jesus died, and that he rose again. The apostle Paul says that this aspect of the Christian story is absolutely essential to everything else:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve… Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-14 ESV)
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Wow! The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, and that he was raised from the dead. In this truth, everything about God is fulfilled: that he loved the world so much that he sent his only son, so that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have eternal life; that God provided a perfect lamb to be the sacrifice for sin that we could never possibly offer; that in his resurrection, Jesus conquered death once and for all—and he invites us to share in that resurrection power, beginning now.
This was the single most important thing Jesus had to tell his disciples, and he wanted to make sure he said it without interruption.
Of course, they didn’t get it. “They did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” I am quite comforted by this, actually. Jesus spoke very plainly to his disciples, and they didn’t get it. I don’t blame them! What a hard message to hear! And nearly impossible to understand, until they had walked through it—until they had lived it.
So much of my spiritual journey has been like that. I read things in scripture, or I am taught things, but until I live it, I don’t really know it. I don’t understand! For years, I had heard about Jesus as “redeemer”—but I didn’t understand what that meant until I experienced it. Same goes for grace, love, hope, mercy, the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance… these are thing you cannot know until you know.
Yet Jesus said it. And while they didn’t get it at the time, once the events took place, they remembered. The truth had been planted, and it bore fruit later.
That is my hope for all of the things I still don’t “get.” That the truth of scripture, the truth about who God is, is planted deep within me. And when the time comes that I really need to know it, I will.
Do you get frustrated when you tell people things that they obviously don’t get? You’re in good company. Jesus patiently taught—and re-taught—his most important messages, and still his disciples took a while to catch on. Don’t grow weary. Trust that if you are faithful to sow the seeds of truth, when push comes to shove and things fall apart, the truth that is planted somewhere deep will begin to emerge, and will bear much fruit. Good, good fruit.