“For He taught His disciples and said to them, ‘The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.’ But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.” Mark 9:31-32
Jesus’ time with his disciples is growing shorter by the day. So Jesus has asked them questions that draws from them the confession that he is the promised Messiah, the Son of God. He led Peter, James and John to the top of a mountain and there they witnessed as Jesus was glorified before them, joined by the patriarchs Elijah and Moses, and then they heard God speak words affirming Jesus sonship. Now for the second time Jesus is trying to expand their understanding about how his ministry on earth will end but the disciples are overwhelmed by what he’s telling them and they can’t understand.
As I read the words Mark records in our focus text I wonder what could be so difficult to understand; the words perfectly match what happened to Jesus. There’s nothing symbolic or metaphorical about what Jesus is saying will happen. What was so hard to understand?
Then I remember how long it took me to understand what was going on when my father taught me long division in math class. It took me months and months to get it. Looking back I wonder what the big deal was. Compared to many other mathematical processes, I’ve learned much more quickly, long division is simple. Yet, nevertheless, I wallowed in confusion, no doubt causing my father great frustration, as together we struggled, him to explain and me to understand.
In a short period of time the disciples have come to understand so much. Sometimes new information needs to have time to soak into the brain for knowledge to transition to understanding. But time is running out so Jesus has quietly separated his disciples from the crowds and now they have time to ask him questions but they’re afraid to ask what needs to be asked. So they say nothing.
We do the same thing. If we fear that what needs to be said is disturbing or uncomfortable we don’t ask because we don’t want to hear it.
Friends, if God led his prophets and apostles to write about something in scripture it’s important. And if it’s important enough to be written in the Bible it’s important enough for us to take the time to learn and understand. The same Jesus that has given us the scriptures as our text book and the Holy Spirit as our teacher will also give us whatever strength and comfort we need to carry the knowledge his wisdom has provided. Time for us is also running short. We need to listen and learn.