“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)
THEY HAVE EYES BUT CAN’T SEE
The heading of this portion of Scripture is ‘Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection.’ This is not a rare occasion where Jesus informs His disciples quite plainly His plan to be handed over to the Romans and be crucified. One chapter before, Mark records in 8 verses Jesus’ plan to be handed over to evil men, tried and executed and ultimately rise again on the third day. The disciples shouldn’t be surprised or confused in Mark 9, but they are.
I often want to give the disciples the benefit of the doubt because honestly if I were in their shoes, I probably wouldn’t respond any better. In this small portion of Scripture, Jesus is extremely clear on what is going to happen. It isn’t simply that Jesus is going to be handed over, Jesus says, “and they will kill him…after three days He will rise.” After Jesus plainly tells them, they respond, “But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”
Perhaps the disciples couldn’t understand due to the lack of faith. Perhaps the disciples couldn’t understand because of their perception of who the Messiah should be and what He should do. After all, shouldn’t the Messiah reign forever? Surely the prophet Isaiah wrote:
“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”
How does Jesus’ teaching on being handed over to be executed by the Romans fit with the prophecy of Isaiah 9? The disciples didn’t have the categories or the framework to hear Jesus’ words. We could speculate maybe that the disciples didn’t want to hear about His plan to die on the Cross. After all, they left careers, family, security and safety for this man and now He is talking about being killed. Of course they don’t want to believe this. They have staked their hopes on this man and He is talking like a crazy man.
WHY DO WE SEE
What the disciples knew in part, we know in full, to an extent. We view the Scriptures now through the lens of the Cross and the Empty Tomb. We know that there is no forgiveness outside of these two things. We know there is no pardon from sin, cleansing from guilt and imputed righteousness without the Cross and Resurrection. So, as we look at the Scriptures though these lens, we seem to look down upon the disciples for not seeing it. This should not be so though.
Jesus declares in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Therefore, the only reason we can see the Gospel and the forgiviness that Jesus offers us is because the Holy Spirit has regenerated our hearts and given us eyes to see and ears to hear the good news of the Gospel. Without the regenerating work of the Spirit, we would respond as Jesus’ family responds in Mark 3:21, “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.””
We rejoice though that we see Jesus as all glorious and all supreme because God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). As we quickly approach the Easter season, where we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection, let us be ever humbled to the realization that it is God who gives us this light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We rejoice that we can see the Kingdom of God because we have been born again by the Sprit of God. And we rejoice that we do not respond like the disciples do, but we respond with awe, gratitude and thankfulness to Jesus who bore our punishment and rose again, proclaiming victory over sin and death.