He Was Teaching His Disciples
Key Verse 9:31b
“He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’”
“Everything is possible for him who believes”— It’s what Jesus challenged a father to believe about his son’s healing. Jesus was also challenging his disciples to believe. They were remarkable words of faith— the kind of faith that leads to life and blessing. When Jesus teaches us something new, we should listen and practice, not just deposit it in our Bible verse memory bank. Knowing or memorizing Scripture is good, but unless we live it, we won’t be able to experience the full measure of the power of God working in and through our lives.
After the incident of the healing of the boy with an evil spirit, there was something on Jesus’ mind. Read verses 30,31. “They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’” At the time, Jesus was on the final leg of his earthly journey. He was now going to Jerusalem where he would suffer and die on the cross for our sins.
But, as much as we know this truth, and accept it as the way of forgiveness and of life, there is something else that we ought to think about once in a while. We should know how difficult it was for Jesus to do what he eventually did. We should not know that it wasn’t easy for Jesus to make this final leg of the journey to Jerusalem— in order to surrender his life to all the sinfulness of humanity. Who among us, knowing that we would soon die at the hand of evil people, would not change his course? Anywhere but Jerusalem! But Jesus did not change his course. He needed to go to Jerusalem because it was where he would give his life for the sins of the world. That is what was on his mind at this time when took his disciples off somewhere in Galilee in order to talk to them about what will happen when they got to Jerusalem. Ever since he came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, every moment was occupied with what he was about to do— with what will be done to him. That— is beyond our human understanding. What was on his mind was incomparably noble— more noble than any of us could imagine or understand. Jesus wasn’t thinking about skipping out in time of his trouble. He wasn’t thinking of ways to avoid the cross. He wasn’t thinking about some easier goal. What was on his mind was a solid determination to surrender himself to the will of God— even when he knew that the will of God was for him was to suffer and die. And that’s no trivial thing when we consider the base and low thoughts that usually clutter up people’s minds in times of difficulty.
“What are you thinking about?”, the father asked his crooked son after he had rebuked him for something wicked he had done. With angry eyes that shot hatred and defiance to his father, the son said: “I am thinking of when I turn 18 that I can finally get out of here. I’m thinking of how I am going to get even with you someday when I’m finally free of you.” He didn’t understand his father’s love in rebuking him for the wrong things that filled his life. The truth is that in essence he hated to suffer— he hated any kind of discomfort or suffering— even if it came in the form of a loving rebuke. And when he hated suffering, his mind filled up with disrespect and hatred for his father. And this kind of thing happens all the time! It happens when someone avoids the necessary suffering of life.
The sinful nature would have us avoid suffering as the smart thing to do, and if we are shallow and ignoble in our mind and heart, we fall for that. Suffering is offensive to those who are self righteous. It seems unnecessary to those who are practical and clever. But when a person avoids and rejects the necessary sufferings in life, they become ignoble of mind and heart. But there is nothing noble about the person whose mind finds ways to avoid the necessary suffering. Suffering is the crucible of a maturity and the way of growing in the image of God. It’s what the Bible teaches us. And suffering does not necessarily come from the persecution but suffering comes from what the will of God for us is. I want to go this way, but God wants me to go another. We suffer through obedience. God would have me sort out my spiritual life through repentance and spiritual exercise. So we suffer to humble ourselves and to learn how to accept such things as necessary for our spiritual growth. The greatest suffering is not from the opposition we receive as Christians living the Christian life, but from subjecting the sinful nature to the working of the holy spirit, who wants to mold us into Christ like people. My sinful nature wants something, but the lord wants another. It’s necessary suffering. So I must suffer to obey what God had prepared for me to go through for his glory. And that is what Jesus did— what we could not do— to obey the will of God for him even in suffering. He did not find ways to avoid it. He was ready to face whatever necessary suffering God had willed for him. He would suffer and sacrifice his life because it was the way of salvation for us all.
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus wanted to share this with his disciples. He wanted to teach them what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem. He wanted them to listen to him, understand the necessity of his sacrifice, and how urgent his mission was for their own good. He wanted them to consider what he was saying about his own suffering, death and resurrection— and he wanted them to see it with spiritual eyes— with eyes that can see beyond what the world can see. For example, the world considers suffering and pain as absolutely unnecessary and therefore, they must be removed at any cost. We can understand this. An effort to ease the suffering and pain of a patient is what doctors are sworn to do. But not all suffering and pain are unnecessary. One does not ease the pain of a child suffering because he or she did not get what they want. Whatever pain or suffering that child is going through is important so that the child might learn right from wrong, and understand the necessity of self discipline. But when the worldly idea to remove any kind of suffering is exercised, what happens is we end up with a generation of undisciplined and selfish people who can think of nothing more than themselves and their own comfort and benefit. Where is courage and bravery in all this? There are none. Simply because people measure suffering by the human standards. But Jesus wanted his disciples to consider what he saying about his own suffering and death, because even though it would seem as if he would be losing— in fact he would gain. The world would gain. Men and women would gain. This selfless act of our Lord— in the spiritual standard of things— was the very thing that saved the world. It was true heroism and courage at its best. It is also known as sacrifice.
Jesus wanted his disciples to embrace his own suffering, death and ultimate resurrection as the doorway to life eternal and to the kingdom of God. It would also be a doorway to a higher level of human existence. Through Jesus’ act of sacrifice and suffering, his disciples (and all who believe in this gospel) would finally be free to be all that God had intended them to be—noble human beings after Jesus’ image. If they understood the purpose of his suffering, if they accepted his sacrifice, they would cross over from death to life— they would rise above themselves and eventually live the life Jesus had called them to live. In time they would also surrender to whatever necessary suffering God has for them, and give themselves to it, that God may be glorified and others may have life as well. And no one can do that unless they have deeply accepted the suffering of the lord for him or her. I cannot suffer for God nor for anyone else. I do not have it within me to suffer. My sinful nature resists suffering. My nature compels me to take care of myself first, to do what I want to do to do, to find the easy way, and to enjoy life. I cannot do what God wants me to do on my own. But if I understand the Lord’s sacrifice, and accept what Jesus suffered for me— that he willingly suffered for my sins— when I accept that personally in my life— then a transformation happens within me, and the Holy Spirit guides me to surrender to the will of God in my life— which sometimes involves suffering and sacrifice.
When I understand his suffering, for me, for the world, and when I accept it as necessary, my heart begins to change, and I want to know him better, and I want to be like him. And in knowing him, I also want to suffer with him for the glory of God. Jesus’ disciples, if anything, wanted to be like Jesus and to do what he did— for he was indeed their hero. Heroes today are mostly composed of those who have done something great for themselves. Worldly heroes become so when they give their lives to promote their own fame and fortune. How many suffered in the course of one man or woman climbing the ladder of success. What price did they pay in becoming worldly heroes— family— children— friends! They are no heroes. They are for the most part people sick with selfishness who got what they wanted. But when the disciples wanted to be like Jesus, their hero— he was a different kind of hero. They had seen his sacrifice and his love for them and for others. But what this hero was about to do now had nothing to do with selfishness. It had everything to do with serving God and serving the needs of others. Eventually when the disciples wanted to be like Jesus and share in his suffering, they would remember that he gave his life for them and for others.
We are the others! We are the needy ones whose eternal life and destiny were at stake. Human beings are needy. Our need exceeds bread and water and shelter, and certainly our need exceeds our desire for fame and fortune. we need life. we need God’s life. we need eternal life. Without God’s life we have nothing. we may have what we want in this world, but without God’s life we have and are nothing. So One Hero Jesus was ready to give his life to fill our real need, eternal life and the kingdom of God. Surely, he is the One and Only Hero, and there is no other. Surely, Jesus is amazing to offer his life in serving the will of God and the need of others of whom we belong. The world may have its heroes. But for the Christian, there can be no Hero but our Lord Jesus who gave his life that you and I might live. Surely, Jesus also wanted his disciples to be God’s heroes. He wanted them to look beyond the world and its standards and look at God and his standards. They could do so if they listened to his words from their hearts, accepted his suffering, and made it their own.
Now this is true heroism. A man or woman do not become heroes if they do something for themselves. They becomes heroes when they do something for God and for others. We live in a time of decadence of heart and mind. It is hard to inspire others to follow God. It is harder to convince others of what Jesus had done in order to rescue them. It is hard to convince them to close their eyes to what standards the world has imposed and to begin to embrace the standards of God. But this generation is not alone in this. Jesus must have had the same trouble in his generation. On many occasions Jesus stopped to tell his disciples of his suffering, death and resurrection. Many times they did not understand what he was saying. Many times they did not want to understand what he was saying. But Jesus still tried his best to instill in them God’s standard. He tried to teach them the truth that unless he suffers, there can be no forgiveness nor life for them nor for the world. He tried to teach them the truth that unless they accept his suffering and death for them, they can have no life in them. Jesus also tried to teach them that they too must be heroes of their generation and of future generations. To be such heroes, believe in Jesus and what he will do in suffering death and resurrection. Read verses 30,31. “They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.’” It was Jesus’ most serious teaching to his disciples.
Read verse 32. “But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” The world needed Jesus to sacrifice himself for the life of sinful men. And Jesus was willing to do so. Now Jesus also knew that the world would need many who would give their lives to serve the gospel message. So Jesus taught them and taught them time and again so that one day this truth may become the foundation of their faith. This, we too much accept. And then put into practice by teaching the gospel of Jesus dearth and resurrection to everyone. In our turn, and by his grace, if suffering and sacrifice are required, we should not avoid it, but accept it and let the Holy Spirit work in us until we do so by the will of God and for his gospel.