Suppose for a minute you were at a funeral. It was now the part of the service where a close relative was called up to the podium to give a remembrance on behalf of the family. What if that person got up and said something like this…our departed loved one was a great guy, but now he’s gone. And if you’re like me, you wonder where has he left all his money? I mean we all know this guy was filthy rich so I have to wonder who did he leave his money to? I hope it’s me. I’ve been the greatest of his relatives throughout his life…Would you feel a little strange if that was going on at a funeral you were attending?
Well, consider our text. Jesus is with his disciples in the Galilee region and they are talking together. Jesus specifically brings up the coming crucifixion that he must endure. He tells them he will be killed, and that he will rise again after three days (Mark 9:31). Now, this pronouncement is not lacking in specificity or clarity. Jesus tells them straight up what is going happening. But strangely enough, Mark says the disciples do not understand the saying.
Now, I must interject here and ask; what did they not understand? It seems so obvious, so clear! But, we forget something. We have the advantage of the historical record of Jesus death, burial and resurrection. We have the benefit of hindsight. But the disciples didn’t. To add to all of that, the disciples were deeply committed to an interpretation of the Messiah’s coming that didn’t allow for suffering like Jesus was talking about. This disciples knew Jesus was in earnest, and that it sure sounded bad (Matt 17:23), but they did not see all that he was telling them. Now, in Luke 9:45 we are told that this blindness was actually divine. The disciples didn’t get all the details because they couldn’t see it. It wasn’t just that they didn’t see it, or even that they wouldn’t see it. It was that they couldn’t. Perhaps if they had known the full details, they might not have let Jesus go through with it. We have already seen that kind of response from Peter in Mark 8:31 remember?
Upon reaching their destination, Jesus is inquisitive as to the content of the conversations that were taking place when he was walking with them, but not in earshot of their conversations (hard to walk and talk in a group of 13).
Nobody wants to answer (v.34). And little wonder. Their silence betrays their guilt. Turns out they were busily discussing who would be the greatest in the kingdom (v.34b). Imagine. In the presence of Jesus, who is teaching about his coming death and resurrection, the disciples are talking about who would be greatest in the kingdom. It’s like giving a eulogy at a funeral and talking about the inheritance that you hope to receive now that the deceased is finally gone. It is inconsistent with the purpose of what is being taught. How often are we like this? In the presence of Jesus, the one who died for sin, we shrug off sin as no big deal. Think of how inappropriate that is. If Jesus suffered and died for it, then do not do it! (1 Peter 3:18).