Who’s On First

They went through Galilee. He didn’t want anyone to know their whereabouts, for he wanted to teach his disciples. He told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed to some people who want nothing to do with God. They will murder him. Three days after his murder, he will rise, alive.” They didn’t know what he was talking about, but were afraid to ask him about it.

They came to Capernaum. When he was safe at home, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the road?”

The silence was deafening—they had been arguing with one another over who among them was greatest.

He sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”

He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me.” (Mark 9:30-37)

It’s the standard nightmare. You get to school, and not only are you unprepared for the test you didn’t know you were having, you suddenly realize you forgot to ever attend a class. Jesus’ disciples must have felt like that on a regular basis when they were with Jesus.

Jesus tried to teach his disciples what his mission on Earth was all about. But all his talk about death and resurrection made no sense to them. And they were afraid to ask for clarification. Instead, they only wanted to think about what they thought they did understand. Since Jesus was the Messiah, they knew that meant he’d be king. So what sort of position in his kingdom would they, his closest confidants, have? They focused all their energy on that issue, instead of on what it was that Jesus really wanted them to know about.

So Jesus pulled that distraction away. He showed them that what they thought about the kingdom of God was all wrong. Once more, even a topic they thought they understood, became completely confusing.

But they didn’t ask Jesus any questions about his correction, either. Why? Because they preferred their delusions to reality. The disciples failed to understand that their confused day dreams were pale shadows compared to glorious reality that Jesus was trying to tell them about. Clarity came to them only with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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