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Sermon 9/19 - Almost There! Secrets

Mark 9:30-37

Who here is keeping a secret? When it comes to secrets, I think there are two ways to look at them.

One way is keeping a secret from someone for their own good. Is it ever right to do that? I think there can be circumstances that doing so would be the best thing to do. One example comes from Corrie ten Boom’s book, “The Hiding Place.” She wrote…

And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sex sin?"

He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.

“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.

“It's too heavy," I said.

“Yes," he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.

How about the opposite, have you ever kept a secret from someone for your own good? I think it’s safe to say we all have. Many times, it’s called lying. Specifically, lying to avoid facing the justified consequences of your actions.

The account we read from Mark shows both of these kinds of secrets.

Jesus was passing through Galilee which, not unusual for Him, but He was doing so in secret which was unusual. Jeus normally taught anyone that was willing to listen to Him even those that only went to Him to try to refute Him. [Mark 8:11] Why then was He trying to avoid people in Galilee this time? It seems odd behavior from such a loving servant.

Jesus was dedicating the time to teach His disciples something they had to know, He was going to die and rise again. This was not the first time Jesus told them this in Mark’s Gospel. But the first time did not go very well; Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him for saying such things. [Mark 8:31-32]

And, so, Jesus told them again. It is important to note that Jesus was not, in any way, speaking unclearly. Had Jesus speaking in allegory like He did with parables, it would be understandable for the disciples to be so confused. But Jesus spoke in the most literal of terms, “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.” He kept no secrets about it from the disciples.

There really wasn’t anything in that for them to misunderstand, but they did so anyway. And, what seems even more peculiar is that they were afraid to ask Him to explain what He meant. But, perhaps, it isn’t so peculiar after all. 

When Jesus talked about His death and resurrection the first time, Peter rebuked him which caused Jesus to rebuke Peter in the toughest of terms, “Get behind me, Satan!” [Mark 8:33] So the disciples knew two things. One, this death and coming back to life thing, whatever it was, was of the greatest importance to Jesus and, two, Jesus didn’t seem to be t willing to change His mind about it. So maybe the disciples didn’t ask him about it because they didn’t want Him to think they there were trying to question His authority.

But, given how explicit Jesus was about it, why did the disciples have such a problem with it? After all, resurrections, though very, very rare, were not a secret. The Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha both resurrected people. [1 Kings 17:17-24, 2 Kings 4:18-37] It seems quite likely the disciples, being Godly men, would have known that. Jesus Himself had already resurrected at least one person by this point in Mark’s Gospel. [Mark 5:35-43]

So, if it wasn’t that they didn’t believe that people could come back from the dead, with what were they struggling? 

It could have been that they had a hard time believing Jesus Himself would be resurrected. While they knew people could be brought back from the dead, it seems as if they knew of less than half a dozen examples in thousands of years of history. Also, no one had ever predicted their own resurrection. So maybe thought it was possible but not probable for Jesus to come back from the dead. 

Of course, they did not have the benefit of the revelation we have been given; we know all people will be resurrected. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” [John 5:28-29]

On the Last Day literally billions upon billions will be resurrected all because of what Jesus did. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The disciples may have heard Jesus revelation about the Lord’s Day by the time this account in Mark took place, but they either forgot about it, or, just as they are doing now, just didn’t fully understand what Jesus meant because it was simply to radically different from the reality they thought they knew.

There could have been yet another reason the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus to explain Himself, but one due more to pride than misunderstanding. The common people, and seemingly even the disciples, wanted to make Jesus a king. [John 6:15] They wanted Israel to regain her former political and military glory with Jesus reigning over it maybe with the disciples right there beside His throne.

These people didn’t desire Jesus to be their king with without reason because Israel’s glorious future was not a secret. Jeremiah 23:5-6 says, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” So, it could have been that the disciples were not expecting God’s chosen one to die because dead kings can’t rule a kingdom.

Yet, there were other prophecies that also were not a secret to anyone who read the Scriptures. Like the pivotal ones from Isaiah 53, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” [Isa 53:3]

To the disciples it may have looked like there were two men prophesied in the Old Testament, the almighty and the servant. They could not see, maybe would not see, that both of those men were one in Jesus. One of them they would see in their lifetime for Jesus would prove Himself to be the servant when He died on the cross. Later, far after the disciples went to be with Jesus, maybe even after we go to be with Him, Jesus will return and reign over a sinless world where our love for Him will finally be fully realized in a perfect and eternal relationship. 

But could it be that there was something else, something terrible, at the heart of the disciples’ confusion? I think yes and, tragically, we here may be under the same delusion. It all comes back to what almost everything else does, the death of Jesus. Why is it that Jesus ever had to die in the first place?

The answer was there for the disciples before Jesus ever uttered a word. It was never a secret. It’s also from Isaiah 53, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” [Isa 53:4-5]

Jesus died because we sinned. There was no other reason; He died because of us. Maybe the disciples, and maybe even us, didn’t see why Jesus had to die because they severely underestimated sin. The Word of God has some severe revelations about sin. They ought not be a secret to us. In another place in Isaiah it says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” [Isa 64:6]

I wonder when we, when I sin, do I really see my sin that seriously? Do I think that sin makes me unclean? Do not get me wrong here, I know that I am saved and “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom 8:38-39]

Do I see me sin as serious as the Scriptures do? Do I see myself as Paul did, the foremost of sinners? [1 Tim 1:15] Do I see any difference in my sin than in Paul’s? Paul watched and approved a man be stoned for following Jesus; do I see my sins as evil as that? All sins had the same cost, the life of our Lord.

Maybe when I finally see Jesus face to face and I see the scars on His hands and feet I will know, but at the same time I am there witnessing that soul crushing revelation, I will be comforted by those same nail scarred hands right then and for all time.

None of us are immune to the pull of sin, not even the men who walked along side of Jesus day after day hearing Him teach and rebuke and perform miracles. While it wouldn’t be reasonable to think people like that would be sinless, it might make sense that they would at least sin less.

But then again, the disciples did not have the Holy Spirit living within them and guiding them as we do. But that doesn’t excuse their sin as God has always rightly expected His people to obey Him, which the disciples did not do.

The disciples argued about who among them was the greatest, but they wanted to keep it a secret from Jesus because they knew it was nothing but their pride talking. So, at very least they were not ignorant about their sin even if they didn’t see the depths of it. Jesus did not have to teach them that their lust for power was sinful, but more show them why it was a sin and how to combat it.

He did so with greatest possible clarity, though people still try to find a way out it. Jesus said that being first in His kingdom means that you become the servant of everyone else in it. But how do we do that? Does it mean that there should be no leaders?

To find the answer we need only to turn to Jesus. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Mark 10:45] But at the same Jesus regularly gave commands that He expected everyone to obey. He even accepted worship even early in His earthly ministry. [Matt 14:23] 

So being a servant does not mean we must reject all authority. Instead, it means that even while we can legitimately have authority over others, we still think others as more significant than ourselves. [Phil 2:3] It also means “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” [Luke 6:31]

That means we can rebuke people because we would want to be rebuked so that we can be more like Jesus. It also means that we know we are all equal before God.  We can be servants to others because we do not need servants ourselves because God has given as all we need. Like Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matt 6:33]

Also, are when we were born-again we became new creations and, through the Holy Spirit, are able to overcome our selfish natures.

Jesus reinforced the message so that no one could miss it. We must trust Jesus like a child. A child trusts because that is child’s only option. They cannot take care of themselves and they know it. Even if they want to do everything on their own, they know they simply aren’t capable of it. A child doesn’t try to keep their dependency a secret. 

But it seems that the disciples didn’t get that. They wanted control and recognition, as much as they could get. But they also they tried to keep what they were arguing about secret from Jesus because His judgment of their behavior was no secret.

But we here know all this. We know we are to be like a child, totally dependent on Jesus. That’s no secret, but perhaps there is more here. Eventually a child stops being a child; they mature. The author of Hebrews says something about this, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” [Heb 6:1-2]

Like a child starts off with the basics, learning to write their name and such, they move on to reading short words to reading sentences to reading easy books to reading complex ones. We who are born again should do likewise. We know that we are saved without works; that’s not a secret to someone born again. But there is much to learn after that. To aid us in that we have the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirt as well as each other. 

Of course, even if we mature we always be fully dependent on Jesus.

The disciples missed many truths they could have known had they but stopped and thought, or just asked Jesus, but they were reluctant to do so. We don’t ever need to do that. Let’s challenge ourselves and dive into the deeper secrets of God to get to know the One who loves more and more so that we can glorify Him in truth more and more.

And so my beloved I leave you with this: Turn to God and His Word to learn about Him.

Lord's Prayer