Mark 9:30-31

FACING THE END

Mk. 9:30-31

When they left there, they made their way through Galilee, and Jesus did not wish anyone to know where he was, for he kept teaching the disciples and saying to them, “The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and, when he has been killed, after three days he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he said, and they were afraid to ask him what it meant.

This passage marks a mile-stone. Jesus had now left the north country where he was safe and was taking the first step towards Jerusalem and to the Cross which awaited him there. For once he did not watt the crowds around him. He knew quite clearly that unless he could write his message on the hearts of his chosen men, he had failed. Any teacher can leave behind him a series of propositions, but Jesus knew that that was not enough. He had to leave behind him a band of persons on whom these propositions were written. He had to make sure, before he left this world in the body, that there were some who understood, however dimly, what he had come to say.

This time the tragedy of his warning is even more poignant. If we compare it with the previous passage in which he foretold his death (Mk. 8:31), we see that one phrase is added, “The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men.” There was a traitor in the little band, and Jesus knew it. He could see the way in which the mind of Judas was working. Maybe he could see it better than Judas could himself. And when he said, “The Son of Man is being delivered into the hands of men.” he was not only announcing a fact and giving a warning, he was also making a last appeal to the man in whose heart was forming the purpose of betrayal.

Even yet the disciples did not understand. The thing they did not understand was the bit about rising again. By this time they were aware of the atmosphere of tragedy, but to the end of the day they never grasped the certainty of the Resurrection. That was a wonder that was too great for them, a wonder that they grasped only when it became an accomplished fact.

When they did not understand, they were afraid to ask any further questions. They were like men who knew so much that they were afraid to know more. A man might receive a verdict from his doctor. He might think the general purport of the verdict bad, but not understand all the details, and he might be afraid to ask questions, for the simple reason that he is afraid to know any more. The disciples were like that.

Sometimes we are amazed that they did not grasp what was so plainly spoken. The human mind has an amazing faculty for rejecting what it does not wish to see. Are we so very different? Over and over again we have heard the Christian message. We know the glory of accepting it and the tragedy of rejecting it, but many of us are just as far off as ever we were from giving it our full allegiance and moulding our lives to fit it. Men still accept the parts of the Christian message which they like and which suit them, and refuse to understand the rest.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MARK

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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