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Mark 139 - Not Understanding

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 delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

Mark 9:30-32

I wonder about this “not understanding.” There have been many times in my life that I “heard” the words but didn’t get the meaning behind it. I could tell you the dictionary definition of the words, but not what the speaker or writer was trying to convey. I could even tell you the different parts of speech, but that didn’t help me a bit with the understanding.

It started early for me. Since I was the youngest of two, I became the default daughter for my mom. I’m the one she taught to cook, wash cloths, iron, vacuum, dust, wash floors, make the beds with the corners tucked in just right.

Because I grew up at my mom’s apron strings, I was given the privilege of receiving her instructions and commands when it came to cleaning the house, making supper, what have you. But the part of life with mom that caused the greatest frustration with her, as well with me, was getting things from the pantry.

Our pantry was a handmade bookcase-like shelving unit in the basement. And like everything else in the basement, it was painted battleship grey by my dad. All the can goods, boxes, and other containers of foodstuffs was on these shelves.

Now, I was a pretty smart young kid. I taught myself how to read by the age of five. My first set of books were the TV Guide followed closely by the newspaper. I was good at cards, checkers, chess, puzzles. I also had Lincoln Logs, Girders & Panels, and an Erector set. Even though all of them came with directions and illustrations, why be bothered? I made buildings, trucks, motorized vehicles, and cranes all without being burdened by someone else’s ideas and limitations.

But when it came to finding things in the pantry, I was a complete washout. Perhaps there was some deep-seated antagonism about being my mom’s slave boy. At her beck and call to drop whatever I was doing, run down the gauntlet of 13 steps into the basement, turn on the light switches, find the item or items mom demanded, and then reverse the process.

By the way, you don’t have to look out into space to discover black holes. Our basement was one. You could turn on all the lights, and it was still dark. I don’t know what size light bulbs my dad installed, or the kind of paint he used on the concrete walls, but it was always dark.

I was OK at finding large things. You know, mayonnaise jars, cans of tomatoes, box of cornflakes. But, just like Dirty Harry Callahan said in Magnum Force[1], “A man's got to know his limitations.” And my limitation was size.

Yes, size does matter, especially when you’re a kid trying to find things in a dark basement. Tomato paste cans were all but invisible. Same for tuna cans.

This brings us to the disciples whose brain wattage was not too bright. This isn’t the first time that Jesus tells them what’s about to happen, but they just don’t get it. They failed in two respects

  • Didn’t understand what he meant – It’s not like Jesus concealed his meaning beneath a veil of words with a hidden meaning. His language was straightforward. Not just clear, but crystal clear.

  • We're afraid to ask him about it – And on top of just not getting it, they were scared to just ask any questions about it. They shut themselves up, and shut up, which closed them off from learning

There will be things about this life that we don’t understand. There will be much that happens or doesn’t happen that confuses us to the point that we have no answers. And that’s OK. But not to ask the one who knows the answer is inexcusable.

Jesus is right there, he’s not far away. They don’t have to search for his cell number. They don’t have to send him a text. All they had to do was admit their weakness, and dullness, to the one who has all the answers, all the power, all the insight.

But like the disciples, we don’t want to appear to be out of the loop. Not in the know. We’ll fake knowing with that laugh we use to hide our ignorance.

It’s time to stop hiding. It’s time to stop faking. It’s time to be real and get real with God. He made us and knows that we’re weak.

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

Psalm 103:14

Today is the day to admit our weakness to the one who made us. The one who loves us. The one who reaches out to us.

What’s holding us back? What’s holding you back?



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