Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Our Patient Teacher

They did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Mark 9:32

Imagine a student sitting in a classroom, staring at a formula on the board. The formula’s symbols are complete gibberish to her, but she is afraid to raise her hand to ask a clarifying question. Many of us have likely experienced a similar situation, caught in a dilemma: on the one hand we’re in fear of being shown up or of where the answer will lead if we ask, but on the other hand we know we’ll be impossibly stuck if we don’t.

Although the disciples lived in the company of Jesus, regularly listened to His teaching, received His instructions, and saw His miraculous deeds, they still struggled to understand the bigger picture of His ministry. Many times, Jesus spoke plainly with them about all that lay before Him—His betrayal, death, and resurrection. Yet they faced the worst of predicaments: “They did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.”

Peter, James, and John had just witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8). They knew He was the Son of God. But the sincerity of the disciples’ belief in Jesus as Messiah wasn’t matched by their understanding of what it meant for Him to actually be the Messiah. Their perception of the Messiah was blurred and incomplete, causing confusion and fear. Perhaps they did not ask Jesus to explain further because they did not want to admit their ignorance; or perhaps because they were unwilling to confront the implications of what He was telling them, both for Himself (v 30-31) and for them (8:34-35).

Even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus needed Him to take them back through the whole panorama of the Bible in order that they might understand His suffering and put everything together (Luke 24:26-27). Immediately before His ascension to heaven, the disciples were still unsure of the nature of Christ’s kingdom. This time, though, they asked Jesus for answers; and Jesus didn’t say, Are you back again with that same question? How many times are you going to ask? Instead, He graciously explained that His kingdom would not come by the re-establishment of the temple in Jerusalem but would advance through the work of the Holy Spirit in each of the disciples (Acts 1:8).

Maybe you find yourself identifying with the disciples here, finding it difficult to understand all that is taught in God’s word or unsure that you really want to confront the implications of what you have begun to understand. But your situation need not be filled with fear. How good that Jesus is such a kind and patient teacher—so kind and patient with His disciples, so kind and patient with you and me. And how good that the Holy Spirit dwells within you, enabling you to do all that your Lord calls you to do (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Galatians 5:16). Today, then, if you find yourself lacking wisdom and understanding, simply ask God, “who gives generously to all without reproach” (James 1:5).


1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Topics: Christian Thinking Fear Jesus Christ Patience

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

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