They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Like the old song goes, “Denial – it ain’t just a river in Egypt.”
We’ve all been there. In a place where we simply can’t accept what is right in front of us.
But take note: This isn’t stupidity. This isn’t obstinacy. This isn’t a rigid unwillingness to face the facts. This is fear. Listen to Mark’s description again: “But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.”
Why such fear? Simply because they could not imagine how anything of what Jesus was saying could be true. How could Jesus, who spent his time teaching and healing and feeding and driving out demons…how could Jesus suffer they way he described? How could someone this good be killed.
But it was more than that, too. Because Jesus doesn’t just predict that he will suffer, but that he will be betrayed. And you can only be betrayed by those you trust. Which implicates them in the dark events to come. How could any of them betray their Lord? How could any of this possibly be true?
This whole picture is simply too terrible to face. It is too frightening. They don’t understand and, quite frankly, don’t want to. Not out of stubbornness, but out of fear, even terror.
Which makes me wonder if they even heard the last part, “and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”
Fear does that. It consumes you. It narrows options and constricts your vision of the future. Fear saps hope and strangles the imagination. Fear renders us powerless. Fear of the future. Fear of being alone. Fear of harm, of hopelessness, of scarcity. Fear of never being accepted or loved or valued. Fear destroys possibility. And in this sense, fear, in some ways even more than death, is the opposite of life.
Which is why Jesus came. To take on our fear. To face what we could not. To travel to the cross, alone if necessary, because everyone else is too afraid.
And having mastered his fear, having born ours, having endured the fear of death and death itself by hanging on the cross, he creates a new possibility. Notice, he does not defeat death like some champion demi-God sent from heaven. We sometimes at that way, like Jesus is the original super hero. But we need to follow the story more carefully to understand it. What Jesus does, finally, is die. He is defeated by death, Yet God raises him from the dead. And it’s this promise, and this promise only, that allows him to master his fear.
That is, Jesus conquers fear in the only way possible: by trusting the love and mercy of God. By trusting that the life God promises and gives is, finally, greater than death. The only way through fear is by love and trust. And that’s what Jesus does, trusts the love of God. And in doing that he makes it possible for us, also, know and experience God’s love and find the ability to trust as well.
Prayer: Dear God, in our moments of fear, remind us of your love. Remind us of your grace. Remind us of your mercy and goodness and promise to bring us through all things. And when we struggle to believe and trust, remind us of Jesus, who went before us to lead the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.