Teaching in Galilee
“[Jesus] was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘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.’ But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him” (vv. 31–32).- Mark 9:30–32
Mark, like the other Synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Luke), focuses on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. But that focus begins to change in Mark 9:30. Now we read of Jesus’ passing “through Galilee,” meaning that what follows occurred on our Lord’s journey through Galilee to another location. That location is Jerusalem, as we see in Mark 11. Thus, Mark 9:30 represents a shift in Jesus’ attention. Having finished most of His earthly ministry, Christ turned His face toward Jerusalem for the final events of His earthly life (see Luke 9:51–53).
Verses 31–32 confirm this intent on the part of our Savior. Jesus teaches the disciples the necessity for the Son of Man to be “delivered into the hands of men,” who would kill Him, and of His resurrection. Of course, we know that this message was a prediction of what would happen to Him in Jerusalem, as the disciples would soon see with their own eyes. Note the passive voice of “be delivered”—Jesus would be handed over to men by someone else. The allusion in our Lord’s words is to the Greek Septuagint’s translation of Isaiah 53:6 and Yahweh’s giving up of the Suffering Servant as an atonement for sin. By this, we see that what happened to Jesus in Jerusalem was not a historical accident or merely the result of the plans of men. No, Jesus went to Jerusalem according to God’s eternal purpose to save His people from their sin. Moreover, Jesus was delivered willingly, agreeing with His Father that He would lay down His life and take it up again (John 10:17–18). And this was all motivated by divine love, as the Father sent His Son as an atonement so that His people—those to whom the Spirit grants saving faith—will not perish but believe and be saved (3:16).
Jesus’ teaching on that occasion was not new; the disciples had already heard from Him that He would have to die and be raised again (Mark 8:31; 9:12–13). Yet, the dull hearts of the disciples did not yet understand Christ’s meaning (v. 32). Despite having been with the Lord and having heard His teaching, the Twelve found it strange and incomprehensible that the Messiah would have to die. John Calvin comments that this shows us how controlling our assumptions can be: “So great is the in uence of preconceived opinion, that it brings darkness over the mind in the midst of the clearest light.” Lest we be like the disciples, we must seek not to be controlled by preconceived notions but by the truth of God’s Word.
Because of the influence of sin on our hearts and minds, we should expect Jesus’ words to sound strange to us at times. When we find His teaching hard to receive, we dare not shape it to fit our preconceived notions of what God must be like; rather, let us seek to conform our understanding of our Creator to what God’s Word teaches. His revelation is our standard, not our opinions of what He must be like.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 2:6–8