32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
Mark 10:32-34 (ESV)
So there was the bunch of unruly kids who turned up that the disciples wisely sent away so they wouldn’t distract people from the important teaching that’s going on – and Jesus called them back and talked about how the kingdom of God belongs to the little ones.
And then there was a really promising meeting with a rich young ruler – exactly the sort of guy it’d be useful to have onside – and Jesus sent him away with instructions to sell everything and then talked about how hard it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
The journey continues – the disciples scared/impressed by this unpredictable and complex character who’s leading them: striding out ahead of the group, talking about the end of the journey where he’s going to be betrayed, mocked, spat on, flogged and killed, before rising three days later.
What do you do with that kind of statement? It’s practically impossible to relate to – and while we’ve had two thousand years and hundreds of eyewitnesses to help us process both Jesus’ words and the events themselves, the disciples only had the words of a leader they knew a bit and understood very little.
It’s far too easy to sit back in our armchairs and rain smug disapproval on the foolish disciples who ought to have known better, all the while fearing the future of faith in Britain. The foolish disciples show us how hard it can be to understand the events we live through – even when explained clearly – without hindsight.
And yet the events they lived through show us there’s nothing left to fear. The last enemy, death, has been defeated and Christ has risen. We may not understand the pathway or the circumstances – and the journey of faith is fraught with danger – but we are safe, because we have been saved by the one who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.