18th Sunday after Pentecost 23rd September

Mark 9:32

But they didn’t understand His words and were afraid to ask.

I wonder, have you ever come across something that you didn’t understand? And we’re you scared to admit it? Maybe others expect you to get it, or maybe you just don’t want to admit your ignorance and failure to succeed. Too afraid of being humbled to be seen as we truly are, people who need help.

The world teaches us that we need to be independent and self-sufficient. To be able to support ourselves, and then maybe help others; but the best and strongest people need no help from anyone. That’s the goal I was taught growing up, get a job, get my own house, support my own family, be independent and be right. And this world has been teaching much the same things for a long time, to get power for yourself so that you are safe. In ancient Judea the people were waiting for their messiah, for the Christ. Waiting for him to come, to restore the kingdom, to kick out and conquer the Romans and to save the Israelites once and for all. They did not understand God’s great plan to save them and all the world, To forgive and bring new eternal life.

The disciples as people in their time, just as we are in our time, also seemed to have expected Jesus to be that warrior king. Peter confessed Him as the Christ just a chapter ago, then rebuked Jesus telling his Lord that He was wrong and couldn’t go to die. Here and the next time Jesus speaks of His crucifixion the disciples wonder about their worldly place in this New Kingdom, who is the greatest, will I be rich and powerful? They were thinking as the world around us does, wanting to grow in power and fame.

They do trust Jesus and try to hear what He has to say, but they don’t get it. They don’t understand. But they should, they’ve been with Jesus for maybe three years now, His inner circle, those who He explains things to (Mark 4:34), if anyone understood Jesus it would be them. But they don’t understand. They don’t understand God’s plan of healing and cleansing for all this corrupt, sinful world. They think, like those around them, that the new king of Israel will restore God’s kingdom by kicking out the Romans and restoring the old kingdom of the Israelites as a country like any other. But then He says He will be given to the people and die. The disciples don’t get it. They don’t understand how that will work in their worldly thoughts. Jesus rebuked Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan, you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of this world’ (Mark 8:33). They don’t understand, but they try to work it out themselves, try to rely on their own strength and wisdom. They ask who is the greatest. To afraid in their pride to admit to Jesus that they don’t understand they turn to themselves.

Too proud to humble themselves by asking for help, they are afraid to talk to God. Too proud to pray. How often aren’t we the same?  ‘I can do it by myself, I don’t need God’s help for this small thing’ but from Philippians we hear God’s word to us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6, Ephesians 6:8, 1 Timothy 2:1) Are you too proud to ask for help, too proud to listen, too proud to be proven wrong, to be seen as a failure. Too proud to see that you cannot control what happens in this world, cannot control what happens around you, you can’t even control your own desires. We need God’s help, we need the help of Jesus and the Spirit through our lives, you and I cannot by our own strength understand what God does, or what He wants (1 Corinthians 2:13). By ourselves we cannot escape the traps of sin, by yourself and without God you have nothing, at least nothing good that lasts.

Why don’t we bring our request to God, why don’t we ask for the help that He has promised to give? Are we too concerned with this world, how people see you to think about the one who promises to forgive, save and help you, indeed the one who already has (John 3:16, 1 John 1:9, John 14:16). Too proud to pray, relying on ourselves. Are we too scared of being seen as a failure that we fail our God and saviour? Are we of God or are we of the world?

You and I are in this world, but God has brought us to Him, made us His children, His holy people by baptising us into the life death and resurrection of His Son, our saviour Jesus the Christ. In this world we do look like fools, like failures and like sinners, that is what we are just like everyone else. And just like everyone in this world we need help, and humbly we ask for it, even accepting infants as fellow siblings in Christ. No one of us is greater than another, there is no reason for pride or fear because we are with Jesus, who is far greater and more able than all of us and gives us all we need. We are with Him and He with us. Like Jesus was with he disciples the Holy Spirit is with us, with us in our struggles and our joys throughout our whole lives. He knows us and loves us and is there to help us (John 14:16). Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find (Matthew 7:7). God has given us so much already He doesn’t want us to be afraid to ask for the help you need, so do not fear in your failure to ask Jesus for help like the disciples did all those years ago, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God for He loves you.

And the peace of God which passes all our human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.

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