‘Groan, go, or get God’s gracious help’

Mark 9:32
But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it.

            My son Nathaniel is two years old and sometimes he just stares at the door and moans. He can’t open the sliding door, it’s too heavy, but he wants to go outside. Now, he’s young and still learning how to communicate and speak, but all it could take is ‘dad! Open please.’ All words he knows and can, sorta, say; but instead of asking he looks at the problem and complains. I wonder how often are you the same?

            In today’s Gospel reading we heard Jesus teaching the disciples the secret truth of what was going to happen, he was going to be handed over, killed, then after three days rise. As clear as could be. However, the disciples didn’t understand; still they had perhaps that common idea of the Messiah who would come and kick out the Romans and proclaim an earthly kingdom of holiness and military might. They did not understand that Jesus was to die, we even hear Peter rebuke Him when He told them earlier (Mark 8:32); and they did not understand that He would rise from the dead. A problem for them, their great leader telling them he would be handed over and die. They looked at the problem, but instead of just complaining like my son, they walked away from the problem to talk of what they sought, earthly glory. Jesus told them something difficult and they were too afraid to ask for His help and so wandered away.

            Now for us, who hear of Christ’s death every year, even every Sunday, things might be different. We have different problems to these people who lived before Christ’s Resurrection and victory over sin, death and the devil. We face problems today, of a pandemic, of a new way of life under government restrictions, of family suffering sickness or war, of family and friends leaving the Faith or rejecting Christ’s love for them, an uncertain future, an uncertain present, our own failings, our sin, death of our loved ones, our sickness and death, and the temptations and attacks of the evil one. … But then is this really all that different from the disciples, these problems we face. And that truth we hear constantly do we really understand it? Jesus, our God and life-giver, died. Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, rose from the grave. Do you understand this? Or do you leave this problem to be distracted by the world just as the disciples did?

            Do you look for the greatness that Jesus does not bring? For a good, safe and pleasant life this side of eternity? Imagining life after God fulfills all your wishes? After hearing this core of our Faith, the death of our Lord and His rising, do you forget it and go back to live as everyone else in this stress-filled time? We come today confessing our failures, our sin, our betrayal of our Saviour; and in confessing, repenting, turning back to Jesus, He speaks to us, you are forgiven, your sin is dead and you live again in Jesus. By virtue of God’s promise to you in Baptism, you are joined with Christ in His death and Resurrection, in this mystery that the disciples did not understand (Romans 6). By God’s Word today, you are dead to the greatness of this world, and risen to serve all people. As Jesus says, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” The greatness of the world, all the fame and fortune is nothing to us who are in Christ Jesus. And yet still we get distracted.

Still we wander away from the Word of God, just as the disciples did. Often there are things Christ said, things the Holy Spirit brings to us, that we do not understand, or don’t want to; those problems small and enormous, but what do you do when facing the problems of this ongoing lockdown, the death of a loved one, even your own sin and guilt? Don’t follow the example of the disciples here, rather listen to James (4:7-8), “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you …” God has given you the right to come near to Him, to speak with Him: adopted in the Spirit, Jesus tells us to pray to our Heavenly Father. Do not be afraid. You have been given the name of God to call His attention (Exodus 20:7), to ask Him about it. We pray regularly by the power of the Holy Spirit with The Lord Jesus to our Heavenly Father, ‘deliver us from evil.’ ‘Save us from the problem.’ Help us to understand, open our ears, give us an answer and guide us away from distraction, from temptation.
The disciples did not understand until Jesus came to them after the Resurrection, spoke peace to them, forgave them, and spoke His Word to them; just as He speaks to us here today. He came to them in that locked house, walking on the road, and spoke with them. And He promises to be with us, to hear our prayers, to help and uphold our lives, to defeat the enemies sin, death and the devil, to lead us in life everlasting. He has come to save you, bring you life to the full, take away your failures, sin and guilt, and deliver you from evil. So call on Him when you face a problem, don’t just moan at it like a toddler, don’t distract yourself with the concerns and greatness of this broken world. But when you do not understand, take heart and ask Jesus, The Lord who loves you. Pray, come near to God, gather with our brothers and sisters, or at least call and pray together, gather around God’s loving Word, come and be served again by Him who is the greatest of all. Take heart and call on His name.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the final revelation. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham.