Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43-45
What We Can Handle
Some things are hard to hear, primarily because we don’t want to know about them. But sometimes in the Lord’s grace, He makes it so that we can’t really grasp the things that are happening around us. I say, in the Lord’s grace, because He knows we can’t understand it, much less bear it.
The Gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus and his disciples passed through Galilee, but that Jesus “did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples.” We are told by scholars that after Peter’s confession on behalf of the group that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus withdrew from teaching and preaching so much publicly and instead spent more time with his disciples giving them special instruction concerning matters of the Kingdom. And what was the centerpiece of that instruction? It was, “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.” And Luke adds that “while they were marveling at everything [Jesus] was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’” In other words, and to paraphrase, “Marvel all you wish, matters are about to change drastically, and you won’t like it!”
Upon hearing these words, Matthew says that the disciples “were greatly distressed.” Mark says that the disciples “did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” But Luke writes, “But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, so that they might not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about the saying” (italics added). Luke says this again in 18:34. The meaning of the saying was concealed from them such that they could not understand it. I take this to mean that it was of divine prerogative to hide the meaning of this saying from their view. Some might ask how that could be since it was the Son of God saying this to them. Not everything Jesus said to his disciples was meant for them to understand at the moment he said it, but to be understood later (e.g., John 2:13-22). Jesus had many things to say, but his disciples could not bear them at the time (John 16:12). And so God has much to say to us, much to show us, but we are not able to bear it now – perhaps because of our own spiritual immaturity, perhaps because we have not the strength at that moment which He will give us when the time comes. And when God conceals such matters in the moment, it is both a judgment on our sin and a grace for our inability. So let us grow in grace and let God reveal to us as He sees fit.