Proper 20: Pentecost 18
If I said, “Silly rabbit,” could you finish the saying? Of course, we all know, “Trix are for kids.” When I was a child, no matter how the rabbit would try some trick to get some Trix cereal, something would happen and he would fail. Then the kids would all say, “Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids!” As a child I often wondered why the rabbit never understood something so simple.
“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.”
When reading our Gospel lesson for this morning, did you notice that the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus said to them and were afraid to ask what he meant? Why would they be afraid to ask him? Why didn’t they understand? Is that strange to you too?
I agree it’s odd. I mean, look, Jesus was after all talking about himself in the 3rd person. Have you ever known someone to do that? Sometime start talking about yourself in the 3rd person and see how others around you react. “Hey honey, Rob is going to the store. After an hour, after he is done shopping, he will be back.” It’s just not natural to talk like that. The disciples had to have noticed and were probably concerned and maybe even afraid to hear this kind of talk coming from Jesus.
Maybe the disciples thought that the pressure of the ministry, the constant demands of the crowds, and the ever present threat from the religious rulers was all starting to get to Jesus? Look at how the start of this section begins with, “They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know,” and so on.
We’ve all heard more than once of famous celebrities cracking under the pressure and strain of stardom, and fame. Was Jesus cracking under the pressure of it all?
The answer is found in the title Jesus used for himself – The Son of Man. That title is hugely important. It means that Jesus had a very specific understanding of himself. The Gospel writer captured it very accurately, and is why Mark is my favorite Gospel account. Mark, who got these stories from Peter, understood how Jesus saw himself and the role he was playing on the world stage. From the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel account throughout, Jesus consistently identified himself as the Son of Man, and had a clear vision of the ministry and mission he was there to carry forth.
It’s important we know that Jesus got this understanding from the prophet Daniel, in 7:13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
There’s more in Daniel chapter 7 and 9, which you can read on your own, but suffice it to say it’s clear in Mark’s Gospel account that Jesus claimed, and gave various proofs, that he was indeed the Son of Man. All through Mark Jesus taught that the Son of Man had authority on earth to forgive sins, was Lord of the Sabbath, had true spiritual authority, and was sent from the Father. Jesus proved it by performing miracles, healing the sick, driving out demons and unclean spirits, feeding the 5,000, and so on.
In Daniel’s vision, the Son of Man is presented to the Ancient of Days (God) and is given authority and dominion and a kingdom that will never end. And every tribe and tongue will serve him. There’s a kingdom there, but in Daniel’s vision we’re not told how or why the Son of Man is given such authority. Other prophets filled in those blanks. But Jesus often taught his disciples that the Son of Man came to seek that which was lost. To proclaim liberty to the captives and give sight to the blind. Namely, the Son of Man was God’s plan to overthrow the kingdom of Satan, and save as many as possible before the end. To accomplish this, the Son of Man had to suffer and die.
But why couldn’t God just give Jesus the kingdom? Why does he have to die for it?
Because nothing is for free. You see, also in Daniel’s writings we learn that authority and a kingdom are taken away from the little horn, the great deceiver and adversary of God, the Satan, who was the former light bearer of God; that old serpent, the dragon, who seeks to ascend his own authority above the Heavenly Father, Creator God.
It was God’s plan was to break Satan’s kingdom and take his usurped authority away by the power of the Mustard Seed. Remember the Mustard Seed? Like a seed, the kingdom of heaven was all contained within Jesus when he was on Earth, but after dying and rising from the dead, the seed sprouted and became a tree, grew great branches, and bears much fruit. Jesus’ death and resurrection, by the power of God, broke Satan’s kingdom and sets free those who are held in bondage and blinded by the great deceiver and adversary. The Son of Man had to die for the seed to sprout. That was the cost. That’s the mission and ministry of the Son of Man. By Jesus’ obedient death, even death on a cross, he was raised from the dead, vindicated, and given authority and a kingdom that will never pass away.
“What were you discussing along the way?” Jesus asked his disciples. So here they were arguing over who was the greatest in this new Kingdom. They had no idea what they were arguing over. How could they? Silly rabbit, silly children, you can’t have that. “The greatest” is for the one who would be servant of all, and the servant of all would be the mission of the Son of Man.
Jesus accomplished his mission. He paid the cost for us all to be set free. The tree continues to grow today and the kingdom still has authority to set the captives free, to break the yoke of the oppressor, to cast out the demons and the unclean spirits, to break the chains of darkness, to forgive sin, to restore relationships, and to bring us into the kingdom of the Heavenly Father, “For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no man may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus was not crazy. Jesus is the Son of Man, and he is the greatest of us all! Amein.
Pastor Robbie Taylor