Alone with the Lord
Death is not a popular topic at the family meal table. However unwell a friend may be, death is rarely mentioned. It is probably the last taboo of the Western world. But Jesus did not flinch from facing His own cruel future with the disciples; because it would be the basis for their, and our, eternal future. Death as a substitutionary sacrifice, being punished for our sins, was the reason for His birth. Jesus had recently defeated Satan's work in the convulsing boy (Mark 9:25-27) - He would defeat death too, and rise again. The disciples needed to understand that His death would be no accident. Looking back, they would understand it was 'all in the plan' - and pass on the good news to others (Acts 2:23).
Where was Jesus going to explain such challenging news? In the same way the transfiguration site was located away from the crowds (Mark 9:2), so was this next tutorial for the trainee apostles. It was to be a 'secret place', as Jesus advised them for prayer (Matthew 6:6). The crowds and their immediate needs in Galilee were bypassed. The distraction of people who came to trap Jesus was averted. Jesus wanted to have the full attention of His team, to assure them of His personal confidence of a triumphant outcome. They were alone with Jesus, a private space surrounded by love.
Far from being morbid, Jesus was transparent about the programme ahead. Resurrection, not burial, was the goal. But it seems the only words His disciples understood were 'betrayed' and 'kill'; not 'rise'. They had not yet seen the raising of Lazarus (John 11:43-44), and the idea of resurrection was beyond them (even though He had already told them in Mark 8:31). Any unusual truth can take time to sink in: however, their natural thoughts about death propelled them into fear and stopped them asking more - as though ignoring the issue would make it go away.
There are few more direct and yet difficult routes to gospel truth than discussing the prospect of mortality. Yet every week, the gospel is often stunningly avoided, being replaced by wispy thoughts of ‘going to a better place'. Death is the touchstone of truth. If your belief system has no reason for confidence after death ... it is a grossly inadequate basis for navigating through life! There is no better time to re-orientate your heart for all matters of life and death, than today. Seek the Lord (Jeremiah 29:13). The bigger the problem the less helpful the crowds will be. Listen to the Lord in His Word and talk to Him alone. Understand, afresh, the grace of Christ for you. Realise afresh, how His death and resurrection is the best news for a broken world. Then, like the apostles, you can confidently live for Christ and share the gospel with your friends and colleagues (www.crosscheck.org.uk).
© Dr Paul Adams