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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on February 21, 2016 under 2016 |

Message preached Sunday, February 21, 2016 from Mark 9:30-32

Theme: There are certain principles involved when it comes to embracing Jesus’ agenda.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

We have been studying together, over the past little while, from the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark. And as we have seen so far, some remarkable things had happened that proved to Jesus’ disciples that He was the Son of God in human flesh.

First, we read of how Jesus had taken a few of His disciples with Him up a high mountain; and there, before their eyes, He was transformed. They were given a brief glimpse of His divine majesty. It’s the event we call the Transfiguration. And then, as He and these few disciples came back down from the mountain, they met a challenging situation. A father had brought his son to Jesus’ other disciples and asked them to cast an unclean spirit out of the boy. They disciples couldn’t do it; but after Jesus said, “Bring him to me”, He immediately cast the unclean spirit out. Everyone who saw it was amazed, and marveled at the majesty of God.

And so, after these events, Jesus began to lead His disciples back to Galilee—and back to His own town of Capernaum. And the passage that I ask us to consider this morning is the one that describes what happened along the way. Given the remarkable things that had just recently happened, Jesus’ words must have been hard for His disciples to believe. In Mark 9:30-32, we’re told;

Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him (Mark 9:3-32).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; this is not a very large passage of scripture. It’s one that it would be easy to pass by. But I believe that the importance of the lesson it teaches us is out of proportion to its size. It’s a lesson that we must learn if we would be genuine followers of Jesus Christ.

Let me put it to you simply. Jesus has an agenda. He has some things that He wishes to accomplished, and He has a specific plan for how those values and priorities are to be brought to pass. And if we want to truly follow Him, then we must learn to embrace His agenda as our own. His priorities must become our priorities, and His plan of action must become our plan of action.

And the problem for most of us here today—most of us who profess to be His followers—is that we have not yet whole-heartedly embraced His agenda as our own. We have our own agendas instead; and our own agendas are what are most important to us. The attitude for many of us is that we don’t mind being connected to Jesus, just as long as He doesn’t get in the way of our own agenda.

I suppose every one of us has encountered a conflict of agendas many times in life. Husbands and wives—we know all about it, don’t we? You might have a day available, and you begin to make plans for how you’ll use that day. You’re excited about your plans and are eager to get to them. But then, you find out that your spouse—unbeknownst to you—had a completely different agenda for the day. Ever had that happen? One of you wanted to do one thing, and the other had their heart set on something else. Or it often happens at work. You have a set of tasks that you know you need to get done, and you have the day arranged in order to get those things accomplished. But when you show up to work, you find that someone else’s agenda is there waiting for you. It’s the collision of the agendas!

Well, those are relatively minor conflicts; and we can usually work them out with a little bit of patient compromise. But that can’t be done with Jesus and His followers. As our Lord and Master, He refuses to allow for there to be a compromise between His agenda and our own. Back in the previous chapter of Mark’s Gospel, we read how Jesus told His disciples,

Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37).

Jesus demands that those who would be His followers must put their own agendas aside and fully embrace His own. Each one must take up their cross and follow Him—that is to say, they must die to their own personal agenda.

And that—I believe—is what’s behind this morning’s passage. If we want to be Jesus’ faithful followers, then we can’t be divided in our hearts between two agendas. We must fully embrace His agenda as our own.

* * * * * * * * * *

Look again at this morning’s passage. In verse 32, Jesus calls Himself “the Son of Man”; and that’s a title that is taken from Daniel 7:13. It’s another name for the Messiah—the Christ; and it focuses on His majesty as the Son of God in human flesh. It a name that highlights Him as the Head of mankind—the chiefest of the human family. But notice what He plainly tells the disciples about Himself as the Son of Man:

The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day” (v. 32).

That, of course, is not at all what they expected of the promised “Son of Man”. They expected Him to be a mighty Ruler from God who would come in great power and cast out the enemies of Israel—a conquering Messiah who would immediately restore His people to the glorious days of King David. And yet, from the way He talked, He clearly had a different agenda than they did.

This is not the first time in the Gospel of Mark, by the way, that Jesus told His disciples in advance about His betrayal, His crucifixion, and His promised resurrection. He tells them this three times in Mark’s Gospel; and this is the second of those three times. And in going back and examining those three times, I made an interesting discovery. In each case—immediately after Jesus told them plainly about what was going to happen to Him—they ran into a very significant, ‘agenda-colliding’ conflict with Him over a sense of their own ‘greatness’.

I hope you’ll let me take a moment to show this to you. It’s really rather surprising. The first time was back in Chapter 8. In Mark 8:31, we’re told, “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” We’re told in verse 32 that “He spoke this word openly.” But that’s when we’re told that Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him for what He was saying. Imagine!—daring to rebuke Jesus! It helps to remember that a little before then, Peter had testified that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”; and that Jesus commended this answer and said that “upon this rock”—that is, upon that testimony—Jesus would build His church. Peter must have been feeling pretty good about himself at that moment; and he must have felt that he had earned the right to scold the Lord for talking so openly about suffering and dying and rising.

But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33).

Clearly, Peter and his fellow apostles had not fully embraced the agenda of our Lord!

Then, think of the second time. It’s in the passage that we see before us this morning. Jesus told His disciples again that He—the glorious Son of Man—must be handed over to men, be killed, and then be raised three days later. He told them this as they walked on their way to Galilee. And after they arrived, look at what happened!

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest (Mark 8:33-34).

What did that mean?—“would be the greatest”? Clearly, they were thinking about the expectation that Jesus, as the conquering Messiah, would begin to reign over His kingdom immediately; and they were thinking about the privileged position that they would enjoy by being the “ground level” of this new kingdom reign. They weren’t at all thinking about what He had already told them about His suffering, death and resurrection. Again, a conflict of agendas.

Then comes the third time. It’s found in Chapter 10. Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem; and in verses 33-34, He told them;

Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again” (Mark 10:33-34).

What a serious time that was! They were on their way up to Jerusalem so that He could experience what it was that He had just told them would happen. But what’s the very next thing we find? We find that the two apostles James and John came up to Him—apart from the rest—with a special request:

Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (v. 37).

You can just imagine how well that went over with the others! That’s when Jesus went on to give His disciples an important lesson about true greatness in His kingdom. But can you see it? Once again, their personal agendas—an inflated sense of themselves and the desire for greatness—conflicted with Jesus’ own stated agenda.

I believe, dear brothers and sisters, that this shows us a pattern. It’s a serious problem within the church; and it’s one that holds us back, individually, from being useful to our Lord. We cannot follow Jesus Christ—our Lord and Master—and still hold on to our own agendas at the same time. We absolutely must forsake our own plans, our own priorities, our own dreams and schemes; and we must instead embrace fully Jesus’ agenda as our own.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; how does that happen? I’m thankful that, in spite of our failures, our Lord loves us and is patient toward us. He Himself—as this passage shows us—helps us to come to terms with His agenda and to embrace it as our own. As this morning’s passage shows us, there are certain principles involved when it comes to embracing Jesus’ agenda.

Look a little closer at this passage with me. First, we find that . . .


I see this hinted at from the words in verse 30; “Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee . . .” But I see it most of all through the grammar of the original language.

Throughout this passage, the Gospel writer Mark uses a particular tense of verb called the ‘imperfect tense’. The ‘imperfect tense’ is used to describe something that happened in the past, but in a continuous sort of way. If I speak in the simple past tense, I’d say, “I went to a particular store.” But if I use the ‘imperfect tense’, I’d say, “I started going to a particular store”, or “I have been going to a particular store lately”. It speaks of a continuous, progressive type of action. And Mark used the ‘imperfect tense’ all through this passage to describe events that had begun to happen and that were being carried on through the course of the story. They had ‘begun’ making their way through Galilee; and as they were traveling through the region, He had been not wanting anyone to know where they were. As they were traveling along, He had begun to teach them things, and had begun saying to them what He had said; and as He taught them, they were repeatedly not understanding, and were continually afraid to ask about it. The whole story seems to be one of a long act of things happening in continuous progression along the way on to Galilee.

It was in this progressive journey—a journey of perhaps of several days—that Jesus was revealing His agenda to them. It wasn’t so much in one specific event, but—as it were—along the way. And I believe there’s a lesson for you and me in that. Jesus doesn’t bring His followers into an encounter with His agenda all at once. He brings them into it in the course of their progressively, moment by moment, day by day, following Him in obedience.

When I think of this, my mind goes back to the time when Jesus first called Peter and his brother Andrew to Himself. You remember that, don’t you? They were working at their fishing boats at the time. Jesus didn’t tell them, “Become fishers of men; and then, after you have reached that level and have mastered my agenda, follow Me!” Rather, He told them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). They were called to follow Jesus; and in the course of following Him, He made them what He wanted them to be and conformed them to His agenda.

Let’s not wait for Jesus to lay the whole plan He has for us out at once. He doesn’t do it that way. Instead, let’s obey His invitation to follow Him. In the course of everyday living, let’s sanctify Him as Lord in our hearts and do as He says in His word. And as we do—in the very course of our following Him and going along with Him—He will make His own agenda clear to us.

* * * * * * * * * *

That’s what we find happened in the passage before us. And another principle we discover about Jesus from it is that . . .


It’s very important to our Lord that we—as His faithful followers—learn from Him what His agenda is. He is very protective of that lesson in our lives; and when we submit to His instruction, He graciously works to keep us from being distracted from it. I see this in what it says in verses 30-31. We’re told, “Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it.” And why didn’t He want anyone to know it? We’re told in the next verse, “For He taught His disciples . . .”

As we have been studying the Gospel of Mark, we’ve encountered several occasions in which Jesus would perform a miracle or cast out a demon; and then tell the person He ministered to not to tell anyone. The reason, as we have found, was that as soon as word got out about Him, the crowds came and became so huge that He and His disciples could hardly move around. And in this case, as they were traveling down the road from the northern regions to the regions of Galilee, Jesus didn’t want anyone to know about it because it was specifically set aside as a teaching time for His disciples. He wanted the truth of what it was that He was about to do to sink into their hearts; and He wanted to have the privacy and the time for that to happen; and He didn’t want anything else to get in the way. He protected His disciples from distractions so that they could encounter His agenda.

And I believe the same is true for you and me. If we truly love Jesus, and truly want to be His faithful followers, He will protect that desire; and He will make sure that we have the time with Him to be freed from our own earthly, temporal agendas, and be taught to embrace His agenda as our own.

I think here of what the standing offer He made to us in Matthew 11:28-30;

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

When we avail ourselves to Him to learn His agenda, that’s a teaching session that our Lord greatly values and protects!

* * * * * * * * * * *

And what is His agenda? I believe it’s hinted at to us in what He told His disciples in verse 32; “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.”

This speaks of His being handed over to the chief priests and scribes for trial, and then to the Roman soldiers for beating and abuse, and then eventually to Pontius Pilate for judgment—through all of which He was proven to be innocent of any sin. And then, it speaks of His cross—upon which He would take the guilt of the sins of mankind upon Himself and die for the atonement of those who would believe on Him. And then, it speaks of His resurrection from the dead three days later—by which God the Father proved to the world that He was satisfied with the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and that all who trust in Him are declared righteous in His sight.

That, by the way, is the message of the gospel! It’s the story of what Jesus has done to redeem mankind from the curse of sin. And that teaches us a third principle from this passage; that . . .


His agenda is about saving lost sinners. Jesus Himself declared it to be His agenda. You may remember that I told you—way at the beginning of our study of Mark’s Gospel—that the key verse to this Gospel is Mark 10:45. That’s where Jesus says;

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

And dear brothers and sisters; if you and I want to embrace Jesus’ agenda, then we must make His gospel the high priority of our lives. It’s what we must make everything else in our lives ultimately point to and serve. When it comes to every other temporal concern of this earthly kingdom in which we live, Jesus Himself told us;

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

* * * * * * * * * *

So; when it comes to embracing Jesus’ agenda as our own, we’ve learned that (1) we must faithfully follow Him—knowing that He’ll teach us along the way; (2) yield ourselves to His instruction—knowing that He places a high priority on His agenda sinking into our hearts; (3) and understand what His agenda is—that it’s the gospel of salvation through faith in His sacrifice for us.

And now comes a final principle. It’s one that ought to be obvious to us when we discover that our agenda and His agenda are in conflict; and that’s that . . .


I see this illustrated for us in what we read in verse 32. We’re told that Jesus talked to them about these things along the way; “But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.”

Why do you suppose they were afraid to ask? They obviously hadn’t been afraid to ask Jesus any questions before. But this time, they were. I think that the reason is found for us in the passage that follows. The fact is that all along the way—as we’ve already seen—they had been arguing among themselves over which of them was the greatest. When Jesus asked them later what it was that they had been talking about, we’re told that they kept silent. They were ashamed and embarrassed. They had still been clinging to their own agenda. In fact, when we’re told about this in Luke’s Gospel, we’re told that they didn’t understand the things Jesus was saying because these things were “hidden from them”. I believe they were hidden because their hearts were still stuck on their own agendas.

And brothers and sisters; there’s no other word for what to do about it but “repent”! To ‘repent’ literally means to ‘change our minds’. We must have a complete attitude transformation. We must tell the Lord that we are sorry that we have placed our own agendas before His; and ask Him to change our hearts so that His agenda fully becomes our own.

That’s very much worth perusing! Just imagine what a community of redeemed and truly devoted followers of Jesus—completely surrendered to Jesus’ own agenda, and unreservedly given over to what He wants—could be used by Him to do in this world!

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