(Jesus and his disciples) went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. (Mark 9:30-32)
I am struck by the number of occasions in Mark’s gospel where Jesus appeared as a teacher. It makes good sense that Jesus would do this as he began his ministry announcing that God’s kingdom had appeared in a new way and calling upon people to change their lives and embrace God’s new way.
This message required more than a preacher to deliver it. It required a teacher—a person who could move people to open their minds and hearts and make changes in their lives based on the passion of the person who taught. A teacher is a person who really loves and is deeply committed to what she or he is teaching.
Teachers are constantly on the lookout for “teachable moments”—those times when their student learners are open, listening, motivated, and ready to make changes in old patterns and/or set forth on a new journey of knowledge and/or action. Teachers’ hope and vision is that their students will someday exceed them in their knowledge, achievement, and understanding.
However, when a teacher tries to impart knowledge and experience that is totally new and unfamiliar, it’s possible that the teacher could encounter what I would call “teachable moments on steroids”—times when there is so much new and unfamiliar to learn that the students are overwhelmed and begin to resist what the teacher is teaching.
This is what seems to be happening for the disciples in Mark’s gospel. What Jesus was telling them was so far from their understanding of God and God’s ways, that they became reluctant and resistant students. In the occasion of this text, far from engaging in a teachable moment, they were silent and didn’t ask any questions—no openness, no indication of a willingness to listen, no curiosity about how Jesus’ teaching could change their lives for the better.
Of course, you’re thinking, how could anyone be open, listening, and curious about a way of life that began with Jesus’ crucifixion and death before his resurrection from the dead? Only Jesus as teacher could show them that by revealing to his disciples that what he taught would really happen! So, he could always begin his teaching with this teachable moment, “God is here in a new way, change your way of living, and believe in the Good News.”
I have a hunch that this story can be helpful to you and me as we continue to live our way through the present pandemic. Since early 2020, we have encountered so much in our lives that is new and unfamiliar to us—such that to some, it is totally unbelievable, and so they deny its reality. There is so much new for us to learn about the virus itself, how it affects our daily living, and how, if we choose, we could become better people individually and together as a greater community, if we embrace what we are learning, be kind to each other, and seek to help one another. We too are facing our own time of “teachable moments on steroids.”
What could we learn from Jesus the teacher in Mark that could help us through this time?
Jesus was clear about his message. He showed God’s way as he knew it and to which he had committed his life. For us, this may mean not only learning and living by new learnings as they are revealed (facts) but also with God’s help sharing the life of caring for and protecting our neighbors.
Jesus kept on teaching even when his disciples resisted. This is a hard one for us. Many of us feel exhausted by all that has happened. We’d like some relief. Jesus’ encouragement to us well may be to stay the course and share kindness even when it does not come back to us immediately.
Jesus paid attention to his disciples even when they didn’t pay attention to him. Many of us may be weary of continuing to discover common ground, engage in civil conversation, and find places for mutual respect for those who see the world very differently from the way we do. Jesus can give us patience and assurance as we continue to make efforts to stay connected with these persons.
Jesus, as he taught, walked side by side with his friends and followers. We see him there with them in their most difficult moments. No doubt this gave peace and comfort in both their carefree times and most distressing days. Jesus can uplift us to find our way through these difficult times by staying close to our family and friends.
God who is our first and greatest Teacher, may we receive the life you give us and live it with a teachable spirit throughout our days. May we receive the example of Jesus the teacher to be available to all among us who need our love, care, and protection. Amen.