You have an agenda for your life. That agenda may or may not include God’s plan and His agenda. If God’s agenda for your life is not your agenda for your life then you will be wrestling with God all your life. Your life will wear you out. Once you understand God’s agenda and embrace it and give up your personal agenda then you can experience the peace that surpasses all understanding and the abundant life God wants you to have.
We are learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus. We are learning what it looks like and what it doesn’t look like. We are also learning some things about who Jesus is and who He isn’t. Mark is teaching us what it means to follow Jesus and he is teaching some things about who we are following.
We are going through the Gospel of Mark and we are in Mark 9. Jesus took three of His disciples up on a mountain. While there the disciples had an incredible encounter and witnessed what we call the Transfiguration of Jesus. They saw Jesus like they have never seen Him before. They got a glimpse of His glory as the Son of God. Afterwards, Jesus and the three disciples come back down the mountain and back into the real world where they found the other nine disciples in an argument with some religious leaders who were challenging them and their authority as Jesus’ disciples because they couldn’t cast out an evil spirit from a boy whose father had brought him to Jesus for help. A crowd had gathered and was listening to the argument. The disciples couldn’t do anything to help, so Jesus says, “Bring the boy to me.” Jesus cast out the evil spirit. The crowd was amazed. This is where we pick up the story in verse 30.
Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. (NLT)
This is not a very long passage of scripture. It’s one that would be easy to bypass. However, I believe the importance of this scripture is out of proportion to its size. It is a lesson that we must learn if we are going to grow as followers of Jesus.
Here is the problem. For many of us who are followers of Jesus, like the disciples, have not yet whole-heartedly embraced Jesus’ agenda as our own. We have our own agendas; and our own agenda is what is 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 agenda.
Have you ever had your agenda collide with someone else’s agenda? As a teenager, has your agenda ever collided with your parents’ agenda for the weekend? You plan one thing, but they plan something else for you. As a spouse, has your agenda for the money ever collided with your spouse’s agenda for the money? It’s the collision of the agendas! Usually you can work some of these agendas out with some type of compromise and everyone is happy.
Listen carefully; you have an agenda for your life. You have a plan in your mind on how you want your life to look like and be like. You have an agenda for your career, your retirement, your free time, your marriage, your children, etc. You have an agenda and plan whether you have thought through it or not. However, God has an agenda and plan for your life as well. Those two agendas often will collide, but in this case there can be no compromise. You will either embrace your agenda or God’s agenda; there is no compromise on this.
This is what the disciples have been struggling with from day one. They have had a hard time with the Lord’s agenda for themselves and the Lord’s agenda for Himself. His plans and their plans keep colliding.
Back in Mark 8:34, Jesus said “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” (vs. 34-36, NLT). Jesus is saying that if you want to follow Me then you must put your personal agenda to the side and fully embrace My agenda. Following Jesus involves dying to yourself and taking up your cross and following Him. That’s putting your plans aside and submitting to His. This is what’s behind the passage we are looking at today.
Today, we are going to think about God’s agenda. We are going to take a look at some general truths regarding His plan and your involvement with it.
God’s agenda is revealed to you over time
First, God’s agenda is revealed to you over time. God reveals His agenda to you as you journey with Him. As you travel through life you are going to experience many things. You are going to experience school, relationships (good and bad), successes and failures, blessings and trials, mountain tops and valleys. You will work, have friends, be offended and offend others. You will make good decisions and bad decisions. You are human and you will experience life as you travel through it over the years. As a follower of Jesus and while life is going on, you are going to be reading and studying His Word, talking to other believers about His Word and how it applies to your life, praying, going to church, serving and blessing others, and growing spiritually. As you travel through life God is going to reveal some things to you along the way that will help you understand His agenda for your life and help you to make adjustments to your life that will line you up more and more into the center of His will for your life.
This brings us to verse 30. Mark begins verse 30 by setting the stage when he says, “Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there” because He wanted to spend some uninterrupted time teaching His disciples. Because of all His miracles and His reputation Jesus had become extremely famous. Everywhere He went if people discovered He was there, a crowd would gather. With every miracle Jesus did it either revealed or confirmed something true about Jesus. Every miracle was an object lesson that pointed to who He was and demonstrated His agenda.
Listen carefully; what Jesus is teaching them began immediately after He cast out an evil spirit from a man’s son. Luke 9:43 says, “While everyone was marveling at everything he was doing” (referring to the deliverance of the boy) he began to teach them about his suffering, death, and resurrection that was soon approaching. So the picture you have here is Jesus beginning a lesson about His coming suffering and continued it as they walked through Galilee immediately after casting out the evil spirit.
Let’s have an English lesson for a moment. You need to know this in order to see what I’m about to show you. Let’s talk about past tense verses imperfect tense. If I’m using the past tense then I would say, “I went to Walmart.” I’m referring to something I did without any connect to the present or future. If I were to use an imperfect tense then I would say, “I started going to Walmart” or “I have been going to Walmart.” The imperfect tense speaks of a continuous action. The imperfect tense implies that I have been going to Walmart, am still going to Walmart and plan on going to Walmart in the future. That’s the imperfect tense.
Throughout these verses Mark uses the “imperfect tense.” What Mark is telling us that Jesus began to teach about His agenda at some point earlier, but now He is continuing this lesson and will continue it as they travel. The disciples have learned a lot, but they also have misunderstood a lot. Jesus is continuing helping them to understand what He is about and what they should be all about. These lessons are happening as they travel from one place to another and from one week to another. These lessons are happening while on the job and while they succeed and while they fail.
The point I want you to see is God reveals His agenda to you as you journey with Him. It happens over time. Don’t wait until you have it all figured out before you started applying God’s Word. Don’t wait until you have learned enough before you start serving others. God is going to teach you how to swim while you are swimming. God is going to teach how to love while you love. God is going to teach you how to forgive while you forgive. God is going to teach you how live while you are living. Begin following Him and let Him teach along the way.
When I think about this, I go back to Mark 1 where Jesus originally called some of His disciples to follow Him and here is what Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (Mark 1:17, NLT). They were called to follow Jesus, just like you, and in the course of following Him, He would train them, equip them, and show them how to influence people for His kingdom.[i] Jesus is not going to lay out the whole plan to you at once, because it will not make any sense. He is going to give it to you bit by bit so your mind can adjust bit by bit to it.
God’s agenda is a priority for your life
Number two, God’s agenda is a priority for your life. I’m not saying that it’s your priority that you have placed on your life, but it’s God’s priority that He has placed on your life. God is makes it a priority to give you opportunities to understand His agenda and the role you play in it. God is very protective of spending time with you and helping you learn what you need to learn. He is going to call you, guide you, and invite you to spend time alone with Him and away from the distractions in your life.
I see this in verse 30-31, “Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them.” A couple of things.
The reason Jesus “didn’t want anyone to know” where “he was,” was so He could “spend more time with his disciples” in order to “teach them.” Jesus is inviting you, just like He did with the disciples, to get away from the world from time to time and focus on Him. I am convinced that God wants to spend time with you to teach you. Let me suggest to you three opportunities that God has created for you to get away and spend time with Him.
- Spend time alone with God reading His Word and talking to Him,
- Go to church on a regular basis (find a church you connect with, show up and put yourself in an atmosphere of believers who sing praise songs to remind you of who He is and how great He is and listen to His Word being taught in order to better understand Him and the world you live in),
- Get connected to a Life Group where you can pray with other believers, discuss His Word with them, and journey through life together.
The kingdom of darkness is trying to get you to forget about God during the week and you need those times alone with God, with your church family and your Life Group to help battle the distractions of life.
Another thought on this. The fact that Jesus was determined “to spend more time with his disciples” to “teach them” and “didn’t want anyone to know” where they were shows how important what He is trying to teach them is. Jesus wanted uninterrupted and focused time on the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Himself (the Gospel). This was crucial to their development and growth as a disciple. What He wanted the disciples to start wrestling with was of eternal importance. He knew this would be difficult for them to grasp what He was saying, but He also understood the significance of them learning it; the same is true for you. There are some truths that will take your undivided and prolonged attention to grasp.
Later on after the resurrection Paul would say in 1 Corinthians 15, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” (vs. 3-4, NLT). The resurrection of Jesus is crucial. Later Paul would say, “If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins” (v. 17). Jesus knew this and He wanted His disciples, and you, to begin understanding how important His death, burial, and resurrection is when it comes to the gospel and to your walk with Christ throughout your life.
Another reason why Jesus is bringing this up is because the disciples refused to believe Him the first time He mentioned this back in Mark 8. He knew they were not getting it and were struggling understanding who He really was and what He came to do and how that impacts their lives. So back in Mark 8:31 we read, “Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. 33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (NLT) They were not getting it. They still were thinking from their point of view rather than an eternal point of view.
When Luke is describing this conversation he tells us that Jesus said, “Listen to me and remember what I say” (Luke 9:44). The literal translation of that is “let these words sink into your ears” (NASB). Don’t let it go in one ear and out the other, let it sink it and make an impact. We must do the same.
This shift from doing miracles with the crowds to a focus on teaching the disciples emphasizes the importance of knowing God’s truth. Think about this for a moment, there are many more people out there who could be healed of something, but Jesus is turning His attention to teaching His disciples truth so they could pass it on later. This tells me truth is more important than healings and miracles. The message is more important than miracles. Don’t get lost in looking for miracles when you should be listening for His message.
God’s agenda is the salvation of people
If God has an agenda (and He does), then what is that agenda? That brings us to our third observation. Number three, God’s agenda is the salvation of people. When Jesus was born we are told His agenda in Matthew 1:21 when the angel told Joseph, “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (NLT). So, the Lord’s agenda is to save people from their sins. This means more than you think. When I say salvation think bigger than just getting saved and going to heaven. When the Bible talks about salvation it is referring to everything that comes with salvation. To help you understand what is involved let me tell you about the three aspects of your salvation. This deals with your past, present, and future.
- Past: You were saved. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (ESV). That is past tense. You some point in your life you placed your faith in Christ for salvation. You were saved and rescued from the penalty of sin. You were forgiven. You were given a place in heaven when you die. This deals with your position in Christ. You became a child of God, you were adopted, and a part of God’s family. When people think of salvation this is what they normally think of. They were born again and saved. They usually connect this to some point in their life in the past. This is also called justification.
- Present: You are being saved. In 1 Corinthians 1:18 we are told, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (ESV). This is in the present tense. You are being saved from the power of sin. This deals with your sanctification and spiritual growth. Your mind, will, and emotions are being rescued from worldly, sinful, and selfish thinking. The way you think, feel, and behave is changing. There is a transformation happening inside you. You are being saved and rescued from the power of sin. You are learning how to live for Christ and in Christ.
- Future: You will be saved. Romans 5:9 says, “We have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (ESV). This is called glorification. This will happen in the future either after your death or the Lord’s return. You will be saved and rescue from the very presence of sin. Your entire being (spirit, soul, and body) will be perfectly saved. You will receive a new and glorified body. This is yet to happen.
This is the agenda of Jesus. This is His agenda for you. His agenda is for your salvation – past, present, and future. Embracing His agenda for your life will radically change and transform your life. This agenda is not only about your salvation, but also the salvation of those in your life and around the world. When you embrace the Lord’s agenda you embrace it for you personally and become a part of helping others experience His salvational agenda in their lives as well. You become a disciple who makes disciples.
For any of this to happen, Jesus must be betrayed, crucified, die, be buried and rise again. The Lord’s agenda begins by Him going to the cross for our sins in order to save us from sin (past, present, and future). Jesus wants to make sure His disciples, including you and me, get this point down. This is crucial.
So, in verse 31 Jesus says to His disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” The victory of God’s agenda is all based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Without this happening, there is no victory and the devil and sin win. But that didn’t happen. The devil and sin lost and we know can experience God’s full agenda in our lives (past, present, and future).
This is a one sentence summary of a much bigger story. Mark is giving us a summary statement of what Jesus talked about. To help you understand this I’m going to give you a one sentence summary of a story, movie or book and you tell me what it is.
- A boy wizard begins training and must battle for his life with the Dark Lord who murdered his parents (Harry Potter).
- An up and coming Jedi must learn who he is and be trained to defend the universe against the dark forces (Star Wars).
- A captain of a whaling ship is obsessed with hunting down a gigantic white whale (Moby Dick).
- The Son of Man was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, died, and rose from the grave three days later (Gospel of Jesus Christ).
That is what Mark has done. He has given us a summary statement of a much bigger story. However, this story is true. Let’s break this statement down and let it sink into our souls.
- Jesus: The title “Son of Man” refers to both the humanity of Jesus (Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 2:17) and the authority of Jesus (Dan. 7:13; Acts 7:56) that God had given Him to die for humankind. This is the title Jesus used most often of Himself.[ii] It was the name for the coming Messiah who would reign as the king over the kingdom of God on the earth. It would have captivated and excited the disciples to hear Jesus use the title of Himself. The disciples, however, were thinking strictly an earthly kingdom and Jesus was thinking more of a kingdom that ruled over the heart and lives of people.[iii]
- Betrayal: Then Jesus says the Son of Man “is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” Since the disciples were expecting an earthly Messiah who would be an earthly king and do all these wonderful things for people the idea that their messiah would suffer and die was completely new to them. Regarding Jesus’ comments on betrayal, the disciples would have wondered, “Who on earth could betray the Son of Man – and why would he?” The ironic twist to all this is that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His own disciples, Judas. The word “betrayed” (paradidomi) carries the idea of being delivered over to another. It conveys handing a person over to another authority. This is exactly what Judas did.
This betrayal was a part of God’s plan. Peter mentioned this in his sermon in Acts 2:23 when he said, “But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed” (NLT). In Jesus’ prediction of His own death we see the sovereignty of God. Even when it looks like God’s enemies are succeeding they are actually losing.
- Death: Then Jesus says the Son of Man “will be killed.” The disciples would be asking “Who could kill someone who was so glorious and wonderful and did amazing things for his people and whose kingdom is supposed to last forever?” To them this was ridiculous. However, the death of Jesus was absolutely necessary. Jesus died as our substitute. Romans 4:25 says, “He was handed over to die because of our sins.” The Bible teaches us that Jesus is sinless. He never sinned in thought or action. He was never selfish. However, He voluntarily chose to receive the punishment you and I should have received for our sins against God. He became our substitute. Isaiah 53:4-6 says, “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrowsthat weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all” (NLT). Jesus was our substitute on the cross. This was all necessary!
- Resurrection: Then Jesus says something incredible about the Son of Man. He says that after He dies that “three days later he will rise from the dead.” Despite the simplicity of this statement, the disciples still did not understand as the next verse explains. Not only did the disciples struggle with the reality that the Jews and Romans would kill Him but also that when He had been killed, He would rise three days later. They understood Jesus’ power over death, having seen Him raise dead people. But the question that must have troubled them was that if He died, who would raise Him? As a result, they did not understand this statement.
That is the essence of the Gospel. Paul when addressing the Gospel wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, “Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (vs. 1-4, NLT). You can say more about the Gospel, but you cannot say anything less and still have the Gospel.
God’s agenda is embraced when we repent from our agenda
Number four, God’s agenda is embraced when we repent from our agenda. Even though Jesus has talked about his death at length over the past few weeks and spent a large part of the day talking about it with the disciples we are told in verse 32, “They didn’t understand what he was saying” (NLT). When Luke mentioned this he said, “Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it” (Luke 9:45, NLT). Why was it that they “didn’t understand” the Lord’s agenda and why was it “hidden from them”?
To see the answer you must look at the context. What happened before this? Back in Mark 8:31 Jesus began teaching them and telling them “that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead” (NLT). On behalf of the disciples, Peter takes Jesus and pulls Him off to the side to reprimand and correct Jesus for saying such things. This is when Jesus looks at Peter and says, “Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (v.33, NLT). Peter’s agenda, along with the other disciples, was for Jesus to be this earthly king and ruler who would return their nation back to the glory days full of power and authority and peace. They had an agenda, but it was not the Lord’s agenda. They were seeing the Lord’s mission strictly from a human point of view and not an eternal point of view. So they are locked in on this human perspective and agenda. That’s what happened before Mark 9.
In Mark 9, right after Jesus predicts His death and resurrection for another time and spend significant time explaining it to them along the roads of Galilee they eventually arrive at Capernaum and they settled down in a house and Jesus asked this question in verse 33, “’What were you discussing out on the road?’ But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest” (vs. 33-34, NLT). They were still thinking from an earthly and human point of view. They were still focused and locked in on their agenda for the Lord. They were discussing who was the greatest among them in order to determine the pecking order of the Lord’s presidential cabinet.
I’ve said all of that to say this, the reason they “didn’t understand what he was saying”[iv] and the reason it was “hidden from them” was because their own hearts were locked in on their agenda and therefore could not see the Lord’s agenda. By holding on to their personal agenda they could not see God’s agenda.[v]
Then Mark ends verse 32 with an odd statement when he says, “and they were afraid to ask him what he meant” (NLT). What would have made them afraid to ask Jesus any questions about this subject? Probably has something to do with the last time Jesus taught on this and Peter corrected Jesus and Jesus reprimanded Peter severely (Mark 8:33). None of them wanted to be reprimanded by Jesus like that. Besides, to them the idea of Jesus suffering and dying was an unpleasant thought they wanted to avoid. As a matter of fact, Matthew tells us that when Jesus talked about this it “filled them with grief” (Matthew 17:23, NLT). This is a subject that greatly distressed them, made them sad, and filled them with sorrow. If they are like many people, they didn’t want to talk about it nor hear it.
- To embrace God’s agenda you will need to let your agenda go. You will need to adjust your life to His plan for your life.
- This is where you say, “God, how do you want to use me in your agenda? What does following you look like at work, at school, and at home?”
[i] This concept about learning how to live for Christ’s agenda while you follow Him is also applied to the great commission. When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19, NLT) the language He used here is in the imperfect tense. It actually reads, “As you go.” As you live life and travel and journey through life make disciples.
[ii] It might be helpful to know that the Jewish Scriptures – what we know as the Old Testament – were not divided into chapters and verses originally. That came much later in history. Jews during Jesus’ day recognized sections of Scripture by key words and phrases, alerting the students (in this case the twelve disciples) where He was referring them to in Scripture. If someone were to refer to Noah and the flood they knew they were referring to Genesis. If they referred to the plagues of Egypt they knew they were referring to Exodus. If someone were to refer to the “Son of Man” they knew they were referring to book of Daniel (specifically Daniel 7:13-14 for us today).
[iii] The Son of Man’s coming earthly kingdom was so ingrained in the people’s national psyche that the Jews ignored other, more difficult, portions of the Scriptures – like the ones that spoke of the Messiah as a suffering servant.
[iv] The phrase “didn’t understand” (agnoeo) refers to a lack of ability to understand. Because of their focus on their own personal agenda they did not have the ability to see God’s agenda. They would have to repent of their agenda and accept God’s agenda. By the way, the word repent means to have a change of mind. They would need to change their mind about both their agenda and God’s agenda. Reject theirs and embrace God’s.
[v] Three times in the Gospel of Mark Jesus explains to them about the His death, burial, and resurrection (Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34). When you examine all three it is interesting to note what immediately happens after each one. After the first one, Peter, speaking on behalf of the disciples, rebuked Jesus for saying such things. After the second one, you discover that while in the midst of teaching this the disciples were having a private dispute over who was the greatest among them. After the third time, two of the disciples were arrogant enough to ask Jesus for the two seats to His left and right of the throne. Once again, their personal agendas (and their inflated sense of themselves and the desire for greatness) conflicted with Jesus’ own kingdom agenda. I do think this is one of the major problems the church has. Everyone has an agenda for the church that meets their selfish needs rather than focusing on the agenda of God of saving (past, present, future) people.