Jesus did not reveal everything to his disciples on day one. He waited until they were ready to hear certain truths before expounding upon them. In Mark 8:31 we read, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
This was the first time that Jesus spoke of his death and resurrection to his disciples. Why now? Well, the previous verses (vv. 27-30) give some insight. In those verses Jesus asks the disciples as to what people were saying about who he was. Various answers are given; John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. Then, Jesus asks them directly, “Who do you say that I am?” It is at this point that Peter, speaking for the group as always, makes the famous statement that they believe he is the Christ. In the parallel passage in Matthew 16 Peter’s words included, “…the Son of the living God.” Again, in Matthew, this affirmative statement of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, is followed by the announcement of his death and resurrection. Only at this point does Jesus begin to teach them the disturbing truth that he must suffer and die, an unconscionable theory to the minds of any Jew who was expecting the Messiah. It is little wonder that Jesus waited until their understanding of him as the Messiah, the Son of God was firmly entrenched in their minds.
The point of application would be this: our children, young Christians, or unsaved acquaintances are ready to hear difficult truth at different times. Is it true that Christ calls us to lay down our lives for him even unto the death as many martyrs have done? Yes! But teaching a class of young kindergartners and first graders that challenging truth might just be beyond their ability to process correctly at their current level. The prospect of burning at the stake for Jesus is terrifying to them.
I recall hearing my father-in-law, who was a pastor for most of his life, say that even though they faced some very challenging times in their churches with disagreements and “church fights”, my wife and her four sisters grew up with the idyllic notion that the church was without problems. That was because mom and dad Cummins refused to discuss and hash out church problems in front of the kids and protected them until they were able “to count it all joy when various trials come upon you”. They realized that they could not nor did they want to shield their daughters indefinitely from some of these harsh realities about church life. They only wanted to protect them until such as time as they could process it and handle it without scarring their souls. Now, you may agree or disagree with their decision, but they did have five daughters who married five preachers who all continue to serve the church faithfully to this day. Dad Cummins was convinced that a big part of the reason they all wanted to “follow in their parent’s footsteps” so to speak, was that their tender souls were protected and not scarred by some hard truths, until they were able to handle them.
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker and later a writer who worked with her father, Casper ten Boom, her sister Betsie ten Boom and other family members to help many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II by hiding them in her home. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, is a biography that recounts the story of her family’s efforts and how she found hope while she was imprisoned at the concentration camp.
When she was a little girl, at times she would go with her father on trips to other towns to do clock repairs. When he did, he took a large satchel of tools with him. One day on the train, young Corrie asked her father about something she had overheard on the train having to do with sex and promiscuity. When she asked her father about what she had overheard, her father said to her, “Corrie, go over and pick up my tool satchel and bring it to me.” Corrie walked over to the satchel and tugged at the handles but alas she had to say to her father, “It is too heavy for me to carry.” Her father then returned her attention to the difficult question she had posed to him a moment before and said, “Corrie, someday we will talk about that question and I’ll give you answers. But right now, those things are too heavy for you to carry.” Wise man!
Not everyone is ready for every truth at the same time. Sometimes, a truth is too heavy at the moment for someone to carry. Knowing when that is can be a trick. There are times when young converts need to be gently led to certain truths say for instance, about the sovereignty of God over sin. There are subjects, very true subjects, that our unsaved friends might not yet be able to handle, such as the doctrine of election. But Jesus “rolled out truth” to his disciples progressively, even as God has done with Scriptural revelation, taking some 1,500 years to unfold it…because until Christ came, we were not ready for it all.
God is all wise, even as it relates to “doling out” the truth. May we imitate that wisdom, the Spirit helping us.