Why not ask?

jesus-and-childProper 20B; September 20, 2015
Mark 9:30-37
Trinity by the Cove Episcopal Church, Naples, FL


It’s really very human I think . . .

  • that often times when we don’t understand something, we don’t ask about it – we don’t question . . .
  • that in moments when we realize that we have no idea what’s just been said or what’s going on – we are unwilling to ask for clarification or further explanation . . .

Why don’t we ask? What are we afraid of?

When we don’t comprehend something, we can tend to figure out all kinds of ways to deflect our discomfort at not knowing.  We avoid asking questions so we won’t appear to be stupid. We don’t want to expose our lack of knowledge, and so we say nothing at all. Or if we disagree, maybe we dread a possible confrontation – so we bite our tongue and keep still.

Another thing is, when you start asking questions, you may get answers that you don’t want to hear – or you’re not yet ready to hear.

When you start asking questions, you’re engaging in dialogue – and dialogue can be a rather unpredictable experience. It’s easier to remain silent. Your own self-contained monologue feels like a much safer place to be.

Not knowing – not understanding. This can be a vulnerable place. I think that may be where the disciples are in the Gospel story today –

“Jesus and his disciples passed through Galilee. Jesus 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 don’t understand what he’s saying . . . they don’t get it . . .

So why don’t they simply ask Jesus to explain? Probably because they don’t want to appear as confused as they are. They’re embarrassed. Or maybe, they are so distressed by his teaching about the future that they fear addressing it.


Most of us have been there – in a place where we simply can’t accept what is right in front of us. But take note: This isn’t stupidity. This isn’t obstinacy. It isn’t even a rigid unwillingness to face the facts . . . This is fear. (Mark writes that “they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.”)

Why such fear? Perhaps because they can’t imagine how what Jesus is saying can possibly be true. Jesus has spent his time teaching – and healing – and feeding – and driving out demons … So how can Jesus possibly suffer the way he describes it? How can someone this good be killed?

But there’s more to it than that: Jesus doesn’t just predict that he will suffer – he says he will be betrayed. And you can only be betrayed by someone you trust. So the disciples may be wondering how this implicates them, Jesus’ closet friends, in the dark events to come . . .

This whole picture is simply too terrible to face. The disciples don’t understand and – most probably, don’t want to understand . . . not out of stubbornness, but out of fear.  And I wonder if they even heard the last part, “and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

Fear does this:  Fear limits our options . . . blinds our vision for the future . . . strangles our imagination . . . destroys possibility.  Fear kills all hope.

And this is why Jesus came: to take on fear – his own fear, as well as ours. Jesus overcame fear by enduring fear – the fear of death – and by accepting death itself on the cross. But he was raised from death according to God’s promise. It’s this promise that allows Jesus to overcome fear.

Jesus overcomes fear in the only way possible: by trusting the love and mercy of God. The only way through fear is by love and trust in God . . . and by the grace of God.  Through death on the cross, Jesus opens the way to God’s grace . . . and he gives us the ability to love and trust as well.


So back to today’s reading:

We can see why the disciples have problems understanding, and we can even sympathize with the things that make them reluctant to ask questions. But I wonder what might have happened if they had found the courage to ask their questions? . . . I wonder if they would have discovered that there is nothing Jesus’ wants more than to share their questions, their struggles, and their doubts so that he can help them come closer to God. And I wonder if the same is true for us.

When we have questions about our faith – when doubts arise – then shouldn’t we ask questions? If Jesus’ death seems meaningless to us or if his resurrection is hard to accept and believe, shouldn’t we ask questions?

We all have questions:

  • Where is God when I’m hurting?
  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why do we have cancer . . . and terrorism . . . and poverty?

Wouldn’t it be good if we dared to ask these questions – – – in spite of our fears?


Of course, the first place to take our questions is to God – to come to God in prayer, honestly claiming our doubts and fears.

If that’s difficult, try praying the Psalms: The psalms are brutally honest, and they contain the whole range of human experience and emotion. The Psalms can give us an entrance into prayer when our own words fail us.

Sometimes we need the help of others to pray with us. If you are seeking answers – and the healing grace that flows from Jesus and from the power of the Cross, the OSL healing prayer ministry team will be waiting to pray with you after the service today.

Also, today is the beginning of the Christian formation programs at Trinity for the fall season. This is another place to bring your questions and grow in the knowledge of love of Christ.

And please – always feel free to speak with any of the clergy – Fr. Edward, Fr. Daniel, Fr. Steve or me – if you’d like to talk with us about your questions . . .

So think about it: What questions are you afraid to ask God? or What questions do you wish you could ask at church?

Jesus welcomes us even when we don’t have all the answers. Today’s Gospel reading closes with Jesus embracing a child who is the ultimate symbol of not knowing – a child who is immature and totally dependent – yet, at the same time, is uninhibited, delightfully curious and spiritually full of purity and life . . .


The good news is that we need not fear our questions, our confusion, our curiosity . . . because, in truth, we live through Jesus Christ – whose “perfect love casts out all fear.”

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