They 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.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
The disciples are starting to enter into the most humbling part of their journey. They can’t seem to get anything right, and their humanity always seems to be getting in the way.
This first story really resonates with me as a teacher. Jesus is teaching the disciples, and they don’t get it. (Shocker.) But instead of asking questions, they nod and pretend like they know what’s going on. Every teacher knows exactly why. They are afraid of looking stupid in front of each other. As the next story reveals, they have been arguing about who the best disciple is. They are afraid that if they ask Jesus what He means, they will seem ignorant, and therefore lesser, to the other disciples. Which we know is silly, because they were all clueless.
As we read, it’s so easy to see that this is clearly not what God wants us to do. We should always feel bold enough to ask questions, whether in prayer to God, or to our pastors and teachers. That’s obvious. Yet in practice, we often fall into this trap. Like the disciples, we are concerned about how our peers see us, and we can easily become afraid to take risks. I see it every week in my Sunday School class, as my peers just sit, too nervous to participate. I see it in myself, hesitant to pray for the class for fear of praying “wrong” or poorly. I think this natural human tendency takes a lot of self-awareness to even notice, and even more to overcome. We need to always be on the lookout for it if we want to avoid the mistakes the disciples made.