Taking the twelve disciples aside, Jesus said, “Listen, we’re going up to Jerusalem, where all the predictions of the prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true. He will be handed over to the Romans, and he will be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit upon. They will flog him with a whip and kill him, but on the third day he will rise again.” But they didn’t understand any of this. The significance of his words was hidden from them, and they failed to grasp what he was talking about. Luke 18:31-34 (NLT)
One would think that the disciples might have had something of a clue.
How could they be so totally dense after three years of following Jesus around, never having heard something false drop from his lips, or have him predict something that didn’t come to pass; there were miracles to back it all up, and the truly astounding fulfillment of God’s promises standing before them.
Still, they were clueless.
God was setting in motion a cosmic struggle for the souls of all people, past, present and future. Jesus had told his disciples on more than one occasion not to expect an easy ride, or anything less than rejection. They might have seen this coming had they not been so vested in their own ideas of what the kingdom was supposed to look like.
And how could they? They were simple men, not skilled theologians. The common understanding of Messiah was that when He arrived He would be a mighty son of King David who would sit on Jerusalem’s throne. How did flogging and death fit with that?
But before we judge the denseness of Peter, John, James and the rest, we might remember that the so-called skilled theologians also missed it. Everything Jesus did, miracles, teaching, and even rasing people from the dead was done publicly. The ruling elders of Israel knew the Scriptures and all the prophecies, yet they too were clueless.
(Perhaps, in their case, it was less that they missed it, and more like they dismissed it.)
The rulers were vested in their own idea of God’s Kingdom on earth; that clouded their judgment, rendering them as clueless as the disciples, because they pictured themselves as an important cog in the wheel of Messiah’s kingdom. Their self-poprtrait of their self-importantance told them they were entitled to a little more respect than having to cow-tow to a lowly carpenter’s son turned preacher.
And what about us?
Two thousand years after the resurrection of Jesus his disciples still wander around clueless at times. Jesus gave us a mandate to proclaim the Gospel, and yet what generally dominates the news reports about what the church is doing has little to do with the open arms of Jesus to receive sinners. More its about the struggle caused by the rejecting spirit of people who want control.
It’s pretty tough to get a good look at the cross when you’re having a tug of war in the mud pit. Today’s mud pit is the back rooms of church buildings and courtrooms where the slug-fest between heterosexual and homosexual kicks up enough dirt to obscure any Jesus-sightings at all.
And so it goes.
People trying to figure-out what Jesus is doing are legion; the disciples had trouble understanding that Jesus was talking about himself when he pointed to the temple being destroyed and raised back up in three days. Nicodemus was confused about being born again physically, when Jesus was talking spiritually. The woman at the well thought of wet water, while Jesus offered a baptized soul, spirit and mind. The disciples couldn’t get their minds around Jesus being bread to eat, or that Lazarus was sleeping in death, and needed an awakening.
And we probably miss a whole lot more than we see too. Especially when we begin to lose sight of who is really in control.
How about starting this day with a prayer that says something like, Dear Father, you are God and I am not; help me keep that straight.