Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jesus goes up to Jerusalem

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again." But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34)

Of course they don't understand, he thought. Has this not always been the question since the dawn of creation? Why should there be any suffering at all?

For a while he said nothing, while his disciples followed, arguing with one another what his words meant. He contemplated the great passage in Isaiah, "Who has believed what we have heard, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Who, indeed? Has it not always been a struggle? How much longer, Father, must I be with this crooked generation? How much longer must I put up with them?

Yet for this reason he had come into the world. For this reason, in some sense, he had created the world. In all of this suffering he revealed his glory. Why did no one seem to understand?

Father, if it is your will, let this cup pass from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.

There was always that tension within him. Maybe that famous complaint of mortals was right, after all. Why bring into being a world only to subject it to its own evil? Why should I suffer for the sake of the world? Why does it exist at all? Could there not have been a better way?

"So the Lord said, 'I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created--people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.'" Jesus couldn't help thinking about these words. He prayed in his heart, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Truly, they do not know what they are doing. But had not Job spoken what is right about God, and had not his friends kindled God's anger against them? And was not the psalmist telling the truth when he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Were not all of these complaints vindicated by the Scriptures? Perhaps mortals know more than they get credit for.

Perhaps I am the one to blame for this, he thought. Is that why I am going to die? Is the sin of the world really my own, after all? I am the light of the world... But if the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. What a fine phrase for the Prince of Peace! The suffering that I bring is not only my own, but of the whole world. If I have the power to raise the dead, why should anyone die at all?

"Why do you all me good?" He had really meant it. He knew very well that mortals had many complaints in their hearts against God. If being born man had truly taught him anything, it was that time and finitude were enough to drive anyone mad, even to the point of wondering whether the Father was there at all.

Three times he had told his disciplines exactly what was about to happen. And three times they had become distressed, not understanding what he meant. Maybe they never would understand.

As he was lost in thought, he barely noticed the blind man calling out, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" He stopped. "What do you want me to do for you?" The man said, "Lord, let me see again."

It really was so obvious. Lord, let me see again. I'm blind, so let me see. The difference between this man and the crowds is that he knows exactly what he wants.

Why is he blind? Is it just so that I can heal him? Did the world come into being for my own vanity? "Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher." Even if I heal this man, will his life be any less vain?

Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has saved you." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

But no one understood why he was going to Jerusalem.

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