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Monday, August 30, 2010

One of the Days of the Son of Man

House-sitters watch over a beautifully constructed home.  While the walls pulse from the beat of the music, some eat, some drink, some laugh.  One cleans.  Instantly, the floor quakes, the walls and windows clatter, objects fall and break, and a powerful wind rushes through the building.  All but the one cleaning are thrown to the ground.  Desperate, they cry in terror. 
The wind blows open the curtain of the window and the Master peeks through the window.  Still standing, the one who had been cleaning sees his Master.  The Master winks.  The servant winks back.  What glory it is to be found standing on “one of the days of the Son of Man!” (Luke 17:22)
When the clattering calms down, those on the ground cry out, “What was that?!”  The servant smiles.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Our Misunderstood Bridegroom

“and the disciples did not understand him"
(paraphrase of Lk 2:50, 9:45, 18:34; Mk 9:32; Jn 12:16 & -- you get the idea!)

This often repeated refrain hints to me a mystery within a passage that confuses many in the churches:

"The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.
Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit.
When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.
Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again.'
And his disciples heard him say it. . . .
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
Peter remembered and said to Jesus, 'Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!'"
(Mark 11: 12-21)

I love this passage. Jesus is so real. So human. So able to get upset just like me! Wedged right in the middle is another favorite passage of mine -- when Jesus over-turns the tables of money-changers in the temple. Whoo hoo! Adios, Religious Capitalists making money at the expense of God!! Again, Jesus is so real. So human. So able to get upset just like me!

But I'm also intrigued by the symbolism of the fig tree and the season. What might have made Jesus hungry? Maybe he was hungry for disciples who understood Him. The fig tree, representing Israel, gave Him some hope: did it bear fruit? ANY fruit? Was there any fruit on the fig tree to show that a few were ready for His message? Apparently not: "it was not the season for figs." It was like God was teasing to His Son through the fig tree: "Sorry, Son, you arrived too early. Israel isn't ready for your message. Even your own disciples aren't ready for the Messiah!" Instead of chuckling along with the Father, Jesus took the hint and cursed the tree.

But did he truly lack hope? Not according to the next passage, which really isn't an answer to Peter's statement. Instead, it seems to be Jesus muttering to Himself His own response to His own frustration: 'Have faith in God,' Jesus answered. 'I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.'" (Mark 11:22-25)

Here we have Jesus' hope: faith in God; his solution: pray and believe; and even his repentance: forgive to receive God's forgiveness. Jesus had to forgive his entire generation for its lack of readiness.

Still, Jesus' coming was hardly in vain. After he rose, he showed himself again to His disciples and "then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45).

Even today, many disciples of Jesus "do not understand him." And even today, many of us are experiencing radical, surprising moments when He "opens our minds to understand the scriptures."

May our Bridegroom continue to open our minds. May he be making us ready for the Wedding. May our generation be the Bride who is finally ready to understand the Bridegroom! Amen!