But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what he said. - Luke 18:34
With Holy Week coming soon, it's pretty easy to listen in on this kind of story, where Jesus tells the disciples that soon he will be betrayed and suffer, be nailed to a cross and die, and after three days rise again, and think, "Dumb disciples, why don't they ever get it? Why couldn't they hear what he told them so plainly and not once but three times?"
I'm not sure the disciples were dumb, or at least that I am any smarter than they were. There are lots of times when I've heard only what I wanted to hear, not what was being said. And there have also been quite a number of times that I've been working with congregations, especially ones where people are angry and frightened, and I've noticed that our capacity for hearing what's being said or seeing what's going on can be just about nil. Truth can be spoken over and over and we just don't seem to hear it.
So why did Jesus bother? Why did he tell them what was about to go down? My hunch is that somehow, later, they would recall his words. They would say, "Remember? Oh, now I get it." And what exactly would they get? That when our plans and predictions go bust and our expectations aren't fulfilled, God is still God. God is still working and is able to bring about God's purposes in spite of, sometimes through, our sin.
Just because what we thought would happen or should happen doesn't, it doesn't mean the whole story is over. The story is God's story, bigger than we can grasp, better than we can imagine.
Forgive us, Lord, for the times your hearts go hard, the eyes of our hearts are closed, and the ears of our hearts are stopped. Keep working with us, leading us on, healing our hearts and opening our eyes and ears to your grace.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.