OK, Harriet and I are both beyond middle age and are therefore familiar with the formal, medical terminology associated with hot flashes. As they say, been there, done that. In fact, doing that right now. Her treatment for breast cancer following surgery last year involves taking a hormone blocker that re-introduced hot flashes into our everyday vocabulary. Please note that when I'm talking about hot flashes I'm not referring to spikes in a person's body heat because of a hormone imbalance or overload.
In this context, hot flashes are those moments when our inner fires are ignited by a physical, emotional, or spiritual catalyst. They are occasions when circumstances stoke the embers of anger, frustration, disappointment, fatigue, pressure, physical threat, spiritual compulsion, or just about any other stimulus to the point we burst into flames. These hot flashes are the stuff of road rage, check-out line antics, office drama, dinner table combat, rash commitments, and hasty impulses, among many other hotly inflammable moments. They are perhaps normative for us humans, our default setting when things take a turn. So, what's the big deal with hot flashes? Well, for one thing, we often mistake them, or justify them, be equating them with genuine passion. And, passion they are not.
The disciples experienced many hot flashes during the earthly ministry of Jesus. They were also evidenced in the days leading up to his passion on the cross. The lesson from them is that, (1) these hot flashes do not compel the focused determination of genuine passion, and (2) they do not constitute the substance necessary for fulfilling genuine passion. Relating to the hot flashes so visible in the disciple in the days leading up to the cross, there are really too many to examine in this limited setting. So, give me the writer's license to mention just a few---
Hot Flash One: Peter's response at the Mount of Transfiguration.
In my mind this was a turning point in Luke's Gospel, the event that shifted the focus of Jesus and the Twelve toward Jerusalem. After the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the mountain, Peter said, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters---one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (Luke 9:33). Luke added parentheses to his observation---(He did not know what he was talking about). Obviously Simon Peter has misread what was happening. He thought it was the end of time. And, perhaps egotistically, he thought he was privileged to witness the day of the Lord up close and personal. it was a spiritual and emotional hot flash moment that would fizzle as they neared Jerusalem.
Hot Flash Two: Who will be the greatest?
Shortly thereafter an argument broke out among the Twelve about which one of them would be the greatest (Luke 9:46). Once again it was an emotional hot flash, a moment of heat that had little to do with what was happening in their journey to Jerusalem or the Lord's finishing the work of the Father. Maybe a competitive hot flash that pulsed additional adrenaline through their veins.
Hot Flash Three: calling down fire for heaven.
In the next episode recorded by Luke the entourage was refused the hospitality of a Samaritan village. The inner fires of James and John, later name Boanerges, the Sons of Thunder, were ignited as they asked, "Lord do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them" (Luke 9:54). What boldness and courage! Jesus "...rebuked them and they went to another village". Boldness and courage, indeed. A hot flash.
And, there are many others. When Jesus predicted that disciples would deny and betray him they all protested loudly. Simon Peter refused to believe that he would deny knowing Jesus. Later, Peter drew a sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest (John 18:10). While Jesus was praying and sweating drops of blood these brave, strong willed men slept. His words to them were so appropriate of their hot flashes---"The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41). They had such good intentions. But, their passion was undeveloped, mere human hot flashes at this point. What is more, hot flashes don't possess the steadfast focus for mission, nor the substance to see it through. They sputter out then the moment shifts.
Matthew's Gospel, at least for me, pin points the outcome of hot flashes. it is a chilling, horrific moment in the hours before his crucifixion. The disciples words had been so strong, so courageous, so passionate sounding. They all promised they would die with him. But, after his arrest, Matthew revealed the substance of hot flashes---
Then they all deserted him and fled.
Matthew 26:56b, NIV
And, that's why faith must be more than times when our fires are momentarily ignited by hot personal circumstances. You see, genuine passion for the Father as seen in the life and death of Jesus, isn't circumstantial. It is our food (see john 4:34), what nourishes and compels us in every circumstance.
And so, on this Maundy Thursday and through the celebration of Easter, I'm praying that genuine passion will be birthed in me, and not some shallow hot flashes.
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