The disciples of Jesus lurked in the background of Good Friday. According to Matthew, they had all deserted him and fled after his arrest the previous night (see Matthew 26:56). As usual their hot flashes of brave talk and seemingly bold action had smoldered. On Good Friday they were in the outskirts of the city, and in the margins of the New Testament texts. Luke noted---
But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee,
stood at a distance , watching these things.
Luke 23:29, NIV
john also noted a further exception in his record of the crucifixion---
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved
standing nearby, he said to his mother, 'Dear woman, here is your son', and to the
disciple, 'Here is your mother'.
John 19:25-27, NIV.
Evidently John, thought to be the disciple Jesus loved, was at the foot of the cross. The rest, in spite of their promises and good intentions, were on the edges of his passion, perhaps fearful, no doubt confused, maybe discouraged or disappointed. It is a point of reflection for me today, and this week, Passion Week. I often wonder how far I am distanced from his passion or on the edges of his mission today.
Two truths from the texts inform us about their distance. One is the simple truth that they really didn't understand what was happening in Passion Week. Luke wrote about it twice in his orderly account of the events leading up to those final hours---
But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did
not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
Luke 9:45, NIV
The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they
did not know what he was talking about.
Luke 18:34, NIV
Marks' Gospel emphasizes the same lack of comprehension in them. Mark wrote---
Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but
fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?
Mark 8:17-18, NIV
Their failure to comprehend the literal depth of his death predictions and warnings about what would take place in Jerusalem left them in the fringes of his passion. Their hot flashes had been consumed in the new flames of their confusion. They watched it all from a distance.
There is a second impetus for their distance. it was evident in a profound interchange between Jesus and Simon Peter on the night of the last supper. John provided a verbatim of this conversation----
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going,
you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
John 13:36, NIV
Jesus' words to Simon Peter in that brief sentence reveals something very challenging to me this Good Friday. Jesus told Peter that he could not follow him now, but that he would follow later. With all of his bravado, strong language, and what must have been noble intent, Peter wasn't ready to follow Jesus in death. Like the others, the stalwart Peter, usually up close and personal with Jesus, first in line to say something or take action, would watch Jesus' death from a distance.
I don't know about you, but "not yet" is a difficult concept for me. it activates one of my most difficult human deficiencies, the wait problem so much a part of my personal wiring. Peter had been one of the Lord's most challenging character development projects. He was quick on the draw, impulsive, often reactionary. True to his name, Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of a bird), he demonstrated flighty, wavering, inconsistent traits. And, at the time of Christ's passion, he wasn't ready. As yet he was not the Petros, stone, Jesus had predicted. There were elements of his personal character and discipleship that needed to be completed. So, in spite of all of Peter's bold talk, Jesus had told him "not yet".
Our Lord has important Kingdom mission designed for every believer. At times we are so anxious to lead purposeful, fruitful, and productive Kingdom lives the hot flashes in us are ignited and burning with desire to fulfill his purpose for us. Still, at times he says to us, "not yet", as well. He knows when we are rightly prepared to fulfill the important mission of obeying God and serving him, serving others, and making disciples of all nations. Until then, we may be "not yet" people too.
On this Good Friday I'm reflecting on the "not yet" issues that hinder genuine passion in me. My prayer today is that the events of that Good Friday 2000+ years ago will be so real and meaningful to me that my measly hot flashes will become genuine passion for the Kingdom assignment he has given me. Will you join me?
Monday, I'll review what happened to Peter and the other disciples that would birth authentic passion in them, a passion that would eventually lead them follow where Jesus had led.
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