In the book “Pride and Prejudice” Elizabeth’s cousin, Mr. Collins, proposed to her. I know. But the time frame allowed for that kind of thing. Now, Mr. Collins is a minister and he is well connected. After all, his patroness is the Lady DeBerg. Naturally, he expects Elizabeth to say “yes, of course I’ll marry you.” But she doesn’t. She flat out refuses his proposal. He doesn’t understand. He suspects that it is a feminine thing; that she is being demure or something. She says it more clearly. He still doesn’t get it. He thinks she is saying “no” so that he will prove his love and be persistent. She unequivocally refuses. I mean it couldn’t be clearer. But he still doesn’t understand. He never even considered that Elizabeth would say “no.” His station is above hers. It would be a good match for her. He is condescending even to ask. The whole scene is exasperating and slightly ridiculous. But people are like that. They have a hard time understanding anything that is the opposite of their expectation.
In Luke 18:31-34 Jesus tells his disciples in clear language what is about to happen. He takes the Twelve aside. This message is not for the crowd. Jesus begins with “Behold . . .” It is a word that calls attention to what is going on. Pay attention. Then Jesus tells them they are going up to Jerusalem. For the Israelites, you always go up to Jerusalem. It is the holy city; the city that housed the temple of God. The goal is Jerusalem. But not for the reason they anticipated. They most likely thought Jerusalem was the goal so that Jesus could orchestrate a military overthrow of the Romans (slimy pagans anyway). All the things found in the prophets about the Son of Man will be completed in Jerusalem. In Daniel 7:13 there is this vision of the Son of Man riding up to the Ancient of Days and receiving glory and a kingdom forever. But that is skipping ahead a bit. What Jesus wants to emphasize is not the glory and receiving a kingdom.
When they get to Jerusalem, Jesus will be handed over to the Gentiles; the Romans. “Handed over” is a legal technical term that means delivered over to the authorities. This is strange. The Jewish people wanted to keep as much control over legal matters as they could. And yet, in the case of Jesus, they are going to involve the Romans. Most likely, this is because they want his death to be something that is cursed in the Old Testament. They don’t want Jesus to be a martyr. Well, that didn’t really work for them. When he is handed over, he will be mocked, mistreated, and spit upon. The first word, “mock,” means “play with, dance around, mock.” It is an insulting dance. The word “mistreat” means “speak arrogantly against, to mistreat with words.” In most cultures, maybe all, spitting on someone is all about contempt. Jesus uses three words to emphasize how he is to be humiliated.
And then they will scourge him. Josephus describes this punishment in graphic detail. The person he had scourged had his entrails exposed. Many died from this punishment. It was also about humiliation. Pain is often used to debase people. And then Jesus will be killed. This is not what the disciples anticipated as they marched toward Jerusalem. They anticipated the glorious overthrow of the dreaded Romans; the elevation of the city Jerusalem above every hill; the Anointed One sitting on the throne of David forever. They anticipated being a part of history in the making. Jesus does tell them that he will arise again on the third day. Did they hear it? Or were they so wrapped up in the incongruity of Jesus being humiliated and killed that they heard nothing else?
All that we know is that the disciples understood nothing of what Jesus said. What? I’m not sure he could have been plainer. His word was hidden from them. I don’t believe this means that God kept them from understanding. It was hidden by their expectation. The word “understood” means “to bring together.” They couldn’t grasp it because their understanding of what would happen when the Messiah came and what Jesus said was going to happen could not be brought together. There was no convergence here. So, they were left dumbfounded.
I think many miss God because their ideas cannot converge with God’s self-revelation. When this happens, it can be tempting to force God’s message through your sieve of understanding. But if you do this, what you end up with is not from God. The goal, as we travel up to God, is to hear his message; no matter how incongruous to our expectations. Convergence is the goal. Don’t let your expectations hide Jesus from you. Let God’s message flow in and through you. Grace and peace.