Friday, September 16, 2011

How long shall I put up with you?

Luke 9:37-45 NASB

On the next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met Him. And a man from the crowd shouted, saying, "Teacher, I beg You to look at my son, for he is my only  boy,  and a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming  at the mouth;  and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him  as it leaves.  "I begged Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not." And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here." While he was still approaching, the demon slammed him  to the ground  and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. "Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.

My thoughts -

Jesus's rebuke of his disciples here has always struck me as being disproportionately harsh. In Mark's gospel, at least, it is tempered with a teaching moment. The disciples ask why they couldn't drive the demon out and Jesus explains that it can only be done with prayer.

Here Jesus's words of condemnation ("You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you and put up with you?") are followed not by a teaching moment but instead by a warning. Jesus is not going to be with them forever. He is going to be betrayed and handed over.

We've gone in just a few short verses from a mountain top experience with Peter, James, and John to a failure by the disciples. They've been in the presence of Moses and Elijah. They've heard the voice of God from the cloud. They have learned who Jesus really is and what that means. And they have utterly and completely failed without him.

It can be easy, when thinking of Jesus as the Son of God, to forget that he was fully human. Maybe not so much forget as gloss over. But I wonder, was Jesus starting to feel the pressure here? He's got a deadline. He's leaving. He will be betrayed and handed over and killed. He knows his time is short. And his ministry is going to be in the hands of these disciples. And it sure looks like from this passage that they're not ready. They can't do this without him.

Jesus has physically walked with them. They have lived in his presence. We get the Spirit, and that is no small thing, but what would it have been like to have God walk beside you in person? Would there be a better way to learn how to minister to the needs of God's children. How better to learn to lead God's sheep than directly from the Shepperd?

That physical presence is leaving, and the disciples don't realize what that means. So Jesus rebukes them.

"How long shall I be with you and put up with you?"

"Let these words sink in."

"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men."

Jesus is telling them that he's not going to be around forever, not like this anyway. Jesus is leaving. And they're not ready to carry on this ministry without him. His words may seem harsh, but I get a sense of almost desperation here. They don't get it and they have to. This handful of men are going to carry on this little movement that will become Christianity as we know it today. And they're not ready. And they don't get it.

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