Huh?

Some of His disciples said to one another,  “What does He mean by saying,  ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’  and   ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”  They kept asking,  “What does He mean by ‘a little while’?  We don’t understand what He is saying.”  John 16:17, 18.

I’m going to say this again:  We only understand what Jesus said because the disciples asked the questions and wrote down the answers, otherwise we’d be just as lost as they were.  Everything was new for them, their conditioned thinking held no room for life after death in the way Jesus spoke of it, though the Pharisees believed in an eternity with God by being taken to Abraham’s bosom.  Still, no one understood because they were pretty earthbound for the most part never considering a life outside their own box—or even being aware they had one.

So I suppose the obvious question for us is:  What views are we now holding which put us in the same boxed thinking as they were?

Oh, don’t believe anyone who says they live outside the box of human limitations, for it’s quite impossible not to be subject to them in one way or another.  Even our concept of heaven is affected by what we believe about a perfect world—which is to say, we don’t really have a clear picture at all.  Our conclusions are like those Scifi programs like Star Trek and Star Wars, etc., all the aliens resemble something human or animal.  How can they not?  It’s all we know or can know since we closed ourselves off to the Creator’s possibilities.

Our common view of eternity is riddled with guilt over our current problems with sin, which means we subtract certain elements we struggle with here just because we can’t control our own natures.  The common perception of the glorified body is sexless for most modern believers simply because sex is such a fail point in our culture.  So we take what has perverted and condemn it to hell because we can’t see how it can be purified or glorified.

I was just thinking this morning about our science advances since Newton and marveling at how much has changed but at the same time how much has stayed the same.  The same arrogance which caused Galileo to be burnt at the stake for heresy is the same attitude which pervades much of academia today.  We aren’t as ignorant, may be, of the universe as we were 500 years ago, but we haven’t changed our natures much and that’s more dangerous than being ignorant!  So when we read about how the disciples were confused and uncomprehending of Jesus’ message we need to include ourselves in with them, since we are just as dense.

How much we understand of a subject will show in our natural reactions to it.  If we panic or show some other inappropriately extreme emotional response, it shows we probably haven’t understood what’s needed and the situation took us by surprise.  The disciples were hesitant to ask Jesus about the meaning of His words, though when He explained them, they understood just a little bit of them anyway.  All we have to do is move a couple chapters forward to see how their understanding affected their reactions, which to say, they were willing to believe but slow to do so.

I can’t fault them for their fear or reaction in one way, because I know I get in situations that raise my blood pressure and scare me half to death.  Placing ourselves in their mindset as best we can, if we are honest with ourselves, we would probably have reacted with the same incredulous and confused emotions as they did.  The litmus test for me is always how I handle bad things in my life—be they circumstances that won’t go away or temporary occurrences.  What happens to us when an emergency comes along for which we’re not prepared and we don’t have the means available (nor could we have supplied the means) to deal with it efficiently?

Jesus goes on to explain, though not directly answering their questions necessarily.  I think of a proverb which goes,  It to the glory of God to hide a thing; it is to the glory of kings to discover it. Jesus told us in several parables the truth of the gospel is like a hidden thing, whether it be the priceless pearl, coin lost or lamb gone astray, which is to say we must search out the truths.  It’s how we’re designed, I believe, so being spoon fed is not an option unless our spiritual arms have been damaged or amputated.  Our Master sets the disciples up with clues to the kingdom of God, piquing their curiosity and putting them into a position where, hopefully, their hunger to understand ripens them to the Holy Spirit’s guidance into all truth.

What I get out of this, then, is God works the same with us.  Our lives naturally confront situations where we need to search the Word in order to understand what God would have us do or know.  Jesus refuses to simply hand us the keys and be done with it, instead He leads us by little steps in the form of puzzles which pique our curiosity and hunger to comprehend the mysteries of His kingdom.  Even the answers lead us to more questions so that we are continually being guided to a deeper grasp of God and a closer connection to Him.

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