Eventually, stuff works out. Below is a picture I took of the planet Mars. As I said last week, a big white spot.

It would probably be more interesting if you could see the stars around it, but that was difficult because this was just to the right of it:

And the focus on these was difficult because of distortion in the air, so this is all I was able to get.

You see, eventually, things work out. And, that is true for everything. The cliche is that “all things come to an end”. Not just good things come to an end, but all things. Eventually, there will be this event where the Creator of the universe sits on a throne to judge, and heaven and earth will flee from him, and find no hiding place…I know, right? What will that look like?

There will be a day when books will be opened, and another book will be opened. John described it this way:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:11-15 NASB

Books were opened, and everyone, great and small, were judged by what was written in “the books”. But, at the end of the process, it didn’t depend on what was in the books, but whether your name is written in the Book of Life. Are you alive? That’s what counts.

I have been reading a book that explores theology using the Peanuts cartoons as illustrations. I was pretty intrigued by it until the author makes this case that there is no future hell, and everyone goes to heaven. Nice idea, but not Scriptural. He tries to make it so, but the problem is that his attempts are to reconcile his idea of what a “god of love” would do, rather than accept the self-revelation of the God who is love.

So, this author and I differ on that view. Eventually, we’ll know which of us is right. One day we’ll stand before this massive white throne, and our judge will be the God who is, rather the one of our imaginations. Maybe we will both be wrong, having both worshipped different gods of our imagination.

I’m trying to perceive the God revealing Himself through Scripture, and I’m relying on my hope that He won’t judge too closely on accuracy. I’ve given up on understanding Him, and now work on accepting Him as I perceive Him. Eventually, I will see Him as He is. I doubt I will understand Him, even then. And, I hope my exercise in acceptance of Him will pay off as I grapple with that “up close and personal” experience of His presence.

I hear it’s good to have goals…


Understanding Hidden Lessons

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished.  For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”  But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.  (Luke 18:31-34 NASB)

Jesus predicted His coming death and resurrection several times in each Gospel.  But in each case the disciples didn’t get it.  Their understanding of what “Messiah” would be was cultural, driven by the lessons of the teachers of the day.  And it was completely different from Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have this prediction right before Jesus enters Jerusalem.  But there are some differences in Luke.

One of the things Luke has different is that Jesus says He will be handed over to “Gentiles”.  The other two both say He will be delivered to “Chief Priests and Scribes”, and then handed over to the Gentiles.  Luke leaves out the Jewish element here.  Since the other two have Jewish audiences and Luke has a Gentile one, I’m guessing the audience had something to do with the difference.

But the other difference is the obfuscation verse missing from the other two in this account.  In fact Luke includes this element in the second prediction found in Luke 9 as well.  For Luke it was clear that the disciples were kept from understanding what Jesus was saying.  In this passage here is how Luke makes that clear:

  1. The verb translated “understood” literally means to “send together”.  It implies taking two things and connecting them in the mind.  They didn’t do it.  “Messiah” and “death” just weren’t two things they could bring together.
  2. The verb translated “hidden” is exactly that.  This verb is a perfect passive participle, meaning the effect of the action happens to the subject (the disciples) and continues on into the indeterminable future.  The concepts couldn’t be brought together because the connections were hidden from them, and continued that way even after the resurrection (at least for a short time after).
  3. The verb translated as “comprehend” is the basic Greek verb for ‘to know’.  You know?  They didn’t.  But, of course, they were prevented (passive verb) from “knowing” because the connection between “Messiah” and “death” was hidden.

I think the point Luke was trying to make was that the disciples weren’t intellectual rodents.  The question is left as to who or what hid the meaning.  Was it God the Father, the One revealing to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?  Or was it the culture that defined the Messiah as a religious/political figure?  Or was it the desire of God that the cultural barriers would be insurmountable for them at that time?  I’m not sure (and neither are you), but there are lots of opinions.  Regardless, the disciples weren’t idiots for not getting it, they were “victims” of a sort.  That’s different.

The lesson I learn here is that spiritual comprehension isn’t something my Master allows me to weigh.  Luke was careful to point out that the disciples weren’t dull but were prevented from understanding.  How about others to whom we relate the good news of Jesus?  Are they dull or also victims of their culture/Creator?  What about those in our congregations who continue to operate as if God requires sacrifice to remain appeased?  What about those who give in order to receive more from their King?  What about ministers who consider themselves more, volunteers who consider themselves less, or those who consider themselves exempt from service altogether?

It’s easy to point fingers, but Paul points out in Romans 12 that to each was given a measure of faith, and that we’re not to exceed that.  For me personally, I am again confronted with forgiveness.  I have a record of wrong to let go.  I have someone I have judged, and honestly I don’t know what prevented them from understanding.  Perhaps they were prevented by some design, perhaps by some of their own pain, perhaps it was me.  It’s possible I contributed to the misunderstanding.  I feel pain, a deep sense of betrayal.  But is it possible for me to let that go?  Is it beneficial to not regard the one who hurt me as my enemy but instead as one on whom my Master is working?

I’m seeing that my Master seeks to teach me through the others He brings into my life.  So if I don’t let this resentment go, then I’m missing a lesson my Master has for me.  But if I’m able to regard this person as one on whom my Master works, then he is like me, a project of our Creator.  But I want vindication.  That’s part of the problem.  Vindication would validate me over him.  I would “win”, and that would solve nothing really.  So part of what I have to release is that desire for vindication, validation, and to win.  Death to self becomes down and dirty, tangible and concrete, foolish and humbling.  Dang it.

What do you learn from the confused disciples?  What’s your view through the knothole?

Well, What Do You Know?

Turning to the disciples, He said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them.” (Luke 10:23-24 NASB)

There is a certain aspect to the “prophets of old” that always intrigued me.  How much did they understand about what they were writing when it came to the “Messiah”?  Was it simply a “Messianic Hope”? O was there something more?  Or was there something less?  From what Jesus says here privately to His disciples, I get the impression there was something more and less.

This passage follows immediately on the return of the seventy sent ahead of Jesus into various villages.  They returned rejoicing and saying that even the demons were subject to them.  Jesus responds with a brief charge to be more joyful over their salvation than that demons were subject to them.  But He then praises the Father before everyone that He has revealed these things to such simple folk.  Then He says this to His disciples privately.

What I gain from this series of events is that these “prophets and kings” who wished to see and hear these things are the ones who prophesied Jesus’ coming.  And from how Jesus words it, they were aware that something big was coming without knowing the details.  They wanted to know more, but didn’t.  They longed to experience the things that they were saying was coming.

So in terms of inspiration of Scripture, this tells me a lot.  One of the problems I’ve had with so-called messianic prophesies is that they seem so vague.  I think sometimes people apply them to Jesus, when they could be applied to other events or people as well.  I know that sometimes it’s both-and, not one or the other (both then and in the future with Jesus).  But I think this nebulous wording really is what Jesus is getting at.  The prophets themselves really didn’t know any more.  They wanted to, but weren’t given more info.

What this means for me is that my Master really doesn’t feel the need or obligation to provide all the detail.  And I learn this is true even with the “big things”.  It’s frustrating, and I have to admit I find it confusing in the midst of the “big things”.  The truth is though, that these sorts of things build my faith.  Of course, I have to have a little faith first, but these then “bulk it up”.

Think about what it must have been like for the disciples to hear Jesus say that.  It was probably exhilarating, but also intimidating.  These same prophets and kings were the “heroes” and “fathers” of old.  They were the “great men” about whom were the stories on which these disciples were raised.  And here they were gaining a benefit these great ones wanted but never got.  I hope it gave them shivers.

Keep in mind, having experienced all this “greatness” they still didn’t understand who Jesus was, and had no idea what He was going to do.  So, hearing and seeing what the “great ones” never did didn’t make them “greater”. They were still ordinary men.  That’s comforting to me.  My Master may not reveal it all to me, but He also doesn’t expect me to be so great I’m able to “fill in the gaps”, understand the unstated, be suddenly brilliant.  That’s good, because I’m not likely to be or do anything like that.  I can be me, simply as I am, and He will show me what I need or what He wants.  And it all works out.

What’s your view through the knothole? (sorry if that seemed rather abrupt, but I was done…)