“Unless our Hopes Fall to the Ground and Die” — We have some grieving to do, but not for Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark is my favorite.  I especifically  love the eighth chapter.   It is hysterical.  I still find myself being caught off guard and LOL-ing sometimes.
The disciples are dolts.  They have the hardest time learning the most obvious lessons.  Jesus goes and feeds several thousand, gets on a boat with them, and suddenly they are afraid Jesus will be mad because the didn’t pack a lunch.  Zheesh.  In that same chapter Jesus heals this man in a most unusual way and he has to do it twice.  Either Jesus is losing his touch or Mark is writing to try to be be obvious: We don’t see clearly yet.   The first time Jesus touches the blind man he sees part way. ” I see people, like trees walking around.”   I get that.  That makes sense to me.  If he is still half blind, then he is not wrong.  But there is more to be seen and it will be a shocker.   So don’t stop now…

In this part of the story Jesus and his disciples are half way to Jerusalem and all the way Jesus has been healing people and saying to the, “follow me.”   They get halfway there and the story changes.  Jesus goes a little nutty and starts telling them in detail what is going to go down in Jerusalem. He tells them about his death and even the resurrection.  They all freak out.  Peter is the worst of them and even tries to correct Jesus.  That doesn’t go so well for him.  But Jesus echoes his call in a second and different way now.  “Follow Me.”

So far, it has been good to follow Jesus for whatever reasons. Not all of these hopes are entirely off base.  Jesus showed compassion, confronted evil,healed people.   We have good reason to trust Jesus, good reason to follow, but we have only been seeing people like trees walking around.  Things haven’t been clear yet.  And it is when we stay there and want Jesus to only be a healer, and provider that we become mistaken.

Our hopes have been so specific. What again have we been hoping for? Why did we look to heaven? Was it for therapy, a president, a new law, a CEO, a banner of triumph, a revolution, or eternal bliss?  Jesus wasn’t even willing to let his disciples defend him with their swords. What kind of god is that?

Today is they day of sincerity that began its path last weekend.   Our disappointment with what Jesus is willing  and  not willing to do tilts our ecstasy and enthusiasm into a violent rage.

I need to be honest for us here.  Sometimes, like the disciples,  we can be dolts.  Christians have been embarrassing ourselves a lot lately with our expectations.  I am not excluding myself.  Christians become willing to hurt, embarrass, or even kill other Christians because of our expectations. We  get so concerned about being right, so trapped in the  culture wars,  so invested in how we want the world governed, that we refuse to let our agendas die so that we can see Jesus’ agenda clearly and become willing to follow him.  Even as you read this did you think, “Yeah, they do need to change.”

Friends.  Sisters, Brothers,  It is time for us, for me, to repent. It is time to see clearly.  Today is a harsh reminder that we don’t get to tell Jesus who to be.  Today we have to let those expectations die and learn to follow Jesus knowing full well where the story ends up.

In fact, Jesus agenda for our lives could very well get us killed.  “If you want to be a Christian,” activist Phillip Berrigan used to say, “you better look good on wood.”   I pray we do not lose our lives, but there is a lot within us that simply has to die if we want to follow him all of the way

It breaks my heart to tell you, but it is time now.   It is time to mourn. We need to let things begin to die and grieve them.   I know I do.

 “Unless a seed fall to the ground and die, it remains only a single seed. But if it does it becomes many seeds”

 So let us cover those things on which we have written our expectations: Our crosses, our icons, the fish on our car, the encouraging magnet that hangs on the refrigerator, and maybe even our Bibles for a time.  Let us dress them in black for we are mourning the death of the god we had made in our our image, in the hope we will soon again be restored unto God’s.



This post is part of “Disappointed with God: An online retreat for Holy Week.” where you can read other reflections throughout this week