They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Mark 10:32
If you go after Jesus, he’s going to surprise you.
Jesus was always amazing his disciples. He wasn’t what they expected. He took time for children. He ate with sinners. He refuted the Pharisees. He washed feet. He said it was hard for a rich man to enter heaven. He was arrested.
The apostles walked with Jesus every day for three years and just when they thought they had him figured out, he’d blow their minds.
So why is it that I think I can live a calm predictable Christian life like I somehow have Jesus figured out?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isa 55:8
I love this blog by Tom Jones. In it, Tom talks about how he was praying to God in the morning about something. He wrote, “By that night, God’s answer was already coming in. (Don’t worry if things don’t happen that quickly for you. They usually don’t for me either.) But in this case his answer was as shocking as it was clear. It absolutely could not have been any more different from what I would have expected or guessed. How could this happen? 48 years of following Jesus, and he is still totally surprising me. ”
Tom has been following God for many years, and he still got astonished.
I think God gives out wisdom like manna. It’s only good for a little while and then it expires.
Of course, I’m exaggerating. We do gain wisdom over time. But we never completely get a handle on God. Just when we think we’ve got His number, He turns around and does the unexpected.
We need to ask for wisdom like we ask for our daily bread. It’s not something we have a sufficiency of. Moment by moment it needs to supplemented.
But back to Mark 10:32, let’s try to get a feeling here for what the disciples’ astonishment looked like when Jesus set out for Jerusalem.
It sort of reminds me of how I am when I’m on vacation sightseeing with my family. They call me the bulldozer because I plow forward, with them reluctantly trailing behind me, saying, “Mom, slow down, we’re tired.” But I just keep on going because I have a plan of things we’re going to see and do.
Jesus was the same way. He was plowing forward. He was determined. He had an agenda and he was going to fulfill it. And as he went, the disciples trudged after him, flabbergasted, saying to one another, “What? We’re going where? Jerusalem? I can’t believe it!” They shook their heads. “That place is going to be nothing but trouble. Why would he want to go there?”
And a feeling of doom settled over the group. You know that feeling? Like bad things are SURE to happen?
But Jesus wasn’t fazed, any more than he was when he slept during a raging storm.
You know why? Because Jesus knew that while it might FEEL like battles would be lost, he would win the war. And that’s what he told his apostles —
Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise. Mark 10:33-34
Jesus was going to rise. Good would triumph.
And the same is true for us —
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession. II Cor 2:14
We need to remember this no matter what we’re going through. After all Jesus died for us. The deepening conviction that he did should be our anchor in every storm.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair . . . We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus . . . II Cor 4:10
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? . . . we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:32, 37
Because we’re going to need that anchor. There are going to be a lot of surprises in following Jesus.
Just like the disciples, we don’t expect that he will lead us to a scary place.
A place where we’re called to a greater level of commitment. All of a sudden we realize we’ve got to take it higher, and do stuff like confess sin, fast, ask strangers to church. And every time we start to get comfortable with doing those things, Jesus stretches us more. (Go door knocking? Yikes!)
A place of grueling emotional battles, apparent defeats and discouragements.
A place where the shadow of doom overtakes us.
But we can be unfazed.
Because it’s guaranteed. Good will triumph. We’re going to win the war.