Wrestle with God (Saturday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
Fifth Saturday in Lent
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. Luke 18:31-34
Luke says it pretty clearly here: They didn’t have a clue. Of course, he puts it more politely: They did not grasp what was said. But it’s devastating, nevertheless. On the cusp of the most weighty, significant, monumental week in history, the disciples didn’t get it.
How, after three years together, did they miss it?
How, after three years together, were they clueless?
No matter our proximity to Jesus, it seems that we’re often blinded by our alternative agendas for God. Even those closest to him missed the clues he was laying along the way. And who could blame them – does anyone have a category for God-in-the-flesh dying and rising?
God’s destroy. God’s conquer. God’s battle each other. They punish their rebellious slaves. They don’t mysteriously appear in-the-flesh on a redeem-and-restore mission that involves becoming the victim, the slain Lamb.
Do we get it today? We have all kinds of alternative agendas for God. We call God into action like the warrior gods of old for the sake of our supposedly righteous causes. But God’s action in Christ unravels our alternative agendas for God. He beats the sword into a plowshare (Joel 3:10), making peace through his willingly surrendered life.
Wrestle with that. Because, if we’re honest, we hardly believe it today. Our alternative agendas for God often look like the old-fashioned agenda. We pray to God for the success, the victory, the win. Our prayers are shaped like ATM-withdrawals to a God who takes sides, so we assume, rather than a God who suffers and dies so that we’d no longer need to take sides.
The next week is a week to wrestle with the reality that this God, who came in-the-flesh, came even closer in the Spirit. This surrendering and sacrificing God took up residence in us, through the Spirit, in order to reconnect us to our original and beautiful humanity, in order for us to become Christ to others. Somehow, someway, we’ve got the wrestle with this hard reality – the baton of Jesus is passed to us. We bear his life and (dare we think it) his death. If you read St. Paul’s letters carefully, this theme takes center stage.
I’ve come to think of this last-week-of-Lent wrestling match as an opportunity to die alongside Jesus, as a chance to identify every obstacle to union with him. I want to not only believe but experience St. Augustine’s profound statement – “God is more intimate to me than I am to myself.” I want to run through the streets with Catherine of Genoa as she exclaims, “My deepest me is God!” I want my inner life to be transformed to such a degree that I really can grasp it, that I really have a clue, that I’m really tuned in to the surrendered journey of Jesus. I want to fall, with Jesus, into the goodness of redemption. Won’t you join me?
Lamb of God, remove every obstacle to union. I long to be one with you in spirit, in desire, in purpose. It is with this hope that I enter Holy Week. Amen