The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.”
Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.
While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
Can we resolve something here at the outset of this journey to the cross? The greatest hindrance to growing in our understanding of life, faith, Jesus, the world, and the world to come is our present understanding of life, faith, Jesus, the world, and the world to come. It’s hard to learn what we think we already know. And that may be our greatest problem: we don’t know what we don’t know. Know what I mean?
In other words, the more we grow the more difficult growth becomes and the more likely we are to stall out, plateau, and get stuck or arrested in development.
So what’s the remedy for this condition? Sometimes it takes a desert to bring us to desperation, which can lead us to humility, making way for the kind of learning that leads to breakthrough growth. The word disciple comes from the Greek word mathetes, which means, “learner.” A disciple is not one who learns by mastering information; rather a disciple is one who learns by submitting to a master. Here’s how Jesus describes it:
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:29–30 ESV)
This is a perfect invitation to a Holy Lent. Lent invites us to a desert of deepening for the sake of divine love. Lent is not about fasting, though fasting is a key path toward deepening. Lent is not about becoming more disciplined, though discipline comes from the root word, disciple. Lent is not about developing an Instagram-oriented designer spirituality so others can #checkoutmyperfectlife. If ever there were a season for #nofilter and no selfies, it is Lent.
Lent opens a time for getting in touch with the holy discontent that comes from having too much of that which does not ultimately matter and too little of that which actually does. Lent unfolds a path allowing holy discontent to lead us into a brokenness before God (whether that be a real-messed-up-ness or a not-quite-right-ness or a somewhere-in-between-ness). Lent extends the invitation to let our brokenness before God lead us to a deeper surrender and truer submission to Jesus. And the outcome? Finally, through this qualitatively different kind of surrender, Lent reveals all the human possibilities of participating in the divine nature, whereby we may escape the corruption that is in the world and live extravagantly generous lives in the embrace of holy love.
There’s a way to avoid this outcome: But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
So what was it they failed to understand? The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.
Of course we get this. It’s obvious. We learned it a long time ago. This is basic Christianity 101. Remember how Jesus prefaced this critically important statement? “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you.”
Okay, so I will go first. Jesus, as sure as I think that I understand what you said here, I am confident that I don’t fully get it. I may not even get it a little bit. I want to ask you to instruct me and lead me deeper into the meaning of your life and death and resurrection. I’ve been in church all my life, and I have the perfect attendance pins to prove it. I’ve been to seminary and even work for one. I write books about you. But I confess that what I understand causes me to love you and to want to understand more, and I know that understanding more will cause me to love you more which will lead me to love others more. I’m listening, Jesus.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.
Do the words holy discontent ring a bell or strike a chord in your soul? How would you describe your present state of stuckness, or what might be the growing edge of transformation in your life?