And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” –Mark 10:32-34
I once had a very unfortunate email exchange regarding some church business. It was unfortunate – and hurtful to a third person – for two reasons. First, I hit the Reply to All button, and failed to omit some commentary very early in the email string that spoke about one of the Reply to All recipients. Secondly, my comments about that other person were based on my own lack of understanding of what he was proposing. I said, in that email string, “I just don’t think Rich gets it.” That may have been true. Later, however, when I heard from Rich, I realized that I didn’t really understand him.
Before we criticize people for their views and convictions it is best that we make certain that we understand what they are actually saying. Great harm can be done to relationships when we fail to do so. Rich and I are not close as we once were. I hurt him by my comments.
When we read these words of Jesus and put them in the context of James and John’s desire to sit at Jesus’ right and left hand in his glory (in the immediatly-following verses), we think, James and John just don’t get it. How can they be so crass and insensitive? Don’t they realize what Jesus has just told them? He’s going to die – and rise again to be sure – and the only thing they can think about is where they will sit in his glory?
Previously, when Jesus had spoken about his death and resurrection Mark has told us that the disciples did not understand what he was saying. But before we get too harsh with our judgment of the disciples, perhaps we ought to be certain we understand what they were thinking. Perhaps we don’t really understand what was going on in their heads at this time.
Even more important, we ought to be certain we understand what the death and resurrection of Jesus means, instead of assuming that we have a better grasp of these things than we actually do. We know the history: Jesus died a cruel and painful death on a Roman instrument of torture. He was in the tomb for three days. Then he rose from the grave. Do we grasp the significance of that history?
Before we are too quick to judge the hearts and minds of others – especially regarding this essential Christian truth – we might take care to do two things: see to it that we understand it deeply and with all humility, realizing that our understanding of it is a gift of the Holy Spirit; and seek to understand the hearts and minds of those who seem not to get it. Only God can judge the heart. And when we seek to discern what others think and believe, we must do so with humility. For we need a Savior just as much as the person who seems not to understand.