In college, I hung out with a pretty tame crew. We were all heavily involved in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry. We knew the party scene existed, but none of us had much experience in that realm. Alcohol was a foreign concept, with the only shots we ever took being administered by nurses during doctor’s appointments. Some of us, according to a spiritual gifts survey, even had the spiritual gift of celibacy. A wild night for us consisted of road trips to the city for Buffalo Wild Wings and a movie. We were on the verge of “Christian cliche,” and we loved it.
In those days, movie nights were frequent, especially when school wasn’t in session. I can remember many nights of cramming ten people or so into our little BCM apartment living room to watch a marathon of Marvel movies or Community. Yet, as fun as those times were, those nights could quickly become more frustrating than one of the A Series of Unfortunate Events novels. Almost without fail, as crucial plot points were unfolding on the screen, somebody would start talking. Or, as incredible scenes were being shown on the tv, everyone would be watching their phone screen instead.
Call me petty or lame, but that used to drive me crazy. “You’re missing the point!” I’d think. “Why come to a movie night if you don’t have any interest in the movie?” I used to wish people would enjoy the stories rather than the distractions, but I soon realized there was nothing to be done. People were content to miss the main event, and I couldn’t change their focus.
Jesus experienced similar sentiments (though to a much higher degree). In Mark 10, Jesus spoke to his disciples about his fast approaching death. We read,
And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 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. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
Jesus was trying to prepare his disciples for what was coming. He knew things would be tumultuous for the twelve, so he told them in advance what was going to take place. And I have to believe that Jesus was somber when he said this. Though he knew what his purpose was, he also knew what he would have to face; the wrath of God is no small matter. Yet after laying these things out for the disciples to see, something strange happened.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”
And there it is. Jesus laid out the plan, expressing the weight of the coming cross, and he was met with a request for importance of place. As God in the flesh announced his coming death and resurrection, the disciples completely missed the point, too distracted by the desire for their own glory to see what is truly glorious.
I think I might have punched James and John right there. I get a bit angry at the brothers as I read this. But then I realize I do the exact same thing. I can’t count how many times I was preparing to proclaim the Word of God and was more consumed by my own image than by the God of the message. I admit that I often think more about gaining fame as a writer than about pointing people to Jesus when I write these posts. I am more on my mind than Christ is, and I consistently miss the point when the truth is right in front of me.
But there is mercy and grace in Jesus. Rather than dismissing the brothers, he taught them and served them. Similarly, he teaches us and grows us even when we are horrendously ignorant. He loves us at our worst. So we need not get frustrated when people miss the point; we miss it ourselves all too often. Instead, we can humbly rest in the grace of God as we seek to constantly refocus. And we can rejoice in his love as he makes us more like himself.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.