“Gathering the twelve disciples around him, Jesus told them, ‘As you know, we are going to Jerusalem. And when we get there, all the predictions of the ancient prophets concerning the Son of Man will come true. He will be handed over to the Romans to be mocked, treated shamefully, and spit upon. They will whip him and kill him, but on the third day he will rise again.’ But they didn’t understand a thing he said. Its significance was hidden from them, and they failed to grasp what he was talking about” (Luke 18:31-34).
Jesus clearly laid out for the disciples what was going to happen to Him. And in case there was any confusion, Jesus gave them a reference source—the ancient prophets—so they could examine the writings from long ago that spoke of the days drawing near. The disciples had all the information they needed to understand.
And yet they did not “understand a thing he said.” Not one of them. Nothing fell into place, and “they failed to grasp what he was talking about.” From our vantage point 2,000 years later, we wonder how it could be.
It was simply because the disciples were living in the “now” of this situation. They were in the midst of the details. Even though they had been told what the future held, their minds couldn’t take it in. Each of them had cherished beliefs of what Christ’s kingdom meant to them, and Jesus’ words and their beliefs were clashing head-to-head. And although they had heard the promise that Jesus would rise “again on the third day,” they had also heard for at least the third time that Jesus was going to die. If any part of the message was sinking in, it was the thought of Jesus’ death and the death of their dreams—and that was too painful to deal with.
Similar to the disciples, the twists and turns of life can leave us reeling and overwhelmed. It becomes hard to imagine how we will make it through each day, and we cannot begin to fathom that any good could come of these crushing situations.
How we long for relief from all that plagues us. We are in good company, for we know that the disciples felt these same human emotions too. Even Jesus, contemplating His approaching suffering, death, and separation from God, longed for relief. But if we can keep our faith in God through these times, as Jesus did, we often begin to see what we could not see at first—the good that has been accomplished through the pain.
Looking back a few months after hearing Christ’s crushing words, the disciples could clearly see the good that had been hidden by the broken dreams to which they clung. The fulfillment of those harrowing words resulted in a Savior, who through His resurrection had conquered both death and sin for them and for all who sought this gift.
What about us? Sometimes we look back at the times that tested us and see how God provided for us. Maybe we see how we have grown in a way that would not have been possible without our time of suffering. Or we see that our faith and trust in God have increased.
During this life there will be times we do not understand what has happened or why. The question is whether or not we can trust God even when we do not understand the bigger picture of our painful circumstances. The answer to that question is that we can—but only with God’s help, for this kind of faith and trust is never simple or easy. But it is powerful, and it is life-changing.
© 2010 Arlina Yates