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.
This one line among all of the readings for Tuesday, Proper 29 lept off the page a me. Like the disciples in Luke, I struggle in my understanding of things and fail to grasp what is said.
Once, when I was a teenager, I was invited out by a friend. He asked if I would like to see teachers, which I took to mean a social visit with actual teachers. This was not beyond the range of possibility in the small town I was from, so I said sure. I was completely confused when we arrived a the movie theater and went in to see the movie "Teachers". I was too embarrassed and confused by the mis-understanding to back out, and so I saw my first R-rated movie when I was 16. I remember nothing of the movie, so terrified was I that I would get caught for breaking the rules.
I wonder how much of the disciples confusion and failure to grasp what was being said came from something like that. They each have their own expectations of who or what Jesus is and what he has come to do. It is easy to let those expectations fill in for understanding resulting in confusion and min-understanding when the other person's words or deeds don't match the preconceived notions.
The thing that struck me about the disciples, however, it that no matter how confused they get they still act. They continue to follow Jesus and he continues to upset their preconceived notions of what he should be doing. He patiently (and sometimes impatiently) explains parables, encourages them in their own missions, and gives them guidance that seems to be contrary to the social mores of their time.
They suffer great fear and doubt when the death he foretold for himself comes to pass, but they don't stop hoping that it will all be for something greater than themselves. They are not perfect advocates for his message. They are somewhat messy messengers, and they go out and do the work anyway.
Jesus has this to say about the power of persistence:
And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
Do the thing that you can do. Be persistent in faith and in action and follow in the best tradition of the slightly clueless disciples who paved the way for a whole new faith.-=-=-=-=-
All bible quotes are from either the NRSV or RSV text at Bible Gateway.