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Sometimes those closest to Jesus understand nothing, while someone with no ‘Jesus history’ comprehends immediately. It has always been so.

Jesus explains to his disciples that Jerusalem, their portentous destination, holds out for him no obvious good:

And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’ (Luke 18:31–33 ESV)

The disciples’ response to these ill winds is captured with unusual psychological precision:

But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:34 ESV)

They were not simply incredulous, capturing the point but imagining that things could not possibly be so dire. Rather, they understood nothing.

By contrast, a blind beggar on the outskirts of Jericho asks what all the commotion is about as Jesus and his entourage pass by. The man, entirely dependent on information passed to him by strangers, cannot see. Yet he sees.

And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ And he cried out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Luke 18:36–39 ESV)

The man’s faith is embarrassingly noisy. More proper people strive in vain to make him dumb as well as blind. But he’ll have none of it, so passing boisterously into that list of anonymous heroes who are read about these twenty centuries hence.

And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him,’What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. (Luke 18:40–43 ESV)

Unlike the blind man’s impatient neighbors, Jesus is not bound by propriety. Perhaps annoyed by the incomprehension of his closest friends, Jesus is drawn to this sightless, loud beggar.

We poor beggars in these latter times are fortunate that this is Jesus’ way. Otherwise, we’d remain behind, sightless, silenced and without hope as Jesus and his crowds trudge on to their appointment in distant Jerusalem.

The biblical proverbs rarely aim for the fence. They just keep poking singles.

Rarely does the Book of Proverbs open a window to stupendous secrets that were heretofore unknown. Rather, it gradually builds a home out of the cumulative lessons learned by people who pay attention, brick upon brick, one small board after another fixed in just the right place with little fanfare and no shouting.

One man pretends to be rich and has nothing; Another professes to be poor and has much wealth. (Proverbs 13:7 JPS)

Attentive people know that things are often not as they appear. Continue Reading »

A kind of self-oriented religiosity craves a formula.

We want a rule, a predictable sequence, a guaranteed outcome.

Admittedly, the Christian message is, from one angle of view, simple. Its redeeming beauty hides behind no intellectual prerequisite, no gate-keeping aesthetic sensitivity, no necessary spiritual predisposition. It’s the walking wounded, the drooling madman, the self-loathing sinner who seizes its promise before the sophisticate can get past his first reflexive sneer. Continue Reading »

Rational calculation, as we know it, is of limited value in assessing life’s larger moves.

Take Jesus’ parables about people, animals, and things that have gone missing. He intends to speak, of course, about his Father’s love. Such stories are not permeated by the sentimental, but neither do they hew to the mathematics of evaluation. Continue Reading »

perspective (Luke 14)

Jesus rarely made things easy.

He forced upon his hearers choices they would rather have avoided. When he found that a kind of celebrity had attached itself to him, he faced down the crowds with a kind of rhetorical fury that must have been only partially offset by the love in his voice.

The gushing of the masses appears to have represented a kind of threat. In the face of it, he said the damnedest things. Continue Reading »

Our mind is shaped by a culture that privileges experience and feeling above all other windows into reality.

We no longer even say, with the writers of love songs, ‘It feels so good it must be real’. We are content if it simply feels good, with no further questions asked. Continue Reading »

tenderhearted: Ephesians 4

Life with people often seems like a storm of chaos, intending to damage.

We are violent. If we cannot imagine striking out with our fists, then we destroy with a word, a sneer, the quick and lethal rolling of two eyes. With our need to voice disagreement with anything and anyone, as though the world waited breathlessly to know what I think about things that hardly matter. Continue Reading »

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