Monday, March 05, 2012

5.3 Disciples Don't Get It

... continued from Friday
We have some significant clues that there was somewhat of a disconnect between the expectations of Jesus' disciples and followers and how things actually played out.  For example, the Synoptic Gospels show us that Jesus' audiences expected the kingdom to come almost right away. They believed that Jesus' earthly ministry would culminate right then in his earthly kingship and the restoration of Israel (e.g., Acts 1:6). So Jesus' disciples probably did not know at first that they would live out the rest of their lives on the mission without Jesus on earth. Mark shows them repeatedly asking Jesus about their roles in the coming kingdom with no sense at all that Jesus was about to die.

First, it is apparently not until the end of Jesus' earthly ministry that his identity as messiah comes out into the open with his disciples.  It seems to be just before Jesus finally heads for Jerusalem that Jesus really raises with them the question of his identity and his explicit role in the kingdom (Mark 8:27-33). It is at this point that Peter for the first time confesses openly what he no doubt had suspected for a long time, that Jesus is the messiah.

Jesus agrees with them.  He is the "anointed one," the messiah--"christos in Greek."  To everyone's ears, this means he will become king and will rule over Israel.

But then Jesus shocks them. He is going to Jerusalem to die (Mark 8:31).  Peter immediately rejects this suggestion. That's not what the "anointed one" does, Peter is thinking.  The messiah doesn't die; he becomes king. Peter has no sense of Jesus' impending death, let alone a two thousand year lag in time between Jesus' earthly ministry and the coming kingdom on earth.

Two more times in Mark Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to die amid their complete lack of understanding. Just after Jesus tells them a second time that he is going to die, they argue over who will have the most prominent role in the coming restored kingdom of Israel (Mark 9:34). This happens even a third time. Jesus tells them what is coming and immediately thereafter, James and John ask Jesus for the most prominent seats next to Jesus in his coming kingdom on earth (Mark 10:35-40).

It seems a fair enough conclusion that the disciples might have thought Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem was going to be the beginning of his rule on earth. Peter's denials were surely more about his complete confusion than any cowardice on his part.  He was probably ready to fight for Jesus, just not prepared for Jesus to surrender himself and be arrested. They apparently did not expect Jesus to die.

His resurrection also seems to have taken them by surprise. The women at the tomb are so flustered and confused by the absence of his body, they don't tell anyone at first (Mark 16:8).  And once the disciples are convinced, they resume thinking that Jesus is about to restore the earthly kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). So Jesus' death and resurrection seem completely off the radar of Jesus' closest followers.

From these observations in Mark, probably the earliest gospel, we conclude that the bulk of Jesus' message and proclamation of the good news was not about him.  It was about what God the Father was doing...


Kevin Scott said...

Ken, I was intrigued by your title, because it sounded like a statistic: "5.3 Disciples Don't Get It." Then I realized . . .

I thought the percentage had to be higher than that. :)

Ken Schenck said...

Ha! There's always someone out there of divided mind. ;-)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

An excellent illustration of a divided mind ;-)!! And one that promotes the spiritual above the political and real world knowledge....

What is known to work in the world, is what will work, Christian or not. Therefore, it behooves all of us to embrace what is known, instead of what is unknown, unless we want to be irrelavant, except to a certain Christian sect.

If you want to refer to Scripture, then, consider Jesus response to the disciples in their views of wanting to "set up a memorial" to him on the Mount of Transfiguration. Christianity is such a momument of theology, and Church history...But, similar things could be said about any "founder" of a denomination. Humans are followers of men, instead of seeking after their own values and commitments.

Judiasm was the root of Christianity.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Physicalists might like to "prove" belief or "change" behavior based on using Jewish/Hebraic understanding of "body and mind" unity....the Pietists concur...As Jesus "incarnated" humanistic values in opposition to religous ones, the use of his example as a "moral model" is useful for physicalists and others interested in human behavior to study.

Some make a distinction between religion and the spiritual, so that "Jesus" is rescued as the "New Adam" (the spiritual Adam), saving "covenant theology". Then, the political realm can be a call to activism/revolution of some kind for whatever purposes or visions are presented as "ends"..

Such visions/ends are the "standard" whereby people are judged, as spiritual, saved, or what not. And we can see this being used on either side of the poltical spectrum for social conservatism (social issues, such as; abortion, homosexuality and family values) and the socially liberal (civil rights values; justice for the specified groups;the poor, the African-American, the Muslim, and women).

I am afraid that individual identity has been "long gone", but it used to mark those that came to these shores. Though the religious groups that came here were unified by their belief systems, they came here as resistors to a State aparatus determing their religious conscience. And those that came to America seeking opportunity were individualist seeking a better life for themselves. Individualism was the foundation for our Bill of Rights.

Americans loose what brought them greatness, when they allow the group (government or social group) to define their choices and values. Instead of determining what is important and of value to them, Americans follow the leader in whatever political party and no one is winning (except those that want the power)! A curiosity and investigative spirit was the basis of scientific endeavors, and innovation. Such work was done because of the interests of the scientists, as this was their value. And those that were explorers sought gold, built businesses and invested in the communities that they belonged.