Monday, June 04, 2007

What do you do with "grumpy Jesus"?

Today I attended a day of retreat for IV staff led by one of our senior staff in the region. Usually when you go on a guided retreat like this, you look at a passage like the prodigal son or the Jesus blessing the children or feeding the 5,000. But for this day, God led our director to Matthew 17:14-20 (click here to read it).

This is not warm and fuzzy Jesus. Instead, this is "grumpy Jesus", tired of dealing with people who time after time do not catch what He is teaching. He has just returned from being on the mountaintop talking with Moses and Elijah, and He finds a crowd of people around his disciples who are trying without success to cast out a demon. He calls them a "faithless and perverse generation," heals the boy, and tells the disciples that they failed to bring healing because they lacked faith. We all wondered how Jesus managed to be grumpy and yet not sin in the midst of that frustration.

All of us at the retreat would prefer to skip this passage. To skip the places where Jesus seems disappointed with the disciples, because for us it hits close to home. I often feel like Jesus ought to be disappointed in me and how little I "get it", despite being taught time and again. And I fear that He is grumpy with me because I just don't have enough faith, and passages like this tend to confirm that, if read without a lens of grace.

After putting on the grace goggles, the best I could do with settling this unsettling picture of Jesus is to guess that the disciples' problem was not so much an improper amount of faith, but rather faith that was misplaced, and thus useless. A mustard seed is not very much, and surely they believed to some degree that this boy could be healed. But was their belief placed in God or in themselves? They had done the healing/casting out thing before when Jesus sent them two by two, and I am sure that during that time, they were depending on God like crazy and they saw Him do things through them that they never imagined. So here is round two and the subtle temptation is to go through the motions, trust their experience, and have faith in their ability to get the job done while Jesus was on the mountain. A mustard seed of dependent faith in God can indeed move a mountain, but a mountain of self-reliant faith will produce little lasting fruit besides frustration.

As for whether Jesus is grumpy with us now, I think that He is not. We have been transformed, made into new creations, and we enjoy all the favor and blessing of His righteousness and Right-standing with the Father. He longs for us to have a dependent faith, and urges us to that place of constant trust in the Father, disciplining us and exhorting us from a position of love.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

What's up, Marshall! Just found Cory's blog and hence yours... I'm kind of being an internet stalker today. Anyway, congratulations on your beautiful family. I especially loved your video of Jacob's Carolina room; looks like you're teachin' the boy well. My husband, Wes, and I have 2 little Tarheels of our own (Joel, 2 1/2 years and Samuel, 6 months). Good to see you are doing well! Later, yo!

Jenny "Never-had-Trout-man" Hite

P.S. Send me your email and I'll invite you to see my blog too...