Thursday, October 4, 2012

Does Jesus Get Frustrated?

Our texts for this week are Numbers 11:10-16, 24-29 and Mark 9:38-50, which can both be read here.

Here's a fun question:  do you ever get frustrated?

Ha.  Okay, that's a silly question.  A better question perhaps:  what makes you REALLY frustrated?  What just absolutely sets you to ripping out your hair, wanting to climb the walls and scream?  What makes your temper flare, your patience wane, your edginess escalate?

People who don't follow through on commitments, or who are incompetent at their jobs?

Repeatedly falling short at something even though you're trying really hard?

DC/Baltimore beltway traffic?

People who don't listen or repeatedly fail to understand?

Spending 6 hours on the phone with Dell without being able to get a straight answer as to how to fix your computer, getting connected from one department to another (not that this has ever happened to me...)?

What's on your list?  Why do these things frustrate you?  What is it about these things that might cause you to snap, to lash out, even to toss your hands in the air and give up?  What do you do when you are frustrated?

I ask these questions because I know Moses was frustrated in today's Old Testament reading, and I have good reason to think (and I don't believe this is heretical) that Jesus was frustrated in Mark 9.  Who could blame him?  I mean, let's chart what has happened in this chapter:

  • First, Jesus gets followed by crowds EVERYWHERE--and usually those crowds are bickering over something (9:14-16).  
  • Then, he has to step in and exorcise a demon the disciples couldn't handle (9:17-29).  
  • Then, Jesus talks to the disciples AGAIN about his upcoming death, only to have them stare blankly at him and one another (9:30-33).  
  • Then, Jesus catches the disciples responding to his death pronouncement by arguing over who is the greatest among them (are you kidding me, disciples?  nope--9:34-37).  
  • Finally, in today's lesson, the disciples try to get praise out of Jesus because they managed to stop someone from outside of their group who was casting out demons in Jesus' name.  This news causes Jesus to become so exasperated that he busts out every over-the-top metaphor he can think of, telling the disciples they'd do better to chop off their hand than to use that hand to get in the way of someone who is trying to live by faith. for my opening question, "Does Jesus get frustrated?" I think the answer has to be yes.  And I'm grateful for that--how else could he be fully human?  But here, perhaps, is the more pertinent question:  WHY does Jesus get frustrated?  And what does he do with his frustration?  What can we learn from the things that really set Jesus off, and how he responds in these touchy moments?  How might Jesus' frustration with these disciples show us where our attention and growth needs to be as disciples today?  As we continue on this "road less traveled" of discipleship, how might the things that frustrate us and that gain our energy and attention--or don't gain it--set us apart as those who have chosen a road rarely taken in a culture full of frustration?


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