The last week of the study is reflection; what I learned this year and how my life was transformed. I sat down to 'reflect' and found myself laughing somewhat cynically. "Lord, this has been a year lacking clarity. What I'm learning is just as cloudy as the rest of my life. What have you taught me?"
Immediately I imagined what the disciples must have felt toward the end of Jesus' earthly ministry. They probably thought they had a lot figured out; "Jesus is the Son of God, He is teaching about love, bringing to light the Old Testament Scriptures, fulfilling prophecy, healing people. Certainly the next step is to demonstrate His power politically. Certainly we're about to become some sort of royalty by association. Bring out the big guns!"
Then things start happening quickly that don't line up with the assumptions made. When soldiers come to seize Jesus, Peter assumes this is where they start kicking butt. He lops off an ear...and Jesus reprimands him. Huh? They start the trials and they start them illegally. Everything about it screams injustice, lies, evil. This is supposed to be the Son of God bringing justice and knocking down deception! Soon Jesus is changing hands from the Sanhedrin, to Pilate, to Herod and back again. Everything is in chaos, people are throwing out lies, everyone has their own agenda, and two disciples betray Jesus in the midst of the accusations.
If I were one of those disciples who had walked with faith, held onto Jesus' words with hope, and vowed loyalty to the end, I would feel as though the rug was pulled out from under me. "But Lord, can't you reign over the injustice? Are you helpless? Since when is there suffering if it's your will? This is out of control! Where are you in this?!"
It only gets worse. He's crucified (and during the very Passover event that celebrates God's sovereignty!). He's buried.
I can't fathom the despair in the three days after Jesus' death. I would be walking around; aimless and empty. All I poured into, all I'd been doing for years...gone. Nothing to show for it. No leader in sight. How do I reconcile that kind of disappointment? That lack of clarity? I'm hurt. I'm confused. I'm thinking that no master plan rules...it's all chaos. God must not be who I thought He was.
Then the resurrection. Whoa...this was the plan?! All along?! Oh, you even warned us ahead of time and in our stupor we forgot it all?
I love Acts 2 because Peter has regained clarity. He understands that what Jesus did was not a failure in expectation and prophecy, it was the fulfillment of it. He realizes that Jesus did kick butt: He defeated death. He was the ultimate sacrifice and forgave our sins. Jesus' picture was so much bigger than the people's picture of political freedom. It made way for eternal life. Peter gets it, he preaches it, and lives are changed.
As I sat in what my kids have dubbed "mom's quiet time chair" I was gently reminded that Jesus was God's perfect plan. He beautifully orchestrated the time of death, the water and blood from his side, that not a bone was broken just like the perfect sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament. He orchestrated the weather, the darkness, the tearing of the curtain (did you know that curtain was the thickness of a man's palm!? Oh, the power and terror in that moment!).
Yet, as it was happening it didn't look orchestrated, beautiful, or planned to the bystander. It looked like betrayal, selfishness, filth, blood, and mocked innocence.
I realized first that I know the outcome of the world's story and the disciple's didn't. How much easier for me to have faith. I have the Old and New Testament. I have my own experiences. Jesus' forgiveness is complete and I get to bask in it. Even if my own life lacks clarity, I have so much. I know my eternity is secure and even if from here to there is miserable, I know I have that.
Secondly, why do I expect my life to look relatively painless and clear when the life of Jesus (who WAS perfect) looked painful and muddled in the midst?
I learned much through the book of John. This week I remember that Jesus' plan doesn't fail when people are filthy and full of betrayal. Jesus' plan doesn't fail when it looks desperate, when the clouds roll in. Jesus' plan doesn't fail when it's hard to get out of bed in the morning or when my dreams are on the altar.
My response? I want to "pray in the garden" even when I'm tired and would rather check out of a dark situation. I want to be looking at the face of Christ for my reassurance, instead of the mob. I want to trust the outcome instead of getting lost in the moment. I'm asking God to forgive me for my disappointment in His plan- He's purposed it all and has a way to glorify Himself in it.