From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” [Matthew 16:21-22 (NLT)]

tri-colored heronWhile talking with a friend, I mentioned how many people of our generation seem unprepared for the challenges of widowhood. Having relinquished certain responsibilities to their spouses during the decades of marriage, they’re ill-equipped when they lose that spouse. There are men who have no idea how to do laundry, grocery shop, clean the bathroom or use the microwave. On the other hand, many of my women friends have never done minor repairs, paid bills, made an investment or purchased a car. “That was me!” replied my friend whose husband died of cancer. His death, while unwelcome, was not unexpected so I asked why they hadn’t prepared her for widowhood. “He tried to,” she said, “but I wouldn’t listen.” As long as they didn’t talk about his imminent passing and her future life without him, she still could deny its reality.

While thinking of her experience, I thought of the disciples’ behavior when Jesus spoke of his death. At first, He spoke metaphorically: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” At least three times, however, He spoke quite plainly about what the future held: he would be killed and raised from the dead. He didn’t mince any words when he described his death but the disciples didn’t understand. Jesus forewarned them but they were confused and frightened when He died, hid in a room instead of waiting expectantly at the tomb, and didn’t believe the women who said the tomb was empty.

Jesus spoke of fulfilling the prophecies and the disciples knew those prophecies. They preferred the ones about the messiah’s glory, however, to those of the suffering servant. Still thinking about an earthly king, Jesus’s words were contrary to their expectations and the disciples couldn’t reconcile what Jesus said to what they wanted. How could suffering and death accomplish anything? Like my widowed friend, they didn’t want to face the truth of what the future held. Perhaps, like her, they thought their denial would keep the horror from happening.

We aren’t all that different when it comes to seeing and hearing only what we want. In his Bible commentary, Matthew Henry cautions that we’re like the disciples when we read the Bible “by halves” – only the half we like. Consistently, the top three searched-for Bible verses are John 3:16, Jeremiah 29:11, and Philippians 4:13; the rest of the top twenty are other reassuring verses of comfort. If the Bible was a buffet, we’d find those feel-good verses on the dessert table. Dessert is great and so are those verses; nevertheless, they only tell part of the story. The other half of the Bible, while just as nourishing, isn’t quite as sweet; it’s the meaty stuff on the main dish table that tells us we’re going to have trials, temptation, affliction, and persecution. It tells us of mankind’s failures, God’s warnings, and why He had to redeem the world He created. It speaks of sin and God’s wrath and uses words like sacrifice, suffering, judgment and tribulation.

Let us never turn away from God’s word because we don’t like what it says. Ignoring the prophecies didn’t keep Jesus from being crucified and ignoring the still unfulfilled ones will not keep them from coming true! As for me, I want to be prepared for what the future brings (both in this world and the next).

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. … Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. [Mark 4:23,24-25 (NLT)]

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