Late last night I finished my own personal study through the book of Mark. I wrote about my love for this book a while back in light of some reflections on Ash Wednesday, and having finished it again, it was confirmed once more that this indeed is my favorite Gospel.
As I was ending it, I really wanted to see my Father in these words and be moved by Him. This last stretch I read was from Jesus being handed over to Pilate through the Resurrection–arguably some of the most dramatic and supposedly heart-string-pulling moments for the Christian. I mean, Our Lord is being unjustly mocked! He is being crucified! He’s being raised!
And yet, I felt nothing beyond the scan of my eyes upon the page offering the simple intellectual reminder of these events.
I really was hoping, in the moment, that I would have been moved more. I was hoping I’d feel a burst of outrage during the trial and the sting of tears during the Crucifixion and the thrill of joy at the Resurrection. But alas, it was not to be.
As I thought through all this, my mind went to an exchange that John records in his Gospel. Jesus encourages his disciples: “let not your hearts be troubled”. He then tells them the truths that provide them the resources to live this out. He says he is going ahead of his weak and weary disciples to prepare a place for them; a place they cannot “un-prepare” by their weakness and sinfulness. This offers them the security that lets hearts be “untroubled”.
But Thomas is wondering how this can really help them as it is an abstract hope they just have to intellectually assent to; they can’t go with him. What promise do they have in this world that this will be the case? Can they have something tangible to feel or behold that can give them hope?
Jesus says to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In essence he says, “I am your tangible hope”. And then he offers a beautiful, objectively-true, and secure promise, even amidst Thomas’ frustration and lack of faith: “From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
But now it’s Philip’s turn to desire even more. He, like me last night, looks at the “Word” in front of him and desires to see through it to the Father. He says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
And then Jesus gently rebukes both Phillip and me, while encouraging us and offering us peace: “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip [and Paul]? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”
We forget all too easily that holding a book and scanning eyes are just as much tangible experiences as tears and joy. We have seen the Word, and so we have seen the Father. Heck, we’re so sinful and by nature numb to God, we can’t even be wanting an experience of God without Him already being at work within us to stir that desire in the first place.
So let us take heart: In those moments you just want a fresh experience of God, trust that regardless of how He may or may not meet you in that particular way, you nevertheless do know the Father and have seen Him. And further, if you have seen and have taken in His Word, trust that you have indeed seen Him and experienced Him all the more tangibly and assuredly than your feelings could have ever offered you.
What do you think? Why do you think we are unmoved at times by these most beautiful of truths? How do you think through that?
[image credit: drawing by Jennifer Huber]