I’m sitting in wonder on this Maundy Thursday. How God could become man, live a perfect life and then willingly suffer and be put to death in order that He could rise again and defeat death. I don’t understand it.
Peter didn’t either. His response was to rebuke Jesus. We don’t know what Peter said, but we do know that after Jesus had taught the disciples that He would suffer and be rejected and die, Peter pulled Jesus aside and reproached or admonished him expressing his disapproval with Christ’s teaching. Apparently, Peter didn’t understand what Jesus was saying. And, it seems like from his response Peter didn’t much like it either.
In a beloved children’s story, Charlotte’s Web, we see a similar sentiment. In the story, a little girl named Fern begs her father to give her the runt pig that was going to be killed. She ends up spending a lot of time with her pig, Wilbur. Her mother, Mrs. Arable, has growing concerns about Fern’s dedication to the pig and goes to see Dr. Dorian to ask him if Fern’s behavior concerned him.
“It all started with that pig we let Fern raise on a bottle. She calls him Wilbur. Homer bought the pig, and ever since it left our place Fern has been going to her uncle’s to be near it.”
“I’ve been hearing things about that pig,” said Dr. Dorian, opening his eyes. “They say he’s quite a pig.”
“Have you heard about the words that appeared in the spider’s web?” asked Mrs. Arable nervously.
“Yes,” replied the doctor.
“Well, do you understand it?” asked Mrs. Arable.
“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider’s web?”
“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”
“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle – it's just a web.”
“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian.
Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. “No,” she replied. “But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock.”
“Sure,” said the doctor. “But somebody taught you, didn’t they?”
“My mother taught me.”
“Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody. Don’t you regard that as a miracle?”
“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Arable. “I never looked at it that way before. Still, I don’t understand how those words got into the web. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like what I can’t understand.”
“None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian sighing.
I wonder how many of us pass through our lives never looking at it that way. We plow through our days without stopping to ponder the miracles around us. Our own expectations of reality cloud out the mystery and our experience defines our assumptions.
In Peter’s mind he could not yet reconcile how Jesus, the Son of Man, could come and die without first bringing restoration. In Peter’s mind there was still work to be done, and Peter’s plan was for Jesus to take hold of the power before Him and right every wrong. Just like Mrs. Arable, Peter didn’t like what he couldn’t understand.
What Peter didn’t know or understand just yet was that God’s plan looked a bit different.
The plan from the foundation of the world was full of wonderment. It was a plan that trumps all plans. It was a paradox that would flip everything on its head and spin reality in a new way. In this plan Jesus needed to be obedient to the Father, willingly go to the cross, pay the penalty for every sin committed and yet to be committed, and then defeat the power of death rising again on the third day and join God the Father in Heaven.
But, we aren’t there yet. It’s Maundy Thursday and we are still in the part don’t understand. And, frankly, I don’t like it...just like Mrs. Arable. But, it’s here in the tension that we must sit with hearts and minds that are wondering and waiting like Dr. Dorian who is ok with the questions, who is ok with the miraculous. The promises remain true. And, though there are paradoxes and parts of the story we don’t understand, the reality is – Christ came. Christ died. Christ rose. And, Christ is coming again. So, let’s rest here in the questions while we await the reality.