Five Minute Friday: Observant
I’ve been camped out in the book of Mark for a while. I love its fast-paced action, the way the author zips from one powerful miracle to another, from one convicting parable to the next. It reads like a comic book, the superhero Christ performing amazing feats and saying unheard-of things, while his critics and disciples follow him around, slack-jawed and angry—or awestruck, as the case may be.
What surprises me about the book is just how much the disciples don’t get it, pretty much all the way to the end. They are observant, all right—who wouldn’t be, when Jesus is healing blind people, raising the dead, casting out demons? But while the critics observe and are angry, the disciples observe and are confused, afraid, and uncertain.
I just want to shake some sense into the disciples for their ignorant fear. Like the time they are in a boat on an angry sea for the second time, and instead of remembering the time Jesus calmed the storm with one word, they are terrified and think they are about to drown. Then they see him walking toward them on the water and shriek, “It’s a ghost!” Seriously, guys?
Or what about the second time they are stuck out in the wilderness with thousands of hungry followers, and they say, “How in the world are we going to feed all these people?” Like they didn’t just help Jesus feed five thousand people with just a few loaves and fish, only a couple chapters earlier. Come on, guys!
The book of Mark is full of these scenes, moments when the disciples get it, only to be completely undone in the next scene when Jesus once again conquers their fear and unbelief. I want to be frustrated with these fools, but I know I am the same.
We can follow Christ around and watch him perform miracles, hear him speak such wisdom, and we can angrily accuse like the Pharisees, or we can observe and still be terrified like the disciples. Observing simply means watching, taking it all in. True change comes when observing becomes discerning. Discernment comes over time and many failures, as we abide and let the truth of who he is change our perspective.
I’m so thankful Jesus was patient with them—and me. I’m so thankful that at the end of the book, after they have doubted him, betrayed him, denied him, and fled from his death, he gathers them in and trusts them with his mission—go out and tell the world. He gives them this commission only a few weeks after they all failed him in the worst way. He knows they will succeed because they have been with him, experienced his love and power, and now his Spirit will lead the way.
They do grow in discernment, becoming the teachers and shapers of the church. Because they allowed what they saw to change their hearts, they changed the world.
I want to be observant. But observant is not enough. I want to move past that and have discernment. And that only comes when we experience Christ’s filling, over and over again in the middle of our failures, and we let his grace change our perspective.