What ‘seeing through a glass darkly’ means

The epitaph for this generation could read: They Didn’t Know.

Nothing new about that, however. Reading the New Testament, one is struck by how often significant players in the Lord’s drama were said not to have a clue.

On the cross, the Savior summed it up when He prayed, “Father, forgive them. They do not know….”

Here are instances throughout the New Testament where that can be said.

Prayer. Matthew 20:22

The disciples did not know what they were asking for.

Ever pray that way? I have. I’ve asked the Lord to grant me success in this venture or that without ever checking to see if it was His will in the first place.

The brothers James and John wanted the places of honor in the Kingdom. And, who knows, they reasoned–perhaps it will be given to the ones with the moxie to ask. After all, isn’t it true that “you have not because you ask not”? And, they further reasoned, the worst that could happen was that the Lord would say, “No.”

He said, “No.” And more. That it was reserved for those whom the Father chose. And that they did not know what they were asking.

One wonders if a few weeks later when they saw the two thieves dying on crosses–one on the Savior’s right hand, the other His left–if they remembered this sad conversation.

The Apostle Paul said, We do not know how to pray as we should. Boy, is that ever the truth.

Help us, Father. We say as the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Advising. Luke 9:33.

Lord, Peter said, I have a great idea. Let’s build three tabernacles–sort of mini-worship booths–here on this great mountain. We would have one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Like that idea?

Luke nails it when he says Peter did not know what he was saying.

There have been times when I said more than I knew. I know the feeling, Peter.

Sometimes–okay, all the time–we would do well to emulate Job when he had his initial encounter with God. He had been spouting off regarding his innocence, his righteousness, and his knowledge, when the Lord appeared and asked him if he cared to correct the Almighty.

Job said, “Behold, I am vile. What shall I answer you? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer. Yes, I will proceed no further” (Job 40:4-5).

The Cross. Luke 9:45.

The Lord spoke on three occasions to the disciples to prepare them for His coming death. He wanted them in the know and ready for whatever the future held. But they stared at Him with the blank expressions of the clueless.

They did not know what He was saying.

Paul said in First Corinthians 2:8, If they had understood (God’s hidden mystery), they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  To me, that’s saying even Satan had no idea that God was actually using the cross.  As Joseph said to his brothers in another context, What you meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

The disciples had to see the cross, go through the burial process, and examine the empty tomb and the nailprints in the hands of the risen Lord before it all began to make sense.

To this day, many in our churches draw a blank when it comes to the cross. They speak of being good enough to go to heaven, of God at judgment adding up the two columns and if the good outweighs the bad, they’re in, and even resent references to the blood in their hymns.  People are so blind.

Here we have the crucial event in all of history–the Son of God becoming the sin offering for humanity–and instead of rejoicing in the “Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world,” we want to turn to other less puzzling subjects.

The Apostle Paul said, God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of Christ my Lord by which the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world (Galatians 6:14).

Others. Luke 9:55.

What shall we do with people who reject us? I know, let’s kill them. Sounds like some religions we could name, doesn’t it?

But it is not the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the disciples wanted to call down fire from Heaven on the Samaritans who had declined the request to come inside their city, Jesus rebuked them. You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.

It’s so easy to be condemning and judgmental on those who are rude to us, hostile to our faith, resistant to evangelism, and prejudiced against believers.

Dig only slightly into the history of the Christian church and you will uncover far too many examples for comfort of instances where God’s (ahem) children not only called down fire from heaven on those they deemed unworthy, but kindled the flames themselves.

Nothing tells the story on our maturity in Christ as the way we respond to those who hate us, mistreat us, curse us, and harm us. See Luke 6:27ff for the Lord’s well-thought-out and clearly delineated plan for responding to such people.

Salvation. Luke 19:41-44.

Our Lord wept over Jerusalem. He knew what was in store for His beloved city within one short generation. The root cause of Israel’s rejection of Him? He put it this way…

They do not know the things which make for peace.

–They do not know the time of their visitation.

How could they have peace with God and become peacemakers in their world (instead of trouble-makers)? By repenting of their sin, humbling themselves before God, and accepting the salvation God had sent their way in the person of the Lord Jesus.

What was the time of their visitation? It was their moment of opportunity. This was their time. It was “now or never.” And they went right on, as though life would go on uninterrupted as they had always known in. But it was not to be.

Question: What do you know?

I think of the prayer of Jehoshaphat who is on his knees in a panicky moment. The pagan kings have a coalition army arrayed just outside his capital. He is badly outnumbered. This is not good. But, give him credit, he’s on his knees seeking God.

Lord, he said, we do not know what to do. But our eyes are on Thee. (II Chronicles 20:12)

The order of the day for Jehoshaphat–and for you and me in our troubled day–was humility and faith.

Humility says the answer is not in me.

Faith says the remedy is of God.

Brethren, let us pray this prayer again and again.

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