On the Way to the Cross 5

Mary and Peter, on the way to the cross, had to learn first that it was the cross that was coming — and that meant unlearning that the expectations and anticipations would be jolted with an utterly new reality. God’s saving ways revealed on the cross.

John 2. Mary is evidently held responsible for the flagging wine at a wedding. She approaches Jesus with some serious implications that Jesus ought to be able to do something about it. Jesus’ words to Mary make the flash of Simeon’s sword — the word about the sword that will pierce her soul — concretely real. Jesus’ words back to Mary when she puts her expectations and anticipations onto Jesus: “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”

However you explain this passage, Jesus’ words to Mary flash the sword of Simeon in Mary’s face. She has expectations; Jesus has revelations. He will do God’s work when God wants that work done. “My time has not yet come.” Mary’s response takes her one step closer to the cross. When she realizes what he has said, she responds as a disciple ought to respond: “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

But Peter did not respond this way when he began to encounter the cross. Surrounding Jesus’ revelation that he will die — when he flashed the sword of Simeon before his twelve disciples — are two feeding stories. In the first, we read this:

Jesus answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

After Jesus flashed the sword in their face and after he had fed a multitude, the find themselves in another similar situation. Here are their words: “His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

First encounters with the power of Jesus, the mission of Jesus, and especially when that is shaped in the form of a cross, lead to incredulity, to bafflement, to astonishment, and it is only over time that the disciple embraces that the way of Jesus is the way of the cross.

As we approach Lent, let us embrace the flash of Simeon’s sword, let us listen to Jesus and say “your will be done.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Diane

    A question about Jesus. I have understood that his followers, and apparently a swelling number of grassroots followers, expected Jesus to be a leader in the mold of David, leading a military fight that would expel the Romans from Israel. The Jewish people would win, because Jesus was annointed by God to secure Israel. The disciples fully expected to be leaders in a new regime. The disciple’s shock came when they realized that Jesus was building a whole new kind of kingdom, not based on military force.
    I had someone challenge this view, saying that it wasn’t true that people expected Jesus to lead a military revolt. Citing Josephus, this person said that there were others who were seen as more likely leaders of a military action. I find it difficult to read the gospel story through any other lens than Jesus perceived as military-Messiah-king. Can anybody comment on this?

  • http://schooleyfiles.blogspot.com/ Keith Schooley

    I’m confused by this line, Scot,

    When she realizes what he has said, she responds as a disciple ought to respond: “His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

    If Jesus is telling her that it’s not yet time for him to begin doing miracles, how is it appropriate (“as a disciple ought”) for her to press the issue?

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Diane,
    I think what his followers expected is visible with utter clarity in the Magnificat of Luke 1:46-55. That’s what they expected; and it is almost impossible to read those lines and not think some kind of military event would be in store for them.
    Keith,
    She surrendered to Jesus’ will. I don’t think she presses it; she surrenders her will.

  • Benjamin Bush Jr

    Scot,
    Many today have the same type of expectations in today’s world. Christians are constantly urged to take back the culture for Christ, along with all the dominion trappings.
    How does this apply for the Christian today? In light of what happened with Christ and His disciples, what is the application for today?

  • http://www.communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard

    Good thoughts. That we would really see, accept and embrace the cross for our own lives, will be the same measure as to how much we truly follow Christ. We need to be helping each other along, this way. And the best way, probably, is to be endeavoring to do it. And then be there to help another do the same. Even as they may have to be there for us, along the way.

  • Marshall

    John 2 sounds to me like there’s been a discussion, and Mom says, OK here’s an opportunity: put up or shut up. Is there *anybody* in the gospels that doesn’t challenge Jesus?


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