I’ve often wondered if Jesus ever got fed up with the disciples. Did Bartholomew ask one too many questions, to the point that Jesus just got up and walked away? Was there ever a moment when Jesus actually called out Judas’ for his sticky fingers in the moneybag? Did Andrew ever ‘flat-tire’ Jesus, thinking it would be funny, but it only annoyed the Master? When Jesus was questioning Pete about the depth of his love, did Jesus need to ask three times, or was it just because the fisherman couldn’t get the concept?
Certainly, most wouldn’t want to read about Jesus snapping at his closest friends because it seems like that wouldn’t be very “Christ-like”. But we can’t assume that Jesus allowed everyone to walk all over him in his state of love, either. There must have been a balance – some way to be divinely loving but still humanly emotive. He must have had boundaries, coping mechanisms, and friends who knew when to back away and recognize that He needed to be left alone. I think Jesus demonstrated that the choice to love people is, more often than not, a difficult and trying act.
This past spring I had a flood of emotions as I realized just how beautiful, lovely, and amazing everyone around me is – both to me and to God – and I had a small taste of what God sees both in me and in the world. But lately it’s been exhausting to just love (and love and love and love) in spite of what others say or do. Little things annoy me with my classmates, my community, and my world. Big things dig at me and grate at my patience. I’m living life on the edge (and not the cool, wicked-awesome edge) of snapping. Lately I have been wondering a few things: how the heck did Jesus just love others without going off the handle? How do I balance between loving someone but still not having to like someone (is this even possible)?
My life right now in seminary has often been compared to a family…or a workplace…or a marriage…any way you make the comparison, the fact is that we are a group of people incredibly close together. We are in class together, we are studying together, we are eating together, we are living together, we are going to the Local together…we are always together. I imagine Jesus and the disciples in a similar situation. They wandered Galilee like a traveling football team, but without the proper equipment. They traveled to various towns performing miracles, feeding people, teaching them, giving completely of themselves and sleeping somewhere in the woods at night.
Truthfully, I think Jesus was able to cope with his disciples because he often went off alone. He took the time to go do things by himself. The text in Luke says that Jesus, “…would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” In our minds I think we picture Jesus in benevolence before his father pouring out his heart about the world and the things going on around him – we imagine the divinity of Jesus in this moment. But if we switch our minds over to thinking of Jesus’ humanity in this moment, the picture somehow changes and he becomes more like us. Maybe he withdrew to go fishing; maybe he went off to shout and scream and complain about the disciples to God; maybe he went and just drew pictures in the sand; maybe he went for a hike. Jesus had the weight of the world on his shoulders and the burden of discipling 12 men – he had a lot on his plate!
Jesus never loved any less in these moments – if anything he loved more because he knew he needed that space to re-center himself and his purpose. If he was going to be useful, helpful, and a good teacher, he knew he needed some solitary time to do things for himself. I’m sure in these moments he admitted that he didn’t always like the way Philip drank from a well, or was furious when they all argued over who was the greatest disciple, or was frustrated with people following him everywhere and never giving him a moment of peace. He might not have liked these things, but he still loved the people.
There will be moments when people really annoy us and when we just don’t like others. I love my friends, but I still have moments when I think I should just ditch them and start over (and I write this knowing they’ll read this, but they’ll understand). We all have that point where we need to take a break from others and love ourselves. It’s the most responsible thing to do, honestly, and it keeps relationships alive. If Jesus – God-incarnate – needed time away from those he loved, I think it’s safe to say that we have permission to do so, as well.
much love. sheth.