In the first half of the Gospels, Jesus wanders about Galilee, seemingly free to go wherever he is invited, healing the sick, attending parties, making food and drink multiply in abundance. The crowds seeking out contact with Jesus steadily grow in number. Jesus exhorts his followers to trust the providence of their heavenly Abba God, and to expect good things to happen as they do the Father’s will. All things are possible for the person who has faith, declares Jesus, and this sense of hopeful anticipation is reinforced by the astonishing miracles that seem to occur daily in his ministry. The mood is upbeat — the kingdom of God at hand!
Midway through, however, the mood shifts. The opposition to Jesus’ ministry by the people in power intensifies. No longer simply wandering wherever the wind takes him, Jesus sets his face on Jerusalem to confront the dark powers that hold sway there. He speaks repeatedly of the necessity of his suffering and death, making dire predictions regarding the times ahead. The cross looming on the horizon casts its shadow on everything. What happened, we wonder, to the upbeat message of the first half of the Gospel?
There are moments in life when the Spirit seems to be flowing, and we manage to be in sync with that flow, and we catch a glimpse of the kingdom of God on earth.
At other times it is painfully apparent that the world in its present state is in distressing disharmony with God’s will. Dark powers are at work actively opposed to the life-giving intentions of God, wreaking violence and strife on countless levels, re-enacting the agony of the cross. We are forced to acknowledge that the ultimate harmony and wholeness for which we yearn will not be fully experienced until the life beyond this life.
In any given moment, it can be tough to discern which mindset is more appropriate to embrace.
In the end, the optimistic Jesus and the pessimistic Jesus share an underlying conviction that the Abba God does not abandon this world – cares deeply for this world, and therefore we should too. The Jesus of Galilee and the Jesus of Jerusalem are one and the same in placing their lives in the hands of the Abba God, come what may.
Lord Jesus, whether we find ourselves in green pastures or in dark valleys, in joy or in sorrow, help us to know that you are with us. May the Abba God’s will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.