On a recent Friday evening, my wife asked me how my day went. I’ve been working on greater specificity in my conversations, so rather than the standard, “alright,” or “fine,” the word that came to mind was disappointing. (By the way, if you’d like an app that helps with this, check out How We Feel). We’re still in the 3rd quarter and the kids are acting like it’s May. The very kids who need to put in the most effort are putting in the least. My advanced students, who should know better, are acting like kindergarteners. Did I mention that I teach high school?
Disappointing. I’m sure you can relate.
If we haven’t already been disappointed by our students, their parents, or even our colleagues, it’s likely that it will happen at some point. As I considered the previous week, I had the thought, “How many times did Jesus have the same experience?” Whether with the disciples, the people who flocked to Him, or the Sanhedrin, I have to think He encountered a fair amount of disappointment. The second question I asked is the more important one, “How did He deal with it?”
While we may already be looking forward to the departure of certain students, Jesus taught the disciples and conducted His public ministry for three years. He knew those around Him, and their shortcomings, exceptionally well. As reported by the Gospels, it seems that Jesus had three responses to moments of disappointment.
In some cases, He would ask a question:
When Jesus called the storm after being awakened by the disciples (Matthew 8:23-27), He asked the disciples, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”
When Peter began to sink after walking on the water (Matthew 14:28-33), He asked, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When the disciples argued about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34), He asked, “What were you discussing on the way?”
When the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:37-41), He asked, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?”
In other instances, He would express his indignation and offer a rebuke.
When Peter suggested that Jesus forego His trip to the cross, (Matthew 16:21-23), He said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
When the disciples tried to prevent parents from bringing their children to Jesus (Mark 10:13-14), He was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to Me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
When James and John wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village that rejected Jesus (Luke 9:51-55), He turned and rebuked them.
Most importantly, Jesus continued to love them.
When the deluded rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22), claimed to have kept all of the commandments, Jesus looked at him and loved him.
When Jesus saw the crowds (Matthew 9:36), He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Knowing what was coming on Maundy Thursday (John 13:1), Jesus loved them to the end.
We, and our students, disappoint those around us, and we can be disappointed. We are no different than the people Jesus encountered. Their story, however, did not end with their ineptitude. Instead, Jesus’ followers were transformed by His resurrection into bold and courageous vessels of the Gospel. In the same way, we, and our students, are works in progress. Let us remember Jesus’ model in our ministry, and let us continue to ask questions, rebuke when necessary, and always love to the end, confident in the transformative power of Jesus Christ.
Mark Cheney, Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School, Las Vegas, NV