January 26, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 9:37-41 (NRSV)
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”
Jesus experienced the challenges and frustrations of human life. How good it is to know that Jesus understands when we’re in a tough place. He has been through things like this. He is with us in all times and all experiences! If you’re confronting the tough reality of life today, whether in your work or in your relationships, in your neighborhood or in the wider world, remember, Jesus understands. He is with you!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Have you ever had the experience of getting away from normal life, enjoying a rejuvenating time of rest, reflection, and recreation, only to have your restoration crushed by the reality of ordinary life? I’ll bet you have. I know I have.
I think, for example, of a time when my wife and I were vacationing in Hawaii (from which comes today’s photo). Dear friends had given this trip to us and it was delightful in every way. Delightful, that is, until near the end of the trip, I thought I would “just check” my email. What did I find in my inbox? A dozen panicky and alarming emails from colleagues who begged me to interrupt my vacation and confront a volatile crisis at work. One moment I was basking peacefully in the warmth of the Hawaiian sun. The next moment I was dragged back into the painful reality of my workplace.
It would have been familiar to Jesus; the “back to reality” part that is, not the email in Hawaii part. In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion we observed the wonder of the transfiguration, when Jesus was revealed in his heavenly glory and a voice from heaven declared him to be “my Son, my Chosen” (Luke 9:35). It’s hard to imagine a more uplifting and affirming experience than this. I expect that Jesus came down from the mountain on which he was transfigured both moved and encouraged.
Then, on the very next day, Jesus was thrust back into reality. As a crowd gathered around him, a man shouted out to Jesus, explaining that his child was tormented by a demon and that Jesus’s disciples were not able to cast it out of the boy. You may recall that, earlier in Luke, Jesus had given his disciples “power and authority over all demons” (Luke 9:1). They should have been able to expel the demon that harassed the man’s son, but for some reason were not able to do so.
Jesus responded to what he heard with an understandable lament: “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” (9:41). Though this remark had wide applicability, it seems directed first of all at Jesus’s disciples. It was a messianic way of saying what aggravated parents sometimes say to their unruly children, “How long am I going to have to put up with you?” I expect Jesus was thinking something like, “I gave you the authority to cast out demons. You could have handled this. Why didn’t you?” He was clearly feeling frustrated. I imagine that his frustration may have been more acute because of what he had just experienced on the mountaintop. He went from divine glory to the reality of demonic bondage and human unfaithfulness (see Matthew 17:20).
You and I won’t have an experience quite like that of Jesus because we aren’t eligible to be transfigured as he was. We are fully human but not fully divine. Nevertheless, we do know what it’s like to go from highs to lows, from mountaintops to valleys, from joys to sorrows. How good it is to know that Jesus understands, that he has been through things like this, and that he is with us in all times and all experiences! If you’re confronting the tough reality of life today, whether in your work or in your relationships, in your neighborhood or in the wider world, remember, Jesus understands. Jesus is with you!
Can you remember a time in your life when you went from the mountaintop to the valley in terms of your experience and emotions? What happened?
As you reflect on the fact that Jesus experienced “lows” in his life and work, how does this impact you?
Take some time to put yourself into the story in Luke 9. Imagine what it was like to be the desperate father . . . and the crowd . . . and the disciples . . . and Jesus.
Lord Jesus, it is striking to me that you went from the mountain to the valley, from the transfiguration to the reality of demonic bondage and human unfaithfulness. Thank you for entering into our reality, with its pains and frustrations. Thank you for being one of us, fully human even as you are also fully divine.
Lord, when I got through the ups and downs of life, when reality sometimes feels terribly distressing, help me to turn to you, to share my heart with you, to know that you are with me, that you understand. May I draw near to you because you have drawn near to me. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Healing in the Book of Luke
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.