I was talking with someone last night after our Good Friday service about what we should call the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We have a name for the other days, but I'm not aware of a name for that in-between day, whereby we might commemorate the day of the disciples' waiting. My conversation partner suggested that, since the day was the Jews' Sabbath, it could be called Black Sabbath! I was impressed that this older fella knew that band's name, but when I reciprocated by beginning to sing the lyrics to "Iron Man," he didn't follow. Eh, I'm used to it.
God's Work in Our Little Faith
In any event, I was reading a passage in Luke this morning that is no doubt familiar to all of us, but also felt surprisingly pertinent to this "Black Sabbath" the day before Easter. In Luke 12:22-34, Jesus famously teaches his followers to not be anxious about their material needs if they're seeking first the Lord's Kingdom. They need not fear, because as they cling to Jesus and seek the Father's glory, He will take care of and provide for them, because they are His (Is. 43:1, Phil. 3:12). Jesus says so many things here that are so balmy for the fearful and worried soul. Perhaps the disciples were reminded of this as they waited praying before Jesus rose on Sunday. Here are a few highlights, followed by one final lesson that deserves a few more thoughts:
1. If God takes care of soulless natural matter like grass, he will clothe you, oh you of little faith (12:28). Did you catch the sentence's last clause? Even if you have weak faith - and let's be honest, even the strongest among us still wishes they had a stronger faith in the Lord - that doesn't change the Father's love for you. Even when Peter sunk into the water, all he needed was to cry out and the Lord immediately reached out his hand and pulled him back up (Mt. 14:31). Even in our worst, most faithless moments, the Father still promises to provide for us. It isn't our hold on Him that protects us, but His hold on us.
2. The little flock of God need not fear, because the Father's good pleasure is to give us His Kingdom (12:32). Even if everyone else were to turn from Christ, leaving only six followers throughout the world, those six would not need to fear, as the Father not only promises to give them the Kingdom, but promises that is gives his pleasure (Gk - eudokesen, delight) to do so. He is no timid, self-conscious god from whose hands we have to pry blessing. He loves to bless and care for His people, seeking their happiness.
So far, we see two things: First, the Father cares for us when we're faithless; and second, the Father, being pleased by whatever is happening around and in us (just reflect on that: He's happy with the direction history is going in, because "our God is in the heavens, doing all He pleases" Ps. 115:3), is moving time toward giving us His Kingdom, and He'll complete what He's begun.
Marinating or Floating Away
But there's one final thing I want to reflect on:
3. We need not "be anxious ... (or) worried" (12:22, 29). It is interesting to me that in the original of these two verses, Jesus' uses different words that are basically synonymous to us. In v. 22, talking in general about our life and more particularly about our clothing, we are told to not be merimnate (a general term used often in the NT, referring to having your thoughts preoccupied with a fear). So, don't be preoccupied with your tangible needs: God will clothe you. But in v. 29, talking specifically about your need for food and drink, he tells them not to be meteorisesthe. This word means to "be suspended," or held in suspense. From this Greek word derives English "meteor." So, don't be held in suspense over something that is so certain: The Father will give you what you need, and Jesus is not saying, "Just wait and see" as much He is saying, "Believe me, and let your heart be at rest because what I'm saying is true."
I don't have any proof of this, and neither online searches or my old-school resources (books) show any connection, but when I read "merimnate" it sounds a lot like the word "marinate." I wonder if the latter is a cognate of the former (ie, it sounds a lot like the former word, because it derives from it). Etymology resources online say that "marinate" originally comes from Italian, and is related to "mariner," referring to being submerged. Since Italian stems from Latin, which itself has a lot of ancient relationship with greek, it's an interesting connection to consider. Jesus might then be telling his followers, "Don't marinate on what might happen for your hurt. It'll submerge you in fear, when your Father's pleasure is to bless and keep you."
But then on the opposite end of the illustration spectrum, Jesus also says not to be meteorisesthe, or be suspended in the air, with the fear of a painful fall back down to "reality," which, in our flesh, often seems to predict our abandonment. Jesus says, "It's not true. Your Father won't let you fall."
I suppose then that since we're dogged by the twin temptations to a) let our thoughts wander through the air in worry, and b) let our thoughts get submerged in what-if's, Jesus would simply have us stay on the ground. Jesus is telling us, "Don't let fear sink you, and don't let it float you away. Live in the present, on the ground, knowing your Father loves you, and is out for your care, as you seek His Kingdom. Live simply, quietly, and peacefully. Enjoy life with your feet on the ground" (which sounds a lot like Ecclesiastes, doesn't it?)
He Loved Them Til the End
Indeed, the disciples' faith almost fell during those dark days at the end of Holy Week: Peter denied knowing Jesus, all the disciples all scattered from Him, and it was perhaps the darkest time in history. But Jesus had prayed that Peter's faith would stay strong, and that he'd then be able to return and strengthen the rest (Luke 22:31-33). And what do you think happened? It just took waiting on the Lord, and in time, He restored them all, because He loved them to the end (Jn. 13:1). And you better believe that if you wait on Him, keeping yourself on the ground, not floating into Fearville or marinating in Anxious Lake, He'll keep your footing steady, and your heart strong. He gave too much at the cross for us to think he'll short us now.