Embracing Our Students’ Brokenness
One of my favorite passages to preach or teach from is Luke 18:35-43. It’s short and sweet. Boy is it sweet. There is a TON we can pull from this. But I want to focus on one group of people in this encounter, a group that has serious implications for us. They help remind us of an easily overlooked aspect of discipleship.
Refresh yourself with the story:
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. 42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. - Luke 18:35-43 (emphasis added)
Let’s look at the people “leading the way.” We had an adage in the Marine Corps that describes their actions perfectly: “Good initiative. Poor judgment.”
These folks most likely felt like they were doing the right thing. They were, after all, doing nothing more than acting in line with their cultural understanding. The sick and the lame would have occupied one of the lower-most rungs on the Jewish social/cultural ladder. I imagine these folks thought they were simply clearing the refuse out of Jesus’ way. But I think in actuality, they were falling prey to something we’re susceptible to as well.
I think they were completely and utterly flummoxed by the beggar’s brokenness. I think they were put off by the perceived visibility of his sin and the shamelessness of his need.
Keep in mind, in the traditional Jewish understanding that would have been a work in this time period, illnesses such as blindness were often thought to be a result of the individual’s sinfulness, or even the sinfulness of their parents. These folks would have seen this man and immediately assumed he did something to deserve his predicament. And so they wanted to minimize his interactions with Jesus, less Jesus be exposed to any unsightliness. They were in a word, sanitizing the environment so Jesus would have to deal with the grime and slime of the human condition.
Wonderfully, Jesus cut right through their misconception, embracing the man and his need.
What do we take from this? Easy . . .
Brokenness in others is awkward. It’s OK to admit it. Dealing with the raw outward expression of our students’ sin and need is uncomfortable. We can inadvertently take steps to avoid it. And when we do, we act just like the crowd control goofballs in the passage we just read. When we try to avoid dealing with our students’ brokenness, or we try and sweep it under the rug, we in essence, communicate to them that Jesus wants them, but He’d prefer they be cleaned up first. Which, thankfully, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s make sure we are the people who embrace the brokenness of our students. Let’s be people who, instead of ushering them away from Christ, lead the toward Him.