‘Context’: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs: environment, setting. We all live within a context, and we know those conditions and their interrelatedness as they pertain to our daily lives. We don’t consciously think about them. They are just known, assumed. We mostly come awake to them, suddenly aware of them, when we find ourselves outside our context, where our familiar set of rules/procedures no longer applies, where our norms are no longer the norms in play around us. This is certainly true when traveling to a different part of one’s country or to a different culture – especially if the different culture includes a different language. Cars may be driven on the other side of the road. Greetings may be kisses, hugs, handshakes, or polite bowing. Shoes inside: on or off? Giving directions: words only? finger pointing? thumb pointing? or lip pointing? (this last one, Nicaragua – honest!). Appointment time: being punctual: de rigueur or rude? 10-15 minutes late: polite? acceptable? expected? 30 minutes to a day late normal? Making a purchase: quietly accept the price as given? briefly bargain? noisily, animatedly haggle? Navigating these, and other, differences can be challenging to say the least and can result in confusion and even hurt feelings.
Jesus’ disciples need to learn the context of the Kingdom; what’s important, what is a priority, what is not important nor a priority. They need to come to appreciate the otherness, the alien character, of their context, how much it is divergent from that of this new realm into which they’ve been invited. For three years Jesus has lived his life before his men according to Kingdom norms, all that conformed to the ways of the loving community of the Trinity. Most often, when the cultural gap presented itself, the Twelve didn’t get it, couldn’t understand, were left wondering how to process what Jesus had just said or done. They struggled to find ways to fit Jesus’ words and behavior within the context of their current understanding. (No mean feat!) Jesus would perform a miracle and instruct them to say nothing! He would heal and counsel the one healed to say nothing! He would be transfigured on a mountaintop and urge those present to remain quiet about it! As the all-powerful, promised, soon-to-conquer-Rome Messiah he would refer to his suffering and death! (Say what??)
I think it helps us to know that Jesus’ original band of followers were stretched just like we are stretched. None of the world’s ‘contexts’ syncs neatly with that of the Kingdom. Where we are most frequently perplexed is, typically, where our context (what we ‘know’ to be true!) differs from that of the Kingdom. Our journey to the Father’s heart includes many moments/seasons of wondering, waiting, questioning, agonizing, pleading, and finally discovering, his shining, eternal truth waiting just beyond the fog bank of our dim, finite knowing. But we don’t have to lose heart. We’re encouraged to hold on to every single promise! Looking forward to more fog-clearing tomorrow at 10 AM, 3 PM, 4 PM, 6 PM. PD