Life can teach us hard lessons and one of the first and hardest lessons that even a child learns is that we do not always get what we want. As we grow and change, so do the things we desire. We wish for different things at different times of our lives, according to our understanding and priorities at each time. Often, though, the reality is that not only do we not get what we wish for but the very opposite of what we want is given to us. Kavanagh spoke (in the poem Lough Derg) of, ‘the God who delights in disillusionment’.
In his instructions to his disciples, Jesus has to disillusion them on a few points or remove the illusions they have about him and about his priorities. They had a very different idea of the kind of Messiah the Christ might be and a very developed sense of their own rank within the group and relative importance. They expected to be part of a winning team and to bask, as disciples, in the reflected glory of the Son of God, and to reap the benefits of his greatness. Instead Jesus tells them, they are headed for Jerusalem, for his condemnation, humiliation, suffering and death. The disciples simply do not understand and are afraid to ask him. Maybe they were afraid that their questions might reveal their true interests and motivation for following him. Jesus had to remove their illusions of greatness and their demands for rank and worldly power.
He teaches them that the Messiah’s way and his fate is the opposite of what they expect. He will be a suffering servant, not a powerful master. He teaches them that true greatness comes from true humility and that true precedence comes from service. The least in this world are greatest in the kingdom of God and to serve these is to welcome and to serve God and the Messiah he sent. True simplicity and lack of investment in the promises of this world are what makes one rich in the sight of God.
For the disciples, it was a hard lesson. They were to continue learning the hard way and sometimes failing to learn or understand, all through the life of Christ and beyond. To learn to serve is difficult ever since Adam. ( Non serviam/I will not serve). To achieve simplicity and openness to the ways and thoughts of God involves a huge turnabout and relearning at the feet of the Master. We are created after the great pattern which is God, but it is the pattern and the ways of the world which bind us. To serve the suffering Messiah in the least of his people and to learn his ways does not come easily to us. Disillusionment is a bitter lesson.