During my freshman year in high school, I was introduced to Algebra. Math was always something that took a bit longer for me to comprehend and sitting in Ms. Collier’s class this was no different. I would look at the numbers and got stuck on the whole concept of x and y. Where did they fit in? How do you calculate an equation with these letters?
Every piece of homework was like trying to decipher hyrogliphics. It made no sense. The result was of course that I didn’t do so well in Algebra. Actually, I crashed, I got my one and only failing grade in a class.
The next semsester, I was put in a slower Algebra class. As I started learning these concepts again, it was like the clouds parted and the fog rolled away. I now understood what x and y meant. I could do the equations with ease. That semester I ended up with a letter grade of B.
I don’t know what made the difference. Maybe it was the teacher. Maybe it just took time for things to sink in. All I know is that it felt great to finally understand.
The text in Mark spans two chapters and deals with what seem like two unconnected events; Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ and the Transfiguration. But in some ways, they are intimately connected. Peter understood that Jesus was the Messiah, the king. But he and the rest of the disciples didn’t understand what that meant. They never understood what kind of king Jesus would be.
That’s why Peter was shocked when Jesus starts talking about being arrested and put to death. Peter knew what a king was, and that is not what should happen to a king.
Then there is the Transfiguration. Peter along with John and James see this odd event of Jesus brighter than bright, sitting with Moses and Elijah. Peter was so gobsmaked he started talking about building altars for the three.
It’s easy for us to think that Peter was so dense. But we are no better than Peter. There is still a lot of this faith we don’t always understand. What does it mean that Jesus is God’s son? What does it mean that Jesus would die? What does it mean that Jesus would be raised from the dead? These are questions we are still wrestling with centuries later.
Which is maybe why the voice comes in and tells Peter to listen to Jesus. Maybe we need to sit with our questions and sit in the moment with Jesus. In time, the answers will come, the skies will clear and like I did with Algebra over 30 years ago, we will understand.
Faith is just that, faith. We don’t understand everything in our faith. There are times in both good and bad times, where we just have to sit with this uncomfortable feeling and continue to follow Jesus.
There is an old gospel hymn I remember hearing sitting in the Baptist churches of my youth in Flint, Michigan. The first verse of “We’ll Understand It Better, By and By,” goes like this:
We are tossed and driven
on the restless sea of time;
somber skies and howling tempests
oft succeed a bright sunshine;
in that land of perfect day,
when the mists are rolled away,
we will understand it better by and by.
Sometimes we don’t understand x and y. But with God’s help we will, by and by.