Read John 12:12-16.
What The Commanders Didn’t Understand
People described Abraham Wald as “gentle and kind.” A religious Jew, he fled from Europe to the United States in 1938 because he felt the growing Nazi threat could no longer be ignored. It turns out he was right. Except for one brother, all of his family perished in Auschwitz. (McRaney)
In the U.S. Wald worked for the American military as a statistical analyst during the war. Military leaders once asked him to determine the most important locations on which to position protective armor for aircraft. Of course the commanders had their own ideas. Over and over again planes returned with bullet holes in the wings, in the area of the tail gunner, and along the center of the fuselage. So to them, the answer was obvious: position the armor plating in those three areas.
But Abraham Wald pointed out that only the planes that survived had bullet holes in these areas. So the available data sample only proved that planes with bullet holes in the observed areas were able to survive. Wald surmised that the planes that were shot down likely took fire in locations other than those of the planes that were able to return.
And it turned out he was correct.
What The Disciples Didn’t Understand
In our last post from the book of John, Jesus was honored at a dinner for raising Lazarus from the dead. The day after that dinner he climbed onto a donkey’s colt and rode into Jerusalem. A large crowd heard he was coming and they took branches from trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Hosanna means “O save,” and these words the crowd was shouting are from Psalm 118:25-26.
This event was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
But a conquering king rides in on a war horse. And that’s what these people with the branches were hoping for. Their country was occupied by the Romans against their will. During this very celebration there were Roman soldiers positioned in Jerusalem who were assigned to put down a riot should one occur during the Passover. The Jewish people were looking for a Messiah who would deliver them from their oppressors the Romans. But Jesus rode in humility, on a donkey. In the account of these same events found in the book of Luke we read that as he drew near to Jerusalem, Jesus wept. And as he wept he said, “. . . you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Many of the people cheering him on and hoping for a military deliverer didn’t understand who he was or what he was doing. And we read in our text that at the time, even his own disciples didn’t understand what it was that was happening.
What You And I Don’t Understand
I’m experiencing a streak of events in my life right now that I don’t understand. Maybe you are too. Maybe you or someone you care about is seriously ill or injured. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Maybe you’re struggling through a divorce. Maybe, like me, you’re feeling overwhelmed and you don’t understand what it is your Father in heaven is doing in your life.
For me I can’t help but believe that if you and I were as good and holy as God, and if you and I knew everything He knows, we would want precisely what He is putting in front of us right now.
The military commanders wanted to do things their own way until someone with a greater mind explained why it was better to do things differently. It wasn’t until after Jesus rose again that the disciples remembered the prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 and that it was about what Jesus did on the day described in our text. It wasn’t until after the famine that Joseph understood why he was made a slave and imprisoned in Egypt.
It may not be until we’re on the other side of heaven before we understand why God allows us to go through what He allows us to go through, but I believe we will understand, ultimately.
And when we do we’ll recognize that His judgments are righteous and true and good.
And I heard the altar saying,
“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
true and just are your judgments!” Revelation 16:7
Image of “God is Love” truck via Jason Hughes on Pexels – Creative Commons Zero
David McRaney, Survivorship Bias, YouAreNotSoSmart.com, May 23, 2013