According to the Casper, Wyoming, Star-Tribune, Charles Taylor was brought into the courtroom of Judge James Fleetwood. Taylor was accused of robbing a shoe store at knifepoint, taking a pair of tan hiking boots and $69. During the trial, Taylor propped his feet up on the defense table. The judge looked over and did a double take. Taylor was wearing a pair of tan hiking boots. Surely, nobody would be so stupid as to wear the boots he stole to his trial, the judge thought.
Nevertheless, as the jury deliberated, the judge had an FBI agent call the shoe store. He learned that the stolen boots were size 10 ½ from Lot 1046. They checked the boots that Taylor wore to trial and found that they, too, were size 10 ½ and from Lot 1046.
The jury found Taylor guilty, and the judge sent him back to jail in his stocking feet.
As a Judicial Clerk, I had my own opportunities to shake my head in wonder at the antics of some criminal defendants. I reviewed one case on appeal in which the defendants had ransacked an elderly couple’s home. They piled the TVs, stereos, jewelry and other items of value at the back door. Apparently, they had worked up an appetite. The men were arrested because the elderly couple called 911 when they looked in their kitchen window and saw the robbers happily gulping down a pancake breakfast at their kitchen table.
Some transgressors are apparently either very stupid or very brazen about their crimes.
It would seem that the 12 Apostles had the same IQ as the criminals we have mentioned above. I can’t even begin to imagine the frustration of Jesus.
I think, from this reading of Mk 9:30-37, that Jesus was in great need of comfort. He took the apostles and separated from the needy crowds: the crowds that needed His touch, His healing, His teaching, His constant presence and ministry. He separated because He wanted to forewarn the apostles—His closest and most intimate friends– about the horrendous events that were soon to enfold: events that would bring Him more pain and shame than we as human beings will ever be able to fully comprehend.
Instead of comforting their precious Lord and assuring Jesus of their undying devotion and love, they decided that now was the perfect time to find out who was the greatest in God’s Kingdom. Who would sit at God’s right hand and usher in the political kingdom that they still expected Jesus to bring?
Now, I have the utmost respect for the Apostles who followed Jesus and ultimately did help to usher in His kingdom. But, really, with respect to this reading….how dumb and uncaring can you get!?!?!?
How could someone who has been so close to Jesus; living with Him, eating with Him, following Him on a daily basis, so miss the point? How could a person who claims to love this awesome Lord, who has given only of Himself and will continue to give of Himself even to death, not want to wrap Him in their arms and assure Him of their undying love? How could anyone who knew Jesus think of any of their own personal interests at a time so intimate, so filled with angst and despair? How could this be?
How could Jesus’ closest followers be so darn stupid and callous?
How can we?
Don’t we do the exact same thing every single time we sin? We, like the apostles, know of Jesus’ awesome and all encompassing love. We receive Jesus –often everyday in the Eucharist. We ask Jesus into our hearts and promise that we will strive harder to serve him over the course of the day. We leave the Church with the best of intentions; filled with love, gratitude and God’s blessing.
Then we stop at Wegmans and the person in front of us apparently can’t count to 10. She glibly places 12 items on the belt in the express lane. Then has the audacity to add a couple packs of chewing gum and breath mints. We have to get home to get the coffee pot a boiling or the bills apaid ….and here she is taking up our precious time—so much more important than her’s must be.
We miss our street and, in frustration, cut in front of another car so that we can turn around in the nearest driveway. Yes, that other driver has the technical right of way, but our needs to get to the bank are certainly so much more urgent than whatever that driver might need to do. We have the right to take some kind of emergency action.
I, for one, am ever thankful that these “dumb and uncaring” apostles were wise enough to include this self-deprecating story in the Gospels. They were willing to let us in on their weaknesses, because that is not the highlight of the story—only a necessary pathway to discerning the real truth; the real beauty and message of this Gospel.
It is not our stupidity or ignorance that matters to God. Indeed, God would prefer that we act like little children. For little children, the “smart factor” of your daily decisions is not what is truly important. Instead, the child is focused on the love of the parent. The child recognizes the need for and the authority of the parent. The child’s place in the family is not questioned. It is simply accepted.
Jesus shows us God’s mercy. He does not cry out in frustration at the apostles’ failure to provide the love and compassion that Jesus Himself so needs. He recognizes the child-likeness that is the true underlying character of the apostles and us. He does not condemn the apostles—or us—for their or our own stupidity, but, instead, offers continued reconciliation, love and mercy. This gift is and remains ours whenever we, too, like the apostles remember that we too are fumbling, bumbling children of God in need of constant reminders of the love, mercy and authority of God and God alone.