While they were all amazed at his every deed,
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men."
But they did not understand this saying;
its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it,
and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
How many times have I read this passage and never noticed Saint Luke's cryptic aside, "...so that they should not understand it?"
He echoes a familiar passage from Isaiah 6:
And (the Voice of the Lord) replied: Go and say to this people:Isaiah's mission certainly sounds dreadful. One may ask, as millions have, "Is that fair, that God would make our hearts sluggish, dulling our ears and closing our eyes lest we hear, understand and repent?"
Listen carefully, but do not understand!
Look intently, but do not perceive!
Make the heart of this people sluggish,
dull their ears and close their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,
and their heart understand,
and they turn and be healed.
“How long, O Lord?” I asked. And he replied:
Until the cities are desolate,
Houses, without people,
and the land is a desolate waste.
Until the LORD sends the people far away,
and great is the desolation in the midst of the land.
If there remain a tenth part in it,
then this in turn shall be laid waste;
As with a terebinth or an oak
whose trunk remains when its leaves have fallen.
Certainly you and I live in the same world so familiar to Isaiah, "among a people of unclean lips." If they don't hear the voice of God it is largely because they don't want to. They've got other things on their mind. The name of God may be on their lips but He is far from their minds.
But I think Saint Luke is bringing a very different interpretation to Isaiah's prophecy. The prophet foresees doom; Jesus prophecies his coming crucifixion. The siege and destruction of Jerusalem is the "crucifixion" of the Old Testament.
Before it happened many devout souls believed it could not happen. "God" they said, "would never let that happen to us!" Just as Peter argued Jesus should never be crucified.
Despite Jesus' prophesies the disciples were not prepared for his agony and death. They heard but did not hear; they saw but could not see. Even Peter, who boasted he would never abandon the Lord, turned and fled.
The human spirit is never prepared for this catastrophe. People might form a "Cajun navy" to rescue people in Louisiana or Texas; they might utilize social media to facilitate relief operations; they might donate blood periodically, as I do, to help strangers: but no one is prepared for the destruction of God's temple, when the Father is silent, the Son is crucified and the Holy Spirit is still.
In that hour the human being collapses. Even the elect will despair.
No one knows what they will do on that day. We can only pray, "Spare O Lord your people" and "Lead us not into temptation."