‘…what is that to you?’
‘And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.’
It means a lot to me that even after the Egyptian episode and the Hagar incident (both of which, to me at least, suggest impatience on Abraham’s part) Abraham still becomes our example of patience as well as faith.
Of course we learn patience; even Job, and the prophets mentioned in James 5.
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) and not an innate quality for any of us.
Abraham, in the long run, learned to wait patiently and received what was promised;
Isaac his son born to Sarah, and descendants ‘as numerous as the stars’.
‘What is that to you?’ Jesus asked Peter when he inquired about John’s fate.
Jesus had just described the death Peter would die in glorifying God when Peter noticed John (known to be a favourite of Jesus’) following them and asked, not unreasonably I think, ‘What about him?’ Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
It’s so good that the disciples are drawn ‘warts and all’ in the gospels; their doubts, their failures, their jealousy of one another regarding who would sit at Jesus’ right hand in his kingdom; we are shown all of that and more besides.
The other day I found myself confronted with Jesus’ question, ‘What is that to you?’ in light of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah.
I was reading Luke’s gospel; that passage in chapter seven where John the Baptist, in prison and soon to die at the hands of Herod, sent his own disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
In prison, John heard about Jesus’ miracles; already he had been convinced that Jesus was the messiah; he had already gladly said, ‘…my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease’. He knew that Jesus, in the synagogue in Nazareth, read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me … He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners … to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
We read familiar passages of scripture so many times yet suddenly something speaks to us, making new connections to encourage us (or to rebuke our little faith) or both; or more. Exciting, isn’t it?
Sure I knew that John was in prison when he sent his disciples to Jesus but I had never connected that with Jesus reading from Isaiah in Nazareth. Suddenly it seemed only reasonable that John’s attention would be drawn to that portion, ‘He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed’.
Perhaps I am making too much of this; perhaps it says more about me than about John, but if such a connection is valid, if even John was liable to doubts in the light of God’s blessings in the lives of others but not in his life, then I find it, not too perversely I hope, encouraging.
When we are tempted to ask like Peter ‘What about him?’ or like John ‘Are you (really) the one? If you are, then what about me?’ is the only answer we can expect Jesus’ answer to Peter, ‘What is that to you. You must follow me.’
I don’t believe so. Two passages of scripture came to mind as I thought about it.
First, from Romans 12:15, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep’ which speaks for itself I think as a tonic against our self absorption.
And then, from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul’s assurance of the comfort that produces patience, the ability to endure suffering and see it become a blessing for ourselves and for others too.
‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.’ 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
What’s that to you?