31Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again." 34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
35As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." 38Then he shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 39Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 40Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41"What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, let me see again." 42Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has saved you." 43Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.
The Bible is full of irony. Especially during the Season of Advent (which begins this year on Nov 30th), the greatest irony of all is commemorated: the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born in a poor, smelly, obscure manger fit not for a human baby but for livestock.
Less dramatic is the irony in the passage above. Whether Luke placed these two stories in intentional juxtaposition, it's hard to tell. But whatever the intention, you can see the ironic contrast. The disciples who have been with Jesus for the three years of his ministry do not understand what Jesus is saying, while a blind man, a complete stranger to Jesus, knows that Jesus is the Son of David who administers mercy and who is able to heal him of blindness.
The sighted disciples do not see; the unsighted stranger sees.
Of course, if we were exacting, we would concede that the disciples knew something about Jesus' identity as "the Son of David" and that Jesus shows mercy and that he is able to heal. Not exactly comparing oranges with oranges. But an impressionistic reading of the passage does convey this surface irony.
Another irony that is spoken about and prefigured is what will happen to Jesus when he eventually gets to Jerusalem: handed over to Gentiles, mocked, insulted, spat upon, flogged, and killed. Jesus tells his disciples as much. They do not understand what Jesus is saying. They hear the individual words but they cannot make heads or tails out of what's coming out of Jesus' mouth. Huh? What are you saying, Jesus? Sounds like bad things done to bad criminals. We don't get what you are saying, Jesus. What was that last bit? That on the third day you will rise again? Excuse me, Jesus, you are not making any sense. You mean, like a zombie, rise again? I'm sorry, Jesus, I thought your parables were hard to decipher but when you are speaking to us straight, you're even harder to decipher. My head hurts.
This lack of understanding on the part of Jesus' disciples has no impact on the meaningfulness of Jesus' upcoming suffering and sacrifice. Their failure to grasp the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection cannot nullify the salvation that will be offered through the cross and resurrection of Jesus. All this to say: even this irony of the disciples' failure to understand is "surface" irony. Irony, in the end, is only irony. Irony has no power to change what God has determined and what God has determined certain actions will mean.
Less abstract and more concrete: Even if no one understood what God was doing in Jesus through his death and resurrection, that in itself (i.e., no one understanding) cannot invalidate the effectual power and meaningfulness of Jesus' death and resurrection. Even if someone as great as Albert Schweitzer were to think of the death of Jesus as a tragic failure (which he did), that wouldn't change a bit the power and truth of Jesus' death and resurrection. Even if every human being were to think like Albert Schweitzer regarding the death of Jesus, there would still be no change or alteration in the meaningfulness of Jesus' death. What matters, bottom line, is what God has determined and what God has determined certain actions to mean.
This truth of God's intended meaning is our anchor for our own hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus. It matters not what people say. It matters not whether the majority of people misunderstand the cross of Jesus. We don't need to count heads to see whether something is true or not.
Irony or no irony, what God has determined is ultimately what stands. What God has determined about the death and resurrection of Jesus is the only determination or interpretation that matters. Herein lies our unshakable faith and hope.
Let's pray: Dear Lord, as the Season of Advent rolls around, help us to appreciate the unchangeable nature of what you did as you became one of us, more precisely, a King, and what you did for us in the cross and resurrection. No irony, no human interpretation can alter these facts. We love you and thank you. In your name, amen.