Jesus and Disappointment

“He was wanting to, but …” This refrain stands out to me as I read through Mark. I want to walk you through a few passages and make a simple point alluded to in the title. You see it clearly in Mark 6:48 and 7:24.

Mark 6:48 and 7:24

περὶ τετάρτην φυλακὴν τῆς νυκτὸς ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτοὺς περιπατῶν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ ἤθελεν παρελθεῖν αὐτούς. Οἱ δὲ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν …About the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking on the sea. He was wanting to pass by them, but when they saw him …
Ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὰ ὅρια Τύρου καὶ Σιδῶνος. καὶ εἰσελθὼν εἰς οἰκίαν οὐδένα ἤθελεν γνῶναι καὶ οὐκ ἠδυνήθη λαθεῖν.Getting up from there he went away into the regions of Tyre and Sidon. And when he entered a house, he was not wanting anyone to know where he was. He wasn’t able to be hidden.

These verses don’t say that Jesus was very upset by wanting one thing and experiencing another. They don’t say he wasn’t either. Maybe they stand out to me because earlier in Mark I was thinking 3:12 had a similar vibe.

Mark 3:12

καὶ πολλὰ ἐπετίμα αὐτοῖς ἵνα μὴ αὐτὸν φανερὸν ποιήσωσιν.And he would often fuss at them to not make him known.
And he was fussing and fussing at them to not make him known.

At first, I read πολλὰ ἐπετίμα as “he would often fuss at them.” This caused me to reflect on on how Jesus knew what it was like to have to say something over and over and not be listened to. 5:10, however, makes me think πολλά ἐπετίμα might rather be intended to communicate something like “with a lot of words” or “fuss and fuss.” In 5:10, the demon begs Jesus πολλά.

καὶ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν πολλὰ ἵνα μὴ αὐτοὺς ἀποστείλῃ ἔξω τῆς χώρας.And it was begging and begging him not to send them out of the region.

Here, πολλά can’t mean often; it is a description of the demon’s speech in that moment. Mark seems to use πολλά frequently to describe someone speaking at length. Swete was helpful in pointing out other uses in Mark.

Πολλὰ ἐπετίμα, Vg. vehementer comminabatur: πολλά as an adverb is characteristic of Mc., cf. 5:10, 5:23, 5:43, 9:26. Mt. has the less vivid ἐπετίμησεν αὐτοῖς: Lc. omits the circumstance. (Henry Barclay Swete, The Gospel According to Mark. Classic Commentaries on Greek New Testament, [Macmillain & Co., 1913].; Logos)

So, 3:12 could mean Jesus “would fuss often” and be describing Jesus’ many encounters with demons and how he had to over and over command them not to reveal his Identity. Or, more likely, it describes how Jesus, on that occasion, fussed at length for that demon to keep its mouth shut.

Either way you read 3:12, it fits with the idea I’m pointing out in 6:48 and 7:24. Jesus could have shut the demons’ mouths with a word, like he calmed the sea, but he didn’t. Or perhaps we should say he wasn’t permitted to. In the words of Hebrews, and to tip my hand to the conclusion, he learned obedience through what he suffered.

One more passage.

Mark 7:18

This portion of Mark is so interesting and mysterious. Jesus and the disciples are overworked and too busy, and it’s like Jesus is in a sort of twilight zone. Similar situations repeat like a biblical Groundhog Day, and he is surrounded by people that do not understand him. Those with whom he is closest come to him and show that they don’t get it either. His response is striking:

καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀσύνετοι ἐστέ;And he said to them, “Do even y’all not get it?!”

I understand that in this passage Jesus is pushing his disciples to deeper understanding. I know the force of the statement is a rebuke. What I’m interested in, however, is the tone of the words. It can be both a rebuke and an expression of disappointment and frustration. In these words, I hear a clear tone of sadness, loneliness, and frustration. He is working hard physically and mentally, he is emotionally taxed, and he is misunderstood despite repeated explanations. How can he be fully human and those experiences not lead him to frustration and disappointment?


These passages shows that Jesus knows what it is like to want one thing and experience the frustration and disappointment of getting another. It is a simple observation, but it’s one that means a lot to me.