"I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can't stand it any longer. It's the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I've somehow been infected by it." - Agent Smith, The Matrix.
With every breathing moment Jesus suffered this reality. He didn't have to. And yet he chose to. And if there ever was a complaint, it wasn't in his handiwork, but in its refusal to believe. Verse 19: "O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" These questions repeat in my mind over and over again like a broken record player. And my answers are the same. "Soon, but not now. In just a little while. I need a little bit more time." My answers assume that I have it in my ability to surrender my life over to him - no strings attached. The truth is Jesus was asking rhetorical questions pointing to his impending death. Jesus was not assuming that we will eventually choose to trust him one day - but that we never will. Why?
Because Biblical faith is not something we muster up. We cannot overcome our unbelief. We cannot arrive at faith - faith must arrive at us. It must come from the outside. We have an example of this in the transfiguration where Jesus takes off his earthly cloak to reveal to us his true nature. In Christ, the infinite collides with the finite. And where these two realities collide, in Scripture, it ain't pretty. Somebody usually dies.
That's why when it's all over, the disciples were surprised to find that they are still alive. Despite seeing the naked holiness of God, their faces haven't melted off. And why hasn't it? Little did they know that the revelation was at the cost of the Revealer himself.
Faith begins with helplessness not holiness - not some moral or spiritual reformation on our part to bridge the chasm between the two realities. Verse 24 describes it well: "I believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!"