Summary: Step out onto the other side of Easter and into the shoes of the disciples. See how they might have experienced the tense moments leading up to the crucifixion, and how htey might have heard Jesus’ words from John Chapter 16.
Sermon for CATM – March 9, 2008 – Pre-Easter Tensions
[Note: This sermon discusses some of the tensions leading up to the original crucifixion and how painfully difficult it was for the disciples to first hear the words from Jesus written in John 16:16-33. It has no happy ending and little Easter perspective. Again, this was intentional in an effort to appreciate just how terrible this experience was in real-time for the disciples.]
We’ve been journeying through lent for the last number of weeks. You may have noticed that, except for special services we’ve had in the last while, the overall feel of our services has been more low-key than usual.
That’s no accident. Maryellen and I discussed this before lent started. “If we’re going to really make this Lenten journey together as a community”, we decided, “our songs and our worship overall should reflect this journey”.
Perhaps, if you’ve noticed that the flavour of our Sunday gatherings has been more low-key than usual, you’ve found this a little frustrating. We enjoy upbeat worship. We love to come and sing heartily to God with songs of praise and worship and adoration.
I think we love it because, for the most part, it lifts our spirits. We forget about ourselves and focus in on God revealed to us perfectly in Jesus Christ. That’s not a bad thing, not at all.
But long ago people in the church realized that in order for the people of God to really BE the people of God, we had to acknowledge seasons of the spirit. The peaks and valleys of life. The agonies as well as the ecstasies of life And of the spirit.
If you’ve been here for long you probably know that we don’t major on wearing masks here at CATM. We’re not a church where people feel pressured to put on their Sunday best. Rather, we’re interested in being and doing and finding something real. And we know that, speaking of reality, a lot of life is painful.
A lot of life is kind of neutral. A lot of life we spend searching for something we don’t yet possess. And yet coming to gather here on Sundays week after week, we have a sense that together we find something that individually we don’t find as readily.
Last week in our Lenten journey we spent time with Jesus as he interacted with the illness and death of his friend Lazarus. And Jan told us a powerful story that arises from our own history at CATM where we were able to affirm that one of us in particular, like Lazarus who died, has experienced and is now experiencing resurrection life in Jesus.
I’ve always be fascinated by the time in scripture that leads up to what we know as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We’re on this side of the story looking back, and we know how things played out.
Today we’re going to walk through a passage that occurs before the trial and suffering and crucifixion of Christ. It is a passage that is full of tension.
I’m going to ask _________ to read the first couple of verses.
John 16:16:18 “"In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, ’In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and’ Because I am going to the Father’?" They kept asking, "What does he mean by ’a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying."”
The disciples are confused: ‘What does He mean? What does He mean? We don’t understand!”
On one level that response from the disciples is typical of their general response to Jesus. Having left everything to follow him and willingly taking on the scorn of religious leaders, they are drawn to Him like a magnet.
We might be tempted to think that it was Jesus’ words that caught their attention. They were so impressed with his mastery of language and of deep spiritual truths. But the truth is they rarely understood what Jesus was talking about. The picture Scripture paints of the disciples is far from flattering.
So here, in this passage we can see pretty clearly that they don’t get what Jesus is saying, but we do perhaps get a sense of the growing anxiety of the disciples. Jesus is saying mysterious things. Jesus is saying to these people who have left everything to follow him, Jesus is saying first off that they will see Him no more.
If I were one of those disciples and had invested everything I had and the last three years of my life into Jesus, only to hear that Jesus was leaving, I would be pretty nervous. In fact, by the time Jesus finished those first 10 words, if I was paying attention, I might already be overwhelmed at the suggestion Jesus was leaving.