In the Gospel lection we heard read we find the disciples saying to Jesus, “Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.”
These words can be seen as a little bit of boasting on the part of the disciples. So often when Jesus was teaching he had to explain later what he meant to his inner group when they were on their own. Here the disciples are saying that they have got it. The disciples say to Jesus that because he is finally speaking plainly, they can now truly believe. How does Jesus respond?
He tells them that the hour is coming when they will be scattered because of their faith in him. Isn’t that just so like Jesus? Just when we think we have everything about the faith all figured out and nailed down God usually shakes us out of that sense of prideful satisfaction. It's when everything seems to be going well, and we start to believe we deserve God's favour, that the house of cards we have built of our faith usually comes crashing down.
But that's what Jesus does. Again and again, he makes his disciples, and us, think a second time. He does not let them rest on their laurels of self-righteousness. He shows them they do need a saviour, after all. And so do we. He points out to them that they don't have all their ducks in a row. And neither do we.
The law given us through the Old Testament shows us our sin. It leaves us without the security blanket of self-righteousness. The law pokes and prods at the flimsy armour of our idea that everything is fine, and exposes the gaps and holes. The law says there's a sin. Isn’t that another sin. An unkind word here. A hateful thought there. A moment of laziness. An excuse for this, blaming another for that. Selfishness here. Lust and greed there. We're a mess. We need help.
Just as the Law shows up our sins for us, so Jesus gives us the solution. Through his death and resurrection we have the way forward. As we believe his message of new life in God, so we receive forgiveness and a share in that new life. Our problem so often is that we have a tendency to become complacent about our faith relationship with God.
At the end of today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to be of good cheer because he has overcome the world. He turns whatever sorrow they might have had into joy. Just as he took the sorrow of his disciples and turned it into joy, so he does for us. And just as that joy cannot be taken away – so it is for us.
That joy is a deep and lasting sense of satisfaction, peace, happiness and wonder. Like the peace that passes understanding, the joy Christ brings is above and beyond the happiness of the moment. It is rooted deeper, and it reaches further.
It's a joy that comes from Christ's resurrection. For we, like the disciples, rejoice that Jesus lives even though he died. And we rejoice to know that death has no hold on him – that he will never die again. But even more, there is joy in knowing what it all means for us. His resurrection means our resurrection. His eternal life means our eternal life. Because he has conquered death, we will conquer death through him. So even life's greatest sorrow, death itself, has lost its sting and is subject to the joy he brings. The sorrow of Good Friday brings the joy of Easter Sunday.
Jesus had said that his followers would have tribulation, but they should be of good cheer. The word we have translated as “tribulation” is θιλιπσις in the original Greek. It doesn’t point to some minor irritation, but to very real hardship. It is used, for example, to describe the treading of grapes. Perhaps you can relate to this. Do you ever feel like you are being trodden on, squished and squashed like grapes? Do you ever feel like your insides are being sprayed all over the place? That can be a feeling of pressure to the point of breaking point. The world offers pressure; Christ offers peace.
There will be times in your life when it seems like everyone has let you down and you’re all alone. People (even disciples) are fickle. The truth is that people will disappoint you; your spouse will disappoint you; your children and grandchildren will disappoint you; your co-workers and neighbours will disappoint you; your priests and bishops will disappoint you. We are told in the letter to the Hebrews that God will never leave us nor forsake us. If people always meet our needs and never disappoint us, we would never choose to look to God. We would be satisfied in all of what we can call our horizontal relationships with other people. Ultimately, God wants us to be satisfied with him alone. He yearns for our vertical relationship to be the most important pursuit in our lives.
Jesus promises us peace because he has overcome the world. As you cling to his cross and rely upon his resurrection, you will experience his victory even in life’s most difficult circumstances. Times of trouble are times for trust.
May God grant you grace so that your trust in him may grow in the days ahead.