When things don't make sense
"Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper. So, he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
"When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, 'Lord, are you going to wash my feet?' Jesus replied, 'You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.'" (John 13:1-2, 4-7)
Like Mary in questioning our Lord’s delay in returning to tend for Lazarus, and like Peter, questioning our Lord’s ways, there will be times when we will not be able to make sense of what it is going on.
Sometimes we can’t understand what’s going on our lives. Or in the life of the family, at work or school. Or even, if we look around carefully, even in our own nation.
Delays. Prayers that we believe have not been answered. Health. Problems in the office. And old tree in the backyard that all of a sudden decides to break mid-way. April 15. A fender-bender. You name it, you’ve got it!
From the trivial to the major, if could put it this way, “Life” has a way to make life inconvenient, puzzling and, more often than we would like to admit it, gut-wrenching. And as we know, not even Jesus was immune to “life.”
As Jesus and his friends gathered for dinner, the disciples understood that theirs was not going to be an ordinary meal. They recognized the signs of the gathering storm. And to top it off, our Lord’s words were difficult to understand, at best. Betrayal. Death. “C’mon, Jesus! Who’s going to betray you?”
One thing that Jesus did not do – in fact, He even didn’t try – was to try excuse God’s way of running His world. He did not even try to sugar coat what lay ahead for them – or us!
“In the world you will have afflictions,” He told them. “And, sometimes, there will be no way out. You’ll have to sweat it out.” As Jesus himself did it on the Cross.
“However, let me tell you. First, let me assure that I have overcome the world,” Jesus said. It may have sound odd considering that Easter morn was still three days away.
So what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples and us, is that even in the deepest bottom or at the darkest corner, God still is in control. God has the last word. At it is “I love you.” Which says it all.
And secondly, Jesus promised that He would not abandon them. And so, He promised, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever,” (John 14:16).
Yes, a Spirit of Power would be great. A Spirit of moving mountains from one place to the other, of healing people, of raising the dead, of defeating armies. “Oh—If we had such spirit!” we could deal with everything, big or small.
But Jesus knew that what we needed most was someone who when the storms of life are raging, in the midst of tribulation, in the midst of faults and failures, and when the strength begins to fail, He would stand by us. The Holy Comforter. The Spirit embracing us to God’s love. The Spirit of feeling being uplifted and sustained. The Spirit of reassuring us of God’s eternal presence. The Spirit of grace to go even through the fiery gates of hell.
In the Old Testament’s story of Job which I believe is what Jesus had in mind when He said that He would send his very own Spirit to be with us.
Elihu, who in the story we could call the “A Voice of Wisdom”, addresses Job’s predicament, and tells him that in God’s providence, he would never be left on his own. So, he told Job, that when bad things happen,
“An angel from heaven will appear— a special messenger to intercede for a person and declare that he is upright— he will be gracious and say [to the Almighty],
‘Rescue him from the grave,
for I have found a ransom for his life.’
Then his body will become as healthy as a child’s, firm and youthful again. And when he prays to God, he will be accepted. And God will receive him with joy and restore him to full well-being. (Job 33:23-26).
That’s my friends, the Comforting ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit of the Living God who will never leave us, will say a good word for us before the Throne of Grace, and when needed will give us the right word that we need to hear. This is the Holy Comforter that in this holy night Jesus promised he would send to his followers. Such Spirit is already in you and will be with you come what may. Thanks be to God for such precious gift!
Paraphrasing Jacinda Arden, the recently resigned New Zealand’s Prime Minister, our Journey with Jesus is never about ticking off milestones. “It’s always been about progress. Sometimes you can measure it, and sometimes you can’t,” Because God will be with you all the way, as long as you keep going, it may get bumpy, but anyway you’ll be alright.