Good Grief 5/26/19
Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning
Calvary Baptist Church
This was one of Jesus’ finest hours, and these were some of the most memorable words he left his disciples. I have quoted them on many occasions to bring comfort to those grieving the loss of someone dear and precious to them or struggling with their own mortality.
Our text is a portion of the Farewell Discourse in John’s gospel. (John 13:1-17:26) Jesus and the disciples have gathered in the Upper Room to eat the Passover meal and to recall the details of their ancestors departure from bondage in Egypt.
I am confident Jesus and the disciples had observed Passover together in previous years. This night was quite different, though.
Jesus’ attention was not drawn only to the Israelites’ journey from Egypt, but to his own journey to the cross. He talked openly about his death at the hands of his enemies.
This was not the first time Jesus told them he was going to die a violent death, but there was a sense of urgency in his voice that evening. He included details about disciples betraying and denying him, which seemed to have taken them by surprise and caused them to become defensive. Listen to how this conversation is described in the Fourth Gospel.
“‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now. Where I am going you cannot come.’
Simon Peter asked him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus replied, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will later.’ Peter asked, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’
Then Jesus answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’ ” (John 13:33, 36-38)
At this point, Jesus goes off script. His train of thought shifts from talking about his crucifixion to addressing their anxiety.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said as he looked around that room. “Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place I am going.” (John 14:1-4)
Why did Jesus feel the need to say these words to his disciples at that particular point?
I think he looked around the table and sensed the fear, anxiety, confusion and hopelessness they were feeling. They were in shock, and Jesus knew it.
Jesus had to address their feelings. They would not hear anything else he said until he did this.
“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus calmly said.
Don’t you love and appreciate someone who knows when your heart is restless? This person is truly a gift from God, as Jesus was that night for his disciples.
What did Jesus want the disciples to know as they processed all he was telling them about his crucifixion and their disappointing response? Jesus wanted them to know not all the news he had for them that evening was bad. He had good news to share, too. And what was that?
Death would not have the final word in his life or their relationship. God would, and that word would be a good one.
God would raise Jesus to new life, making it possible for him to live in their hearts through the Holy Spirit. At all times and in all places, Jesus would walk with them to lead, guide, direct and empower them to continue the good work he began with them.
Yes, the relationship between Jesus and the disciples was changing but not ending. The person the disciples had followed and learned so much from would always be with them to help them meet life’s many challenges and opportunities. They could depend on his help moving forward as they had in the past.
Furthermore, when their time to leave this world was drawing to a close, Jesus, himself, would come and carry them to their new home. At no time in this world or the one to come would they ever be separated from Jesus.
How do you think it made the disciples feel to know Jesus’ future and theirs would not end with his crucifixion? It had to give them hope, and it had to help them through the worst experience of their lives.
While not all their questions about Jesus’ crucifixion and their response were answered that evening in the Upper Room, they knew in their hearts their relationship with Jesus would continue, and the mission they had given their lives to would not end.
Why was it so important that John’s readers know about this conversation between Jesus and his disciples that night? Like the disciples in the Upper Room, they needed to know nothing would ever separate them from Jesus, including death. At no time would they be outside of Jesus’ sight or presence.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John wanted his readers to know the Word was no longer with them in the flesh, but the Word was as close to them as Jesus was the disciples. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would do for them everything he did for the disciples who walked and talked with him.
John was not the only writer to comfort his readers with this good news. Listen to how Paul reassured his audience.
“For I am convinced that neither death not life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-9)
Is this a message you need to hear today? Would it calm your troubled heart to know Jesus is fully aware of what you are struggling with and will help you deal with it? Would it calm your restless spirit to know nothing will ever separate you from Jesus, not even death?
I assure you this is what Jesus wants you to know and believe.
“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said to his disciples in the darkest hour of their lives.
Can you hear him say the same comforting words to you this morning? If you can and you will trust Jesus to keep his promises, they will change your life for the better.
In a former pastorate, I was visiting with a church member whose brother died suddenly in a tragic accident. He was an essential leader in the family business, almost irreplaceable. The shock and grief in her home that day were immeasurable.
While standing in the kitchen, I saw a magnet hanging on the refrigerator with these words printed on it: “For this, I have Jesus”
When I pointed to it, Barbara told me this magnet had been there for years. “I am sure you understand why,” she said to me.
Yes, I thought to myself, and I wish everyone did.