As a chaplain, we are trained to always listen for the emotion and spiritual pain.
Hearing the story of Jesus’ Passion this week, I listened especially closely for the emotions and spiritual pain of the story (John 18-19).
And what I heard, echoed what I so often hear in the hospital
Fear and aggression – Simon Peter, cutting off the ear of the guard taking Jesus.
Denial, as Simon Peter says “I wasn’t with him.” A denial rooted in fear, fear of what the truth may actually bring.
Feeling alone. If my kingdom was of this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. But no one came to rescue Jesus. Isolation.
Suffering. Pain. Jesus felt a very physical pain as he was beaten and crucified.
Trying to make sense of what’s happening. Confusion. Is Jesus the king, or not?
And finally, loss. Goodbyes. Jesus leaving his friends, leaving his mother. The too familiar grief many of us know when we lose someone close to us, essential to us.
And maybe in some ways, sometimes, it’s harder to hear this passion, this suffering, knowing, as we are told that Jesus did, knowing what is going to happen. How do we open our hearts to the telling of this story, or even to those we accompany through their own suffering, through our own suffering, knowing the pain that lies ahead?
There is very little comfort in the telling of this story. The comfort will come, but not on this day. We are people of hope, but sometimes that hope is hard to see.
But there is a place where I find hope today
John 13:3 And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself…
Jesus knew where he came from, and knew where he was going.
So do we.
And there is more and more research that tells us that a sense of hope, a sense of being grounded in that promise or purpose, helps us go through hard times. And that being connected to others, as Jesus was to the One he came from, also helps us go through suffering.
Jesus knew that he came from God, and was going to God. Jesus knew who he was – the great I AM – or, as some scholars have suggested, “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”**
So as we open our hearts to the suffering that is part of our journey of faith, part of the human experience, may we not lose sight of what I suspect also sustained Jesus. We come from God, and are going to God — I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. And we can trust that God holds a future of love and hope, no matter what we are experiencing at any given moment.
We know where we come from, and we know where we are going. Thanks be to God.
(I gave this homily on Good Friday, March 30, 2018, at Providence Alaska Medical Center)
**Dennis Olson, Working Preacher, 2014 Commentary on Ex 3:1-15 http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=135