The question still lingers from the Palm Sunday reading: “Who is this?” as Jesus makes His entry into the Holy City of David. His followers offered an answer but it fell short of who we now know Jesus is. Yes, a prophet, but more than a prophet! And later when some Greeks who had gone up to worship at the festival approached Philip about “seeing” Jesus, instead of leading them to meet face-to-face with Jesus, Philip instead went and found Andrew and the two of them went and told Jesus, leaving the Greeks in the dark. It was almost as if Philip and Andrew were either embarrassed, unsure, or shy to point the way to Jesus with any clarity and eloquence. Without doubt, the coming days would certainly unsettle all of Jesus’ disciples for whom they had gauged Him to be as Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified.
This identity question wasn’t limited to Jesus’ followers and His disciples. In an article that explored the various texts for the upcoming Lenten season, Elizabeth McGregor Simmons, now pastor emerita at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, in Davidson, North Carolina, writes about Jesus’ own doubts and fears, even as He works through them. In John’s gospel, a gospel where Jesus is more omniscient than He is in the other gospels, He owns up to having a troubled soul. And yet, He goes forward to the hour of His own death. Stepping towards the cross, Jesus adds a gracious word for all who doubt, for all who are afraid, for all who find it difficult to believe: “I, when I am lifted up, will draw all peoples to myself.”
Simmons’ article was written on the heels of the 2008 recession. It was a troubled time, a time littered with doubts and fears, much like what we are living through today with this global pandemic. She then went on to share a tragic story that happened not long after a colleague, Joanna Adams, began a new ministry. A long-time member and elder of the church, sixty-five years old, first killed his thirty-one year old son and then turned the gun on himself. The son had been diagnosed eight years earlier with schizophrenia, had ceased taking his medication, and had become more and more violent. The father had become deeply concerned that his son would hurt someone else.
At the Memorial service for both the father and the son, Adams quoted from theologian Karl Barth who once said that “people come to church on the Sabbath with only one question in their minds: Is it true?…” She then added: “When we come to church on a Monday afternoon for a memorial service for two people who died untimely deaths, the question is even more compelling. Is it true? Can God be trusted on a day like today?”
Lifting up all the painful questions which such tragedy births, Adams then concluded her message with these words: “We are not dealing today with a God who comes around only when things are rosy and the birds are singing. There is a cross up there! The God we know in Jesus Christ knows about suffering. The God we know in Jesus Christ gets to the valley of death, gets to loss, to doubt, before we get there, so that He is ready to catch us when we stumble blindly in, so that He can guide us through the dark….It is true that God can be trusted.”
It may be Friday….but Sunday’s coming! Christ is drawing all to Himself. Thanks be to God!
See you Sunday on-line,