By David Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of John 16:16-33
16 “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 20Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”
29 His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! 30Now 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.” 31Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
Jesus was enormously popular. We are told many times in the gospels that crowds came to him. They surrounded the house where he stayed; friends had to lower a paralyzed man on a pallet through a roof because they couldn’t make it through the mob; he fed 5,000 in the wilderness because they had dropped everything to be where he was. But he was also opposed throughout his ministry, with ever-increasing vehemence. “Who are you?” they challenged him early on; “tell us plainly!” They tried to put him on the spot more than once: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Moses said to stone such. What do YOU say?” He was upbraided repeatedly for healing on the Sabbath. His popularity and ability to thwart his enemies publicly with uncommon skill caused his enemies’ hostility to grow to the point that they agreed that he must be put to death.
Today’s lesson takes place during the Last Supper. The machinery for his betrayal, arrest, trial, condemnation, and death is already in motion. One would leave that supper and go “into the night” to trigger the events that would consummate in Jesus’ death in less than eighteen hours. And yet — even in this moment — Jesus likens the maneuverings of his enemies to birth pangs, used to bring life and soon to be forgotten in the joy of victory. His prediction that the disciples would all scatter is immediately followed by his assurance that they will have peace. The closing words of this lesson are among the most rapturously amazing ever written: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Fellow believers: whatever the world does, WE are on the winning side, for we are with him!
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Long Island
The Diocese of Bethlehem