John 16 – Faith, the Universe, and Jesus Christ

John 16 Bible with Green and Blacks 85 percent Cacao Dark Chocolate

Today’s ChocolateGreen & Black’s 85% Cacao Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageJohn 16

Here it is: the final chapter of Jesus Christ’s final message to his disciples before his crucifixion. And absurdly enough, I can’t help thinking of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. The fourth novel in the trilogy (yes, you read that right) presents God’s final message to his creation as “We apologize for the inconvenience.” Of course, Jesus takes a higher view of God than the silly and irreverent Hitchhiker’s Guide, which persistently presents God as roughly as incompetent a manager of affairs as the rest of us (if he exists at all), but one has to start a blog post somewhere. Let’s dispense with this frivolous introduction and continue investigating what Jesus has to say when faced with impending death.

Right from the chapter’s outset, I can’t help being reminded that the Bible is not about us. It’s not about you, it’s not about me, and not every passage is meant to be applied to our lives like some mystical prophetic guidebook. Jesus warns the disciples, “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (2), and it strikes me that he’s speaking this line specifically to the disciples. You and I are not members of the first-century Jewish synagogue, and we probably don’t have enemies who want to kill us for our faith.

And even when Jesus tells the disciples, “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me” (16), that’s a message intended for them, specifically there and then. They were in the unique position of getting to follow Jesus, experiencing the separation entailed by his death, and then seeing him again after the resurrection. Should you and I ever get to see Jesus, for all intents and purposes it won’t be until the Sabbath at the End of the Universe. The message here is directed to Jesus’ disciples, and even then, it’s not about them; it’s about God. The Bible isn’t about us.

But it is for us. If nothing else, these passages that are not addressed to us remind us that we’re not the center of the universe. And within Jesus’ message, there’s important theology about the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There’s guidance about loving and trusting God that we can put into practice regardless of whether our faith in Jesus gets us kicked out of the synagogue and targeted for death by our fellow Jews. There’s material in here that I don’t even understand, but that just puts me in good company with the disciples; Jesus himself tells them, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (12). If you’re going through a process of learning–and for as long as we have a pulse, we’re going through processes of learning–there’s going to be confusion as we struggle to get it.

But by the end of the passage, the disciples come to a place of trust, at least to some extent. Even though they have troubled times ahead, trouble that they likely don’t even fully understand, they still trust Jesus and are willing to go where he leads. And so, I suppose, am I.

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