• Steven Marsh

Peace–Jesus Goes Before Us: a Reflection on John 14:1-14

According to a British survey in 2016, 40 percent of moms have received an unwanted Mother’s Day gift, but most of them were too polite to complain. Here’s a partial list of the 30 worst Mother’s Day gifts:

  1. deodorant; fire extinguisher; cleaning supplies; a stick of French bread; hair dye; toilet roll

  2. salad dressing; popcorn; hair dye; calculator; screwdriver; car parts.[1]

The Telegraph, a British newspaper, just this year ran an article titled “20 awful Mother’s Day cards that you absolutely should not buy.” Here are a few examples:

  1. Mom, thanks for always checking up on me (with a picture of a cell phone with 24 unanswered calls from “Mom”).

  2. Well I guess this Mother’s Day card is late. Looks like someone wasn’t raised properly.

  3. I’m awesome. You’re welcome. To the luckiest Mom ever.

  4. Mom I love you loads. (A picture of a laundry basket overflowing with clothes.) Speaking of loads … can you do my laundry?[2]

I imagine these gifts and cards may have put an end to an honoring day for a few Moms. A death, in some sense, occurred to the spirit of Mother’s Day. I know that if I had given my Mom such a gift or card, it would have been difficult to regain the intended spirit of the day, that is begin again, if you know what I mean.

Jesus’ death is not the end, but the beginning. Becoming and being a follower of Jesus did not end. Instead, becoming and being a follower of Jesus was expanded. Jesus being raised from the dead demonstrated that God made endless room for humanity to be in relationship with God. Yet, the disciples were disappointed, just like many of us right now. Jesus was gone…their friend and the very presence of God would no longer be with them. Their hearts were troubled. The inclusive reach of God into humanity was not enough to ease their pain.[3]

The District Attorney in Walter MacMillan’s case was a breath of fresh air. Chapman was open, dispassionate, courteous, and non-anxious. In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson writes, “I’m not the only person with questions about this case, Mr. Chapman. There’s a whole community of people, some of whom claim to have been with Walter McMillan miles away when the crime was committed, who believe in his innocence. There are people for whom he’s worked who are absolutely convinced that he did not commit this crime.”[4] Chapman established common ground with Stevenson. Walter’s life and justice was the commonality.

Jesus being raised from the dead established a common ground for all humanity. Jesus has gone before us. Whatever we are facing, we need not fear. Our hearts are troubled by many things. But they need not be. John Huffman, Pastor Emeritus at St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, relates the following account of a troubled heart:

In January 2000, leaders of Charlotte, North Carolina, invited their favorite son, Billy Graham, to a luncheon. Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation because he struggles with Parkinson’s disease. But the Charlotte leaders said, “We don’t expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you.” So he agreed. After wonderful things were said about him, Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, and said, “I’m reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn’t there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He couldn’t find it. The conductor said, ‘Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.’ Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, ‘Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.’ Einstein looked at him and said, ‘Young man, I too know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.’” Billy Graham continued, “See the suit I’m wearing? It’s a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I’ve gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I’ll be buried. But when you hear I’m dead, I don’t want you to immediately remember the suit I’m wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I’m going.”[5]

“What would free the human heart from being troubled?”[6] Let’s explore the answers provided by the world and Jesus.

Jesus was raised from the dead for all humanity. Jesus went before us. It is each person’s turn now, to be raised from the dead. What are the answers to a troubled heart? First, the world peddles sex, money, and power. Sex, money, and power are incapable of keeping the heart trouble free. Second, Jesus offers one answer: he says, “Believe in God, believe also in me.”[7] What troubled the disciples the most is that they miss Jesus. Staying close to Jesus calms the troubled heart.

God has promised to love us unconditionally and always. God has promised to know us and be known by us. God has promised always to have room for us.[8] God has made room for all of us. Yet, we must bank our hope on the One who loves us the most and knows us the best. Banking our hope on sex, money, and power will not sustain us. Banking our hope on the resurrected Jesus will. Love wins. Death loses. Jesus was raised from the dead. He goes before us. Believe in God and also in Jesus. That way you know who you are and where you’re going. May the troubles of your heart be raised from the dead.

[1]This illustration found on preachingtoday.com. Tom Kershaw, “Are these worst Mother’s Day gifts ever? Mums reveal the presents they’d rather have done without,” Mirror (3-5-16).

[2]This illustration found on preachingtoday.com. The Telegraph, “20 awful Mother’s Day cards that you absolutely should not buy” (3-16-17).

[3]The idea of God’s “roominess” was gleaned from reading Cynthia A. Jarvis in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 467.

[4]Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy (New York City, New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2014), 100.

[5]As found on preachingtoday.com. This illustration was used in the Rev. Dr. John Huffman’s sermon “Who Are You, and Where Are You Going?” delivered at Preaching Conference 2002.

[6]The question is posed by Cynthia A. Jarvis in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, 467.

[7]John 14:1.

[8]I credit Cynthia A. Jarvis for introducing me to new language for embracing the inclusive, yet exclusive message of Jesus. See Cynthia A. Jarvis in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word, Year A, 471.

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