I have to say, the job “Follower of Christ” is a hard one to sell. Just read Jesus’ words trying to get the apostles ready for what is coming when He’s gone.
I know for me, the whole Resurrection thing would make me think that we were done. Mission accomplished, let’s pop open the bubbly.
I imagine the apostles were thinking something similar, because Jesus kept telling them that they would be persecuted just as He was. Yes, the Resurrection is real and powerful, but you can’t get there unless you go through Good Friday.
Jesus tells the apostles that they’ll be kicked out of the synagogues, killed by people who think they are doing it for God (looking at Saul here), and they will mourn as the world rejoices. And by the way, I’m leaving, and it’s better that I do.
What? Who’s in?
This is the paradox of our faith. This is the folly of the cross.
Yes, the work has been done. Death has been overcome, sin has been forgiven, and heaven is open. But, there is a lot that prevents us from getting there. There is plenty of sin still happening. There is distortion, pride, greed, and any number of things that prevent us from stepping into the grace that we are offered.
Sometimes those things don’t only distort our view but turn it so that we see good as evil and evil as good. That’s what the apostles are up against.
But with every sentence, Jesus includes the other side of the cross. You will be rejected, but the Holy Spirit will give you words you didn’t know you had. You will mourn, but it will become joy in the end. I am leaving, but it is the only way that the Holy Spirit can come, and then I will be with you more intimately than I could ever be in this physical body.
Jesus compares the whole thing to childbirth. It is painful, but the pain disappears the moment you hold that baby in your arms. It’s all worth it when you see the result.
We have seen the apostles live this in the readings from Acts during this season of Easter. The suffering and rejection were nothing. They remembered Jesus’ words and expected it to come, and they remembered that these Good Friday moments would transform into Easter life and joy.
Finally, Jesus tells them, “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”
I don’t think he’s talking about clothes or cars or test grades. We can ask for them, but they aren’t nearly enough. He wants us to ask for so much more. He wants us to have the kind of joy that can’t be darkened by rejection, suffering, or loss.
Read it here: John 15:26-16:28