When Your World Falls Apart, Then What?
Sunday of Week 7 in Eastertide
Sunday After The Ascension
In today's Gospel reading we encounter Jesus meeting with His disciples for the last time. The Cross was only hours away, and He knew it. Here He was, a young man, very much in love with life and He had less than twenty-four hours to live. Before the night was ended one of His friends would betray Him, another deny Him and the rest apart from John would forsake Him. With the dawning of another day, corrupt political and religious authorities would nail Him to a Cross and leave Him there to die.
It was an indescribably dark and difficult hour, but the way Jesus handled that time is a radiant example to all the world. He has shown us what to do when life falls apart.
The first thing He did was pray. Some people think of prayer as a refuge or a last resort. They may pray in the face of trouble, but it is little or nothing more than a desperate bid for escape. When everything else has failed, they frantically turn to God and that is better than not turning to Him at all. Jesus' prayer was something entirely different. His prayer was as natural as breathing. He lifted His eyes to Heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come." There was a calmness about it. This is not the prayer of a desperate man in search of escape. It is the prayer of a confident Man drawing upon the spiritual reserves that have sustained Him throughout all of His life.
Trouble can come upon us suddenly, unexpectedly and unannounced. There is a knock on the door or the ring of a telephone in the night, or the squeal of car brakes or the routine trip to the doctor, and suddenly 'the hour has come'. We stand face to face with heartbreaking, soul-rending trouble. There is no time to get ready, no time to learn to pray, no time to build a strong faith in God. All of which means we should be making our preparation now, getting to know God, developing spiritual and moral reserves on which we can draw in the hour of need. Then when life falls apart, we, like Our Lord, can lift our eyes to heaven and say 'Father'.
The second thing Jesus did was not to down play the tragic element of the occasion. The cross was there in all of its stark ugliness and cruel reality. It would be difficult to conceive of a more inhumane way for a person to die. Jesus was aware of that, but He looked beyond the tragedy to the triumph and prayed, "Father, glorify Your Son that Your Son may glorify You."
It took a special kind of courage and faith to see glory in a Cross.
For many years people had seen in it nothing but suffering and shame. Then Jesus touched it, carried it, died upon it, and transformed it into a symbol of faith that the world has never been able to forget.
The cross of Christ teaches us many truths, but one of the clearest is that trouble does not have to be a total loss. God can bring something good out of anything, even a cross. It is inevitable that you and I will experience trouble. We cannot escape it forever, but when it comes, surely we can do something better than just endure it. I would like to believe that we can, like our Lord, look beyond the tragedy to the triumph.
In the darkest and most difficult night of His life Jesus stood facing a Cross and prayed, "Father, glorify Your Son that Your Son may glorify you." That prayer has been answered, so that now, centuries later, millions around the world bow before that cross. Surely He can do something good with your experience and mine, when life falls apart.
I see one other factor in the strength of Jesus as He faced the most difficult day of His life. It was the loyalty He felt for others and did not look for pity for Himself. He was deeply committed to His apostles whom He loved. His prayer was, first of all, not for Himself, but for them. There was more at issue than His own personal suffering. Had He given in that hour, then everything He had taught those people about life and about God would have faded and been forgotten. So He escaped the weakness of self-pity because He cared so deeply for others. For their sakes He stood the test of the Cross.
When your life or mine falls apart we can try to follow the example of Christ. We all have someone who is depending on us. They will observe how we behave in the midst of trouble, and will take their cues from us. If we give up, they will be tempted to do the same. If, however, we face our trials with strength and courage, they will be inspired to do the same. Times of great trouble are times of stewardship. More is at stake than our own personal pain. Other people will learn from us what to do, how to respond, when life falls apart.
Jesus was sustained in those hours by the sure knowledge that some of His friends would go through similar trials, and He must show them how to do it. What was true for Him is no less true for you and me.
Lord Jesus, a commitment to others can help overcome the temptation to feel sorry for ourselves. You had that, and we today, centuries later are still inspired by His example. You truly showed, not only Your friends, but the whole world how to respond, when life falls apart.