Good morning on this Tuesday of Holy Week. Over the last several weeks we have been on this Lenten journey together, and I hope it has been as meaningful for you as it has been for me. As we conclude our journey this week, we will conclude with two devotionals that continue the good work of reflection and renewal. Our writer today is Dr. Santiago Piñón, who is an Assistant Professor of Religion and a Women and Gender Studies Faculty Affiliate here at TCU. I recently had the honor of serving on a panel with Santiago and appreciated his ability to speak clear and direct truth into, I assume, any given topic. As we enter into this Holy Week, I trust that you will appreciate his thoughtful insight and transparency as you reflect on your own life and relationship with God. Blessings on your journey, my friend…
John 12:20-36 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people[a] to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah[b] remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
Hope, compassion, and renewal are part of Easter Sunday. To get there, we must experience Holy Week first. On this Tuesday of Holy Week, we begin to see the humanity of He who is called Christ fully displayed, which allows us to embrace our own humanity in all its fullness. Today’s reading contains a most humbling statement; Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled.” From the context, Jesus is portrayed as aware of his imminent death, which becomes a reality when the Greeks ask to see him. Immediately, there is a reference to Jesus’ death as a kind of glorification and the need to walk in light rather than darkness. Then, the pattern of thought seems to be broken with the concluding part of v. 36, which states, “After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.” Why did Jesus hide? Is he trying to force people to have faith in the absence of miracles? Or, is there a connection between hiding and speaking about death?
I am comfortable hearing about the need to walk in the light. I even acknowledge that faith is necessary in the absence of the physical messiah. What troubles me, however, are Jesus’ words, “Now my soul is troubled.” Period.
While I find it difficult to relate to a Christ who is able to talk about the necessity for his death, I know firsthand the meaning of, “Now my soul is troubled.” These words are too familiar in our experience of life. When we reach the end of the month and we have a lot more days than funds, “My soul is troubled.” When we receive the late night phone call and need to find a flight to be with a loved one in the hospital, “My soul is troubled.” While I stand in a cold hospital room holding my newborn twins and waiting for them to die because they were born too early, “My soul troubled.” With so much trouble, I search to get away.
In the midst of these moments, I can fully relate as to why Jesus would hide. Sometimes it is too much to seek God’s glory. Sometimes, I too, just want to hide. My soul is too troubled to hear a message about the need to have hope and exercise faith. Sometimes we stay in the darkness because the light is just too much to bear. On this Tuesday of Holy Week we need to give ourselves permission to acknowledge our soul’s troubles. When I am in the darkness, have little faith, and am struggling to hold on to hope, then, here too, I encounter God. This God is not the voice that sounds like thunder. Instead, I find a God who remains silent when my soul is troubled. It is in this darkness that light becomes possible. While Easter Sunday is approaching, I must still live on Tuesday. And, it is on this day, when my soul is troubled, that God is present.
In my own darkness, help me to see the light. In my faithlessness, help me to find hope. As I hide, remind me that here, too, I find God.