Sermon – June 23, 2019
John routinely presents Jesus speaking over the heads of his hearers, as if he is in on a joke no one else in the narrative gets. Yet, all the while, John seems to expect that we are in on the joke, understand its background, and laugh at its punchline. Here, that routine occurrence happens again in Jesus’ enigmatic statement that he will be leaving, and we will neither find him nor are able to follow him. Today, we will try to unpack this statement, to see in it many warnings against unbelief. Much like an inside joke, we can also see the layers of this statement, and see how it means different things to different groups. Let us hear what Jesus speaks to:
1. Those who are here
While there might be many ways to understand rightly what Jesus says here, that does not mean that there aren’t wrong ways to understand him. The Jews respond to Jesus’ statement with some puzzlement – where can he go that we cannot come? Indeed, they cannot see past the current world enough to think beyond the geography of the Gentiles. Yet, Jesus is clearly talking about more than this. Friends, we must likewise think beyond the current reality of the material world. Our prayers must be formed by more than just our concerns for health and finances. In light of eternity, these things are light and fleeting. If we only have eyes to see this world, we will consistently misread and misunderstand Jesus.
2. Those who are heroes
Jesus states quite clearly that he is going where “you cannot come.” The most obvious reference is to the cross, to secure forgiveness for our sins, to gain the resurrection from the dead, and to ultimately ascend into heaven. His mission is unique and unrepeatable. Therefore, while we are to imitate him, and find in Jesus the greatest example of faithfulness, we cannot limit his impact to that. Many will speak of how we are to be kind, gentle, loving, faithful, and do so in reference to how Jesus was. This is all well and good; truly, it is a right thing to do! But it is not all we must say. If all Jesus left was a good example, then we can be heroes just like him! We too can be nice. We too can be gentle. Our medications can heal the sick. But Jesus here speaks a word to the heroes – “where I am going, you cannot come.”
3. Those who will come later
Jesus also affirms that “in a little while” he will be lost to the world, that they might seek him, but they will not find him. What a warning to many of us who seek to put off repentance until a later date! Who play the role of Bart Simpson, seeking a death bed repentance that covers all the ills of a sin-lived life. But the warning of Luke 12 should suffice – you don’t know when death is coming for you! But, friends, even if you did, there is no way of knowing that you will still have a chance at repentance; that your heart will not be hardened to the grace of God. Hebrews 12 warns us against this, citing Esau’s tears. He wanted to repent, but couldn’t find the opportunity. Friends, you might have but a little while when Jesus can be found – grab onto grace while you can!
4. Those who become haters
Ultimately, many of those who are present will end up despising Jesus and his followers. Their hatred will, in a matter of months, nail him to a cross and leave him to die. Many today don’t mind the idea of a god, but the idea of an exclusive Son, through whom alone we have access to the true God, is abhorrent. Many will hate Jesus. But, as Jesus said, where he is going they cannot come. If heaven is all about God, and it is, then hating Jesus makes one extremely ill fit for it. But, no worries, they will not have to be there! But, friends, this is why Jesus is better for us. For while he is going where we cannot come, he also promises to return to take us to where he is – that we might dwell with him forever! Let us trust this Jesus, take hold of him, for he is good.