by Matthew A Rich
“After Jesus had said this; he departed and hid from them.” John 12:36b
The time had come. Since his miraculous conception and birth, everything had led to this moment. The crowds adored him! Upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees declared, “The world has gone after him!” He walked into the temple and cleaned out the mess there. People flocked to hear his teaching. When some Greeks arrive and ask to see him, he knows that the hour has come.
So how does Jesus react? Was he proud that he had made it this far? Was he exhilarated and ready for the next few days to fly by? Was he ready to meet the moment with his head held high, ready to take on the world?
No, at this pivotal moment in his life and ministry, in the next breath after he declares that the hour has come, Jesus says, “My soul is troubled.”
In John’s Gospel we do not find the anguish of Gethsemane or any words of forsakenness uttered from the cross. Instead, we have a text suggested by the lectionary every year on Tuesday of Holy Week. The Word made flesh, real flesh, on the day before his arrest. And that flesh is troubled. Shouldn’t Jesus know that all is going to be OK? Shouldn’t he be strong and powerful? Shouldn’t he grab the cup with both hands and drink away? But no, Jesus’ soul is troubled.
My soul is troubled too. I lament the arrogance and pride with which so many in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) declare that they know exactly what Jesus wants and desires. No doubt at all. For some say, “Who could possible question whether Jesus blesses same gender marriage and divestment from Israel?” Others declare, “How could anyone possibly object to a church leaving a denomination that has abandoned the plain reading of Scripture?” Still more suggest, “Surely Jesus wants concealed carried handguns in the sanctuary to keep us safe.” Yes, so much confidence that the divine mind has been indisputably revealed.
With all that self-assurance, can we abide with a Savior with a troubled heart? And even more, “After Jesus had said this; he departed and hid from them.”
He hid from them? Jesus doesn’t get to hide. When my children were small, we played hide and seek in our house, running from room to room with laughter and giggles. The two youngest ones were especially horrible hiders because as soon as the counting stopped and “Ready or not, here I come” declared, a snicker or a giggle could be heard and a head began peeping out from behind the couch.
However this is no childhood game. This is Jesus’ finest hour. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified and Jesus’ heart is troubled, he departs and he hides from them.
I invite you to just sit with that for a while. A Savior with a troubled heart. The Word made flesh hiding. The absence of God.
As the season of Lent draws to a close and Holy Week begins, we will join together around the Lord’s Table on Maundy Thursday. We will mark the atoning work of Christ for us on Good Friday’s cross. We will celebrate the joy of resurrection on Easter Sunday. But what do we do with Saturday — with Christ in the tomb, with loss and pain and confusion and the troubled heart of God?
Yes, I think we Presbyterians need to just sit with that for a while. We are so confident that we know exactly what Jesus wants. However, let us not rush to a happy Sunday. Our Savior’s heart was troubled; he hid from them.
Maybe, just maybe, behind all our pride, he will find us hiding too.
MATTHEW A. RICH is pastor of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia.