While There Is Light
March 9, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
He Has Come For This Hour Indeed
1. "Now, I am troubled." That's what Jesus said. Jesus felt troubled because the hour of suffering was approaching. Jesus, not as one of the people you would expect, felt troubled at the suffering before him. Is that really strange? No, it isn't. It is precisely because he is Jesus that he feels troubled. It is precisely because he truly knows the enormity of the suffering that he expects to undergo that he feels troubled. The suffering that Jesus expects to bear upon himself is for the salvation of each person. It means that he will bear on his shoulders the sin of each person as a substitute and he will die as a sacrifice for the atonement of sin. I don't think that we truly understand the gravity of humanity's sin. But, Jesus did understand it. Jesus could tell how heavy it would be to carry sin as a substitute, and also how immense was the suffering which he was expected to carry to save all persons. For this very reason then, Jesus trembled with fear. He felt troubled.
2. In another gospel account, it depicts the suffering of Jesus as "Prayer in Gethsemane." In the garden of Gethsemane, while suffering and in anguish, Jesus prayed as follows. "Oh father, if your will, please take away this cup from me," (Luke 22:42). At that time, sweat fell to the ground like blood was dripping, says the scriptures. Even in the passage that we read for today Jesus says, "What shall I say? Shall I say?: 'Oh father, please save me from this hour.'" This [is the] suffering of Jesus. [His] fear. Perhaps we will never be able to know or even imagine what was [going on] inside Jesus' heart.
3. However, the prayer of Christ did not end with "Please save me from this hour." It did not end with "Please take away this cup from me." In the garden of Gethsemane, in the end, the Lord prayed as follows. "However, please do according to your will and not according to my desire." Even in the passage that we read for today the Lord firmly accepts the hour of suffering, that he would soon meet up with, as "the hour that is given to him by the father." The Lord says, "What shall I say? Shall I say?: 'Oh father, please save me from this hour.' However, I truly have come for this hour indeed. Oh father, please reveal the glory of your name."
4. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the one who did not pray "Oh father, save me from this hour," but dared to pray "Please reveal the glory of your name," and thus he continued his walk on the road to the great cross. This [Jesus] said, "Believe in me." He said, "Follow me." We believe in this person and are willing to follow him.
5. Known as "The Niebuhr Prayer" or "The Serenity Prayer" [by Reinhold Niebuhr], the words to the prayer are these: "Oh God, grant us the courage to change the things we can change. Grant [us] the serenity to accept the things [we] cannot change. And grant [us] the wisdom to know the difference between what we can change and what we cannot change."
6. There are times when we can change [things] as well as when we must change [things]. Also, there are times when we ought to seek in prayer saying, please change [things for me]. However, there are times when we cannot change [things], we must not change [things]. There are things given to us by God as things we ought to just take and respond to steadfastly. There are roads that we just need to walk somehow, heavy burdens that we must carry upon ourselves, and jobs from which we cannot run.
7. Jesus said, "I truly have come for this hour indeed." This is not a statement of "resignation" by any means. The act of acceptance is not an act of resignation and quitting. By Christ's standing on the road to the cross and by his going forward from there he made the request that "the glory of God be revealed." He said, "Please reveal the glory of your name." At that time, God the Father gave Christ the answer. "I have already revealed [my] glory. I will reveal [my] glory again." With the statement "I will reveal [my] glory again" he is pointing to the hour of the cross. If God sees fit, God will reveal glory even through [Jesus'] dying miserably on the cross. He will transform even a cross to glory for God.
8. [We] want to flee from suffering. [We] want to run away. [We] want to avoid and by-pass sorrow. [We] want to unload heavy weights as quickly as possible. God knows that we are like that. Jesus became the same flesh as us. He was made human. Thus, he understands these thoughts of ours. So, we should ask him, that we have him take away [our] suffering, that we have him heal [our] sorrows, and have him unload our burdens. We will not be criticized for asking and wishing for these things. We may still be praying as we cry tears, "Please deliver me from this suffering." But that's okay. However, nonetheless, at times there are moments when we should request and seek, "Please reveal the glory of God," and not request, "Please let me get away from this suffering." [We] certainly do have [such times].
When He Is Lifted up From The Earth
9. So then, what is important in this? Is it that we will have a strength that cannot be defeated by suffering? Is that we will have a tenacious force of will? How was Jesus? Did Jesus pray that way because he was strong? I notice one thing in that. It is that the phrase "oh father" is repeated in this text. That exclamation [of his] appears repeatedly in The Gospel According To John. "Oh father!" -- Yes, it does. With the hour of the cross just before him, when Jesus had said, "I truly have come for this hour indeed," it was a trust in none other but "the father" and it was an unflagging fellowship with "the father." "Oh father!" Jesus had lived his life always calling earnestly out and upon his father that way. Jesus was strong. I do think he was strong in that. I also think we can be strong like him. But, what was supporting the Lord at that time was neither firm convictions nor a tenacious force of will. It wasn't that, but rather it was the living fellowship [he had] with his father. It was a fellowship that was filled with love and trust.
10. What we need is not our own strength. When we're in suffering, what will truly support us is not our own force of will. It isn't that, but rather, it is a daily life in which we call upon the heavenly father. It is a trust in God as the father. We must change what we can change. We must be set free from whatever we can be set free from. But, as I touched upon already, there are things impossible for us to change. There are always heavy burdens we cannot avoid carrying, heavy loads we are supposed to bear. In those times, if we believe that everything is still in the hands of God the Father, and if we trust in the Father, we will be able to pray, "Oh father, please reveal the glory of your name." And the father will say, "I will reveal [my] glory." In this way then, what we need is to call upon the heavenly father and to live trusting in the heavenly father.
11. Put another way, we are to live with Jesus who showed us how to call on the name of the father and to live trusting the father. We are to place ourselves as well in a relationship with the son and the father. Didn't Jesus hang on the cross for that very reason? In verse thirty-two the Lord says the following. "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." When was it that he "was lifted up from the earth?" It was when he was crucified. Therefore, it is written in the text (verse thirty-three), "Jesus said this as a way to show what kind of death he would carry out." But after Jesus was lifted up on the cross it wasn't over. He would be further lifted up to God the Father. Jesus says, "I will draw all persons to me." Jesus who alone was with the Father would draw them to himself. Jesus who hung on the cross said "Your sins are atoned for. Your sins are forgiven," and he is drawing us to himself and to the father. Thus, we can place ourselves along with Jesus with the father alone. We can live in a relationship with the father.
While In The Light
12. The Lord says, "I will draw all persons to myself." That is what Christ was to do for us. On the other hand, there is something we're supposed to do. Jesus said it as follows. "The light is now with you for a while. Walk while there is light so that the darkness doesn't overtake you. Those who walk in darkness do not know where they are going. In order to become a child of the light, while there is light, believe the light," (verses thirty-five and thirty-six).
13. The scripture says, "Those who walk in darkness do not know where they are going." The person does not know where he or she is. The person does not know where he or she is going. To be in darkness certainly has that meaning to it. But, as may be expected, Christ himself was not in this darkness. Christ knew where he was. Christ knew where he was going. At the same time that he trusted in God the Father, accepted the way of the cross that was given to him, and prayed that the glory of the father be revealed, he progressed straight down the path of life. Thus, he walked in the light.
14. And so the Lord is also inviting us as well to walk in the light and not to walk in the darkness. The Lord desires that we walk not heading for destruction and still not knowing where we are going and all the while murmuring, complaining, moaning, getting angry, harboring hatred, being shaken about by different sins, [the Lord] does not want us to walk in this kind of darkness, but that we walk heading for the Father and all the while calling on the name of God the Father, trusting in God the Father, seeking that the Father reveal [his] glory, and that we walk in this kind of light. Therefore, the Lord says, begin walking in this way "while there is light." In order to become children of the light, believe the light, while there is light, he says.
15. "While there is light" means in there where Christ is with [you] and he speaks forth the Word of God. It, first, points to the period of time when Christ was on this earth. It is the period of time of even when Christ was crucified and had died. But, we are informed that Christ died but that wasn't the end. After the cross came the resurrection. And then there was the descent of the Holy Spirit, it lead into the period of the church. "While there is light." -- That period of time did not end with the death of Christ. Christ rose from the dead, and his Word continues to speak through the church and is here today. "While there is light." I can very well say that that light is here today and is still among us.
16. But, Jesus said, "The light is now with you for a while." Since it clearly and conclusively [says] "now ... for a while," it will not continue on for ever. [The time] for a person to be able to hear the Word is no more than a limited certain time period. Therefore, [the time] that's always important is "now." That time when the Word of God is being spoken is the time when we ought to believe. That time when Christ is calling and inviting us is the time we are supposed to obey. The Lord says, "While there is light, walk! While there is light, believe the light!" Everybody, let's treasure the day called today when Christ is calling and inviting us. If we begin to walk in the light, while there is light, the darkness will not overtake us and the darkness will never capture and destroy us. Let's believe Christ the Light and walk in the light!