“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”
The Disciples’ Violated Expectations
Having just shared with his disciples that he is “going away” Jesus makes an interesting comment. He says, “none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”
So apparently, after hearing the news that Jesus must leave them, the disciples are more interested in their own loss than they are in the fate of Jesus.
A short while ago a friend was sharing with me about how he was suffering in a difficult situation and at the end of his story he said this: “The thing that helps though is realizing that life is not about me, it’s way bigger than that. Life is about Jesus and I’m just a small part of that bigger picture.”
I thought that was brilliant. Like the disciples in today’s passage, we can have a tendency to focus on our own sorrow. We can look at life like a movie, and guess who’s the star of the movie. Me. But that’s not real. In reality each of us has a supporting role. Each of our roles support the lead. And the lead is Jesus.
When I look at my heroes from God’s scriptures, I find they recognize this truth.
Joseph suffered terribly. He was betrayed by his own family. They actually threatened to murder him. As a compromise, they sold him into slavery. Then as a slave, after proving to be the best most trustworthy slave ever, his master’s wife accused him of attempted rape and he was thrown into a dungeon. Then for years he remained in the dungeon while he was forgotten by the chief cupbearer who had the power to secure his release. During all these years of suffering, we see him serve his slave master and the dungeon master as though he was serving God Himself. And we have no record of Joseph complaining about his unjust and unfair circumstances. (Colossians 3:23)
Then after all those years of suffering, when his brothers feared retribution and asked him for forgiveness, Joseph said,
“. . . am I in the place of God?”
He went on to say to them, “. . . you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .” My hero Joseph, God’s man, recognized that he’s not in the place of God. Joseph saw that God is at the center of life, and his life is best lived in support of God’s bigger story. (Genesis 50:15-21)
We see similar attitudes from my other heroes in the Bible.
When Daniel was suffering from the behind the scenes manipulations of those who envied him, he suffered with a quiet confidence in God’s larger plan, even though he didn’t know what that plan was. He only knew God’s plan included being hated by his coworkers and being thrown into a lion’s den.
When Saul was seeking to murder David, what we see coming from David toward Saul is good. Even Saul himself acknowledged this when he lifted up his voice and wept, and he said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.” During his ordeal David refused to lift his hand against Saul, God’s anointed, because David recognized he wasn’t central to the story, there was a bigger story and God was at the center of it. (1 Samuel 24)
And then of course there’s Jesus. Jesus talked to his disciples about how he desired to be a part of God’s vision, and how God’s vision included Jesus’ suffering at the hands of his fellow religious leaders and that the plan even included his being murdered. And when Peter rebuked Jesus for Jesus’ desire to follow God’s plan, Jesus rebuked Peter. And he said to him,
“. . . you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
My Expectations And How Suffering Can Turn From Bad To Good
“Setting your mind on the things of God,” Jesus said. It’s amazing what happens when I change my perspective. Sometimes I can get a vision of what I think my life should be like, and when reality doesn’t match my vision, when my expectations are violated, I crumble. But when I set my mind on the things of God, when I keep at the forefront the idea that I’m here to support God’s vision, rather than Him being here to fulfill my vision, there’s a shift.
Suddenly life is no longer about my vision but about God’s vision.
And my season of suffering is good.
Because it’s a good part of the story the God I love has in mind for me.
You might also like Turns Out Life Is Not A Hotel.
Image of man looking up at the heavens by Greg via goodfreephotos.com – public domain