John 16:1-4a

“I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

Reflection – Brandon Hudson

Today’s reading may have sounded like a very dark, first century April Fool’s joke to the followers of Jesus. I can imagine them lounging around the table, basking in this celebratory meal with Jesus. They have entered triumphantly into Jerusalem. Jesus has promised not to orphan them. Jesus has washed their feet. They are at home with their Master.

Sure, there has been discussion about him going ahead of them and them not knowing the way. There has been discussion about suffering. There have been some strange words around betrayal. There have been some awkward moments.

But then, suddenly, he says this line about “when those who kill you.” That wasn’t an if, it was a when. I can imagine some awkward laughter around that moment – surely Jesus was joking.

But Jesus wasn’t joking. And he knew where the road of vulnerable love and breaking down walls of authority would lead not only for him, but for those who would follow. But an amazing thing happens. While there are some stumbles along the way for his followers (like Peter’s denial, perhaps!), most of them do get back up and follow on the way – even unto death!

Our lives are full of ups and downs. There are moments that feel like cruel cosmic jokes, and we are just waiting for the prank to be over, for things to return to normal on April 2nd and the mutually agreed upon insanity to end. Things rarely return and stasis is an illusion as change either creeps upon us or comes crashing through the front window of our lives. And yet, with the promise of Jesus, there is a new normal. We do not have a promise of ease or even success in the eyes of the world, but we do have the Promise of One who has gone before and will not abandon us. As we walk in the journey, through the hills and the valleys, may we find our stumbling eased by this memory and truth. May we know and lean on the promises of God to deliver us through our trials, not from them. That is the kind of promise that is no joking matter.