John 13.21-32

Jesus was troubled in spirit. Previously we read Jesus at prayer, ‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Farher save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father,glorify your name.'(12.27) The troubled Jesus is in turmoil; he is inwardly deeply distressed and going through mental and spiritual agony. He is troubled because he knows what lies ahead. He knows that one of those with whom he has been in intimate company for 3 years, one he chose to be at the heart of his disciples will betray him. He is troubled by betrayal. He is troubled becaus he knows that rejection, suffering and death are coming. He is troubled by the pain, the suffering, the loss, the abandonment. He is troubled because he also knows that for his little community all that lies ahead will be deeply disturbing. One will betray, and that betrayal will hit all the others hard. Another, the one he has been preparing to lead this motley band, will deny him. All will run away, scattered like a frightened flock of sheep, lost, bereft, all their hopes shattered. So even as he sits with them his own troubled spirit apparent to them, he says to them, after the betrayer has gone ,’Let not your hearts be troubled’ (14.1) There is no Gethsemane account in John; he rather portrays the ongoing inner turmoil of Jesus. This troubled spirit is found elsewhere in the scriptures, most notably in the Psalms:- My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. and I say,”Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest’ For it is not an enemy that taunts me – then I could bear it … But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together’ (Psalm 55.4-6, 12-14) ‘Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.’ (Psalm 41.9) Jesus is tempted to seek a way out; that is the implication of his prayer, ‘What shall I say? Father save me…’ The other gospel writers will tell us of Gethsemane. There we read of him being in an agony; he will pray again ‘Father if you are willing you can remove this cup from me; but not my will but yours be done’. What John reveals is the wrestling of Jesus throughout these final days and hours. He has set his face like a flint towards Jerusalem, and thus towards rejection, suffering and death. But there is a continual wrestling with sticking with it. The temptation to pull out, to avoid the pain does not go away. Even as he hung on the Cross the temptation came through the words of the crowd – ‘If he is the Christ let him prove himself and come down from the cross, then we will believe …’ But no he will not give in to the temptation to withdraw or escape. He will go through with doing the Fathers will. What of us and being troubled by the difficulty of decisions we may face. Where we know the right path to travel but equally know that it will be filled with opposition and difficulty. Or what of us being let down, perhaps even betrayed by others, especially if these are close friends and colleagues? We need to recognise that being troubled is okay. It is part of the territory of seeking to live God’s way. It will not all be sweetness and light. The peace of God which passes our understanding is given but it does not always free us from the troubling of our spirits. Somehow this peace enables us to travel with the troubling rather than either lifting us out of it, or lifting it from us; although on the occasions when a deep peace does descend we should be grateful. It often comes when after the wrestling and struggling; after grappling with the troubling and determining ‘ This is the way walk in it’ that then the peace enables us to proceed – as it seems each step of the way Jesus himself found. He has the peace to say to Judas, ‘Do what you have to do’. In the garden he will be able to step forward and say ‘I am he’ Along with this I note that Jesus never stops respecting Judas. He respects him with the inclusion of him in the foot washing; in the way he gives him the morsel of bread; in the way he releases him to go out and betray him. There is a respect for the person in spite of everything that is about to happen. We too have to keep showing respect to others, even our detractors and betrayers. We are called to never stop loving our enemies. We too will find temptations to take the easy way out; we will be tempted to opt for the easier life; for comfort but like our Lord we have to follow the way that God sets before us. Like our Lord we have to pray, Father, glorify your name.’ Our calling and purpose is to bring God glory in all things.


It is always our calling to seek the glory of God. Glory is one of the great themes of this wonderful gospel. It first arises in the great Prologue, ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.'(1.14) Glory revealed in the turning of water into wine.(2.11) And a regular refrain of Jesus both glorifying the Father and being glorified by him.(8.54;12.28;17.1,4,5,10,22) This vision of glory is however radically different from the visions of God’s glory on Mount Sinai, in the tabernacle and Temple. For Jesus God’s glory is to be seen in the place of degradation, death and destruction. It turns on its head notions of glory as residing in power. yes there is to be the wonder of death defeated and resurrection but only arrived at through the Cross. Gods power is to be made perfect in weakness. the folly of God crucified is to be the true wisdom. The way up is the way down. Glory is cross shaped. So as we, in and with our troublings, pray ‘Father glorify your name in me, in us’ may we always remember that glory is found in, through and by the cross.

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