When time is getting short for Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus begins to try to prepare the disciples for his departure. Understandably, his disciples don’t really take it too well. Even thought they have been there the whole way,they have not quite grasped fully whom Jesus is and what he has been chosen to do. They are anxious about Jesus’ talk about leaving. They are uncertain about the future and what they would do without their master and Lord to follow.
In John’s Gospel chapter 14 verse 15 to 21,Jesus is trying to address their discomfort and to give them some clarity about the future. He does this by reminding them to use the commandments he has given them as guiding principles and by assuring them that even when he has ascended to heaven after the resurrection. And by telling them that God will give them the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls the Advocate, to be with them forever. He says, in John 14, verses 15 and 16, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.”
The first part of that statement from Jesus reminds me of the kind of phrase that that you might use in a discussion with someone you love, when you are getting to the point where you can’t seem to be able to find the right way to get through to them about something that you are trying to advise them against. You have might have found yourself desperate enough at some point, usually as a last resort, to say to them if you love me, then you will not do this or that.
Growing up I remember a listening to a conversation between my friend and his parents. My friend’s parents were worried that he didn’t fully comprehend the dangers of drinking and driving and so they ended their conversation with the plea to my friend, “if you love us, never get into a car with someone who has been drinking.”
My friend’s parents were coming at the issue from a perspective that saw the bigger picture. They saw the amazing potential that my friend had in front of him. A life to live, things that could be accomplished, people to meet, maybe even a family and children of his own. His parents, having experienced more of what life had to offer, wanted nothing more or less than for my friend to have the chance to experience it for himself. They loved him so much they didn’t want him to get off the path to life. In many ways, the same goes for Jesus in today’s gospel. Jesus knew the bigger picture and he knew the blessing that his disciples will be to the whole world, but he also he knew that they would need to stay committed through the trials and difficulties that are coming up fast. Jesus knew that they would need guidance to face the challenges of becoming the church by spreading the news of God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ. He wanted to remind them to follow the directions that he had already given them as they walked the path of faith.
This relationship between Jesus and the disciples sort of reminds me of the sport of Rally Car driving. This is a sport that involves getting a car and two people around a course with multiple checkpoints in the fastest time possible. One person drives while the second navigates between checkpoints. The navigator, with the help of the map, knows how to advise the driver of the turns and obstacles that are around the next turn and hidden from the drivers view. The race keeps things happening so fast that if the driver doesn’t trust his navigator’s directions then the team will lose speed, lose time, and lose the race or even worse crash their car.
Certainly, most of us can easily see how you could compare the fast pace and seemingly relentless demands of everyday life could be compared to a Rally Car race. It is not that any of us are in a great rush to get to the absolute end of the race, but certainly each day can seem like a race from checkpoint A to check point B on the course of life. There are days where things breakdown, or when we are not sure which way we are to turn next, when things seem to happen so fast that we don’t have a chance to get our bearings.
Jesus, the navigator, is saying to the disciples and to us, “I know where this route is leading us and I know the things that can slow you down and hurt you, or worse, keep you from finishing the race, trust my commandments to help guide you.” or one can imagine Jesus saying, “I know where God is leading you and I want so much for you to get there because I love you so much, so if you love me, follow the directions I have given you.” Just as the navigator in the car knows what prize awaits at the end of the course, so Jesus knows what blessings await us around the next corner of our journey, if we stay on track.
Sometimes as we are going along in life, it seems like things are getting the way, holding us back, keeping us from moving forward, and these thing may test us, but know that God wants us to get by these things. Don’t stop. Don’t pull over to the side of the road and say “this is to hard”, or “I can’t do this”. Trust the navigator, trust Jesus because Jesus know that if you stay on the path that your blessing is coming, just beyond your sight.
This is certainly the case for the disciples, up a head is major corners in their path, as the Jesus is about to be crucified, would be resurrected, and would again leave them and ascend to heaven. This will be a challenge and difficult goodbye for them, but Jesus knows that the around the next corner for them is the blessing of Pentecost, the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the church’s new navigator, who would be there waiting for them. And this, I believe, is Jesus’ message to us today that blessing are ahead for you, blessing are ahead for this church, stay the course that Jesus has set us on and trust in Holy Spirit, the navigator and guide, who Jesus promised us would come, then we will be on the right track for those Blessings that are ahead for us.