In John 18, we recount the arrest of Jesus, his response to opposition, Peter’s denial, the current authority, and the great exchange. This enters use into the climax of the Story of God as Jesus continues to teach us in his darkest times.
That’s a little weird. As I preached on John 17 last Sunday, I spoke on the biblical notion that the church is the bride of Christ. Some kids listening to the sermon gave some confused faces at this point.
As adults, it’s not any less weird. Maybe more weird because of our understanding (often a broken understanding) of sexuality. But don’t worry, it’s not about sex. Well, it kind of is. Just talking about this makes me feel like a messenger trying to deliver God’s “birds and bees” talk. Hence, I left this part out of our all-age-appropriate sermon on Sunday.
It’s not about sex because there’s nothing biblical that speaks to our relationship with Jesus and God in any physical terms. And if anything, we see Jesus seemingly suggesting we’re all without gender or whatever the angels are like at the resurrection (Matthew 22:29,30). So it seems ridiculous and it is ridiculous to think of it sexually. Though not without mystery over the topic of sexuality.
It is about sex because it is about full oneness. Marriage and sex is the deepest relationship and act of oneness in humanity (described as the Hebrew term for oneness, Echad, in Genesis 2:24). And in some mysterious way, God describes His oneness in the same terms with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being one together (also described as Echad, in Deuteronomy 6:4) . God created marriage and sex, for us, and to give us an idea of oneness in relationships. He also gave it to us for the purpose of multiplying. And when the full number comes in, there won’t be a need for sex and multiplying…we will just be with Jesus…One with Him.
I don’t know what it’ll really be like, but I think it’ll be different and better than sex.
But what about this current wedding engagement we are in with Jesus now? In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus says:
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Be prepared, is the message I take from this. How do we prepare? He says “keep watch.” And I think the verse before helps us know what keeping watch means: Know and be known by God.
It makes sense in this analogy of being the bride of Christ. In any marriage engagement, it would seem very odd to not pursue a relationship with your future spouse. Even in an arranged marriage, there is some preparation within the family towards the coming day, where being known and knowing the other is significant in whatever cultural preparation is deemed to be done. Even if just preparing with oil for the lamps.
Jesus came and died for His bride, the church, and is waiting on her full number before returning, to which we’ll feast at the wedding table with him.
Revelation 19:6-9 says:
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
If you don’t know Jesus, I’ll just give my opinion from my own story and experience to say that He is worth knowing. He doesn’t give up on His people and He’s never given up on me, even in my own brokenness…always singing a song of being delivered from myself and the darkness around, into relationship with the creator of the Universe. It doesn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense for me for a long time. How can God love me this much to want to join with me (a mess) in such a deep way? Because He really really loves me. He really really loves His bride. He’ll do whatever it takes for her, for us. All we need to do is be in this engagement, together as a church, with Him.
Take hold of the engagement.
Join us some time for a gathering or a meal.
Jesus prays over his disciples in John 17, just before he is arrested. One of the most powerful themes in this passage is that we are one with God and one with each other in the church. We as the church, are the bride of Christ.
I find that there are often more reasons compelling me not to pray then there are to pray: A busy day; A hard day; A good day; Distance from God; The lack of “feeling it.” Some moments are more extreme than others - I can feel both burdened to pray and tangible pressure to not pray at the same time.
I’m going to take an educated guess that this is very common. And I’ll guess that this is true no matter what you believe about God, how long you’ve believed in God, or how much you believe about Him in the first place. Because at the end of the day, even the most devout believers end up with moments in their life where it’s just really tough to think God is there. And even if He is there, does He care?
This, in effect, is doubt…and everyone has doubts about God. And not just His existence, but also His character.
Can this change? How do we work with this doubt? What does one do when feeling the tension of doubt and need of God?
Everyone’s story and situation is different. So I’ll offer just a few thoughts from my experience that may be useful:
Know that it’s ok to doubt or feel like it’s hard to pray.
I’ve implied this so far. But consider that Mother Teresa had doubts. Consider Jesus’s question as he hung on the cross, asking the Father “Why have you forsaken me?" If that is not doubt, it is at least a deep longing from the disconnection he felt in that moment with God the Father. It’s ok. When in doubt, ask for faith.
Pray through the emotions. Be honest with God.
Sometimes our emotions are part of the blockage in our minds that prevent us to pray. Maybe it’s depressing thoughts, hurt, anger, or confusing longings or loneliness. If those things seem to be in the way, know that God wants you to tell Him: all your pain and frustration and doubt and confusion. He already knows it. And He’s extremely gentle. Especially when we knock at His door to choose to talk to him about it. If you need to yell…go for it. You got hard words for Him, He can take it. Need to express pain, He’ll feel it with you.
Just pray anyways.
Sometimes, even when I don’t “feel” it and pray, I get surprised. Maybe not in the moment, but later those prayers that once felt so disconnected with my faith have often become builders of my trust in what He was and is doing. And sometimes those prayers are the shortest…”Help me!”
So if you are finding yourself thinking it’s hard to pray right now. I feel ya. Many have. Know that He’s never far. He can take your heart and mind as it is. He loves to hear from you no matter how long it’s been or what state you’re in.
Pray in the tension.
Join us this Sunday, September 15th, 2019, for worship at Veasey Memorial Park in Groveland, MA at 5:30pm where we’ll be learning about Jesus’s prayers for us in John 17.
David preaches on John 16:12-28 as we kick-off the podcasting of our recordings at The Table Community Church.
Our First Public Gathering
We are excited to have our first worship gathering in a beautiful public space in Groveland, MA. As a church of 2-years, it’s been a journey and a lot of great times meeting in homes and living rooms. We’re going to keep meeting in homes and living rooms…cause that’s what we do at The Table. But now, we are also going to have larger community gatherings at Veasey Park twice a month. We would love for you to come kick this off and celebrate the reason we are: A Risen Hero has made our story whole! Learn more about us and…
Come join us on Easter Morning!
The Table Community Church
April 21st, 2019 at 10:30am
At Veasey Memorial Park
201 Washington Street
Groveland, MA 01834