For many of us life is tough. In the last few months, we have witnessed much that is wrong with the world. We have witnessed school shootings in the United States; a potential nuclear stand-off between the U.S. and North Korea; the unveiling of abuse in Hollywood, Westminster, and amongst charity workers from many different nations. At home we have seen the NHS struggle again with winter illnesses, and we mourn the loss of friends and family, including in our own parish family, Brian Bancroft.
As a result, we rightly find ourselves wondering, how can we find hope and security in a turbulent world? Christians have never been afraid to look honestly at the world and to recognise, as well as very many wonderful things, all sorts of evil and depravity. As Christians, we understand that each person is made in the image of God and is therefore capable of much good, whilst also recognising that humans have hearts which rebel against God’s good purposes, and are therefore also capable of terrible evil. Because of this basic understanding Christians have a realistic view of the world. We can celebrate the good, and whilst mourning the bad we are not surprised by it.
In our studies of John’s Gospel, on Sundays, we have seen both positive and negative reactions to Jesus’ revelation of Himself as ‘God with us’. Many in the Gospel have been awed by his signs and miracles, but many more have turned away from Him, and sought His death. At the beginning of Lent we entered into John’s recounting of the last 24 hours of Jesus life, and with it the betrayal by Judas. Alongside this famous portrayal of human wickedness we find too some wonderful promises from Jesus.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so,
would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me
that you also may be where I am.’ – John 14:1-3
Jesus is going to die, and in doing so deal with all the evil in the world, and, as a result, the door to heaven will be opened to all who have faith in Christ. This will not mean an immediate end to all the evil in the world, Jesus is very clear about that. But, for all who will trust Him, for all who will have faith in Jesus, there is the promise that a time will come when evil is vanquished, and all will be, quite literally, heavenly. In the meantime, Christians will continue to experience all that this world has to offer, but, promises Jesus, we will be guided, helped, and encouraged through the difficulties by God the Holy Spirit – ‘God in us’.
‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth.’ – John 14:16:
This gift of the Spirit enables us to know Truth (Jesus Himself), and to speak truth to the world (the Gospel). The gift of the Spirit allows us to recognise evil, and to live in its shadow with hope, because of what Jesus did that first Easter. So as Winter turns to Spring and Lent turns to Easter, I cannot promise you that life will get any easier. I cannot promise you that we won’t lose any more loved ones, or that wars in the world or within our families will cease. I can, however, remind you of the promise Jesus made to all who have faith in Him. That there will come a time when wars, disasters, illness, and mourning will cease. That until that time Jesus, by His Spirit, will be with us every step of the way, walking with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), and that all of this is possible only because of the cross. Easter is a time to celebrate these great truths, be reminded of what is to come, and to encourage one another to keep going until Jesus returns.