The Second Sunday After Pentecost June 6, 2010
44, 43, 203, 32(1, 4)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
May the empty tomb fill your heart, and may the risen Lord lift your spirit. Amen.
Dear Fellow Christians:
Does God frustrate you? The question itself could mean several different things, couldn’t it? It could mean: “Does God irritate or exasperate you?” It could also mean: “Does God hinder you from doing what you want?” Even then if we turn the questions over in our minds, we can find good and bad, positive and negative, reason to rejoice and reason to repent.
So it is that we will investigate this general question and seek to find guidance and growth on the basis of God’s Word. The text that will form the bedrock of our study is found in the Gospel account of John, the 16th chapter:
[Jesus said], “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
So far the very words of God. These are not man’s words, they are the precious words of Almighty God. God grant that we all honor them as such and learn from them accordingly. To this end we pray, “Sanctify us through the truth, O Lord. Your Word is truth!” Amen.
Perhaps it is nothing new, but one of the more troubling aspects of our society today is the raw arrogance that is so evident. Although we are more than lenient with ourselves, we tend to be impossibly hard on everyone else. If I become distracted while driving and make a mistake—like driving the wrong way on a one way street, which I recently did—it was obviously because the one-way wasn’t well marked or, or, well it just had to be someone else’s fault or at worst a perfectly normal and understandable mistake. If someone else were to do that, however, I’d suggest pulling their license for a month to teach them to pay better attention when they are driving. You get the point.
Recently—as I’m sure you’ve all heard by now—an offshore oil drilling platform blew up and sank in the Gulf of Mexico. The ruptured well is now spewing thousands of barrels of crude oil each day into the Gulf. Bad things happen in life. What is interesting is the immediate blame that we feel the need to assign. It’s British Petroleum’s fault. It’s the government’s fault. This sort of thing has never happened before, but as was the case with 9/11 the American people seem to demand that everyone in any position of authority must possess a prescience or crystal ball that allows him to foresee every possible bad thing that might happen and have in place the means to correct or rectify whatever might go wrong, and do so immediately.
Life just doesn’t allow for such things. There are too many variables, too many things that can and do go wrong every day. Those of you who frequent airports know all too well about the incredible levels of security that are now employed just so that we can get on an airplane. Could you imagine the flood of complaints that you would hear had these measures been taken prior to 9/11? The American people simply would not have tolerated the attempted prevention of that which had never happened. It’s the same with off-shore oil drilling. I wonder how many folks are aware that we have been drilling offshore for over 100 years with never an accident that came close to something like this, and yet somehow someone should have known. Someone—not me—should have seen this coming and prevented it.
All of this just illustrates a point. The greater our technological advances and the more we become an instant gratification society, the more we come to expect that nothing will ever go wrong. If it does, it should be immediately correctable, and we are frustrated in the extreme when things move slower than our impossible expectations.
Now transfer all of these thoughts to our relationship with our God. My sense is that mankind has so discarded the true and proper “fear of God” that we now sit in judgment over against Him. We are, at times—and in the worst possible sense—frustrated by our God.
Stop and think about that for just a moment. Think of the raw, ugly, blasphemous arrogance that is necessary for man to feel frustrated by God. We don’t need to guess how God himself feels about such rebellious thoughts. Go to the book of Job and read there beginning with the 38th Chapter:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7)
For two whole chapters God slams the terribly suffering Job and his haughty friends for their arrogance, listing an incredible array of natural and celestial laws of nature that lie beyond man’s control—magnificent marvels that give glory to the Creator alone. God concludes with these words: “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.” Job’s response when confronted by the Almighty God? “Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:1-4).
Arrogance, again, is at the root sin. Satan was not content to exist as a servant of God. He wanted equality with God. Adam and Eve were not content with their perfect existence but bought into the Devil’s lie that there was something more out there. How about you? Where do you stand? How do you feel about God when things don’t go the way you hoped or when God denies even your repeated, impassioned requests?
Another of our basic problems here is a simple lack of trust in our God. Arrogance, of course, plays a role here as well. We come to imagine that the way we want things to be must be the right and best way. When things don’t go that way, prideful man turns an accusing eye to his God and wonders how God could have messed up so badly. The right answer to our question, “Does God frustrate you?” Yes! And thank God that he does!
Go back now to the words of our text. Can you sense the built up frustration on the part of the disciples in our text? For years they had been frustrated by Jesus both for what he said and how He said it. In their not-so-humble estimation, Jesus simply did not speak clearly enough to suit them. He spoke in mysteries and parables. His stories and lessons all seemed too cloaked in metaphor and imagery. He didn’t say, “Kill me and I’ll rise the third day.” He said, “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days” (John 2:19). He didn’t say, “The work righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is a damnable lie.” He said, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mark 8:13).
You can almost feel the release of their pent-up frustration when Jesus finally, near the end of his time on earth, lifts the veil and speaks to them in our text in the straightforward manner they had been craving: “His disciples said to Him, ‘See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.” [vv.29-30]
It was almost as though the disciples were accusing Jesus of acting or speaking wrongly. In their words you can sense, again, their accumulated frustration as though—in their humble opinions—things would have been much better all along had Jesus spoken in this way the entire time He was with them. So had Jesus been making a mistake prior to this? Mark well his response: Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?” [v.31]
The disciples were already believers, weren’t they? While they obviously felt that Jesus’ clear words gave them a mental clarity and certainty, that was much different than the power to convert them. Jesus’ words, veiled as they thought they were, had already converted them. Faith does not come through logical comprehension. Faith comes through the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. That Word had already done its work in the disciples, but still they were frustrated by the process.
You and I desperately need to learn from this. The first and greatest lesson is to learn to accept both the love and mastery of our God. God is genius beyond our comprehension. He is the consummate master in every single aspect of life. He knows not only what works, He knows what works best, what works most efficiently, and what works longest. Remember the disciples’ reaction when Jesus clearly announced to them that He was going to Jerusalem to suffer and die? “Never Lord! Big mistake! Don’t do it!” That’s how the disciples handled clarity—they sat in judgment over it. They let their emotions dictate their thoughts and opinions, and the result, had Jesus listened to them, would have been their eternal destruction in Hell.
God knows what he is doing. Jesus knows what He is doing. We hear that same thing said of human beings today—“he really knows what he’s doing”—and we take it with a grain of salt. We need to learn not to do that with God. God frustrated the disciples, and it saved them. He does the same thing with you and me. The truths that He taught the disciples in parables and metaphors stayed with them and continued to guide and direct them in the wide variety of situations that followed. It should be obvious to them and to us why this was necessary, but He nonetheless spelled it out for us in our text: “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” [vv.32-33]
Jesus was about to be abandoned by His men. They would be scattered at the first sign of serious, life-threatening opposition. Ironically, this opposition was brought about by the very thing they thought they could handle and which they had been begging Jesus to give to them—clarity of speech. “Speak clearly!” they begged, and as soon as He did, the Jews killed him for it. The disciples imagined themselves up for whatever might happen. They weren’t even close. You and I also have our plans, our ideas, our desires. Jesus recognizes us as that which we are—sheep. Wandering, stupid sheep that desperately need a shepherd to frustrate their silly and dangerous notions.
The path that Jesus walked was exactly and precisely right in every conceivable way. By His actions he paid for our sins and opened the door of Heaven for us. By His actions—His perfect life and innocent death—He saved us from the eternal torment that we had so richly deserved. The next time then that we find ourselves frustrated by such a God, step back and learn to recognize that He is not the problem. You and I are the problem. Then trust Him to carry on to completion that good, wise, perfect plan that He has for our rescue and our eternal bliss with Him in heaven. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.