04/09/2020 - By Pastor Todd Nathan
As of today, there are 1,495,051 confirmed cases worldwide of COVID-19 resulting in 87,469 deaths, and 419,975 confirmed cases in the US with14,262 deaths. Tensions are rising as people are growing weary of social distancing, the rapid spread of the virus, and the struggle of job loss and economic uncertainty. Fear is running at an all time high combined with a sense of anger and hopelessness. Many have honored the government restrictions by staying home except when it's necessary to go out. But others defy the restrictions with even some stating that this is nothing more than a hoax. These people should spend time with a healthcare worker who is on the front lines and get a reality check! When will this end and life return to normal, whatever that may look like? Don't lose heart! As believers in Jesus Christ, we have hope, hope secured by Christ's death and resurrection. Hope that is not just for the moment, or to get us through tough situations, but a hope that is eternal! It's amazing that as tensions rise in the world, even between world governments and organizations, Passion Week (or Holy Week as some call it) is coming to a critical juncture. Jesus is in His last moments with His disciples who are feeling ta growing grief and sorrow as Jesus is about to hang on the cross. The intensity of His story is growing as we walk through John 14-17 and Matthew 26:36-46, leading up to His arrest in John 18:1-11. As difficult as it may be for many of you to focus on Jesus, and it's understandable given where life is right now, take some time to quiet your heart, be still before the Lord and dig deeper as you reflect on Jesus Final words and moments before His arrest. Believe it or not, it should bring comfort to your heart knowing what Jesus has done for you and what He promises to do in giving you daily hope, comfort, peace and joy!
We jump into the story in John 14 with Jesus wrapping things up in the Upper Room. Jesus declares in John 14:1-6, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going." 5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He was just hours away from being arrested and knew that the disciples were growing more sorrowful and weary. It had been a long week as Jesus gave them final instructions regarding what life would be like without Him. He assured them that He would not leave them as orphans (14:15-26) but would send the Holy Spirit who would comfort them and remind them of all that He had taught them. He reinforces this teaching on the Holy Spirit again on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane (John 16). Pause for a moment and take all of this in. Jesus assured them of eternal hope. He said, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me." That's exactly what we should be doing right now as believers. Instead of allowing our hearts to be deeply troubled, we should trust Jesus (believe). We should take His Word as absolutely true. He is not lying to us when he promises comfort and peace. He has given us the Holy Spirit who dwells with every believer as a source of divine comfort, the Holy Spirit whose name means comforter!
As they leave the Upper Room and begin their journey to Gethsemane, Jesus gives them a visual picture of what their new relationship would look like (John 15). and the critical importance of abiding in Him. Jesus declared in John 15:1-7, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Their relationship with Jesus would look different now. No longer would dHe be physically present with them. But the "abiding" or "remaining in Him" becomes even more vitally important as they press on and bring the gospel of hope to the world. It's the end of verse 5 that hits me the hardest - "Apart from me you can do nothing!" Pause again and reflect on that stamens for a few minutes. You may be fighting hard to survive right now. You may be fearful and overwhelmed. You may be growing weary of home confinement, stuck with people you may not like, or worse, who may be abusive or harsh and unloving. But think about what Jesus told His disciples. They were growing more distressed and sorrowful that He was going to die. As they were approaching the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would pray and then be arrested, He says to them, "Abide in me! Remember, part from me YOU CAN DO NOTHING!" Take those words to heart and apply them to your situation right now. Abide in Jesus. Draw back to Jesus. Trust Jesus. Know that you need Him to get through your circumstances, fears and struggles.
As they arrive in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus shifts His focus from the disciples to prayer. John 17 and Matthew 26:36-46 record the most intense and humble prayer of Jesus, and really the only detailed record in Scripture of what Jesus' prayer life looked like! We read in John 17:1-5, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed." Jesus was ready! He was born and came to the earth to die. That was about to happen. Shortly, after praying, He would be arrested, tried and hung on the cross. In verse 4 He says that He had accomplished the work that His heavenly Father had given Him to do. The only thing left at this point was to die for our sins! He prayed for the disciples to be unified. He prayed that all believers would be unified as a sign to the world of who we are! Three times Jesus prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." He surrendered His human will to His Father and was now ready to face the cross. His final words to His disciples were now complete and He closed out His last moments with prayer.
Every day we have the opportunity to live with confident hope, surrendering our will to our heavenly Father, led by the Holy Spirit, while abiding in Jesus knowing that apart from Him we can do nothing. Though life is difficult and tensions are rising, we can find great comfort in knowing that Jesus is in absolute control. He prayed that we would be unified, He promised that He would not leave us as orphans, And in John 16:33 He said, " I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
Take heart today brothers and sisters. God's Got This! Jesus has overcome the world. You may be struggling as tensions rise, fears grow, hysteria is rising and as a growing uncertainty about the future brings grief. Abide in Jesus. Draw back to Jesus. Trust Jesus. Know that you need Him to get through your circumstances, fears and struggles.
Striving together to please the Lord,