GOSPEL | JOHN 13:21-30
21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23One of his disciples — the one whom Jesus loved — was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
“Jesus was troubled in spirit” (v.21)
My soul is troubled. In the recent past, it wouldn’t have bothered me. I could have ignored it, but not today. Today, my soul is troubled. The inciting incident: Many of my friends have exchanged their Facebook profile pictures for red equal signs.
The spreading equal signs are a unique social networking campaign to spread awareness about the Supreme Court’s discussions on gay marriage. From what I can tell, it’s like a meme petition. I will admit first that I am profoundly ignorant of almost all political goings-on. This current event, like most that reach my attention, was brought to me by a friend, and my first thought was: “Why now?”
I find it profoundly significant that this nationwide discussion coincides with Holy Week: significant, and cause for concern.
This week we as Christians, as the Church, must fix our eyes on Christ, on his entering Jerusalem; on his interacting with the crowd, with his disciples, and with the Pharisees who are conspiring to kill him; and on his betrayal, his arrest, his trial, his being beaten, his crucifixion, his death, and his burial. This is our focus this week. This is where our eyes are drawn. This is where all our hope, and faith, and life is to be found and fixed.
And like little neon signs – garish and distracting – these equal signs pop up and steal my eyes from the cross. I don’t mean to offend my friends: I know you mean well. In reality, this is a creative way to express something more than words can, and convey that meaning quickly, simply, and stand in solidarity with a movement.
But Christ is my cause. It is sexy to have a cause, to speak for something trendy, to be a little (or very) socially controversial. Christ is none of these things, despite what popular Christian speakers and writers would like to tell young adults today. Christ is boring by almost everyone’s social networking standards. What I mean, though, when I say, “Christ is my cause,” is that I claim his name (Christ), I am identified by his symbol (the Cross), I am a member of his movement (the Church).
What is more, I recognize only Christ as my judge. His ruling is the only one I am truly concerned about. He told us yesterday that “Now is the judgment of this world” (John 12:31). His death on the cross slams the final gavel against sin and death: this is good news! No Supreme Court ruling can compete with that. Our salvation is found only and always in Christ’s cross.
And the “court” of Christ is not a landscape of rights, because I was born forfeit of any “rights” to liberty, happiness, or property, when I was born under the stain of sin. My only right is death. Trying to fight for any political, legal, or civic rights is not appropriate for me, if I truly claim Christ as my cause and judge.
The Heidelberg Catechism has a profoundly convicting couple of questions and answers, teaching me quite clearly that I can have no part in seeking my own salvation, or in seeking salvation in any legal ruling:
Q. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” meaning “savior”?
A. Because he saves us from our sins, and because salvation should not be sought and cannot be found in anyone else.
Q. Do those who look for their salvation in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only savior Jesus?
A. No. Although they boast of being his, by their actions they deny the only savior, Jesus.
Either Jesus is not a perfect savior, or those who in true faith accept this savior have in him all they need for their salvation.
This is an all or nothing deal: either Christ has saved me completely, or I have no salvation in him. Either my salvation is in him, or I have to do it all myself, or rely completely on something else.
To my friends who have posted equal signs: I urge you to consider where your salvation lies, which symbol you find yourself in, and whose name you proclaim this week. I don’t mean to suggest that Christians shouldn’t engage the political culture – that’s what I’m trying to do here – or have a position on the issues. But if these are what define us most clearly, then we have lost the basic meaning of what it means to be called “Christian:”
Q. But why are you called a Christian?
A. Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his anointing. I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,to strive with a free conscience against sin and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.
To my friends who are homosexuals, I confess that I have too often considered you more in the light of your sexual orientation than in light of our shared, common footing under the cross. This week I have encountered quite clearly that the cross is the true common ground for all Christians, and I am sorry for my part in what is too often the American church’s judgmental bigotry. At the foot of the cross, there are no divisions, no distinctions, no sins, no virtues.
Because in our baptism into the cross of Christ, we have been given a new identity. Paul writes:
“All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death[.] Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
“In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” (Colossians 3:11)
Praise God! This is good news! Certainly better than whether or not the Supreme Court validates or condemns gay marriage. If I might paraphrase Paul’s letter to the Colossians, I would write this for us this week:
“In our baptism, where we were united in Christ’s death and given the promise of his new life, there can be no Conservatives or Liberals, Republicans or Democrats, gays, straights, bigots or ‘sinners’; everyone here is in Christ, and Christ is in all here.”
So let us come to the cross. Let us fix our eyes here. Let us humbly bear our crosses. And let us strive together for the things that make for unity, purity, and peace in the body of Christ.