See John 16

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This chapter reminds me of “It's Friday, but Sunday's a comin'!” which is the title of Tony Campolo’s well-known sermon that references a sermon by his preacher, Marshal Shepard Sr. at the Mt. Olivet Church in West Philadelphia ...

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. It was Friday, and my Jesus is dead on a tree. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’. Friday, Mary’s crying her eyes out, the disciples are running in every direction like sheep without a shepherd. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’ ... Friday, people are saying, “Darkness is gonna rule the world, sadness is gonna be everywhere,” but they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. Even though this world is rotten, as it is right now, we know it’s only Friday. But Sunday’s a comin’.

The good news is that the cross in Friday is not the end. Sunday, the day of resurrection is coming. I want us to imagine the before and after of Friday and Sunday. Think of the cross – there is a Friday side or sorrow, suffering, fear and loss. And there’s a Sunday side where the meaning of the cross has been changed forever.

The cross is the ultimate turning point. An event of great shame and sacrifice that causes offense and fear, becomes the key to salvation and the door of hope. Using the language of John’s gospel, we might say that there is the view from below and the view from above. We see everything, the world, our life, church, even the cross from either the view from below or the view from above. Those who can see from above are those who’ve been born from above.

That’s important because historically, we live on the Sunday side of the cross. We could just set John 16 aside and say that it was written from the perspective of the Friday side when the disciples are very anxious about Jesus leaving and they will not see him anymore. But don’t forget, John wrote this Gospel on the Sunday side. He wrote it for born from above believer on the Sunday side. Why would he do that? He did that because even though we are historically on the Sunday side, in our experience, we all find ourselves on the Friday side of the cross from time to time.

John is preaching to believers beyond the first generation. He’s preaching to those who have heard but never seen. He’s preaching to you. He’s preaching to West-Ark. He’s preaching to the United States.

He says that he knows it is Friday and there is trouble in the world.

That’s the Friday side of the cross. We’ve all been there. Jesus said, In this world you will have trouble (16:33). Isn’t it strange how we try to avoid admitting that. Maybe we assume that good people don’t do that. Maybe we just try and put a lid on it. We want to belong to church so that we can take heart. We want to belong to church so that others on the Friday side of the cross can lift us up to the view from above – so that we can get to the Sunday side. We want to hold someone’s hand while we breathe through the pain like that woman in childbirth. We know that sorrow will turn to joy.

But Jesus is warning us that sometimes the trouble comes not from the world, but from inside the church. When the church is on the Friday side of the cross looking at the cross from below, there will be real sorrow.

Jesus told his disciples to get ready for the time when they would be cast out of the synagogue. He told them to even prepared for the fact that sincere but mistaken people would consider it a righteous act to kill believers in Jesus. This warning never expired. It applied directly to the generation of believers who worshipped in the synagogue with their Jewish brothers and sisters. They would experience sorrow and suffering from those who claimed to worship the God.

But the warning never expired. Through the ages and even in our own day we experience sorrow from within the church. The church that claims to fight and struggle in God’s name, but they cannot see the cross from above. They cannot leave Friday and get to Sunday.

Inside the church and outside the church we are looking for the quick fixes that will make the sorrow go away. We want the pill, the book, the verse, the plan, the cash, the bill or the amendment that will make it all go away. We want to jump from Friday straight into Sunday. Jesus doesn’t say there will be a quick fix. He says that we will see him again, not right away, but in a little while.

Jesus says that only in him can we have peace. Only in him can sorrow turn to joy. When the world cranks up its hate and fear, When the church seems to be acting like the world , When we find ourselves standing below the cross on Friday – Jesus calls to us from Sunday and says – “Take heart, I have overcome the world!”

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 26 April 2009

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