My Grandpa passed away this past week and I had the honor of doing the funeral. Which pleased my Granny and their are few better things in this world than to please those you love. But since that moment my thoughts have been on Grandpa and the passage Granny asked me to use at the funeral. What I spoke about on Wednesday was different from the funeral message, which focuses much more on our entrance (especially Grandpa’s) into heaven. But my hope was to again honor his life, but more to challenge the students toward the choice always before – at least until Christ calls us home… [This is much longer than normal, you are getting nearly the full message – rather than a recap.]
John 13:21After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
22His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
Grandpa grew up in Kansas City during the depression and as a child his father passed away. This left his mom caring for 6 boys and struggling to make ends meet. She worked long hours in a bakery and often their meals would consist of fresh baked bread. And while we love the smell of fresh baked bread, for grandpa the smell brought to many memories of hunger and poverty. So that even in these last years he would refuse to eat fresh bread.
During these days, Grandpa decided to run away. Barely a teenager and he hoped a train for California. Of course when he got off he found himself in St. Louis (as a aside, when I told this to the students they just stared and I realized I would have geography lesson to show that St. Louis was in the wrong direction). He could have started a life there, but instead he got another train and headed home. He started working to help support the family…
[Another aside: It is strange in our age on irresponsibility to consider how a middle school age student can step forward. Grandpa’s generation was presented with great obstacles and teenagers stepped forward. In some way I think these moments prepared them stand in the gap again the march of evil…]
John 13:25Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.
“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, 28but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
When my dad was a boy, Grandpa was one of the scout masters for their troop. He loved to take the boys camping and often he would lead them hiking through the woods. On one such occasion they came over a hill to find a field fire. Down the hill the fire department was fighting a portion of the fire, but the boys jumped into action to save the rest of the field. They dug a fire line to prevent the fire from pressing forward. But the wind gusted up and soon the whole troop was surrounded. My dad describes this as exciting, but for grandpa it was time to pray. The men and boys worked feverishly to dig the fire line in a circle and when the fire passed they stood in a green circle surrounded by black.
Christ did not live up to what Judas had envisioned. While Jesus has a sacrificial vision to save everything, Judas grabbed what he could trust. And he left the group, even salvation, to save a small patch.
John 13:36Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
37Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
When granny and grandpa were first dating they would go out every Tuesday and Friday. They often double dated with one of Grandpa’s friends, who was dating Dorthy, Granny’s friend. One Wednesday Grandpa’s friend asked Grandpa if he wanted to go out. When Dorothy heard the plan she talked to Granny and so Granny waited expecting a call from Grandpa. Only the call never came. And when Grandpa arrived he brought with him his Wednesday, Saturday girl…
This startled me, because I picture Granny and Grandpa who loved each other for over 60 years. I picture how Granny had always wanted a bicycle, but could never afford one as child. So when they were just newly married, Grandpa pulled up after work and began pushing a shiny new blue bicycle up the driveway… but for a moment in time, Grandpa had a choice to make (and so did Granny when Dorthy revealed everything).
In some many Judas and Peter are not the same, but on this night they would both deny Christ…
John 14:1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And 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.
Growing up Grandpa has a cat, who loved him. This cat would follow Grandpa to the bus stop and be waiting for him when he would get off the bus after work. When the war came upon the country, as many others, Grandpa lied about his age and joined the Navy (always sending his checks home to his mom). When the war was over the family received word that Grandpa was coming home. Of course the letter could mean tomorrow or it could mean next week. So everyone continued life, but one day the cat stopped chasing mice and sat down on the porch. All day the cat sat waiting. Then in the afternoon, when grandpa pushed open the gate the cat sprang up and ran to meet him…
In this way, when we choose to return, we find Christ is ready to meet us. Grandpa could have stayed in St. Louis and tried to forget about his troubles. Instead he returned and came home. And he received the blessing for his choice (for that matter he blessed me and the whole family).
But for Judas, he went into the night and did not return. Peter, though he denied Jesus three times, came back. And that made all the difference. Because grace welcomed him home. Just as the passage we read concludes. Remember the chapters and verses were added latter (Jesus did not speak in verse, nor did John write in chapters). So the conversation does not break between chapter 13 and 14. There is not pause between, “you will disown me three times” and “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Because, if we will come to Him no matter our life story, He prepares a place for us…
And that is grace.