Jesus knew all along how his life would unfold. He knew that there would come a point in which he would suffer and die. The cross was continuously before him as he carried out his mission and ministry. Each day drew him closer to this reality. There would be difficult days ahead for him and his followers. Thus, as Jesus journeyed with these twelve disciples, he tried to prepare them for the inevitable. Hence, at different points in the Gospel narrative, Jesus tells his disciples directly that he will suffer and die. In Mark 8: 31-32 we read, “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.” Jesus wanted his followers to understand the severity of what was before them. Jesus didn’t downplay the suffering that was ahead. He was open and honest and wanted his followers to be prepared.
Now the disciples were slow to understand. This is perhaps why Jesus spoke directly to them about his suffering more than once. Jesus needed them to understand the days ahead, even it might create panic or stir up anxiety within them. Not to prepare them for his cross and death would have left them in a worse state.
The anxiety was high the night before Jesus’ death as he gathered with his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem. In John’s Gospel, Jesus recognizes their anxiety and fear. They are fearful of the future, uncertain about their lives, and what the unfolding hours will hold. Jesus had already spoken about betrayal and denial amongst themselves. They were afraid, plain and simple. As their leader, Jesus knew he needed to address their fear and anxiety. Hence, in John 14: 1-3 we read, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” Jesus invited his followers to anchor their anxious hearts in him and that if they trusted in God, then they could trust in him.
In our lives, there are times in which fear and anxiety can feel overwhelming. Life can create times in which we are uncertain about the present and the future is fearful. Even as a people of faith, like Jesus’ disciples, we may doubt how we will get through. Jesus, however, from the very beginning told his followers then, as well as today, that there would be difficult days ahead. Jesus did not downplay the struggles we would face in following him. Yet, in spite of the struggles we do face, Jesus promises that he will be present with us during these times and offers us hope beyond the struggles. In John 16:33, on the same night before his death, Jesus says, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” In his straight talk, Jesus didn’t offer a rosy picture of life. Rather, Jesus spoke truthfully about the difficulties of life, but difficulties that would ultimately be replaced by hope. We can take heart that even in the midst of a troubling world, Jesus will conquer and bring victory to our lives.
Jesus offered an honest assessment of life in a broken world; it can be hard at times. But then Jesus offered a promised hope; he has overcome it all, and so will we. Jesus will always be a non-anxious presence in our anxiety. We can trust him to lead us through it and bring us to a better place.