A passion for now
Now was an important time reckoning for the twelve. This was partly true because Jesus poignantly refocused them on the present, what was happening right then and there. The Judaism of their day was oriented on the past and the future. They were the ancient faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and would usher in the kingdom when their long- expected Messiah appeared, somewhere in another age. Their present was dark and foreboding---oppression by the godless Roman invaders, multi-cultural crowds along the trade routes linking Europe and the Middle East, Greek wisdom and polytheism. Hope was something rooted in their ancient faith and deliverance when Messiah conquered their foes and redeemed them. For them the Kingdom of God was far in the past or in the future. Jesus came announcing that it was near.
Jesus had a heart to heart talk with Simon Peter about now. John's Gospel marks with great clarity the timing of our Lord's coming hour. Throughout his record of Christ's earthly ministry there are multiple references to that hour, the time that was appointed for his passion. Once again, they were tick marks of his emphasis on now, the truth that the Jewish Messiah was with them at that very moment and would fulfill the Father's redemptive plan right then. As that hour drew nearer, John wrote---
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come
to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the
world, he loved them to the end.
John 13:1, ESV
After washing their feet, Jesus shared a final meal with them, predicted his betrayal and fast-forwarded their thinking even further. Then he spoke to Peter. John recorded that important conversation in this way---
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for
you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to
you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
John 13:36-38, ESV
Jesus predicted Peter's own eventual death on a cross in this profound moment of revelation. But, Peter had a passion for now. He wanted to go with Jesus right now. Perhaps it was another of those time warps that the twelve experienced as they wrestled with the currency of what was happening so quickly around them. Just as clearly, Peter may have been struggling further to imagine life without his Lord, or having trouble with the reality that he wasn't yet ready to make that sacrifice. But, there was this passion for now, the action that drew a sword on one of Jesus' captors, an inability to envision their usefulness in establishing Christ's church after the ascension. Facing death with Jesus may have been more preferable to Peter than facing a cross without him present. In any event, Peter was mystified by having to look forward.
Two-thousand plus years later we're also fixated on now. Convictional Christians are troubled, even anxious, about the spiritual landscape of our world and nation. How we desire to influence the world around us and fix the broken elements of our secular culture. People of the nano-second and sound bite crave instant answers, prayers that are answered on the spot, and cultural reversals on the mark. We're a nation in debt because we can't wait, people chasing immediate solutions and instant gratification. Watch the unfolding political drama and make note of the millions of our own citizens who expect spot remedies and quick responses to any crisis. Like Peter and the twelve we're obsessed with now.
Jesus understood the link between now and the future. He spoke of it often.
I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have
suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world
Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky,
but why don't you know how to interpret this time?
Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's
house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to
prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back
and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.
And so many others. He wanted them to live for the day when the Holy Spirit would come to them in power, to prepare them for what was to come. This translates to what may be our hardest adjustment to Kingdom timing. We must learn, like the twelve, to wait on God, to know his promise, and to allow him to guide us into that certain future.
It's passion week. He showed us how to endure it. And, not be so passionate about now that it becomes passion weak for us. Jesus said---
Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. "Be like men who are waiting for
their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may
immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. "Blessed are
those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to
you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will
come up and wait on them.
Lord, teach us to wait.