Passengers were enjoying an uneventful flight from New York to Los Angeles until they heard the following message over the intercom.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. If you look out your right window you’ll see that the plane’s right engine is on fire. If you look out your left window you’ll see that the plane’s left engine is on fire. If you look directly below you you’ll notice two parachutes. This is a recording.”
Or do you recall the Far Side cartoon, in which Gary Larson portrays a vendor selling gifts, t-shirts and coffee mugs that read, “I Kicked Santa Anna’s Butt at The Alamo.” The dead bodies of Texans are lying around and there are other disturbing clues that all is not well for the defenders of the Alamo. Another ominous clue is that the vendor’s prices are rapidly dropping from $3.95 to $2.95 to $1.00 each. He knows the market for his “I Kicked Santa Anna’s Butt” novelties is vanishing fast. Therefore he’s got to get rid of them at any price.
These two humorous tidbits deal with the clues of catastrophe. They deal with those indicators that “Failure and disaster are at hand. All is lost. It’s every man for himself.”
I thought about these two tidbits as I read the story of Christ’s betrayal and arrest in the Gospel of John. Outwardly the clues of catastrophe were everywhere. Jesus faced increased hostility from the religious leaders and moved about secretly as a result (John 11:54). Despite the secrecy, spies monitor Jesus’ every move and report back to His enemies (John 11:46–47).
Even among His disciples, Jesus knows that all is not well. Every one of His disciples will forsake Him and flee (John 16:30–32). Jesus knows that the most promising and prominent of the disciples, Peter will deny knowing Jesus (John 13:36–38). He knows that one of the Twelve, Judas Iscariot, is actively planning His betrayal to the jealous religious leaders (John 13:18–19). And Jesus also knows that He, Himself, the Founder and Builder of the church is about to be condemned and murdered. Clearly, the future of the church did not look very bright. Just think of how today’s media would portray Jesus’ circumstances: “The Signs Abound Everywhere—Christ and His Followers are Finished.” This was certainly the church’s darkest hour.
Yet how does Jesus react to this crisis? How does He react to the catastrophic failure of His disciples? To their sins, denial, and betrayal?
Amazingly, Jesus does not have a meltdown. He doesn’t come unglued. Remember, that in their darkest moments, both Moses and Elijah prayed for God to kill them (Num. 11:10–15; 1 Kgs. 19:1–4). In stark contrast, Jesus expresses no despair or confusion. Instead, in the face of failures all around Him, Jesus only expresses confidence and courage.
In his book, Company Aytche, A Side Show of the Big Show, Samuel Watkins, a private in the Confederate Army tells a revealing story. He describes the disintegration of a General and the disastrous effects it had on his soldiers. In the battle of Nashville, General John Bell Hood was losing his last battle. But he was also losing his composure and the confidence of his men—especially when he came unglued in their presence. According to Private Sam Watkins, no sadder sight had ever occurred. The General openly wept, ranted, and raved. With his one remaining arm he pulled tufts of hair from his head. General Hood’s reaction to the stress of war that day sent the message to his soldiers that “all was lost.” The results were predictable; his army fell apart and ran.
But this is not Jesus’ reaction to a world that seemed to be crumbling around Him. If anyone needed comfort on the eve of His crucifixion, it was Jesus. Right? Yet He is the one who is comforting others. Immediately after Jesus predicts Peter’s denial (John 13:38), He follows it up with, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).
If anyone needed cheering up at this dark hour it was Jesus. Yet Jesus is cheering the disciples. Immediately after Jesus predicts that all His disciples will forsake Him, He follows it up with, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:31–33).
And if anyone needed prayer at this troublesome time, certainly it was be Jesus. But not even the disciples prayed for Jesus. They spent their “prayer time” sleeping. It is Jesus who does the praying—and it’s all for them (John 17:1-26)!
We need to remember this whenever we hear about how terrible things are in the world or how the church is failing. Also, we need to think on Jesus’ amazing confidence as He faced the church’s greatest crisis. We especially need to do so whenever we fail miserably to live up to Christ’s standard and commands.
Neither our ugly failures nor the calamitous conditions of our world can rattle Jesus one bit. Jesus can handle our sins and failures. Why? Because He’s got everything under control and He’s already made every provision for our consummate salvation (John 19:30; Heb. 1:1–2; 9:11–10:14). He has fully and forever dealt with our sins and can take us from our current crummy condition and transform us into His glorious image in heaven (1 Cor. 1:7–8; Phil. 1:6; 3:20–21). In contrast to us, Jesus always sees the complete picture. He never exclusively focused on the dreariness of the present—as we are so accustomed to be.
Friend, whatever crisis you’re facing—whether it’s within you and all around you—remember this. Our failure never threatens Jesus. He’s never stressed out. Running this vast universe doesn’t overwhelm Him. Conditions in our planet don’t rile Him. Moreover your problems and failures do not overthrow His plan for your life. Jesus is more than enough to successfully handle us, our problems, a hostile world, and the whole of creation.
Lord Jesus, into Your loving and capable hands I commit myself, my problems, and all that is dear to me. Lord, You already faced the greatest crisis of all time—when we wretched sinners, enemies of God, murdered You on the cross and should have incurred God’s fiery wrath. But Lord, You turned that horrific act into Your greatest work of redemption and used it to save us eternally. Nothing, O Lord, is impossible for You. In You alone do I place my faith and confidence. Save me, Lord Jesus, I pray. Amen.