Sometimes suffering isn’t punishment.

(Continued from yesterday)


Let’s look at the texts from this morning.

The night before Jesus was executed, he prayed for his disciples. It’s what we read in John 17. He talked to his father about finished his assignment. He talked about doing a good job with his followers, passing on to them everything he was tasked to pass on. He talks about their belief.

And then Jesus prays for the disciples. For Peter and James and John. And in the next part of this prayer, part we didn’t read, he prays for us.  

He wants them to be protected so that they will have unity. The same kind of unity that the father and son have.

Notice that he doesn’t pray that they won’t have pain or suffering. That will happen. In fact, it’s about to happen to Jesus. He’s 3 hours away from being beaten. He’s 12 hours away from being nailed to a cross.

But his prayer is that in the middle of whatever happens, they will have the same unity that the members of the trinity have.

It’s what we see, by the way, when people keep showing up for each other no matter what. We’ve been through thick and thin.

Forty days after that prayer, after dying and rising and teaching, Jesus disappears from the view of the disciples. He goes to heaven, yes, but he disappears. Before he goes, he tells his disciples that they will get power from the Holy Spirit and that their job is to talk about what they know about Jesus. They are to bear witness.

It’s not what they were hoping to hear.

What they were hoping to hear is that Jesus was to kick Rome out of Israel and restore the kingdom of David. “Now that you are risen and can walk through walls, isn’t it time to make life perfect?” That’s what they were saying.

And Jesus says, “No.”

I’m sending you the Spirit. You’ll have more power than you ever imagined, but you will still get sick. You will still get beat up. You will still die. You will still have people arguing with you. You will still argue with people.

It’s not what we want to hear, is it? We want to know that because Jesus is Jesus, everything will be perfect. Because Jesus is Jesus, if I ask to get well, I’ll get well. Because Jesus is Jesus, if I ask for the relationship to be fixed now it will be fixed now.

What Jesus and Peter both say is that things don’t always go the way we want them even when we are following God. In fact, especially if we are following God.

Jesus was doing exactly what the Father said to do. And he died.

For more insight on what Jesus meant – and Peter learned – about suffering, we’ll turn to Peter tomorrow.


From a hospital chapel message based on John 17:1-11 and 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

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