May 14, 2021 – Sixth Sunday of Easter – John 14:19
John chapters 14-17 are often called Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. He and his disciples are at table. They have finished their meal. Jesus has washed their feet. Judas has left to betray him. He has predicted that Peter will deny him. And then, Jesus begins a four-chapter monologue, a small part of which we have read together today, his final instructions to his friends who had accompanied him on his journey the last three years. The next leg of the journey was the cross.
So when Jesus, in John 14:19, says, “In a little while the world will no longer see me,” he is reminding them what he has told them many times before – reminding them that he must die. “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.” That statement, like so many of the things Jesus said, must have left the disciples scratching their heads. What did he mean? The world will no longer see him, but we will . . ..
It’s helpful, I think, in this context to understand “the world” as those who do not believe in Jesus, over and against his disciples, who do believe in him. It’s like Jesus is turning the saying, “Seeing is believing” on its head. You know that saying, right: “Seeing is believing”? It means “Show me the evidence, and I’ll take your word for it.” But instead, Jesus seems to say, “Believing is seeing.” We don’t believe in Jesus because we see him. We see him because we believe in him. And it’s great for us that it works that way because, unlike his disciples around that supper table, we weren’t there to see him 2000 years ago. We weren’t there that first Easter morning, to see him risen from the dead. We weren’t there when Jesus appeared to many other disciples after Easter. We couldn’t see him then – but we see him now because we believe in him.
And one of the places we see Jesus is in holy communion. At the late service this morning, Thea Fischer and Katie Pessalano will receive their first holy communion. My plan is to ask them and their younger siblings (and any other children who might be with us) to come up front so I can remind Katie and Thea (and tell the others) what communion means. And because they’re kids, I like to keep it simple. Frankly, I like keeping it simple, too, because it’s easier to remember! Communion is how we remember that Jesus promised always to be with us. Communion is how we remember that Jesus promised always to forgive us. And communion is how we remember that Jesus promised that we would always be a part of his family.
The world – that is, those who do not believe in Jesus – they look at what we call the holy supper and say: Not much of a supper, really. Just a little bit of bread, which doesn’t even look or taste like bread, and a few drops of wine. But we look at the bread and wine and say “We see Jesus!” We receive it and know that we are receiving gifts beyond compare: the presence of God, the forgiveness of sins, and the support of the community.
The world may not see Jesus in the sacrament. But we do. How blessed are we! For believing is seeing: seeing that he is with us through thick and thin; knowing that no matter how often or how badly we mess up, we are forgiven; trusting that no matter how isolated or alone we may feel, we are never without the benefit of a family of faith who will walk with us on our journey. Thanks be to God.