“What Do We Know?”
We’re continuing to look at some favourite hymns as we journey through these Lenten days, all leading us to Good Friday and the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Now, today’s hymn is not one many of us here have heard or sung before. Of course we do know the tune very well, but the song itself is new to us. When it was requested, I felt strongly to use it because it is a hymn we sang regularly at the church we attended back in Ottawa. I guess that’s the advantage of being the one to choose what happens in the service!
The song is “I Cannot Tell”. It sings of some of the questions and wonders we have around what Jesus has done, and is doing. Such as in the first verse, we sang of how we cannot tell why he would show his love to us, to bring back the wanderers. Or when we sang how we cannot tell how he suffered upon the cross. Or how we cannot tell how he’s going to do all this, to win the nations and satisfy the needs of the sinful world.
So many questions we have. So many things we can’t comprehend. Things far too complex for our simple minds.
But there’s also that part of every verse where we sing of what we know. We know he was born of Mary, he lived and worked, and he came to be among us. We know he heals broken hearts and mends the world of sin and fear. We know the whole world will see him in his glory, that he will make himself known to all, joined by many countless voices who will sing praise to the King of all the world.
So many questions, and our answers are based in our belief of what we have known of Jesus Christ through the ages as we experience the Holy Spirit living and moving within God’s people. Yet people still don’t understand and they struggle with what they are supposed to know.
In our reading today from Mark 8, Jesus was teaching what we already know because we are on this side of the cross. We know he died. We know he rose again. We know he ascended to live with our Father in heaven.
As he was teaching that he was going to die, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. In the record of this encounter in the Gospel of Matthew, Peter says, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”
And then we hear these famous words from Jesus, “Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.”
Like we so often do, we try and contain Jesus Christ in what we can perceive. We know the world holds certain properties. Gravity works a certain way. Pain feels a certain way. Food rations work a certain way. Transportation happens a certain way. Death ends a certain way.
But we know Jesus can do amazing things, things we’ve never heard of before. Things the disciples have never seen before. And we try to reconcile the differences in what we know and what we see Jesus do.
And Peter! Peter is walking with Jesus seeing all these things first hand. He’s become a student of Jesus, a follower, a friend. And now Jesus is saying he’s going to be turned over to the officials and killed? Say it ain’t so, Jesus! Say it ain’t so!
Wouldn’t you feel the same way? Wouldn’t you want to follow Jesus forever, continuing to see him touch people’s lives in ways you have never seen before? Wouldn’t you want him to keep teaching you the secrets of God’s kingdom? Wouldn’t you want to keep hearing his stories, his wonderful parables?
But that’s not the way it has to be. Jesus needs to show us what he follows up with in the Gospel of Mark. He needs to show us that those who wish to save their lives will need to lose it. Jesus shows us what this means by dying for us on the cross so that we may fully receive the love of God offered to us all. Anything else is not God’s plan, thus why Jesus called for Satan to get behind him.
We need to give up of ourselves in order to gain life eternal. It is in the giving up of ourselves that helps us understand some of the mysteries we contemplate when we think of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. It is in the giving up of ourselves where we learn to live in the comfort of not knowing all the answers to the questions we have. We give up of ourselves in faith, knowing Jesus Christ is the one who saves us, and one day we’ll find out the answers for ourselves when we enter into his presence.
In a world where we, as followers of Jesus Christ, continually find ourselves saying “I cannot tell why or how,” we still find ourselves rejoicing in, “But this I know!”
This is just the second week of Lent. We still have 4 more Sundays to go before we come to Good Friday, the day we are counting down to. Throughout these days we are invited to keep reflecting on why Jesus had to die and why such an act should be so important to us.
Jesus indeed had to die. He died as he lived, so that the glory of God could be shown to the world. So we could truly know the depth of his love for us. We wish it could have happened some other way, just as Peter would have liked it to. But it was not to be.
Jesus died so our sin could die with him, over and over again. Sin upon sin, hanging from the cross. Killing the Saviour of the world.
Yet even sin and death could not keep him down. Even hell itself could not prevail. Jesus rises victorious over all these things three days later when he walks out of the tomb and shows he lives.
This we know.
This we rejoice in when we come to the church to sing our praise to God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit! We believe that in our faith, we too will join with God in the eternal kingdom, where sin is vanquished and temptations cannot reach us.
In the words of the hymn, we know that the world will listen. How? We don’t know. When? We don’t know.
“I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship
When at his bidding every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And countless voices then will join to sing,
And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth will answer:
‘At last the Saviour, Saviour of the world is King!’”
We don’t know how, we don’t know when. But we do know it is coming, because we believe in Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, who came to live among us, and to die on the cross so that we know the love of God is so abundantly offered for all the world.
This is what we know.*Image from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1354810