John 15:9-17 | 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B
I always want to fix things. I think if I can just fix it, I’ll be happy. The problem is that I don’t have an eternal perspective—my blinders (we all have them) limit my vision. The times I feel Jesus the most are when I surrender, when I realize I’m not in control. Sometimes I literally lift my hands into the air in a gesture of defeat and whisper, “That’s not mine to take care of.” Then I try to refocus on what is my responsibility.
The joy Jesus came to offer us (v.11) isn’t power, authority, being right, or even supreme happiness. Jesus’s joy is a deep peace, the peace Paul refers to in Philippians 4:7: “The peace which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
When Jesus says, “I no longer call you slaves” (v.14), He reinforces our gift of free will. Our perspective changes when a “have to” becomes a choice. I see it all the time in high school kids I work with. If they have to write this paper because it checks a box, duty comes across the page. If they have to write this paper because they chose to learn about a topic (or have a goal), their work reflects their underlying passion.
Note that Jesus says He has come so “our joy may be complete” (v.11). He does offer us joy, but it’s our choice. God doesn’t mean we have to look on the bright side every time. But, it does mean we have to realize we aren’t in control, we can’t fix everything (or everyone). When we do that, we refocus on ourselves and our relationship with God—ultimately that’s the only thing in our power.
The world isn’t perfect—it never will be. Current times are always messy, and once the problem du jour is “fixed,” something else always takes its place. Jesus offers joy in the midst of the messiness. Not a surface happiness, but a deep joy—knowing you’ve taken care of what God has given to you and that the rest really is up to Him. It can sound like a cop-out, but it’s not. It’s the most real relationship possible—knowing our limits and then letting go of the rest. It can also be the hardest thing to do. When I put my hands up, I sometimes feel a little like I’m giving up.
Did the human Jesus feel that on the cross? Did He think, What are You doing? Let me down so I can make these people understand! Then, with His hands splayed on the crossbeam in true surrender, did He refocus, Yes, Lord, there’s a plan greater than Me. Maybe even then the human Jesus didn’t fully understand. But He trusted God, and He let go so God could do His ultimate work. It was deep joy in His faith that allowed Jesus to say to the Father, “Not My will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42) before His execution.
Would we feel the same?