“In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.” Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.” Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy. “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.” Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Dear God, one of the interesting things about this story is that it is all about Jesus speaking plainly so they can understand, but what they took from it wasn’t what he told them about mourning and then being okay. They still missed it. No, their response was to say that they had been doubting in who he was because Jesus spoke so cryptically, but now since he was speaking plainly to them they believed him. But they still missed what he was saying!!
I’m going to shift gears a little bit here and talk about the mystery of the afterlife. Over the last four years, there have been (at least) two shows/movies that have dealt with the questions of what is happening beyond our earthly lives. The first was a TV series called The Good Place. The second was a movie that just released from Pixar, but they probably started working on about four years ago, called Soul. I probably would not have watched The Good Place if a good friend hadn’t recommended it to me. And I probably wouldn’t have watched Soul except that 1.) it was a Pixar movie and they are usually pretty good and 2.) given that I had watched The Good Place, I was intrigued by how this movie might present the after life.
Beyond the false premises each of these stories embraced, what I noticed is that, even among seemingly secular people, there is this desire to figure out what is going on in the universe, and an innate knowledge that there is more to life than what we can physically see. The Good Place focused on works to explain what happens to us, but even that life turned out to be empty and ultimately everyone chose non-existence over an good, but seemingly empty, existence for what I’ll call “never ending time.” I am intentionally not saying “eternity” because I am assuming that the time plane you work on does not match up with the time plane where we currently live.
Soul, on the other hand, focused on the “great before.” The posited that there is a place where our souls develop before they come to earth in our bodies, and it’s only when they find their motivation to live on earth that they get their chance. To be honest, I’m not even sure what question this theory is answering except that we all need to find our motivation for wanting to live life.
I guess where I ultimately come to on all of this is a willingness to submit myself to ignorance. Some would call that weak-minded, but I simply don’t need to know or understand everything. I’m here for a reason (or many reasons–most of which I do not realize) and you have use of me while I’m here. There will be times when I am scared, confused, hurt, thrilled, relieved, etc. All of those things are pushing me in the direction you need me to go so that I might do the work you need me to do and become the man you need me to become. In terms of the “great before” or the after life, I’m just going to trust you, with the understanding that, if I’m wrong about anything 1.) there is room for you to take care of me and love me and 2.) even if I am wrong about #1 there really isn’t anything I can do about it anyway.
Father, help me to be a person who can provide your comfort and peace to those who are seeking such things. Give them your hope, peace, and joy through me and through others. And for everyone involved in The Good Place and Soul, please speak your comfort and truth to them so that they might join with your kingdom and become your ambassadors as well.
In Jesus’s name I pray,