tohu va’vohu | John 12.27-32
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:27-32 | ESV
“Now we come to it. My whole inner world is in motion, topsy-turvy in a chaotic rumble – and what is my response? ‘Father, get me out of this!’? Wait – this moment is the very reason I’m here! No. ‘Father, display through this the rich tapestry of who you are, of your nature!’”
And no sooner had Jesus said the word than a voice boomed from above, “It’s happened before, and it will happen again.”
The crowd stood there, a bit confused. “What was that?” Some shrugged their shoulders. “Just a bit of thunder, that’s all.” Others were less sure. “That was no thunder, it was an angel talking to him.”
Jesus quickly clarified, “This voice wasn’t for me, it was all for you. Now this whole creaking, corrupted world system has been put on notice: Your time is up. It’s judgment day. And the hot-shot ruler of this world system has been kicked out on the street. Out he goes and up I go. And when I go up, suspended above this earth, I will draw people to me from every direction. Everyone will come.”
MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Without form and void.
It’s the expression used in Genesis 1:2 for the unsettled, chaotic upheaval that was primordial creation. It’s what first comes to mind when I read Jesus’ words: “Now is my soul troubled.” The Prince of Peace awash with internal turmoil. The Word made flesh conflicted, recoiling against the boundaries of rejection, sorrow, pain, and suffering – and death.
Truly he has indeed been made like us in every way! Truly this was incarnation and not mere imitation or facsimile. He was moved as we are moved, he knows what it is to be upended internally, to be out of sorts.
We need to remember this when we find ourselves focusing on statements like “he set his face like a flint” to the degree that we forget that, oh yeah, he really was just like us. He felt the pull of discouragement too. And he faced the same choice that we do when that pull comes: do I seek a way out or press for the way through?
Jesus verbalizes the struggle of us all: “I am in crisis; what to do? Seek the nearest exit? Ask Abba to bail me out? But wait. This is why I came here in the first place. This is the point. No. Forget the exit sign. Abba, display your beauty in the ugliness I’m about to weather!”
And just as the Spirit of God brooded over – literally “caressed”– the face of those chaotic waters of Genesis, just as he descended upon Jesus at the waters of his baptism accompanied by the Voice, so the Voice breaks the silence again now.
At least three times in the Gospel accounts the Father breaks the silence and speaks over Jesus so others can hear: at his baptism, at his transfiguration, and now at the approach of his hour of trial. Jesus makes clear he didn’t need the voice to “screw his courage to the sticking place.” It ultimately wasn’t for him, but for them, for us.
This also is a good thing.
If we all needed the Voice like thunder cracking over us to reassure us for the trial before us, we would be in a sorry state, for Scripture bears witness that his voice is heard on different frequencies and more usually in the sound of a thin silence.
And to that Voice Jesus was attuned, even – especially – as he entered the vale of shadows.
How have you heard the voice of God in your hour of trial and distress? How has that voice come to you? What did you hear? How did you respond?
Abba, show me how to feed on the reality of your presence, the reality of your voice, in my times of distress and need. Lead me into greater trust in your beauty to shine through the ugliness in and around me this day. Through Christ.