In today’s reading Paul says that he is going up to Jerusalem for the last time. This echoes Luke’s statement that ‘Jesus resolutely set his face towards Jerusalem.’ Paul knows that persecution and prison and maybe even death await him there.
In a beautiful statement of his love for his friends, Paul says,
‘I now feel sure that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will ever see my face again. And so here and now I swear that my conscience is clear as far as all of you are concerned, for I have without faltering put before you the whole of God’s purpose.’
It is a good man who can say that his conscience is clear. Paul also mentions something that all of us have had to do, face the fact that we are never going to see someone again. It is not an easy thing to face, the absence, permanently, of a loved one.
That is one of the things that I like about scripture, every emotion that we ever have to go through has been experienced before by some other person and Jesus himself has also experienced all of them. He lost Joseph, ‘the just man’ who had been his foster father for all those years. He would have lost friends in his village and watched as old people died. When he met the Widow of Nain, his heart broke for her and he stretched out the hand of mercy to her.
Jesus, Paul, Peter and all the people of the New Testament experienced loss and separation just as we have. But the good news is that Jesus has risen, they are with us still in the communion of saints, and await us in heaven. What a promise.