When the Chicago Cubs win a World Series during the next couple of seasons, no one here will be able to accuse me of being a bandwagon fan. After all, from the time that I arrived at Good Shepherd I have consistently and openly declared that the Cubs are my team. It is, after all, a family thing. They are my dad’s team. They were my Grandpa Surburg’s team as he grew up on the north side of Chicago and walked to Wrigley Field to watch the scoreboard and listen to the crowd.
In sports, there few labels more derogatory than being called a “bandwagon fan.” The label says that a person is not a real fan of team. Instead they have only started to root for a team as it was having success. Rather than displaying character and loyalty, the person has only joined in rooting for a winner when they are winning.
The term “bandwagon” actually came out of political life during the second half of the nineteenth century. Circuses sent a decorated wagon carrying the circus band through a town in order to get people’s attention and advertise the arrival of the circus.
Politicians saw how the bandwagon captured the public’s attention, and they started to use them in parades through towns while campaigning. As a campaign was successful, other candidates wanted to be associated with a winner. They even rented seats on the band wagon so that they could be seen with a candidate’s campaign. In this way the phrase, “jump on the bandwagon” was coined. Applied to sports, it became a metaphor for people who are not “real” fans.
However our Gospel lesson for the Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord teaches us that when it comes to faith in Jesus Christ, there is nothing wrong with being a bandwagon fan. In fact, every one of us is a bandwagon fan and so were Jesus’ disciples. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ the great victory has been won. Now in Christ we are blessed to follow a winner, and we have the certainty that we will share in this victory too.
Our text begins on a Sunday in the darkness of early morning. We learn that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. Jesus had uttered “It is finished,” and died on the cross on Good Friday. John tells us how Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had placed his body in a new tomb where no one had been buried. The tomb was in a garden in the same vicinity as the crucifixion site. When Mary arrived, she saw that the stone which had sealed the tomb had been taken away and the entrance was open. She ran to tell Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” This began a great foot race as the two disciples ran to the tomb. The disciple whom Jesus loved – usually presumed to be John – was faster and got there first.
He stooped to look into the tomb and saw that Jesus’ body was not there. Instead the linen cloths in which Jesus had been wrapped for burial were lying there. When Peter finally arrived, he actually went inside the tomb. He saw that not only were the linen cloths present in the tomb, but folded up and placed in a different spot was the cloth that had been on Jesus’ face in the burial
Next John tells us, “Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” This disciple saw the cloth and face cloth in which Jesus had been buried, now placed in different spots and we are told that he believed. He believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Nonetheless, John adds, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” And then the two disciples went back to their homes.
During the course of John’s Gospel, the evangelist emphasizes on several occasions that Jesus said and did things the disciples did not understand until after the resurrection. John’s Gospel is different in that he tells us about multiple trips that Jesus made to Jerusalem during the course of his ministry. In chapter two Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the first time in the Gospel. While there he cleanses the temple.
After doing this the Jews asked, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” They wanted him to do something that would demonstrate he had the authority to act this way. But Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews were bewildered. They responded by saying, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” Herod the Great had begun the restoration and expansion of the temple complex. Even after his death some thirty years earlier, the project still wasn’t finished. In fact it would not be officially done until a time not far removed from the temple’s destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Then John tells us, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” This text at the beginning of the Gospel signals us that Jesus is going to say and do things that can only be understood in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. Likewise after Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in a way that fulfilled the words of the prophet Zechariah, John tells us, “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.”
In this Gospel, John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus himself indicates that he will accomplish this through his death – a death that will take place through crucifixion. On Palm Sunday he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” And later Jesus added, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John tell us that, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”
Jesus goes to die. But in John’s Gospel this is simply part of one movement that then sweeps upward in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Jesus describes it as his “glorification.” As he said during Holy Week, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” In fact this departure and glorification is necessary so that the Spirit can be sent. John says in chapter seven, “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are his glorification. It is only his resurrection that enables the disciples to really understand who Jesus is and what he has done. According to Jesus it is only this glorification that makes it possible for the Spirit to be sent. And it is the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Jesus so that the disciples can fully understand Jesus and his saving work. Our Lord told them, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
This means that when it comes to Jesus, every Christian is a “bandwagon fan.” We have been called to faith in a Lord who has already won! The outcome is not in doubt. We are like the crowd of fans that has gathered in the downtown of a city. They are jubilant and excited as they wait for the victory parade to come down the street.
We wait for that victory parade. It will arrive on the Last Day when Jesus Christ returns in glory. And when he does, the risen Lord will give us a share in his resurrection. Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Now did you catch what Jesus said about you right now? As someone who believes in the crucified and risen Lord; as someone who eats and drinks his body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, you already now have eternal life. The victory is already now yours, even as we wait for the consummation of Jesus’ victory – the day when he will return in glory and transform our bodies to be like his.
Jesus calls us to live in the knowledge of his glorification – his death, resurrection and ascension. Victory is already ours now. Eternal life is already ours now. We know who Jesus is and what he has done for us. And therefore we have confidence and strength as we face the devil and a fallen world. On the night he was betrayed Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
And at the same time, the victory of our Lord guides the way we live right now. At the Last Supper, Jesus did something unexpected. He washed his disciples’ feet. When he had finished he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.” And then later Jesus went on to say, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ we know that we have the victory of forgiveness, eternal life and resurrection on the Last Day. It is Jesus Christ’s love for the Father and love for us that prompted him to serve us in this way. He was lifted up on the cross and buried in a tomb. Yet the upward movement of his glorification carried him out of the tomb and on to the right hand of God. Because of Jesus the victory is ours. And so through the work of his Spirit we walk in faith toward Jesus and love toward our neighbor as we look for the victory parade to arrive.