Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him.
Bach’s output included well over two hundred known cantatas; it is said that there is a Bach cantata for every occasion and sentiment! After reflecting on Jesus foretelling his own death and resurrection to his anxious disciples in John 8:21-30, I realized a connection to Cantata No. 82, “Ich habe genug” (“I have enough”).
Cantata 82 is scored only for orchestra and a bass soloist, who sings of having enough because of the faith that Jesus has “impressed” upon the his heart before his end. The cantata remains focused on death, but rather than a death march or dirge, the middle aria—“Slumber now, ye eyes so weary”—is a sublime lullaby wishing the world goodnight. Similarly, the final aria, “Rejoicing do I greet my death,” is not morbid but joyfully sings of being released of the world’s confinement, in a quick tempo and a major key.
Joy in death is seemingly the utmost of contradictions. I find it meaningful that Bach composed Cantata 82 in a positive way and did not let fear get the best of him as Jesus’s “afraid” disciples did. In Lent, Cantata 82 is also a beacon of hopeful light, a contrast to the desperation of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Through Jesus, I have faith that by embracing our fears and challenges, we will always find light through darkness.
Appointed readings for today: Ezekiel 37:21-28, Psalm 85: 1-7, John 11:45-53