Sunday September 13th
You never know what you might stumble across when you’re out taking a walk.
I heard a story about a man who was walking through the woods when he stumbled upon a suitcase. And when he opened the suitcase he was surprised to find some puppies inside it.
So he called up the local veterinarian to ask for advice.
He said, "Hi, I was just walking through the woods and I found an old suitcase, and when I opened it I saw that there were these five little puppies inside it."
"Oh no, that's horrible. Are they moving?" Asked the receptionist.
"Actually, I'm not sure" replied the man "but that would explain the suitcase!"
As we take a look at John Chapter 16 this morning we will see that Jesus is trying to make sure that His disciples WON’T stumble after He has returned to heaven!
He starts out by giving them some encouragement and a warning:
“These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
The tricky thing about getting an encouraging word about not stumbling is that the person wouldn’t be saying it if there wasn’t a possibility that you might stumble!
Nobody says “Watch out for that rock” if there’s no rock.
In this case, Jesus’ warning was very real, because these disciples would indeed be thrown out of the synagogues, and hunted down by people who wanted to kill them. In fact, ten of the eleven disciples other than Judas were martyred. Only John was spared, and he was sent to prison on a remote island.
So it was kind of encouraging for them to hear this, but not really. And Jesus has more of this combination of encouraging/upsetting news to tell them:
5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Jesus had already told them about the promise of the Holy Spirit, who He has referred to as the Comforter, or Helper. He is trying to explain that the fullness of the Holy Spirit’s presence can’t dwell within them until He has ascended back to heaven. Now He is giving them even greater detail about the Holy Spirit’s mission.
8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
I think it’s very significant that the Holy Spirit will convict our hearts concerning sin and righteousness. It has been explained this way – That when we are unsaved, we need to be convicted of sin so that we will repent and turn to God. After we are saved we need to be convicted of righteousness to remind us that we are now righteous before God because of what Jesus has done for us. And we need to be reminded to think that and act that way!
In verse 12 Jesus tells them that He knows this is a lot for them to take in, but He gives them just a little bit more insight about the Holy Spirit to ponder:
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
This language really highlights the concept of the Trinity. Jesus has everything that the Father has, and the Holy Spirit will only take the truth that the Father has given to Jesus and use it to guide our lives. That’s why one of the surest ways to test whether something is truly from the Holy Spirit is to see if it lines up with what the Bible teaches. The Holy Spirit isn’t creating some new version of the truth. He is only bringing forth biblical truth!
Now Jesus is going to say another comforting/confusing thing:
16 “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” 17 Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”
19 Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. 21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.
The first “little while” refers to the upcoming crucifixion and burial that will take Jesus away from the disciples, something that He knew was going to unfold quickly. The second “little while” refers to the Resurrection, which would happen after three days, but would probably feel like an eternity for them, not knowing what was coming.
Imagine what it would have been like to have been one the disciples and hear Jesus say “in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a while you will see me”! Because we have the gift of hindsight, these words aren’t disturbing to us, because we know how it all turned out, but to the disciples these were confusing and probably frightening words! Jesus had made several prophetic statements about His coming crucifixion before.
But if the time had come for these prophecies to be fulfilled, then their leader would not only be put to death but they would be left alone to face the hatred of a world that would be rejoicing over His death!
Jesus reassures them by saying that it would be similar to a woman giving birth. They would feel intense pain for a short while but upon His return their grief would be turned into great joy that would last forever!
Then Jesus gives them even more hopeful news about the joy of His return:
23 In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
After the resurrection of Jesus, we are taught to direct our prayers to the Father in Jesus’s name. And this doesn’t just mean tacking His name on to the end of our prayers. It means that we should be praying in complete agreement with the will and teachings of Jesus.
Jesus goes into a little more detail about this in verses 25-28
25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father.
26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”
In verse 26, when Jesus says, “I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf”, Jesus isn’t saying that He will ever stop praying for us. In fact, Hebrews 7:25 says:
“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
What I think Jesus means is that, because of the Holy Spirit living within us, we can reach a maturity level in prayer where we will know to pray properly on our own.
Apparently, the disciples seem to get this point, or at least they think they do, because they reply this way:
29 His disciples said, “Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.”
One thing they definitely get right is when they say, “We know that you know all things.” By saying this, the disciples are finally acknowledging the deity of Jesus.
But here comes another word of warning:
31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
These disciples, especially Peter, have sworn to stay with Jesus through thick and thin. But Jesus knows the truth - That they will all abandon Him at His arrest, and only John will show up at the cross. Jesus tries to reassure them by saying that, even when they leave Him all alone, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”
That’s a bit of a comfort to this group of men who are about to desert the man that they have pledged to follow to the ends of the earth. And Jesus closes this chapter with a few more words of encouragement, for them and for us:
33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
Even though Jesus’ words were originally meant to comfort the disciples, they were also meant to comfort any of us who are facing sorrows of our own. We will all face tribulation in this world, but Jesus has overcome all of the tribulation that this world can throw at us!
Let’s examine what that means in our lives today.
The disciples would have to face ridicule from the Scribes and Pharisees, who told them that they were “foolish fanatics” whose leader was a nothing more than a misguided man who was cursed to hang upon a tree.
Nowadays we face skeptics, atheists and followers of other religions that see us as nothing more than simple-minded idiots for believing in the God of the Bible.
While it is thankfully unlikely that we will ever face the same kind of persecution they faced – things like being torn apart by lions in a Roman coliseum, the fact is that according to 1 Peter 5:8 we still have an enemy who is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour our lives and our testimony. So, in many ways we can also know what it is like to suffer for righteousness sake, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:10!
Indeed, like the first disciples we can truly know what it is like to suffer injustice in the face of wickedness. If the jeering of skeptics, atheists and all sorts of other attackers was not enough, we also have to deal with the harsh realities of living in fallen world where unrighteousness is all around us, in the forms of violence, prejudice, and an unending array of ungodliness.
But that’s why we must always remember that Jesus told us to “take courage” or “be of good cheer”.
Let’s always be mindful of what someone has referred to as the “three eternal sources of unspeakable joy of every Christian”.
Let’s start by remembering that, after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples looked upon His crucifixion not as an act of great tragedy but one of great joy because by this atoning act Jesus had freed them from the power of Satan and had purchased their salvation!
In the same way, when we are born again we too participate in Christ’s death and resurrection and as such we can live our lives in unspeakable joy because we have eternal fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This doesn’t mean that we as Christians are to pretend that sorrow doesn’t exist, but we are to view all suffering on this earth as nothing in comparison to the spiritual blessings we already have and are going to receive when our Lord comes to take us home! The fact that Jesus Christ is not dead but alive and is reigning at the right hand of the Father is one reason why our deepest sorrows can be turned into unspeakable joy!
Another source of our joy can actually be found in the midst our tribulations. Because it is precisely in our weeping and lamenting, in our brokenness and sorrow, that these jars of clay come to realize their frailty and utter dependence upon their Creator. That’s a good thing.
One writer put it this way:
“It is not on the mountaintops of blessings but in the deep valleys of affliction that in drawing nearer to God we feel an unspeakable joy of His love and deliverance!”
Christians are able to be joyful, not because we lack tribulation in our lives but because in the midst of those tribulations we can clearly see how they are leading us towards spiritual maturity. As believers, we can have peace in the storms of life because He who was despised and rejected by men and acquainted with grief far more excessive than ours is alive and promises that He will not allow us to suffer any tribulation without being by right by our side.
The moment we realize this to be true is the moment when, like the disciples, our grief will be transformed into eternal and glorious joy!
The final and possibly the most exciting source of joy for a believer is the promise that in “a little while” the Lord Jesus will take us to our eternal home that He has prepared for us! If our only experience of life was in this present world, the Apostle Paul says, how wretched and miserable, and pitiful our lives would be!
But as immortal beings we live with unspeakable joy because the longest that all of our earthly sorrows can last is a lifetime!
In the book of Revelation John says that when we get to heaven God will “wipe every tear from our eyes and that there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain for the old order of things will have all passed away (21:4).”
Surely as we navigate through the trials and tribulations of this world that is “not our home”, we can find unspeakable joy in knowing that nothing, “not death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither present or future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of our God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)!
It should give us great hope to think about the fact that in “just a little while” we are going to experience the greatest joy of all – going home to live in paradise with our Lord forever!
That’s because Jesus has truly overcome this world!