17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”
31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
This is one of those passages where there is an awful lot packed in, for us to discover! You might find us lingering here next week, also. Let's dive in!
Many scholars and preachers refer to these chapters in John as the "Upper Room" teachings. Jesus has been trying to explain to His disciples exactly what is going to happen -- what must happen - in the coming days. He went to a lot of trouble to teach them, because He knew that there were some tough times ahead. Now, sometimes He had to tell His disciples the same things, several times. Sometimes He had to rephrase things, or put it in terms of a parable. They just had trouble understanding their Master sometimes. And this is one of those times. But once He is finished, they "get it." They finally understand. And they finally believe it.
Jesus, as fully man and fully God, knew that the disciples, those closest to Him, would suffer because of their faith. Except for Peter and John, we lose track of the disciples after the Gospel accounts in our Bibles. If we look at ancient church traditions, we see that most of the disciples continued to spread the good news, and that they paid the ultimate price. John was exiled and died of natural causes, and Peter was crucified upside down during Nero's reign of terror, according to tradition. Phillip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Andrew, and James the son of Zebedee were all martyred.
Since Jesus knew that the disciples would face trials, persecution, and death, and would experience grief and pain, He comforted them. And He comforts us, as well, when we are having problems.
I read a story about a man named Jack who was walking along a steep cliff one day, and he accidentally stepped too close to the edge -- and fell off. On the way down, he grabbed a branch, and that temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and realized that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet below him. He knew that he couldn't hang on to the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb back up that steep incline. So Jack began to yell for help. He hoped that someone passing by would hear him, and lower a rope. He yelled for hours, but no one heard him.
We often feel like Jack, no? Be honest. I know, I can see you nodding your head.
We may feel like we are just hanging onto a tiny branch, and that no one can help. Maybe it's a situation where we work; maybe it's at school, or in our family life. Perhaps we are facing difficulties that we have created ourselves, and we have this awful feeling that we are hanging to that limb all by ourselves.
We may feel like no one will ever be able to help us overcome the difficulties we are facing. But we can take comfort in one thing -- the words of Jesus -- we can know that what we need, God has.
What we need, God has. Let that rest in your thoughts for a moment. Let's look at verse 33:
"I have told you these things...."
That tells us a great deal, right there. Who told us? The God Who created this world, and the universe around it. The Almighty, powerful I AM. And He tells us a lot! God give us so much in His word. When we find ourselves in an impossible situation, we know that there is one place we can always turn to: the Bible. We can open His word for advice. No matter what we are facing, what we need, God has.
Jesus goes on in that same verse: "....so that in me you may have peace." In recent days, there has been a great deal of turmoil in our world, with senseless killings and violence that have shaken people's confidence and ability to move about and live their lives. Especially in France, there have been incidents of hatred and death. Despite all that happens in our lives, and in our world, we have hope. God offers us His peace. Peace in the midst of pain, grief, and war. What we need, God has.
Jesus also told His disciples (and us) that "in this world you will have trouble." God has peace for us, but there will be pain.
We don't want the pain, do we?
We don't want the trouble, either.
We want the peace, and the comfort. But Jesus says we will have pain. There's a quote from Charles Spurgeon, the great evangelist, saying, "I dare say that the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness."
Yep. I guess when we get right down to "brass tacks," God does not want us to waste our suffering. We learn from our mistakes, and also from pain. And God, Who knows us best, is well aware of this. We often wonder why God lets people suffer. Why does He allow pain and tragedy? We don't know for sure. If any of us knew that, we'd have gone on lecture tour, written several books, and retired as a millionaire. (Grin) I don't think that any of us knows the full and complete reasons why He allows suffering. The reasons may be different in each situation. But what we do know is that He does allow it, and that through the suffering we can mature.
I've heard it called the ABC's of spiritual growth: Adversity Builds Character. We'll look at this more, next time that we study. I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to go there alone -- I hope you will join me!