John 16:25-33 | The Lows and High of Faith | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 16:25–16:33
We come to the final section, as I mentioned in my prayer, of chapter 16.
Next week we go into what some have called the greatest prayer ever prayed, and I know that Jesus Christ prays for his people all the time, so maybe we can say it’s the greatest prayer ever recorded—the high priestly prayer of Jesus. Jesus prays for himself, the world, and he actually prays for us in John 17. It’s one of the high points of Scripture—I know they’re all high points—but one of the great passages of Scripture, and we’ll spend some time in John 17, taking out of it all that we can see for the glory of Christ. So that’s starting next week, Lord willing.
This week we end the section that we’re calling “Disciples of Jesus in the World.” Disciples of Jesus in the world. And Jesus is preparing his disciples to go out into the world without him physically, but with him spiritually, present in their lives by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
And we know, if you’ve been part of this study in John or if you know the Gospel of John, you know that Jesus doesn’t simply try to sugar coat what it means to follow him. He doesn’t simply say, if you follow me, all your hopes and dreams will come true, you’ll hit more home runs, you’ll never have a car accident, you’ll never get sick. Nothing like that will ever happen if you truly have enough faith in me. Jesus doesn’t say that.
Jesus lays out what exactly life will be like if we follow him, and he says things like, in this life you will have much trouble; you’ll have much tribulation. He acknowledges the disciples have sorrow. But he always brings it around to something that they can hope in, ultimately the fact that he is an overcomer; he is a conqueror. And we’ll see that in today’s section. I’ve entitled this section or this passage, “The Lows and High of Faith.”
Please follow along as I read.
I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father." His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God." Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 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.
The first one was built in America in 1884. It was built in Coney Island—or on Coney Island, whichever preposition you prefer. It was called the Switchback Railway. Do you know what it was? It was a roller coaster. It was a roller coaster. It went six miles per hour. Exhilarating. Six miles per hour, and cost a nickel to ride. Nowadays, roller coasters can go over one hundred miles per hour, and if you’re a parent of young kids you know that they cost an arm and a leg to ride. The roller coaster.
The roller coaster is famous, and it’s become a term that we’ve given to even people who maybe have emotions that fluctuate. They’re an emotional roller coaster. Ups and downs. Sideways. Left, right. Emotional roller coaster.
And you see a little bit of the disciples being an emotional roller coaster at the end of this section, and even in the section beyond. Peter—I would die for you. Shortly after, someone says, weren’t you with him? I don’t know him. Emotional roller coaster.
If we’re honest, our faith can often look like a roller coaster, and that’s what this passage shows. The disciples have faith like a roller coaster. And I would say, at some point in time, all disciples of Jesus have faith like a roller coaster. Sometimes it’s wonderful. Sometimes it’s downhill; sometimes it’s uphill. Sometimes it’s shaky; sometimes it’s firm and solid.
This morning, we’re going to see in this passage three variations of faith in the life of a disciple. Three variations. One time you’re going one way, and then a variation. You go another way. Three variations of faith in the life of a disciple.
1. Informed Faith
First, the first variation of faith we see in verses 25 to 30 is informed faith. This is good. Informed faith. Disciples of Jesus progressively understand more and more about his ways, and we see that happening with these disciples in the upper room.
Verse 25: Jesus says, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech.” So I’ve said these things. What are the “these things?” Well, the whole upper room discourse that we’ve seen from John 13 here to John 16. I’ve said these things to you about loving one another, serving one another. I’ve said these things to you about trusting that the Holy Spirit will come and indwell you. I’ve said these things to you about the fact that you’ll have sorrow for a certain time, but then you’ll have joy. I’ve said all of these things to you in figures of speech.
“The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” And like much of prophecy, there are really multiple fulfillments of this, because in just a couple sentences he’s gonna tell them things, and they’re gonna say, ah! Now you’re speaking plainly. Now we understand. But even later on in Acts 2 when the Spirit comes upon them, they really understand what the Father is doing, and they start preaching it. So in a sense there are multiple fulfillments of this prophecy that Jesus is giving.
But he’s saying, “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf.” So he’s saying, in that day you will ask things of the Father, and I’m telling you, I’m not gonna ask the Father for you. That’s what Jesus is saying.
What does he mean by that? So is Jesus not going to pray for the disciples? This is kind of the end of his prayers for the disciples? But what about Hebrews 7:25, saying that he lives to make intercession for us. What about Revelation 12 that says that he prays for us day and night? So what’s he saying here?
Well, Jesus is saying that you have access to the Father, based on what I’ve done, in my name. You don’t need to pray to me because you can’t get to the Father. You can pray directly to the Father. He’s not saying that he won’t ever pray for them, but he is saying that they don’t need him to pray for them because they can’t reach the Father on their own. That’s the idea.
If you think of the Father as being in heaven doing this [arms folded, frowning], and Jesus is the nice one that kind of talks the Father into loving you, you don’t have an accurate picture of the Father. The Father and the Son love the children of the Father.
And Jesus is highlighting their access to the Father. You have access to the Father. And you have access—while not needing me to get to the Father because he doesn’t listen to you, you have access to the Father because of me, because of what I’ve done. But you can talk directly to him.
That’s why we end our prayers, “In Jesus’ name.” It’s not something that you have to say or it doesn’t work, but you have to understand what you’re saying there. I have access to you, Father, because of your Son. I can speak directly to you. I pray what I’ve just prayed in his name, because of the access I have in him.
But we can speak directly to the Father. That’s why when the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, he tells them to address the Father. Address the Father.
Verse 27. Why can they do this? “[F]or the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” The Father will listen to the disciples. The Father will listen to you if you are in Christ. The Father will listen to you, not because he’s there with arms folded and a frown and the Son talks him into it; the Father will listen to you because the Father himself loves you. Not only does the Son love you, not only did Jesus come to die for you because he loved you, but the Father in heaven loves those who believe in his Son.
2 Corinthians 13:14—it’s the final verse in 2 Corinthians, and Paul signs off and gives this benediction to the Corinthian believers. This is what he wants them to hear. After all thirteen chapters he’s written to them, this is what he wants them to hear and know as they move forward and live life. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God [speaking of the Father] and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
The New Testament isn’t a story just about Jesus loving sinners and dying for them; the New Testament is also about God the Father loving them. God the Father loves them, so he sends his Son who loves them to die for them. We are—Christians are—in a constant love relationship with the Father and the Son. That’s what we are. We have access to the Father. We have access to the Father.
The Father will not only listen to them because he loves them, but he also, we learn, will listen to them because they’ve believed that Jesus came from God. We’ve learned this in John. If you don’t accept the Son, you don’t accept the Father. If you don’t have the Son, Jesus Christ, you don’t have God, no matter what the society today would want to tell you. There is one way to God. I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.
So when the Father sends his Son and sends his Son to die, the Father is basically sending a message. I’m sending him to die; you must believe in him. I’m sending you salvation from heaven in him. And as we believe in him, the Father says, you are in my Son. I love you. I love my Son.
So the Father loves us because we love the Son. And notice in 1 John we also learn that we love him because he first loved us. That’s another topic for another day. But the Father loves those who love his Son, according to this passage here.
There is one Savior sent from heaven. The Father has given grace. We’ve said this before: The question isn’t, why is there only one way? The statement really should be, oh my goodness, there is a way to heaven. And the Father has sent that way which is, namely, his Son, Jesus Christ.
So the Son is saying, “[T]he Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” You’ve trusted that I have come to bring salvation to the world. You’ve staked your life on that truth.
Verse 28. Jesus now summarizes his earthly mission, and he says this: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” Jesus basically summarizes his earthly mission. I’ve come down from heaven. I lived a perfect life. I’ve come into the world. And now I’m going back to the Father. I’m leaving the world and going back to the Father.
You notice in the second part of that verse, “now I am leaving the world and going to the Father,” he basically wraps up his crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension all in one statement. I’m now leaving the world and going to the Father.
Jesus knew he would be raised again. He knew that he would conquer the grave. He says, I’m leaving the world and going to the Father. He knew about the crucifixion, he knew that he would be buried, he knew that he would rise again, and he knew that he would ascend to heaven. That’s why he can be so confident when the disciples are so sorrowful.
Verse 29: “His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!’” I was reading one commentator that said, all throughout the gospels, all throughout the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the disciples are confused. They’re just always confused. They don’t understand what he’s saying; they misunderstand what he’s saying; they don’t think about the Old Testament that he’s reciting from. They’re a confused group. And so this verse is a unique verse in the gospel accounts. It’s unique. Ah, now we get it, after all these years, is the idea. Now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech.
Remember earlier last section, last week, we learned that they were saying, why is he saying in a little while you won’t see me but then in a little while you will, and what does he mean by the fact that he’s going back to the Father? They didn’t understand. Now they’re listening to him talk, and they’re understanding more and more and more. That’s what we’re learning here.
Verse 30: “Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” So in just a matter of verses, you go from confused and sad disciples to, aha, this is why we trust you.
Sometimes that looks a little bit like our life. I don’t get it; I’m sad; I don’t know what he’s doing; I don’t understand. We read more of Jesus’ words, and we go, ah. I get it. This is why I trust you, Lord. We’re just like the disciples here. The more we hear him speak, the more clear we understand him, and the more we can trust him.
There are a number of great confessions in the book of John. Nathaniel gives a great confession early on in John 1 about who Jesus is. The man who was healed of blindness in John 9 gives a great confession about Jesus. The disciples in John 6, the ones who don’t reject him but remain with him, give a great confession of following him. Here’s another one—the disciples giving a great confession of what they believe about Christ.
What do they believe about Christ based on verse 30? Well here’s what they believe: That he knows everything. Now that’s a big deal. Because in Jewish culture at that time—not just Jewish culture, Roman culture as well—when you knew everything, when someone claimed to know everything, you immediately ascribed to them deity. You know all things.
So they are saying, if you understand the culture at that time, we know that you’re from God. We know that you are deity because you know all things. You came from God; you were here; you’re going back to God. You know all things. This is why we believe that you came from God. That’s what they’re saying.
So understanding Jesus’ words is crucial to the strengthening of their faith. Do you see that here? Do you see how when they’re confused, they’re sad, but when they know things, all of a sudden these great statements about their faith? That’s what happening here. As they know, they grow more firm and solid. That’s the idea.
What about you? Do you want to stand for Christ? Do you want to be firm in your convictions? Do you want to walk worthy of him? Do you want to please him? Then know him, understand him, understand who he is, understand what he says.
Listen to the prayer of Paul for the Colossians:
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you [What do Paul and his associates pray for the Colossians?], asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9-10)
That’s what Jesus wants for his disciples in the upper room. You walk in a manner worthy of me. You walk in a way that pleases me. You bear fruit. We know he wants that because of John 15. He wants that for his disciples. How does that come? By knowing what he says and trusting what he says and understanding what he says.
It’s the same thing for us. If you want to grow as a believer, be faithful as a believer, you will be increasing in the knowledge of him that is given in Scripture. To not be learning more about him is to fail to grow. To learn more about him is to put yourself in a place where you can grow.
I would say, by way of application, two words: Learn and change. Learn and change. I didn’t say learn and stay the same. I said learn and change.
The Pharisees learned and did not change. Actually, they did change. They became more and more conceited. So learn and humbly change. When you read your Bible, understand there is something for me to learn and change. That will always be true until heaven. There’s always a way for us to grow, always a way for us to be different.
If I had to ask you what areas of being a disciple of Christ do you need to grow in, could you name one? Or would it take you a few days? Ah, I think I got this thing wired. Like, that’s a great question. I don’t know! Don’t be that guy or gal. Learn and change.
D. L. Moody said, “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge, but to change our lives.” It’s a great statement. I might amend it just a tad. The Bible was given to increase our knowledge so that it would change our lives. So that it would change our lives.
Read the Bible humbly. Read the Bible, not just for more information so you could teach a Bible study. Read the Bible, not just so you can pass a test. Read the Bible, not so that you would know more than other people. Read the Bible and let it read you so that you can humbly change as a follower of Christ, humbly grow as a follower of Christ.
This is a good part of our faith, to hear what he says and to respond humbly. That’s what the disciples are doing here. They have an informed faith. They’re learning, and they’re growing.
2. Intimidated Faith
Sometimes our faith is informed and strong. But (verse 31) at other times, we possess a shaky faith, or you can say an intimidated faith. Here’s one of the lows of faith.
Verses 31-32. After a lofty confession of trust in Christ, Jesus brings them back to reality. Disciples sometimes struggle to be faithful. That’s not a newsflash for us. It’s a reality. Disciples sometimes struggle to be faithful.
So they’ve just said this: We know that you know all things, and that’s why we trust in you. Let’s go, guys! That’s the idea here. Jesus, in response to that, says, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.”
Jesus has a way of doing this a lot. The disciples make this great claim. I’ll follow you wherever you go! Really? Foxes have holes. Birds of the air have nests. I’ve got nowhere to lay my head. You’re gonna follow me because you think I’m the Messiah; you think following me leads to you sleeping in a palace. Well, first it leads to you sleeping on the ground. You really say you want to follow me.
Good teacher, I’ll follow you wherever you go. First let me go bury my father, receive the inheritance, be secure, and then I’ll go wherever you want me to. Leave the dead to bury their dead. You follow me.
Lord, we know that you know all things. This is why we trust in you. You trust in me now, but soon—actually now—you’ll all be scattered.
Jesus does this a lot in the gospels. Jesus is not impressed with how great we say our faith is. He’s not impressed by statements. He’s not impressed by our great faith-showing tweets. Wow, look what he tweeted to all of his twelve followers! He’s got great faith! Jesus is not impressed by that. Jesus knows what reality is.
Now there’s a debate here. People wonder, is Jesus actually asking them, so do you now believe? Or is he saying, you now believe, but behold, the hour is coming when you’ll be scattered. Either way, he’s saying the same thing. He’s identifying the fact that they make this great claim now, but very soon they won’t be walking the talk. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Remember chapter 13, verse 38? Jesus tells them earlier that one of them will betray him. Peter says this: “Lord [verse 37], why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Verse 38: “Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.’”
Jesus does not need you and I to tell him that we will be awesome for him all the time. He does not need that. Jesus is not impressed by your claims of I’ll never do that again. I actually don’t think Jesus believes that. He’s not impressed by that. Jesus is a realist. He knows what your faith is like. He knows what my faith is like.
He tells them what they’ll do. You say you’ll die with me, Peter. You say you guys believe in me because I know all things. You say that you trust me. They’ve probably compared themselves at some point to the people who left him in John 6. And he tells them, “the hour is coming, indeed it has come”—so there’s gonna be a time, and actually it’s here now—“when you will be scattered.” After this, Jesus would pray for his disciples. Then he would go with them to the Garden of Gethsemane, and he would be arrested, and they would all leave. They would all leave and go home, or at least to where they were staying at the time in Jerusalem.
Yet he says, “I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” Jesus Christ will make a great name for himself even if the nations of the world leave him. He will make a great name for himself. He does not need man; he’s got the plan of his Father. And by the way, the plan of his Father is to save a remnant of his people who will worship and follow our Lord.
But Jesus does not, in a sense, need these twelve disciples. If they all leave, the Father is with him. Some of you might be thinking, well, didn’t the Father abandon him on the cross? Mark tells us that. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). So which one’s right? John or Mark? Yes. They’re both right. They’re both right.
Mark is talking about Jesus taking our curse for us and the abandonment of the Father in that sense. John is talking about the overall mission of God. This was God’s plan for his Son, and he is with his Son in this plan. That’s why when the Father did abandon the Son for that time on the cross, he then raised him up again, and now, according to Philippians 2, he seats him on the throne that is higher than any other throne and gives him the name that’s above any other name. The Father is definitely with the Son.
So Mark and John are highlighting two different things. But John is saying, Jesus’ mission is secure in the Father. The Father’s not going anywhere from the Son. This is the Father’s plan; the Son is executing it. Even if men will leave him, even if those who say they’re faithful leave him, Jesus is in the hands of his Father. As Henry Morris says, “The two evangelists [Mark and John] are speaking about different things.”
Here’s the sobering reality: Disciples of Jesus Christ are not always faithful. They struggle. They doubt. They become fearful of obeying him, even after great feats of faith.
You remember this with Elijah, conquering the prophets of Baal—this high moment. I mean, they soaked that altar and Elijah calls down fire from heaven, and it comes and consumes the sacrifice. Great feat of faith! Next chapter—he’s depressed, hiding in a cave, and doesn’t want to go on. Elijah’s just like us. Just like us. Wavering faith.
Hendrickson said, “The Master does not in any way deny the presence of genuine faith in the hearts of his friends, but he stresses the imperfect character of that faith.” Now listen, I said to you Jesus is not impressed with your claims of great faith; that does not mean faith is unimportant to Jesus. Jesus knows that their faith is a real faith, but he also knows it’s not a perfect faith. So it’s not perfect, but it is real.
Peter really did trust in Christ, and he had a low moment. And then what did Jesus do in John 21? We’ll see this, but you can read ahead if you like. It’ll take a while to get there. Jesus restored Peter back to himself. Peter did have real faith, but when Peter thought of his faith he often thought of it as perfect faith. It wasn’t perfect, but it was real.
And this is what’s happening here. The disciples have real faith. They think very highly of it; Jesus doesn’t think very highly of it, but he does know that it’s a real faith.
We’re the same way—vulnerable to temptation, being able to be intimidated. And this is ultimately why they would have those low moments. This is ultimately why they would be unfaithful for a time. Because of the threat of the world. They were afraid of the world. Peter was afraid of the world when he denied Christ. They were fearful. These were fearful men.
When the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, they left. They were afraid of that police force. Only John and some of the female disciples were there at the cross. The other disciples left, evidently. They were afraid, intimidated. Their faith was at one point informed and strong, and now intimidated and weak.
You remember Timothy in Ephesus. We know that Timothy was a fearful man. Paul sent him to Ephesus to pastor that church, and evidently he was a young man. So this young man, who perhaps didn’t know this people very well, is there to tell them what the Lord would have them do. And you can see the older folks in the room going, we’ll just see about you, young whippersnapper. We might vote you out of here if you don’t say the things that we want to hear.
And Paul writes to Timothy and says this: (2 Timothy 1:7) “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” He says that based on verse 6 to say, Timothy, you fulfill your ministry. Timothy, you do the job. I don’t know what Timothy’s letter said to Paul. Maybe Timothy’s said, I think I’m done here. I need to go to a different church. I’m gonna step out of the ministry. Whatever it may be. And Paul said, you fulfill your ministry, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear [that does not come from God] but of power and love and self-control.”
Saul—King Saul, chosen to be king, anointed as king, the king that Israel wanted. Handsome. Tall. The people wanted Saul. It’s time to announce him to the people, and he’s hiding behind the luggage. True story. They fly him in to have this great coronation ceremony, and at the airport he’s stuck in baggage claim, hiding behind the little thing that turns the luggage. Where is he? Where is he? Where is he? That’s Saul.
Now here’s the beautiful picture of that. Israel wanted a king. They wanted a human king. They wanted a king like the rest of the nations, and the Lord wanted them to view him as their king. But we want a man! So the first one, the tall and handsome one—yes, yes, like that! Tall and handsome! Hiding. Fearful.
What does that show us? There’s no king like one that would come later. Jesus here in John 16 is about to die, and he’s not hiding behind luggage. He’s going to set his face and go to the cross, be executed, and receive glory. He is the King that Israel needs. He is the King that every nation needs. Jesus Christ. Not the fearful; the bold.
Now, I think in your head, all of you are nodding yes. He’s our King. But here in John 16, he’s telling his disciples, you have that same boldness. Ooh. I don’t know. Have you ever prayed, Jesus, show yourself to be great in America? I wonder if you’ve ever prayed a prayer like that. Maybe the way the Lord determines to do that is for you to speak out on behalf of him and to receive criticism for it. That’s what the disciples would do. Jesus is teaching them this truth. He is the bold, conquering King who will overcome, and they are supposed to view themselves the same way—the overcomers, even in the face of persecution and fear.
It’s interesting if you read the book of Isaiah—Isaiah 2, end of 2 or so, end of 2 to 4—you see God judging the nation of Judah for their unfaithfulness. One of the things God does in judging a nation is he takes away capable leaders. Takes them away.
Isaiah 2 says that young boys will be ruling over them. No one wants to lead. And in Isaiah 2-4, you see people afraid to lead. They don’t want to lead. It’s a judgment on a people that there are no strong, capable, willing-to-say-the-hard-things leaders. It’s a judgment on people. A judgment on nations.
And Jesus here is the King of kings and Lord of lords, and he’s telling his timid fisherman friends, his timid former tax collector friends, his timid former terrorist friends, that they need to trust in him even though there’s tribulation because he’s overcome the world. He overcomes the persecution that they’ll experience. Jesus is trying to put steel in the bones of his disciples, and they are intimidated, just like we are prone to be.
Brothers and sisters, is this not a time for people who love and trust Christ to stand up and say it? This is the time. Different than ten years ago, this is the time. And it will cost us popularity. For a long time, American Christians have been free from much criticism or persecution. Not lately and not anymore. You know what we appear to be coming into? Not an abnormal situation. Actually a biblically normal situation where the world actually does hate what we stand for and who we stand for. It’s not a time to shut our mouths. It’s a time to proclaim Christ.
We are a fearful people. We need to acknowledge that before the Lord. We love comfort. We do. We love comfort. We love being well thought of by people who don’t love our Lord. We like that they think well of us. We like that they don’t maybe know all that we actually believe. We like that we’re popular to some of them. Those are not Christian virtues—popularity with the world.
I would encourage you to give up popularity as an idol and refuse to be intimidated. This is a time for humble, loving, and confident Christians who refuse to be intimidated because we have the indwelling Holy Spirit inside of us. The same one that conquered death and his enemies is the same one who lives inside of us.
3. Victorious Faith
Finally, we come to the aspect of faith that the Lord would have be our default. The Lord would want us to kind of rest in this aspect of our faith. Yes, we have informed faith; we have intimidated faith. And you’re looking for a third i; you’re not gonna get it this morning. We have victorious faith. Informed, intimidated, and victorious. If you can think of an i synonym with victorious, then wonderful.
Victorious faith. Amazingly—this is amazing--amazingly, while Jesus shows them their weak faith in the face of persecution, he does not abandon them but seeks to communicate peace to them.
Now notice what he’s just said in 32 and what he’s going to say in 33. Verse 32: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.”
Do you remember back in chapter 14 when Jesus said, I will not leave you alone? Jesus tells them, I will not leave you alone. You know what their response to that is? They’re gonna be afraid for their own lives, so they leave him alone.
Listen to the beauty of the gospel. Instead of saying, that’s it; I’m done with you; your faith wasn’t strong enough; Jesus says, “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.” He says, you’ll leave me alone, and then he communicates peace to them, not judgment.
You know what this tells me? In my times of shaky and unfaithful faith, I need to hear him communicating peace to me. I need to remember his forgiveness. I need to remember the cross that he died upon which forgives me of my unfaithfulness. I need to hear him speaking peace to me. This is what Jesus does for his own.
When you’ve got an unfaithful child who doesn’t obey you, you don’t leave them. Because you love them. They’re yours. Unfaithful, yes. But yours.
The disciples are unfaithful, and he tries to communicate peace to them. They will go through discipline. They will go through evident depression. They did not appear to be happy people in the time between this point and his appearing and his resurrection. They were struggling. Evidently they were considering going back to their former way of life. That would have been a horrendous time for a disciple. Some of you know that time as a disciple of Christ. And Jesus restores them to himself.
This is a victorious faith. Jesus says, “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.” He told them that they will abandon him, and in the next breath he tells them that they will have peace.
This is the last thing Jesus says to his disciples in the upper room discourse before he prays for them. This is the last thing he says. We’ve gone for months through this account, John 13-16. This is the last thing he says. They will have tribulation.
And tribulation here is spoken of as the idea of persecution. They will have trouble from the world. They will have persecution, tribulation, and their response is not to hang their heads, is not to go home. Their response—he actually commands them to do something in their tribulation—the response is to take heart.
What does it mean to take heart? To be marked by confident assurance. John, when you share the gospel with your mother-in-law and she criticizes you, take heart. Thomas, when you go and talk to your neighbors about me as the way to the Father and they threaten to kill you, take heart. Be marked by confident assurance. This is what he’s telling his disciples.
The world’s going to hate you; you will have tribulation. Have confident assurance. Stand for me. That’s what Jesus is communicating to his disciples. He’s telling them that they can overcome because he is an overcomer. Take heart; I have overcome the world.
Now, again, now you know why Paul tells the Corinthians that if our only glory is in the fact that Jesus died for our sins, then we’re to be pitied more than anybody else. That’s not good news. The good news is that Jesus died for our sins, and he rose again. It actually works with the Father. He actually validates that sacrifice. There’s actually eternal life coming for those who believe on the Son. That’s good news. So Jesus can say, I’m gonna be arrested and I’m gonna die. Take heart; I’ve overcome the world. He rose again. He rose again.
That’s why Stephen could die the way he did in Acts 7. That’s why Stephen could die the way he did. That’s why all the disciples, based on what history tells us about their deaths, can die the way they did. The disciples died confident.
You know what the disciples did? They obeyed this final command in the upper room. They took heart. Some of them took heart on a cross, upside down. They took heart. Some of them took heart being beheaded. They took heart. They stood assured and confident. This is a victorious faith.
Notice this, glory in this: Neither a believer’s temporary faithlessness nor the world’s persecution can take away our peace. I want you to hear that. Neither your temporary faithlessness nor the world’s persecution can take away our peace. Peter—temporarily faithless. Peter—persecuted. Peter—at peace. Nothing can take that away.
Turn if you will to Romans 8. Jesus does not only communicate to his disciples that they will have tribulation, that they will be hated by the world; that’s a message for us today. They’ll hate us because they hate him. They’ll do all sorts of things to us because they did all sorts of things to him. Let Romans 8:31-39 be a comfort to you in times of tribulation.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." [That’s how the world views us, that they should kill us, that we’re not worth anything, that we should be slaughtered. That’s how the world views us.] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s where we go. That’s where we go when we become unpopular because we hold to the things that we hold to. That’s where we go. That’s where we go when you seek to love someone and show them the way back to the Father through Jesus the Son and they hate you for it. That’s where we go. We are more than conquerors. We don’t just conquer; we really conquer.
Do you actually believe what you believe about Christ? This is why Christians should inherently be optimistic. If you’re a pessimist and a Christian, repent of your pessimism, because you only see the bad now and not the glorious future. Jesus isn’t allowing his disciples to be pessimistic.
I think there was more to the upper room discourse. Normally those meals lasted for hours; you can read it in just a matter of minutes. I don’t know what else he said in that, but maybe as he’s going through the upper room discourse, it might have been something like, guys, take heart; I’ve overcome the world. Ah, ah, Thomas, get your head up! Pick your head up. Jesus is an optimistic savior because he actually defeated sin and death.
So for Christians to walk around going, man, this place is a mess. Don’t let people hear you say that. Because they might not think that you actually believe that he’s the conqueror or that he’s the coming redeemer. Or, they might not think that you actually think that he even now in this mess is doing new things and redeeming people and converting people.
Yes, this place is a mess, but I know that people are being saved in this mess and out of this mess. This world is a mess, and I was part of it. And when I was nineteen years old, he saved me. Jesus is at work. This world is a mess, and people are being converted in Nicaragua. This world is a mess, and people here are growing in Christ and being strengthened in their faith. Yes, this world is a mess, but he overcame the grave and he makes all things new. We are not allowed to be pessimistic.
Russell Moore says this in his book Onward—and I would encourage you to read the book Onward—Russell Moore says this:
We are not the voice of the past of the Bible Belt to a post-Christian culture of how good things used to be. We are the voice of the future, of the coming kingdom of God. The message of the kingdom is not, “You kids, get off our lawn.” The message of the kingdom is, “Make way for the coming of the Lord.”
That’s us! This is what we believe. Yes, CNN and Fox News don’t look great. Yes, we don’t start clapping when we watch the news. But we believe in a Savior who conquered the grave and says he’s coming again, and in the meantime he’s going to be saving people. That’s what we believe. Do your neighbors know that that’s what you believe? Or do they see you frowning? Oh, for more of Jesus in our hearts.
Disciples are informed, and they have faith. Sometimes the disciples have intimidated faith. But disciples always have a victorious faith.
Thomas Cranmer was a bishop in England. He was a Protestant—and he was a Protestant and in those times, depending on who was on the throne the nation was either Protestant or Roman Catholic—he was a Protestant at a time that there was a Protestant leader. So he was kind of okay. He had an informed faith. He knew what the Roman Catholic Church taught about salvation and a number of other things, and he rejected that, and he was informed in the Scripture, and he trusted Christ. He had an informed faith.
And then, Mary came to the throne. We know her as Bloody Mary—Roman Catholic ruler who executed hundreds of Protestants. Bloody Mary came to the throne, and Cranmer was forced to recant and to give testimony to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church was the only true church. Cranmer did so. He recanted his faith. This is an evidence of Cranmer having intimidated faith. Listen to what he says:
I, Thomas Cranmer, late archbishop of Canterbury do renounce, abhor, and detest all manner of heresies [he’s talking about Protestantism] and errors of Luther and Zwingli, and all other teachings which are contrary to sound and true doctrine. And I believe most constantly in my heart, and with my mouth I confess one holy and Catholic Church [capital C] visible, without which there is no salvation; and therefore I acknowledge the Bishop of Rome to be supreme head on earth, whom I acknowledge to be the highest bishop and pope, and Christ’s vicar, unto whom all Christian people ought to be subject.
That was a weak point in the life of Cranmer’s faith. Cranmer was so hated by Mary that even though he said what she wanted him to say, she still determined that he should be executed by fire at the stake.
When you executed someone by fire back then for heresy, you would preach a sermon beforehand against what they had taught. During the sermon prior to the execution, Cranmer was seen weeping before the Lord. Weeping. He was crushed. He was allowed to speak one final time, and nobody expected that he would actually recant his recanting. But that’s what he did. He said:
And now I come to the great thing which so much troubles my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be; and that is, all such bills or papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire it shall first be burned.
When Cranmer came to the fire, he stuck his hand in the fire, and just before dying he said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Cranmer is just like us. Seasons of informed faith, going through life and being a disciple of Christ, and then a weak point of faith. And then he comes back to what he believes. The victorious faith. Cranmer is just like Peter, he’s just like James, he’s just like John, he’s just like you, he’s just like me.
Today is a day where the world needs to see the disciples of Christ who actually trust him in the face of adversity. Today is a day for biblical, committed, bold, serious, tough, humble, dependant, and victorious faith. Let’s pray.
Father, in trials great and small, allow us to remember that we are more than conquerors because we are in your Son who conquered death. Lord, I’m sure we all need strength, encouragement, fortification. Holy Spirit, preach to us what we say we believe. Preach to us what we know to be true based on the testimony of Scripture.
Lord, let us be lights in the world, pointing to the Savior of the world. Let us love the world, those in it. Let us love them by showing them the only Savior for them. And Father, some will hear our message and consider it a sweet aroma, and some will hear it and believe that it is a foul odor. Strengthen us. Give us love. Give us trust. Give us understanding. It’s in your name we pray. Amen.
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