Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 5, 2017
Open your Bibles to John 16:16-33. As always we have a lot of amazing things to cover in this text, so let’s jump right in.
Lay it to Heart
The wisest man ever to live, other than Jesus, was King Solomon. He wrote the book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes 7:2 he says something surprising, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”
My guess is that many of you, at first hearing, would disagree with Solomon. I would assume that if you had choice to attend a wedding or a funeral, you would prefer a wedding. Why? Because funeral’s are sad. Death is the most difficult reality for us to accept. The old saying goes, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, despite death's certainty, all of us struggle with death.
Our minds and our hearts naturally tend to reject the certainty of death. When someone dies, it feels wrong. It feels like there has been some sort of mistake. It feels like something is broken, like it shouldn’t be this way. And this brokenness produces in us a grief, a sorrow. And many of us want to avoid this uncomfortable feeling.
But Solomon would argue that we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t run from it, but we should lay it to heart. We should ponder that our days are numbered. We should think about how our lives a merely a vapor, here on moment and gone the next. All mankind should contemplate the reality that we are destined to die. Why? Because at death there is a fork in the road. One way leads to eternal joy and the other way leads to eternal weeping. Which direction you take must be decided before you get there.
The Funeral of Christ and His Disciples
In our passage today, Jesus is forcing his disciples to think deeply about death. In a sense the upper room discourse is the funeral of Christ before his death; for this is the last night that Jesus will be with the disciples. This is what Jesus means when he says in verse 16, “A little while, and you will see me no longer.” He is foretelling his future death. This is not the first time that Jesus has told them that he will be leaving them. This entire night is really just one long goodbye. And as we have seen over the last several months this leaving will not be an easy burden to bear.
These words of Jesus have produced troubled hearts in the disciples. In verse 20 Jesus tells them that his departure will cause them to weep, lament, and be sorrowful. Why? Because they love him. Jesus has become their everything. Jesus had become the air they breathe, and they can't imagine life without him. They had left jobs, their homes, and even their families and fully committed to following Jesus Christ, and in just a few hours they will see and hear about his crucifixion. It will be hard for them to wrap their heads around life without him.
However, in the upper room, Jesus is not only talking about his death, he has also spoken about their death as well. Last week in verse 2 we saw Jesus say to his disciples, “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” As we read these words it is easy for us to gloss over them. But imagine if you were in that room. These disciples knew what was at stake. They had seen and heard about the attempts to arrest and kills Jesus. If you recall, in John 11, upon Jesus telling his disciples that they would return to Judea to raise Lazarus, the disciples said, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” They knew the dangers of being in Jerusalem. However, once they saw that there was no convincing Jesus otherwise, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
And now they find themselves in the upper room in the City of Jerusalem, and Jesus is talking about their future murder. My guess is that if they weren’t paying attention, they would be now. Over the last three years, Jesus who has proven himself to be trustworthy and reliable, not he tells them that he is leaving and they will be murdered. And the way he talks about their death is by saying “the hour is coming.” Not the day is coming, or the month is coming, or the year is coming, but the hour is coming. Jesus wants them to think that at any moment their life may end.
This helps us to understand verse 32 a little, “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 told them that they will be killed. Therefore, when they eventually come and arrest Jesus, they all high tail it out of there, so as to avoid the certainty of their death.
I Have Said These Things to You
The question is why does Jesus tell his disciples all of this? Why is he such a Debbie Downer? Hadn't Jesus heard of the health and wealth prosperity Gospel? Why is he loading them down with these sorrows? This is his last night with these guys, why not get drunk and have party? Because he is the Good Shepherd and he is leading them through the valley of the shadow of death. Look at verse 33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.”
Jesus knows better than anyone that following him is not easy. He knows that being a Christian comes with a cost. He knows that this world is broken and fallen and in the midst of their sorrow the world will be rejoicing. And he knows that the best way to battle against these struggles is the Word of God. His words will be the rock in the midst of the storm that is on the horizon.
And this is not only true for the disciples in the upper room, it is true for all of us. It is a guarantee that all of us will face hardships in the future, and for many of us, this hardship will include death. Whether that be a friends death, a child's death, a spouse's death, or your death. And what we need before the tragedy hits is the words of God to give us peace.
This is why each of you should be reading your Bible daily. This is why each of you should be attending Church every Sunday. This is why each of you should be involved in a least one small group. You need to be saturated in the Word of God before the disaster hits.
I recall one time talking to someone who does not attend Cornerstone about a trial that one of our members was going through, and he said, how are they handling it. And I said, because we preach and teach about the sovereignty of God so much at Cornerstone, they are handling it amazingly well. Even though the situation was difficult, they were able to find a peace that surpasses understanding because they had anchored themselves in the Word of God prior to the storm. Was the trial difficult, yes, but it did not destroy them. They were able to whether the storm because of the Words of Christ.
Here at Cornerstone we are a broken record when it comes to studying your Bible. The reason that we encourage this is not so that you can check it off your bucket list, it is so you can live a victorious life. Verse 33 is your verse, “Jesus has said these things to you, that in Jesus you may have peace.”
Source of Peace
This however, leads to the question, what is it about these words that brings us peace? What does Jesus say to his disciples that could possibly help in the midst of knowing that everyone is that room that night is headed towards death.
Their peace comes from the words in verse 16, “and again a little while, and you will see me.” The death of Jesus is not the end of the story. Their is more. Yes, Jesus is leaving them, but they will see them again, and this seeing him again will produce, not only peace, but joy.
The disciples are struggling with what Jesus means by this. They can't wrap their heads around what Jesus might be talking about. However, we know exactly what what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about his resurrection.
Jesus will not see them for a short period. In just a few hours he will be bound and led away from their presence. As we stated earlier, each one of them will be scattered. Jesus will then be beaten, scourged, and hung upon a cross. On Friday evening he will die. They will take down his body and he will be laid in a tomb.
In the moment of the death of Jesus, it will appear as if all hope has failed. Their dreams will seem to have come crashing down. It will feel as if Jesus has lost. It will look as if the fallen world has accumulated one more victim in the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
That is until a little while...to be specific, Sunday morning.
For on Sunday morning, the sorrow of the disciples will turn to joy in the reality that Jesus Christ has risen. That Jesus of Nazareth has come back to life. Yes, the death of Christ will bring them great sorrow, but this sorrow is short lived for his death is short lived, for Jesus is alive.
But how will this be possible? How can Jesus who is fully man, die and them come back to life three days later? No one on the planet can do this? Why can Jesus do it? Look at verse 33, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The reason that death cannot hold Jesus is because Jesus has conquered. But what does this mean?
It means that Christ came from Heaven and has accomplished exactly what he set out to do. Jesus has come as the second Adam, obligated to walk in obedience with the Lord. However, unlike Adam, Jesus was perfect in every way. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. If you recall, Jesus has spoken of this reality over and over again. John 4:34, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.” John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
The reason that Jesus came to earth was to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law. Jesus achieved what we could not. We are all sinners deserving of death and Hell. The world has conquered us. But this is not true for Jesus. He has overcome the temptations of this world and lived entirely for the glory of his father. And because he lived a perfect life, the disciples would see him again.
Listen to how Peter explains it in Acts 2:23, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.25For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.” Jesus was and is the only Holy One. Because he was holy, death cannot claim him.
Therefore, this sorrow of the death of Jesus is short lived. But there is more. If you recall, Jesus has said that not only will he die, but his disciples will die as well. What about them? Does death still have a stronghold upon them?
Just a few minutes prior to his, Jesus had said these words in John 14:19, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is merely the beginning. Because he lives, those who are in Christ will live also. Because Jesus overcame the world, we also will overcome. How is this possible? Through what is called substitutionary atonement. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is why Jesus came into the world, to take our sin, and to give us his righteousness.
Therefore, if you are in Christ, if you repent and follow Jesus Christ as his disciples, death cannot hold you either. He is the first of the resurrection and we are to follow. How can we be sure of this? Because Jesus says so and because the tomb is empty. These are not just some ramblings of a crazy carpenter from Galilee. These words come from the one and only man on the planet who has raised himself from the dead.
And because of this truth, not only do we have peace, but we have joy. And Jesus tells us in verse 22, “no one will take your joy from you.” The joy we have because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a gift that is ours forever. No matter what happens in this world, we know that we are forgiven and have eternal life ahead of us, and this truth produces in us an unstoppable joy.
There are so many of you who desperately desire joy. Your heart aches for it, as it should. The problem is that you are looking for joy in places that it does not exist. You are looking for joy in your marriage, you are looking for joy in your job, your are looking for joy in the things of this world. None of those things were designed to give you joy. The source of joy is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you want joy, look to the risen Savior.
If you do this, you will be able to withstand any trial and tribulation this world may throw at you. Why? Because he lives, therefore we will live also.
“1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,c I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23)