John 16:31-33

31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 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. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 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.”

Theme:

“Take Heart; Christ has Overcome the World”

            Dear fellow redeemed,

            How would you describe this present time? Because we live in a world broken by sin, we live in a world that has many hardships and hurts. Our present situation with COVID-19, and how it is being handled, is a dramatic reminder of this. It would certainly be legitimate to call this present time a time of “tribulation.” The word Jesus uses in our text for “tribulation” is used in Scripture to describe the sufferings of the end-times. It is used of the trouble and distress that God’s people experience in the world as Christ’s return ever draws closer, but in this text Christ also comforts us in the midst of such tribulation. Take heart; Christ has overcome the world.

            Jesus had often used imagery in speaking to His disciples and the crowds but the time for that was ending. Once Jesus had completed all of His work, then all would be brought to light and spoken of plainly. The time was coming to reveal all in direct terms. We think of how Jesus did this after His resurrection with the two Emmaus disciples.

            On this evening, shortly before His arrest, Jesus was speaking in such direct terms. “His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!’” They confessed that Jesus is divine – “you know all things” – and that He is the Son of God – “we believe that you came from God.” They believed in Jesus but they would still struggle with confusion; only at Pentecost do we see that confusion completely resolved.

            So Jesus both acknowledged their faith and warned them that they were yet weak and very much prone to confusion. “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.” When Jesus was arrested, they abandoned Him. They looked to their own interests. They were scattered by the hostile power of Satan.

            Such weakness pulls at our sinful flesh as well. The disciples reacted to tribulation by physically fleeing away from Jesus. They were fearful and distraught and rather than looking to Jesus they looked to self-interest. Fear of the soldiers led them to run. Despairing of victory in Jesus led them to be distraught. When we face tribulation, we are prone to fleeing Jesus in those two ways: fear and despair.

            Fear. There is much to cause fear in this world. Maybe you have been fearful as you have read accounts of the horrific suffering and death that COVID-19 can cause. Maybe you have been fearful as you have seen the crushing financial implications of economic shut-downs. Maybe you have been fearful as you have experienced restrictions put on you by various officials.

            Despair. There is much to damage hope in this world. Maybe you have at times lost sight of the hope we have in Christ. Have you ever felt like giving up in the midst of all this? Have you fallen into the gloominess, listlessness, anxiety, or despondency of despair as you have been affected in various ways by the tribulations of this present virus?

            Such things in our lives are sin. When we have committed such sins we have fled from Christ to something else. We’ve made something else our god. If bad medical advice has made us fearful or despairing, then we have made good medical advice our god. If financial hardship has made us fearful or despairing, then we have made financial prosperity our god. If corrupt politicians have made us fearful or despairing, then we have made faithful politicians our god.

            The disciples fled from Jesus in the garden, but Jesus was not alone. “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” This comment of Jesus is quite interesting. Upon the cross, the Father turned His love away from His Son. He turned all His anger at our sin upon the Son. This is why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And yet, the Father remained faithful to His Son and His mission.

            You see, this was the willing plan of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father would willingly sacrifice His own Son for you. The Son would willingly be the sacrifice for you. The Holy Spirit is willingly sent to give you faith in this Jesus.

            First, the Father sent the Son to live for you. Jesus faced tribulations. He experienced the physical problems of life, He experienced the struggles of making a living, and He experienced the short-comings and evil of politicians. Through it all, He never sinned. He never was fearful or despairing. His joy and confidence remained fully intact and perfectly placed in His heavenly Father. His perfect life covers your sinful life.

            Second, the Father sent the Son to die for you. You are at peace with God. Justified through faith in Jesus, God is not angry at you. God’s anger was poured out upon His Son instead. Christ Jesus has born the full punishment for all of your sin. Your sins are forgiven. God’s wrath is appeased. In Christ, you are loved and forgiven by God.

So hear again what Jesus said, “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.” Jesus has defeated the power of evil. Jesus bore our sin and did away with it. Jesus rose again conquering death. Jesus rules over the world as King. Jesus will return to establish the new heavens and new earth where everything will be perfect for God’s people.

            In this world, you will have sorrows, trails, and troubles. They will be severe. This life will never be free from such things. However, Jesus’ victory on the cross assures us of eternal life. There is peace between you and God because Christ has paid for your sins. Eternal life is waiting for you because Jesus won that for you. The empty tomb is the proof of His victory. It is certain just as it was already certain even before Jesus went to the cross. “I have overcome the world.” Therefore, take heart, have courage, bear trouble, because Christ has overcome the world.

            This world is sinful and so there is tribulation. There is sickness and death. There is scarcity and want. There is persecution of the truth. But Christ has overcome. The risen Christ will raise your body to perfect health and life on the last day. The risen Christ will usher you into paradise where there is no opposition or oppression of God’s people. The risen Christ will bring about the new heavens and new earth when He returns which will be as Eden was – no want or lack. Christ by His life, death, and resurrection has defeated all the powers of evil. All will be made right.

            We certainly are concerned about such earthly things as good medical advice, having the finances to support ourselves and our families, and having just rulers. To connect this to the first part of our Gospel Lesson today (John 16:23-30), through Christ we have access to the Father in prayer. We take all our needs to our loving Father. We pray in Jesus’ name, meaning that we pray through faith in Jesus and ask in connection with God’s good and gracious will. Pray for good medical advice and care. Pray for daily bread for yourself and your family. Pray for just politicians.

            As you pray for these things, do so with an eternal mindset. Leave the results to God. Trust God’s will. Trust that God will work everything for you good. Trust that all will be made right in eternity. Be comforted that your eternal possessions are secure and they are the most important things. Good earthly health, economy, and leaders profit nothing if we have not Christ. Poor earthly health, economy, and leaders cannot hurt us if we have Christ. No virus can erase your name from the Lamb’s book of life. No economic depression can deplete your treasure in heaven. No politician can take away your freedom in God’s kingdom.

            “The new heavens and new earth” is how Scripture describes our eternity after Jesus returns and raises all believers. It is a title for the Kingdom of Glory, paradise, everlasting life in heaven. God will restore things to how they were in the Garden of Eden. That is your true home. This earth is passing away… that kingdom will never pass away. This earth will disappoint you. Don’t base your hope on it. That kingdom will never disappoint you. Base your hope on Jesus and His eternal kingdom.

            As you wait for entrance into that perfect kingdom, Christ Jesus is your Divine Physician who takes care of your soul. Satan attacks you. The unbelieving world attacks you. The results of sin, things like sickness and sadness and hardships, attack you. Jesus sustains you. Today He sustains you with the medicine of His own body and blood. Here is what won your place in the new heavens and new earth; here is what strengthens your faith in the One that brings you into the new heavens and the new earth. Here is medicine that is perfectly life-giving for those who receive it in faith. Come and receive the antidote for death, sin, hell, fear, and despair. Come and receive the medicine of life, forgiveness, heaven, joy, and hope.

            Dear friends, you have reason to take heart in the midst of any and all earthly tribulation. Christ has overcome the world for you. In Christ Jesus, you have the peace of sins forgiven and knowledge that one day you will live in the new heavens and new earth which will be free from all tribulation. Because Christ has already been victorious, you can pray to the Lord in confidence knowing He will supply what you need. As one who shares in that victory of Jesus, you are loved by God. These things cannot be taken away from you by anyone or anything. These things are true in time of earthly quiet or time of earthly crisis. They are always true as Christ is true. Do not be fearful; do not despair. Jesus has already won. Amen.