"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." – John 16:33 NLT
The clock is ticking. With each hour that passes, Jesus is one step closer to His final destiny. All the teaching, miracles and messages He gave will mean nothing if He does not complete the task for which He came. And as this moment draws nearer, Jesus continues to try and prepare His disciples for what is to come. He tells them, "In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again" (John 16:16 NLT). This statement did little but confuse the disciples. It sounded like a riddle to them. We understand it because we have the benefit of being on this side of the resurrection. But to them, it would have made little to no sense, and would have provided little in the way of comfort. Jesus sensed their confusion and attempted to make His meaning clearer. "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy" (John 16:20 NLT). I can't help but imagine the looks on the faces of the disciples as Jesus spoke. They had to be looking at one another with looks of confusion, wondering how what Jesus was saying was supposed to clear things up for them. How would their weeping be turned to joy? How would their grieving turn into rejoicing?
Jesus continued to explain what He meant using the metaphor of childbirth. There would be a period of pain followed by a moment of sheer joy and excitement. There was going to be a time of extreme sorrow followed by unbridled happiness and abundant joy. Not only that, they would have direct access to God. They would be able to ask anything from Him, and as long as they did so in Jesus' name, God would answer their requests. "Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God" (John 16:26-27 NLT). Jesus was letting them know that the future was going to be bright for them. Yes, it was going to get dark for a time. He was going to suffer and die. They would even abandon Him in His darkest moment. But He was going to rise from the dead and appear before them in His resurrected state. Their sorrow and grief would be turned in joy. But I think this passage is also letting them know that Jesus would leave them again. This time to ascend to His Father in heaven. And when He did, there would be a time of sorrow as well. The disciples would feel abandoned this time. But their sorrow would be turned to joy once again when the Holy Spirit descended on them at Pentecost. It would be at that time when they learned the truth of Jesus' statements. They would ask of the Father in Jesus' name and watch as He answered their requests in miraculous, powerful ways.
Jesus closes His little talk with them by saying, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world" (John 16:33 NLT). He is trying to prepare them for all that is to come. Not only in the next few hours, but in the years to come. He warns them that they were going to have many trials and sorrows. Life was not going to be easy. But He tells them to take heart and assures them that not matter how bad things may appear, they are to remember that He has overcome the world. This is an interesting statement, because as of that moment, He had yet to die. But Jesus spoke with certainty and confidence because He knew that He was going to do what He came to do. He was going to overcome the world. With His death, He would pay the penalty owed to God for the sins of mankind. With His resurrection, He would defeat the power of death and provide a glimpse of the transformative power of God available to all men through belief in Him. If God could literally raise His own Son from the dead, He could raise spiritually dead men and women to new life. Jesus can and did overcome the world. And we need to be reminded of that fact. Here on earth we face many trials and sorrows. We encounter all kinds of difficulties. We suffer because we live in a sin-filled world. But Jesus reminds us to take heart. He assures us that He has overcome the world. The word Jesus used was "conquered." It was a military term. Jesus is saying that, with His death, He has won a military victory over the forces of this world. It will still hate us and attempt to destroy us. He made that clear in chapter 15. But we need to live with an attitude of victory. We are on the winning side. What Jesus accomplished on the cross has sealed the future and guaranteed our success. It will not be easy. There will be difficulties. But we can cry out to the Father in Jesus' name and He will hear and answer us. He will guide us through His Holy Spirit. He will teach us through His written Word. He will protect us with His powerful hand. He will preserve us and one day send His Son to return for us.
Paul gives us encouragement with these words: "For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever" (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NLT).
Father, Thank You for these encouraging words this morning. Sometimes this world really can be filled with all kinds of grief and sorrow. It can become overwhelming at times. But keep reminding me that whatever I suffer here on this earth is nothing compared to the joy I will experience in heaven. Give me an eternal focus. Help me to fix my gaze on those things that I can't see. Give me the ability to take heart, knowing that Jesus truly has overcome the world. Amen.