A sermon on John 16:16-24 for the 6th Sunday after Easter, May 23/26, 2019.
The hearts of all the people watching the movie pound in anticipation of what will happen next. The hero hangs off a cliff, bridge, a tall building, or whatever else it might be. As time ticks by the hero’s grip slowly starts to give way. No longer do they have the strength to pull themselves up. Every effort and ounce of their mind focuses on not letting go. They are holding on for dear life. The only option left seems to be a fall to their death. As soon as their grip gives, another hand reaches down. Someone came to save the hero. The hero grasps the helping hand with all their might. Slowly, the new found hero pulls the struggling person to safety. Help came just in time.
So many times in our life we need a helping hand. We feebly struggle upon this earth, sometimes feeling like we are just spinning our wheels without going anywhere. Just as we are about to give up all hope, a helping hand reaches out. This hero scoops us up in his hands giving us confidence for whatever we might face. Jesus takes our hand to keep us safe. Jesus holds us in his hands to give us hope.
Hold to the Hope We Have
- Amid the bleak days.
- A hope that will never go away.
Confusion. This single word summed up the mindset of the disciples. They had no idea what Jesus was saying to them. They heard the words, but the meaning was lost. Jesus might as well of been speaking in riddles. Jesus said how he would soon go to the Father, soon the disciples would not see him, and then they would see Jesus again. What did all of this mean? How could they make sense of such nonsense?
The disciples talked amongst themselves. No one dared ask Jesus about these things. They did not want to risk the embarrassment. Ashamed of their lack of understanding they did not want to expose their weaknesses. Instead they just kept discussing the topic amongst themselves.
How could the disciples not know? Jesus had spoken about these things before. He prepared his close friends for the things they would soon see and feel. Despite all of these warnings, they still did not fully understand the gravity of the impending events.
Soon they would not see Jesus anymore. The disciples followed Jesus around for three years. They sat at his feet listening to all his teachings. They watched in awe as Jesus healed thousands and even raised people from the dead. Now, they received news that they would no longer see their good friend. How could this be? Jesus was right here. All the eyes of the disciples peered at Jesus with a questioning stare wondering what he meant.
With these words Jesus spoke about the events that would soon unfold. The time would soon be here for Jesus to accomplish what he came to this world to do. In a short time the disciples would leave Jesus all alone as he would be arrested and tried. Peter would deny even knowing Jesus. The only one to follow him to Calvary would be John. The pain of the cross awaited Jesus. He would die. The disciples would feel all alone and afraid of what would happen next. They would no longer have Jesus to look to.
“Amen, Amen, I tell you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice” (John 16:20). The coming events would leave the disciples speechless. They would feel lonely and afraid of what the future held. At the same time many of their fellow Jews would be rejoicing. They would be rid of this phony king. His teachings would cease. At least so they thought this would be the case.
When these things happened, the disciples should not lose hope. Even though bleak days circled around them, the disciples had to continue to trust. “You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20). Their grief would not remain. They would see Jesus again. After the resurrection the disciples saw Jesus with their own eyes. For forty days after his resurrection Jesus continued to offer proof that he physically rose from the dead. Jesus had his followers in his hands. The disciples could rejoice that Jesus would break through the bleak days. Jesus would not leave them all alone.
It is not always easy to hold out hope during difficult days. Our spirits come crumbling down during the troubles this world puts on our plate. We see so many people rejoicing at what is contrary to God’s commands. Jesus tells us the harvest is plentiful, but all we see are closed doors to gospel ministry. Addiction ensnares us in its traps. Loneliness overtakes us. The struggles of dialysis or chemotherapy leave us grieving at the results of sin.
So often we fail to see Jesus in all of these troubles. Unlike the disciples, we do not have the advantage of ever walking with him. Jesus ascended to heaven. We can’t see him. Our grief feels like all we know.
However, Jesus’ promise to the disciples remains the same for us. Our grief will turn to joy. Let me rephrase that, our joy is right now. Since Jesus died and rose again for us, we have reason to live confidently. Jesus’ death has overcome all our griefs. We experience some of the pain here on earth, but we know it is only temporary.
We hold to this hope all our days because Jesus holds onto us all of our days. The sicknesses and diseases, the death and despair, the loneliness and lovelessness will be gone. Even in the midst of the bleak days, we hold to the hope we have, because it is a hope that will never go away.
All of this must have been so hard for the disciples to hear. They had so much to process. Jesus also, would not leave them without hope. “So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you” (John 16:22). In order to help his disciples understand he used the illustration of a woman giving birth. She experiences pain, intense pain. No woman loves the labor pains that come with childbirth. However, once they hold that child in their arms, it was all worth it.
The disciples would have their time of pain and sorrow. However they would see a much brighter day. After Jesus rose from the dead, they would have a hope that could never be taken away. They would see Jesus again. Even after he ascended to heaven, the disciples would still see Jesus one day. Jesus would bring them home to heaven to live with him for eternity.
Even though they did not fully understand all these things, the time would come when it would be made clear. At Pentecost Jesus would send the Holy Spirit upon these men. They would be able to see fully the hope that was theirs.
Can we even begin to imagine a joy that will not be taken away? To many, and maybe even to us, joy is such a fleeting emotion. We experience so much joy one moment, but the next heartache and pain takes its place.
As Christians we possess a joy that will never go away. No one can take away the joy in our heart. The devil will try. The world flashes temptations to get us off track. Our own sinful nature battles against the good we desire to do. Try as they might, they cannot take our joy away.
Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus’ victory assures us of our victory. Our joy remains complete at all times in our life. We also look forward to a time when we will know nothing but joy. Jesus promises to take us to be with him in heaven where our joy will never cease.
God holds our hand all through our life. We do not have to worry about losing our grip only to fall into oblivion. Jesus has all the power in the world, and then some, to keep us safe. This is our joy that will never fade away. Even in the bleak days we hold to our hope. We hold to this hope for it will last forever. Hold to the Hope We Have. Amen.