Anchor Deep - John 16:16-33

Gospel of John (2020)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Copyright by Bruce Goettsche September 4, 2021
Some things are hard to grasp. For me, algebra did not make a lot of sense when I was in High School. The idea of multiplying letters and numbers was hard for me to embrace. We take a lot of time in pre-marital conversations to prepare people for the work of marriage but it still always seems to be a surprise to people that marriage takes so much work. Then there are the people who tell me they want to write a book and they ask what the hardest part is about writing a book. I always answer the same thing: writing it!
Think about how hard it is to explain your job to someone who has no understanding of what you do. The stereotype of the farmer is he works 3 months and has 9 months to goof off. Of course, Pastors have it even easier (according to onlookers) only work a couple hours a week. Teachers, say some: work nine months, get home early every day, and get lots of days off. (spend one hour in a classroom as a substitute teacher you know the teachers earn every cent of their salary!)
Many things in life cannot be understood until you have experienced them. And this is what we are going to see in our passage this morning. Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen, but they had trouble understanding it until they looked back a week later. Let’s eavesdrop on Jesus’ conversation with His followers.
16 “In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”
17 Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 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. 21 It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. 22 So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.
The Riddle
Jesus shared His cryptic riddle, but the disciples don’t get it! Frankly, I wouldn’t have gotten it either. As the conversation continued He added to his riddle: ”You won’t see me, then you will see me; you will weep and the world will rejoice; and then your grief will turn to joy!”
In verse 20 we see the words “I tell you the truth.” In other versions we read “verily verily” or “truly truly.” This combination is always significant because it is a repetition of words which in the Greek is the equivalent of underlining something or putting it in bold print. Jesus wants us to pay close attention and understand that the grief that is coming is temporary.
One week later, after the resurrection of Jesus, the riddle made much more sense. When Jesus died, the disciples mourned while the world (at least of the religious leaders and the pagans) rejoiced. However, when Jesus rose from the dead it was the followers of Christ who rejoiced and have been rejoicing ever since.
We can take this truth into other aspects of our lives. For example: we may be facing disease, decay and more. The grief of separation will be followed by the elation of being with the Lord (if you belong to Him). The trials of life will bring pain but when God stands up for our defense on the last day, we will rejoice! We may be bullied by those who want to eliminate Christianity and Christian values, but that struggle will be deemed worth it when God says, “Well Done, good and faithful servant” to us.
Jesus likened it to having a baby. During pregnancy there is discomfort, heartburn, getting kicked in the ribs, the constant need to run to the bathroom, tiredness and sometimes required bedrest. And all of that is nothing compared to the actual delivery. It isn’t easy to be pregnant. And the amazing thing is many of these courageous women decide to do it again! This is because the joy of holding your baby in your arms overshadows the pain and discomfort. These things are not forgotten . . . they just don’t matter because of the rich blessing coming from it.
Jesus warned the disciples not to close the book until they have reached the end of a story. In a good mystery, you never quite know what is going to happen until the story is finished. That is true for the story of our lives. We must not draw conclusions until we reach the conclusion.
Precious Truth
23 At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. 24 You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.
25 “I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. 26 Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, 27 for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. 28 Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
Dave and I had an experience at a concert once. It was a group of artists together (several of which had been in La Harpe: Jason Gray, Sidewalk Prophets, Francesca Battistelli). We had purchased good tickets, but not VIP tickets. We called Jason and went out to Starbucks with him. When we returned to the venue, he asked if we were coming in for the VIP session. We admitted that we did not buy VIP tickets and he told us he would get us in. Sure enough, we joined all these people who paid good money for their tickets. We felt a little strange when they asked to see our tickets. We admitted that we were in the VIP line because Jason told us He wanted us to join to VIP session. After checking with Jason, we walked in, sat in the second row, and had a great night.
Jesus likens this to prayer. He says we can pray now with great power and confidence because we can pray “in His name.” Jesus is the one who bring us into the throne room of God. He has given us access to the throne room of God. He has made us VIP’s in the Kingdom of Heaven!
The story is told of a Union soldier with a great personal need who went to the White House to see the President during the Civil War. The secretaries refused to interrupt the nation’s Chief Executive to deal with a personal problem, so the soldier sat in a hallway and began to weep. Soon a little boy came down the hall, and upon seeing the soldier, he asked what the problem was. “I need to see the President of the United States,” the soldier explained, “but I cannot get in to him.” At this explanation, the little boy took the soldier by the hand, walked him by the secretary’s desk, past the armed guards, down another hallway, and into the oval-shaped office where Abraham Lincoln was working. Lifting up his head, the President said, “O my son, what can I do for you?” “This soldier needs to speak with you, Daddy,” came the reply.[1]
This is what Christ’s death and resurrection has done for us. Do you feel far away from God? Do you feel there is no way to get to Him? Do you feel like you are on the “no access list” because of your past? Jesus has given you access which we have not earned or deserved. He is willing to take our hand and bring us to the Father. We cherish and take advantage of the privilege that has been extended to us.
A Sobering Warning
29 Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. 30 Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”
31 Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? 32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.
The disciples declared they believed in Him because Jesus, in essence, read their minds! (v.19) But our Lord doesn’t pull any punches. He refuses to let them feel they were on top of things. He asked a tough question: “Do you finally believe.” The intonation I hear when I read this is DO you finally believe?”
Our Lord said (with great insight) that they are all going to scatter (which would be fulfilled in just a few minutes.) Their belief was not deeply enough rooted. It was not strong. It panicked in a crisis.
When Jesus was arrested, all the disciples ran away. Peter and John followed from a distance. But we know as Peter was questioned, He denied the Lord three times. Jesus knew they the disciples were not as strong as they thought or would need to be.
One Commentator wrote,
This reminds us that we should not take lightly the challenge of believing in Jesus in this world, nor should we indulge in self-confidence as Christians. The disciples failed to anticipate the weakness of the flesh, the power of Satan’s afflictions, and their vulnerability in the hour of trial. J. C. Ryle comments: “Like young recruits, they had yet to learn that it is one thing to know the soldier’s drill and wear the uniform, and quite another thing to be steadfast in the day of battle.”[2]
When Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, it changed everything. The disciples became the most fearless, most committed men on the face of the earth. They knew, and were convinced, Jesus was who He said He was, and they gladly gave up their lives for Him.
In 1 Corinthians 10:12 Paul writes, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful lest you fall.” As we think about Afghan Christians who are losing their lives simply BECAUSE they are Christians, we have to ask, “How strong is our faith?” Would we run away from the battle and simply conform? Or will we stand with Jesus even if it cost us our lives? Will we put our heads in the sand, or will we stand tall in the strength of the Lord?
The only way we will ever have the strength we need, is to keep as close to God as possible. We need His strength. We need to be firmly convinced that He can protect us and defend us. We know there is nothing the world can do to us. It has the power to take our earthly life, but not our eternal and heavenly life. We get to that firm conviction by spending as much time with Him as possible. A casual faith is easily lost in the time of pressure.
Our Assurance
33 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.”
What wonderful words these are! Our Lord wants us to have “peace.” This peace is not an absence of conflict (he clears that up in the words that follow). It is an internal state. It is the calm of knowing everything is going to be alright even as you are being attacked on the outside. It is going to be OK even if prices continue to skyrocket, viruses continue to afflict, and if our government continues to add restrictions to our lives. It is going to be OK if enemy combatants enter our country and threaten our lives. It’s going to be OK because we have the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who sits on the throne.
Notice this is not a peace the world can create through meditation or the numbing of various drugs. The peace is HIS peace. It comes from intimacy with God and an awareness of God’s perfect plan for us and our land.
Jesus is honest, however. He said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” Don’t miss this! He does not promise if we come to Him life is going to be smooth or easy. There WILL be trials and sorrows. We can and should expect them. However, He also gives us His promise: He has overcome the world!
The implication is clear. As long as we rely on Him . . . we will triumph through Him. We will be able to have this internal calm and peace even though the world seems to be closing in on top of us.
When hurricanes come people who have big boats in the water wonder what they can do to survive the storm. An experienced boat person would tell you (if you can’t get your boat out of the water) not to tie the boat to trees and other things on land. The Hurricane will rip those things (and your boat) to shreds.
Instead, they would suggest you drop four different anchors deep into the water (where they will be untouched by the Hurricane) and then you hope for the best.
Life is filled with hurricanes
· An unexpected death
· The loss of a job
· Legal battles
· A Divorce Decree
· An assault
· A Conviction
· A health crisis
· A threat that demands you to abandon your faith
· A mammoth failure
· Financial Ruin
If we stand with Him, we will have peace even in these hurricanes in life because He has overcome the world. Not only, can we have peace . . . God can also use us in these situations.
Max Lucado in his book Six Hours One Friday writes of three anchor points that can help us in the storms. These are truths we can hold on to. They serve as our anchors.
Anchor point #1—My life is not futile. This rock secures the hull of your heart. Its sole function is to give you something which you can grip when facing the surging tides of futility and relativism. It’s a firm grasp on the conviction that there is truth. Someone is in control and you have a purpose.
Anchor point #2—My failures are not fatal. It’s not that he loves what you did, but he loves who you are. You are his. The one who has the right to condemn you provided the way to acquit you. You make mistakes. God doesn’t. And he made you.
Anchor point #3—My death is not final. There is one more stone to which you should tie. It’s large. It’s round. And it’s heavy. It blocked the door of a grave. It wasn’t big enough, though. The tomb that it sealed was the tomb of a transient. He only went in to prove he could come out. And on the way out he took the stone with him and turned it into an anchor point. He dropped it deep into the uncharted waters of death. Tie to his rock and the typhoon of the tomb becomes a spring breeze on Easter Sunday.
These are the truths that anchor us and allow us to have peace.
This passage is filled with rich truth. First, don’t draw conclusions until the conclusion. If the story of Jesus had ended at the cross it would have been a very sad story of another religious leader martyred for his faith. However, if you wait for the resurrection and then the coming of the Holy Spirit you discover what the world means for harm God can turn it for good.
Second, We have been given the privilege of Access to the Father. We should not squander it. Why are we so lazy when it comes to prayer? Perhaps you say, “I don’t know what to pray about.” The short answer is “everything”. Pray for your family and friends, pray for the church around the world, and pray for the things that are planned in your day. Bring the chores to the Lord and ask, “How can I use this for you?”
Third, we should stand in the peace of Christ rather than be swept up in the turmoil of the world. We do this by listening intently to the words of Jesus. We do it by listening to the expositions (or letters) of Paul, Peter, John and James. God has given us an instruction manual that will guide us through the hills and valleys of life. Bring God your turmoil and exchange it for His peace.
Finally, we need to help each other. As we stand together our peace becomes stronger and deeper. We don’t know what the future holds for those who are followers of Christ. But we know this: He has given us all the tools we need to be ready. One of those tools is each other. The Lord overcame the world, and if we will trust Him, He will help us to do the same.
[1]Richard D. Phillips, John, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani, 1st ed., vol. 2, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014), 367. [2] Richard D. Phillips, John, ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani, 1st ed., vol. 2, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2014), 376–377.
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