Strangers in a hostile world – this is what the disciples of Christ were and are to be. Jesus said so in John 16. This chapter of John’s gospel account is the conclusion of the discourse He gave to His men after the supper and after the washing of the feet.
These sayings were spoken significantly after the departure of Judas the betrayer. These were words for the faithful and true ones. These ones who remained also were weak, weary, and much confused. And yet they held fast to Him and His mission.
The Savior had dropped statements about the realities of suffering and persecution to His followers throughout His days of public ministry. As soon as Peter received the revelation of Him as “the Christ the Son of the Living God” in Matthew 16, Jesus began to share of the troubles that were coming for Him and for those who believe in Him. He declared crucifixion to be His destiny and their destiny. Those who enter into His mission are to take up the Cross.
Such words shocked them all, especially Peter. This Apostle, perhaps a bit full of himself at the glorious words he had spoken just a few minutes earlier, confronted Jesus: “Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You” (see Matthew 16:22). Such words, Christ said, had come from Satan.
Many months had passed since that revelation. In John 16, we must note that Jesus was set to enter into the finishing of His work. The Son of Man had set His face toward the Cross always. It was coming for Him the next day.
Facing the Curse
These disciples remained with Him. They had seen too much; they had heard the words of eternal life. They had hung on as their belief incrementally gained ground from their unbelief.
The next days, however, would try them like never before. The pains, Jesus said, to be felt by the disciples would be like those of mother in the midst of her delivery of a child (see John 16:20-22). This was just like Jesus to offer an illustration so down to earth. He gave a word picture to take us all the way back to the origins of the curse that came through the Fall of Adam and Eve. “In pain you shall bring forth children,” said the Lord to the woman in Genesis 3:16.
The impending moments of hard and ferocious labor were necessary, He explained to them. The birth of redemption was upon them and the world. The plan of the ages regarding the work of the Son was about to be accomplished.
Violence and darkness, hatred, lies, and injustice were about to spill forth. All of this was directed at the Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, a world that really doesn’t want its sins taken away, a world that wants to be left to its devices.
The Lord loved, so loved this very world and all who are in it, that He could not let this situation endure. The curse had to be broken, and only by Him could it be broken.Adam the Last had to come to face what the failure of the first Adam brought to bear. The Divine One came to undo the un-divine. Click To Tweet
Adam the Last had to come to face what the failure of the first Adam brought to bear. The Divine One came to undo the un-divine. “The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45).
Consider this: in the Garden, the Voice came to find the fallen ones, who were fearfully hiding away in their shame and disorder. The Lord cried out then, “Adam, where are you?”
Now, the Voice – the Word made Flesh in the Person of the Son – declared a high, holy, and remarkably mysterious thing. Jesus came in His way to say: “Adam, I Am you.”
God became Man and gave Himself for the sins of the world.
Yes, the Son’s “act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the One Man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (see Romans 5:19).
The death of the Son would crush the effects of the curse. The hold and fear of death would be no more. These would be no more because the Son purposed to let go of all that was His. The glory of the Presence, the fullness of fellowship with the Spirit and the Father, the majesty manifested to all Creation, seen and unseen – these He surrendered for only a season.
It was the only way for us to become holy as He is holy. Only through the victory of Jesus was this impossible command made possible for us.
The ‘Little’ Whiles
The ways of man and the world are so different from the ways of Heaven. The invisible warfare ever raging here on earth required a weapon of humility to bring about a triumph so contrary to the natural perception of power. It would be through pain and rejection, loneliness and death that the gates of Hell would be brought down.
The disciples sorrowed as Jesus spoke of leaving them. Their sadness numbed them to the remarkable promises He made in that hour. He was about to open the way to eternal life for all. The Spirit would be sent to live in them. This reality would be made possible by the things He was about to do.
The last bits of the prophetic words were to be fully accomplished in the next hours. Jesus gave them a bit of a rundown about how things were going to go.
“A little while, and you will see Me no longer, and again a little while, and you will see Me” (John 16:16). These words cover both the near term and the long term.
Calvary was the next day, followed by His burial, and a hard, bitter Sabbath of mourning over the loss of their Master. But then the third day’s dawn would come and the “little while” was over. They would see Him, resurrected and majestic. Their mourning turned to joy. Peace was pronounced.
The period of His appearances would be a brief one, however – another “little while” bridged the period from Easter to the Ascension. He would rise through the clouds just 40 days later. He would go to His place on high. He returned to the Presence of the Father. And once He was seated there, He prepared to send the Holy Spirit.
By the offering of Himself, Jesus inaugurated a new and living way. By this, it is now possible for the Spirit to make His home in believers. Through this habitation, we can be full of glory and led into all truth. All that belongs to the Son can now be declared to us.
And what shall become of the world and its ways of opposition? They go on, for now.
Persecutions and problems are promised, yes, promised. Sometimes we may run, scatter as the Apostles did. Still, He is with us always.
The Son’s journey to the Cross and into death was one that only He could take. He fought the greatest battle ever fought alone, in weakness and with forgiveness and surrender. However, all the powers of hell were swallowed by that obedience. In meekness, He submitted to every line of the Law; the Just One paying the wages of justice for all of the unjust.
Yes, in this world as it now is, we will have tribulation. The final word remains:
“But take heart: I have overcome the world.”