Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 16:23-33 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. 25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 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.”
We live in a world that specializes in doublespeak. Doublespeak happens when words are distorted, changed, or switched to make an unpleasant, tricky, or otherwise negative situation sound not as awful. Some examples of doublespeak we hear almost every day: “downsizing” instead of firing people, “reducing costs” instead of cutting salaries, “pre-owned” as opposed to used (and possibly beaten up), “well loved” instead of old and worn out, “preemptive strike” instead of unprovoked attack, “enhanced interrogation” in place of torture.
Jesus and his disciples are on the verge of some very unpleasant events. His earthly ministry is drawing to a close. The betrayer has made his plan and even now is bringing the soldiers to arrest Jesus. The Lord will be charged, tried, and convicted all in a night. By nine o’clock the next morning, he will be hanging on a cross; by 3:00 p.m., he will be dead. Though his disciples will see him again in just three days, his return to the Father is also just weeks away. These are unsettling events. But,
Jesus Speaks Plainly to His Disciples
to Give Them Peace in Him.
Jesus gives plain talk about our problems. Plain talk about our sinfulness and fallen nature. Plain talk about judgment and eternal punishment. Plain talk. Jesus tells us plainly: like the disciples, we will think we have things figured out, but we don’t. He gives us plain talk about our sinful pride, wanting to be like God. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when the devil told them they would be like God. We too want to be like God. In charge of our lives. Making our own decisions. Freedom of choice.
Now Jesus is leaving; he says it plainly, “Now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (v 28).
“Yeah, sure, Lord, we understand” (vv 29–30). But no, you don’t. You don’t understand the cross at all! We fall into a theology of glory, thinking that now all our sufferings should go away. “If I just had enough faith in Jesus, my problems would all go away.” If you are sick someone will surely tell you, “If you just pray hard enough and believe hard enough, you wouldn’t be sick.” Or, in our pride we think that now we are so holy and upright. We love to point our fingers at others and criticize them for what they do, how they act, what they say, what they wear, what they eat. We feel that we are superior, more intelligent, or more spiritual.
But, Jesus tells us plainly: like the disciples, we will fail him. We will sin. We are sinners. No matter how good we think we are, we are fallen sinners who deserve eternal punishment.
That’s what the cross is all about, says Jesus: my earning forgiveness for every time you sin. For every wrong that you do. Every lustful thought you have. Every feeling of pride or self-righteousness.
We say, “Lord, we’ll never leave you!” (Mk 14:31). Oh, Now you believe? Says Jesus. Just wait (v 31). Within the hour they all fled from him. They abandoned him. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied him. Just like us. We sit in church, we come to His table, and before we get out the door we are complaining about something someone did. Criticizing someone. Blaming someone.
Yes, Jesus tells us plainly: like the disciples, we will have tribulation in this world. “In this world you will have tribulation,” he says (vv 32a, 33b). You will be scattered, troubled so many ways. “Now that one you’ve got right, Jesus!” We have broken relationships, broken families, broken marriages. We have sickness, aging, and death. We have joblessness, bankruptcy, foreclosures. Jesus speaks plainly: “You will be persecuted for believing in me, speaking my name.” Yes, it’s happening today, right now in this country.
The devil, our sinful self, and the world around us will keep us from being the disciples Jesus calls us to be. We deserve nothing more than for him to turn his back on us, but he never does. Instead, as our risen Savior, he assures us that we are at peace.
Jesus gives plain talk about our peace (v 33). “I have overcome the world. I leave the world not in defeat and death, but in victory.”
Let us take a brief tour of the Gospel of John: “I came from the Father” (1:1–4): eternal God. Jesus was with God in the beginning and he was God. All things were created through and for him. Then, he came “Into the world” (1:14): incarnation. God became man. Became flesh and blood. He became one of us and lived under the law just as we are under the authority of the law, obeying the law completely and perfectly on our behalf so that all obedience, all righteousness has now been fulfilled. Then he said he will “Leave the world” (3:14–15): crucifixion. He made himself sin for us, taking our sin upon his shoulder and into his flesh. Then he said, I am… “Going to the Father” (20:17): resurrection. He rose from the dead and won the victory over sin and death on our behalf. Giving us resurrection from the dead. Overcoming the grave. Breaking us out of the prison of the dead.
And Christ’s victory over sin and death, over the power of the devil, over the temptations of the flesh is given to us in his Word, in our Baptism, and at his Table, that we might have peace in him. The sin that separated us from God is forgiven. By his death for our sin, we are reconciled to the Father; that is peace. God has accepted us back into his presence and into communion with him because of the cross of Jesus.
The Means of Grace renew this to us every day. Your sins are forgiven. Your self-righteousness is forgiven. Your pride is forgiven. As a result, we can speak clearly to the Father in Jesus’ name. “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you” (v 23).
And now, reconciled, at peace with us, God hears our every cry. We cry to him in our pain and suffering. In our old age as our bodies break down and sickness overtakes us. As the enemies of Christ attack us and threaten us. God is eager to hear our prayer and supply our every need.
Rest in the peace of these words of our Introit this morning:
Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you
He will never permit the righteous to be moved.
My heart is in anguish within me;
The terrors of death have fallen upon me.
But I call to God,
And the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan,
And he hears my voice.
He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage,
For many are arrayed against me.
Hear also from Luther: “From these words we gather that we should not be concerned or worried about our own worthiness but should forget about both worthiness and unworthiness and base our prayer on Christ and pray in His name. . . . Christ wants you to pray in His name. You have His command and His promise. But by telling you to pray in His name He also exhorts and begs you. It is as though He were saying: ‘My dear friend, it does not matter in what condition you are. If you cannot pray on your own authority and in your name—as indeed you should not—then please pray in My name. If you are not worthy and holy enough, let Me be holy and worthy enough for you’?” (AE 24:393).
Jesus says, “I have overcome the world!” This is our peace as we live our calling as Jesus’ disciples. There is no doublespeak, no mixed message. Just plain talk from the Savior who died and rose to make you his own. Amen.