“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33)
In John 13-17, Jesus and His disciples are enjoying the Passover meal. Passover is a joyous time of reflecting on God’s promises and celebrating their ancestors’ deliverance from Egypt’s oppression. But Passover and the Exodus weren’t easy or painless.
The ancient Israelites had to watch as the world of their Egyptian oppressors was repeatedly smashed by God’s judgments. Wave after wave of pain and affliction swept over the land. The Israelites even had to endure the effects of the plagues though not hit directly by the plagues.
Imagine the stench as the Nile turned red and all the fish died. Think about the odor of rotting hundreds of thousands of frog bodies heaped up everywhere in the land. Envision the Israelites watching in horror as Egyptian cattle keeled over from disease and as man and beast were later beaten down by terrible hailstones and then the remaining crops sheared to the ground by locusts. Think about what the Israelites felt as total darkness covered the land for three days. And now imagine what they experienced as mournful cries rose throughout Egyptian communities as Egyptian first-born sons, upon whom the hopes and plans for the future of each family rested, died.
Remember this, the Israelites were not taken out of the judgments on Egypt. They walked through them and emerged from the Red Sea in joy because God was with them.
In the context of the Passover drama, Jesus reveals to His disciples they were about to experience a similar walk through a very dark, very traumatic valley.
First, the bad news. Jesus reveals they are going to go through persecution (John 15:18-25). Why? Because the world hates Jesus. Therefore, it will persecute those who look, sound, and act like Jesus.
But now the good news! The Holy Spirit will be with the disciples! (John 15:26-27)
And now more bad news. Persecution is not only coming from the world as any Jew might expect, but it will come to the disciples from their own Jewish leadership rejecting them for being committed to Jesus (John 16:1-4). And yes, that includes some of them getting killed. Yippee!
And then comes even more bad news: Jesus announces He’s going away (John 15:5). He anticipates their responses of “What?” and “Why?”
But then some good news. “Remember the Holy Spirit who will be with you, the same Holy Spirit I told you would be with you in persecution?” Yeah. Well, He can’t come to you unless I go away. And He must come because His job is to do the spiritual work … convicting the world of sin, righteousness, judgment. He will also tell you what I can’t right now because you’re not ready to hear and understand. But don’t worry about me going away. “The Holy Spirit will continue where I’m leaving off with you” (John 16:7-15).
Again, what’s with the bad news? Jesus tells them He’s going away (John 16:16) and this gets the disciples talking. Their distress and confusion are coming to the surface. “Our rabbi is leaving? When? He says, ‘A little while and you won’t see me, then a little while and you will?’ Where to? To the Father? What does this mean?” Jesus was right when He said they weren’t ready or able to understand.
But now, more good news! “Even though My departing and absence will be very difficult for you, making you weep, cry, lament, and sorrow while the world rejoices, that’s all going to turn around! YOU will have joy and will rejoice! Why? Because it won’t last forever.” Jesus reveals that like a woman in labor, the whole process they were about to go through is momentary in time. And like a mom who embraces her newborn, their brief time of agony will give way to ongoing joy and that joy will be un-take-able (John 16:21). Whew!
But again, with the bad news! Jesus tells them they’re all going to desert Him. Really? “But I’m not worried, boys. I won’t be alone. My Father will be with Me” (John 1631-32).
So why did Jesus reveal all this to His very confused and unsuspecting disciples?
Because their world with Jesus was about to be turned upside down by a world that would crucify Him. They would need peace during the tumultuous three day storm.
That’s the same thing the ancient Israelites needed as judgments rained down on Egypt. They needed to know God was with them and that they would survive the plague storm.
As in the Passover story, once more the plagues would come – God’s judgment – only this time it would rain down in one massive storm upon Jesus to open the way for any person’s forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Once the storm passed, just like a woman’s labor pains, joy would break forth.
And Jesus tells them they’ll be just fine as long as they stay “in Him,” with Him in His world. “Yes, you’re in the world, but My world overcomes the world” (John 16:33).
This is the revelation that brings them, and us, peace. 1) Jesus knows what’s going to happen, and 2) He is with us when it happens through His Holy Spirit if we are “in Him.” No matter what happens, no matter how bad or how tough it gets, He’s with us in the passing time of trouble and promises to see us all the way through into joy. As long as we stay “in Him,” connected to Him, we will make it through.
Just like the ancient Israelites experienced.
Just like the disciples experienced.
The fact that Jesus told them future events is key. If He is proven true about future events (which He was!), then His promise is most certainly true when He speaks of our present reality.
Mentally and emotionally armed with that, we can live in peace as we walk into the unknown future. As the famous psalmist of Israel once sang, “Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (King David, Psalm 23:4). Both Jesus and the disciples were about to walk through “the darkest valley” of Jesus’ Passover Day crucifixion. But on the other side of the resurrection, Jesus would be waiting for them.
Stay “in Jesus” and you’ll be okay. Shalom! Peace!
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts