Sunday, March 29, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
The Last Word
#5 It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!
John 16

Introduction and offering:

ILL: Tony Campolo is a well-known Christian author and speaker, and professor of sociology at Eastern University.  He is a member of a large mostly African American church in Philadelphia where he regularly speaks.  His church has “preach-offs”.  Here in one of his trademark talks, he describes how his pastor out-preached him.  Video

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming. Good Friday was anything but good.  Jesus was dead. His followers were scattered and hiding.  It was over.  It looked like evil had won. But it was only Friday…and Sunday’s coming!

Today, we’re going to read John 16.  It’s Friday—late Thursday night, or very early Friday morning.  Jesus is in the upper room with His followers.  He wraps up His last words with them by returning to the idea that He is leaving them.  He has come from the Father and is going back to the Father.  He is leaving them, but He will see them again.  He is going to die on Friday, but Sunday’s coming and not even death can stop Him.  They will see Him again. 

The Big Idea: The resurrection of Jesus changes everything.  Jesus let His followers know that trouble was coming, but it wasn’t the end of the story!

We’re going to read the whole chapter, and I’ll only have time to cover the big ideas, not all the details.  Jesus tells them: Your loss will turn into gain.  Your grief will turn to joy.  And your trouble will turn to triumph.  It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming when everything changes.


1. Your loss will turn to gain. 1-15

John 16:1-4 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.

Let’s pause here for a moment.  Jesus has just told them that the world will hate them.  Now He predicts that they will be put out of the synagogues and killed.  Jesus came to bring abundant life, life to the full, but He never said it would be an easy life.  He promised that it would be hard, that we would be hated, persecuted, resisted and opposed.  He reminds them of that here, so that when trouble comes, they would remember His warning, and be prepared and not fall away.

ILL: William Tyndale was part of the Protestant Reformation in Great Britain in the early 1500’s.  He is famous for translating the Bible into common English.  For this, he was persecuted and eventually arrested, strangled and burned at the stake.  When he learned that his enemies were out for his life, his response was: “I never expected anything else.”

What do you expect as you follow Jesus?  Jesus warned His followers to expect trouble, opposition and resistance.  Following Jesus won’t be easy.  But it will be worth it!  Hang on to that thought.  And let’s keep reading…

John 16:4-15 I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

“It is for your good that I’m going away.”  Some translations say, “It is better for you that I’m going away.”  “When I go, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, will come.” 

How can it be better to have the Spirit inside you than to have Jesus beside you?  Have you ever read the gospels, the story of Jesus, and wished you could have been there?  Have you ever thought, “If I could have just seen Jesus heal the sick, or raise the dead; if I could have heard His teaching first hand, or watched Him cleanse a leper or forgive a sinner; if I could have seen Him die and raise again—my faith would be so much stronger!”  Have you ever thought that?  Well, it’s not necessarily true!  Many people who saw and heard Jesus didn’t believe at all—seeing was no guarantee for them. 

ILL: Or consider Jesus’ encounter with doubting Thomas.  When the other disciples said, “Jesus is alive!  We’ve seen Him!” Thomas replied, “Unless I see Him and touch Him, I won’t believe.”  The next time Jesus appeared, Thomas was there.  Jesus invited him to touch Him, and Thomas fell to his knees and said, “My Lord and my God.”  Jesus replied,

John 20:29 “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus seems to indicate that we are more blessed when we haven’t seen and still believe.  It might be better for us than it was for them!

“It’s better for you that I’m going away, for then the Helper will come.” 

How can it be better to have the Spirit inside you than to have Jesus beside you?  Obviously, the Spirit can be with each of us everywhere.  Jesus could only be in one place at one time.  He could only be with a small number of people at any given moment.  But the Spirit can be with each of us all the time.  The Christian life is about relationship, and the Holy Spirit is always with you, making that relationship a 24-7 reality. 

ILL: I got a cell phone as soon as they were economically feasible.  My first phone was a Motorola flip phone—this is circa 1991.  No texting, no pictures, just a phone—you actually had conversations with people!  I got it for one reason: so that Laina could reach me anytime, anywhere.  For quite awhile, Laina was the only person who had my cell number. My friends called it my electronic leash.  But I wanted to be leashed to Laina!  We like being connected.  My two-month long motorcycle ride around the US last summer was only possible because of cell phones.  She was with me wherever I went: my wife in my pocket!  We talked multiple times a day. 

The Holy Spirit is like a cell phone!  He makes a 24/7 relationship with God possible.  He is always with us, always in us.  Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 13:14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

I like that idea that we can fellowship with the Holy Spirit all day long!  I don’t have to go looking for Jesus—His Spirit is living inside me 24/7, so we can enjoy unbroken and constant fellowship.  You are a portable temple!  The Spirit lives in you!  You are never alone.

This is how their loss turned into gain.  “It’s better for you that I go away, for then the Helper will come.”  And it was true.  While Jesus was with them, even after His resurrection, they were timid and fearful.  But when the Spirit came, they were empowered, bold and fearless. 

It’s better to be a Spirit-filled follower of Jesus today than it was to physically follow Jesus around Israel in the first century!  I long to experience the fellowship of the Holy Spirit—to experience more of His presence and power in my life.  And I long for that for you too.  There’s more!

So Jesus tells them, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!  Your loss will turn to gain.  You will lose me, but gain the Holy Spirit—and that’s better.”

2. Your grief will turn to joy! 16-24

John 16:16-24 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

I don’t know this from first-hand experience, but I’m told that having babies hurts.  Is that right ladies?  One mother described it as pooping out a pumpkin!  Sorry.  Ladies, you are way tougher than us men!  Every man in the room salutes you! 

But I’ve noticed that despite the pain, many ladies have a second, and third and fourth or more!  They seem to forget about the pain as soon as the baby is born.  In fact, they are all smiles as soon as that newborn is placed in their arms.  Their grief turns to joy.  (This is my daughter Sally showing newly born Ruby—under the covers—to big sister Malya, and cousins Jenna and Savanna.   Speaking of Sally—we got the good news on Tuesday that her pathology report was clean.  No sign of any spread of the cancer.   We’re so grateful!  This is another example of our grief turned to joy!)

The pain of childbirth followed by the joy of a new baby is the example Jesus used here to show His followers that their grief would turn to joy.  Jesus warned them that in a little while, they would see Him no more and would weep and mourn.  He was talking about His death, and the profound grief that would overwhelm them. 

“But I will see you again, and you will rejoice!”  He was talking about His resurrection, and that’s exactly what happened when they saw Him. 

John 20:20 The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

All the grief, all the sorrow, all the pain suddenly overwhelmed by joy! 

ILL: When Sally got the call about her pathology report, it was just she and I at home and we danced around the living room, jumping up and down, clapping and cheering!  All the weeks of uncertainty, fear, and pain gone—turned into joy!  We clapped and hollered all the way to Starbucks for a celebratory latte!  Woohoo! 

I think it might have been like that for the disciples too.  Do you think anyone jumped for joy?  Anyone clapped and shouted?  Anyone had a celebratory latte?  I think so!  Their grief had turned to joy.

This is Jesus’ promise to the disciples about His death and resurrection.  “I am going, but I’ll see you again, and your grief will turn to joy.”

This is the power of the resurrection of Jesus for us too!  He has conquered death!   Death and our mortality has been swallowed up by life, Paul says. 

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

2 Corinthians 5:4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

I love these verses.  Paul says that our mortality will be swallowed up by life, and that death itself will be swallowed up by victory.  The word “swallowed up” is the same Greek word in 1 Peter 5:8 where it says the devil is a prowling lion looking for someone to devour.  In Jesus, resurrection life will simply overwhelm death; it will devour it!  And our grief will turn to joy.

This will happen in the future, at the final resurrection.  But meanwhile, we live with this hope, we live with joy. 

ILL: When our son Jeff died in 2006 at the age of 22, Laina and I were overwhelmed with grief.  I lived the next six months in a grief-induced depression.  I went through the motions every day, but had very little energy to do anything.  Grief will do that to you. 

At one point, Laina talked to me and said, “I understand your grief, but we can’t get stuck here.”  I agreed.  I didn’t want to get stuck there either.

How did I regain my joy?  It came from my relationship with Jesus, and the hope He gave me that I will see my son again.  One day in my daily time with God, He said to me, “You and Laina did a good job with Jeff.  Now it’s my turn.  I’ll take it from here.  He’s in good hands, and you’ll see Him again.” 

“I will see you again,” Jesus said, “and no one will take away your joy.” This joy that Jesus promises is unassailable—no one or nothing can take it away from you.  And it is complete—it is a fullness of joy so complete that we forget the former pain.

It’s Friday, when you feel overwhelmed by grief.  It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.  Your grief will turn to joy.


3. Your trouble will turn to triumph.  25-33

John 16:25-33 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, 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 entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Do you ever get discouraged by the daily news?  Doesn’t it seem sometimes like evil is winning?  ISIS and Boko Haram, wars, barbaric brutality, exploiting women and children as sex slaves.  It’s terrible.  Human beings can be so…inhuman.  Maybe that’s why stories like this one stand out.

ILL: When a baseball player for Bloomsburg University posted an offensive tweet about Mo’ne Davis last weekend, the university promptly kicked him off the team.  How did Mo’ne, the 14 year-old heroine of last summer’s Little League World Series respond?  She emailed the university and asked them to reinstate him! “He made one dumb mistake. I’m sure he would go back and change it if he could,” she wrote.  In an ESPN interview on Monday, she said:

“Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone deserves a second chance.  It hurt on my part, but he hurt even more. If it was me, I would want to take that back. I know how hard he’s worked. Why not give him a second chance?”  Very classy.

It started as trouble but turned into triumph.  Good triumphed over evil.  But often it doesn’t feel that way.  It often feels like evil is winning.

I’m sure it felt that way times ten for the disciples on Friday.  “In the world, you will have trouble,” Jesus said.  That seems like an enormous understatement from a man about to be arrested, beaten, whipped, spat upon and nailed to cross.  “Trouble” isn’t a big enough word to describe all that.

“In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”  The word “overcome” is the Greek verb nikao, which means “to win in the face of obstacles, to conquer, overcome, prevail.”  The Greek noun is nike, the word for victory.  Does that look familiar?   Jesus said: “I have overcome the world.  I have conquered the world, and I am the Winner!” 

This seemed like a crazy thing to say!  Jesus is about to be crucified—a death so terrible that it was reserved for the worst and most dangerous criminals.  It didn’t look at all like He was winning.  In fact, the idea of a crucified God was incredulous to most people—unthinkable—a picture of ignoble defeat, not glorious victory.

ILL: This crude drawing was discovered on a wall in Rome during an archaeological dig in 1857.  It’s called the Alexamenos graffito.  It’s an ancient graffiti that dates back to the first three centuries. Jesus is portrayed on the cross with a donkey’s head, while a man raises a hand in worship. In crude Greek, it says, “Alexamenos worships his God.”  A crucified God with a donkey’s head. 

This is what most Romans thought of Jesus’ victory. 

And yet 20 centuries later, Rome with all her splendor and power is long gone, and the Kingdom of Jesus numbers over 2 billion followers and growing! 

Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.”  And He did.  In His death, He defeated all the powers of darkness, and He absorbed and paid for human sin.  In His resurrection, He conquered death itself; and by sending the Holy Spirit, He unleashed a power for good so great that nothing has been able to stop it for 20 centuries.  In the world, you’ll have trouble; but I have overcome the world!  It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming! 

What does this mean for us? Following Jesus won’t be easy.  But it will be worth it!  In the world you will have trouble.  It won’t be easy.  But Jesus has overcome and if you’re with Him, you win in the end.

ILL: Does anybody here ever have trouble understanding the book of Revelation?  All the symbolism: the beasts and critters, the plagues, the trumpets, Babylon the Great and the mark of the Beast?

Revelation is an unusual style of literature that was popular in the first century.  We call it apocalyptic literaature, and it was highly symbolic.  Perhaps the best comparison is political cartoons which use exaggerated imagery to make a point.  Imagine someone looking at our political cartoons 1900 years from now.  Like this one: they’ll be stumped!  What is “tebowing” and what’s a “tea partier”?  They will have no clue, but you know.  Or this one: they’ll have no idea what the “puppy-love commercial” or the NFL is.  Of course everyone will remember the Seahawks Super Bowl victory forever!  They wouldn’t know what that means but you do!

Reading Revelation is a little like that for us—it’s like reading political cartoons from the first century.

So let me help you out.  There is one big idea in Revelation that trumps them all, one main message and here it is: Jesus wins! 

John wrote Revelation to people who were suffering for their faith in Jesus, to encourage them to hang in there, because Jesus wins in the end!

“In the world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”  Jesus turns trouble into triumph.  It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

So are you in the middle of a hard time?  Is life tough right now?  Take heart!

  • Your loss will turn to gain!  Jesus promised it would be hard, but also that He would never leave us.  The Holy Spirit lives in you and He will help you.  Lean on Him!
  • Your grief will turn to joy!  Evil doesn’t get the last word.  God does!  They killed Jesus, but God raised Him from the dead, and the disciples’ grief turned to joy.  Jesus’ resurrection is our guarantee that grief is temporary and joy is forever.  Hang on to that!
  • Your trouble will turn to triumph. People ask me all the time, “Why did this bad thing happen?”  We live in a fallen, broken, sinful world.  Jesus promised that we would have trouble in this world.  But He also declared that He overcame the world.  Hang on to Jesus and never give up, because Jesus wins in the end!

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.