I wonder if you’ve ever thought to yourself: If only Jesus was around, things would be so much better. There’d be no coronavirus because Jesus would overcome it, he’d heal people on the spot. If people could see Jesus with their own eyes, everyone would believe in Jesus. There’d be no more tricky questions. Questions like: “Why is there suffering in this world?” We’d have direct access to Jesus.
But the fact that Jesus is not here, we can’t touch him we can’t see him, we can’t hear him and that’s actually a really good thing. Jesus has already warned that the world will hate him. The world will hate those who follow Jesus. And so in the midst of a hostile world, Jesus - in John 16 - is now going to prepare his disciples for his departure. Take a look at verse 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. (NIV)
Jesus, the one who always acts for our good. Declares it’s actually better for me to go than to stay. If I DON’T go, then the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, won’t turn up. Jesus isn’t about to do a cut and run, to abort the mission.
The mission will go on. Jesus knows he’s heading for the cross but that won’t be the end. The next part of God’s plan is about to unfold.
Now before we dive further into John 16, it’s worth mentioning that this is ground zero when it comes to the Holy Spirit. There’s plenty of place we’re tempted to go when it comes to working out the person and work of the Holy Spirit. But there’s no better place to go than straight to the source. Here in John 16, we’re going straight to Jesus. And what He says about Himself. In fact, Jesus outlines two things about what the Holy Spirit does here in John 16.
The Spirit has:
1. MINISTRY TO THE WORLD
Most of the time in John’s gospel, ‘the world’ is used in the negative. It describes the hostile world order towards God. A world who rebels against its creator. We’ve seen it already last week - the world will hate. That’s a strong word, but it will hate you because you follow Jesus. It’s to this world, the Spirit, rather than abandoning, rather than giving up on the world, verses 8 - 9 tells us He’ll do three things.
When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (NIV)
Notice here how the Spirit is a ‘he’ not an ‘it’, the Spirit is not the force, like in Star Wars, he’s a person. He’s God! You can know him! You can be in relationship with him! His actions are real actions. So, when it comes to the world, he will prove the world to be in the wrong.
Whereas the world says: You and I - we’re actually pretty good people. The Spirit says to the world: you’re actually in the wrong. You’re wrong on the most important question in life. On where you stand with Jesus. Notice how it’s sin not sins. The ultimate sin is to reject Jesus.
Now because the Holy Spirit is doing the heavy lifting, when we evangelise, we don’t have to manipulate people. It takes the pressure off. We can’t nag people into the kingdom and nor do we have to! Don’t try and do the job of the Holy Spirit. We can reach peoples ears but we can’t reach their hearts. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.
If you haven’t said Yes to Jesus, maybe the Holy Spirit is convicting you now.
I used to think I was a Christian at school. I didn’t do drugs, I never got drunk, I followed the rules, I can’t remember getting a detention. It wasn’t until the Spirit of God opened my eyes for me to realise that no matter how many good things I had done goodness was defined by something objective. Something definitive. And that’s whether I believe in Jesus or not. That’s definitive, objective. So, if you want to get right with God then ask him to persuade you, through the Spirit. Ask him to help you get over the line. Verse 10
about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer (NIV)
Whereas the world says: Jesus is irrelevant, that he really isn’t God, or from God. The Spirit says ‘Jesus is in the right, He is EXACTLY who he said he was.’ The Spirit confirms who Jesus claimed to be and this fact is in his resurrection and in his ascension. He is in the right!
This is not the righteousness we read about elsewhere in the Bible, particularly in Paul’s letters. Whereas that righteousness describes a legal standing before God. The righteousness the Spirit will convict the world about is in verse 11, that Jesus really IS who he says he is!
and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (NIV)
Whereas the world and its ruler, Satan, thinks it’s in the right. The Spirit, comes along and says ‘It’s game over. You’ve lost.’ Satan might say “God’s not there. God’s not for you”. But the Spirit simply says: that’s just a pack of lies. The Spirit will bring things out of the darkness and into the light, the deception and the corruption of the world will be exposed for what it is.
The prince of this world has been disarmed, defeated and destroyed, by a king, and not just any king, but the king of kings. The cross was Satan’s greatest failure. Not his greatest victory!
2.MINISTRY TO HIS FOLLOWERS
Throughout these chapters in John, one of the things that stands out is the fact that Jesus knows EXACTLY how his disciples are feeling. He knows their fears, their anxieties and their uncertainty, that’s exactly what he addresses in verse 19 - 22.
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’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 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. 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. (NIV)
To help the disciples understand the fact Jesus is going to appear ‘in a little while’ Jesus uses the example of childbirth.
Now I’ve seen, with my own eyes, a child being born 4 times. But that’s nothing compared to my wife Teresa, she’s been through childbirth 4 times and none of it was pleasant. First there’s the lead up to the labour, the aches, the pains, the swollen ankles, not to mention the contractions, the screaming, the sheer length of time. With one of our children, she was in labour for nearly an entire day! But once each of our children came out those cries gave way to smiles and to relief at being able to hold, to hug, to kiss the child who’d spent 9 months in her womb. At last.
Notice here how Jesus says, your sorrow won’t be replaced by joy. It won’t be a case of trading in one for the other. No, sorrow will turn into joy. The very thing that generates so much agony and pain, that same event will become the very reason for celebration. Every moment of sorrow, every period of suffering, every temptation, every sickness. Every time you’re on the receiving end of persecution because you stuck your neck out for Jesus.
Every moment of discipline. Absolutely none of us find it pleasant at the time. But we can be sure that God isn’t wasting any of those things. He is the great recycler! You can be sure he’ll use those things for His glory, and our good!
Verse 23 shows that part of that joy you and I will experience will come through answered prayer.
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. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (NIV)
Whereas Jesus’ disciples could only access the Father through Jesus. Now because of Jesus, they will have direct access to the Father. There’s nothing more joyous than having your prayers heard by the God of this universe. Your prayers aren’t simply hitting the wall and bouncing off the roof. Instead, because they’re prayers prayed in Jesus name, they will be heard.
And so, let me ask you, how are you going with those impossible prayer points?
Admittedly I’ve slipped off the horse. But knowing that it’s actually for my joy to keep praying prayers, in the name of Jesus, because of Jesus, through Jesus, all thanks to Jesus. That’s what inspires me to get back on the horse! And so, we come to last part of John 16. A timely word given the world we’re finding ourselves in right now.
“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. “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.” (NIV)
Jesus has overcome the world in so many ways. One of the ways is there in verse 32. That there’ll be a time when Jesus is back reunited with his Father.
Jesus has overcome world in other ways too.
As each person is no longer part of this world but part of the kingdom!
It’s precisely because Jesus has overcome this world, we can now live in anxiety? No, we can have peace. Jesus wants us to take heart, to have confidence, to know his comfort. Thanks to Jesus, we have peace. What does peace look like in the midst of coronavirus?
I’ve washed my hands probably more this week than I ever have before. Can I encourage you, the next time you’re washing your hands, the proper way, remind yourself that, thanks to Jesus, You're held safe in the Father’s hands, the hands that flung the stars into space, that hung there on the cross, for me.
This week, I asked one of my daughters how she was feeling about the coronavirus, with things she was looking forward being cancelled left, right and centre. With routines being completely changed. I was expecting that she would say she’d be nervous, scared and uncertain. But her response surprised me. She said: “I don’t have to be nervous or afraid. God is with me. And I know I’m going to heaven”
She had ministered to me. She had shown me what peace during these crazy, uncertain times, looks like.
Thanks to Jesus, and His Spirit, you and I can have a peace that surpasses all understanding.