Your Joy No One Will Take
We have finally come to the final verses of the Upper Room Discourse. In chapter sixteen verses sixteen through thirty-three Jesus will conclude His teaching ministry. All the things that He had done for the disciples would come to an end that night. He would not be with them physically any longer to guide them, answer their questions, or absorb the hatred directed toward them. Yet, there was one task left to accomplish; the primary reason that Jesus came. He had come into the world to save sinners and that is exactly what He would do the following day at Calvary. He would be glorified; i.e. crucified, resurrected, ascended. Thus, in these verses we will read the final words of Jesus’ teaching/prophetic ministry. His glorification was so sure that He declared at the end of the passage, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
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What is This That He Says [16-19]
The disciples are puzzled by the statement that Jesus makes in verse sixteen. Though, we must admit that it is somewhat strange for Jesus to say, “A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me.” It was difficult enough to figure out what Jesus meant in chapter fourteen verse nineteen when He said, “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.”
In fact, the disciples have not even spoken since the last question was posed by Judas (not Iscariot) in chapter fourteen verse twenty-two. There he asked, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world.” This definitely has the disciples talking again and maybe that is exactly what Jesus was provoking. The men could not make any sense of what Jesus meant by this saying. Because they were so confused, the disciples “murmured among themselves” (Yarborough, 165). Of course, this isn’t the first time that they murmured or reasoned among themselves; they had done it on several occasions. This time they could not come up with an answer. The reason they couldn’t decipher the message was because they had “no category to allow them to make sense of a Messiah who would die, rise from the dead, and abandon his people in favour of ‘another Counsellor’” (Carson, 543).
Now Jesus knew that they really wanted to question Him. He could most likely see the puzzled looks on their faces and hear the mumbling around the room. So, Jesus sets us His response by repeating His statement again in verse nineteen: “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”
Your Sorrow Will Be Turned into Joy [20-24]
In verse twenty Jesus now begins His response to their inquiry and does so with His well known phrase “Most assuredly, I say to you…” (or as the KJV puts it “Verily, verily, I say unto you…”). Jesus uses this phrase “to confirm and emphasize [the following statement’s] trustworthiness and importance” (Carson, 162). Thus, Jesus has no doubt that in just a little while, the disciples would weep, but the world would rejoice.
We know that it would be just a little while and Jesus would be crucified and buried. The disciples would no longer see Him. After another little while He would be raised from the dead and the disciples would be able to see Him once again. During that period of not seeing Jesus the disciples would most certainly weep and lament. The world, though, would count the death of Jesus as terrific and would rejoice over the fact of getting rid of what they considered to be a menace in society. In the last phrase of verse twenty we hear the Gospel message. Christ can turn sorrow to joy and that is exactly what happened for the disciples on resurrection Sunday. Jesus would return to them and their sorrow would be turned to joy.
Next, Jesus uses an illustration of a mother giving birth to describe what He has just said. I think that all the mothers in the room know this verse to be true. I have heard many mothers say, even those who had several complications, that as soon as their child is delivered the pain goes away. I have been told that the process is not even remembered when they are able to hold their baby for the first time. A mother’s heart rejoices to see her child and no one or no thing can take that joy from her. The same would be true of the disciples. They would be sorrowful at the death of their Friend and Master, but that grief would not even be remembered when they saw Him again. Their hearts would rejoice and no one would be able to take their joy from them when Jesus was raised from the dead; that is excitement and that is good news. No one can steal the joy that you have from meeting the risen Savior!
The day would soon come when the disciples would no longer need to ask Jesus about the things that they were having difficulty understanding. Jesus had said so many things about His crucifixion and resurrection for which the disciples simply had no reference. At the time, they could not understand why the Messiah would die. Yet, after the resurrection they would know. In fact, it was when the Apostle John looked into the empty tomb that he says he believed. There questions would be answered, so in that day they would ask Him nothing. They would simply believe. An extension of that faith would be an authentic and healthy prayer life. They would be so immersed in Christ that they could truly ask in His name, i.e. in full accord with His person. The idea of asking in Jesus’ name was detailed in chapter fifteen, but now it is put in proper order according to salvation history. It would be after the glorification of Christ that the disciples would be able to ask the Father for things in Jesus’ name and receive those things which would cause their joy to be full.
I Will Tell You Plainly [25-27]
All the things that Jesus has said throughout the discourse have been said in figurative language; that is mysterious and obscure language. There would be a time when Jesus would tell the disciples “plainly” about the Father; that is openly and clearly. The time that He foretells will be after the crucifixion/resurrection and will be marked by the coming of the Holy Spirit. I think that it is mainly the Spirit of Christ who would speak plainly to the disciples about the Father, but Jesus most certainly spoke to the disciples after the resurrection and before the ascension. I find it interesting that Jesus says that He would tell them about the Father. We may have figured Him to say that He would tell more about His incarnation, or about His death, or about His resurrection. Yet, He says, “I will tell you plainly about the Father.” Jesus always directs our attention to the Father, but in doing so we realize that Jesus is the ultimate self-revelation of the Father. If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father. If you understand the person of Jesus then you understand the person of the Father.
We have talked at length about praying in Jesus’ name. He has spoken of it at several points during the discourse. We are now told that in the power of Christ’s name they would bring their requests directly to the Father. They may not understand it yet, but the righteousness that Jesus’ would secure for them at Calvary would be their means of personally and individually entering into the presence of God the Father. How would they receive the power associated with Jesus’ name? Verse twenty-seven tells us that the Father already loved those disciples because they had loved Jesus and had believed that He came forth from God. God loves the whole world, He has demonstrated that in the sending of His Son, still He loves believers in a different way and shows that by satisfying their requests when made in accord with the person of Jesus (His name).
I Have Overcome the World [28-33]
Verse twenty-eight is one of those plain statements that Jesus says He will soon share. In two sentences He describes “the great movement of salvation” (Morris, 630). First, Jesus came forth from the Father. He was in a heavenly abode in a state of unconstrained glory. He was then commissioned by the Father with a task. Second, Jesus came into the world. This speaks of the incarnation. This is what John said in chapter one with the expression, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus humbled Himself to become a man and even went as far as death, even death on a cross. Yet, He was raised from the dead three days later. Third, after completing the task that He was commissioned to do Jesus left the world and went back to the Father. The ministry of Christ came full circle. He was sent out as the unique, self-sacrificing ambassador of God the Father and He returned to Him after accomplishing the mission.
That is clear and understandable! The disciples even consider these two sentences to be plain enough. Yet, I can’t help to think to myself, Had they not heard anything that Jesus had said during His ministry? Over and over again Jesus had told them that He had come from the Father. Again, over and over He had told them that He had to die and be raised again. The disciples have practically fooled themselves into thinking that they now could truly “hear” Jesus. They declare, “By this we believe that You came forth from God.” This is not a statement of complete understanding, but it does show that they are confident that Jesus certainly does have all the answers. Their faith was still weak and their understanding was definitely still lacking, but at the very least they believed that Jesus was who He claimed to be: the One come forth from God.
With a hint of sarcasm Jesus responds, “Do you now believe?” The slight understanding that they seemingly had that night would not be lasting. They would be scattered in fear and sorrow. Jesus would be without His “friends” as He went to the cross. They make a bold confession of their faith and almost immediately fail when challenged by a testing situation. It reminds me of Peter who in Matthew sixteen makes the bold confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and then almost immediately rebukes Jesus and is told “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” How typical this is of us humans! We are boldly confident, sure in our faith, and when the first test comes we are weak and vulnerable. What we realize in the Gospel message though is that when we are weak Christ is strong. We are not saved based on our righteousness, but on His. When we fail, we can turn right back to God. We can confess our sins and He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Though Jesus would be without these men, He assures them that He will not be alone because the Father is with Him.
These things have been said that the disciples may have peace. Jesus has given several reasons for saying what He has said. He has said that He wants them to believe, He wants them to have joy, and He wants them to abide in His love. Now He returns to peace. Peace that surpasses understanding is what the disciples needed in just a few short moments as the night and next day became chaotic. The entire discourse has been a means of preparing the disciples, giving them peace though they would face tribulation.
Until Christ returns, Christians hold citizenship in both the world and the kingdom of God. Notice the contrast in our final verse of being “in” Christ and “in” the world. Jesus says that in Him we may have peace and in the world we will have tribulation. With or without Christ, this world is full of tribulation. The questions is, are you in Christ? Do you have His peace? The Lord knew full well that the disciples would abandon Him and scatter and yet He still promises them peace. He looked forward to their time of restoration. How sovereign, forgiving, and provisional our God is in Jesus Christ!
The last phrase of the Upper Room Discourse serves as a great conclusion to this sermon and our study as a whole. Jesus affirms, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” The Son would not be overcome by the world when He went to the cross, but would in fact overcome the world. The word overcome “indicates victory; Jesus has conquered the world, in the same way that he has defeated the prince of this world” (Carson, 550). Those who put their faith in Christ will face tribulation in this world like anyone else and will even face opposition, but they can be at peace knowing that they share the victory that Christ has already guaranteed by dieing to sin once-for-all on that tree. He has obtained eternal redemption by His blood. Peace that surpasses all understanding is available to those who put their faith in Him.