Joy, Love and Peace When Jesus is Absent and the World is Hostile

The following post is a rough transcript of a sermon that I recently shared with my Legacy Christian Fellowship family at the Humboldt Park house church on December 20, 2015.

Joy, Love and Peace When Jesus is Absent and the World is Hostile

John 16:16-33

What do I have to celebrate this Christmas when my loved ones are gone and I am alone?

I’ve started pondering this question after three separate run-ins with grief and loss this December. First, I attended the funeral of a friend who developed Alzheimer’s in her late forties and early fifties. She died just a few weeks ago, the disease finally taking her life after about 8 years of struggle. Her daughter courageously cared for her mother throughout her decline all through high school and college. Then, no less than a week after the funeral, the daughter’s pet dog died as well.

Next, a young woman who recently married lost her father to death.

Then, while perusing Facebook, I saw images of ultrasound photos, and the sad news that a friend of mine from years back and his wife were grieving the loss of their unborn child, the result of a miscarriage.

And all of these grievous moments came rattling into unsuspecting lives in the midst of 24-hour Christmas stations and the coming ho-ho-holiday. Perhaps Christmas is not a time to celebrate, but a time to mourn for you.

What do I have to celebrate when Christmas just depresses me?

Perhaps this is the question you have to ask yourself every Christmas. Have you lost a mother, a grandfather, a child? Every Christmas, do the feelings of loss come rushing back? It’s unavoidable, as this is the time of year when you would hold them the most, and they are not coming back home for the holidays.

Or perhaps, you feel the growing depression of Christmas set in when you realize you are so in debt, and now you are expected to buy Christmas gifts. Maybe you don’t even make enough money to support your family, and now there’s so much pressure to provide presents.

Or maybe for you Christmas is a time when everyone posts pictures of themselves with family or friends online, and you just feel so alone. “Why can’t that be me?” or “Why is everyone else so much happier than I am?”

Just this past week, I was studying for this sermon at the McDonald’s over on North, and a guy struck up a conversation with me. He said, “I almost became a pastor once, but I’ve had a falling out with the man upstairs.” Upon further questioning, he said it wasn’t that he’d had any unmet expectations, but that he had a hard time trusting in God when he’d allowed certain disturbing things to happen in his life. “I just don’t think a guy can smile when the stuff that’s going on in this world is going on.”

You may be asking similar questions. What do I have to celebrate at Christmas when terrorists are among us, and the threat of hostility feels so tangible? When kids are dying every night in our streets?

I mean, where is Jesus? This is supposedly his party, but I haven’t seen him lately. Maybe if he were here, things would be different, and we could deal with this crazy, messed up world.

 These are the sorts of questions I’d like us to take a look at this afternoon, but perhaps the best way to summarize our thoughts is this:

How can Christians bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering?

Or stated another way,

How can the church endure the grief of a missing Messiah in the midst of intense anguish?

And if you are like me, and prefer just a few words to wrap your mind around, If he’s not here, and I’m hurting, what do I do?

To answer these questions, let’s take a peek at a time in the life of the disciples when they were asking the exact same things. Turn in your Bible to the Gospel of John, chapter 16, verse 16. The disciples have been following Jesus for 3 years. Here in chapter 16, the Gospel of John is focusing on the last time Jesus is with his closest followers who will one day become the church. The crowds are gone and Judas has left.

This is a transition point for the Gospel of John as a whole. From chapter 1 through chapter 13, Jesus seems to focus primarily on unbelievers, persuading them that he is in fact their Messiah and the Son of God. But here, as chapter 13 ends, and 14-18 follow, Jesus moves his attention to his disciples, and he pours into them truth, warnings, and encouragements that will propel his small band of followers on their mission as the church after his departure.

I won’t read every verse of chapters 13-15, but just to help us appreciate a little bit of context, I’ll give us a sweeping understanding of those chapters leading up to our text in 16.

John 13:31-38
The scene is the upper room, and Judas has just left, so Jesus gets a bit more intimate with his disciples about the need for his departure, which they will be unable to follow. Peter denies staying behind and is told he will deny Jesus.

John 14:1-11
Right after foretelling Peter’s denial, Jesus tells the group to not be troubled, but instead to believe in God and Christ. The belief primarily is centered on the fact that Jesus’ departure is a blessing instead of a curse.

John 14:15-26
Jesus then begins to explain that love for him will lead to obedience, and that obedience will be empowered by a “Helper” that Jesus will send upon his departure (additional perk for Jesus’ departure). The Helper will “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Spoiler alert: this “Helper” will later be called the “Holy Spirit.”

John 14:27-31
Seeing that the disciples’ fears over his departure are growing, Jesus once again says, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” and tells them he is leaving them his peace. He explains that if they truly love him, they will be happy that he is returning to his Father. He’s telling them these things early so that they will not be rocked when he does depart.

At this point in the narrative, the disciples and Jesus leave the upper room, and begin their walk to Gethsemane. I can just picture them walking and talking their way there. Maybe they stop from time to time as Jesus talks and prays, but primarily this is a conversation on the road from here on.

John 15:1-17
As they are preparing to leave, Jesus starts with an additional I am statement (“I am the true vine.”) and explains that they cannot be fruitful apart from him. Additionally, he explains once more than those who love are also those who obey him, and that he will answer the requests of those who love him because it glorifies the Father when his disciples are proved. He also calls for loving one another with the same love that he has shared with the Father.

John 15:18-16:4
Next, Jesus contrasts with his love the hatred of the world. The hatred of the world comes against them because they belong to Christ. Because Jesus was persecuted, they will be persecuted. Jesus ends this section once again reminding them that all of this should not cause them to despair because he is going to send the Helper. Again, Jesus is bringing all this up so that they will not be shocked and caught unaware when it happens.

John 16:1-15
Jesus once again stresses, in the midst of their sorrow, how it is BETTER for him to leave because then they will get the Helper. He then further explains how the Spirit will communicate deeper truth than they can currently handle.

So, basically in these two and a half chapters leading up to our text, Jesus is saying, “I’m leaving, the world is going to hate you, but it’s better for me to go because I’m sending a Helper.”

Now do you remember our original question?

How can Christians bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering?

If he’s not here, and I’m hurting, what do I do?

Let’s dive into the text. What we are going to see in verses 16-22 is

Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because

I. Our grief is and will be eclipsed by unstealable joy.

The church’s sorrow is and will be overshadowed by inextinguishable delight. (16-22).

John 16:16“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask [“question”] him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

The disciples are walking to the place where Jesus will be arrested, and they don’t know it. Jesus transitions from speaking about the Spirit who will be sent in his absence, and future persecution, to encourage them. He begins preparing them for that moment with this “little while” language, which confuses them. What do you mean, “in a little while” we won’t see you, and then “a little while” and we will? Of course we know he’s talking about the arrest, the Jewish and Roman trials, the crucifixion, the burial, and then resurrection, which will rapidly occur over the next three days of their lives. He’s essentially saying, “This is technically not the last time we’ll see each other. Very soon, I’ll be gone, but then just as soon, you’ll see me again.” The disciples, however, still have had no category for the notion of a dying and rising Messiah. This is after all the third time, Jesus has mentioned this phrase “a little while” (John 7:33; 13:33; 14:19), but in each, he did not then say, “and in a little while and you will see me.” So it was confusing enough to hear that the victor, leader, king they were following cryptically speaking of leaving them just when things were getting good in the movement, but now he’s saying that the leave is only temporary. So Jesus breaks it down: “You are going to experience great grief when I’m gone, but the unstealable joy that will follow will eclipse your grief. In fact, the best illustration is a woman giving birth to a baby. She experiences the greatest pain and anguish of her life in those moments, but the joy of a baby birthed swallows up all previous sorrow.”

Ouch to Awe Effect

I call that to which Jesus is referring the “Ouch to Awe Effect.”

My wife Elizabeth is 8-months pregnant with our third child, so I’ve seen this play out first hand. There is no romance in pregnancy or labor. Both are excruciating. I don’t know where blogging preggo moms get their narratives from, because the sickness, exhaustion, and fatigue throughout the pregnancy, and then intense pain that comes at the end are not something I would write about in loving terms. It’s like the woman comes close to death in bringing forth this new life. Labor and delivery are very much a picture of the Gospel of resurrection. Death is swallowed up in victory. As Jesus points out, though, the birth of the baby will eclipse the sorrow of the delivery. There is an amnesia of joy that sets in once that tiny baby is placed on the breast of the mommy. This is, in fact, why people have second, third, and more babies.

This is the Ouch to Awe Effect. And it’s exactly the way Jesus describes your sorrow to joy story.

“This is great for the disciples,” you might say, “but how does this help me?” Well, first, let’s talk about how to apply a Gospel account. Many times, I think we know how to apply an epistle (or letter) in the Bible, and we can unpack poetry, but when it comes to Gospel books like Matthew, Mark, or John, we’re not sure how to go about it.

I like to first start with the question, “What do we not have in common with the disciples?”

In our case, Jesus has already died and risen again. The disciples were on the other side of the cross when they heard these encouraging words. So this informs us that our promised unstealable joy stems from the resurrection. The resurrection (not our situation) is where our joy comes from, and the resurrection has already taken place in the past, and therefore is already accessible, at least in part.

I say “in part” because we haven’t physically seen Jesus yet. We live in a time that many people refer to as the “already, but not yet.” Already Jesus has risen back to life, and therefore we have a resurrection that fuels our unstealable joy, but not yet has he returned the final conquering victor in whom our unstealable joy will be fully experienced. Don’t allow this to be a cop-out, however, because the disciples also lost Jesus’ physical presence when he later ascended, and yet their joy did not burn out. It was unstealable. And upon this unstealable joy, they founded the living church.

Also, Jesus is not going to appear momentarily in the future. In the disciples’ case, the “little while” was literally 3 days between departure and return. In our case, Jesus is going to appear again, not for a little while, but for eternity.

Now, what do we have in common with the disciples?

We have grief tied to Jesus’ physical absence (that is one of the reasons they would grieve, remember) and we have the world’s persecution. The world laughs while Christians grieve. ISIS kills Christians. There are terrorist attacks within our cities. We are in danger of being attacked through social media for things as silly as modesty, or believing in one sovereign God, or the necessity of marriage being between one man and one woman. Here in Chicago, we are in danger of being shot or our children being shot. And even in that point, I know we need to be careful to not over-apply since our kids are not being shot for being Christians, but the fear and the sorrow are the same.

But see, this is where an additional step must be made when applying a Gospel account. The disciples are not the only audience, and we are not the only audience. In addition to the disciples in the story, and in addition to ourselves, there is an author, John, who is writing contemporarily to his original audience, which was the early church. And that early church John was writing to experiences quite a bit of overlap with our current day situation. They lived this side of the resurrection, and they needed to be informed about the Ouch to Awe Effect as well.

So what was John communicating to his original audience who lived after the resurrection and physical return, but then ascension of Jesus? 

I think John was communicating this: We live in the already but not yet. We look back to the resurrection and forward to a Second Coming of Jesus. And Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because our grief is and will be eclipsed by unstealable joy. John was declaring that the church is a place of joy in light of a risen Jesus (even though relatives die and things are stolen from us). The resurrection is the fuel of our joy-filled witness in the midst of sorrow. We are not worse off in light of Jesus’ departure because the church’s receipt of the Spirit is as significant as walking with Jesus physically. This side of the ascension, a returning Jesus says, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Do you hear that? No one will take your joy from you! We all want that! We want joy that does not dissipate. That is not fleeting. It’s like the YouTube videos of thieves attempting to steal the iPad that is strapped with a metal chain to the store counter. They run with the device in their hands for the door, and fall flat on their backs because that iPad is unstealable. Or it’s like those new bikes they’ve made that convert into a padlock instead of requiring a separate lock. They are unstealable. This joy that Jesus is describing, this joy that we have offered to us in light of the resurrection is unstealable, cannot be taken from us, and it is both available now in the midst of our grieving and loss this Christmas, and also will be fully, completely, utterly installed in our hearts at the second coming of Christ.

Jesus is saying you will grieve, but then receive unstealable joy when you see me again. He came back once to inaugurate that joy (and it exploded a movement across the globe called the church), and he will come back yet again to stoke that joy for eternity.

Some thoughts came to my mind as I was thinking through unstealable joy which eclipses our sorrow this Christmas.

A. Grieving people make us uncomfortable. We don’t want their grief to rub off on us. Particularly around the holidays when it’s supposed to be “holly-jolly and ho-ho-ho.” But we need grieving people around us because it is their granite, tenacious clinging to promised, coming-but-not-here-yet everlasting joy which is at the heart of the anticipation of Christmas. Sorrow is uncomfortable, but it’s real and it’s tangible, and it gives way to the coming joy of Jesus.

B. Grief is real and tangible, but it is inferior to unstealable joy. If you are the one who is grieving loss this Christmas, know that we need your anticipation for joy among us. We do not need to explain away your grief or question the fact that you are crying again when the loss happened years ago. But take hope and take heart that joy is coming. Joy is on the other side of your grief, and your grief will be utterly inferior to the joy available to you through the resurrection. Because at the heart of the resurrection is the reality that death is not the final word, reversals are not mere fairy tales, and when a soul trusts unreservedly in the Savior, grief is not eternal.

So the first part of our answer to the big question we started with is: Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because our grief is and will be eclipsed by unstealable joy.

Next, we’ll see in verses 23-28, Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because

II. We may ask the Father for full joy on account of his love for us.

The church may plead to God for insatiable delight because of his affection towards us (v 23-28).

John 16:23In that day you will ask [“question”] nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24Until 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. 26In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask [“question”] the Father on your behalf; 27for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

There’s a little bit of wordplay going on here. There are two synonyms for “ask” which are used, but each carries a slightly different nuance. One form means to “question,” and one form means to “request.” So earlier in verse 19, Jesus knew his disciples wanted to “question” him about the “little while” language. Here in verse 23, he states that “in that day,” or after he has resurrected and shown himself to be the victorious Messiah, his disciples will no longer “question” him about anything.

One of the key characteristics we know of the disciples is that they are always asking Jesus questions, and primarily these questions are intended to help them believe that he is in fact the Messiah. Also, we see many times that Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees and scribes, to get him to prove himself or be shown to be an idiot.

Here in verses 23-28, Jesus introduces a new form of the ask. It is the request which will replace the questioning after the resurrection. In that day, the disciples will question him about nothing, but instead will directly ask God the Father for the receipt of full joy. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “One day our relationship will dramatically change. You will go from interrogators or students to children who ask the Father out of necessity instead of quizzing me for speculation.”

The wordplay is even stronger when you realize that Jesus points out that they have NEVER asked for anything in his name (v.24). Then, he emphatically says, “ASK! So that your joy will be made full!” (v.24). In that day post-resurrection, you will finally ask! (v.26). Then he makes the astonishing statement, “In that day, you will ask…and I do not say to you that I will QUESTION the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you…”

Do you see it? Those who do not realize who Jesus is question him. They seek answers to the questions of life. But those who have witnessed the resurrection, who realize who Jesus is, change in their relationship to him from ones who ask questions to ones who desperately ask for their spiritual hunger to be filled. They go from being acquaintances to children. They go from students to family. And Jesus says, “I’m not merely going to serve as a middle-man in your quest for answers. I’m not taking your questioning to the Father. No, you are going directly to the Father—not with questions, but with requests.” And how can this be? How can sinners approach the throne? Because we are loved by the Father! And why does he love us? Because we love His Son and believe in His Son!

And what is the request that is being made of the Father? Joy to eclipse sorrow? Shelter from the affliction of the world? Safety in the midst of hostility? It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly in the passage, but it’s remarkable what the end result will be—full joy! That unstealable joy which we talked about earlier is now realized on account of the love the Father has for us! We are emphatically told to boldly ask, and we are then filled with joy! This pattern of asking and receiving (see Matt. 7:7) with resultant complete joy, has already been shared earlier in John 15. But this place in chapter 16 points out the relationship the asker has to the Father—one of love.

Again, what is John communicating to his original audience?

I believe he is explaining through Jesus’ sharing that the dying/rising Jesus connects believers to the Father more intimately than the Temple or Judaism ever did; in fact he provides the ability to ask like a child of the Father. And Jesus actually came into the world for this purpose—to connect the lost sheep of his fold to the Triune love of the Father for the Son and the Spirit. Once this connection is made, this love relationship between the Father and the church through the Son, there is no longer a need for the Son to walk the earth. He may return to the Father, and send the Spirit in his place to continue this unified love between Trinity and redeemed humanity.

John is making clear that now believers will be able to approach God in prayer directly on the basis of Jesus’ finished cross-work on their behalf.

John is painting a portrait that the church is loved by the Father based on a love for the Son and belief in the Son. 

What do we have in common with the disciples?

We also possess the need to be told we are loved by the Father because similar to the disciples perhaps previously we didn’t think being loved by the holy God was possible (and it wasn’t possible without imputed righteousness through relationship to the Son). And we also possess the direct access to the Father based on the same love for the Son and belief in him.

So, Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because we may ask the Father for full joy on account of his love for us. 

Daddy Night Rule

This reminds me of the Daddy Night Rule.

In our home, we have the Daddy Night Rule. Once a week is Daddy Night, which means that Elizabeth gets a night to herself to spend wherever and however she likes, and I take the kids and we go do stuff that Mommy will never do. Things like sword fights and crazy late night ice cream treats and other things I’m not allowed to mention. But on Daddy Night, we have the Daddy Night Rule, which states that on Daddy Night, my six-year-old son Elijah can ask me anything he desires, and I’m committed to answering it. There are no limits on what he may ask.

And the Daddy Night Rule has led to some pretty amazing conversations. We’ve discussed everything from how adoption works to why black people are black and how Jesus can be God while God the Father is still God and God the Spirit is also God, but there’s only one God (the essentials of Trinitarianism). I hope to continue the Daddy Night Rule on into the teenage years, and hopefully the questions will continue on into thoughts on girls and other big questions of life. I tell my son, “You can ask me anything, anything at all,” and the reason he can do that is because he’s my son. I love him. He has direct access to me.

But see, as beautiful as the Daddy Night Rule is, it’s still not illustrative of what Jesus is referring to when he says, “ASK! Because the Father loves you!” The Daddy Night Rule is still simply questioning. When Jesus says, “ASK! Because the Father loves you!” the equivalent ask from my son would be, “Daddy, I’m hungry. Daddy, hold me, I’m afraid. Daddy, pick me up, I’m hurt. Daddy, be with me, I’m scared.” This is what we have in our access to the Father.

See, Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because we may ask the Father for full joy on account of his love for us.

So,

A. Ask for full joy in the midst of your sorrow because you are loved by the Father. In the midst of grief, we ask for joy. I mean it. This is not cliché, but a real request to ask of the Father. Call out to God the Father from the midst of your loss this Christmas, from the midst of your sorrow, and ask him, “God, give me full joy! Give me your presence! Give me the capacity to find joy in you when I no longer have these precious people you’ve taken from me! I need you!” 

B. Know that God the Father loves you directly and not indirectly. Loving Jesus and believing Jesus to be the Son are the only eligibility requirements to be in God’s family. Sometimes, I think we get things mixed up and believe that the God of the Old Testament is somehow this angry, obstinate character who we need namby, pamby New Testament Jesus to die for and appease so that we can then be tolerated by the angry OT God. But this is not the portrait of our God in the Scriptures. Jesus essentially states in this passage that the love of the Father is lavished on us in direct relation to our loving the Son, but the Son will not be the middle-man in taking the ask to the Father because we have direct loving audience with him. [I realize Jesus is our Advocate and there are plenty of Scriptures to help us appreciate that, but there is something going on here when Jesus goes out of his way to indicate that we have direct access to the loving Father.]

C. Giddy anticipation towards Christmas is a good thing. Don’t teach your kids subdued joy. Don’t embrace halfway happiness. Get carried away in anticipation. Teach them to yearn, or maybe let them teach you to yearn. True, you don’t want them to yearn only for presents, or to grow into materialistic, greedy children, but realize that their taste for presents is just a thimble full of the taste God wants to satisfy in us with himself. He describes a relationship with himself as full, unstealable joy built on love. Don’t settle for petty churchianity. Allow yourself to be giddy for being with God.

So as a recap of where we’ve been, Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because

Our grief is and will be eclipsed by unstealable joy and we may ask the Father for full joy on account of his love for us.

Finally, we see in verses 29-33 that Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because

III. Though we are deserters and deniers, the Father, Son, and Spirit are not. And this brings peace.

Though the church runs and hides, her Triune God does not. (29-33).

29His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30Now 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.” 31Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32Behold, 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. 33I 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.”

So now the disciples think they’ve got things figured out. “You’re saying that we don’t need to question you anymore! That means you are from God!” They’ve failed to realize that Jesus said his return and total clarity is something that will happen in the near future. They still do not quite understand that first comes Jesus’ departure, and then comes his return. Jesus feigns their exuberance with a prediction that they will desert him when the “little while” comes to fruition, but the Father will not desert him. He reminds them that all of this stuff has been shared so that they will have peace in the midst of an overcome, tumultuous world.

I should point out that the word he uses for “tribulation” in the world is the same word he used earlier regarding the woman in labor, which was translated “anguish.” It is affliction, sorrow, anguish. But then he describes himself as an “overcomer” (for an interesting look at this, by the way, you should read John’s other book called the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which refers to “overcoming” more times than you can count).

So in final review of this passage, Jesus is saying, “I have told you about these things—my coming departure, the sending of the Spirit, your access to unstealable joy, the Father’s love for you, BECAUSE your hearing them is tied to your enjoying peace in me.”

What is John communicating to his audience?

He is communicating that Jesus knew the future hearts of his disciples, and that he would not be abandoned by the Father. Thus, once again, Jesus should be believed and worshipped as the Messiah, and the love connection between Father and Son (and Spirit if other portions of this discourse were to be considered) should be seen as unbreakable. This is thrilling to consider, and all the more when we realize that this same staying love is then shared with us as we love and believe in the Son.

He is communicating that the church, though riddled with desertions in history, is loved by God not because he chases deserters out of pity, but because he will overcome their will to abandon him by his resurrection power.

When I think about it, the wonder of the Gospel is not as much that God could love so dramatically as to love someone as sinful as me, but that God could be so dramatically powerful that he could awaken within this spiritually dead sinner a love for him. Of course he loves. That’s who he is. But loving him is not who I am. In fact, my constitution is quite set against his glory and his holiness. And so the aspect of the Gospel which makes my jaw to drop, perhaps the most, is that the Triune God has caused my heart to beat for him, my lungs to breathe for him, and my feet to run towards him instead of away from him.

Additionally, John is communicating that the church would experience peace in the midst of persecution. The church should take heart, and realize they are overcomers.

And finally, John is communicating that the legacy of the earthly Jesus is joy (v22), love (v27), and peace (v33). These characteristics are not original with the Spirit when Paul brings them up in Galatians as “fruit” (he puts love at the front of the list, but we’ll forgive him), but are rooted already in the earthly mission of Jesus as he imparts them to his pre-church.

I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I- win

One of my roommates from back in the day infected me with a statement he would regularly make whenever he was being capricious and claiming a victory. Anything from a phony argument to the punch line of a joke would end with a very falsetto, high pitched, drawn out “I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I- win.” My roommate’s phrase now lives on in my family, and it pops up in the most mysterious ways. For example, at the end of a pretend sword battle in my living room with my 6-yr-old son. “I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I- win.” At the end of an interaction with my 3-yr-old princess, who realizes she has daddy’s heart. “I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I- win.”

But I can’t think of a more profound, more concrete, more appropriate context for this phrase than what we just read about in John 16.

Jesus walks into the throne room of the majestic heavens to the shouts and songs of the redeemed and the angels leading behind him a train of souls, deserters and deniers every last one of them. He has ripped them from the steely grasp of Satan. He has banished every victimizer, terrorist, and moral, but self-righteous person who has failed to bow the knee to him into a lake of fire for eternity. He has ushered in a quadrillion year party of unstealable joy and awesome love and neverending peace just to get things started.

“I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I- win.”

You see, Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because though we are deserters and deniers, the Father, Son, and Spirit are not. And this brings peace.

Applying this final piece of the answer to our question, we should understand some things more clearly.

A. Grief can give way to joy, love, and peace “in a little while.” This is our promise. And the previous grief and anguish will be washed away with never-ending joy. We don’t need to rush this either for ourselves or for others, but continue clinging to our faithful Triune God who is no deserter.

B. Knowledge of grieving and asking for joy are intended for peace in the midst of anguish and loss in the “already” while we wait for the “not yet.” Hearing me share with you the Ouch to Awe effect and giving you the Daddy Night Rule brings peace in the midst of your suffering.

C. The reason Jesus can leave us in this world, is because he completed his mission to welcome us into the Trinity, which empowers us to complete our mission to infect the world with Trinitarian joy, love, and peace. Jesus was confident that his mission on earth would be better accomplished by his absence and the Spirit’s presence in us collectively.

Christians can bear the sorrow of an absentee Jesus while surrounded by suffering because

I. Our grief is and will be eclipsed by unstealable joy.
II. We may ask the Father for full joy on account of his love for us.
III. Though we are deserters and deniers, the Father, Son, and Spirit are not. And this brings peace.

Joy is coming.

And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. John 20:20

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