In our text for today, Jesus is on the verge of His trek to the cross. He has been speaking to His disciples about the events which are about to take place including the sending of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been with these disciples for some three years, traveling with them, living with them, teaching them, and teaching them as He taught the crowds. Many times Jesus would teach using parables, you know those earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Sometimes Jesus would speak plainly, other times not so plainly.
Jesus has been living with these disciples and teaching them. He has been doing signs, wonders and miracles in their presence. Our Gospel writer John makes much of these signs and wonders Jesus has been performing. These signs and wonders are what point to the divinity of Jesus, that is that He is truly God in human flesh. Who else but God could heal people, still the seas, cast out demons, feed five thousand, and raise people from the dead. Who else can forgive sins and prove sins have been forgiven by having a quadriplegic get up and walk. Yet, not only did the Pharisees and teachers of the law not get it, not only did many of the people who listened to and witnessed Jesus not get it, even Jesus own disciples did not always understand. Certainly as we have doubts and misunderstandings in our own lives, we are in good company.
Yet, now, as Jesus is about to go to the cross, He is speaking plainly to His disciples. He is not speaking in parables, He is not simply demonstrating what He wants them to get, He is speaking plainly, as a matter of fact they confessed and “29said, ‘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’” (v. 29, 30). Yes, it seems as if the disciples may finally have gotten it.
Jesus teaches His disciples through word and action. And Jesus encourages them to pray. Before Jesus was with His disciples, the Children of Israel, the disciples included, prayed through a mediator. It was the priest who entered the temple to offer atonement for the people. After Jesus’ resurrection, even at His death, we witnessed the curtain in the temple be ripped in two from top to bottom as Jesus opened the way for all to come directly to God the Father.
As Jesus prepares to go to the cross and prepares His disciples for His suffering and death, He promises the sending of the Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit is most certainly present where Jesus is, and although the Holy Spirit has most certainly been with and has been working in the lives of these disciples, the full extent of the power and work of the Holy Spirit will not be seen until after Jesus resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
On the day of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit will bring understanding, then the Holy Spirit will exercise His full power and do His work of giving and strengthening faith.
As Jesus is speaking plainly to the disciple and as the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts and minds of His disciples, their response was that they now understand, at least they thought they knew and understood what Jesus was and is saying.
It is Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit which is to bring comfort to these disciples. Up until now these disciples have been with Jesus and have been pretty much protected by Him. At the point of His suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus will not be with them every day to protect them and then they will have struggles. Indeed, life is difficult at times and no where does God ever promise that life will be easy and even for Christians there is no guarantee of a struggle free life.
Jesus tells of tribulation, tribulation which has been around since the fall into sin; tribulation which will follow until the day of judgement; tribulation which will especially follow Christians as the world continually degenerates until God has had enough. As a matter of fact, the very fact that one is a Christian will bring tribulations because the world, the sinful, sin infested world which thrives on sin, idolatry and paganism cannot stand the exclusive claims of Christ and His Church. The reason the Christian Church is so hated by the rest of the world is because of Christ’s claim that there is only one way to eternal life and that only one way is through faith in Jesus alone. So, not only does a Christian struggle with the normal struggles and tribulations of the world, he also struggles with the tribulations of being persecuted as a Christian.
Of course there is hope for the Christian. Jesus declares He has overcome the world. Jesus is true God as we have seen time and again, as demonstrated by the signs, wonders and miracles He performed. As true God He gave up the glory that was His in heaven, not because He had to but because He wanted to, because of His great love for us, His creation, His children. Jesus gave up the glory of heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood in order to live for us, perfect and holy in our place. Jesus suffered the struggles of this world and greater struggles than we will ever face. Jesus suffered tribulation worse than we will ever suffer. And Jesus overcame the world. Jesus defeated Satan and his temptations. Jesus lived perfectly, never disobeying any of God’s command. Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises perfectly, for us. What we could not nor can do, Jesus did, for us, in our place. And then, after living for us, He took our sins upon Himself, our sins of commission, doing the things we should not be doing and our sins of omission, not doing the things we should be doing. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, eternal spiritual death and God’s demand is that we are to be perfect. Since we have failed, since we cannot be perfect, Jesus who was perfect, who knew no sin, took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins. And He did. He suffered hell for us on the cross because of His great love for us.
Jesus is speaking with His disciples and us, before He goes to the cross. He knows what is ahead and that is why He is speaking to His disciples and to us. He is encouraging, not only His disciples, but also us in our own lives, in our struggles and tribulations. He encourages us, especially in times of struggles and tribulations to pray.
Jesus came into the world to overcome the world which He did through His life, suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus speaks words of comfort to His disciples reflecting the events about to take place. Just as He sent the Holy Spirit to give them all knowledge and understanding of the events so that as they face the tribulations of the world in all confidence in their faith in Jesus who has overcome the world, so He continues to send the Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith so that we might, with all boldness and confidence come to Him in prayer and go out into the world bearing witness of our faith. As always we get it right when we point to Jesus. Jesus does all and gives all and we are done to and given to and we rejoice as He even stirs and moves in us to respond in faith, even saying, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.