The Gospel of John — Part 16
Apr 1, 2010 1232
Remember that we stated earlier that everything from John 12 forward points to Jesus’ death and resurrection. The two passages under consideration in this issue (John 13:31 14:13 and 16:17-22) are no exceptions.
JESUS SPEAKS OF HIS GOING AND COMING AGAIN
After Judas had left the upper room to go and betray Jesus, Jesus spoke the following enigmatic words to his disciples:
‘Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come ….”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow later.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny me three times.”
Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also’ (John 13:31 14:3 NASB).
This whole section is a single unit in which Jesus seeks to prepare his disciples for his impending death and resurrection. After he had told them that he was going to a place they could not then visit (the place of martyrdom), Peter sought more specific information about this un-visitable place, ‘Lord where are you going?’ he asked. In reply Jesus said, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.’ By these words Jesus indicated to Peter that he, too, would one day give his life as Jesus was about to (John 21:19; 2 Pet. 1:13-15).
Peter protested, ‘Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus then stated that Peter wasn’t yet ready to lay down his life for him. The day would come when he would be ready to make that sacrifice, but that wouldn’t happen this time round. Instead of Peter laying down his life for Jesus, Jesus would lay down his life for Peter.
Then, to comfort his disciples who believed that he was immortal and couldn’t die, Jesus said, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled [when my body is taken from the cross and placed in the grave]. Keep your faith in me as you keep your faith in the Father.’
There is more than sufficient room for all of you in my Father’s house. I am going to the cross to prepare a place for you there. The shedding of my blood on the cross will open the way for you to the Father’s presence (Matt 27:50-51), and make it possible for you to approach his throne with confidence (Heb. 4:16; 10:19-22).
Jesus then said, ‘If I go and prepare a place for you’ (John 14:3)—he had not, at that point made the final decision to go ahead with his sacrifice—‘If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back.’ In these words Jesus was promising his disciples that he would ‘come back’ to them from the grave. Furthermore, when he returned they would be the first to be received into the kingdom that he would have established by his death. This kingdom would be a spiritual kingdom, and would remain a spiritual kingdom until the Lord returned in the clouds of heaven (Heb. 12:22-24). And Jesus promised he would be present with his disciples at all times in this kingdom (Matt. 18:20; 28:20). Heaven is where the Lord is.
In Matt. 18:23 Jesus reinforces this in the following words: ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.’ The word translated ‘abode’ is used in only one other place in the Bible, John 14:2. What is the ‘abode’ where we will dwell with the Father? It is the presence of the Father and the Son with those who love and obey them.
JESUS’ DEATH AND RESURRECTION FORETOLD
‘A little while, and you will no longer see me; and again a little while, and you will see me.’
Some of his disciples then said to one another, ‘What is this thing he is telling us, “A little while, and you will not see me; and again a little while and you will see me”; and, “because I go to the Father”?
So they were saying, “What is this that he says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”
Jesus knew that they wished to question him, and he said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me? Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.
Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you”’ (John 16:17-22 NASB).
With hindsight we know what Jesus was telling his disciples in this passage. Here Jesus speaks of ‘a little while’ (micron from which we get our word micro). He was telling his disciples that they wouldn’t see him for the ‘little while’ that he would be in the grave, but after this ‘little while’ they would see him again. This ‘little while’, for them, would be a time of weeping and lamenting while the world rejoiced, but after that ‘little while’ their grief would be turned to joy, and no one would ever take that joy away from them.
We, too, have our ‘little whiles’ in which we weep and lament, but they too won’t last long, because Jesus has conquered mankind’s greatest enemy—death. The day will come when our weeping and lamenting will be turned to joy, and no one will be able to take that joy away from us, for death will have been abolished forever.
In the meantime we are both ‘in the world’ and ‘in Jesus’. In Jesus we have peace (that’s a promise), but in this world we will have trouble (that also is a promise). But if we identify with Jesus the world will never overcome us (that too is a promise) (1 John 4:4) because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).