PFOA : John 16:16-33

Read John 16:16-33

The disciples were puzzled by Jesus’ statement “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” (v.16 ESV). They had some serious questioning and discussion about it but were not prepared to ask him directly. The words of Jesus were simple and clear enough. But as they tried to understand what was said, they were puzzled. In a little while Jesus will disappear, they will not be able to see him. In the context of their conversations they knew Jesus was talking about his death. How is then that in a little while after that, they will see him again? Human experience and common sense tell them this is not possible.

Even when using some of the more contemporary translations of the Bible have you not come across passages that puzzle you? This is to be expected. The apostle Peter sympathised with his readers in 2 Peter 3:16 by acknowledging that some of fellow apostle Paul’s writings were hard to understand. The Bible is simple enough that anyone can read it and find and understand the gospel of salvation in it. Yet it is so profound that one can spend a whole life studying it and still find new truth and understanding each time he reads it. This is because the author of the scriptures is alive even though the human writers have died centuries ago (1 Peter 2:20-21). Thus when we read the Bible – God’s word – we can ask the Holy Spirit, its living author, to help us understand his word. Each time we read the Bible, the Holy Spirit enables us to encounter Christ. As we contemplate or reflect on his word, we are transformed to be more like Him (1 Cor. 3:18).

Jesus, observing the disciples’ confusion, answered their question with further explanations. Their understanding led to this significant response of faith, “Now we understand … From this we believe …” (v.30). This connection between knowing and believing, is perhaps the most challenging task churches face. This is especially so for evangelical churches that claim to be Bible- or Gospel-centred, for discipleship and Bible-study programmes and organisations. Transformation of lives must be the outcome. Knowing and understanding the Word of God without the consequential faith and changed lives leads only to legalism and arrogance.

Jesus concludes this conversation with his disciples by asking “Do you now believe? (v.31). This faith is going to be tested. The faithful will face threats and persecution, deprivation and sufferings. But concomitant with the trials is Jesus’ promise: “I 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” (v.33). The promise harks back to the topic at the beginning of this conversation in John 15 - “to abide in him.”

Only in him may we have true peace. During this time of the Advent, we remember how this peace was wrought. At great cost, some 2000 years ago, Jesus let go of his deity to become a baby in Bethlehem, he grew up in Nazareth, lived and taught in Judah and Galilee and died on the cross just outside Jerusalem. By his death he purchased this peace with God for us.

Three days later he rose from the tomb and 50 days later, he ascended up to heaven. Indeed he has “overcome the world”. Therefore we can “take heart” (ESV), “be of good cheer” (KJV), “be courageous” (HCSB) because in Christ, and with him, we have overcome the world!

 

For your prayer :

• Let’s pray for the rescue and relief efforts in Aceh, Indonesia in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Pray that churches and Christians in the country will lead in these efforts, giving help and comfort to the survivors and displaced; showing the love and peace of God in this strongly Muslim province..

• At this time of the Advent and Christmas, it is ironic that around the world, peoples who are hostile to Christianity understand the significance of the birth of Christ to Christians better than those in post-Christian nations who just want the celebration without the reason for it. Pray that the “Good News of Jesus, the Saviour of the world” will be clearly proclaimed and demonstrated during this season.