Sermon title:  Jesus, Gone to Heaven, But Still with Us

John 16

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, April 26, 2020

 

 

 

For a couple of years now,

we’ve been going through the Gospels,

following our Lord Jesus’ life and ministry

in the order that he did and said things.

 

And, a few weeks ago,

we began looking at the things Christ said

on the night before his crucifixion.

 

And  we’re up to John Chapter 16, Verse 16,

where the Lord is explaining to his apostles

the new relationship

they will have with him

when he goes to heaven.

 

He began this discussion with them

at the Last Supper,

and continues it as they go to the Mount of Olives,

just outside Jerusalem.

 

He’s already told them

that he’s going to his father’s house in heaven

to prepare a place for them there.

 

He’s already told them that,

after he goes away,

he will send the Holy Spirit

as a Comforter to be with them forever.

 

He’s already told them

that the Holy Spirit will teach them

after he’s gone.

 

But also that, somehow,

Christ himself will come to live in his disciples,

and God the Father will live with them, too.

 

He’s already told them in John Chapter 14,

... I will come to you. ...

you will realize that I am in my Father,

and you are in me,

and I am in you.

 

And that

 

“Anyone who loves me

will obey my teaching.

My Father will love them,

and we will come to them

and make our home with them.

 

But the disciples were having a hard time

trying to understand all of that.

 

This whole discussion

about Jesus dying

and then rising again from the dead

and about Jesus leaving them and going to heaven,

and then returning

in the person of the Holy Spirit

to live in them—

this was all baffling to the disciples, at the time.

 

It wouldn’t be until after he rose from the grave

and appeared to them again

that they would understand

his words about dying and rising again.

 

And it wouldn’t be until after

he poured out the Holy Spirit on them

50 days later on the day of Pentecost

that they would begin to understand

what he meant about

him living “in” them,

and them being “in” him.

 

Their confusion and uncertainty

must have been painful and distressing to them

at that time.

 

But it helps us appreciate the condition we’re in today

as we approach the time

of Christ’s return in power.

 

He’s coming again,

this time as the powerful King

of the Kingdom of God.

 

He’s coming again

at the head of vast armies of angels,

this time to wage war

against this sinful world

and its corrupt human governments.

 

He’s coming again

to fulfill the words of that long-repeated prayer

for ‘God’s Kingdom to come,

for his will to be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.’

 

Those promises are about to be fulfilled today,

just as the prophecies

about a Messiah dying for our sins

and then rising from the grave

were about to be fulfilled

that night long ago,

when Jesus spoke all these words.

 

And we find ourselves like those early disciples,

 hoping in Jesus’ words,

but uncertain and anxious

about how it’s all going to happen,

and how we’re going to get through it all ourselves.

 

So, what Jesus went on to say to them

on that night long ago

will help us now

with what we’re facing today.

 

At John 16:16 the Apostle John tells us,

 

16 Jesus went on to say,

 

“In a little while

you will see me no more,

and then after a little while

you will see me.”

 

17 At this, some of his disciples

said to one another,

 

“What does he mean by saying,

 

‘In a little while

you will see me no more,

and then after a little while

you will see me,’

and

‘Because I am going to the Father’?”

 

18 They kept asking,

 

“What does he mean

by ‘a little while’?

 

We don’t understand what he is saying.”

 

Earth-shaking events

were about to take place,

beginning that very night.

 

Jesus was about to be betrayed and arrested

and taken away from the disciples.

 

He was about to be put on trial

and sentenced to death

and crucified as a criminal

and his body laid in a grave.

 

The disciples would see him no more for three days,

and then they would see him again,

when he would rise from the grave,

and appear to them again

with his nail-scarred hands

and the wound on his side.

 

Jesus was telling the disciples

what was to come,

but they had trouble grasping it.

 

They couldn’t imagine this was

really going to happen.

 

John, who wrote this Gospel that we’re reading

was one of those Jesus was speaking to,

and he continues in Verse 19:

 

19 Jesus saw

that they wanted to ask him about this,

so he said to them,

 

“Are you asking one another

what I meant

when I said,

‘In a little while you will see me no more,

and then after a little while

you will see me’?

 

Jesus knew they were having trouble understanding

and trouble believing

what he was telling them.

 

And he knows that we, today,

may have trouble understanding

how the things happening today

fit into Bible prophecy,

and how God is at work today in our lives

and in the world around us.

 

And he knows that we today have trouble

understanding how our circumstances now

will change when Christ returns

to take us home

to the place he has prepared for us.

 

He went on to tell those disciples

that his death on the cross

would leave them sobbing and mourning,

while Jesus’ enemies rejoiced—

but that this grief would be only temporary.

 

He said,

 

20 Very truly I tell you,

you will weep and mourn

while the world rejoices.

 

You will grieve,

but your grief will turn to joy.

 

21 A woman giving birth to a child

has pain because her time has come;

but when her baby is born

she forgets the anguish

because of her joy

that a child is born into the world.

 

22 So with you:

 

Now is your time of grief,

but I will see you again

and you will rejoice,

and no one will take away your joy.

 

So, the disciples would spend 3 days in mourning,

grieving the loss of their teacher,

but then he would rise from the grave,

and they would see him again.

 

Their grief would turn to joy—

joy that no one would be able to take away from them.

 

And, so it is with us today.

 

We are going through hard times—

frightening times,

times of great uncertainty and insecurity.

 

But days of joy are fast approaching.

 

Even though Jesus had told them repeatedly,

the disciples couldn’t really imagine

that Christ would rise from the grave.

 

And, even though we today

are told repeatedly in the Bible

that Christ will come again

to take us home,

we have trouble imagining

that it could really happen

later today, or tomorrow,

or in coming weeks or months.

 

Jesus went on to say

about his new, future relationship with disciples,

in Verse 23,

 

23 In that day

you will no longer ask me anything.

 

Very truly I tell you,

my Father will give you

whatever you ask in my name.  

 

24 Until now

you have not asked for anything in my name.

 

Ask and you will receive,

and your joy will be complete.

 

The disciples still couldn’t grasp that this teacher

who ate and drank and walked with them

for 3-1/2 years

would soon be sitting on the throne in heaven.

 

They couldn’t grasp that Jesus

was One with the Father

and with the Holy Spirit

who would soon come to live in them.

 

And just as Christ, through the Holy Spirit,

came to live in the disciples back then

he still comes to live in believers today.

 

So, we, too, can personally enjoy

a close, real relationship with God.

 

--------------------------------------------------------

 

Jesus had already told the disciples

that the Holy Spirit would teach them

things they weren’t ready, yet,

to hear from Jesus in person.

 

The Holy Spirit would

to help them understand

that they could now pray in Jesus’ name

and that Christ would answer their prayers

from his throne in heaven.

 

The Holy Spirit would inspire Matthew, Mark,

Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James and Jude

to write the New Testament

where true doctrine

is spelled out more clearly.

 

So, Jesus said,

 

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively,

a time is coming

when I will no longer use

this kind of language

but will tell you plainly about my Father.

 

26 In that day you will ask in my name.

 

I am not saying

that I will ask the Father on your behalf.

 

27 No, the Father himself loves you

because you have loved me

and have believed that I came from God.

 

28 I came from the Father

and entered the world;

now I am leaving the world

and going back to the Father.”

 

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said,

 

“Now you are speaking clearly

and without figures of speech.

 

30 Now we can see that you know all things

and that you do not even need

to have anyone ask you questions.

 

This makes us believe

that you came from God.”

 

It took those Jewish disciples a long time

to grasp that Jesus was much, much more

than a miracle-working rabbi.

 

It took them a long time to grasp

that he was the divine Son of God,

come down from heaven

and returning to heaven

to rule over heaven and earth—

to rule the whole universe.

 

And it takes us time today

to come to faith

and then to grow in faith.

 

We grow in faith, as we put our trust in Jesus,

as we spend time praying,

and as we spend time

personally reading the Bible,

God’s written message to us.

 

Some of the disciples grew in faith faster than others.

 

Doubting Thomas was among the last to believe

that Christ had risen from the grave.

 

And our individual spiritual growth today can vary,

depending on our prayer life

and our devotion to the written Word of God.

 

But Jesus promises to reveal himself personally

to each one who loves him.

 

He went on to remind the disciples

that they would all waver in faith

during the trials ahead.

 

They would run away in fear, at first.

 

But then they would recover,

and would gain strength

as they came to realize

that Christ has won the victory.

 

We read,

 

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied.

 

32 “A time is coming and in fact has come

when you will be scattered,

each to your own home.

 

You will leave me all alone.

Yet I am not alone,

for my Father is with me.

 

33 “I have told you these things,

so that in me you may have peace.

 

In this world you will have trouble.

 

But take heart!

I have overcome the world.”

 

Christ has overcome the world.

 

And, in Christ, we too can overcome the world.

 

He can work in our lives,

answering our prayers,

and blessing us beyond our imagination.

 

If you haven’t personally experienced God—

if God is someone

you’ve heard about at church—

you need to get to know him personally.

 

God’s plan for Christians

is not for you to just hear about God

from a priest or minister at church.

 

His plan is for you to know him personally.

 

At Jeremiah 31:34, God said,

 

“No longer will each man

teach his neighbor or his brother,

saying, ‘Know the LORD,’

 

because they will all know Me,

from the least of them to the greatest,

declares the LORD.”

 

If you’re not personally experiencing God—

his presence, his power, his love in your life—

you need to turn to him in prayer

and tell him that you accept his free gift

of salvation from your sins,

through Jesus Christ,

and tell him that you will follow Jesus

and obey him as your Lord.

 

Trust Jesus to save you,

and commit to obey him as your Lord.

 

Then do what it takes

to grow in faith.

 

Read or listen to God’s Word the Bible regularly—

not so-called Christian books and videos,

but the Bible itself,

where God’s own words are found.

 

And learn to pray incessantly,

as if you are talking to a friend

who is by your side.

 

The intimate words Christ spoke to his disciples

that night before he went to the cross—

those words are meant for all of us.

 

Jesus went to heaven,

but he’s still with us.

 

He promised to be with us always,

even to the end of the age.

 

His parting words, beginning at Matthew 28:18

were as follows:

 

“I have been given all authority

in heaven and on earth.

 

19 Therefore, go

and make disciples of all the nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father

and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

20 Teach these new disciples

to obey all the commands

I have given you.

 

And be sure of this:

 

I am with you always,

even to the end of the age.”

 

So, Jesus went to heaven,

but he is still with us now,

even to the end of the age.