Summary: Jesus’ death and resurrection represents a D-Day for Christians, even if V-Day is still a little while off.
“Overcoming the World”
John 16: 16 – 33
Introduction: D-Day and V-Day
1. How many people here recognize this date: June 6, 1944? On June 6, 1944, a date known ever since as D-Day, a mighty armada crossed a narrow strip of sea from England to Normandy, France, and cracked the Nazi grip on western Europe. The battle was far from being over – there would be months and months of more combat. But this battle, this day, was the beginnings of a decisive victory. Final victory was certain, even if the war was not altogether over.
2. And how many people here recognize this date: May 9, 1945? This is the day that the German army unconditionally surrendered to the Allied forces. This is day known as V-E day, when the Allied victory in Europe was secured.
3. This brief history lesson tells us that the decisive battle of a war may be won before the enemy is willing to acknowledge defeat or before the enemy even realizes it is defeated. Fighting may continue for a time, although the outcome of the war has already been determined. The final “cease fire” and official declaration of victory are only the inevitable result of the decisive battle already fought.
4. Imagine having to fight a war but also knowing that ultimate victory was inevitable. You are on the winning side. There are more battles to fight, but D-Day has come and gone; and V-Day, while still ahead, is guaranteed. How would this affect your performance in battle? Would you be afraid of defeat? Would you still have the same fear of your enemy? Or would you instead feel confident and victorious even if present circumstances didn’t seem to justify such a posture and attitude? During WWII the Allied forces didn’t have the benefit of foreknowledge, of knowing that a victory at Normandy would mean ultimate victory for them and the defeat of Nazi Germany. But what about us as Christians? This is something that our passage talks about today: that there has been a decisive victory even if the final declaration and celebration is still “a little while” off.
“You will have pain . . .”
1. Jesus is spending his last few hours with his disciples. He is preparing them for his departure. When he says “a little while, and you will no longer see me,” he is referring to his death on the cross. He is referring to “his hour,” as he has called it. But he also assures them that “again a little while and you will see me.” This likely refers first to Jesus’ resurrection and the fact that he will appear to his disciples after he is raised and before he returns to the Father in heaven. Jesus, as we know, makes many post-resurrection appearances to his disciples.
2. Between Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples will experience the darkness of Jesus’ crucifixion on Passover Friday and the emptiness – the void of his absence – on Saturday. They will weep and mourn, and they will experience anguish and pain like that of a woman in labour. It is interesting to note that the word here translated “anguish” is often used in more apocalyptic contexts where it has to do with tribulation or persecution. And the word used for “pain” has more to do with emotional rather than physical distress. Both words are used to indicate what the disciples are going to experience.
3. You see, John’s Gospel often uses language somewhat ambiguously. Yes, Jesus is, I think, talking about the time between his death and resurrection. But I think that he’s talking about more than that. Jesus’ words can be understood on more than one level. This is often the case with John’s presentation of Jesus, as we have seen. I think Jesus here is also speaking about the gap of time between his death and resurrection and his coming again in glory at the end of the age.
4. I say this because Jesus tells his disciples here to expect persecution while in the world – anguish and pain – and it is a little hard to imagine that in the day in-between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection the disciples will experience much persecution. In fact, we know that they do go into hiding until they find out that Jesus has been raised and that they remain in hiding until the coming of the promised Holy Spirit. Certainly they do experience pain between witnessing Jesus’ death and becoming witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, but this is the pain of incomprehension, of sorrow, or mourning, of disbelief, the pain of losing their beloved teacher and friend. It is not the pain of opposition and persecution.
“But your pain will turn into joy”
1. When Jesus said, “You will have pain,” he continued on by saying that “your pain will turn into joy.” He wanted his disciples to know that what they were going to experience was not going to be permanent. The pain would not last forever. He says, “And again a little while, and you will see me.” While he would be taken from them, he was also going to return. Jesus was reassuring them that he would return, that he would be raised. He was coming back; and when he did, their hearts would rejoice.