Jesus has gone to the Father.
Series: The Gospel of John
This week, the big idea is, Jesus has gone to the Father.
1. He has sent the helper (vv. 4b-15)
2. Your sorrow will turn to joy (vv. 16-24)
3. Jesus has overcome the world (vv. 25-33)
Please be seated. Our pastoral prayer today is based on Acts 9:31. But before I read that text and pray, I wanted to give you some exciting news. Yesterday, July 16th 2022, 88 members of our Center City congregation came together and covenanted to form a new church, called Citylight Center City, led by Pastor Mike Anderson and 2 other elders.
Now if you’re like “Wait, what changed”? Here’s what changed: Back in October of 2015, this congregation, Citylight Manayunk, sent out 40 people to plant the Center City congregation, led by pastor Mike. And for the last almost 7 years, Center City has grown and thrived as a congregation of Citylight Church. Until yesterday, that meant that, although we were separate, we were actually one church (along with Citylight Delco), sharing common elders, common vision, and much else besides.
But the plan from the beginning was that Center City, one day, would become a particular, independent church. Well, yesterday was that day. And right now, this new church is having its very first service! And so today we want to pray for this new congregation, Citylight Center City. I’ll read Acts 9:31, and then I’ll pray:
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
Heavenly Father, who from the beginning had a plan to form a people set apart for your glory, we thank you and praise you for giving birth to this new church. We thank you for your faithfulness over the past almost 7 years, for protecting Center City, growing her, and guiding her. We thank you for raising up Mike Anderson, and granting him the vision to see your kingdom flourish in Center City.
And today, we celebrate the birth of this new church. We thank you that your church in Philadelphia has multiplied. We pray for Center City, that you would help them to walk in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
We pray for Mike, and the elders Michael and Mark, that you would grant them wisdom to shepherd this new flock. Grant them continued vision for what it is you want to do through them. Help them to teach sound doctrine, and to discern and rebuke false doctrine. And grant them a great shepherd’s heart to care for the flock that you have entrusted to them.
Father, we pray that Center City would grow. We pray that as a people they would be zealous for evangelism and outreach, and that as they walk in the fear of you and the Spirit’s comfort, they would multiply.
We pray that you would protect them from the schemes of the enemy, from schism and division, from the world, the flesh, and the devil. We pray for an assistant pastor for Mike, that you would raise up the right man to join this work that you are doing. And we pray that you would help this church to be a beacon and outpost of your coming kingdom in the midst of Center City, reflecting your kingdom’s glory, beauty, and diversity.
Most of all, we pray that this church would continue to preach and teach the gospel, the good news that you have reconciled sinful humanity to yourself through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. May many come to know the gift of eternal life through this church, and may they remain faithful to the end.
We pray this in Jesus’s name, Amen.
And now Walter will come up for some announcements.
Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things we have to do in life. Whether it’s friends we’ve known for years here in Philadelphia, but now they’re moving (or we are) to take a new job, or whether we’ve just graduated from undergrad or grad school, and the cohort we’ve been with through thick and thin is now being scattered to the four corners of the earth, or whether it’s saying goodbye for the last time to parents, friends, or a spouse when their time on earth is up, saying goodbye is tough as old boots. It’s probably the hardest thing there is about living in a world that is not the way it was meant to be.
We’ve been preaching through the Gospel of John for the better part of the past year, and the past several weeks we’ve been camped out in a part of the Gospel where Jesus is saying goodbye to his closest friends. It’s called “The Last Supper,” and it’s, well, the last supper that Jesus had with his closest disciples just before his betrayal, arrest, crucifixion, and death. And Jesus knows it. He knows this is it. And even though he knows he’s going to rise from the dead, everything will be different then. And so in these chapters, he’s kind of giving them his final words. All the most important things he wants them to know and remember before he goes to the cross to die for the sins of the world. And there’s kind of a bittersweetness, and really an intimacy about these chapters like no others in the BIble.
And while it’s true that we’ve been in these “goodbye” chapters for several weeks, this week is kind of the end of it. In fact, after this week, the only thing left before Jesus is arrested is one prayer he’ll pray for them, and for us, which you’ll hear next week. But this week, Jesus says it kind of plainly: “I am going to the Father” (v. 28; cf. v. 10). “That’s it; I’m out.” Now, if you attend worship here at Citylight, you know that each week we like to present a “big idea” that captures the main point of the passage. To make it easier to remember and tell others about. Well, this week, the big idea is, Jesus has gone to the Father. In our text, it says it in the future tense “I am going,” but because it’s in the past for us, we’ve put it in the past tense: Jesus has gone to the Father. That’s our big idea.
Also, if you listen to our sermons regularly, you know that we like to provide an orienting question that unpacks the big idea and leads to the specific sermon points. Well, this week, to put it succinctly, and not at all intending any disrespect, the orienting question is, “So what?” Jesus has gone to the Father. So what? What does that mean? Or, to say it a different way, why is that important? What are the implications?
And if you’re looking at your Bible, you’ll notice there are three separate sections in our text today and each of these sections provides a unique answer to that question “so what.” And so here are our points: Jesus has gone to the Father. So what? 1. He has sent the helper (vv. 4b-15); 2. Your sorrow will turn to joy (vv. 16-24); 3. Jesus has overcome the world (vv. 25-33). So what that Jesus has gone to the Father? Well, He has sent the helper; Your sorrow will turn to joy; and Jesus has overcome the world. And each of these comes with an imperative, a followup, a point of application for us. Let’s get into it. First, Jesus has sent the helper. 3:45
- Jesus has Sent the Helper (believe that this is good)
Let’s read the text, starting from verse 4: “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. John 16:4b-8.
Here it is, and it should be pretty plain: Jesus says he is “going to him who sent me;” just a little further down he makes it clear he’s referring to the Father; I’ll talk about that in a second, but then, he says it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
This raises a whole host of questions about the Helper that we need to unpack. 1. Who is the helper? 2. Why is he called the helper? 3. Why is it to our advantage that Jesus should go and the helper should come? 4. What will the helper do? If you’re taking notes, these are all subpoints of point 1 that Jesus has sent the Helper.
First, Who is the helper? Well, if we turn back to last week’s text, we find out. In John 15:26 Jesus says “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (John 15:26). There it is; did you catch that? The Helper is the Spirit of truth, who elsewhere is called the Holy Spirit. Who is the Helper? The Helper is the Holy Spirit. So far so good. Well, who’s the Holy Spirit? If you’re a Christian you should have some idea about this, but if you’re not, perhaps you’re here just checking Christianity out, this takes a little explaining. And even if you are a Christian, it’s always good to review. 5:45
When we talk about the Holy Spirit, this gets us into the Christian doctrine of God, specifically the doctrine known as the Trinity. What is the doctrine of the Trinity? Well, it starts with this: There is one God. In fact, Christians, just like Jews and Muslims, strongly affirm the truth that there is only one God.In fact, Christians, no less than our Jewish friends, strongly affirm the words of the shema, the great declaration of faith found in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deut 6:4). There is one God. God is one.
However, unlike our Jewish and Muslim friends, Christians believe that, although God is one, he is not a mere singularity, an “undifferentiated monad” in the words of Theologian Sinclair Ferguson. No, we believe that, in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, In the unity of the godhead are three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, of one power, substance, and eternity. (WCF 2.3). That means: there is one God; BUT he exists eternally in three persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What’s more, these are not three sides or three manifestations of the one God, but three distinct persons who eternally share a common substance, and who are completely equal in terms of their power. You can remember it this way: One God; Three persons (Father, Son, Spirit); Completely equal.
Now, let’s face it, that sounds kind of odd, so why should we believe this? Wouldn’t it be simpler just to believe “God is one,” full stop? Here’s why: we believe this for no other reason than that Scripture teaches it. As Theologian Graham Cole puts it, “There is a complexity to the oneness of God. The same Jesus who reaffirms the shema of Israel about the oneness of God [see Mark 12:29] is the Christ who expands the name to include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [see Matthew 28:19], and does so without any hint of contradiction.” Or we could say, with reference to our text today, that the same Jesus who reaffirms that God is one, has no problem referring to Himself and the Helper (the Spirit) in terms that indicate that indicate complete equal to the Father, despite being distinct. That’s why we believe the doctrine of the Trinity. There is One God in three persons, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, blessed Trinity.
And when it comes to the Holy Spirit – the Helper of today’s text – well, we see all throughout the Scriptures the truth that the Spirit of God is a unique person of God, identical yet in some way distinct from God the Father and the Son. Let me show you.
Even in the opening page of the Bible we read: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.(Genesis 1:1-2). The Spirit of God is identified with, yet somehow distinct from, the God who speaks the world into being. Other texts in the OT similarly highlight the activity of the Spirit.
But it’s in the New Testament that we most clearly see the distinct personhood of the Holy Spirit – in fact, we see it in our text today. Notice Jesus says “When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). And a little further down it says “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth … he will speak … he will declare…. He will glorify me.” (John 16:13-14). Did you see those verbs? Convict; guide; speak; declare; glorify. These are not the actions of a force. A mere force can’t do any of these things. No, they’re the actions of a person. And don’t miss this, that it’s a person distinct from the Father and from the Son. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, is a distinct person, identified with and co-equal with the Father and the Son. That’s who the Helper is. That’s question 1: Who is the Helper? 10:15
- Next, Why is he called the helper? (e.g., meaning of “paraclete”)
The word translated “helper” is a notoriously difficult word to translate. The Greek word is “paraclete,” and all you have to do is check out the various English translations to see how widely the word can be translated. Some versions translate it “helper” like the ESV, but others use “the Advocate,” or Counselor, like a lawyer. Still others use “the Comforter.” The related Greek verb can also mean “to encourage.” So which one is it? Helper, advocate, counselor, comforter, , encourager?
Well, probably a little bit of each, but we could put it this way: the Helper is “One who goes to bat for you, who shows up and comes alongside to give you the help you need – to defend you, intercede for you, to encourage you.”
That’s who the Spirit is. He’s the “paraclete” – the one who shows up to go to bat for you, to give you the help you need. He defends you against accusation. He intercedes for you before the throne of God. He comforts and encourages you when you need it. That’s who the Spirit is. Now, does this sound familiar? Doesn’t it sound kind of just like who Jesus is? You bet it does. 11:30 This brings us to our 3rd question:
- Why is it to our advantage that Jesus should go and the helper should come?
Did you notice that in this passage today, Jesus says something really unusual: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7.
Isn’t that interesting? Why is it better for us that Jesus goes away? I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but sometimes I find myself wishing I could have lived back then when Jesus walked the earth. Is that you too? We’re kind of like, “Man, if only I could have had time with Jesus in the flesh.” I get that. But here’s the astonishing news: according to this passage, we have something better: the Holy Spirit. And Jesus previously said something interesting about the Spirit back in John 14:16: He called the Spirit “another helper.” Which means that the Spirit is a helper just like Jesus is.
So what this means is, it’s like this: sure, if you could travel back in time, you could chill with Jesus in the flesh. But guess what? Jesus would have to be in just one place at a time just like everyone else. He’d get tired. He’d have to go to bed. He’d want to spend time with other people too besides you. But the Spirit, according to John’s gospel, is everything that Jesus is for you – but he’s EVERYWHERE. Specifically, he’s inside of you. The Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the helper, is everything that Jesus is, for everyone who calls on his name, everywhere, all the time.
Where do you need Jesus to show up and go to bat for you? What do you need him to be right now? Helper? Encourager? Defender against accusation? Guess what, for all of us in Christ, the Spirit IS that for us – right here, right now. 13:30
- What will the helper do?
Next, what will the Spirit do? Well, several things according to the text.
The Spirit will:
- Convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, judgment (vv. 8-11)
- Guide the church into all truth (v. 13)
- Glorify Jesus (v. 14)
He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). Here’s what that means: Number one, he brings conviction of sin for those who don’t believe. Do you remember when you believed in Jesus? At some point you became convinced that you’re a sinner. Guess what? That was the Spirit. Number two, he convicts not just about sin, but about righteousness, because Jesus goes to the Father, and he won’t be around anymore. When Jesus was on earth, he called out the unrighteousness of the world and the righteousness found only in himself. The Spirit will continue that work, pointing people to Christ and his righteousness. Three, he convicts concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged (v. 11). “The ruler of this world” is the devil, who was judged when Jesus died and rose again on the cross. And this says that if the ringleader of evil was judged, then so is everyone who does his bidding! What it all boils down to is that at the end of the day there are 2 ways: belief in Jesus, which leads to life, righteousness, and freedom from condemnation, or rejection of Jesus, which leads to death and eternal condemnation. And the Spirit brings this all home every day, all the time. How about you? Are you feeling any of this now? If you are, it’s not my doing at all – it’s the Spirit’s! How will you respond? 15:30
But it goes on. The Spirit, it says, will also “guide you into all truth” (v. 13). And the YOU is plural. This refers to the Spirit’s guiding presence in the church, especially, to complete the New Testament books, and to help the church decide on difficult matters of doctrine, such as the Trinity. That’s the Spirit’s work! It’s Jesus speaking to us through the Spirit. And lastly, it says “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (v. 14). The Spirit has helped the church for two thousand years, and still helps us today, to know, remember, and follow the words of Jesus, and so bring glory to Him.
And so, as we wrap up this first point, that Jesus has sent the Helper, What do we do with all this? Simple: Believe it is good that Jesus has gone away and the Helper has come. Believe that it’s good! Praise God the Father and the Son for sending the Spirit; praise the Spirit for His work of comforting and encouraging us, for convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and for helping us remember everything Jesus said and did. It is good that the Helper has come. In other words, we apparently live in a better stage of redemptive history than the apostles did. Isn’t that neat? Go figure! That’s why it’s to our advantage that Jesus goes away: so that the Spirit could be with all of us, forever.
All of that is point 1! Jesus has gone to the father. So what? Jesus has sent the Helper; believe that this is good.
Next, point 2, What’s the next implication, the next “so what” that Jesus has gone to the father? Here’s what: Your sorrow will turn to joy. 17:15
- Your sorrow will turn to joy (vv. 16-24) (persevere through trial)
Let’s turn to verses 16-24. Jesus says, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me….” Jesus, as is not uncommon, speaks cryptically. But the disciples don’t get it! So they discuss it amongst themselves: “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” (John 16:16, 18). Well, Jesus clarifies: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy…. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:20, 22).
In context it’s pretty clear that he’s talking about his upcoming death and resurrection. When he is arrested, mocked, beaten, and crucified, the disciples will be totally done in with sorrow. But, when he rises again on the third day, their sorrow will turn to joy! That’s what it means for them. What about us? What does this text teach us?
Well, Jesus gives a hint through his own illustration: childbirth. Let’s read vv. 21-22: 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:21-22).
It has been confirmed to me from multiple mothers this week that this is totally true! Though the pain of childbirth is immense, the moment it’s over, and a new life has come into the world, do you remember the sorrow? No! The sorrow is forgotten, swallowed up by pure joy: the joy of a new life.
Now, whether or not you’ve given birth, we’ve all been in that place of utter sorrow: wracked with waves of pain, totally at the mercy of forces we can’t control. But Jesus is saying that for those who follow him – for Christians, for believers, the sorrow will be followed by joy. In other words, the suffering will end, and it has a point. The suffering has a point- and the point is that, in some way, God wants to bring life into the world through it. He wants to use that very thing that you’re experiencing, perhaps right now, to get the life of Christ into you.
In fact, the Apostle Paul uses this very same analogy – of childbirth – to describe how God uses tribulation to form Christ in all of us. Writing to the Galatians, over whom he’s really distraught because they are on the verge of abandoning the gospel, Paul writes that I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Galatians 4:19). Until Christ is formed! This is the joy that is our hope in trial.
And so, when you’re in that place, when you’re wracked and wrecked by the pain and the anguish and the convulsions such that you don’t know which way is up, and just want it to be over, what do you do? Here’s what: you hold on, and remember that God is using this suffering to birth good into you and into the world. In a word, you persevere through trial. This is for Christians, for those who are united to Christ by the Spirit. This is not some general “everything will pan out” message.
Christian: Are you suffering now? Are you in the midst of a trial? Confused and wracked by something you don’t know how to deal with and it’s tempting you to abandon your faith? For those who are in Christ, Jesus says: Hold on. Hang in there. Bear with me. Persevere in trial. I know it’s hard, I know it’s painful, but it will be over one day, something good will be born, and your sorrow will turn to joy.
And then, notice what it says: In that day, no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. For all of us who live on this side of the resurrection, we have the joy of asking the Father in Jesus’s name, because Jesus has overcome, and has gone to the father.
And so, we’ve seen that because Jesus has gone to the father, 1. He has sent the helper; 2. Your sorrow will turn to joy (vv. 16-24); and now 3. Jesus has overcome the world (vv. 25-33). Let’s look at vv. 25-33. 22:15
- Jesus has overcome the world (vv. 25-33). (take heart)
As Jesus wraps up this whole discourse, his whole parting words to his closest friends before the cross, he tells them: 25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” (John 16:25). Very soon, after Jesus rises from the dead, everything will be different. They’ll finally understand what he was talking about.
[Pastor Tony Evans, in his commentary, makes an insightful point of application here: There is a principle at work here for believers in Christ: God only explains what you are ready and able to handle. You may not understand the circumstances that you’re experiencing, but God loves you and is taking you through a growth process. He calls for your trust and obedience now. Further understanding will come later, when you’re prepared to receive it.]
But then – and I love this about the disciples – they immediately misunderstand him! Do you see this? Look at v. 29: His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you.” (John 16:29-30).
Good grief. Jesus JUST told them “the hour is coming” when he’ll speak plainly, and the disciples somehow think “Oh, it’s coming. So it’s here now. Got it!” But I love Jesus, he’s so gracious. Instead of facepalming, he just sort of rolls with it: “Do you now believe? And then he turns it into something great: 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” John 16:32
And then comes one of the greatest promises in the entire Bible:
“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.” John 16:33
He’s said “these things” – everything since chapter 14 – for a reason: that in him we might have peace. And then he reminds us, in words so simple a child could remember them, that in this world we’ll have tribulation – we’ll have trouble – but take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world.
Where is there “tribulation” – trouble – in your world? Tribulation can mean persecution or pressure for the sake of Jesus, or it can mean any kind of trouble that comes in the course of following Jesus. Now, in the previous section, Jesus encouraged us to just hold on because something good is coming from it. But here he gives a different encouragement: Take heart – because Jesus has overcome.
There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. There is no sorrow so great that Jesus hasn’t known one deeper still. The very next day after this farewell speech, Jesus went to the cross, allowing himself to be killed at the hands of sinful men. But on the third day Jesus rose – overcoming death, overcoming “the world” – and now in him, because of His victory, we can have victory in the midst of our trials.
You know, it’s kind of interesting to reflect on how the disciples could have immediately applied these words. Remember, Jesus just warned them that they would be scattered to their homes. What’s that about? That’s talking about the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday – Saturday. And let’s do a little thought experiment. Suppose you were among the disciples, and it’s Saturday. Jesus is dead in the tomb, and all your hopes and dreams are smashed and scattered to the four winds. But suppose that someone, let’s call him disciple A, remembered these words. And disciple A says, “Hey, Jesus told us this would happen. Here we are – scattered – just like he said. But remember what else he said? He said we can have peace and take heart, because he has overcome the world. What do you guys think, shouldn’t we, I don’t know, believe that?” But “Yeah,” disciple B says, “but how is THAT possible? I mean, he’s DEAD. He hasn’t overcome the world! He was overcome BY the world.” What would disciple A say in response? You know what he would say: “I don’t know. I don’t know how it’s possible, but here’s what I know: I know it’s true, because Jesus said it. He never lied to us once, did he? Well, I’m not going to believe he started lying to us right at the end. So guys, what would it look like for us to take heart, right now, on this lonely, scattered Saturday?”
And that’s the question this text poses to us. Where is it “Saturday” in your life? Where have you seen your hopes and dreams crushed? Immense pressure or difficulty because of following Jesus? Perhaps you thought you knew what the future was going to hold, but all your plans have come crashing down. Perhaps a vital relationship has been torn it two. Well, it’s Saturday. What would it look like for you to take heart, right here, right now? 27:45
Because for us, on this side of Easter Sunday, we know something those Saturday disciples wouldn’t have known: Sunday CAME. Jesus ROSE. Jesus Christ died on the cross on Good Friday, taking on his shoulders the sins of the world. And he laid in that tomb over Saturday, but on Sunday, Jesus rose again to new, everlasting life. And whoever will believe in him, the Scripture says, will not perish, but will share in that everlasting life. Both now, as we’re raised spiritually with him, and one day when our bodies are raised physically when he comes again, and we live and reign forever and ever with him in a world where there are no more goodbyes.
Jesus has overcome the world: Take heart. Where is it Saturday in your life? Remember, if you follow Jesus: Sunday’s coming. Let’s pray. 28:30