Jesus is about to suffer and die, and yet these last words in the upper room show His loving concern for the disciples. Building false expectations is hateful-Jesus is lovingly realistic; they will suffer, but like a woman in childbirth, the suffering will end and relief will follow (vv. 21-22).
The disciples are true believers. Even so, they will abandon Him, but the Father will not (v. 32). While we might think too highly of ourselves, the Lord Jesus knows our every weakness. Our discipleship will always be imperfect, but He never abandons us. Jesus tells His disciples the world is spelled: t-r-o-u-b-l-e. The disciples must not develop triumphalist expectations about their time on earth.
Wrong expectations, when unmet, inevitably lead to doubt and discouragement. In John 16:1-2, Jesus warns them of trouble, or tribulation. This word denotes a crushing weight-a tribulum was a tool used in Roman times to thresh the grain to separate the grain from the husk. Trouble comes doubly to the Christian, first because we live in a world of trouble and pain; but second because the world will persecute us for following Jesus (v. 2).
This trouble is unearned, undeserved, and illogical (John 15:18-22). However, the disciples are to take heart, because Jesus says, ″I have overcome the world″ (v. 33). Jesus is not trivializing our suffering, but He assures that our troubles will not overcome us; rather, He has overcome them. The tense Jesus uses indicates He will always overcome and have victory over the world. The world will do its worst, but it will not vanquish His kingship, and in Him we also reign over all the things the world might throw against us.
One of the oldest letters in the New Testament is by James. He says, ″Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know . . .″ (James 1:2-3). James isn’t telling the early disciples anything they did not already know about suffering. The earliest discipleship classes would have prepared Christians to suffer because Jesus has already told the disciples what awaits them, along with His assurance that He has overcome and therefore, they would too.
Be still my soul,
Thy best, thy heavenly Friend,
Through thorny ways,
Leads to a joyful end.
-Katharina Von Schlegel
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