Farewell Discourse

Jesus' Victorious Authority

John 16:33

Teaching t22041


We are studying the last meeting between Jesus and his disciples just hours before his arrest, trial and execution (Jn.14-16).  Jesus prepares them (and us) by describing what life will be like in this period between his first and second comings.  This “normal Christian life” is a life of extraordinary difficulties (EXPLAIN) and supernatural provisions (NAME FIRST 3).  This morning we will look at the fourth provision: Jesus’ victorious authority.  It is found in the last verse—16:33 (read).  Notice several things about this verse.

“In the world you will have tribulation” – Jesus speaks again of the difficulties—the certainty of tribulation as his followers in a spiritually hostile world ruled by Satan (14:30).  This is why there is so much “battle” imagery in the New Testament—not a battle against people who disagree with us, but a battle against supernatural forces of evil as we share Jesus’ offer of liberation with people still imprisoned (“MATRIX”).

“These words I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace... take courage” – Yet in the very midst of these battle tribulations (not instead of them), Jesus promises supernatural peace (14:27; Phil.4:7) and courage/boldness/daring/cheerfulness.  (Unlike other religious founders, who point people to their teachings for peace and courage, Jesus promises that he will be present to personally impart these to those who are personally united with him [“in me”].)

“I have overcome the world” – This is the basis for the above promise (“for” or “because” is implied).  Jesus means that through his imminent departure (his atoning death, resurrection, and exaltation), he is certain to overcome Satan’s kingdom.  So certain is this that he can speak of it as already accomplished even though it was still a future event when he uttered these words.  (No other religious founders have ever made a claim like this!)

How has Jesus overcome the world, and how does this result in peace and courage in the midst of tribulation for those who trust and follow him?  Let’s look at two of the answers the New Testament gives to this question...

Jesus has won the right to ultimately rule the world

Because Jesus was willing to die for the sins of all humanity, he has been given the authority to rule the world when he returns.  This is a central teaching in the New Testament.

Paul says that because Jesus emptied himself all the way to death on a cross for us, God has exalted him and given him this right to rule (quote Phil.2:9-11).  One day, every person will bow and agree that Jesus is Lord.  For some, it will be too late because they did not do this in their lifetime—but all will do this.

In Rev. 5, John sees a vision of a scroll which represents the future of human history.  When no one is found who is worthy to open this scroll, John weeps.  Then he is told that the Lion of Judah is worthy.  This is an Old Testament term for the Messiah, God’s chosen King.  When John looks to see this Lion, he sees (readRev.5:6-9).  Jesus is worthy to judge and rule the world because he has first died for our sins.

Do you see how this provision enables us to live with peace and courage?  We can be realistic about the present difficulties, yet optimistic because we know the outcome.  It is like the change on morale for the Allies during WW2 after D-Day.  D-Day was the decisive invasion of Europe.  This battle was very costly (10,000 casualties), and almost 3000 men sacrificed their lives.  But once it was successful, it was only a matter of time before the Nazis were defeated.  The next ten months were full of battles, and those who expected a quick and easy end to the war were disappointed.  But most Allied troops, although realistic about the work remaining, had good morale because they knew that victory was theirs.

Do you see the parallel?  This is our place in history.  The decisive invasion has taken place through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Those of us who follow Jesus are part of a real battle—but we know who will win the war.  We know that we will suffer as we serve Jesus (we may even be called upon to give our lives)—but we know we know where history is going and we know we will live forever in Jesus’ kingdom.  This is what gave Paul his spiritual buoyancy in 2Cor.4:8,9,16,18 (read).

CHRISTIANS: Can you relate to Paul?  If not, how often do you think of your life as between D-Day and VE-Day?  How often do you focus on Jesus’ final victory?  If you expect life not to be a battle, you will be dismayed when the battle breaks out.  But if you focus on the assurance of final victory, you can have peace and good courage in the midst of the battle!

GOSPEL: Does this sound crazy to you?  We live in a culture that has lost almost all sense of a purpose for human history.  We are cynical about all “meta-narratives”—all philosophical, political, or religious claims to know the purpose toward which history is moving, because such claims usually lead to oppression and violence (e.g., FASCISM; MARXISM; RADICAL ISLAM).  Yet without a meta-narrative, our individual lives have no ultimate meaning.  What are you living for?  Is it just to get a decent job, have a lover/spouse, have kids, accumulate that latest toys, distract yourself, live as long as possible, etc.?  Don’t you see that none of these things can give your life real meaning, and that all of them will be taken away when you die anyway?  Jesus is the Lord of human history.  He didn’t use his power to hurt people; he gave himself to be hurt by people in order to save them.  He is extending human history so that everyone can hear about what he did and choose to receive or reject his salvation.  He gives your life real purpose when you entrust yourself to him as Savior and Lord.  You can live to know him, to help others come to know him and live for him, and to live forever in his kingdom when he returns.  Bow to Jesus, and he will give real meaning to your life!

Jesus has won authority to advance his mission through us

But Jesus’ authority is not only future in the sense that he will one day rule the world; it is also operative and accessible in this present age.  He made this very clear when, after he was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples over a 40-day period, he gave them (and us) their mission—read Matt.28:19,20a.  This mission is repeated five times in the gospels and Acts, probably so that we would not be confused about our mission/purpose.  We are to take the message of his victory on the cross to every people-group in the world, and to urge people to receive his gift of forgiveness, and to help those who respond how to live as disciples of Jesus.  How intimidating this commission must have been to his disciples, who were few in number, and without political, military, or financial power!  But Jesus did not send them/us to do this by ourselves.  With this command, he also gave a promise (read Matt.28:18a).  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus has won authority to advance this mission through us.  In other words, as we go forth to share this good news, Jesus goes with us as our Supreme Commander.  He will lead us forward, individually and corporately, to play our unique roles.  As we follow him, we can call upon him, and he will exercise his authority to either remove obstacles to our mission, or to work through the obstacles he does not remove (AS GOD DID THROUGH THE JESUS ON THE CROSS).

This is one of the key themes in the book of Acts, the record of the early Christian movement.  He led them outward from Jerusalem, and they followed him (though very imperfectly).  As they followed him, they ran into obstacles.  When this happened, they called out to him.  Sometimes Jesus sovereignly removed the obstacles.  For example, he miraculously delivered Peter and Paul from unjust imprisonment (Acts12,16)—and these deliverances led to the greater spread of the good news (Acts 12:24; 16:30-34).  But sometimes Jesus did not deliver his people from persecution.  For example, he did not spare Stephen from execution (Acts7), and he allowed Paul to remain imprisoned for at least four years (Acts21-28).  Why?  Because Jesus was too weak to remove them?  Because they did not pray for this?  Because their faith was too weak?  No!  Jesus was just as sovereign in his authority when he did not remove these obstacles as when he did remove them.  When he did not remove them, it was because these non-removals provided even greater opportunities for the spread of the gospel.  The persecution that killed Stephen led to Paul’s conversion and scattered the Christians beyond Jerusalem with the gospel (Acts8:1,4; 11:19).  Paul’s imprisonment gave him unique opportunities to share Christ with his guards and his example emboldened other Christians (Phil.1:12-4).  His letters from prison have brought countless people to Christ and equipped countless Christians to serve Christ.  And these letters radiate peace and courage, which is the point of Jn.16:33 (read Phil.1:18-24)!

I wonder if this connects with you.  I think we often lack peace and courage because our faith is messed up on this issue. 

Sometimes, we want to misuse Jesus’ authority, to treat him as our Genie to accomplish our plans, to make our lives easier—and then we get disappointed in him when he doesn’t cooperate with us. 

Sometimes, we are committed to his plan, but we just don’t believe he has all authority.  We believe he is able to handle relatively small problems, but impotent to handle the really big obstacles. 

Sometimes, we just don’t believe that if he doesn’t remove an obstacle, it must be because he can advance his plan better by not removing it.  When our faith is defective on this issue, our lives will be characterized by anxiety and fear rather than by peace and courage.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  We can abandon our lives to Jesus’ mission, and we can trust that he has overcome the world in this sense.  Then, when we run into obstacles, we can call out to him to exercise his authority.  We will believe that he can do whatever needs to be done, so we will not be afraid to pray big prayers.  But we will also not be dismayed if he doesn’t remove the obstacles, because we know he has a better way to accomplish his plan through us.  This is what Jon means when he says that our faith overcomes the world (1Jn.5:4,5).  If we are committed to Jesus’ purpose, and if we believe in his sovereign authority (“the Son of God”), we can be at peace and full of courage!