SERMON OUTLINE – JOHN 16:23-27
Although this passage is difficult to understand, one section stands out as the central theme: the disciple’s discussion of what Jesus’ means by “a little while”.
It is clear that in one sense Jesus is talking about his impending death and resurrection: the pain, mourning and joy of the 3 days of Easter. But that doesn’t explain everything present in this passage – it also seems that Jesus is relating the disciples’ coming experience of Easter to the Church’s experience of the whole time until he returns. This is why John includes this passage, not simply to relate to us the disciple’s feelings, but because the question of, “How long?” was pressing for the Early Church, to whom John wrote. Not only were Christian’s anxious for the Lord’s return in its own right, but they were facing persecution and opposition from the world, meaning that the Lord’s return did not seem like “a little while”, but rather, quite a long while! Some 1900 years later, the point is even more relevant: faced with a broken world – the problems of evil around us, sin in our own hearts, sickness and suffering – the Lord’s return may not exactly seem like a “little while”. What then does Jesus mean by a “little while”? It is to do with the quality of the time until he returns, how we can experience it, rather than strictly speaking how long it will take. 5 points to consider:
- Jesus recognises the reality of trouble in this life, not diminishing it, explaining it away or asking us to ignore it. In fact, he increases the disciple’s expectations of trouble in this life!
But, the following things help us and make the long time just a “little while”:
- The certainty of of the Lord’s return.
- The nature of his return and the joy that will follow.
- The trouble we face is not meaningless or arbitrary. The Bible makes it clear that the difficulties we face are part of God’s plan and that they mysteriously deepen our joy in the next life.
- Through prayer in Jesus’ name the life of heaven can enter into the present age and we are comforted and equipped.