By Eric J. Brown
“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)
This is how Jesus wraps up the lessons of John 15 and 16. It’s striking: Jesus has told us that we will have tribulation, that we will have sorrow, that we will weep and lament. He goes on to tell us that people may very well kill us and think that they are serving God by doing so. Well, good grief, Jesus! This doesn’t sound at all peaceful!
Which is the point. Jesus is preparing the disciples for life in the New Testament Church, in order words, in our day and age. And you know what? Life here in this world isn’t always rosy. To be sure, there are times when it is grand, when we see clearly all those wonderful First Article gifts that God gives us. And then, there are times where it stinks. Where our life is anything but peaceful but is instead wretched and mean and nasty and painful.
FEELING OVERCOME BY THE WORLD
The Christian faith doesn’t tell us that if we are good God will make everything in our life better. The Christian faith tells us that the world will never get the better of Jesus, because He has died and risen, and His victory is yours, because He has given it to you in your Baptism, in the preaching of His Word. And just as the world cannot keep Christ in the grave, in Christ the world can never do anything permanent to you. You have victory in Him, and that is true peace– peace that surpasses anything that we can humanly understand right now.
But note what Jesus said. He tells us that IN HIM we have peace. Whatever goes on in the world, you still do have peace in Christ. This is true. And in fact, whatever goes on in the world, Christ’s peace is still yours, because Christ has overcome the world. The world did its worst to Christ. It killed Him horrifically. Yet He rose, and He says peace be with you.
CALL IT WHAT IT IS
Yes, in this world you will have tribulation. Not you might, not you could, but you will. Jesus doesn’t pull any punches or sugar-coat reality here at all, does He? That’s not how we tend to operate. So often we will try to downplay or minimize the lousy things that happen to us. “Oh, it’s not so bad.” “Hey, it could be worse.” As though that makes what I’m suffering right now any better! Yet that’s how we tend to think of comfort sometimes, by simply telling people that it’s not that bad.
Jesus knows, though. He knows the world for what it is, He knows sin for what it is, what it can do and unleash upon people. He bears it all up upon Himself; He goes to the Cross and suffers the full weight of it, and He’s not up there whistling away or saying, “Well, at least it’s not raining, there’s a silver lining to all this darkness covering the land.” No! Jesus knows sin for what it is. He knows hardship for what it is. And Jesus is honest; He knows that you will face hardship and sorrow.
JESUS HAS OVERCOME THE WORLD
But Jesus also tells you something that is even more profound than your sorrow–so profound that He has no need to minimize what you are going through in the slightest. He has overcome the world. The world did its worst to Jesus, crucified Him, yet He rose. Sin, death, and the devil all came after Him loaded for bear, and He strode out of the tomb and proclaimed peace.
In the world, you will have troubles. And you don’t need to pretend it is otherwise, because you are also in Christ Jesus. You are baptized into Him. You are forgiven, redeemed, and life everlasting is yours. Christ Jesus has said so. So no matter how truly and honestly big and nasty the trouble of the day is, Jesus is still your Lord and Savior, and He has truly conquered all, and you do have peace and life and victory in Him. It’s not that your troubles aren’t really that big, it’s that your Savior is bigger than them all, and He still loves you.
Rev. Eric J. Brown is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Herscher, IL.
This article is a pairing of two articles previously published in May 2017 and May 2018 on the Higher Things website.