(A) Introduction. (Read the reference)

The passage deals with a whole range of experiences that the disciples went through: perplexity, pain, pleasure and peace. As such it is a reminder to us of what the Christians life entails.

(B) The disciples' perplexity.

Jesus said to his disciples "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." v16. This statement puzzled the eleven. They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying". v18.

There are four points to make about the disciples' perplexity:

(1) Jesus was hard to understand.
Jesus often spoke in veiled sayings. He acknowledged this to his disciples when he said: "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father." v25. So, Jesus was aware that his teaching was far from straightforward and needed a lot of working out.

Several of the things Jesus said still pose a challenge to the thoughtful Christian. Take Matthew5v17to20: "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished". v18. "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of heaven." v20. There are some Christians who use this section of the Sermon on the Mount to support the view that the Bible is inerrant. Verse 20 is quoted by others to justifiy a legalistic attitude to fasting, tithing and Lord's Day observance. The fact is Christians do not practice the greater part of the Law of Moses. We totally ignore all the rules and regulations about diet, ritual cleanliness, sacrifices, temple worship and farming practices. The Pharisees were unrighteous rather than righteous. Jesus criticised their cold, uncompassionate, graceless and legalistic approach to religion. The Master may have been speaking ironically in this part of his great Sermon. He both highlighted the folly of being obsessed with the letter of the Law and passed judgment on the Pharisees' lack of righteousness. What do you think? It is not easy to be certain what Jesus meant.

(2) The disciples were reluctant to ask for clarification.
The disciples really wanted to ask Jesus what he meant by 'a little while' - but they didn't! There were occasions in the past when they had shown their ignorance and Jesus had been disappointed with them. Sometimes when his adherents asked for clarification he said things that puzzled them even more. This was pretty much the case in this instance. The disciples were not much the wiser after Jesus responded to their unspoken query. What really impressed them was that Jesus knew what they wanted to ask without being told. They said: "Now we are sure thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee; by this we believe that thou camest forth from God." v30. AV. Jesus did not find this assurance by his disciples convincing. He said ironically, "You believe at last!" v31.

You might ask, "Why did Jesus make these veiled sayings if they led to such misunderstanding?" I tried to answer this question in my exposition on, 'The cleansing of the temple'.

There are at least three reasons Jesus employed mashals:

    (a) If Jesus had left us with a check list of things to believe or do it would have undoubtedly led to legalism. This happened with the Ten Commandments. The Pharisees and experts in the law had worked out endless definitions of what constituted work on the Sabbath. It was safer to leave behind veiled sayings!

    (b) A mashal often carries several layers of meaning. This is true of the phrase: 'after a little while you will see me.' v16. Jesus was probably referring to his resurrection when he appeared to his disciples. But his statement could also refer to the gift of the Holy Spirit that opened the eyes of his followers to his true nature or, indeed, to his second coming when all believers will see him and be like him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1John3v2.

    (c) Jesus sayings have provided a rich and inexhaustible vein that men have worked and reworked through the centuries to yield treasure of inestimable value. The longer any individual mines the vein and the greater his perception becomes the more his wealth increases.

(3) The disciples had a deeply entrenched and mistaken view of Christ's mission.
It is significant that in their declaration of faith which affirms that Jesus came from God there is no acknowledgment that he is leaving the world and going back to the Father.

The disciples could not conceive that Jesus, the Messiah, was God's sacrificial lamb. To them he was the warrior king who would redeem Jerusalem and make Israel great again. They believed Jesus had come in the spirit of either King David or Elijah the fiery patriotic prophet jealous for God's honour. The disciples had no idea that he had come in that other tradition - that scarlet thread running through the Old Testament - of sacrificial offerings.

This is a warning to us that error may be deeply ingrained in Christians. The whole idea that Christian leaders are priests is anathema to me. There were no priests in the early church. The early Christians knew that priests made sacrifices and there was no further need to make sacrifices for sin. But when this priest (Jesus) offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy. .... there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Heb10vs12to18.

However there is plenty of error in the Association of churches to which I belong. Jesus does not teach that the fate of the unrepentant wicked is everlasting torment. See my article on Hell. Faith is not, as so many Calvinists assert, a gift from God. See comment on Eph2v8. I doubt very much whether the way we go about appointing pastors to our churches has any Scriptural foundation.

And, I daresay, if I did but know it, there are persistent errors in what I believe. I'm inclined to think, for example, that Jesus' death made it safe for me to sin.

(4) There were some things the disciples could only learn from experience.
Luke tells us: Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of man will fulfilled. He will be turned over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again."

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. Luke18v31to34.

Jesus told the disciples bluntly what the future held for him but they just could not take it in. They had to experience Christ's death, resurrection, ascension and the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost before they were able to comprehend the great work of salvation.

There remain certain things about the Christianity that can only be understood through experience - salvation, new life, the indwelling Spirit, God's providence and the power of prayer. I greatly enjoyed Roy Hattersley's life of William and Catherine Booth but one thing was lacking. Roy Hattersley is not a believer and hasn't the spiritual insight possessed by the Christian.

(C) The disciple's pain.

The pain of the disciples was going to be acute. It was going to be akin to the pain of childbirth. Jesus said: "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come." v21. I took the funeral of Ivy last week - a very comical Christian. While talking to her son, Ken, in preparation for the funeral he recalled what his mother told him about his birth. "All the time I was a straining and heaving and sweating and groaning I could hear old Didi talking on his allotment. I hully wished I was out there with him." The pain of childbirth is not something I would wish to experience!

The disciples grieved:

(1) At what the world did to Jesus.
Jesus told them: "I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices." v20. The disciples felt wretched because Jesus was rejected and his enemies rejoiced at his defeat.

It makes me sad that Jesus is still scorned today. In my heart there is a persistent dull ache that members of my family, friends, acquaintances and so many of those who once attended our chapel have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

(2) At the loss of Jesus.
They would be devastated because: "In a little while you will see me no more ... ." v16. The bottom dropped out of their world when Jesus was taken from them and put to death on the cross. They were so demoralised that the words of Jesus proved true: "You will be scattered, each to his own home." v31.

It is terrible whenever Jesus is hidden. He seems to have disappeared from view for the greater part of England's population. The gospel has had little effect for the last 50 years. Conversions have slowed to a trickle. It is easy for those who love Jesus to retreat to their own homes - to huddle for warmth and consolation in their little churches. I do!

(3) Because their hopes were dashed.
I expect the disciples thought that Jesus had let them down. This explains why, after his arrest, everyone deserted him and fled. Mk14v50.

Lots of Christians feel let down by Jesus. Their expectations are not always realised. I had an email recently from a new Christian complaining that he was lonely. He didn't think any Christian should be lonely. He told me that he had given God an 'ear bashing' about it. I agree that no Christian should be lonely but the fault does not lie with God or Jesus but the church that the young man attends.

There are many disappointments in the Christian life - but none of them are the fault of Jesus! They are mostly are own fault or the fault of others. Nonetheless loneliness, an absence of human love, lack of recognition, failure in service, rejection by our fellow Christians and the disloyalty of friends can all give us much pain.

(D) The disciple's pleasure.

Jesus said of the woman in labour: "But when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world." v21.

The birth of a baby is accompanied by two kinds of pleasure: (a) A short lived but intense pleasure, which we usually call joy, for the safe delivery of a child. (b) An abiding settled pleasure, which we usually call happiness or satisfaction, derived from nurturing the child.

The disciples experienced both kinds of pleasure after the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit.

Our passage describes three things about the disciples pleasure:

(1) It's production.
Jesus said: "I will see you again and you will rejoice .... . v22. These words can have a threefold application:

    (a) To his resurrection. Great was the disciple's joy on discovering that Jesus had risen from the dead. They had the settled satisfaction of knowing that he had conquered death and proved all his enemies wrong.

    (b) To the gift of the Holy Spirit by which they 'saw' him more clearly - so much more clearly. At Pentecost there was an initial outburst of ecstatic, uninhibited joy - so much so that the crowd thought the disciples were drunk. Thereafter there was the settled satisfaction of working with the Spirit in the service of Jesus.

    (c) To the second coming of Jesus. What a day of rapture that will be for the Christian.

            Thou art coming, Thou art coming;
            We shall meet Thee on Thy way,
            We shall see Thee, we shall know Thee,
            We shall bless Thee, we shall show Thee
            All our hearts could never say.
            What an anthem that will be,
            Ringing out our love for Thee,
            Pouring out our rapture sweet
            At Thine own all-glorious feet!

    What settled bliss will follow throughout eternity for those that love the Lord.
(2) It's permanence.
Jesus said: "No-one will take away your joy." v22.

We see the truth of this in the New Testament record. It is evident that Paul, in spite of all he went through, experienced much joy. When he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi they were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them. Acts16v25. Later, imprisoned in Rome, he wrote to the Philippians: But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. Phil2v17and18.

This morning our preacher Robin Williams was able rejoice that God had been with him during a life threatening illness, he had been able to witness for Jesus through it and God had delivered him from it. Robin testified to the truth of Christ's words: "No-one will take away your joy." v22.

(3) It's perpetuation.
Jesus solemnly promised: "I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." v23.

What does this mean? It seems too good to be true. The key to understanding this promise is the little phrase: 'in my name'. This is a another way of saying, 'by my authority'. We can ask God for help by Christ's authority whenever we are engaged in his work. I have never been let down when I have requested assistance on active service. I have prayed for help as sports organiser at a Christian camp, before taking school assembly or a funeral, as I have prepared a sermon, to get my website up and running, on the way to a hospital visit, in anticipation of a difficult church business meeting and while I was caring for my father. God has never failed me; my prayers have always been answered.

(E) The disciples peace.

Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." v33.

The believer's peace is dependent upon:

(1) God's prescience.
Jesus told his disciples of his impending death so that later they would realise that he wasn't the victim of circumstances, or overtaken by events, but that he submitted to the will of God his Father. God was in control even during the worst moments of Jesus' trial, torture and torment on the cross. Peter was able to say on the Day of Pentecost: "Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge ... ." Acts2v22and23.

It was crucial for the disciples' sense of well being to know that Jesus died in the will and purpose of God for the redemption of sinful men.

The conviction that God knows the end from the beginning surely contributes to our peace of mind.

            God is still on the throne,
            And he will remember his own;
            His promse is true, he will not forget you;
            God is still on the throne.

(2) Christ's presence.

What a tremendous transformation took place in the disciples once Jesus was raised from the dead and they knew he was alive forever more. It gave them confidence and a settled hope that God had raised up Jesus and accepted him into glory. Peter indicated this in his first sermon when he said: "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and he has poured out what you now see and hear." Acts2v33.

          I know that my Redeemer lives, -
          What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
          He lives, He lives, Who once was dead,
          And reigns, my ever-living Head!

          He lives, triumphant from the grave;
          He lives, eternally to save;
          He lives all glorious in the sky;
          He lives, exalted there on high.

(3) Christ's performance.
Jesus said in anticipation of his death and resurrection: "I have overcome the world." v33. He gained the victory over the world, sin and Satan. All who believe in him will share his victory and share his glory. Paul wrote to the Romans: The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Rom8v16and17.

Our status is established in Jesus - if we love and serve him. Peter could write: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1Pet2v9.

(4) His preciousness.
The Christian is secure in the knowledge that God loves him. Jesus said, " ... the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." John16v27.

In the course of giving the funeral address of Ivy, one of our church members, I said that she was open and straightforward. I referred to the time I expected her support over a controversial matter discussed in a church business meeting and it was not forthcoming. She told me afterwards, "I couldn't support you John I didn't know what you were on about." My brother, Philip, who attended the funeral picked up on this and said, "Well JR, Ivy didn't trust you." And in some respects she didn't! Nor, perhaps, do most of the church members. But at a deeper level Ivy did. She knew that I loved her enough that whatever she said and did I would always be there for her. Ivy trusted me after all!

A child's knowledge of its parent's love is conducive to trust, confidence and a sense of well-being. As a schoolteacher I knew that I was safe, pretty much whatever I did, amongst children who loved me. What then could be more reassuring and productive of cheerful confidence than the many evidences that God our Father loves us?