Friday, October 19, 2012

Jesus was Going Away (John 16:1-7)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 7 October 2012 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 16:1-7

When a religion is not holding the right pathway, people will admire their own religious accomplishment and are unable to acknowledge your mistakes.  The Jews were fanatical and admire their own faithfulness to their faith, would not ask if they were right or wrong.  In situation like that, the more they went that way the narrower and hardened they became.  In the end they thought by persecuting others they were serving God. Saul sought to legitimise his own actions in persecuting the church to fulfil his fervency. 

This often happens in history of religion.  Jesus stood between two eras.  A man born between two eras is destined for greatness and will carry the heaviest burden.  The greatest responsibility of the Jewish culture is to study the revelation of God.  Jesus would end the Old Testament.  He explained the mistakes Jews could not see.  In AD 70, the Jewish temple was destroyed.  The kingdom was gone. From then till now, Jewish people have no prophet, no king and no priest.  Jerusalem was destroyed as prophesied by Jesus. 

In John 7, Jesus said to the Jews,  “You cannot go where I am going.  You will not find me.  You will find in your sins.”  These are serious words.  It means they will be lost in eternity.  But to His disciples Jesus said, “I am going and you cannot go with Me now, but later you will join Me.”  This is different from what Jesus said to the Jews. 

Jesus knew that the Jewish culture will come to an end.  The religious people would have no hope and would persecute His disciples.  In this situation, Jesus said He was going away.  This was the time the disciples needed Him most.  They would be abandoned by the synagogue.  They had given up everything and followed Jesus, and Jesus Himself would go away.  They were in a dangerous situation and there was no turning back now. 

God-Incarnate would only live for a few decades on earth.  Christian church remains.  The antichrist will persecute the church.  False prophets and apostles will come.  God allows the church to be humiliated, somewhat like how God allows the temple to be destroyed.  People laugh, “Where is God, He cannot even save His own people.”  Where is Jesus?  He left.  The disciples asked, “why do You go in the midst of our greatest need?”

This is the emphasis of John 16 – “
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  (John 16:7) This is the turning point.  The Counselor will comfort, strengthen, guide, affirm you and be with you forever.  This is the new direction where the Church will be victorious.  The Holy Spirit is the foundation of the Church’s victory.

Why did Jesus not tell them earlier?  Because the timing has not come.  They were not mature yet.  Many pastors do not know this.  They do not say the right thing at the right moment and say things that are unnecessary.  Many reformed theologians are this way.  They say a lot of things but at the right time they do not say what they need to say. They cannot recognise the most important doctrine for the moment.

Jesus said “It is for you good that I go.”  It is a blessing the Counselor will come.  In between there is a gap.  Within this gap there is a crisis.  Jesus said, “I came from the Father and now I am returning to the Father.” It is a two way traffic.  If you follow Christ, not only you know where He came from you also know where He is leading you to.  In the whole history, this is the only Man who can tell us this.  No other religion does this.

With the Counselor, the disciples will not be lost anymore.  The enemies are around you, but there is deliverance from heaven.  There is hope for Christians.  Not only we have the Lord who know where He came from, the Lord who died for us, who resurrected, and who is with us through Holy Spirit.  No other religion has this.  May the people of God understand this and have a new direction in their faith.