Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Final Message


The final message that Jesus shares with His disciples before His death, burial and resurrection focuses on prayer and overcoming (John 16:23-33).  The Lord mentions prayer many times in His ministry, and He sets the example for prayer in His own life.  He has spoken to them in parables, and has used other metaphors to make necessary points to them concerning matters of spirituality.  Now, He speaks plainly concerning the fact that there will be a new situation because of His resurrection and ascension…and because of the coming Holy Spirit.  He is speaking to them plainly in order to reveal the Father to them (John 14:6ff).  Jesus will return to the Father in heaven, and there minister as our High Priest, making intercession for us (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus’ ministry in heaven makes possible our ministry of witnessing on the earth, through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the promise that they desperately need to believe.  He knows that the disciples want to ask Him a question.  He does tell them that a day is coming when they will not be able to ask Him questions (following His ascension).  Instead, they will pray to the Father and He will meet their needs, and provide direction through the Holy Spirit.  When we read the book of Acts, we do see that the early church was dependent upon prayer.  They believed the promises of God and asked God for what they needed.

In v.29, the light appears to go on for the disciples, as they make a significant affirmation of faith.  They apparently had been unable to grasp the meaning of the promised resurrection…which is entirely understandable.   Now, they not only affirm their understanding, but affirm their faith and assurance.  Jesus seems to accept it, as well…even as He understands their weaknesses.  He reports concerning the spiritual condition of the disciples to His Father in the High Priestly prayer in the next chapter (17:6-8).  Jesus goes on to explain that it is possible to have faith, understanding and assurance, and still fail the Lord.  Jesus has already warned Peter concerning His forthcoming denials, but now He warns that nearly all of them are going to forsake Him.

16:33 is the summary and powerful climax of the Upper Room message.  Why does he share it?  It is in order that they…and disciples of all generations…might understand that they can have peace in a world of tribulation.  This is a great message of hope.  In Christ, there is peace…in the world, there is trouble.  The position we need to claim is – we are in Christ…and therefore, we can overcome the world and all of its hatred.  Every believer is either overcome or is an overcomer.  As Paul tells the Romans, the world wants us to conform, but Jesus wants us to be transformed, changed to new spiritual beings (Romans 12:1-2).  Finally, He announces, “Be of Good Cheer.”  Jesus has victory over the world – that is Good News (not bad news), in fact, it is the best news of all-time.  There is joy in our lives when God answers prayer…and when we permit God to transform us and to transform our sorrows into joy.

Tim Raines wasn’t prepared for the deafening cheers from the usually quiet crowd when he stepped to the plate in his first game back with the old Montreal Expos.  For Raines, it was like being in the World Series and batting with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the winning run on base.  ``It was that type of ovation,’’ said Raines, who spent his first 12 seasons with the Expos before returning at age 41.  Raines had been in the World Series, winning it twice with the New York Yankees. But his comeback from lupus might have been an even more impressive feat for one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball history. Raines’ career appeared to have ended on July 19, 1999, when the Oakland Athletics placed him on the disabled list with kidney inflammation. He was subsequently diagnosed with lupus. ``Lupus took me away from the game, and I wasn’t ready to give it up,’’ Raines said. ``That drove me back.’’ Nobody, other than Raines, understood the odds against him better than his wife.  ``He didn’t have any muscle and he was up to about 225 pounds from the lupus,’’ Virginia Raines said. ``With all the medication he was taking, his body was so weak that he couldn’t do much.’’  Gradually, Raines was able to reduce his medication to the point where he was just taking three pills a day, along with vitamin supplements. And so there was a thunderous reception in Montreal that week. It might have been the most gratifying moment for the man known as “The Rock” and “Purple”.  ``I had tears in my eyes,’’ said his wife, Virginia. ``I knew I was going to get goose-bumps, I had those, but then I started crying. It was unbelievable. It was fantastic.’’ The cheers continued throughout Raines’ first at-bat. This was just one human being playing baseball, coming back as if from the dead. 

As tremendous as Tim Raines’ comeback story is, there are many others that are just as wonderful.   Of course, the greatest comeback…the greatest overcomer of all time…is Jesus.  We can always be of good cheer, because we are connected to the greatest story in history…told about God who became a man in order to bring salvation to His people.  As Phil Robertson says, ”I haven’t heard of a story to beat that one yet.”

Blessings, Don

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