31 ‘Do you now believe?’ Jesus replied. 32 ‘A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.
33 ‘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.’
These were the words read from John 16:31-33 that were read as the reading for a funeral service I took this week. They are unusual words to hear at a funeral. If you are going to quote John, then it is likely to be from a few chapters earlier where Jesus promises that he will not leave the disciples alone but that he will return having prepared a place for them.
And yet these words are actually part of the same talk. This is Jesus speaking to his disciples at the Last Supper. He has warned them of the trouble that is ahead. He has warned them of his own coming trail and execution. He has talked of his resurrection and ascension. Still not grasping what he is saying, these words fill them with anxiety. That’s what prompts Jesus to say those famous words:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.”
Jesus goes on to teach the disciples that as well as the promise of his return to look forward to and a home with him, that he will not leave them deserted but will send the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that they are going to be witnesses for him. But in the meantime, there will be trouble and suffering ahead. Whilst the world around continues to party and revel in complete denial of the danger they are in from God’s judgement, Jesus followers are going to be faced with great distress. The most immediate source of pain and grief will be the death of their saviour. They will scatter in fear. Indeed, they will leave Jesus in his hour of need. But even if Jesus was deserted and left alone by them, not only would he not leave them alone but also he would not be alone because his Father would be present with him.
So, here we are reading those words that had immediate meaning for the disciples back them and I want to suggest they have relevance to today. I guess that the bit about being scattered each to your own homes resonates in the middle of a pandemic with lockdown leaving us isolated in our homes. And they are words of hope for those at a funeral grieving the loss of a young man.
Alongside that reading, I also included Romans 4:1-8 and Romans 5:2. Those Bible passages point to the peace that we have with God because we have been made with him and are justified through faith alone. It’s not what we do, what we strive for, it’s not our achievements or success. It’s not whether we appear to be coping or whether it looks like we are really struggling that counts. It’s God’s love for us, it’s Christ’s death on the Cross and his resurrection. It’s our belief in those things and our belief in Jesus that is the source of true hope and peace.
I don’t know how you are coping at the moment. It may well be that you are really struggling to hold it together and you are clinging on by a thread.. It may be that you are tempted to give up. It may be that you feel that you’ve failed, let God or others down and maybe even that you are ready to give up on God. But hear this. God has not given up on you. The Cross is still true, the resurrection still real and Jesus has overcome the grave. We can trust him to keep his promises to us.