The Pregame Talk!
Turn to John 16. Last week we saw how Jesus had called His disciples and called them friends. They became part of His circle that had such a special role in ministry. And we, of course, become an extension of this calling through the church, as here the Saviour of the world, the Creator of all things has called us friends, calls us His Bride, has set His love upon us, calls us into His circle, and gives us an assignment. And when we are called for a specific task by anyone we understand that with this privileged appointment comes both blessings and challenges. I am sure that any young baseball prospect if he was at the draft table and heard his name being called by a professional baseball team, it would be such a privilege, but then he would soon the massive weight on him to be his very best. Remember back when maybe you tried out for some kind of school team and you anxiously waited for the posting to go up of who made the team. And when you finally saw your name you thought, whoa!
When I was 18, my friend Mike Stevens and I tried out for a Junior C hockey team in Tilbury, I already knew that many of the games were on Sunday, so I had no intention of playing on the team. And that was just a choice that I had made, as for me, I happened to not want to miss anything going on in church. I remember going out to the first try-out in late August, and we came off the ice and sat in Mike’s car, just laughing. We were exhausted, exercises, drills, stops and starts, it was brutal! We went to a few more practices and then came the time when the coach was going to start picking some of the team. He came to Mike and me first, but I told him I didn’t plan to play, as I knew I could play for St. Clair College in Chatham. And then Mike, who wasn’t a church guy, said that if Mark wasn’t playing, he didn’t want to either. The coach wasn’t very happy with either of us, to waste his time. We just sort of wanted to see if we could make the team. Sort of a bone-head move at the time. But we both ended up playing for St. Clair that year and we won the championship. But making the team is the exciting part.
But here is the hard part of being on the team, the discipline, the dedication, the willingness to work with the team, the commitment to always be there. And the fact that you will not always win. As giving great effort to something is a lot of work, but with that you also have the opportunity for great reward. I mean, if you don’t try out for the team, you will never have the joy of making the team. In our men’s study the other night, we were talking about the truth that if you step out and do something, there will always be a risk, but there is also the opportunity for victory. Kent Hughes, in his book, said:
“[If] you never play baseball, you will never strike out, but you will also never hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded to win the game!”
Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man 264
In other words, no pain, no gain. As some of the greatest accomplishments by men and women throughout history have come because someone was willing to give everything for the cause. I don’t know if you have ever been in a dressing room before a meaningful game, where the coach will give a pregame “pep talk” before they go out on the field or on the ice. I have never been to an NFL, American football game, but the one time we were at a Hamilton Tiger-Cat game, we were right down by the field when the Ti-Cats came running out. Now the guys that play on the offensive line are usually the biggest guys on the team. I was reading that the average American (NFL) lineman weighs 315lbs, while the average Canadian (CFL) lineman weighs 265lbs and average 6’5”, still pretty big. And watching them come out of the dressing room grunting and groaning, they looked like robots. They probably just had received the “Pregame Talk” from the coach. I have always wanted to be in a dressing room before a college football game or an NFL playoff game, just to be able to hear the pre-game talk, to hear all the hooting and hollering.
On Nov 27 ’2021 two US college teams, the Minnesota Gophers were playing the Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams had great seasons and both were 8-4 (8 wins/4 loses), and they were playing this final game of the regular season. And the winner of this particular game receives what they call the Paul Bunyan Axe. Whoever wins, gets to carry this axe around. Apparently, this is one of the greatest rivalries in all of College Football, and at this game, there were 47,736 fans in attendance. Five minutes before the game, coach P. J. Fleck stood before his team in the locker room. Everything was on the line and it was time to go out and do battle, and this is what he said to his Gophers:
“We are in a war, and you’re a good enough team to win the whole thing. And this is why you are here because this is one of the greatest rivalries in all of College Football. And this is going to teach you that at a lot of times in your life it is really, really important that you are going to have to be at your best. Someday when you have a family, and when your wife, when your kids need you, you have to be at your best. That’s what games like this mean. You prepare all year to be “Axe” tough at every moment. And this is how you create memories? Now let’s go!”
- J. Fleck
Man, wouldn’t you want to be there? I would just eat that up, all 5’7 of me going grunt, grunt, let me out there coach! Now we sort of smile about this, but those Minnesota players, who won the game by the way, would not only win, but they would also have to hurt, cuts and blood and sweat, sometimes cold, exhausted, some would get injured. And most of them would never be drafted into the NFL, as this was their ultimate moment, to be able, after the game, to run around with that Paul Bunyan axe.
Well, in our passage this morning, Jesus is about to give His disciples a “Pregame Talk,” as He is about to leave them. And before them, they would have the opportunity to have the greatest legacy they could ever have. They had the chance to hit the home run in the ninth inning, or the chance to run around with the axe. But it was also going to be very hard. And Jesus, in John 16, will actually tell them this, as He will tell them of things that would be a great encouragement to them, but He would also give them some warnings of what will happen to them during the battle. In fact, Jesus always gave those who followed Him a way out. As He always told them of the joys and the ultimate rewards of following Him, but He always warned of the hardships. And this is why He often said things such as count the cost. Don’t put your hand to the plow and look back. In other words, if you are not willing to follow Me to the end, don’t start! And after He gives the encouragements and warnings from John 16:1-31, in the final 2 verses, He gives them a “pregame talk.”
“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:32-33 (LSB)
That’s the “pregame or pre-ministry talk.” So, what warnings and encouragements precede this “pregame talk.” What does He tell them before He says, “take courage”? Let us begin with the:
“These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.”
John 16:1 (LSB)
Here He introduces the reason for the warnings, because you are going to have to be careful that you do not stumble, because this is what you should expect.
- Opposition from Individuals (vs 2a)
“They will put you out of the synagogue.”
John 16:2a (LSB)
Now we might not think too much of this, as we sort of read it as well now you cannot go to your old church, and now you can go to Jesus’ church. No, for when it says that you will be put out of the synagogue, this means that you will be ostracized by your own people. This is being rejected by the Jews. The Jews stood up for each other. It was the Jewish leaders who could defend someone against Rome and others whom they may have blamed for something in front of Rome. For this is exactly what they did to Jesus. And remember, there is no CPP or Old Age security, for if you were kicked out of your family for following Christ, you no longer would be cared for in your old age. So, the cost was huge, therefore, Jesus said many times to count the cost. In other words, if you are not willing in this life to lose many things, don’t follow Me, because you could lose a number of things. In other words, the chances of someone following Me and coming out ahead materially or socially are not really that good Jesus warned. So, imagine yourself a Jewish retailer and 98% of your business comes from Jews. And the consensus amongst the Jews was that Jesus was a troublemaker, and now you are going to follow Him? You had better count the cost.
You know, we are entering a time in our day when standing with Christ will mean that you may not qualify for the job. It is getting harder and harder for the committed Christian to be a public school teacher. “Great, you did this well in university. You had high marks at teacher’s college. You seem to have a very outgoing and pleasant personality. You certainly can teach and you love children. But, ooh, some of your ethical beliefs? Sorry.” “You guys are a great Mom and Dad. You are prime candidates to adopt. You are so kind and loving, and you already have some great kids that love you. But, ooh, but you hold to this belief? Sorry.” Opposition from people. When Jesus was about to give His “pep talk” He first said, some will put you out, and it will not be easy for you. And this ties in with our next point of opposition.
- Opposition from Society (vs 2b-3)
“[B]ut an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they did not know the Father or Me.”
John 16:2b-3 (LSB)
This is not necessarily the boss who turns you away or the family that shuns you for your faith. No, this is the overall opposition we face because our views no longer gel with the direction of our society. This would be like the Christian politician or the Christian university teacher. Their core beliefs and values are no longer welcomed. There can be many views on abortion in the classroom that are all listened to and respected, except the one who claims that all life is to be valued. That belief has almost become hateful. There is fast becoming a society that accepts a plurality of thinking, except Christian thinking. A society that accepts all religions, except Christianity. A society that accepts many thoughts on marriage, except the Christian thought.
See, there is a growing understanding in our society that is very dangerous. For it has not abandoned the belief in God. It is not like God has been thrown out. No, God has been kept, but within their own perimeters. No longer kept would be the Bible’s archaic thoughts on parenting or marriage, the return of Christ or creation, or that Jesus is the only way. Few would ever hold to these things. Yet though the Bible has been generally rejected by society, God has been kept alive. We see that today in funerals where the family has little belief in the Bible and no connection with a true church, yet God is still spoken about at the funeral. The word heaven is used a lot at funerals still. And anytime God is mentioned today is in a positive sense. It most often includes such words as love and forgiveness.
So, it is hard to even describe much of our society. I suppose it could be described as a post-Christian society, where some of the snowflakes of Christianity have remained whereas the majority has long ago melted away. So, what you have, is a society that would never consider the crucifixion of Christ or the Bible’s teachings on hell or judgement, yet a society that is still okay with Charlie Brown’s Christmas. And this mixed-up Christianity, in all its watered-down parts and pieces is extremely dangerous. Because the Christianity now that you and I speak about is not the Christianity that most of our society would know. For people today are growing up with another form of Christianity. And therefore, if we are the proclaimers of the real and true and biblical Christianity, those who view themselves to be Christians without the truth of the Bible will look at us as the enemy. And therefore, they will think that they are doing God a service by taking us out or shutting us up. Let’s face it, there are lots of Christianities out there that are not near as offensive as ours. President Biden, he is not going to deny God or Christ. Mr. Biden is a Catholic, and apparently attends church. ABC reported on Oct ’2021:
“‘I never miss Mass,’ Biden said last August. ‘It is part of who I am. It’s what gets me through the very difficult times in my life, and I believe it very strongly.’ But even as he acknowledges the profound impact his religious devotion has had on his life, Biden largely deems his faith to be a ‘private matter’ and not open for public discussion. ‘I don’t proselytize. This is just a private thing with me and I feel … my faith … means a great deal to me. And it’s been sort of my salvation.’”
ABC News, Oct ‘21
This is not a very offensive Christianity, for it can hold to society’s beliefs and values wherever human reasoning and wisdom take us, and can still hold on to “religious devotion” something that gets people through difficult times. This is not going to offend too many. Yet listen to what one of our prime ministers said on an Easter Sunday morning:
“Today, my family will join Christians around the world to commemorate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many Canadians take this time to go to church, spend time with family and friends … As the holiest day in the Christian calendar, Easter is not only about the traditions we hold dear, it is also about reflecting on the values that Jesus Christ lived, taught, and shared. Values of love, kindness, and forgiveness. And Canadians of the Christian faith strive to live out these values all year long.”
Which Prime Minister would have had the nerve to say such a thing and when? This was Justin Trudeau, just this past Easter, Apr 9’ 2023. If Mr. Trudeau was questioned on the truths of the Bible, now I cannot speak for him, but I would dare say that he would not claim Christ as the only way. This is the danger we face, as it is not like there is no thought of God, or that people have abandoned God altogether. No, the problem is, is that they will include God but without truth. For our greatest danger is not from those who are atheists, who say there is no God or do not have a religion. Our greatest danger is from those who have abandoned truth, yet believed they have held on to God. Those within the culture that hold to the niceties of Christianity, and yet at the same time have no belief in what God has said. And because they believe that they are still attached to God, they will also believe that quieting the voice of the true believer is actually the right and good thing to do. I would say that many today are not doing what they believe is wrong. Sadly, they are doing what they believe is right. Now the final warning:
- More Trouble is Coming (vs 12)
“I still have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”
John 16:12 (LSB)
We can relate to this as sometimes we do not need to be able to hear everything all at once. Sometimes we can get to the point of we will cross that bridge when it comes. Many of you know that I am working towards my doctorate, and am in the final 5 courses of my degree, which is the start of my final thesis. The courses up until now have been on many different topics but somewhat laid out similarly. Each course has about three books to read, an exam, discussion boards, and a few papers to write. But the start of this course is the beginning of a long process of this major paper. And the layout of the course is quite different. And admittedly on Day 1, this past Monday, I am thinking, whoa! And Anne reminded me it is like eating an elephant, one bite at a time. Just do today what you have to do, and don’t look too far ahead. Someone commented on our New Testament readthrough, where Jesus said, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And Jesus is warning His disciples of coming trouble. We certainly do not want to see the problems ahead in the sense that they would become overwhelming.
“And God is able to make every grace abound to you, so that in everything at every time having every sufficiency, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”
2 Cor 9:8 (LSB)
Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” I think of Christ who had to live His whole life knowing how it would end. Our Lord does not give us that burden that He had. So, these are the warnings given to us: opposition from people, opposition from society, and more trouble to come. Yet our Lord does not leave us there.
“But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”
John 16:4a (LSB)
So, He will give us some:
- The Coming of the Spirit (vs 7-13)
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
John 16:7-8 (LSB)
Jesus actually says that there is a greater benefit to having the Person of the Holy Spirit in us than being able to live with Christ side-by-side. This is the importance of the advantage that our Lord speaks about hear. The advantage we have over the Old Testament saints who lived without the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And even the advantage of the one who walked with Christ, who also did not have the Holy Spirit within them. For the Bible teaches that when we come to Christ, we are given the Holy Spirit.
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”
Rom 8:9 (LSB)
And we also learn from Romans 8:26 that “the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Never downplay, never underestimate the advantage of the Spirit in your life. Lord, that we would live with such a reliance on the Spirit’s work. And look with me:
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
John 16:13a (LSB)
When we open our Bibles, we have the Spirit to guide us. Lord, help me to understand what You are teaching me. And this promise is also an indirect promise to our teaching, that as the Spirit moved in the hearts of the Old Testament writers, He would also move in the hearts of the New Testament writers so that we have this treasure of truth here before us this morning. John MacArthur said:
“Only the Holy Spirit, since He is God, knows all that God knows, and thus is qualified to reveal divine truth to man. Because it is impossible for the Spirit of truth to inspire error, the Bible is inerrant. To argue otherwise is an affront to the holy nature of God who inspired it. Inspiration includes all of Scripture.”
John MacArthur, John 12—21 206
This teaches us the carefulness that we take every word of the Bible as truthful and authoritative, knowing that it came from the heart of God to us. So, “Be encouraged” our Lord told His disciples, the Holy Spirit is coming. Secondly:
- The Revelation of Christ’s Glory (vs 14-22)
The primary work of Christ was to fulfill all that the Father had commanded Him, and the primary work of the Spirit is to bring glory to Christ. Just think of when we open up our Bibles and read of the glories of Jesus Christ, the letters of Paul, who told of the work of Christ in salvation, His victory on the cross. We smiled on Sunday evening to hear how the writer of Hebrews opened his book. It is just oozing with the exaltation of Christ: that Christ is heir of all things, the radiance of His glory, that He created all things and upholds all things, that He loved righteousness and hates lawlessness, and that His throne is forever. This is the work of the Spirit, as He deflects all glory and all praise to the Son, Jesus Christ. And this same Christ, who the disciples lived with, who they saw die on a cross, and who was buried, they will see Him again.
“‘A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.’ Some of His disciples then said to one another, ‘What is this He is telling us, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me”; and, “because I go to the Father’?”’ So they were saying, ‘What is this that He says, “A little while”? We do not know what He is talking about.’ Jesus knew that they were wishing to question Him, and He said to them, ‘Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, “A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me”? Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will cry and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. Whenever a woman is in labor she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.’”
John 16:16-22 (LSB)
Think of the sorrow they still would have experienced when they had only heard that Jesus had been resurrected. In Mark 16:11, when the disciples heard that Jesus was alive and had been seen by Mary Magdalene, they refused to believe it. In fact, in the verse prior it says that they were mourning and weeping. But John 20:20, tells us that when they had seen His hands and side, they rejoiced when they saw the Lord! And even after the ascension it says in Luke 24:52 that they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. True, He would leave them again when He ascended into heaven, but this would clearly be a triumphant exit; not the heartache, from their perspective, of them seeing Him die on the cross. Any lack of courage, experienced by the disciples seems to have been gone, after He is resurrected and comes to them again for forty days, and then ascends into heaven, and they receive the Holy Spirit. It seems to have solidified their faith and given them the boldness to live and die for Christ over the course of the early church. And interesting that even the death of Christ became a joy. As there is no sadness for the Christian that Christ died as we even glory in the cross. Arthur W. Pink wrote:
“Their sorrowing became joy! The very cause of their sorrow—the death of Christ—now became the ground and subject of their joy! Grief would not only be replaced by joy, but be transmuted into joy … the cross of Christ is glorified into an eternal consolation.”
Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John: Volume 3 69-70
The coming of the Spirit, the revelation of Christ’s glory. Finally:
- The Love of the Father (vs 23-30)
“On that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you.”
John 16:26-27a (LSB)
Jesus says He does not need to request something here from the Father. Why? Because he is confident that the Father loves them. True, the work of Christ gained us the relationship with the Father, for without His sacrifice we would still be enemies of God. But His death brought us into an intimate relationship with the Father. Good to know it is not a relationship that is fragile or breakable. No, it is a relationship of love and intimacy. Romans 5:10, we were reconciled to the Father through the death of His Son. We have been adopted as sons and daughters.
“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, also heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Rom 8:15-17 (LSB)
Folks, much to be thankful here, much to be grateful for. Jesus was about to die. In fact, many scholars believe at this point in the story, He is just hours away from being arrested. So, He must assure them and gives them the pregame talk before they head into ministry without Him. “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home … to leave Me alone … and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me … [so] may you have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Let’s pray. Lord, we praise You for the indwelling Spirit. We thank You for the glory of Christ, and we are grateful for Your eternal love for those who believe. Therefore, might we live today as people who rejoice in what Jesus said He would do, behold I come quickly! This same Jesus, who has been taken up into heaven, will so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven. So, give us courage in these challenging days Lord, as the opposition mounds and more trouble comes. That when You return, You will find us faithful. And all God’s people said, amen.