The OvercomerRev. Philip Miller | June 13, 2021
Selected highlights from this sermon
Have you ever felt like an underdog? Maybe you are facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, harsh realities, painful setbacks, or crushing sadness. You’re asking Jesus: “How do I know that it will be all right in the end?” Jesus addresses that honest, deep, and heartfelt question in His final words from the Upper Room.
Pastor Miller shows us that Jesus is the overcomer in three spheres: redemptive history, divine reconciliation, and personal transformation.
So even if we feel like an underdog, we can overcome fear, weakness, and faithlessness because Jesus overcame those things.
I love a good underdog movie. You know the ones where some guy is up against the world and ends up saving it anyway, or the girl that everybody overlooked turns out to be a shining star in the sky, and the guy who hasn’t a chance in the world ends up somehow winning her heart, or the gal who has been held back by fear finally finds her voice. I love underdog movies.
Underdog movies run about on hope, don’t they? Underdog movies run on hope. There are insurmountable obstacles, harsh realities, painful setbacks, crushing sadness, and then unexpected over comings, breakthroughs, triumph, glory, and joy. Underdog movies are all about hope, and because we love feel-good movies, they usually end well, right? And while we enjoy the tale, we’re left wondering if our story will turn out that way too. I mean we have harsh realities, don’t we? We have painful setbacks. We have crushing sadnesses in our lives, and we hope for breakthrough, we hope for triumph, we hope for joy, but how do we know? Just because they overcame doesn’t mean we’re going to overcome.
How do we know it’ll be all right in the end? In many ways, that’s the very question that is lingering in the disciples’ minds in this chapter we come to today. Jesus has told His disciples to prepare for battle, that persecution and hardship are coming their way. It’s coming for Him, and it’s going to come for them as well. And no doubt they felt like underdogs and a whole world that was standing against them. And the harsh realities and crushing sadness are starting to fill their hearts, and they are asking, “Jesus, how do we know it will be all right in the end?” How do we know?
Have you ever felt like an underdog in life? Have you ever felt like the insurmountable obstacles were right there in front of you, harsh realities you can’t deal with, painful setbacks, crushing sadnesses in your life, and you long for a breakthrough, an unexpected overcoming, triumph and glory and joy? And so we ask Jesus, “How do we know it will be all right in the end?” How do we know? And Jesus is going to address that deep, honest, heartfelt question today.
So grab your Bibles. We’re going to be in John, chapter 16, looking at the back half of the chapter, verses 16 down to 33. You’ll find that on page 902 and 903 in the blue Bible that’s there in the rack by your knees. Everything in this passage is building to the capstone statement that Jesus makes at the very end. In John 16:33 He says this, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
So trouble is brewing and it will come but there is a peace to be found in Jesus because, as He says, “I have overcome the world.” And because, friends, Jesus overcomes, we will overcome as well in Him. That’s the main point for today. Because Jesus overcomes, we too will overcome in Him.
So let’s look at this Jesus who is the overcomer. He’s the overcomer in three distinct spheres this morning. He’s the overcomer in Redemptive History, He’s the overcomer in Divine Reconciliation, and He’s the overcomer in Personal Transformation. Okay? Redemptive History, Divine Reconciliation, and Personal Transformation.
Let’s bow our heads and pray as we open God’s Word together.
Heavenly Father, we come now, needy and desperate, weak and frail, knowing that there is no real strength in ourselves to face the hard things of life, but knowing that you have overcome. And if you have overcome, then maybe we can too. Help us to learn this. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. Amen.
So first of all, Jesus is the overcomer in the sphere of Redemptive History. Redemptive history. Verse 16, Jesus is speaking: “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” (chuckles)
Pause here a second.
I love Jesus. It feels like He’s messing with them at times, doesn’t it? We know the rest of the story. We know what this means, that in the hours ahead Jesus will be betrayed. He will be arrested. He will be tried and condemned and crucified, and three days later He will rise again from the dead. And for us, the meaning of Jesus is so abundantly clear, but to the disciples it’s opaque. They don’t get it. Look at what they say. Verse 17: “So some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What is this that he says to us, “A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”; and, “because I am going to the Father”?’ So they were saying, ‘What does he mean by “a little while”?’” “I don’t know what He’s talking about. We don’t know what he is talking about.” Right?
So they’re whispering to each another, right? This is the little sideways conversation. Have you ever been in a situation where it was like there’s a question on the table, but you’re kind of embarrassed to ask it out loud? You know, you’re kind of like, “You ask.” “No, you ask.” “No, you ask.” You know? And then fortunately Jesus sees through it and bails them out, right?
Verse 19: “Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, ‘Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me?”’” Right? “Let me explain myself.” Now He doesn’t make it a whole lot better, but let’s look at what He says.
Verse 20: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
So Jesus is, again, that’s not a full explanation yet, but He’s preparing them, isn’t He? He’s preparing them for the crucifixion. All their sorrow and devastation that will comes as He hangs on the cross and is betrayed at the hands of men, they will feel the sorrow and He’s preparing them for it. He’s giving them permission to grieve, you see. He’s not saying, “Stick your head in the sand,” “Don’t cry,” you know, “Real men don’t cry.” No, no, no. He’s saying, “You have permission to weep. You have permission to lament. You have permission to mourn and groan and come apart because it will be sad, but your momentary sorrow will turn into joy, just like a mom in labor.
Look at verse 21: “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
Now this is an amazing illustration. You ladies are amazing. Bearing children takes such courage and strength. Amen, ladies? Yeah, yeah. I’m telling you if it were up to men to bear children, the human race would have gone extinct years ago. Someone once told me that at the very peak of the pain of childbirth, during transition when the contractions are at their absolute most intense, a woman begins to experience what it’s like for a man to have the common cold (laughter) because we’re pathetic. Okay? You ladies are rock stars.
And when each of my four little babies were born, (and Krista was amazing) as soon as they were born, it’s not that Krista forgot the pain, or that it suddenly ceased. All of a sudden it was worth it. It was worth it. All that anguish turned to delight. And the joy of seeing and holding and kissing and marveling at the little miracles of life that God gave us, and the joy overcame the sorrow. It redeemed it, you see. And Jesus, friends, overcomes sorrow with joy.
Jesus overcomes sorrow with joy. This is true of His life. We read this earlier in the service but as the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrew 12:2, “Jesus...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
See, Jesus Himself endured the sorrow and shame of the cross for the joy that was set before Him. At the very heart of redemptive history, friends, in the life and death and resurrection and exultation, ascension of Jesus Christ, sorrow turns to joy as Jesus lays down His life and takes it up again. But this principle is not just true of Jesus in His life. It is also true for the disciples in their lives. Their sorrow at losing Jesus in His death will turn now to joy at seeing Him raised to life. Their sorrow and facing persecution and pain for the sake of the name of Jesus will turn to joy in the presence of God forever. No one will take this joy from them. It will be theirs forever. And friends, this is true of us as well, because redemption is not just something God gave one time for Jesus. Redemption is the story of history. Redemption is the story of history.
Our God is a redeeming God. Our God takes things that are broken and makes them whole. Our God takes what is marred and makes it beautiful. Our God takes what is sorrowful and turns it into joy. This is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:10, “[We are] sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Or he writes in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us,” or 2 Corinthians 4:16–17, “So we do not lose heart,” Paul writes, “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” Friends, Jesus is in the business of overcoming sorrow with joy. Amen? (applause)
So Jesus is the overcomer in the sphere of Redemptive History. He is also the overcomer in the sphere of Divine Reconciliation.
Divine Reconciliation. Verse 23, “In that day—” What day, Jesus? In the day that your sorrow turns to joy, on the other side of resurrection glory. On that day, okay. “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
All right, so Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension to the Father’s side will do more than just bring redemption into world history. It’s going to do more than that. More than overcoming sorrow with joy, Jesus’ death and resurrection and exultation and ascension to the Father’s side will fundamentally change forever how the disciples will relate to the Father. Do you see this? Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, whenever the disciples wanted help, divine help with something, they just asked Jesus, right? “Hey, Jesus, we need help.” He’s right there. But after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, they will ask the Father directly in Jesus’ name. And He will give them all that they could possibly ever need. They will have direct access to the Father.
He unpacks this more in verse 25. “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
Do you see that something fundamental has shifted in the cosmos through Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension? The veil is torn, friends. The disciples of Jesus now have access to the Holy of Holies, to the very presence of the Father, and they can know Him directly and fully. They can be loved by Him directly and fully. They have access to Him directly and fully. And the Father is eager to answer our prayers, to provide what we need as we abide deeply in the life of Christ and bear fruit in accordance with His will. As we walk in obedience and abiding trust with Christ, the Father gives us whatever we need so that we can follow Him. The Father is for us, not against us. He is generous toward us, not stingy. He is lavishing all that we need. He never holds back because of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus overcomes estrangement with reunion.
Jesus overcomes estrangement with reunion. Friends, we were made for relationship with God, and our sin separates us from our Father, and so we experience estrangement in the universe. But God, in His great love for us sent His Son into the world to do whatever it took to bring us home. And on the cross Jesus laid down His life. He died in our place and for our sake, bearing all of our sin and shame, and giving us His own righteous life so that we might be reconciled to the Father, and reunited with God. And Jesus, friends, overcomes. He overcomes our sin. He overcomes our shame. He overcomes our separation from God. He becomes our substitute. He becomes our Savior so that we might become Sons of God, royal children of the Most High God, and cry out, “Abba, Father.” Abba is the Aramaic word for daddy, dada, Abba. You can feel it in the word itself.
You know the Obama Portraits going on exhibit this week at the Art Institute, our very own Kristin Best was the lead designer on that project, and it reminds me of the pictures I remember seeing of Sasha and Malia playing with their daddy in the White House. Here he is, the most powerful person in the world, but to them Daddy.
Friends, because of Jesus Christ, the most powerful person in the cosmos is your daddy. He’s your daddy. (applause) And whenever you want, you just run into His arms. There are no gatekeepers. You don’t have to make an appointment. Nobody screens you out. You just come. Daddy. Jesus is in the business of overcoming estrangement with reunion. You see this. He’s the overcomer in redemptive history. He’s the overcomer in divine reconciliation, and He’s the overcomer in personal transformation.
Personal transformation. Look at verse 29: “His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.’”
(Chuckles) They’re a little overconfident, okay? But “now we get it,” they tell Jesus. “We really know who you are and why you came. You’re from God Himself. You know all things. No more questions from us, Jesus. No, we got it. We’re finally tracking with you. We’re finally, we’re with you all the way, Jesus.”
Verse 31: “Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is will me.’”
It kind of reminds me of Peter. Remember back in chapter 13, verse 37, Peter’s like, “I will lay down my life for you, Jesus!” And Jesus says in verse 38, “Will you lay down your life for me? Will you? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”
And here they say, “Now we know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” And Jesus says, “You’re going to be scattered, each to your own home, and you’ll leave me alone.”
See, this very night, they will scatter. They will hide in their homes. They will abandon Jesus. The Shepherd will be struck and the sheep will scatter. And see, friends, Jesus knows them better than they know themselves. Jesus knows them better than they know themselves. They think they’ve finally arrived. They think they’ve finally got it. They think they finally believe, but Jesus knows. He knows what’s in them. He knows the weakness. He knows the frailty. He knows the vulnerability. He knows the failure. And He points it out to them, not to make them feel bad, but so that they would take heart.
Take heart, He says in verse 33. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I’m telling you ahead of time how faithless you will be under pressure. I’m telling you ahead of time so that you might find peace, and the only place you can find peace in me, peace (the Jewish word shalom), wholeness, well-being, the only place where you’ll have real life in this universe, you’re not going to find it in the world. In the world you’re going to have tribulation, but the world is going to put pressure on you. You’re going to fail the test in the world. You’re going to scatter and run and hide and leave me alone. You will abandon me, and when you abandon me, you’re going to be filled with this acute inner conflict. You’re going to be filled with sorrow and remorse and self-loathing. You will be overcome with your own faithlessness. And what on Earth will you do with your own undeniable failure? When you come face to face with the weakness that is in your veins, and you cannot avoid the stark reality of how much you have failed your Jesus, what will you do in that moment?
“I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. Take heart for I have overcome the world, the world that struck fear in your heart and sent you running in the night. I’ve overcome that world; the world that tells you you’re a failure and there is no way that Jesus would ever take you back. I have overcome that world; the world that wants to steal your peace and ruin your joy and dash your hopes of redemption. I have overcome that world.”
“In me, in the overcomer, you will have peace. You will be whole again. Shalom will return to your soul. Because I have overcome, you will overcome in me.” Because, friends, Jesus overcomes faithlessness with faithfulness. Jesus overcomes faithlessness with faithfulness. Because of His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit will come down with wind and fire. And these very disciples who fled in the night will stand in the light of day. And these disciples who hid in their homes will proclaim Jesus in the streets. And these very disciples who left Jesus alone will find courage in Jesus alone. And the faithless will become faithful because of the faithfulness of Jesus, the one who didn’t abandon the ones who abandoned Him, the one who didn’t fail the ones who failed Him, but who overcame evil with good through His mercy and grace and forgiveness. “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
Friends, Jesus is in the business of overcoming faithlessness with faithfulness. And it worked. It worked, because out of the eleven disciples that remain here, ten of them in the end laid down their lives for Jesus. Only John, our author, died of natural causes. Everyone else went to the very end and gave it all for Jesus.
They overcame their fear. They overcame their weakness. They overcame their faithlessness. Do you see this? How? How did they do it? Because Jesus overcame, they too can overcome in Him. Jesus gave them everything they needed. Jesus gave them everything they needed.
Jesus is the overcomer in Redemptive History. He’s setting everything to right. All this sorrow, friends, will one day turn to joy because of Jesus. He gives us the hope to endure. Amen?
Jesus is the overcomer in Divine Reconciliation. He’s reunited us to the Father, giving us unrestricted access to the throne room of God who is with us and is for us. And He’s never against us, and we can never lose what we have in relationship with God, and so we have the power to endure, you see.
And Jesus is the overcomer in Personal Transformation. By grace through faith, Jesus changes us by the power of the Holy Spirit which indwells us and makes us into the people we were always meant to be. He gives us the heart, the peace, the courage on the inside to follow Him faithfully. He gives us the character to endure.
See, these disciples, these underdogs, found everything they possibly could need through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. They found it all in Jesus alone. And friends, that’s exactly where we’re going to find Him too.
Here’s the takeaway: Whatever we face, since Jesus is with us, will be all right in the end. Whatever we face. (applause) Do you believe that? Whatever you face, because Jesus is with you, will be all right in the end. Friends, Jesus is working redemption in all of history. Jesus is reconciling us to the Father. Jesus is transforming us on the inside by the power of His faithfulness and His spirit for whatever we face. Because Jesus is with us we’ll be all right in the end.
Yesterday morning, Krista’s grandma went in for surgery, and by all accounts it went really, really well. But it was a high-risk surgery because of her age, and the surgeon told her that she might not live through the operation. And Grandma told the surgeon that no matter what happened, she was at peace, because she knew her Jesus held all of her days in His hands.
The doctor was so moved he had to leave the room. He started crying.
What gave Florence such poise, such power, such strength? She has a Redeemer who is turning all things into joy. She has a reconciler who has given her access to a Father that will never be taken away. Even death itself cannot rob her of her joy in the Father, and she has the power of the Holy Spirit transforming inside her life, giving her peace when nowhere else can give her peace. She has an overcomer, and so she, too, can overcome.
Friends, because Jesus is with us, underdogs though we may be, because Jesus overcomes, we, too, will overcome in Him in whatever we face. Because Jesus is with us we’ll be all right in the end.
Amen? Amen. (applause)
Father, yours is the victory. Jesus wins. And those of us who follow Jesus Christ will only ever be able to overcome because of His power in and through us. His victory becomes ours by faith through this grace that you have given us in Christ who is our only hope. Father, there are tough things on the horizon of our lives. There are medical diagnoses, estranged relationships, career setbacks, the looming of death, persecution, difficulties on every side, tribulation in this world. Father, help us to find peace in Christ. Help us to know to take heart in the fact that He has overcome the world, and if He overcame, we can too, in Him. We trust you. We ask in Jesus’ name that you would give us everything we need to face whatever comes our way. We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.