Tribulation Overcome

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter based on John 16:23-33

Dear disciples of Jesus: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

“In the world you will have tribulation,” says Jesus to His disciples. He doesn’t say that some of you, His disciples, will have tribulation in the world. He doesn’t say that you might have tribulation in the world. Jesus says in the world you will have tribulation.

This is necessarily so because the world is the enemy of Jesus. Thus Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) Of course the world hates the followers of Jesus, because the world hates Jesus. Jesus has chosen us out of the world, so the world hates us (John 15:19).

But we don’t do so well with hate. We want to be liked. We want to be loved and accepted. We certainly don’t want tribulation. This creates a great temptation for us to not look like followers of Jesus. It creates a temptation for us to blend into the world so that we will not be the target of their hatred. It creates a temptation for us to turn away from God’s Word in order to avoid tribulation.

You’ve seen the news. You know what’s going on in the world. Apparently the world doesn’t know what a man is and what a woman is anymore. If you don’t want mentally unhinged men going into bathrooms and locker rooms with your wives, daughters, and grand-daughters, the world says you’re a bigot.

Apparently the world doesn’t know what marriage is anymore. If you think that homo stuff is not only disgusting but also an abomination like Scripture teaches, then the world says you are unloving. If you think that marriage is the institution of God and that seeking the benefits of marriage outside of God’s institution is sin, then the world has got a bunch of names to call you too.

Don’t think that Christians aren’t being persecuted for these things. Coming from our neighbours to the south are continual news stories of Christians losing their businesses and livelihood because they won’t join the world in sin. In our own country we won’t have long before we’ll see what will happen to Christians in the medical field if they refuse to participate in the murder of the weakest members of society through so-called “assisted dying.”

The easy thing to do is to do nothing. Keep quiet. Watch quietly as other Christians are suffering for the name of Christ. After all, we don’t want to join them in their suffering. We don’t want the tribulation that Jesus has told us is part of being in this world as His disciples. This is especially true if we have these issues within our own circles of friends or families. We don’t want strife in the family, so we just bite our tongue. We don’t want to lose our friends, so we just stay quiet.

But the church is supposed to be a lamp shining in a dark world (Matt. 5:16). The world only has the expectation of eternal death in hell if God does not convert them. It is not our job to convert the world, nor are we able to do it, but we are to be a light shining with the truth of God’s Word. We can be a witness to the name of Christ by suffering tribulation for His name’s sake. We can confess the truth of God’s Word to our friends and families, especially to our children and grandchildren, even if we face opposition in doing so.

Look, the devil doesn’t attack his own. He doesn’t bring tribulation to those who follow him and believe his lies lest they turn to God for help. The devil attacks those who teach and believe rightly. It pains him when his lies are exposed by the Word of God, and thus, like a furious foe, he raves and rages with all his might and even enlists the world and our sinful flesh as his allies. For our flesh is in itself vile and inclined to evil, even when we have accepted God’s Word and believe. The world, too, is perverse and wicked. So the devil stirs things up, feeding and fanning the flames, in order to keep us from confessing the truth, to turn us from the truth of God’s Word, and to turn us away from God to avoid tribulation, thus bringing us under his power (LC III.3).

Jesus is the only hope that sinners have. He is the light of the world; He is the light that the darkness cannot overcome (John 1:4-5). Only His blood can cover our sins. Only His Word can turn sinners away from the world and the lies of the devil. Only He can turn sinners to Himself for forgiveness.

The world loves the darkness rather than the light because their works are evil (John 3:19). The world hates Jesus because their works are evil. The world hates us because their works are evil.

The world doesn’t hate us because we are good. In fact, the world loves nothing more than to point the finger every time a Christian fails and sins. Every time a Christian falls into open sin and the world sees it, the first reaction of the world is to laugh and say, “See, you’re no better than us.” And you know what? They’re right. We are no better than the world. We aren’t Christians because we’re good. We’re Christians because Jesus is good and we need His forgiveness to cover our sins. We’re Christians because Jesus has saved us and called us out of darkness into His marvellous light (I Peter 2:9). We’re Christians because Jesus has overcome the world.

That’s why Jesus says we have peace in Him. He says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We have overcome the world because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).

The devil is condemned. Jesus defeated him through His suffering, death, and resurrection. The world is condemned because it follows the one who is condemned. Christ has overcome the devil and the world, and since we are in Christ, we have overcome the devil and world (I John 5:5).

Whatever tribulations we must face in the world we can take heart that Jesus has overcome the world. As the Psalm says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Jesus has also overcome the devil. Jesus has crushed his head as prophesied already to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). The devil can rave and storm against the children of God and attack them day and night. He can and will bring tribulation on those who belong to God. He can take away earthly peace, goods, fame, child, and wife. Though these all be gone, he can harm us none. He’s judged, the deed is done. Our victory has been won. The Kingdom ours remaineth (from LSB 656 st. 3&4).

Jesus has stripped the devil of his power over us. Our sins are forgiven because of Jesus’ death for us, so the devil’s accusations against us are worthless. His lies will not deceive us because we have the truth of God’s Word. His attacks against us are in vain because tribulation will not separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35).

We have this comfort and boast: that the will and purpose of the devil and the world shall and must fail and come to nothing, no matter how proud, secure, and powerful they think they are, because they oppose the will and purpose of God (LC III.3). The will and purpose of God are your salvation (I Tim. 2:4). The will and purpose of God are your eternal life.

To this end, God has given you His Word and the holy Supper of His Son’s body and blood. With these gifts from heaven He will strengthen you through all your tribulations. With these gifts He is ever with you and protects you from the devil, the world, and even your own sinful inclinations. He’s also promised you an end to all your tribulations when you leave this world. So take heart. In Christ, you have overcome the world. In Christ, you have overcome the devil. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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