As Jesus’s Time Draws Near, His Speech Changes – Why?

“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.” John 16:33


At this point in Jesus’ public ministry, things are heating up. The mood is very tense. The disciples have been traveling with, and listening to Jesus for three years, but things seem to be coming to a boiling point with the powers that be. Jesus has been talking to them about how the hour is coming when he must leave them and their sorrow will be great. Jesus knows that his time is drawing near when he must go back the Father. He is preparing the disciples for that time, so he begins to speak to them no longer in figures of speech, but plainly, directly.

The disciples are suddenly realizing that he is talking to them differently. They are growing more aware of the truth about Jesus, but are still confused. He is telling them that he must go, so that he can send the Advocate, the Holy spirit, who will “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…” (verse 8) In other words, though they believe in Jesus and who he is, they have yet much more to learn, and he will not leave them alone, without aid.

Jesus is also preparing the disciples for the suffering that is to come to them. And yet, they have not fully grasped what Jesus is saying to them. They are still wondering among themselves what this all means. “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’?” (verse 17) He foretells what they will do when that time comes. He tells them that they will mourn the loss of Jesus while the world rejoices, but that their sorrow will be turned to joy. He is telling them this beforehand so that when the time comes, they will remember what he had said to them. He also encourages them saying, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world there will be tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is speaking these words to us personally today. Jesus is God with us. Though he died, and rose, and went back to the Father over 2,000 years ago, he is still with us in his Holy Spirit. We are not alone. The world is truly full of tribulation. We know this by personal experience and by the headlines of each day’s news. Evil’s power still causes the world, and ourselves, much sorrow. But because God “humbled himself and came among us in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7-8) we can take heart, for through his suffering, death, and resurrection he has “overcome the world.” Though we may suffer much and know great sorrow in the midst of this world’s great tribulation, we can trust in Jesus’ promise that through our belief in him our sorrow will be turned to joy. In this knowledge and faith, we can indeed find great peace.

Lord, “[We] believe in you, help [us] overcome our unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Because the world is full of tribulations, we pray that you strengthen us with your grace so that we may face our tribulations with holy courage that is rooted deeply in our faith in your love for us. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.