Loneliness is a growing problem among people of every demographic. Feelings of isolation, a sense of disconnectedness, and a growing fascination with screens instead of people is having a negative impact on the young and old alike. Never in the history of humanity have we been both more connected and more disconnected at the same time. More and more research is being produced by academics which shows conclusive evidence that loneliness is killing us. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has written,
As researchers have discovered, loneliness is hardly just a social issue; its physical impacts are among the most profound in modern medicine. Air pollution, obesity, and excessive alcohol use have been found to increase a person’s mortality risk by 6, 23, and 37 percent, respectively. Loneliness may increase your risk by a shocking 45 percent. And it’s not just the body that suffers: A study published in 2012 found that older lonely people are 64 percent more likely to develop dementia than their more connected counterparts are. (Gupta, Sanjay. Just Say Hello: The Powerful New Way to Combat Loneliness.)
In days gone by families lived much closer to one another, people interacted face-to-face more frequently, and the thought of having “friends” that one had never met didn’t even register as a possibility. Francis Reimers, a 34-year-old marketing executive in Alexandria, Virginia says, “Sure, I have friends who like or comment on something I’ve posted on social media, but that’s not really friendship.” Yet, for many people, interaction online has taken the place of face-to-face encounters with other people. Dr. Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester says, “We need to interact with other people on a fairly deep level, and that’s what many of us are missing.”
There is not one person here this morning who has never felt lonely. The events of life can leave us with a sense of loneliness. The loss of a loved one, feeling distanced from friends or family that we haven’t seen in some time, or moving from one city to another where we don’t know anyone can leave us feeling lonely.
I was talking to a friend this past week who just lost her husband of 63 years. Life is different for my friend now. Her daily routine of seeing and being with her husband has been suddenly cut off. Yet, she told me she has a great group of friends who are widows and she is committed to getting out of her house every day so she can interact with others. As difficult as it may be some days to get out of her house and be with others, the benefit of her effort far outweighs the problems that would arise if she pulled the curtains and isolated herself in loneliness. Before I left her house she said, “I know I’m never alone,” as she pointed to the sky and continued, “God is with me.” As I listened to her speak I was reminded of a verse that I had just read that morning. Jesus said, “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” (John 16:32 NIVO)
In our Scripture for today we will learn that Jesus’ disciples, His closest friends, in a matter of a few hours will soon desert Him at the time He will need them most, but He will never be alone. There is so much for us to learn from the lessons contained in these few verses we will look at today, but one of the most practical lessons is this: You may be alone at times or be in a crowd and feel alone at times, but you too can know that you will never be alone because your Father is with you. Let’s read our Scripture for this morning found in John 16:28-33.
28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” 29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” 31 “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. 32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his 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.” (John 16:28-33 NIVO)
This is the last conversation between Jesus and His disciples which took place in the Upper Room. The conversations began in John 13 when Jesus and His disciples left the dusty road, arrived at the Upper Room, and Jesus washed their feet. It’s taken us a long time to reach the end of John 16 because Jesus has said so much, there have been so many amazing lessons for us to learn.
If you are like me you might very well read right through verse 28 if someone didn’t stop you and point out that this verse, verse 28, may very well contain the most profound truth Jesus ever shared. James Montgomery Boice sees four important doctrines contained in this one little verse. He writes,
First, there is the doctrine of his heavenly origin; it involves Christ’s preexistence and his full divinity. Second, there is the doctrine of the Incarnation, voluntarily assumed. Third, there is his voluntary return to God by way of crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension. Fourth, there is the matter of his heavenly destiny. (Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: Volume 4. pg. 1234.)
This first verse of our study is packed with such significance for you and me to meditate on. We could literally spend weeks looking up all of the verses in God’s Word that have some relation to the statement Jesus made to His disciples. Throughout history there has always been the debate about Jesus: Who was He anyway? A prophet? A great teacher? A humanitarian like the world has never known? A disillusioned Mediterranean peasant with a Messiah complex? Or was He something more?
Dr. Chris Knight was a research scientist for 22 years. Today he works with one of the leading campus ministries in the UK called The Christian Unions. In an article he wrote concerning Dr. Richard Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion,” he asks his readers to consider a question. Dr. Knight writes,
Consider the question: if God does exist, what sort of evidence would you look for to convince you that he does? The only thing I can think of that is really conclusive, rather than merely suggestive, is a direct intervention of that God in the world, in other words, a revelation. The Christian claim is that this is what happened in Jesus. The account of his life, death and resurrection in the gospels shows the sort of person that he is. The wisdom of his teaching, his compassion, the healings he carried out, his forgiveness of people’s sins, his claims to be God and the difficulty of satisfactorily explaining away the conviction in his disciples that he rose from the dead, can lead to no other conclusion than that he was who he claimed to be. Many have set out to disprove it but have floundered as they have looked more and more deeply into the facts. (Knight, Christ. Dawkins’ Delusions: faith and evidence.)
Dr. Knight says that the best evidence we could ever find for the existence of God would be His direct intervention in the world and that is exactly what Jesus accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection. Do you remember those four doctrines shared by Dr. Boice? They were Jesus’ preexistence and full divinity, His Incarnation, His voluntary return to the Father by His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, and last of all, His eternal destiny. There’s probably no Scripture in all of God’s Word that better encapsulates each of these important truths about Jesus as what Paul wrote to the people of Philippi in Philippians 2:6-11. Read along with me.
6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 NLT)
To say anything less about Jesus is to commit the greatest offense of all against God. Jesus didn’t lay aside His divine privileges and come to earth, born of a woman, to simply set a good example for us, to motivate us, or to correct us…He came to offer His life as an atonement for our sins so we might be reconciled to God the Father. When the angel appeared to Joseph when he learned that Mary, the woman he was supposed to marry was pregnant, it troubled him deeply. He knew he had never been with Mary so how was it that she was pregnant? An angel appeared to Joseph, before Jesus’ birth, and said,
20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21 NLT)
Over and over again Jesus stated and restated His purpose for coming. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NIVO) In Luke 19:10, Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10 NIVO) In John 12, after the crowds in Jerusalem had welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday, Jesus gathered with His disciples and began to speak about His soon coming death. Jesus said,
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour…For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. (John 12:27; 47b NIVO)
There was never any question, even though those closest to Him didn’t understand or didn’t want to consider the possibility, He had come to die for those who were trapped in sin, alienated from the very God who had created them and given them life. The day would come when they would understand. They not only understood what Jesus had spoken to them before He went to the Cross, but visibly seeing Him, literally spending time with Him following His resurrection changed their lives in such a dramatic way that were willing to risk their very lives, not to earn a fortune or make a name for themselves, but to tell others about Jesus. John wrote, in John 20:30-31,
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIVO)
Have you ever stopped to think about what a marvel it is that you and I, sitting in a sanctuary in Oklahoma City, have had our lives altered, eternally altered, by a Man who lived over 2,000 years ago in a little place that most of us couldn’t find on a map if our lives depended on it? A Man who never held a political office? A Man who never ran a corporate empire? A Man who never wrote a book? A Man who said, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head” has captured the hearts of untold billions! It’s beyond a miracle, beyond a marvel, it’s the work of Almighty God!
Let’s move on or we will never get beyond verse 28. In verse 29, the disciples who have been confused at every turn, who have failed to understand much of what Jesus has said during their three years with Him, speak up. Read along with me from John 16:29-30.
29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.” (John 16:29-30 NIVO)
Isn’t it interesting? Now the disciples who hadn’t understood much of anything say, “Now we understand! You are using plain talk now. We get it!” What Jesus said was convincing. After they listened to Jesus it suddenly clicked, it all made sense, and they believed that Jesus came from God…and yet how firm was their belief? How much did they really believe? Belief is more than mental assent isn’t it? Faith is not just believing the right things, historical or theological. Faith is our being receptive to everything God says and fully embracing God’s activity. Jonathan Wood writes,
Faith is different from belief. Belief is mental assent to a set of propositions, which may not produce a significant change in the life of the believer. Faith, in contrast, adds to belief trust, and involves an act of the will to commit to those beliefs in a way that does significantly impact the life of the believer. (Wood, Jonathan. Faith and Reason, Part 1.)
The disciples confessed their belief that Jesus had come from God, but what difference would that belief make when the tough times came? Jesus said,
31 “You believe at last!” Jesus answered. 32 “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his 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.” (John 16:28-33 NIVO)
Jesus let them know that in a matter of a few hours they would all leave Him. It’s interesting to read Matthew’s account of what took place when Jesus and His disciples left the Upper Room and headed out to the Mount of Olives where Jesus would be arrested. Take a look at Matthew 26:31-33 with me.
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ” ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matthew 26:31-33 NIVO)
There’s our old friend Peter. “Even if all fall away on account of you Lord, I never will.” Now, if you didn’t know anything more than what we’ve just read about Peter you would come to the conclusion that he was a warrior, a friend, an ally, and the most loyal of all of those Jesus ever called His friends. But we know better don’t we?! Jesus knew better also because immediately after Peter made his statement Jesus said,
34 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” (Matthew 26:34-35 NIVO)
To add insult to injury, Peter had the audacity to let Jesus know, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:34-35 NIVO) Peter grabbed the headline, but all of the other disciples were nodding their heads and saying, “Amen!” And then it happened. We know about the three times Peter denied he knew Jesus, that he even knew Him. Mark 14:50 tells us what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus…“Then everyone deserted him and fled.” (Mark 14:50 NIVO)
The desertion by those He came to save didn’t surprise Jesus, it didn’t catch Him off guard. If you will remember, the Scripture we read, from John 16:32, took place before Jesus and the disciples ever arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knew they would leave Him, but He also knew that though He would be left alone in the Garden with only the soldiers who had come to arrest Him surrounding Him, He would not be alone. Jesus told His disciples,
You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. (John 16:32b NIV)
Never alone. He was with the Father before the foundations of Creation were set in place. He was with the Father when the words were spoken, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The Father was with Him when the cells began to divide within the womb of a young virgin named Mary. The Father was with Him when Herod set out to kill Him by massacring every baby boy under the age of two in and around Bethlehem. The Father was with Him when John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan and then He spoke His approval by saying, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” The Father was with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration when the disciples heard a voice coming from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5 NIVO) I could go on speaking of all of the ways and all of the times that Jesus was reminded that He was never alone, but I must tell you about the one time when Jesus was alone. While Jesus hung upon the Cross He cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” John Piper writes,
And now, when he had cried, God had closed his ears. The crowd had not stopped jeering, the demons had not stopped taunting, the pain had not abated. Instead, every circumstance bespoke the anger of God; and there was no countering voice. This time, no word came from heaven to remind him that he was God’s Son, and greatly loved. No dove came down to assure him of the Spirit’s presence and ministry. No angel came to strengthen him. No redeemed sinner bowed to thank him. (Piper, John. “Why Have You Forsaken Me?”)
Oh, the anguish of the pain of the silence from God while our Savior hung upon that Cross! Why? Why! Why would the Father who had been so faithful, so present throughout Jesus’ life, now be silent and distanced? The answer is quite humbling, overwhelming to me and hopefully it will be to you as well. Paul wrote,
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21 NIVO)
He had never sinned, but He carried your sin, my sin, to the Cross and suffered the penalty of death that we deserved so that we might become reconciled with the Father and know that we are never alone. Long before Jesus was ever born, 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote,
3 He was despised and rejected– a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. 4 Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! 5 But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6 NLT)
My friend, in a day in which we are growing increasingly disconnected I want to urge you to make one connection that will ensure that you will never be alone. Not now, not tomorrow, or in any day to come will you ever be alone if you will open your heart to Jesus and invite Him in. The God of glory, the One who gave His Son to die in your place so you might be reconciled, reconnected to the Father years for you to come to Him so you will never be alone ever again. Won’t you invite Him in this very morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114