There is deep comfort in what comes next. As the lengthy living room sermon continues, Jesus now throws out another prediction: A time is coming and in fact has come when you will all be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. ~John 16:32 That is not a flattering prognostication. It is humiliating. Jesus is telling the disciples that at the moment of his greatest need, they’re all going to call it a night and head home.
Jesus is predicting their failure. He is predicting their embarrassment. He is predicting their regret. He is predicting their cowardice. In a word, he is predicting their sin. Peter’s will be the most egregious. He will deny Jesus three times – loudly and with not a small amount of salty sailor language to drive home his point. But each will eventually drift into the shadows as Christ is betrayed by Judas and surrounded by fierce soldiers who know nothing of Miranda rights. They will each fade away in shame at their own cowardice.
And this is where some of the first glimpses of grace, which will grow to theological brilliance under the pen of the Apostle Paul, begins to break through. As Jesus predicts failure, he also promises a grace that will redeem such failure toward his kingdom purposes. There is no failure that Heaven cannot craft into a greater good. Betraying a friend in need is near the top of low-brow things to do. Yet, with this awful prediction comes the word that they are pre-forgiven: Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 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 16:32b-33 They will know failure but they will also know peace. One is a prediction, the other is a promise. And it’s to the promise that he always beckons.