John 16:31-33. Not alone

John 16:31    “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied.  32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your 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.”

The disciples have just declared that they understand and believe Jesus has come from God. No further questions are required. They get it. And they do… to some extent. But Jesus questions, “Do you now believe?” In reality their faith will not yet keep them entirely loyal to Jesus: they will be scattered.

At his arrest, most of his disciples will flee immediately. But soon Peter and John will have courage to follow Jesus into the High Priest’s court to see Jesus’ sham trial there (Jn 18:7-15). But under the cross-examination of a servant girl, Peter’s faith will crumble into denial, only to flee into the early morning. John will follow Jesus further, even observing him hanging on the cross. But ultimately Jesus is alone on the cross. Some may observe. Two others will be adjacent. Yet alone Jesus encounters the wrath of God upon sinners.

What does it mean then that, even though abandoned by all others at the cross, the Father is with Jesus? Jesus is comforted by the reality that his Father will sustain him. Even though Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:33-35; Psalm 22:1-2), even though he will experience a sense of isolation and abandonment, in reality, the Father will be present to Jesus.

The bonds of the eternally triune God are not broken at the cross. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit remain united as one God, even though at that very moment the Father is present to the Son only in wrath. The consequences of sin are fully exhausted as God in Christ absorbs righteous retribution into himself. The second person of the Godhead is not cast asunder, even temporarily. The Father remains with him such that when judgment is complete he will again raise him up in glory.

For now, this is beyond the grasp of the disciples. Jesus comforts them, knowing that the Father is always with him, even though they will be scattered. Though they will have turmoil in the world, they will have Jesus’ peace in them, knowing that he has overcome the world.

Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you that although apparently abandoned at the cross– and though, at the time, it felt like total abandonment– the Father was and is always one with you. Thank for the assurance that his sustaining love gave you and now gives me. In the midst of any evil, you are present to rescue me. Please sustain and strengthen me in that same love. Amen.