In our study of the book of John we are covering Jesus' lengthy teaching section that occurs while the Lord is sharing the Passover meal on the night before His death.
So far He has washed their feet, revealed the traitor among them, prophesied concerning His death and resurrection, and promised to send them the Holy Spirit. He has also encouraged them to bear spiritual fruit in His absence, love each other as He has them and continue in ministry despite opposition.
In this section Jesus will continue encouraging the Apostles as He reviews with them what will take place in the near future, and this time the Apostles will grasp some of what He is saying.
Verses 1 to 4 in chapter 16 are merely a continuation of what Jesus was saying in the previous chapter, which we discussed in our last lesson.
Vs. 1-4 – "These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you
may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
The "things" He refers to are that they must bear fruit, love each other and persevere in ministry despite the fact that the world will hate them, reject them, not recognize them, persecute them, disobey the Word, and do all of this because it rejects the Son and the Father who sent Him.
So the warning is given because all these things will happen. Jesus says that He has warned them in advance of these things so they will not stumble (lose faith, begin to doubt, lose their way, fall down spiritually). If they know in advance, they will be prepared for the rough time ahead and not be discouraged to the point of quitting.
In verse 2, unlike the previous one, Jesus describes in more detail how the peoples' rejection of the Christ will affect them personally. Peter said earlier that He would follow Jesus anywhere, now Jesus reveals to Peter and the others the full extent of their suffering in the future. They will be rejected by their countrymen, excommunicated from their religious past, and cut off from their families and communities. They will be martyred, but their killing will be especially difficult for them to bear because they will be executed by those who claim to be doing the God they serve a favor. In other words they will not die as heroes in the eyes of the people.
In verse 3, Jesus repeats the idea that the reason for all of this is because they have rejected both the Father and the Son. Remember, Jesus tells them, it is not about you, it is about Me and the Father. In this they will later find comfort, that their suffering is connected to their faith in Christ.
In verse 4, He also repeats that He is giving them this warning so they will know and be prepared in advance for the hard times ahead. He says that while He was with them there was no need to tell them, but now that they will be alone without Him, they need this knowledge to protect their faith.
Now that His warning is complete, Jesus goes ahead to make four promises to His Apostles.
Promise #1 The promise of the Holy Spirit – vs. 5-15
Jesus has mentioned the Spirit before but adds new details in this section concerning His coming.
1. The condition of His coming
Vs. 5-7 – "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
Jesus reviews their reaction to the news of His departure. They are saddened and confused about where He is going. Jesus reassures them concerning His departure saying that His leaving will bring a great blessing to them. Of course, all they can see is that their leader is leaving and the problems this will cause them. What they cannot see, but what Jesus refers to here, is the mighty work He will accomplish with His cross and resurrection and the new power they will have when the Spirit will come to them.
The Holy Spirit can only begin His work in and for the Apostles after Jesus accomplishes His mission. This is why it is advantageous to them and why Jesus must go.
2. The work of the Spirit in the world
Vs. 8-11 – And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
Jesus has previously told them that the Holy Spirit would provide them with the spiritual comfort that He (Jesus) Himself had provided them while with them. He also has told them that the Spirit would help them remember His teachings and enable them to remain in fellowship with Himself and the Father, even when not physically present with them.
This time Jesus focuses more on what the Holy Spirit will do (through them) in the world and what His impact on the world will be. Basically the Holy Spirit will convict (comes from a root word meaning to prove with evidence, to find a fault, to convict).
Jesus speaks of the Spirit's work as it is in total. In other words, what the Spirit will accomplish when all is said and done: the cross and resurrection; the Apostles' preaching and establishing of the church; the life of the church until the second coming of Jesus; the judging of the world; and in heaven, the glorification of the church.
Concerning the total of the Holy Spirit's work, Jesus says He will convict the world of three things (convict means to find and prove with evidence a certain fault):
He will show that the world is guilty of the most grievous sin, disbelief. He will spread the gospel everywhere and prove in the end that the majority in the world will have disbelieved.
He will show that the world will seek righteousness in other ways besides the only way God has provided it, through the cross of Christ. Jesus mentions the cross in an oblique way (go to the Father, you no longer see Me).
His departure through resurrection and ascension confirm the work and power of the cross to confer forgiveness and righteousness.
The Holy Spirit (by His work through the Apostles) will convict the world of having rejected the avenue to righteousness by the cross in favor of other ways to be right before God.
The cross engenders belief, produces righteousness and also condemns and binds Satan forever (Hebrews 2:15).
The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning the sure judgment to come by pointing to the judgment and condemnation of the ruler of this world who has already been judged. In other words, the Holy Spirit will prove there is a judgment and that it will be for sin by bringing the judgment of Satan to the attention of the world. If God had judged this mighty spiritual being for his disobedience, He can and will judge you.
3. The WAY the Spirit will work
In giving details concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus has said that the Holy Spirit will be given only when His own ministry is completed and He returns to the Father. He has said that the Holy Spirit will work to convict or demonstrate the world's fault concerning sin (disbelief), righteousness (seeking it without Christ) and judgment (that even with Satan's judgment before them, people still ignore it).
In this section the Lord spells out how the Spirit will do not only His work of convicting but also His work of comforting as well.
Vs. 12 – I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
Jesus, knowing their limits, does not go into too much detail now. After the passion they will better be able to understand His words.
Vs. 13 – But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
The details about what He has just said and the ability to understand it will be the result of His power working in them. Not only what Jesus has said and what it means, but what things are to come in the future. (Peter and John speak of future events and the end of the world in their epistles).
Vs. 14 – He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
Jesus will be glorified through the preaching of His word and the exercising of His power through the Apostles. This will be made possible through the Holy Spirit. This ongoing witness will be what the Spirit uses to convict the world. If no one witnessed the words, power and person of Jesus there could be no conviction, but the witness has been going on for 2000 years and will continue until He returns.
Vs. 15 – All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
He reassures them now that what they will receive from the Holy Spirit will be directly and completely from Him and that all He has, He has been given by the Father and He has all that the Father has. In other words, this section and the first promise of sending the Holy Spirit ends with another declaration of Jesus' divinity. After all, who else could send the Holy Spirit and have all of what the Father has?
Promise #2 His death and resurrection are imminent – vs. 16-22
Jesus leaves off His discussion of the Holy Spirit and refocuses them in the very present time of His imminent death and resurrection. Yes, He must first go before He can send the Spirit, and the time of His departure is now.
Vs. 16 – A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.
Jesus makes reference to His death and resurrection saying that both will take place very soon.
Vs. 17-18 – Some of His disciples then said to one another, "What is this thing He is telling us, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'?" So they were saying, "What is this that He says, 'A little while'? We do not know what He is talking about."
The Apostles are speaking among themselves now, not wishing to ask Jesus a direct question. They have had enough bad news and mystery for one night. They are especially curious about the immediacy of what is going to take place. What does He mean by "a little while"?
Vs. 19-20 – Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, "Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'? Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.
Jesus tells them that what will happen to Him will cause them great sorrow and their adversaries great rejoicing. But their sorrow will be turned to joy. Again, Jesus is describing in advance the effects of His death and resurrection on the world of unbelievers and on them.
Vs. 21-22 – Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.
Jesus compares their experience of sorrow and pain followed by joy to that of a woman giving birth to a baby. There is fear, pain and sorrow during labor, but once the baby is born this sorrow is replaced with a joy that overwhelms the pain and sorrow to the point where (after a time) we are willing to go through it again.
Jesus promises that a time of sorrow and pain is coming soon but that it will quickly pass into a joy that will never be taken away.
Promise #3 Their prayers in His name will be answered – vs. 23-24
Jesus, continuing His teaching, looks ahead to the time when His work on the cross will be complete; His resurrection and ascension also complete; and the Holy Spirit is sent, and He promises one other thing that will take place at that time.
Vs. 23-24 – In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
Until now He has prayed for them, but now He says that they are to pray to God themselves, in His name. And when they do, God will answer their requests.
We must realize that Jesus is speaking to the Apostles concerning the work of the Holy Spirit and their task as witnesses. What they ask, in this context, God will give: Apostles doing miracles, raising the dead, asking to give power to others, asking for wisdom and direction in ministry.
They will see Jesus no more after He is ascended, but their prayers constantly answered in His name will confirm His words and promises, and give them the joy of home (anticipation of their own reward in heaven).
Promise #4 Your faith will be shaken – vs. 25-33
Vs. 25-28 – These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.
Jesus explains to them that despite their confusion now, they will understand what will happen and what to pray for more clearly later. He also encourages them by telling them that because of their initial belief, the Father loves them. He repeats, once again in a general way, the sequence of events (He came from the Father, He was in the world, He now returns to the Father).
Vs. 29-30 – His disciples said, "Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God."
The Apostles, who were whispering their doubts and questions among themselves before, now openly and loudly claim their belief in Him. Even though He has spoken in figurative language, the fact that He knows their questions before they ask them, and that He has spoken with authority and more clarity than anyone else, is sufficient for them to confess their belief in Him. There may be more information and explaining to come later on, but they have enough now to declare their faith. This is the last time they will do this before His death.
Vs. 31-33 – Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
Jesus' answer is surprising in that at this moment when they are confessing their faith He prophesizes about their fall from faith caused by His arrest, torture and death. It is unusual that He uses this failure of faith as a way to build their faith in the future:
- Do not worry, even though you leave Me, I will not be alone, the Father will be with Me.
- Remember all of the things (including this prediction of your downfall) so you can believe (or renew your faith) when I am gone.
In the end He encourages them by telling them that even at the darkest hour when He is gone and they are burdened by their own guilt, remember that He has won the victory over sin and death.
Jesus promises them four things as He finishes His time with them in the upper room:
- The Holy Spirit after He is gone.
- The end of His mission soon.
- The honoring of their prayers in heaven.
- The downfall and renewing of their faith.
In our next chapter we will cover the last part of Jesus' long teaching section commonly referred to as the "High Priestly" prayer.