John 16:5—33

This chapter of John’s Gospel ends Jesus’ “upper room discourse.”  No one can read chapter 15 without noticing Jesus’ main thoughts:  He loves His own, and His own should love each other.  Being reminded that He loved them must have been very encouraging; however that Jesus had to admonish His disciples to love each other must be viewed as a mild rebuke.  What kind of people have to be commanded to love each other?  The fact is, loving each other does not come easily or naturally to human beings, which is why Jesus provided a way for us to do just that.

We also notice that the whole tenor of Jesus’ teachings shifts for admonition to prediction.  Much of chapter 16 is written in the future tense—Jesus telling His disciples (and warning them, for that matter) about what will be happening to them in the days and weeks ahead.   To us, chapter 16 is merely history, but to the disciples, none of what Jesus had said had happened yet.

1.  The revelation of the Holy Spirit, 16:5—15

Jesus had been teaching the disciples some amazing things this night.  They had  asked a handful of questions earlier in the evening, but now, as Jesus’ teachings got more in depth, not one of the disciples dared ask a question, which prompted Jesus to say the following—

none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  (verse 5b)

Jesus had given His friends a full explanation of His immediate plans—He was going to Father, He was going to send another advocate to them—but they inexplicably had nothing to say about these things.  We wonder about their failure to probe Jesus further.  Where they being selfish and maybe intellectually lazy?  How could they not ask questions?  Jesus, the searcher of hearts, knew exactly why—

Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.  (verse 6)

They were completely self-absorbed with their own feelings, and because of that, they completely missed the extent of what Jesus was saying to them.  They should have been excited about what Jesus was telling them, instead, they reacting in a worldly way.  This saddened Jesus, so He continued—

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  (verse 7)

Why was it good for Jesus to leave so that He could send the Advocate (the Holy Spirit)?  The obvious reason is that as long as He remained with them, Jesus’ work would remain local—He had to leave so that the Advocate could expand His ministry to cover the whole world.  But beyond that, there are a handful of good reasons for Jesus to leave and Holy Spirit to come:

  • The Holy Spirit would take the Gospel to the world; convicting the lost of sin, righteousness and judgment.   If the essence of sin is unbelief, then we can understand that the main purpose of the Holy Spirit is to shine the light of truth into the hearts of unbelievers.  He illuminates the nature and character of God so that human beings come to a realization of how holy and righteous God is.  He does all this through the administration of His Word.
  • The Holy Spirit would embolden the disciples, giving them direction and confirming the truth in their hearts.  Through reinforcing the truth of God’s Word, the believer is filled with confidence as he takes that truth to the lost.  When you are sure of something, you’re not afraid to talk about it and defend it.
  • The Holy Spirit would reveal Jesus to the world at large through His ambassadors—Christians.  Through His work in our lives, we come to look like Jesus; we take on Jesus’ characteristics as we allow the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives and use the gifts of the Spirit, which are available to all believers.

As we read verses 5 to 15, we can see three marvelous facts for the modern Christian surrounding the gift of the Holy Spirit:

  • Jesus, out of love for all who would follow Him, gives the Holy Spirit to all Christians because we cannot experience His physical presence in our lives.  How many other founders of religions have made this provision for their followers?
  • The coming of the Holy Spirit means more to Christians than to have known Jesus is the flesh (implied in verses 5—7).
  • God could not fulfill His plans for the world until the coming of the Holy Spirit.

There is much bad teaching floating around about the Holy Spirit and His work in the life of believers.  He is either ignored all together, being paid little more than lip service by most mainstream denominations, or, as in the case of many Pentecostal denominations, His work is stretched to outrageous proportions.  But Jesus, in some of His final teachings, explained in objective and simple terms exactly what the role of the Holy Spirit is and what each believer may expect as he allows the Spirit full access to every nook and cranny of his life.  If Christians have no “experience” with the Holy Spirit, the problem lies within them, and it is within their power to correct this.

2.  The revelation of Jesus’ reappearance, 16:16—24

“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”   (verse 16)

There are those who like to link this verse exclusively to the Resurrection, but the context seems to indicate that Jesus is still talking about the Holy Spirit:  in a little while, Jesus would be back among them in the Spirit, or in the form of the Holy Spirit; having said that, the Resurrection, of course, has a role in ushering in the dispensation of the Spirit.

In verses 17 and 18, the disciples again are seen asking questions; and no wonder, these men were confused!  On one hand, Jesus seemed to say that He is leaving temporarily, and on the other hand, it sounded like He was going back to His Father for good.  Yet, these men didn’t ask Jesus any of their questions, they talked to one another.  How typical is this of Christians!  They have questions about faith, and rather than talk to the One who has all the answers, they run around asking each other!

Jesus knew what was in their hearts and He knew the sadness they were feeling, so He offers, not only proof of His omniscience, but also another word of encouragement—

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  (verse 20)

He knew their grief would give way to joy the moment His plan became clear to them.  For now, the disciples could only see their grief, but when the Spirit would come, everything Jesus had been saying would be brought to light, causing them to rejoice.

To help His friends understand how there can be “beauty for ashes,” Jesus gave them a practical illustration:  the birth of a child.  Just as a baby is born into the world at first produces great pain and fear and anguish, but later produces abundant joy and happiness, so the death of Christ would at first result in weeping and wailing, but in view of His resurrection and in light of the Holy Spirit’s coming, would bring glorious, triumphant, and continuous joy.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  (verses 23, 24)

This is the third time Jesus spoke of praying in His Name.  We know that “praying in my Name” refers only to the person who is “abiding in Him,” that is, living in obedience to His Word.  It does not mean simply tacking the name “Jesus” on the end of a prayer.

This was important for the disciples to understand, which is why Jesus kept on repeating it.  Nobody up till now had every prayed “in Jesus Name.”  But from the time of Jesus, every Christian must pray to God the Father only in Jesus’ Name.  A careful reading of the promise given in verses 23 and 24 reveals that not only are we to pray in Jesus’ Name, but when God answers, He answers in Jesus’ Name.  The blessings that come from God the Father will, from the time of Jesus on, be given in harmony with His redemptive plan, which itself centers on the work of Jesus Christ.   And here we see a kind of strange paradox that has befuddled believers for two thousand years:  on the one hand, being a friend of Jesus results in persecution for His sake (15:21), but on the other hand, tremendous blessings flow to the believer solely as a result of being His friend.

3.  The revelation of the Father, 16:25—33

Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.  (verse 25)

This is an interesting verse.  The whole evening had been filled with deep teachings, but often they were dressed in parables and figures of speech.  In fact, we might say that the whole of Jesus’ ministry on earth was like this; deep teachings taught to adults as though they were children.  But, after the Resurrection and especially after the giving of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would finally be free to speak plainly about the Father.

In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.  (verse 26)

Here is an amazing verse that some Christians don’t know is in the Bible.  Here is what “intercessory prayer” is all about.  When the believer prays in Jesus’ Name, it should not be with the notion that the Son is the Intercessor who has to take your prayer requests to the Father to plead with Him on your behalf to answer them.   In fact, as Jesus taught His disciples, God answers the prayers of believers because He loves them, and because they love His Son.

No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  (verse 27)

There is no begging to God for Him to answer a prayer.   God loves His children!   Like any father, He will do whatever He can for His children out of love.  But, notice, the believer’s love for Christ comes first.  God’s love for you is based on your love for Jesus.

Verse 31 indicates that finally the disciples got what Jesus was saying.   This must have been a relief to Jesus; they did not understand the deep teachings; they understood that soon they would.

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.  (verse 33)

The disciples were immature, yet growing in faith.  They were insecure and unsure of what was to come.  To these men would come a new kind of peace in contrast to the trouble they will experience.  This new peace would be peace rooted and grounded in the objective knowledge of the facts He had just taught them.

Jesus concluded this evening of teachings with the triumphant comment, “I have overcome the world.”  What a strange thing for a man about to be crucified to say!   The Greek verb for “overcome” is nenikeka, written in the perfect tense, suggesting a present state which is the result of past action.  Ultimate victory is guaranteed for Christ (and for the believer, as well) because of what He has done.  All believers ought to take heart no matter what their personal circumstances may be.  Jesus could look at His bleak future and declare victory because His hope was in His Father’s plan and His obedience.  All believers may have the exact same experience:  we can declare victory because our hope and faith are in God’s plan and Christ’s work.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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