Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we continue our study as we move along to part fifteen of this series and discuss John Chapter Sixteen!
John 16:1-4: “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.2 For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.3 This is because they have never known the Father or me.4 Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer."
The “things” Jesus is referring to are that they must bear fruit, love each other, and persevere in ministry... those are the things He is referring to. And He’s saying “you need to keep doing these things, despite the fact that the world is going to hate you, reject you, not recognize you, persecute you, and reject the word you speak. And the world will do all of this because it has rejected the Son and the Father who sent Him.” The warning is given because all of these things WILL happen. So be ready, He says to them. Jesus says that He has warned them in advance of these things so that they won’t stumble. The word “stumble” here meaning “to lose faith or to begin to doubt or fall down spiritually.” The point being, if they know in advance, they will not get to the point of quitting even when temptation to quit comes. In this passage, more than in the previous one, Jesus describes in more detail how the rejection of the people will affect them personally. Peter said earlier that he would follow Jesus anywhere. Now Jesus is revealing to them the true extend of their suffering from following Him. They will be rejected by their own countrymen. That’s the one that really hurts. They will be put off from their communities, families, and religious pasts. Their martyrdom will be especially difficult because they will not die as heroes in the eyes of the people. It is one thing to die as a martyr with support of the people, but it’s a whole other thing when the majority of people don’t believe in the cause you are dying for. That could bring up some doubts. So Jesus repeats that the reason for this is because the people have rejected the Father and the Son. It’s not about the Apostles, it’s about Jesus. In this, they will later find comfort that their suffering is connected to their faith in Christ. Jesus also repeats in this verse, verses 4, that He is giving them this warning so that they will know and be prepared for the hard times ahead. Now, He says, that when He was with them, there was no need to tell them, but now that they will be without Him, they need this knowledge not to protect their lives (He’s telling them already that most will lose their lives for the cause), but to protect their faith. This might be an important lesson we pass on to new Christians, so that they know the realities of their walk with Christ and can protect against the adverse conditions brought forth because of it. So, this is what Jesus is laying out for the Apostles. He will now go on to make FOUR promises to them...
Four Promises are:
Promise #1: The Holy Spirit
The condition of His coming (16:5-7)
The Spirit’s work (16:8-11)
The WAY the Spirit will work (16:12-15)
Promise #2: Imminence of His passion [refocusing them to the present time] (16:16-22)
Promise #3: Their prayers will be answered (16:23-24)
Promise #4: Your faith will be shaken but rebuilt (16:25-33)
John 16:5-7: “But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you."
So Jesus reviews their reaction to the announcement of His departure. They are sad and confused as to where He is going. Jesus reassures them concerning His departure, saying that His leaving will bring a great blessing to them. Of course, they cant see this. All they can see at the moment is their Leader leaving and all the troubles this will cause. What they can’t see but what Jesus is referring to here is what He will accomplish on the cross with His death and mighty resurrection. What He is promising them is this new power that will come to them when the Spirit is with them. The Holy Spirit can only begin His work with Jesus’ disciples when Jesus has accomplished His mission. This is why Jesus needs to go and why this is advantageous for them.
John 16:8-11: "And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged."
So Jesus has previously told them that the Spirit will provide them with the same spiritual comfort that Jesus had provided them while He was there. The Spirit will be the comforter. He also told them that they Spirit would help them recall all of His teaching and help them to remain in fellowship with Him and the Father even when they were not in physical proximity to Him. 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. So basically, the Holy Spirit will convict, He says. Now Jesus speaks of the Spirit’s work in total, what He will accomplish when it is all said and done. Jesus says the Spirit will convict the world (through the work of the Apostles) of THREE things:
Sin. He will show that the world is guilty of the most grievous sin. Not murder, but disbelief. You can’t be forgiven of disbelief, but you can be forgiven of all else.
Righteousness. In other words He will show that the world will seek righteousness in other ways EXCEPT the way God has provided it, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Judgement. The cross engenders belief and it creates righteousness BUT it also condemns and binds Satan forever (Hebrews 2:15). The Spirit will convict the world concerning the sure judgement to come by pointing to the judgement and condemnation of the ruler of this world, who has already been judged. In other words, the Holy Spirit will prove there IS a judgement and it will be for sin by bringing the attention of the judgement of Satan to the world. The point is, look, if Satan is judged, his followers will be judged. If God is powerful enough to judge Satan, He can judge you.
John 16:12: "There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now."
In this section the Lord spells out how the Spirit will do, not only His work of convicting, but His work of comforting as well. Jesus knowing their limits does not go into too much detail. Could you imagine hearing this information for the first time from Jesus? That's too much to get your brain around! It has to be given in small portions. After the passion, they will be better able to understand His words.
John 16:13: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future."
So the details about what He has just said and the ability to understand it will be the result of His [Holy Spirit] power working in them. Not only what Jesus has said and what it means; but, what is to come in the future. In other words, Peter and John speak of future events and the end of the world in their Epistles. They couldn’t talk about that now (at the time of the Last Supper) because they didn’t have the power of the Spirit, but Jesus is saying to them “Don’t worry, you’ll understand what I am talking about; you’ll know how to apply what I have taught you; and you’ll also be able to know the things that are coming in the future.”
John 16:14: "He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me."
Jesus will be glorified by the teaching of His word and the expressing of His powers through the Apostles. That's how Jesus is glorified. And this will be made possible through the Holy Spirit. And this ongoing witness will be what the Spirit uses to convict the world. If no one witnessed the words, the person, and the power of Jesus, then there would be NO conviction. BUT the witness has been going on for 2,000 years and will continue until He returns. As Paul says in Romans, they are without excuse.
John 16:15: "All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’"
He reassures them now that anything the Spirit gives or says to them is from Him and all that He has is from the Father and He will give it to them [through the Spirit]. In other words, this section once again ends with another declaration of Jesus’ divinity. Who else but God could say “the Father has given me everything the He has”?
John 16:16: "In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”
He makes reference to His death AND resurrection by saying that both will take place very soon.
John 16:17-18: "Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
So the Apostles are speaking among themselves. They are not wishing to ask Jesus a direct question (they’ve had enough! Their brains hurt!); but, they are especially curious as to when this is going to happen! How soon?!
John 16:19-20: "Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy."
He tells them what will happen to Him will cause them great grief and sorrow and their adversaries will rejoice; BUT, their sorrow will be turned into joy. Again, foretelling of the effects of His death and resurrection, not only on the world but the affect of His resurrection on THEM.
John 16:21-22: "It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy."
Of course, here, He compares the experience of pain and sorrow followed by joy to that of a woman giving birth to a child. Jesus promises that a time of sorrow is coming soon, but that it will be short lived and their joy will come again.
John 16:23-24: "At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy."
So until now He has prayer FOR them. But now HE is saying that they are to pray for themselves, in His name. That’s why WE do it in His name! He’s not praying for us anymore, we do the praying and we do so in His name, with Him as an advocate to the Father for us. And when they do this, Jesus says, God will answer their requests.This is one of the most abused passages in the Bible, right here. Realize that Jesus is speaking to the Apostles concerning the work of the Holy Spirit and their task as witnesses. What they will need to pray for will be within God’s will for their lives and therefore will be answered and the same goes for you and I. When we pray according to the will of God, He will answer our prayers. So the Apostles will see Jesus no more after He has ascended but their prayers will be answered in His name according to the will of God and this gives them the joy of hope! This passage is very much aimed at the Apostles and not so much for us. Our promise of answered prayers comes from the passage “ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find...” or even in the Lord’s Prayer “give us this day our daily bread...” but you must just have clarification on what Jesus is saying here.
John 16:25-28: "I have spoken of these matters in figures of speech, but soon I will stop speaking figuratively and will tell you plainly all about the Father. Then you will ask in my name. I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God. Yes, I came from the Father into the world, and now I will leave the world and return to the Father.”
Jesus explains to them that despite their confusion now, they will understand what happened and what to do and what to pray for later on. 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, and now He is going back to the Father.
John 16: 29-30: "Then his disciples said, “At last you are speaking plainly and not figuratively. Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”
Now the disciples who had quietly been whispering their doubts among themselves before now openly and loudly claim their belief. 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 the utmost authority and clarity; that is enough for them. There may be more discussion and explanation to come but they have enough now to declare their faith. This is the last time they will do this before His death.
John 16:31-33: "Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Just when they thought they were getting it, He tells them there’s this SLIGHT issue of them abandoning Him first. His answer is surprising in that as they are exclaiming their faith, He prophesies their fall from faith in light of His arrest, torture, and death. Its unusual that Jesus will use their failure of faith as a way to build up their faith in the future. You know, He says “Don’t worry, even though you leave me, I will not be alone. The Father will be with Me.” Use this failure of faith to build up your faith later on. Jesus knows what will happen with them but does not want them to be discouraged because He knows they will come back to Him.
Jesus has been challenging and teaching His disciples for three years and here is no different. At this final teaching, He is still challenging His disciples, only this time He urges them to keep on believing because His suffering and death as well as their own rejection and persecution will put a lot of strain on their faith. So now, after His final teaching as He presided over the Passover Supper, Jesus takes this final opportunity to pray for His disciples before He is arrested. They have left the Upper Room after this and are now going into the Garden of Gethsemane where He will pray for Himself and His own struggle. The Garden is where He prays for Himself, by Himself.