biblestudy: John (Part 24)
Christ's Departing Instructions to His Disciples
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 05-May-87; Sermon #BS-JO24; 85 minutes
John Ritenbaugh focuses on the final instructions Jesus gave to His disciples following the Passover meal preceding His death. Jesus provided sober warnings in order to prepare the disciples for unpleasant eventualities, including being ostracized from the religious and cultural community. Jesus warned that in the future sincere religious zealots, not knowing God, will consider it an act of worship to kill people who obey God. It was to the disciples' advantage that Christ returned to His Father because: (1) they would not learn anything until they did it themselves; (2) they would learn to live by faith; (3) and, they, by means of God's Holy Spirit, would receive continual spiritual guidance, becoming convicted and convinced that all problems stem from sin, leading or inspiring them to repent and practice righteous behavior, modeled after Jesus Christ, and guiding them into all truth required for salvation and into insights into God's purpose, allowing them to glorify Christ as Christ glorified His Father. Christ told the disciples about his imminent crucifixion and resurrection, but they were unable to comprehend until after the events had happened. Though Christ knows that we will inevitably fail, He knows He can pull us through as long as we yield to Him. Chapter 17 constitutes the prayer of our High Priest, asking that we would take on the Divine Nature and name of God, determining our future destiny.
Begettal of Holy Spirit Birth process metaphor Crusades Cut off from God Figures of speech Forewarned is forearmed God's Holy Spirit Insight Jihad Living by faith Joy Metaphor of birth process Prophecy Put out of the Church Put out of the Synagogue Putting off the evil day Religious zealots Spirit of Christ
In John 16, Jesus is concluding His remarks that He made to the disciples. There is a little bit of confusion as to where these remarks were made. There is a statement at the end of chapter 14:
John 14:31 “…Arise, let us go from here.”
That has been taken to indicate that they left the room in which they held the Passover and began their walk over to Gethsemane, where He was taken. But it does not mean exactly what is given in the King James. I gave you an alternate translation of what was implied, that fits the context a great deal better.
John 14:30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.
That is, because Christ had never sinned, the ruler of the world had nothing that he could pin on Christ. The subject in the context is Satan.
John 14:31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.
The alternate translation is: “Let us go to meet the advancing enemy.”
The enemy was Satan, and his minions, the Romans, were advancing. They were coming because Judas had made his deal. So verse 31 does not directly indicate that they had left the room.
The instruction continued in the room where they had held the Passover, all the way through chapter 15, into chapter 16, and did not conclude until chapter 17 is over. Chapter 16 takes place in the room where the Passover and the foot washing had taken place.
John 16:1-4 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”
He is beginning this chapter by picking up on a theme that began back in chapter 15: to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Even though He was telling them, they really did not comprehend what was coming. He told them, over and over again, that He was about to die. It was incomprehensible to them, because they had no reason to think that He should die, except for what the scriptures said.
They could look upon Him as a man, and recognize that here was the best man who ever walked the earth. He was kind, He was gentle, He was good, He was generous, He did wonderful things for people. The teaching that He gave was everything that a man or a woman could ever hope to hear in their life. This Man had all the keys of life. The disciples recognized Him as the Messiah. They could not see why He had to die, yet He kept talking about His death.
Here, He is taking them one step beyond that. Not only was He going to die, but also, they were going to come into a great deal of difficulty because they had chosen to follow the way that He was teaching them.
John 16:1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.”
That is an awkward translation. What it means is, that you should not be taken by surprise. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, that you should not be taken unawares. This same principle applies to you and me.
I Thessalonians 5:1-6 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.
This is the same principle that He was giving to them in John 16:1. We ought not be taken by surprise, either. He is warning them so that the events that would be occurring would not cause them to stumble because of a lack of foresight and not being prepared.
God has given you and me insight into things that are going to come. That is, He has opened up prophecy to us. Although we do not know many of the details, we at least know it in generalities and we are convicted that these things are going to occur. We are convicted that Europe is going to come together into a union, and that is going to be the Beast. So we look for events in the news that indicate that his is happening. Anybody who is “on the ball” is going to be doing this.
Not only that, we realize that the United States is going to be brought down, along with the rest of Israel. So we look for indications in the news for things that are occurring in the United States that indicate that we are going down the tubes. We look at crime statistics, we look at what is going on in agriculture, we look at the economy. We look at what is going on in politics, we look at the general immorality of the nation. We look at its health problems, and on and on. We see everywhere that the indicators are down.
God has done that to you, so that you are not taken unawares. That is what Christ is doing here, so that you should not be made to stumble and fall, because of not being warned. We are warned, so the responsibility is ours, that we not be taken unexpectedly by what is going to occur.
It is interesting that the phrase, “that you should not be made to stumble,” is taken from the springing of a trap. When an animal steps on the trap, it is taken unawares. The trap shuts, and its leg is caught. By the same token, the things that are leading up to the beginning of the Tribulation, will take people unawares. According to the picture in Revelation 13, indications are that the Beast comes up out of the water, and suddenly, there it is. They are taken unawares: the trap has sprung, and it is too late. We do not want to be that way, we are looking, peering down into the water, and it is a little bit murky, but nonetheless, we see the Beast taking shape as it begins to surface.
John 16:2 “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.”
This is one of the things that He is warning people of: they would be put out of the synagogues. Why should that be so terrible?
The book of Acts shows very clearly that until the church became an organized institution, there was a great deal of contact with the Jewish religion. Paul’s habit, the way that he preached the Gospel, was to go to the synagogue in a Gentile city and preach the Gospel to those people on the Sabbath. In addition to that, there are indications that the apostles in the early church had services with the Jewish church for a while on the Sabbath day. It may have taken several years before there was a distinct and clear break.
A good indication of this, even though it is not directly stated, is Hebrews 7, where the subject is tithing. Part of the reason for the writing of that chapter is to instruct the church that their tithe was not to go to the synagogue or to the temple, it was to go to the church that God had established.
So there was a lot of “intercourse” with the Jewish religion for a period of time after 31 AD
Acts 26:9-11 “Indeed, I myself [Paul, who was giving testimony before Agrippa] thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme;…”
That indicates that the Christians were meeting with the Jews on the Sabbath in the synagogue. Until the Christian church became organized as an institution and held their own services in their own private locations, they “slid along” for a while attending services in the synagogues.
Being put out of the synagogue was, in many respects, physically more devastating than us being put out of the church. For us to be put out of the church is devastating spiritually, it has that potential to do that if it does not lead to the person’s repentance and they are brought back in to the community.
Even as the church is the center of our life, so the synagogue to them was the center of life. It was the center of life in the village, not only spiritually, but also physically. If a person was put out of the synagogue, that was, in effect, putting them out of the community. There are interesting writings in the history books in regard to what this meant. It meant that the person was subject to not being hired or employed by anybody. They knew that somebody who was excommunicated was not to be allowed to have fellowship with somebody in the community. If you are not employed, if you cannot work, how do you eat?
It was one of the reasons why Jews were known as wanderers. If somebody was excluded from the synagogue, they almost had no choice but to leave the community and go into a Gentile area in order to find a place to work. It could virtually mean the end of you, economically, as far as that community was concerned. It could devastate a person. There are also indications that at least under certain circumstances, the person could have his property expropriated by the state, by the community, and then it became the property of the synagogue. So it was a very devastating thing to be put out of the synagogue.
For us, to be put out of the church can be equally devastating. It can mean eternal life. It does not mean so much physically, but of course, it means a great deal more spiritually to us, than it ever meant to any Jew who was excommunicated from the synagogue.
One word that needs to be changed is the word that in John 16:2: “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you…” The word in the Greek is when. Jesus was telling those people that it was going to happen. It was not a question mark; it was going to happen: “when it happens,” you will know that I told you before.
“When whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” That phrase is the same phrase that is used in other places to mean “an act of worship.” That whoever kills you will think that he offers an act of worship.
The primary example of this in the New Testament is the apostle Paul. He thought that he was doing God service in doing what he did: causing people to be excommunicated from the synagogue, causing people to be put into jail, and causing people to be put to death. He honestly thought, in his heart of hearts, that he was doing God service. It was an act of worship, an act of service to God.
By the same token, we have to give the same benefit of the doubt to those persons doing the persecutions that took place during the Middle Ages and the Spanish Inquisition. We have to give those people the benefit of the doubt, that they sincerely thought that they were doing God service, in causing the martyrdom of so many people. It is not unusual that that should occur.
What about the people that we consider to be fanatically religious in Iran, the Islamic people? They have made a word famous, jihad. They are fanatically zealous for their god, and they think they are doing their god a service.
It is not very difficult to get a religious zealot to kill in behalf of his god. Most of the Crusades were organized on that basis. A few religious zealots begin to whip up the faithful about how all of the infidels are desecrating the city of Jerusalem. “We need to get an army down there, of tens of thousands—twenty, thirty, forty thousand, maybe a million people—and let us all march down to Jerusalem and release the city from the infidels!”
People gave their lives to those things. If it happened before, it is going to happen again. We are no different from those people. Just know that Christ said, “Yes, the time is coming when whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” It is coming again. Hopefully, God will be merciful and we will escape that, but it is coming, nonetheless.
Here is the reason why:
John 16:3 “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.”
They think they know, but they do not really know. If they knew the Father, they would never do anything like that. They would know that the commandment says, “Thou shall not kill.” They would understand that it is God’s will for His people not to kill. He did not give His children that prerogative.
That is only one example of one commandment. What about all of the deceit that goes into creating the circumstances where people are persecuted and killed?
They do not know God, they do not know the Son. They may use His name, they may come in the name of Christ, even as Paul came in the name of God, with letters signed by His representatives, the priests in the synagogue. He did it in all sincerity. But he did not know God, and you can see that in Acts 9, before he was converted, he did not know Christ.
The rejection of either the Father or the Son led to the rejection of the other. Because they rejected and did not obey, they did not understand. Because they did not understand, they did not know God. Because they did not know God, they did what they did.
John 16:4 “But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”
In other words, “I was there to protect you from these things.” But now, He says, “I am warning you, because I am not going to be here. You are going to have to act by faith. I am not going to be here to supply the faith. I am not going to be here directly, interceding and intervening for you before God. But now it is going to be a closer relationship, more intimate, between you and the Father, and you are going to have to act on the faith that you have.”
John 16:5-11 “But now I go away 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. Nevertheless 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 depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
It was in the Father’s purpose not to give the Holy Spirit, in the general way, to a large group of people, until after the Son had returned to Him. Therefore, since that was God’s purpose, it was in their best interest, and our best interest, that Christ return to the Father so that we too could be begotten by the Spirit of God, and have the spirit dwelling within us, as Christ had the spirit dwelling within Him.
It was to our advantage that that occur, because otherwise, the purpose of God for you and me could not continue to the level that God wanted it. It was better for Christ to leave, as He explains in verse 7.
You might wonder how this would work to our advantage in a practical way. Have you ever gone anywhere with someone in an automobile, and you are going to a place that you have never gone before? They know the way, but you do not. So you are sitting in the car, as a passenger, and you are going along, in conversation. You finally arrive at the destination. Sometime a little later—a month or two later—you have to go to the same place, but this time, you are doing the driving. You do not know the way, because you are were not really paying attention, as long as somebody else was bearing the load. As long as they were there to guide and direct you, your brain relaxed, and you let them take care of it.
That is a major reason why it was better for Christ to return to the Father. Then, in that sense, we would have to find our way by ourselves, and then you never forget. As long as there is somebody else to lean on, we are going to lean, and we will not learn it anywhere near as well.
There is a second way that is related, which is part of the same principle. The children of Israel came through all of the plagues in Egypt. They were out in the wilderness. They saw the Red Sea divide and come back together. For 40 years they ate manna. They were led by the cloud. They saw the pillar of fire. They saw the glory of God at times coming to rest over the top of the tabernacle. They undoubtedly saw many miraculous things occur through the hand of or through Moses. Yet is says, in Hebrews 4:1-2, that up until now, it has not done them one whit of good, and it tells you why.
It is because they did not have to live by faith. They were not required to do it.
That is what is involved here. “It is to your advantage that I go away,” because that forces us to live by faith. We have to go through this wilderness, in a sense winging-it ourselves, as we follow the cloud, wherever it goes. We are forced to live by faith. Otherwise, what would we live by? We would live by sight, watching Christ. This way, without Him around, it gives us a much greater test. So it is necessary that it occur.
A third reason is this: By means of the spirit, there is the possibility of continuous fellowship and guidance, whereas if Christ was here, He was then restricted to influencing only those who were within sight of or earshot of Him. But by means of the Spirit of God, which He administers from heaven, He is able to affect His people on a worldwide scale, all at once if necessary.
So it is to the advantage of everybody, all around, that Christ return to His Father.
Verses 8, 9, 10 and 11 are very interesting, because He continues giving reasons why it is much better that He go back to His Father.
John 16:8 “[When the Spirit comes], He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:…”
The word convict also might be translated as convince. Either one is correct. It is the kind of word that is used in the sense of cross-examination. On the one hand, you can convict a person that he is wrong, as in a court trial. On the other hand, you can convince him that his argument is not justified, as in a debate, or in a friendly conversation, where the person has not done any wrong, but rather, he just has a wrong idea, so he becomes convinced that his reason for believing this is wrong. Either convict, which is stronger, or convince, which is not quite as strong, is correct.
“It will convict (or convince) the world of sin.” What this means is that before things get turned around on earth—that is the sense that Christ gives it, but we can make it much more personal—before things can get turned around in a person’s life, they first have to become convinced or convicted that sin is the problem.
The world does not believe this yet. They are not convinced that sin is the cause of all of the trouble on earth. God shows it very simply with Adam and Eve. All of man’s troubles come from the breaking of the laws of God. Not just the Ten Commandments, but the Ten Commandments and all of their applications in their intent.
Before a person can turn in some area of his life, he has to become convicted of the wrongness of the way that he is now going.
“And of righteousness.” The world has to become convicted or convinced, and so do we, individually, have to become convicted or convinced, of righteousness. Righteousness simply means right doing, or rectitude. According to Psalm 119:172, all of God’s commandments are righteousness. That basically describes that what is right, morally, ethically, spiritually, is the keeping of God’s commandments.
The world has an awful lot of opinions about what is right. Sometimes, as the apostle Paul said in Romans 2, they even agree with God. In fact, almost every nation has some laws that are in agreement with God. But they do not have the whole picture.
What Christ is talking about here is the righteousness of the teaching of Jesus Christ, that is, that what Jesus Christ said and did was right. It is the only way to live, the only way that will produce the things, or the way of life, or the kinds of things in life that all men would like to have. Mankind is not convicted of that yet.
So you see both sides of the picture. First of all, man has to be convicted that he has to stop sinning. Then he also has to be convicted of what he must do. It is not just a matter of stopping sin, it is also a matter of doing what is right. We have to be convicted of both.
The Holy Spirit does that. It convicts people of sin, and it also convicts them, or convinces them, of what is right.
“And of judgment.” Most of the world lives as though there is no judgment coming, as though there is no God to whom they have to give account. As though, sometime in their life, they are not going to be called into account for what they have done.
You can see that ever so plainly. Anybody in his right mind, who is convicted that smoking is going to cause him problems, is going to stop. The problems may not show up for 20, 30, or 40 years, but if they are convicted that they are going to pay a penalty, they will stop. Unfortunately, most just keep putting it off. They keep justifying, and it is not until they begin coughing and hacking, become short of breath, and the penalties begin to show up, that they begin to do something, or at least think more seriously. They are doing what the Bible calls “putting off the evil day.” They are living as though it really was not going to happen.
You can take the same principle into every other area of life. Do you think that Adam and Eve believed God, that in the day that you sin, you are as good as dead? That is what the Hebrew really means, “you are as good as dead.” What did they do? They “put off the evil day,” when Satan said, “Oh, did God say that you will die? You will not surely die.” They were not convicted of judgment.
The Holy Spirit does that. It puts a pressure on you, “Oh, I had better do something about this. I am going to die!” And it is not just a matter of dying, it a matter of realizing death with a spiritual understanding.
There are some people who are sincerely not afraid of dying. But the Holy Spirit gives you a fear of death in a way that you did not have before, not just a physical death, but a spiritual death, and of being cut off from God. That may be worse—after we have grown a bit, fearing being cut off from God may be worse than facing death. That is what Christ feared, He said, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” He was cut off, and He knew it. When He became sin, He became aware of being cut off from God, and that was the terrifying thing.
That is what the Holy Spirit does. God by His spirit led us to become convicted of sin; He led us to become convicted of what righteousness is; He led us to fear the judgment of God in a way that we did not fear before. Sins do have to be paid for, and God in His mercy allowed them to be paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.
John 16:12-15 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
The Holy Spirit will reveal God’s truth to us, it will guide you into all of the truth—the truth. The the is not in the Greek, but it is implied.
The Holy Spirit will not guide us into all truth, but rather, it will guide us into all the truth, meaning the truth that is necessary for salvation, the truths that have to do with the way of life, the truths that have to do with God’s purpose, truth that has to do with prophecy. Truths about moral, ethical, and spiritual things. That is what God’s spirit is given to us for. It is not given to us necessarily to discover the truth about chemical combinations that produce certain complex compounds, or the truth about atomic energy, or the truth about Star Wars instrumentation and weapons, or anything of that nature. Those things may be true, but that is not what we need. What we need is the truth, God’s truth, His way of life.
When we were in South Carolina, on one of the popular radio talk-shows, one of the hosts liked to have “spiritualists” on, every few weeks. These people were real “whiz-bangs,” all you had to do was call in on the radio, ask them a question, and they could tell you all kinds of things. They saw auras, and visions, and representations right over the phone. A lot of these people had religious affiliations. They gave you the impression that they were receiving these visions as a gift from God.
There was one lady spiritualist who could find anything. If you called her and said “I lost Grandma’s wedding ring,” in a couple of minutes she would say, “I see a picture of a dresser, and it seems to me like it is focusing in on the top drawer. It is way down in the corner, wrapped in a handkerchief, and it has an initial on it.” You would hear the next day, that is exactly where it was.
God’s Holy Spirit is not for that. What does that have to “with the price of putty,” as Mr. Armstrong used to say? Is God interested in tricks? You cannot find Jesus doing anything like that, and He is our example.
He taught people. He taught people a way of life, and He told them things to come. The spirit of Christ is the same spirit that we have in us, and it is going to follow the same pattern. It will teach us the truths that have to do with God’s way of life, and it will tell us things that have to do with God’s purpose. It will give us insight into prophetic things.
I am not saying that the people who were on the radio were not seeing those things. They may very well have been doing that, but it was not from God.
John 16:14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
The important thing here is the glorification of Jesus Christ and how that would take place. The spirit of God in people would produce Christ-likeness. As we became like Christ, we would glorify Christ, we would bring honor to Him. It would show in our nature and in the purpose of our life.
II Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,…
He is telling you what the Holy Spirit will do.
II Peter 1:2-3 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord [is not truth knowledge?], as His divine power [His Holy Spirit] has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,…
That is what God’s Holy Spirit has given. It is given to give us eternal life, it is given to us to live the life that God lives, godliness.
II Peter 1:3-4…through the knowledge of Him [there is truth again] who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
That is how Christ will be glorified. Christ will be glorified in the same way that He glorified His Father. The way He glorified His Father was in obeying and submitting to His Father, by using the power of God’s Holy Spirit to teach and to do the things that God required of Him.
John 16:16-24 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to 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’?” They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.” Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
Another warning of what is coming. What He is talking about, that they would be sad, is the period of time that He would be taken from them, beginning with being taken by the Romans, watching from afar His crucifixion, seeing Him buried and being in the grave for three days and three nights. Then would begin a period of joy, when He was reunited with them through the resurrection.
“A little while, and you will not see Me,” because He would be buried. “And again a little while, and you will see me,” because He would be resurrected.
They did not understand. They were hearing the words, but it was still incomprehensible to them. Even though He was telling them what was happening, their minds were not accepting what He said, because it did not yet fit into their ideas regarding the Messiah. They could read it in the Old Testament, they could hear Jesus say it, but it just did not fit yet. It did not fit until after His resurrection.
You can see that in Luke with the two men on the road to Emmaus. Jesus walked with them for quite a number of miles, and they did not know who it was. Their minds were fogged by their preconceptions. At the end of it—how would you like your God, your Savior, your Lord, your Master, to say what He said to those men? He said, “You fools! And slow of understanding!” Like, “What do I have to do?”
This is a picture of what a powerful effect that tradition has on our minds. It just grips our minds with preconceptions about the way things ought to be. They just could not conceive that this man, who had all of this power, and that they recognized, at least intellectually, as the Messiah—it just did not sink in. He could not possibly be put to death.
They might have said, “He has enough power that all He has to do is speak the word.” For anybody that can calm the wind and the sea, measly men are not going to be anything.
They just could not conceive that He would let Himself be put to death. No normal person would do that, but Christ was not normal. He had a responsibility to fulfill, and He was going to give His life to it. That is what He was explaining to them.
John 16:20-21 “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
In John 16:21 there is the illustration that there would be a brief but distressing period that would precede a joyous deliverance. What better metaphor than the birth process? There would be a period of distressing labor, and sometimes very deep pain, but then, there would be something that would just completely change their minds around.
John 16:22 “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”
I do not believe that the joy that He was talking about is the kind of joy that would follow the successful birth of a healthy child. As joyful of an experience as that is, He was talking here about something that would be more sustained, something that would be part of a process. “Your joy no one will take from you.” The birth of a child is a physical thing, and there are spiritual overtones to it. It is a wonderful process, but it is still a physical process, and it gives joy. But that joy can be taken away if the child should become sick, if the child should be not totally healthy, or maybe later on in the child’s life, the child goes wrong for some reason.
He is talking about a joy that no one can take from you. What can do that? What kind of a joy is He talking about?
He is talking about the happiness or the joy that comes from doing the right things. If you go all the way back, He is talking about the Holy Spirit. He has not forgotten about that subject. The Holy Spirit is going to lead people into truth: the truth about sin, the truth about righteousness, the truth about judgment, the truth about a way of life. The truth about God’s purpose, the truth about things to come. The truth about everything that really matters in life. This joy that He is talking about in verse 22 is the happiness that comes from doing the right things. The happiness that comes from goodness.
If you and I seek happiness, I can guarantee that it will evade us. If that becomes an end in itself, and we seek it, we are going to get it from time to time, but it is a joy that is going to be passing. It is ephemeral: it will be here, and then it will be gone, because we will be trying to seek it, most likely, in things.
But in an overall sense, if we live for others, if we serve God, then happiness is going to be your companion. It will be a joy, a sustained thing that nobody can take from you. He is talking about a person using this truth, that the Holy Spirit reveals. Using this truth in obedience, the way Christ did.
That is a process. With us, it is hit and miss. With us, we have ups and downs. With us, we do not always do it right, the way Christ did. So our happiness does come and go. But what He is holding out here is the opportunity to have it sustained, if we will yield to the truth that God’s Holy Spirit reveals to us. Nobody will be able to take it.
That is something that none of us have attained yet, but the promise of having it is still there.
He goes on in verses 23 and 24 to show that “in that day,” (He is talking about His resurrection), they are going to enjoy a more direct and closer relationship with the Father. That is why He said, “You will ask Me nothing.” Our requests, our petitions, will go to the Father in the name of Christ. Up until that time, they had been directly asking Him, because He was right there, He was God in the flesh. But He would be gone. Because He was gone, that would force them to have a relationship with the Father, which is exactly what God wanted: to have the same kind of relationship with the Father that Christ had with Him. Then we would make our petitions to the Father, and not to the Son.
He says that they will have a confidence that God would answer, because of the work of Christ. Because He was resurrected, He would go back to the Father. He would be there to intercede for them, and there would be a confidence because of that.
We are told in Hebrews 4:16 that if we have need, to go boldly before the throne of grace, because we have a high priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities. That is why we can have a confidence that our joy can be sustained.
John 16:25-28 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”
Jesus’ teaching is not always as simple as it appears. He tended to use simple metaphors, but the teaching was very deep. There is a complexity to His teaching that a casual observer would not be able to see. It is not a matter of us having intelligence.
Verse 25 on is still connected to the earlier parts of the chapter. He is still explaining why it is necessary for Him to go back to the Father. What He is basically saying here is that spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and that all of this is going to be profit to us because He goes back to the Father. These things that appear to be figurative will now begin to become clear, because of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.
To the world, they see the simple teaching, but they do not see the complexity beyond, but the Holy Spirit makes it reasonably simple to you and me, because we have it.
In verse 26, He is reaffirming that they will have more direct teaching from the Father—“You will ask in My name”—but they will be praying to the Father, directly. Jesus will not be praying for them, or us, but rather, we will talk directly to the Father. He tells why in verse 27, because God loves us, because we love Christ.
Verse 28 is interesting because in that one verse, in a sense, He gives four things. His preexistence—“I came forth from the Father [in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God] and have come into the world”. He was incarnated as a man. On the other hand, the flip side of it is, “I leave the world.” He was going to die, and, go the Father. He was going to be resurrected and go back to heaven.
So in that one verse, in a very broad form, is His whole story: preexistence, incarnation, death, resurrection and back to the Father.
John 16:29-33 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
In verses 29 and 30, they just blurted this out, and I am sure that they sincerely believed it, that now they understood Him. They were understanding what He was driving at, but they just thought that they understood.
Verse 31 shows that Jesus is realistic about their enthusiasm. He realizes that they still do not really believe. He did not deny that they did believe, because basically what He said was, “Do you now believe?” In the King James, that is a question—“Do you now believe?” But in the Greek, it is neither a question nor a declarative statement; it could be either. It does not have any kind of punctuation; the Greeks did not have punctuation. So it is capable of being taken either way. It simply can mean, “You do now believe,” as a statement. On the other hand, it can also mean, “Do you now believe?” as a question.
What it means is, "At the moment, you believe." That is shown by verse 32: "At the moment, you believe, but very shortly, you are all going to be scattered, then where is your faith then? Do you really believe?"
They did not have any idea that they were going to be scattered. They sincerely believed that they were going to follow Him to the death. But when the pressure was on, when “push came to shove,” they all fled. So He was realistic.
In retrospect, looking back on their abandonment of Christ, what do you think they felt? They felt terrible, just like Peter. When the cock crowed, he wept bitterly, because then he remembered the words of Christ. Peter was just one of them, and they all fled, and they all felt terrible.
What about you and me? We are doing things like that, too. We abandon Christ, not at the cross, but we are disloyal to Him. We disobey Him. There are times that we do not yield to His instruction, and we do it willfully. We know better, and yet, we still do it.
That is why verse 33 is in there: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” You read that right after what He said in verse 32. He said, “Yes, at the moment, you believe Me. But indeed, the hour is coming, yes, now is, that you will be scattered. Disciples, you are going to do something that is going to be pretty despicable, and you are going to hate yourselves for doing it.”
When you hate yourself for doing what you do, what alternatives do you have? Judas killed himself. He was upset with himself and what he did: he knew that he had condemned an innocent man. He went out and hung himself.
You and I know that when we sin, we have alternatives, too. What are the alternatives? We can pick ourselves up, ask for God’s forgiveness, ask Him to dust us off, ask Him to clean us up, and go on. Or we can give up. We can commit spiritual suicide.
Now read verse 33 with that in mind: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” He is saying that He is aware that we are going to fail, just like His disciples failed. He knows that we are going to do it, but He does not lose heart. He is confident in His ability, He is confident in His Father’s love, He is confident that with His help, we can make it. He wants us to understand that He does not lose heart because we fall short, He does not lose heart because we fail. He does not lose heart because we sin once in a while. He is willing to forgive us as long as our attitude is right. He is going to help dust us off, and give us a boot in the seat of the pants and get us going again. That you might have peace, and not lose heart, and not do what Judas did, and just give up and commit suicide, spiritually.
“Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We are not going to get into the Kingdom of God on our own strength, but on the strength of Him who overcame. We have got to understand that. The burden of our salvation is not entirely upon us. We have to do our part, we have to yield, we have to remain as close to God as we can, we have to do what we can in prayer, Bible study and overcoming. But still, we are going to be saved by the work of Jesus Christ, our high priest.
This is especially important when you get into John 17, because it falls right on the heels of verses 32 and 33. Jesus’ teaching is done with verse 33. In that sense, it is the end of the ministry of Jesus Christ, because chapter 17 is a prayer. There is teaching in it, there is very wonderful teaching in it, but it is a prayer of Jesus Christ that God inspired the apostle John to remember, word for word. The prayer is the prayer of our high priest.
First of all, it is for Himself; secondly, it is for the apostles, who were right in His midst; and thirdly, it is for those who would follow because of the teachings of the apostles. The prayer is neatly divided into three sections.
John 17:1-5 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
Glorify means to bring honor to; to magnify; to bring praise to; to make brighter; to polish. “To bring honor to” is probably the best rendering of that word.
Jesus was reaching the very climax of His life. In these first five verses, He prays for two things for Himself. One is that He may glorify the Father by the sacrifice of His life. This was going to be the culmination; this was the climax of His life.
When He says, “I have glorified You on earth. I have finished the work,” it was not literally finished. It would not be finished until He was sacrificed. But it was completed in its intent. In His own mind, He had committed Himself to it, and it was as good as done. He was God in the flesh, and He was following the principle in Romans 4:17, where God looks upon that which is not as though it was. Though it was not literally done, it was as good as done because Christ had committed Himself to it. He had given Himself over to it.
He asks God for the help, whatever would be needed, that what remained of His work—that would be the sacrifice of His life—would bring glory to the Father.
In verse 5, the second thing that He asked was that He too would be glorified, in the sacrifice of His life. That would lead to Him being restored to being God, very God, just as much God as God is God, the kind of glory that He had with the Father.
John 17:2 “…as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”
It had already been given to Him, so He was declaring that God had given Him the authority to determine the ultimate destiny for those whom God had given to Him. Not one of them had slipped out His fingers except the son of perdition, that is part of the prayer later on.
That ought to be so encouraging! Christ has the power to save us. That is what He is saying here: “You have given Him authority over all flesh.” He has the power, He says, “I go and prepare a place for you, that when I come, I can receive you to Myself.” That is what He is doing now, that is His work. He is using the authority that the Father has given to Him to determine our destiny. He is the head of the church, that has been given to Him.
All we have to do, to see that brought to fruition, is for us to yield to Him. If we yield to Him, the part that He wants us to play in the Kingdom of God will be accomplished.
John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God [that is the same word that appears in John 15:1, al?thinons, where it is translated true, real, genuine—He is the only genuine God. The apostle Paul said “There are gods many, but here is only one real God, only one true God, only one genuine God, and that is the Father of Jesus Christ.”], and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
This “knowing God” is an intimate experience, the kind of experience that we have in marriage, in living with our mate. It is that kind of intimacy that God wants to have with us. It is not the intercourse that He is referring to, but all of the events of life of two people involved in marriage.
He is talking about a way of life. He is talking about God-life, which is not only endless, but a way of living. That is what eternal life is. Eternal life is not just endless, it is a way of living. It is God-life.
I explained verse 4, that His work was not literally finished, but it was as good as done, as far as He was concerned. The teaching part was done, all that remained was for the sacrifice to be made.
John 17:6-8 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”
In verse 6, name is not talking about that by which He is called, but rather, what the name implies: creator, healer, provider; banner, shield—that is, all of the attributes that have to do with the personality that is God. It implies His nature. It implies things like His forgiveness, His generosity, His power, His willingness to help. There is no end to the name of God. Any attribute that you can apply to it is part of what Christ gave to those men.
So what did Christ say that He did? He expounded to them all of God’s attributes. He expounded to them what God is like, not what He is called by, but what He is like. He did this in two ways: He did it verbally, and He did it by the way that He lived. Having manifested to us the name of God is perhaps the most important teaching that we can have come to us.
That is what Christ said in His final prayer to His disciples, “I have manifested to them Your name.” Of all of the teaching that He gave those men for 3½ years, why did He pick out that one subject that He said that He taught them? I think it was the most important thing that He did.