David Guzik Commentary on the Bible
John 16:1-33 - THE DEPARTING JESUS’ FINAL TEACHING
A. More on the work of the Holy Spirit.
1. (John 16:1-4) The reason for Jesus’ warning: certain persecution.
“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.”
a. The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service: Some of the worst persecutions have been done in the name of God, even though God remains unknown to the persecutors.
b. These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble: Jesus did well to forewarn, because it comes as a great shock that a gospel so glorious is hated so passionately.
2. (John 16:5-7) Jesus explains the benefits of His departure.
“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.”
a. Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart: The disciples could only see the sorrow of Jesus leaving; but Jesus’ departure was an essential step in their growth as disciples - “The braver and more perfect disciple is he who can walk by faith, and not by sight only.” (Bernard)
b. It is to your advantage that I go away: This had to be hard for the disciples to believe! When a loved one is going to die, we often think it is the best to let death take its course. There is the body, wracked with cancer. We say, “It will be better for them to go, and to stop the suffering. It is to their advantage to go away.” But when someone we love is dying, we don’t think that it is to our advantage that they go. We want them to stay, but realize it may be for their best. But notice what Jesus says here - it isn’t for His advantage, but He tells His disciples, it is to your advantage that I go away.
i. After all, if the disciples really understood what was about to happen, it would be even harder for them to believe.
o To your advantage that Jesus is arrested?
o To your advantage that Jesus’ ministry of teaching and miracles is stopped?
o To your advantage that Jesus is beaten?
o To your advantage that Jesus is mocked?
o To your advantage that Jesus is sentenced for execution?
o To your advantage that Jesus is nailed to a cross?
o To your advantage that Jesus dies in the company of notorious criminals?
o To your advantage that His lifeless body is laid in a cold grave?
c. Jesus knew this would be hard for them to understand: But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. When Jesus has something hard to tell us, He knows it is hard. He understands. We may still need to hear it, and we may wish He would back away from it, but He won’t. He will tell it to us, and tell it to us in love.
i. Is God doing a work in your life that you don’t understand? Has sorrow filled your heart? God isn’t mad at you. He isn’t punishing you. He wants to show you how all this is to your advantage.
d. Jesus would not let their sorrow go unchallenged: Nevertheless. This is one of the great words of the Bible, nevertheless. It means, “despite all of that.” Yes, Jesus knew they were filled with sorrow because of what He has told them. But, despite all of that He wanted them to know that it was to your advantage.
e. Jesus wanted them to trust Him in something hard to understand: I tell you the truth. Jesus didn’t say this because He lied most of the time. He said this because He wanted them to make a concerted effort to trust Him at this point. Trust in God, belief in Jesus, has something to do with our will. We make decisions to trust Him, and Jesus wanted them to trust that all this was to your advantage.
f. Jesus wanted them to know He had a plan: For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. They couldn’t understand His plan. Sure, it’s easy for us with 2,000 years of hindsight to say, “Well, don’t you understand? When Jesus went away, He then sent the Spirit of God, which has a broader and more effective ministry in all the world! There now! Can’t you see it?” They couldn’t see it. They didn’t have a clue what Jesus was talking about. But Jesus knew what He was talking about. He knew how it really was true that is was all to your advantage.
i. It was better because Jesus can be with every believer all the time. Jesus promised, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20). That was not a promise He could keep after flesh, but only after the Spirit. He had to go away for that promise to be made true. If Jesus were present bodily on this earth, there would be some Christians who would be overjoyed - those in His immediate presence. But for most Christians, they would have the overwhelming sense that Jesus was not with them, not that He was. Truly, it was all to your advantage.
ii. It was better because now we can understand Jesus better. If Jesus were present bodily on this earth, there would be no end to His words for us. We wouldn’t have a Bible; we would have the library of congress! Secretaries would follow Him constantly to record His every word. It would all be written down and preserved. We would have all of it, and the mass of it would be just plain unmanageable! Truly, it was all to your advantage.
iii. It is better, because now we can have a more trusting relationship with God. If Jesus were present bodily on this earth, there would be a great challenge to our walk of faith. Paul said, Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16) God wants us to walk by faith, and not by sight, and if Jesus were here bodily, there would be great temptation to walk by sight, and not by faith. Truly, it was all to your advantage.
iv. It is better, because Jesus’ work is better understood as He is enthroned in the heavens. If Jesus were present bodily on this earth, it would be confusing to us. Would we see Him suffer any more? Of course not, because His sufferings were finished at the cross. There is no more need for atonement, because He did it all at the cross. But if would be hard for us to see a Savior who never suffered when we are in distress; it might make us think that Jesus was unsympathetic. But He does care! God didn’t want us to struggle with this dilemma, so Jesus is no longer bodily on this earth. He is enthroned in the heavens. Truly, it was all to your advantage.
v. Look at the disciples before Jesus left. Confused. Thick headed. Afraid. Selfish and self-centered. Look at them after Jesus left, and after the Helper had come. They are wise, surrendered, bold, and giving. Truly, it was to your advantage that Jesus left!
3. (John 16:8-11) The work of the Holy Spirit in the world.
“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.”
a. He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Sin is the truth about man, righteousness is the truth about God, judgment is the inevitable combination of these two truths.
b. He will convict: Men cannot come to an understanding of sin, righteousness and judgment apart from the Holy Spirit. In its insanity, the world regarded Jesus as a sinner, itself as righteous, and it ended up pronouncing false judgment on Jesus Himself.
c. Because they do not believe in Me: It is unbelief, the rejection of Jesus, which proves one to be a sinner. “Christ is good and holy and pure; to reject him is to convict oneself of being opposed to goodness and holiness and purity and love.” (Erdman)
4. (John 16:12-15) The work of the Holy Spirit among the disciples.
“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.”
a. I still have many things to say to you: Jesus frankly admitted that His own teaching was incomplete, and anticipated the further instruction of the church by the Holy Spirit. This statement of Jesus leads us to anticipate the formation of the New Testament.
i. Jesus Himself refutes those who say “I’ll take what Jesus taught, but not what Paul or the others taught.” Paul and the other New Testament writers taught us the many things that Jesus spoke of.
b. He will guide you into all truth: Today, the Holy Spirit continues to personally lead us into truth, but never in opposition to the Scripture, because God’s supremely authoritative revelation is closed with the New Testament.
c. He will not speak on His own authority . . . He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you: The Holy Spirit’s ministry is revealing Jesus to us. He has many different ways, and many different gifts He uses to accomplish this, but the purpose is always the same: to reveal Jesus.
B. Jesus prepares the disciples for His coming challenge on the cross.
1. (John 16:16-18) Jesus tells them of His immediate, brief departure.
“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.”
a. We do not know what He is saying: “Where for us, all is clear, for them all was mysterious. If Jesus wishes to found the Messianic kingdom, why go away? If He does not wish it, why return?” (Godet)
2. (John 16:19-22) Jesus explains of coming sorrow being turned into joy.
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.”
a. Your sorrow will be turned into joy: God’s work was not to replace their sorrow with joy, but to turn sorrow into joy, as He often does in our lives.
b. Joy no one will take from you: No one could refute their joy-filled testimony of the resurrection; and they endured death on account of that joy. It couldn’t be taken away!
3. (John 16:23-27) Jesus promises greater joy regarding their coming access to God after Jesus’ departure.
“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. 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.”
a. Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you: Because of Jesus’ great work, we have unlimited, undeniable access to God through Him.
i. “This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that we have the heart of God as soon as we place before Him the name of His Son.” (Calvin)
b. For the Father Himself loves you: Jesus makes it clear that the Son isn’t persuading an angry Father to be gracious; but His work provides a righteous basis for God’s graciousness.
4. (John 16:28-32) The disciples proclaim their faith; Jesus places it in perspective.
“I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” 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.”
a. Now we are sure: The disciples do not claim complete understanding, but that they have a ready confidence in Jesus.
b. You will be scattered: Jesus warns the disciples that their faith will be shaken before it is finally cemented.
c. Each to his own, and will leave Me alone: Jesus loved these men for what they were, with full knowledge of their shortcomings; yet He anticipated great works and courage from them on the other side of the cross.
i. The great apostles and founders of the church experienced great failure. “The church depends ultimately on what God has done in Christ, not on the courage and wit of its first members.” (Morris)
5. (John 16:33) The triumphant conclusion to Jesus’ farewell discourse to His disciples and to all of Jesus’ teaching before the cross.
“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.”
a. That in Me you may have peace: In this, Jesus offered His followers peace. He made the offer in the most unlikely circumstances. At that very minute, Judas met with Jesus’ enemies to plot His arrest. Jesus knew that He would be arrested, forsaken, rejected, mocked, humiliated, tortured and executed before the next day was over. We think that the disciples should comfort Him - yet Jesus has peace, and enough to give to others.
i. Jesus did not promise peace, but He offered it. He said, “you may have peace.” A person can follow Jesus, yet deny themselves that peace. We gain the peace Jesus offered by finding it in Him. Jesus said “that in Me you may have peace.” We won’t find real peace anywhere else other than in Jesus.
ii. Jesus made the way to peace with God: Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
iii. Jesus made the way to peace with others: For Jesus is our peace, who has made the both one and broken down the middle wall of division between us. (Ephesians 2:14).
b. In the world you will have tribulation: In this, Jesus made the promise of tribulation. Peace is offered to us, but tribulation is promised! When we become Christians we may bring fewer problems upon ourselves, but we definitely still have them.
i. Understanding this removes a false hope. Struggling Christians often hope for the day when they will laugh at temptation and there will be one effortless victory after another. We are promised struggle as long as we are in this world; yet there is peace in Jesus.
ii. Your current area of struggle may one-day pass away, but after that there will be new territory to conquer for God.
c. Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world: In this, Jesus proclaims the truth of His victory. It’s an amazing statement from a man about to be arrested, forsaken, rejected, mocked, tortured and executed. Judas, the religious authorities, Pilate, the crowd, the soldiers or even death and the grave cannot overcome Him. Instead, Jesus can truly say, “I have overcome the world.”
i. “This statement, spoken as it is in the shadow of the cross, is audacious . . . He goes to the cross not in fear or in gloom, but as a conqueror.” (Morris)
ii. Knowing that Jesus has overcome the world brings us good cheer. It is the foundation for our peace in Him. We see that Jesus is in control, we see that although He leaves He does not abandon, we see that He loves, and we see that the victory is His. We can be of good cheer indeed!
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