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These things - The things spoken in the two previous chapters, promising them divine aid and directing them in the path of duty.
Be offended - For the meaning of the word offend, see the notes at Matthew 5:29. It means here the same as to stumble or fall - that is, to apostatize. He proceeds immediately to tell them, what he had often apprised them of, that they would be subject to great persecutions and trials. He was also himself about to be removed by death. They were to go into an unfriendly world. All these things were in themselves greatly fitted to shake their faith, and to expose them to the danger of apostasy. Compare Luke 24:21. If they had not been apprised of this, if they had not known why Jesus was about to die, and if they had not been encouraged with the promised aid of the Holy Spirit, they would have sunk under these trials, and forsaken him and his cause. And we may learn hence:
1.That if Christians were left to themselves they would fall away and perish.
2.That God affords means and helps beforehand to keep them in the path of duty.
3.That the instructions of the Bible and the help of the Holy Spirit are all granted to keep them from apostasy.
4.That Jesus beforehand secured the fidelity and made certain the continuance in faith of his apostles, seeing all their dangers and knowing all their enemies. And, in like manner, we should be persuaded that “he is able to keep that which we commit to him against that day,” 2 Timothy 1:12.
Out of the synagogues - See the notes at John 9:22. They would excommunicate them from their religious assemblies. This was often done. Compare Acts 6:13-14; Acts 9:23-24; Acts 17:5; Acts 21:27-31.
Whosoever killeth you - This refers principally to the Jews. It is also true of the Gentiles, that in their persecution of Christians they supposed they were rendering acceptable service to their gods.
God’s service - The Jews who persecuted the apostles regarded them as blasphemers, and as seeking to overthrow the temple service, and the system of religion which God had established. Thus, they supposed they were rendering service to God in putting. them to death, Acts 6:13-14; Acts 21:28-31. Sinners, especially hypocrites, often cloak enormous crimes under the pretence of great zeal for religion. Men often suppose, or profess to suppose, that they are rendering God service when they persecute others; and, under the pretence of great zeal for truth and purity, evince all possible bigotry, pride, malice, and uncharitableness. The people of God have suffered most from those who have been conscientious persecutors; and some of the most malignant foes which true Christians have ever had have been in the church, and have been professed ministers of the gospel, persecuting them under pretence of great zeal for the cause of purity and religion. It is no evidence of piety that a man is full of zeal against those whom he supposes to be heretics; and it is one of the best proofs that a man knows nothing of the religion of Jesus when he is eminent for self-conceit in his own views of orthodoxy, and firmly fixed in the opinion that all who differ from him and his sect must of course be wrong.
See John 15:21.
These things - These things which are about to happen, John 16:1-2. He had foretold them that they would take place.
Ye may remember ... - By calling to mind that he had foretold these things they would perceive that he was omniscient, and would remember, also, the consolations which he had afforded them and the instructions which he had given them. Had these calamities come upon them without their having been foretold, their faith might have failed; they might have been tempted to suppose that Jesus was not aware of them, and of course that he was not the Messiah. God does not suffer his people to fall into trials without giving them sufficient warning, and without giving all the grace that is needful to bear them.
At the beginning - In the early part of the ministry of Jesus. The expression these things here refers, probably, to all the topics contained in these chapters. He had, in the early part of his ministry, forewarned them of calamities and persecutions Matthew 10:16; Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 9:15, but he had not so fully acquainted them with the nature, and design, and sources of their trials; he had not so fully apprised them of the fact, the circumstances, and the object of his death and of his ascension to heaven; he had not revealed to them so clearly that the Holy Spirit would descend, and sanctify, and guide them; and especially he had not, in one continued discourse, grouped all these things together, and placed their sorrows and consolations so fully before their minds. All these are included, it is supposed, in the expression “these things.”
Because I was with you - This is the reason which he gives why he had not at first made known to them clearly the certainty of their calamities and their joys; and it implies:
1.That it was not needful to do it at once, as he was to be with them for more than three years, and could have abundant opportunity gradually to teach these things, and to prepare them for the more full announcement when he was about to leave them.
2.That while he was with them he would go before them, and the weight of calamities would fall on him, and consequently they did not so much then need the presence and aid of the Holy Spirit as they would when he was gone.
3.That his presence was to them what the presence of the Holy Spirit would be after his death, John 16:7. He could teach them all needful truth. He could console and guide them. Now that he was to leave them, he fully apprised them of what was before them, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit to do for them what he had done when with them.
Now I go my way - Now I am about to die and leave you, and it is proper to announce all these things to you.
None of you asketh me ... - They gave themselves up to grief instead of inquiring why he was about to leave them. Had they made the inquiry, he was ready to answer them and to comfort them. When we are afflicted we should not yield ourselves to excessive grief. We should inquire why it is that God thus tries us; and we should never doubt that if we come to him, and spread out our sorrows before him, he will give us consolation.
It is expedient for you ... - The reason why it was expedient for them that he should go away, he states to be, that in this way only would the Comforter be granted to them. Still, it may be asked why the presence of the Holy Spirit was more valuable to them than that of the Saviour himself? To this it may be answered:
1. That by his departure, his death, and ascension - by having these great facts before their eyes they would be led by the Holy Spirit to see more fully the design of his coming than they would by his presence. While he was with them, notwithstanding the plainest teaching, their minds were filled with prejudice and error. They still adhered to the expectation of a temporal kingdom, and were unwilling to believe that he was to die. When he should have actually left them they could no longer doubt on this subject, and would be prepared to understand why he came. And this was done. See the Acts of the Apostles everywhere. It is often needful that God should visit us with severe affliction before our pride will be humbled and we are willing to understand the plainest truths.
2. While on the earth the Lord Jesus could be bodily present but in one place at one time. Yet, in order to secure the great design of saving men, it was needful that there should be some agent who could be in all places, who could attend all ministers, and who could, at the same time, apply the work of Christ to people in all parts of the earth.
3. It was an evident arrangement in the great plan of redemption that each of the persons of the Trinity should perform a part. As it was not the work of the Spirit to make an atonement, so it was not the work of the Saviour to apply it. And until the Lord Jesus had performed this great work, the way was not open for the Holy Spirit to descend to perform his part of the great plan; yet, when the Saviour had completed his portion of the work and had left the earth, the Spirit would carry forward the same plan and apply it to men.
4. It was to be expected that far more signal success would attend the preaching of the gospel when the atonement was actually made than before. It was the office of the Spirit to carry forward the work only when the Saviour had died and ascended; and this was actually the case. See Acts 2:0. Hence, it was expedient that the Lord Jesus should go away, that the Spirit might descend and apply the work to sinners. The departure of the Lord Jesus was to the apostles a source of deep affliction, but had they seen the whole case they would not have been thus afflicted. So God often takes away from us one blessing that he may bestow a greater. All affliction, if received in a proper manner, is of this description; and could the afflicted people of God always see the whole case as God sees it, they would think and feel, as he does, that it was best for them to be thus afflicted.
It is expedient - It is better for you.
The Comforter - See the notes at John 14:16.
He will reprove - The word translated “reprove” means commonly to demonstrate by argument, to prove, to persuade anyone to do a thing by presenting reasons. It hence means also to convince of anything, and particularly to convince of crime. This is its meaning here. He will convince or convict the world of sin. That is, he will so apply the truths of God to men’s own minds as to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners, and cause them to feel this. This is the nature of conviction always.
The world - Sinners. The men of the world. All men are by nature sinners, and the term the world may be applied to them all, John 1:10; John 12:31; 1 John 5:19.
Of sin - The first thing specified of which the world would be convinced is sin. Sin, in general, is any violation of a law of God, but the particular sin of which men are here said to be convinced is that of rejecting the Lord Jesus. This is placed first, and is deemed the sin of chief magnitude, as it is the principal one of which men are guilty. This was particularly true of the Jews who had rejected him and crucified him; and it was the great crime which, when brought home to their consciences by the preaching of the apostles, overwhelmed them with confusion, and filled their hearts with remorse. It was their rejection of the Son of God that was made the great truth that was instrumental of their conversion. Acts 2:22-23, Acts 2:37; Acts 3:13-15; Acts 4:10, Acts 4:26-28; compare John 16:31-33. It is also true of other sinners. Sinners, when awakened, often feel that it has been the great crowning sin of their lives that they have rejected the tender mercy of God, and trampled on the blood of his Son; and that they have for months and years refused to submit to him, saying that they would not have him to reign over them. Thus is fulfilled what is spoken by Zechariah, Zechariah 12:10; “And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn.” Throughout the New Testament this is regarded as the sin that is pre-eminently offensive to God, and which, if unrepented of, will certainly lead to perdition, Mark 16:16; John 3:36. Hence, it is placed first in those sins of which the Spirit will convince men; and hence if we have not yet been brought to see our guilt in rejecting God’s tender mercy through his Son, we are yet in the gall of bitterness and under the bond of iniquity.
Of righteousness - This seems clearly to refer to the righteousness or innocence of Jesus himself. He was now persecuted. He was soon to be arraigned on heavy charges, and condemned by the highest authority of the nation as guilty. Yet, though condemned, he says that the Holy Spirit would descend and convince the world that he was innocent.
Because I go to my Father - That is, the amazing miracle of his resurrection and ascension to God would be a demonstration of his innocence that would satisfy the Jews and Gentiles. God would not raise up an impostor. If he had been truly guilty, as the Jews who condemned him pretended, God would not have set his seal to the imposture by raising him from the dead; but when he did raise him up and exalt him to his own right hand, he gave his attestation to his innocence; he showed that he approved his work, and gave evidence conclusive that Jesus was sent from God. To this proof of the innocence of Jesus the apostles often refer, Acts 2:22-24; Acts 17:31; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:14, etc.; 1 Timothy 3:16. This same proof of the innocence or righteousness of the Savior is as satisfactory now as it was then. One of the deepest feelings which an awakened sinner has, is his conviction of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. He sees that he is holy; that his own opposition to him has been unprovoked, unjust, and base; and it is this which so often overwhelms his soul with the conviction of his own unworthiness, and with earnest desires to obtain a better righteousness than his own.
And ye see me no more - That is, he was to be taken away from them, and they would not see him until his return to judgment; yet this source of grief to them would be the means of establishing his religion and greatly blessing others.
Of judgment - That God is just, and will execute judgment. This is proved by what he immediately states.
The prince of this world - Satan. See the notes at John 12:31. The death of Christ was a judgment or a condemnation of Satan. In this struggle Jesus gained the victory and subdued the great enemy of man. This proves that God will execute judgment or justice on all his foes. If he vanquished his great enemy who had so long triumphed in this world, he will subdue all others in due time. All sinners in like manner may expect to be condemned. Of this great truth Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convince men. God showed himself to be just in subduing his great enemy. He showed that he was resolved to vanquish his foes, and that all his enemies in like manner must be subdued. This is deeply felt by the convicted sinner. He knows that he is guilty. He learns that God is just. He fears that he will condemn him, and trembles in the apprehension of approaching condemnation. From this state of alarm there is no refuge but to flee to Him who subdued the great enemy of man, and who is able to deliver him from the vengeance due to his sins. Convinced, then, of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and of his ability and willingness to save him, he flees to his cross, and seeks in him a refuge from the coming storm of wrath.
In these verses we have a condensed and most striking view of the work of the Holy Spirit. These three things comprise the whole of his agency in the conversion of sinful men; and in the accomplishment of this work he still awakens, convinces, and renews. He attends the preaching of the gospel, and blesses the means of grace, and manifests his power in revivals of religion. He thus imparts to man the blessings purchased by the death of Jesus, carries forward and extends the same plan of mercy, and will yet apply it to all the kingdoms and tribes of men. Have we ever felt his power, and been brought by his influence to mourn over our sins, and seek the mercy of a dying Saviour?
I have yet many things to say ... - There were many things pertaining to the work of the Spirit and the establishment of religion which might be said. Jesus had given them the outline; he had presented to them the great doctrines of the system, but he had not gone into details. These were things which they could not then bear. They were still full of Jewish prejudices, and were not prepared for a full development of his plans. He probably refers here to the great change which were to take place in the Jewish system - the abolition of sacrifices and the priesthood, the change of the Sabbath, the rejection of the Jewish nation, etc. For these doctrines they were not prepared, but they would in due time be taught them by the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of truth - So called because he would teach them all necessary truth.
Will guide you into all truth - That is, truth which pertained to the establishment of the Christian system, which they were not then prepared to hear. We may here remark that this is a full promise that they would be inspired and guided in founding the new church; and we may observe that the plan of the Saviour was replete with wisdom. Though they had been long with him, yet they were not prepared then to hear of the changes that were to occur; but his death would open their eyes, and the Holy Spirit, making use of the striking and impressive scenes of his death and ascension, would carry forward with vast rapidity their views of the nature of the Christian scheme. Perhaps in the few days that elapsed, of which we have a record in the first and second chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, they learned more of the true nature of the Christian plan than they would have done in months or years even under the teaching of Jesus himself. The more we study the plan of Christ, the more shall we admire the profound wisdom of the Christian scheme, and see that it was eminently fitted to the great design of its Founder - to introduce it in such a manner as to make on man the deepest impression of its wisdom and its truth.
Not speak of himself - Not as prompted by himself. He shall declare what is communicated to him. See the notes at John 7:18.
Whatsoever he shall hear - What he shall receive of the Father and the Son; represented by hearing, because in this way instruction is commonly received. See the notes at John 5:30.
Things to come - Probably this means the meaning of things which were to take place after the time when he was speaking to them - to wit, the design of his death, and the nature of the changes which were to take place in the Jewish nation. It is also true that the apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit to predict future events which would take place in the church and the world. See Acts 11:28; Acts 20:29; Acts 21:11; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:0; 2 Peter 1:14; and the whole book of Revelation.
Shall glorify me - Shall honor me. The nature of his influence shall be such as to exalt my character and work in view of the mind.
Shall receive of mine - Literally, “shall take of or from me.” He shall receive his commission and instructions as an ambassador from me, to do my will and complete my work.
Shall show it - Shall announce or communicate it to you. This is always the work of the Spirit. All serious impressions produced by him lead to the Lord Jesus 1 Corinthians 12:3, and by this we may easily test our feelings. If we have been truly convicted of sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit, the tendency of all his influences has been to lead us to the Saviour; to show us our need of him; to reveal to us the loveliness of his character, and the fitness of his work to our needs; and to incline us to cast our eternal interests on his almighty arm, and commit all to his hands.
All things ... - See Matthew 28:18; Matthew 11:27. No one could have said this who was not equal with the Father. The union was so intimate, though mysterious, that it might with propriety be said that whatever was done in relation to the Son, was also done in regard to the Father. See John 14:9.
A little while - His death would occur in a short time. It took place the next day. See John 14:19.
Ye shall not see me - That is, he would be concealed from their view in the tomb.
And again a little while - After three days he would rise again and appear to their view.
Because I go ... - Because it is a part of the plan that I should ascend to God, it is necessary that I should rise from the grave, and then you will see me, and have evidence that I am still your Friend. Compare John 7:33. Here are three important events foretold for the consolation of the disciples; yet they were stated in such a manner that, in their circumstances and with their prejudices, it appeared difficult to understand him.
Ye shall weep ... - At my crucifixion, sufferings, and death. Compare Luke 23:27.
The world - Wicked men. The term world is frequently used in this sense. See John 16:8. It refers particularly, here, to the Jews who sought his death, and who would rejoice that their object was obtained.
Shall be turned into joy - You will not only rejoice at my resurrection, but even my death, now the object of so much grief to you, will be to you a source of unspeakable joy. It will procure for you peace and pardon in this life, and eternal joy in the world to come. Thus their greatest apparent calamity would be to them, finally, the source of their highest comfort; and though then they could not see how it could be, yet if they had known the whole case they would have seen that they might rejoice. As it was, they were to be consoled by the assurance of the Saviour that it would be for their good. And thus, in our afflictions, if we could see the whole case, we should rejoice. As it is, when they appear dark and mysterious, we may trust in the promise of God that they will be for our welfare. We may also remark here that the apparent triumphs of the wicked, though they may produce grief at present in the minds of Christians, will be yet overruled for good. Their joy shall be turned into mourning, and the mourning of Christians into joy; and wicked men may be doing the very thing - as they were in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus - that shall yet be made the means of promoting the glory of God and the good of his people, Psalms 76:10.
I will see you again - After my resurrection.
Your joy no man taketh from you - You shall be so firmly persuaded that I have risen and that I am the Messiah, that neither the threats nor persecutions of men shall ever be able to shake your faith and produce doubt or unbelief, and thus take away your joy. This prediction was remarkably fulfilled. It is evident that after his ascension not one of the apostles ever doubted for a moment that he had risen from the dead. No persecution or trial was able to shake their faith; and thus, amid all their afflictions, they had an unshaken source of joy.
In that day - After my resurrection and ascension.
Ye shall ask me nothing - The word rendered “ask” here may have two significations, one to ask by way of inquiry, the other to ask for assistance. Perhaps there is reference here to both these senses. While he was with them they had been accustomed to depend on him for the supply of their wants, and in a great degree to propose their trials to him, expecting his aid. See Matthew 8:25; John 11:3. They were also dependent on his personal instructions to explain to them the mysteries of his religion, and to remove their perplexities on the subject of his doctrines. They had not sought to God through him as the Mediator, but they had directly applied to the Saviour himself. He now tells them that henceforward their requests were to be made to God in his name, and that he, by the influences of his Spirit, would make known to them what Jesus would himself do if bodily present. The emphasis in this verse is to be placed on the word “me.” Their requests were not to be made to him, but to the Father.
Whatsoever ye shall ask ... - See John 14:13.
Hitherto - During his ministry, and while he was with them.
Have ye asked ... - From the evangelists, as well as from this declaration, it seems that they had presented their requests for instruction and aid to Jesus himself. If they had prayed to God, it is probable that they had not done it in his name This great truth that we must approach God in the name of the Mediator was reserved for the last that the Saviour was to communicate to them. It was to be presented at the close of his ministry. Then they were prepared in some degree to understand it; and then, amid trials, and wants, and a sense of their weakness and unworthiness, they would see its preciousness, and rejoice in the privilege of being thus permitted to draw near to God. Though he would be bodily absent, yet their blessings would still be given through the same unchanging Friend.
Ask ... - Now they had the assurance that they might approach God in his name; and, amid all their trials, they, as well as all Christians since, might draw near to God, knowing that he would hear and answer their prayers.
That your joy ... - See John 15:11.
In proverbs - In a manner that appears obscure, enigmatical, and difficult to be understood. It is worthy of remark, that though his declarations in these chapters about his death and resurrection appear to us to be plain, yet to the apostles, filled with Jewish prejudices, and unwilling to believe that he was about to die, they would appear exceedingly obscure and perplexed. The plainest declarations to them on the subject would appear to be involved in mystery.
The time cometh - This refers, doubtless, to the time after his ascension to heaven, when he would send the Holy Spirit to teach them the great truths of religion. It does not appear that he himself, after his resurrection, gave them any more clear or full instruction than he had done before.
I shall show you plainly - As Jesus said that he would send the Holy Spirit John 16:7, and as he came to carry forward the work of Christ, so it may be said that the teachings of the Holy Spirit were the teachings of Christ himself.
Of the Father - Concerning the will and plan of the Father; particularly his plan in the establishment and spread of the Christian religion, and in organizing the church. See Acts 10:0.
I say not unto you that I will pray ... - In John 14:16, Jesus says that he would pray the Father, and that he would send the Comforter. In John 17:0 he offered a memorable prayer for them. In Hebrews 7:25, it is said that Jesus ever liveth to make intercession for us; and it is constantly represented in the New Testament that it is by his intercession in heaven now that we obtain the blessings of pardon, peace, strength, and salvation. Compare Hebrews 9:24. This declaration of Jesus, then, does not mean that he would not intercede for them, but that there was no need then of his mentioning it to them again. They knew that; and, in addition to that, he told them that God was ready and willing to confer on them all needful blessings.
See John 14:21, John 14:23.
I came forth from the Father - I came sent by the Father.
And am come into the world - See John 3:19; John 6:14, John 6:62; John 9:39.
Now speakest thou plainly - What he had said that perplexed them was that which is contained in John 16:16. Compare John 16:17-19; “A little while and ye shall not see me,” etc. This he had now explained by saying John 16:28, “Again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” In this there was no ambiguity, and they expressed themselves satisfied with this explanation.
Now are we sure that thou knowest ... - Their difficulty had been to understand what was the meaning of his declaration in John 16:16. About this they conversed among themselves, John 16:17-19. It is evident that they had not mentioned their difficulty to him, and that he had not even heard their conversation among themselves, John 16:19. When, therefore, by his answers to them John 16:20-28, he showed that he clearly understood their doubts; and when he gave them an answer so satisfactory without their having inquired of him, it satisfied them that he knew the heart, and that he assuredly came from God. They were convinced that there was” no need that any man should ask him,” or propose his difficulties to him, since he knew them all and could answer them.
Do ye now believe? - Do you truly and really believe? This question was evidently asked to put them on a full examination of their hearts. Though they supposed that they had unshaken faith - faith that would endure every trial, yet he told them that they were about to go through scenes that would test them, and where they would need all their confidence in God. When we feel strong in the faith we should examine ourselves. It may be that we are deceived; and it may be that God may even then be preparing trials for us that will shake our faith to its foundation. The Syriac and Arabic read this in the indicative as an affirmation - “Ye do now believe.” The sense is not affected by this reading.
The hour cometh - To wit, on the next day, when he was crucified.
Ye shall be scattered - See Matthew 26:31.
Every man to his own - That is, as in the margin, to his own home. You shall see me die, and suppose that my work is defeated, and return to your own dwellings. It is probable that the two disciples going to Emmaus were on their way to their dwellings, Luke 24:0. After his death all the disciples retired into Galilee, and were engaged in their common employment of fishing, John 21:1-14; Matthew 28:7.
Leave me alone - Leave me to die without human sympathy or compassion. See the notes at Matthew 26:31, Matthew 26:56.
Because the Father is with me - His Father was his friend. He had all along trusted in God. In the prospect of his sufferings he could still look to him for support. And though in his dying moments he suffered so much as to use the language, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” yet it was language addressed to him still as his God - “My God, my God.” Even then he had confidence in God - confidence so strong and unwavering that he could say, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” Luke 23:46. In all these sufferings he had the assurance that God was his friend, that he was doing his will, that he was promoting his glory, and that he looked on him with approbation. It matters little who else forsakes us if God be with us in the hour of pain and of death; and though poor, forsaken, or despised, yet, if we have the consciousness of his presence and his favor, then we may fear no evil. His rod and his staff, they will comfort us. Without his favor then, death will be full of horrors, though we be surrounded by weeping relatives, and by all the honor, and splendor, and wealth which the world can bestow. The Christian can die saying, I am not alone, because the Father is with me. The sinner dies without a friend that can alleviate his sufferings - without one source of real joy.
In me - In my presence, and in the aid which I shall render you by the Holy Spirit.
In the world - Among the men to whom you are going. You must expect to be persecuted, afflicted, tormented.
I have overcome the world - He overcame the prince of this world by his death, John 12:31. He vanquished the great foe of man, and triumphed over all that would work our ruin. He brought down aid and strength from above by his death; and by procuring for us the friendship of God and the influence of the Spirit; by his own instructions and example; by revealing to us the glories of heaven, and opening our eyes to see the excellence of heavenly things, he has furnished us with the means of overcoming all our enemies, and of triumphing in all our temptations. See the notes at John 14:19; also Romans 8:34-37; 1Jo 4:4; 1 John 5:4; Revelation 12:11. Luther said of this verse “that it was worthy to be carried from Rome to Jerusalem upon one’s knees.” the world is a vanquished enemy; Satan is a humbled foe; and all that believers have to do is to put their trust in the Captain of their salvation, putting on the whole armor of God, assured that the victory is theirs, and that the church shall yet shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners, Song of Solomon 6:10.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20