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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
John 16

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-33

XVI 1-4. These premonitions are a shield against such terrible shocks as might well make them stagger—excommunication from the synagogue, persecution to death which is actually considered by the persecutors (such as Saul was) as an act of homage to God. Culpable ignorance shall be behind it all, but for the persecuted to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

XVI 5-15 The Work of the Holy Spirit —5. In this precise way Jesus had not yet told of the future stubbornness, fury and fanaticism of Jewish persecution. He does so now because he is going, and they know where he is going, since they have ceased to question him.

6. From their own (not really disinterested) point of view they see only the sorrowful aspect of his departure.

7. He therefore tells them of its utility to them. It is the necessary condition of the sending and advent of the Spirit. The benefits of this advent may be summed up as three, (a) the evidences of the divinity of the Holy Ghost, (b) the abundance of his outpourings of grace, (c) the spiritualization of the Apostles’ love of Jesus.

8-11. The Spirit will impeach the world and put it in the wrong on three points: sin, justice, judgement. The world thought Jesus to be guilty and itself guiltless; the world thought that justice was on its side; the world thought that it had no condemnation to incur. The Spirit will show all these suppositions to be false. In the first place, the Spirit will give clear evidence that Jesus was the Messias, and in doing so will lay their sin at the door of the Jews as being a sin of unbelief, a sin against the light. Three thousand in Jerusalem made that admission on Pentecost Sunday, Acts 2:37-41, and every conversion of an enemy of Christ will involve the same confession. Secondly, the Spirit will attest that it is not a culprit who ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. As the Apostles preach, as charismata abound, as the Church grows, it will be clear that justice and sanctity belonged to Jesus and not to the Jews who killed him as a malefactor. Thirdly, it will appear that in the battle between Christ and the Prince of this world, it is not the Christ who has succumbed to adverse judgement. Satan has been struck with a sentence of condemnation (?e+´???ta?) and has been cast out of his dominion; cf. 12:31. The destruction of idolatry and the expulsion of demons from the possessed were to be amongst the proofs of this, Acts 8:7; Acts 16:18; Acts 19:12.

12-15. Whereas towards the world the Spirit is an accuser from whom there is no escape, towards the Apostles he is Christ’s great substitute to guide them into all religious truth.

12. To render his teaching explicit and clear in detail, Jesus still needed to speak many words, too many for his hearers to take in that evening. He will, therefore, complete their instruction through that other Paraclete. For the fourth time the advent of the Spirit is promised to them, and for the third time he is called ’the Spirit of truth’ (14:17; 15:26; 16:13; ’Holy Spirit’ in 14:26, cf. 20:22). 13. ’But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come he shall lead you into all truth’. This may mean the revelation of new truths left unrevealed by the Christ, but the view that the Spirit is an internal illuminator rather than a revealer seems more in keeping with the context of this discourse, 14:26, and of the whole Fourth Gospel (1:16-18; cf.1 John 2:20-27). In the person of Jesus and his manifestation of himself up to the day of his ascension, Acts 1:3, and sometimes to individual Apostles after the ascension, Acts 9:4; Apoc 1:1, we would seem to have the full final revelation, in the explicit understanding of which the Church shall ever grow through the illuminating action of the Paraclete. Thus the Spirit of God (substantial love) would be the fecundating principle to secure the Church’s living penetration of the deposit given by the ’Image of the invisible God’, Colossians 1:15, in implicit fullness. In Jesus ’all the treasures of wisdom and khowledge are hidden’, Colossians 2:3. The Spirit is not an independent speaker. ’Whatsoever he shall hear (BWD Vg against ’hears’ of SL) he shall speak’. By particular prophecies and still more by full confidence in the Christian economy (as voiced, for instance, in Apoc) ’the things which are to come he shall show you’.

14 f. As Jesus glorified the Father, the Paraclete shall glorify Jesus, receiving and showing what is common to the Father and the Son. This statement implies the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son as from a co-principle.

16-24 Jesus’ Departure and Return —Jesus puzzled the Apostles by telling them that in a little while they should not see him’ and again in a little while they should see him’. The addition ’because I go to the Father’ is not authentic in 16, but is added by the Apostles in 17, from what they had already heard, 16:10. Thus they make the subject of their inquiry, ’the little while’ and ’the little while’, even more enigmatic. The enigma has received many explanations. Aug. terminates the first ’little while’ at the ascension, and extends the second to the judgement and the final bliss of heaven. In this explanation the second ’little while’ is by no means little, but it is urged that the ages of time, however many, are short, a thousand years being like a day in comparison with eternity. Another interpretation, approved by Aug. and followed by Aquinas, has the favour of the majority of modern commentators (Maldonatus, however, being a very notable exception). The first modicum extends to the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, the second terminates with his resurrection. Thus the ’little whiles’ are respectively less than 20 and 40 hours in round numbers. After his resurrection they saw him and rejoiced with a joy which no one could ever again take from them.

20 ff. The two states of sorrow and joy are illustrated by the Saviour’s parable of a woman in childbirth.

23 f. It is objected that whereas he says that in that day they will ask no further questions, after the resurrection the Apostles still asked some questions, John 21:21; Acts 1:6. But Christ evidently means that his resurrection will put his disciples in a permanent condition of certitude about the meaning of what he has said to them. That certitude brought by the resurrection is crowned at Pentecost. Jn himself notes more than once that, when Jesus was glorified, they understood many things that had for formerly been impervious to them, 2:22; 12:16. Then they shall also understand the impetratory power given them in the Saviour’s mediation—a thing they had not thought of while he was with them in his mortality. ’If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you’. Aug. emphasizes the last word, and argues that only prayer for one’s own needs is certainly infallible. It seems difficult to say that Christ intended to affirm this. The order of words in Gk would rather put the emphasis on ’in my name’.

25-32 Conclusion —Even with the tragic note of human weakness sounding so clearly in them, no words could be more comforting than these few verses.

25-27. ’These things I have spoken to you in allegories’. What Jesus had said in the language of symbol and allegory was obscure, but the hour of full light is coming, when ’I will show you plainly of the Father’; cf. 14:26. That hour shall begin with the resurrection and the mission of the Holy Spirit. Then petition shall be made in the name of Christ—the Apostles and the Church after them shall pray per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum—and although the living intercession of the Saviour on behalf of his own shall go on perpetually, 1 John 2:1-3; Hebrews 7:25, the very fidelity of the Apostles’ love for Jesus will draw the benevolence of the Father upon them, for they have believed that he came forth from God.

28-30. With a clearness which, at that moment, seemed new to the eleven he said: ’I came forth from the Father and am come into the world: again I leave the world and I go to the Father’. No one can miss perceiving not only the clarity but the majestic grandeur of this word— a veritable compendium of the Fourth Gospel. The Apostles felt that it answered all the questions they wanted to ask about that enigmatic ’little while’. Not only do they recognize plain speaking (’thou speakest no allegory’), but they feel that Jesus has been reading the secrets of their hearts. ’By this’, they say, ’we believe that thou camest forth from God’. 31 f. He does not doubt the sincerity of their faith, but he speaks a prophecy of human tragedy and divine grandeur. The faith of the Apostles is not solid enough to stand the storm of crisis that is to break that very night. The picture is: His intimates dispersed, Jesus alone—but not alone, for the Father is with him.

33. To comment on the final word of eternal encouragement would be to spoil it: ’These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress, but have confidence, I have overcome the world (?e??+´?ð?a)’. It is equivalent to saying: My victory over the powers of evil will be yours. St John remembered it when he wrote to the Churches of Asia: ’This is the victory which vanquished the world, your faith’, 1 John 5:4. Jesus has not conquered without conquering in his body which is the Church. Aug. writes: ’They had confidence and they conquered. In whom but in him? For he would not have conquered the world if the world conquered his members. Hence the Apostle says: "Thanks be to God who gives us victory", 1 Corinthians 15:57, and he added immediately, "through our Lord Jesus Christ"’.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on John 16". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/john-16.html. 1951.
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