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Bible Commentaries
John 16

Godet's Commentary on Selected BooksGodet on Selected Books

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Verses 1-4

2. 15:18-16:4.

Opposite to this spiritual body whose inward life and outward activity He has just described, Jesus sees a hostile society arise, which has also its principle of unity, hatred of Christ and of God: the world, natural humanity, which will declare war against the Church, and which is represented at this moment by the Jewish people. Jesus draws a first picture of its hatred to believers, John 15:18-25. Then, after having pointed out in passing, as if to reassure the disciples, the succor which will be given them, He reproduces with still more living colors the description of the hostility of the world, Joh 15:26 to John 16:4.


Vv. 18-16:4.

1. The word γινώσκετε , which Godet prefers to take as an indicative, is better taken as an imperative. Jesus is giving them comfort and strength in view of the hatred of the world, and bids them bear in mind the fact that they would only be meeting what He had met before. He then reminds them, as a second thought, that it was the fact that He had chosen them, and that thus they did not belong to the world, which was the reason of the hatred. The hatred would therefore be an evidence that they were really His followers. ᾿Εξελεξάμην evidently means here a choice, not to the apostleship, but to discipleship as contrasted with the world.

2. Meyer regards the conditional clauses of Joh 15:20 as abstract cases supposed, the minds of the apostles being left to decide which would be realized. Godet, on the other hand, thinks both suppositions are intended to represent real cases. The mass of the people will not receive their message, but some will. The fact that the entire context refers to the opposition of the world seems to make the view of Meyer the more correct one.

3. The statement that they would not have had sin, John 15:22; John 15:24, is to be explained in connection with the accompanying statement: “But now they have no excuse for their sin.” It is sin with no possible ground of excuse for it of which Jesus is speaking.

4. We see in John 15:22; Joh 15:24 the two evidences, which are presented throughout this Gospel, brought forward once more the words and the works and the parallelism and partial repetition in these two verses are to be accounted for as connected with the desire to set them forth.

5. In Joh 15:26-27 Jesus makes a new reference to the Spirit, by way of encouragement and support in view of the opposition of the world. As this was His purpose, it was natural that He should set forth here the testimony which the Spirit should give, and which should help the disciples in their conflict with the world. In Joh 14:16 Jesus says that He will ask the Father, and the Father will give the Spirit; here, He says that He will send the Spirit from the Father; in Joh 16:7 He says that He will Himself send the Spirit. The same indication of close union between Himself and the Father is given here, which we find in many places in this Gospel. Godet presses the distinction of the prepositions ἐκ and παρά , and the difference in the tense of πέμψω and ἐκπορεύεται , as showing that in the latter verb there is a reference to an emanating (essentially and eternally) from the Father. That this may be the correct view may be allowed, but as the verb ἐκπορεύεται is itself used with the preposition παρά , and as it does not, in itself, necessarily mean come forth out of the being or nature of God, it must be regarded as doubtful whether this interpretation can be insisted upon.

6. The present tense in μαρτυρεῖτε is doubtless used because the testimony of the disciples had already begun. The allusion to the disciples is secondary to the allusion to the Spirit, but it calls to mind the fact that they were, and were to be, a power in the world for the truth.

Verses 1-15

II. The position of the Disciples in the world after the outpouring of the Spirit: 15:1-16:15.

Jesus had just promised to His own, in ch. 14, the twofold reunion, heavenly and earthly, in which the separation should issue, the thought of which was now so greatly troubling them. In ch. 15. He transports Himself in thought to the epoch when the earthly and purely internal reunion shall be consummated through His spiritual return. The glorified Christ has returned and lives in His own. They are united to Him, and, through Him, among themselves. Under His impulse they work all together, like the members of one and the same body, in the Father's work. Such is the new position with a view to which He now gives them the necessary directions, warnings and encouragements. They are like the branches which crown a fruitful vine and offer to the world its savory fruits. But the world, instead of blessing them, will take the axe to destroy this noble plant of heaven. Its hatred, however, will have no other effect than to display the divine force which will sustain them and by means of which they will overcome the world. Thus there are three principal ideas: 1. The new condition of the disciples after the return of Jesus through the Holy Spirit: John 15:1-17; John 2:0. The hostility of the world to this new society: Joh 15:18 to John 16:4; John 3:0. The spiritual victory which the Holy Spirit will gain over the world by their means: John 16:5-15. The three personages of this coming drama: the disciples, the world, the Holy Spirit. Each one of them is successively predominant in one of the three parts of the following discourse.

Verses 1-33

Second Section: 13:31-16:33. The Discourses.

Jesus has just taken leave of Judas, an eternal leavetaking: Do what thou hast to do! He turns now towards His own, and the farewell which He addresses to them is an: until we meet again ( Gess). The departure of Judas has restored to His restrained feeling all its freedom. He can henceforth, during the short time which remains to Him, pour forth His feelings, partly in conversations called out by their questions, partly in teachings which come spontaneously from His heart and which end by revealing to His disciples what He is for them. Softened as they are by the love of which He has just borne witness, humbled as they have never been, even by His humility, the apostles are now well prepared to receive and to appropriate to themselves His last revelations.

A series of short dialogues (comp. the questions of Peter, Thomas, Philip and Judas) opens these communications of an entirely familiar character. The subject of these conversations is naturally the approaching separation, with regard to which Jesus seeks to reassure them (chap. 14). Joh 13:31 of this chapter, by the external fact which is indicated in it, separates these conversations from the following discourses. In the latter, Jesus transports Himself in thought to the period when His disciples will have to continue His work and to labor in His name for the salvation of the world, and He promises them His aid in view of this task. It is the idea of His spiritual union with them which forms the basis of these teachings ( Joh 15:1 to Joh 16:15 ). Finally, the thought returns to its starting-point, the impending separation. The dialogue-form reappears and Jesus then finds the decisive words which inspire them with the strength of which they have need at this sorrowful moment: John 16:16-33. Thus a dying father, after having gathered his family about him, begins by speaking to them of his end; then, their future career opens itself before his eyes: he shows them what they will have to do here on earth and what the earth will be to them. After which, returning to the present situation, he draws from the depths of his paternal heart a last word which alleviates the final farewell.

This progress is so natural that we are obliged to say that, if this situation existed and if Jesus spoke at this moment, He must have spoken in this way. The discourse is constantly elevated, simple, tender, on the level of the situation; there reigns in it a deep but repressed emotion. The logical connection is not for an instant broken, but it is never made conspicuous. Distinctness of intuition is united with inwardness of feeling, and we yield ourselves easily to the gentle undulation of the thought which results from the movement of the heart. We know of only two passages in our sacred books which offer any analogy to this one, and both of them owe their origin to analogous situations. They are the last discourses of Moses, in Deuteronomy, where the legislator takes leave of his people, and the second part of Isaiah, where the prophet, transporting himself in spirit beyond the future ruin and rising again of Israel, describes its work in the midst of the world. Hilgenfeld establishes an opposition between these discourses and the last teachings, of an eschatological character, which the Synoptics have handed down to us (Matthew 24:0, Mark 13:0). The evangelist with his lofty spiritualism substituted, according to his view, for the visible return at the Parousia the spiritual coming of Jesus. But the notion of the coming and work of the Spirit is by no means wanting in the Synoptics; it is at the foundation of the parables of the talents and the pounds, in Matthew and Luke; of that of the virgins, in Matthew; comp. also the promises Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:48-49, etc. And, on the other hand, the idea of the outward and visible consummation is not wanting in John, as we have seen (John 13:28-29, John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54, John 12:48; comp. 1Jn 2:28 ). The kingdom of the Spirit and the selection which results from it, to the view of John, only prepare for the kingdom of Christ and the final judgment.

Verses 5-7

Vv. 5-7. “ But now I go away to him who sent me; and no one of you asks me, Whither goest thou? 6. But, because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7. But I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away; for, if I go not away, the support will not come to you; but when I shall have gone away, I will send him to you.

The idea of the departure in Joh 16:5-6 is naturally connected with the last words of John 16:4: “because I was with you.” It forms the transition to the promise of the Paraclete in John 16:7, since the departure of Jesus is the condition of the sending of the Holy Spirit. De Wette and Lucke have needlessly proposed to place Joh 16:6 between the two clauses of John 16:5.

The connection is clear; from the great conflict Jesus passes to the great promise. Jesus is grieved at seeing His disciples preoccupied only with the separation which is approaching, and not at all with the glorious goal to which this departure will lead Him. Love should impel them to ask Him respecting that new state into which He is about to enter ( Joh 14:28 ). Instead of this, He sees them preoccupied only with the desolate condition in which His departure is to leave them, and plunged thereby into a gloomy dejection. Weiss thinks that Jesus means: “You do not ask me further because now you understand.” But the light does not come into their minds until later ( Joh 16:29-30 ). There is evidently in the words: “No one of you asks me,” a friendly reproach. As Hengstenberg says: “Jesus would have been glad to find in them at this moment the joyous enthusiasm of hearts which open themselves to the prospects of a new epoch, and which do not unceasingly continue to put presumptuous questions respecting what it promised them.” The questions of Peter, Thomas and Philip did not bear upon this luminous side of His near departure, and besides, at the moment when Jesus was speaking, they were already quite at a distant point of the conversation.

The words: Because I have said these things to you ( Joh 16:6 ), signify, as following upon John 16:5: Because I have spoken to you of separation, of conflict, of sufferings. In Joh 16:7 Jesus makes appeal first, as in John 14:2, to the conviction which they have of His veracity. The ἐγώ , I, at the beginning, emphasizes in opposition to their ignorance the knowledge which He Himself possesses of the true state of things. Then He announces to them spontaneously a part of these joyful things which they were not eager to ask of Him. This departure is His re-establishment in the divine state, and the latter is the condition of the sending of the Spirit which He will secure for them. We find here again the idea of John 7:39: “ The Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. ” That He may on their behalf dispose of this supreme agent, it is necessary that He should be Himself restored to the divine state. This mission implies, therefore, the complete glorification of His humanity.

He does not, in this passage, make any mention of the sacrifice of the cross and of the reconciliation of the world, that first condition of the gift of the Spirit. This silence is explained by the declaration of John 16:12: “ I have yet many things to say to you; but you cannot bear them. ” John explains himself very distinctly on this point in his Epistle ( Joh 2:1-2 , John 5:6; Joh 5:8 ); which proves, indeed, that he has not allowed himself to make Jesus speak here after his own fancy. Besides, Reuss is himself obliged, indeed, to acknowledge that this part of the discourse is addressed expressly to the Eleven, and not, as he always affirms, to the readers of the evangelist, and he tries in vain to escape the consequence which follows from this fact in favor of the historical truth of these discourses.

Verses 5-15

3. 16:5-15.

Jesus now describes the victory which the disciples will gain over the world which has risen up against Him. He first connects with His departure the coming of the divine agent (already announced in Joh 15:26-27 ), who will gain the victory through them, John 16:5-7; He then describes the manner of this victory, John 16:8-11; finally, He speaks to the disciples of the interior operation of the Spirit, which is the condition of it, John 16:12-15.


Vv. 5-15.

1. Joh 16:5-6 form a transition passage, having a connection both with Joh 16:4 and John 16:7, the new section finding its proper beginning with the latter verse. The thought of Joh 16:5-6 is kindred to that of John 14:28 -instead of rejoicing in the thought of what was to come to Him, of the place to which He was going, they were filled with sorrow of heart in view of their own loss. This failure to think of His happiness is here indicated by the words, “And no one of you asks me, Whither art thou going?” This statement is not inconsistent with the implied question on this subject in John 14:5, for the words of Thomas there involve, at the most, only a request for information, while here Jesus is speaking of the interest of a friend in the joy which is to be bestowed upon one whom he deeply loves. The connection with Joh 16:4 is seen in the contrast of νῦν to ἐξ ἀρχῆς ; but instead of going on to say, as we might have expected from the preceding, “Now I am going away, and I give you the needed prediction of what is to come,” He turns to the condition of mind of the disciples, and makes their sorrow at His separation from them an introduction to a renewed promise respecting the Spirit. “It is expedient for you that I go away, because upon my going away the coming of the new Helper, who will lead you in all the truth and give you permanent joy, is dependent.”

2. The work of the Spirit is set forth in this passage both in its relation to the world and to the disciples. The relation to the former is given in John 16:8-11. It will be noticed that the work which the Spirit will do is described by the verb ἐλέγξει , and has reference to three points: sin, righteousness and judgment. The verb presents the Spirit apparently as engaged in an argument or controversy with the world, and as convincing the world of the truth of His view of the matters in question and of the error of its view. This convincing is also, perhaps, to be regarded as a convicting and putting to shame. The three nouns which are connected with the verb are without the article or any defining word. This fact seems to indicate clearly that they are to be taken in the most general sense. This is true of all of them alike. The ὅτι clauses in Joh 16:9-11 give the ground on which the convincing or conviction is founded, and by means of which it is effected. The Spirit takes hold of the facts suggested in these ὅτι clauses, and uses them as proofs of His view with regard to sin, righteousness and judgment. The true interpretation of these sentences seems, accordingly, to be this: He shall convince the world with respect to sin the truth of His view of it by laying hold of and pressing the fact that they do not believe on Christ. This unbelief in Christ is the central sin, and all sin is that state of the heart which leads a man to refuse, when Christ is offered, to believe on Him. The world does not hold this view of sin, but the Spirit, by His testimony and His reasoning, convinces it that this is the true view. So of righteousness; the Spirit, while laying hold upon and pressing the fact that Christ goes away to the Father, so that He is seen no more that is, the great consummation of His work in the ascension to heaven will convince the world of His idea of righteousness: that righteousness consists in the union of the heart with God, the entrance to which is through faith. The world's idea of righteousness is of something outward and perfunctory. His idea is of something inward: the conformity of the man in the inmost recesses of the soul to what he ought to be. And again of judgment; the Spirit convinces the world of the truth of His view with respect to this also. The word judgment here is to be taken as condemnatory judgment, because this is the judgment pronounced on the ruler of the world. The Spirit accomplishes His end here, as in the former cases, by laying hold upon and pressing the fact which is set forth in the ὅτι clause: namely, the fact that the ruler of the world is already condemned. He is condemned in the sense that Christ's finished work has condemned his spirit and secured the final condemnation of himself and also his exclusion from his kingdom. That the work of Christ does this the Spirit impresses upon the world, and, by doing so, He shows the world that there is a condemnatory judgment awaiting its spirit and itself.

3. The work of the Spirit for the disciples is now set forth again, in contrast with that which He does for the world. The work for the world is that of convincing or convicting. The Spirit testifies and reasons and persuades. But in His work for the disciples, He only passes beyond the limitations which were necessarily imposed upon Jesus in His communications with them, by reason of the fact that they were as yet at the beginning and were comparatively unenlightened. He leads them in the whole sphere of the truth and announces to them the coming things. Godet says that Joh 14:26 contains the formula of inspiration of our Gospels, Joh 16:13 that of the Epistles and the Apocalypse. Whether this distinction can be properly made, and the statement of Godet pressed to the strictness of its letter, may be questioned. The “coming things” may, not improbably, include more than what are ordinarily spoken of as eschatological.

4. In doing this work for the disciples the Spirit will glorify Christ, for the announcements which He makes, whether of the general truth or of the things to come, will all be of what appertains to Christ His system of teaching and His kingdom. This will and must be so, because all things which the Father has, and from which communications can be made to men, belong to Christ. The reference is, of course, to those things which fall within the sphere in which the whole thought is moving. John 16:14, says Alford, “is decisive against all additions and pretended revelations subsequent to and besides Christ, it being the work of the Spirit to testify to and declare the things of Christ, not anything new and beyond Him.” Alford also declares that John 16:15 “contains the plainest proof by inference of the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity.”

Verses 8-11

Vv. 8-11. “ And when he shall have come, he will convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment; 9, of sin, because they believe not on me; 10, of righteousness, because I go to my Father and you will see me no more; 11, of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

Here is the description of the victory which, through the agency of the disciples, the Holy Spirit will gain over the world. The discourse of St. Peter at Pentecost and its results are the best commentary on this promise. It will be a victory of a moral nature, the mode of which is expressed by the term ἐλέγχειν , to convince of wrong or of error; here both the one and the other.

This word does not also designate a definitive condemnation, as the Fathers, and then de Wette and Bruckner, thought, as if the Holy Spirit were to demonstrate to lost humanity the justice of its condemnation. Joh 16:11 proves that the prince of the world alone is already judged. If, then, the world can profit by the reproof of the Holy Spirit, it is still capable of salvation. This is proved by the effect of the apostles' preaching, in the Acts, in the case of a portion of the hearers. The reproof given by the Spirit may lead either to conversion or to hardening; comp. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. The apostles are not named as instruments of this internal operation of the Spirit. Their persons disappear in the glory of the divine being who works by their means. But it is certainly through their intervention that it takes place, as the πρὸς ὑμᾶς of Joh 16:7 proves; comp. also John 16:13-15. The error of the world on the one side, and the divine truth on the other, will be demonstrated with regard to three points. The absence of the article before the substantives, sin, righteousness, judgment, leaves to these three notions the most indefinite meaning. Jesus will give precision to the application of them by the three ὅτι , in that or because, which follow. If this explanation of Jesus Himself failed us, we should undoubtedly regard the idea of righteousness as the intermediate one between the two others: righteousness applying itself to sin to produce judgment. But the explanation of Jesus places us on an altogether different path. Only it concerns us to know whether we must translate the three ὅτι by in that or because. In the first case, the fact mentioned afterwards is that in which the sin, righteousness, judgment, consist, and the conjunction ὅτι may be regarded as dependent on each of the three substantives; in the second, the conjunction in each instance depends on the verb convince, and announces a fact which will establish the truth of God and the error of the world on these three points. The first interpretation, as it appears to me, cannot be applied to the second of these points.

The world, here the Jewish world, was in error respecting sin, seeking to find it only in the shameful excesses of tax-gatherers and the gross infractions of the Levitical law. Israel condemned and rejected Jesus as a malefactor because of His violations of the Sabbath and His alleged blasphemies. The Spirit will reveal to it its own state of sin by means of a crime of which it does not dream, unbelief towards its Messiah, the messenger of God; comp. the discourse of Peter, on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:22-23; Acts 2:36; and Acts 3:14-15. Sincere Jews recognized immediately the truth of this reproof ( Act 2:37 ). And this office of the Spirit continues always. Jesus is the good; to reject Him is to prefer the evil to the good and to wish to persevere in it; comp. John 3:19-20. This is what the Spirit without cessation makes the unbelieving world feel by His agents here on earth.

Thus περὶ ἁμαρτίας ὅτι does not mean: He will convince the world of sin which consists in unbelief; but He will convince it of its state of sin in general, and this by rendering it palpable to it by means of a decisive fact, its unbelief with regard to the Messiah. It goes without saying that this work of the Spirit is not to be confounded with the usus elenchticus of the law.

The Jewish world is also in error as to the way in which it has understood righteousness. Exalting itself with pride in its meritorious works, Israel has taken its position in opposition to Jesus as the representative of righteousness, and has rejected Him from its midst as an unworthy member. The Holy Spirit will fulfil with reference to this judgment the function of a court of appeal. Holy Friday seemed to have ascribed sin to Jesus, and righteousness to His judges; but Pentecost will reverse this sentence; it will assign righteousness to the condemned One of Golgotha and sin to His judges. This meaning results first from the contrast between the two terms sin and righteousness, then from the following explanatory clause, according to which the righteousness which is here in question is that which glorification will confer upon Jesus in the invisible world, and which the sending of the Spirit by Him to His own will proclaim here below. This righteousness cannot therefore be, as Augustine, Melanchthon, Calvin, Luther, Lampe, Hengstenberg, etc., think, the justification which the believer finds in Christ, or, as Lange supposes, the righteousness of God, who deprives the Jews, as a punishment for their unbelief, of the visible presence of the Messiah and of His earthly kingdom (“ you shall see me no more ”). In the words: because I go to my Father, Jesus presents His ascension, the end in which His death issues, as intended to afford the demonstration of His righteousness; and He adds what follows: and you will see me no more, to complete this proof: “You will feel me to be present and active, even when you shall see me no more.” The body of Jesus will have disappeared; but His divine activity in this state of invisibility will prove His exaltation to the Father, and consequently His perfect righteousness (Acts 2:24; Act 2:26 ).

The judgment, of which the Holy Spirit will furnish to the world the demonstration, will not be that great judgment of the Gentiles which the Jews were expecting, nor even that of the Jewish world convinced of sin. For the final sentence of the one party and the other is not yet pronounced. The prince of this world alone has from henceforth filled up the measure of his perversity, and can consequently be finally judged. Until Holy Friday. Satan had not displayed his murderous hate, except with reference to the guilty. On that day, he assailed the life of the perfectly righteous One. In vain had Jesus said: He has nothing in me. Satan exhausted on Him his murderous rage (John 8:44; Joh 8:40 ). This murder without excuse called forth an immediate and irrevocable sentence against him. He is judged and deprived of power. And it is the Holy Spirit who proclaims this sentence here on earth, by calling the world to render homage to a new Master. This summons reveals the profound revolution which has just been wrought in the spiritual domain. Every sinner rescued from Satan and regenerated by the Spirit is the monument of the condemnation of him who formerly called himself the prince of this world.

Thus by the testimony of the Spirit the world, righteous in its own eyes, will be declared sinful; the condemned malefactor will be proved righteous; and the true author of this crime will receive his irrevocable sentence: such are the three ideas contained in this passage, whose powerful originality it is impossible not to recognize. It does not differ except as to form from John 12:31-32; the three actors mentioned the world, Satan and Jesus are the same, as well as the parts which are attributed to them. Our passage only adds this idea: that it is the Holy Spirit who will reveal to men the true nature of the invisible drama consummated on the cross. The result of this reproof of the Spirit is that some remain in the sin of unbelief and participate thus in the judgment of the prince of this world, while others range themselves on the side of the righteousness of Christ, and are withdrawn from the judgment pronounced upon Satan.

But if this victory of the Spirit is to be gained by means of the apostles, it must be that previously the work of the Spirit has been consummated in them. This is the reason why Jesus passes from the action of the Spirit on the world through believers to His action in believers themselves ( Joh 16:12-15 ).

Verses 12-13

Vv. 12, 13. “ I have yet many things to say to you; but you have not now the strength to bear them. 13. When he, the Spirit of truth, shall have come, he will lead you into all the truth;for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall have heard, he shall speak, and he shall announce to you the things to come.

Jesus begins by assigning a place to the teaching of the Spirit following upon His own. At this very moment He had just told His disciples so many things which they could only half understand! From the standpoint of confidence, He had concealed nothing from them ( Joh 15:15 ); but with a view to their spiritual incapacity, He had kept to Himself many revelations which were reserved for a later teaching. This subsequent revelation will, in the first place, bear upon the very contents of the teaching of Jesus, which it will cause to be better understood ( Joh 14:25-26 ); then, on various points which Jesus had not even touched; for example redemption through the death of the Messiah, the relation of grace to the law, the conversion of the Gentiles without any legal condition, the final conversion of the Jews at present unbelieving, the destiny of the Church even to its consummation in a word, the contents of the Epistles and the Apocalypse, so far as they pass beyond those of the teaching of Jesus.

The Spirit is presented in Joh 16:13 by the term ὁδηγεῖν , to show the way, under the figure of a guide who introduces a traveller into an unknown country. This country is the truth, the essential truth of which Jesus has spoken that of salvation and this truth is Himself ( Joh 14:6 ). This domain of the new creation, which Jesus can only show them from without, in the objective form, the Spirit will reveal to them by making them themselves enter into it through a personal experience.

The two readings εἰς and ἐν harmonize with the verb ὁδηγεῖν ; according to the second, the disciples are considered as being already within the domain where the Spirit leads them and causes them to move forward.

The word all brings out the contrast with the incomplete teaching of Jesus.

The infallibility of this guide arises from the same cause as that of Jesus Himself ( Joh 7:17-18 ): the absence of all self-originated and consequently unsound productivity. All the revelations of the Spirit will be drawn from the divine plan realized in Jesus. Satan is a liar precisely because he speaks according to an altogether different method, deriving what he says from his own resources ( Joh 8:44 ). The term ὅσα ἄν , all the things which, leads us to think of a series of momentary acts. On every occasion when the apostle shall have need of wisdom, the Spirit will communicate to him whatever of the objective truth will be appropriate to the given moment.

Whether we read the future with the Vatican, or the present with the Sinaitic MS., or the aorist subjunctive with the T. R., the verb shall hear must in any case be completed by the idea: from God respecting Christ ( Joh 15:26 ). The question is evidently of the teaching of things not yet heard on the earth ( Joh 16:12 ), consequently of the special revelation granted to the apostles, distinct from that which every Christian receives by means of theirs. That revelation has a primordial character, while this latter one is a mere internal reproduction of the light contained in the apostolic teaching, first oral, then written. It is therefore only indirectly included in this promise. The expression “ all the truth ” contains the thought that during the present economy no new teaching respecting Christ will come to be added to that of the apostles.

To this teaching of the Spirit belongs, as a peculiarly important element, the revelation of the destiny of the Church, of the things to come. Καί , and even. As Jesus is not only the Christ come, but also the Christ coming ( ὁ ἐρχόμενος , Rev 1:4 ), these things to come ( ἐρχόμενα )are also contained in His person. The words of Joh 14:26 contained the formula of the inspiration of our Gospels; Joh 16:13 gives that of the Epistles and the Apocalypse.

Verses 14-15

Vv. 14, 15. “ He shall glorify me, for He shall take of what is mine and shall announce it to you. 15. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he takes of mine and shall announce it to you.

The asyndeton between Joh 16:13-14 proves that Jesus only reproduces under a new and more emphatic form in Joh 16:14 the thought of John 16:12-13. The work of the Spirit introducing the apostles into the truth will be only the increasing glorification of Jesus in their hearts. After the Father shall have exalted Christ personally to glory, the Holy Spirit will cause His celestial image to beam forth from on high into the hearts of the disciples, and, through them, into the hearts of all believers. There is a mysterious exchange here and, as it were, a rivalry of divine humility. The Son labors only to glorify the Father, and the Spirit desires only to glorify the Son. Christ, His word and His work herein is the sole text on which the Spirit will comment in the souls of the disciples. He will, by one and the same act, cause the disciples to grow in the truth and Jesus to grow greater in them. For the understanding of this word glorify, comp. the experience admirably described by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; 2 Corinthians 4:6.

In designating the source from which the Spirit will draw as that which is mine, Jesus seems to contradict what He has said in John 16:13; at least, if “from the Father” is understood after shall hear. Jesus gives the explanation of this apparent contradiction in John 16:15, by means of the words: “ All that the Father has is mine. ” The Father's treasure is common to Him with the Son. This word reveals, as does no other, the consciousness which Christ had of the greatness of His manifestation. The Christian fact is the measure of the divine for humanity. There is nothing essentially Christian which is not divine; there is nothing divine which does not concentrate and realize itself in the Christian fact. “ Therefore I said ” means here: “Therefore I have been able to say.” The present takes is better attested by documentary evidence ( Joh 16:15 ) than the future shall take, and it is more in accordance with the present tenses, has, is; the future is a correction in accordance with John 16:14, He takes: it is the present of the idea, designating the permanent function. After the present takes, the future will declare signifies: “and, after having taken, He will announce in each particular case.” Westcott cal s attention to the three: and He will announce to you ( Joh 16:13-15 ), which form, as it were, a consoling refrain. Thus there is not a real breath of the Spirit which is not at the service of the person of the historic Christ. So St. Paul makes the cry of adoration: “ Jesus Lord! ” the criterion of every true operation of the divine Spirit ( 1Co 12:3 ); comp. also 1 John 4:3. If we recall to mind how the glorifying of the creature constitutes in the Scriptures the capital crime, we shall understand what such words imply with relation to the person of Christ.

All these discourses, and in particular this masculine ἐκεῖνος , he, John 16:14, rest on the idea of the personality of the Holy Spirit. As Weiss says on account of John 15:26: “The Spirit is conceived as a personal manifestation like to that of Christ Himself.”

Verses 16-18

Vv. 16-18. “ Yet a little while, and you see me no more;again, a little while, and you shall see me, because I go to the Father. 17. Therefore some of his disciples said among themselves: What does this mean, which he says to us: Yet a little while and you do not see me;again, a little while and you will see me? And that other word: Because I go to the Father. 18. They said therefore: What does he mean by this word:A little while? We do not understand what He says.

The promise of Jesus' return, in order to be consoling, must not be at too long a remove. Jesus affirms its very near realization. Two brief periods of time and it will take place! Weiss, with Lange, Hengstenberg, etc., refers this return to the appearances of Jesus after His resurrection. The sequel (see especially Joh 16:25-26 ) will show the impossibility of this explanation. But from this point the asyndeton between Joh 16:15-16 leads us to suppose a much more profound connection of thought between these two sayings than could be the case with this meaning. If, in conformity with what precedes, the passage in John 16:16 ff. is referred to the spiritual seeing again through the coming of the promised Paraclete, as in John 14:17-23, everything in what follows is simply explained. Filled with the idea of His glorification by the Spirit in the hearts of the disciples ( Joh 16:13-16 ), Jesus calls this return a mutual seeing again (John 16:16; Joh 16:22 ).

It is in this living reappearance in the soul of His own that the approaching separation will end without delay. The first μικρόν , a little while, refers to the short space of time which separates the present moment from that of His death; the second, to the interval between His death and the day of Pentecost. Four Alexandrian authorities reject the words which close the verse: Because I go to my Father; they would, in this case, have been introduced here in the other documents from John 16:17. But it seems to me rather that the expression: You will see me because I go away, appeared absurd and contradictory, and that these last words were omitted here. If they were allowed to remain in John 16:17, it was because there the ὅτι might be regarded as depending on ὃ λέγει , in the sense of that, and not on you will see in the sense of because.

But it was not considered that, by preserving them in John 16:17, their omission in Joh 16:16 was condemned, since Joh 16:17 is the repetition of John 16:16. A glance at Tischendorf's note shows that Origen is probably the author of this omission, as of so many other errors in the Alexandrian text. This because, which embarrassed Origen, is clear as one refers this seeing again to Pentecost. It is because Jesus returns to the Father that He can again be seen by believers through the Holy Spirit (John 7:39, Joh 16:7 ).

Nevertheless, in expressing Himself as He does, Jesus proposed a problem to His disciples; He is not unaware of it. These two brief delays ( a little while), which were to have opposite results, and the apparently contradictory idea: “ You will see me because I go away,” must have been for them enigmas. We find here again the educational process which we have already observed in John 14:4; John 14:7. By these paradoxical expressions, Jesus designedly calls forth the revelation of their last doubts, to the end of having the power entirely to remove them.

The kind of aside which took place among some of the apostles ( Joh 16:17 ) would not be easily explained, if they were still surrounding Jesus, as had been the fact at the time when He uttered the words of John 15:1 ff. It is probable, therefore, that, when uttering the 16th verse, Jesus puts Himself again on His course of march, the disciples following Him at some distance. This explains how they can be conversing with each other, as is related in John 16:17-18. The words: I go away to my Father, were perhaps the signal for starting.

The objections of the disciples are natural, from their point of view. 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? Then, how can they imagine these contrary phases which are to be accomplished one after another? Finally: I come, because I go away! Is there not reason for their crying out: We do not understand what He says ( Joh 16:18 )? All this clearly proves the truth of the narrative; could a later writer have thus placed himself in the very quick of this situation? Καὶ ὅτι : “and this, because. ” This word increases for them the difficulty of understanding. There is, as it were, a kind of impatience in their manner of expression in John 16:18.

Verses 16-24


Vv. 16-24.

1. The connection of the μικρόν with what precedes and the similarity in the expression to that in Joh 14:19 show that the two passages refer to the same thing. For the evidence that the reference is to the time of and after the coming of the Spirit, see Note 37, 3, above. It has been claimed that as θεωρεῖτε of Joh 16:16 is used of the bodily sight, so ὄψεσθε must have the same meaning. But the possibility of a change to a spiritual sense can hardly be denied, when we study the sayings of Jesus which are recorded in this Gospel; and whether such a change is made in this case is to be determined by the indications of the following context. These, as we have already seen, make the change evident.

2. The words ὄτι ὑπάγω κ . τ . λ . , which are found in the T. R. at the end of the 16th verse, are omitted by Tischendorf, 8th ed., Westcott and Hort, Meyer, Alford, Weiss, and others. The external evidence is very strong against the genuineness of the words. The explanation of their use in the 17th verse is less difficult, if they are read in John 16:16; but it is, no doubt, possible to account for them in Joh 16:17 as derived from John 16:10. In the latter case Weiss is right, as against Meyer, in supposing that the words are introduced by the disciples as making the difficulty of understanding the meaning still greater, rather than with the feeling that the explanation of the latter words might serve for the clearing up of the former.

3. The answer which Jesus gives to their question and difficulty begins in John 16:20. But He reaches the explanation in an indirect way, by calling to their minds, first, the sorrow which they would feel, and the triumphant joy of the world, in consequence of His removal by death. This sorrow, however, would be only of brief duration, for, secondly, in consequence of His seeing them again, they would have a permanent joy. The coming joy, thirdly, would be connected with the fact that they would have intercourse with the Father through prayer in the name of Jesus, the answers to which would make their rejoicing complete. This third point in the answer shows the meaning of the ὄψεσθε and ὄψομαι : it is that seeing which belongs to the period of prayer ( αἰτεῖν ) addressed to the Father in the name of Jesus, and not of questions ( ἐρωτᾷν ) addressed to Jesus Himself that is to say, the period when Jesus was not physically, but spiritually present with the disciples.

4. Weiss claims that the emphatic ἐμέ shows that Jesus is speaking of a time when He is personally (physically) present with the disciples, because, when He was not thus present, there could be no thought of such questioning of Him. But the real force of this emphatic ἐμέ is this: that their permanent joy was to be connected with a new intercourse with the Divine Being, not that of questions presented to Him, but of prayers offered to God the Father in His name. The emphasis on ἐμέ is thus completely accounted for, while the general reference is to the time which was to follow the coming of the Spirit.

5. That ἐρωτᾷν must mean ask in the way of question, cannot be affirmed; in Joh 16:26 it probably means ask in the way of petition. But the contrast of the 23d verse renders it almost certain that such is the meaning of the verb ἐρωτήσετε in this case. It is hardly possible that, when Jesus was present with them so that they could speak with Him, they should not have asked Him questions.

Verses 16-33

III. The Last Farewell: 16:16-33.

From these distant prospects which He has just opened to the disciples with respect to their future work ( Joh 15:1 to Joh 16:15 ), Jesus returns to the great matter which occupies the thought of the present moment, that of His impending departure. This is natural; thus He should close. At the same time, the conversational form reappears, which is no less in the natural course of things.

Verses 19-20

Vv. 19, 20. “ Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask him, and he said to them: Do you inquire among yourselves concerning this that I said: In a little while you will not see me, and again in a little while you will see me. 20. Verily, verily, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.

Jesus anticipates their question, and gives them a last proof of His higher knowledge, not only by showing them that He knew of Himself the questions which occupy their thoughts, but also by solving, as far as possible at this moment, all these enigmas. Only, instead of explaining to them the supreme facts which are about to succeed each other so rapidly an explanation which they could not understand

He limits Himself to describing to them the opposite feelings through which they will themselves suddenly pass, and which will be the consequences of these facts: the greatest joy will suddenly succeed to the greatest grief; and all this will be brief, like the hour of childbirth for a woman; there would only be needed for Jesus time for going to His Father and returning. It is a terrible hour for them to pass through; but He cannot give them escape from it; and after this, their joy will be unmingled and their power without limits. Such are the contents of John 16:20-24.

The tears and lamentations of Joh 16:20 find their explanation in ch. 20, in the tears of Mary Magdalene and in the entire condition of the disciples after the death of Jesus. The appearances of the Risen One only half healed this wound; the perfect and enduring joy was only given on the day of Pentecost ( Joh 16:22 ). The words: But the world shall rejoice, as far as: sorrowful, are not the real antithesis of the first clause. They form only a secondary contrast. The real antithesis of the first clause is in the last words of the verse: But your sorrow shall be turned into joy. The ἀλλά , but, expresses this opposition strongly, while marking the contrast with the clause which immediately precedes.

Verses 21-22

Vv. 21, 22. “ A woman, when she is in travail, has sorrow, because her hour is come; but when she has brought forth the child, she remembers no more her anguish for the joy she has that a man is born into the world. 22. And you also now have sorrow;but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no one shall take from you.

The point of comparison is the sudden passage from extreme sorrow to extreme joy. It must be limited to this. The idea of the bringing forth of a new world, which is to result from this hour of anguish, does not seem to be in the thought of Jesus.

The expression her hour perhaps alludes to the sorrowful hour through which Jesus Himself is to pass ( my hour). The word a man sets forth the greatness of the event accomplished, and gives the ground of the mother's joy.

Verse 22

Vv. 22 makes the application of the comparison. The term: I will see you, cannot be synonymous with: you shall see me (John 16:16-17; Joh 16:19 ). The fact of the spiritual seeing again is presented here from the point of view of Jesus, not of the disciples. The death of Jesus not only separated the disciples from Him, but also Him from the disciples. He Himself, when transporting Himself to this moment, said in John 16:4: “When I was with you;” and after His resurrection, in Luke 24:44: “When I was yet with you.” It is for this reason that, not being able at that time to keep them Himself, He prays the Father to keep them in His stead ( Joh 17:12-13 ).

There is no longer between Him and them the bond of sensible communion, and there is not yet that of spiritual communion. For this reason, when He shall return to them spiritually, it will be a seeing again for Him as well as for them. After this interval, in which He no longer Himself held the reins of their life, will come the day of Pentecost, when He will again have the flock under His own hand, and will sovereignly govern them from the midst of His divine state. The resurrection in itself alone could not yet form this new bond. Weiss has therefore no good foundation for finding in this expression: I will see you again, a proof in favor of his explanation (comp. Joh 16:25 ). The last words: and no one, are to be explained according to him in the sense that, even when the Risen One had once departed, the joy of the resurrection nevertheless continued in the hearts of the disciples; but see on John 16:24.

The present αἴρει , takes away, is the true reading. Jesus transports Himself in thought to that day.

Verses 23-24

Vv. 23, 24. “ At that day you shall not question me as to anything: verily, verily, I say to you, that all that which you shall ask the Father, he will give it to you in my name. 24. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled.

Jesus here describes the privileges connected with this spiritual seeing again, the source for them of the joy promised in John 16:22. They will be: a full knowledge (John 16:23 a) and a full power (John 16:23 b). In the first clause the emphasis is on ἐμέ , me (the accentuated form); they will have no need to ask Him, as visibly present, concerning what shall appear to them obscure and mysterious, as they had the intention to do at this moment ( Joh 16:19 ). Having the Paraclete within them, they will be able to ask all freely and directly from the Father (comp. Joh 14:12-14 ). The reading of A: ὅ , τι ἄν , whatsoever, may well be the true one. After having changed this ὅ , τι into ὅτι , because, one of the pronouns ὅ or ὅσα was necessarily added as an object; then the ὅτι was omitted as useless ( Meyer).

Weiss prefers, with Tischendorf, the ἄν τι of the Vatican MS., which was altered in consequence of the introduction of the recitative ὅτι . In any case, the sense is the same. It is very evident that so considerable a change in their relation to God and Christ as that which is here promised to the apostles could not have resulted from the appearances of the Risen One. Weiss endeavors in vain to maintain this application. Act 1:6 proves clearly that after the resurrection the disciples did not cease to ask questions of Jesus personally when they saw Him again. So Weiss gives to ἐρωτᾷν here, not its ordinary meaning to ask a question, but the meaning to ask for a thing, a meaning which it sometimes has certainly (John 4:31; John 4:40; John 4:47, John 14:16, etc.: to ask whether one will give). But why in this case use two different verbs ( ἐρωτᾷν and αἰτεῖν ) to say the same thing? And, above all, the relation to Joh 16:19 and Joh 16:30 absolutely excludes this meaning.

The word ἐρωτᾷν has certainly the meaning to inquire (to ask light), and αἰτεῖν the more general sense of praying, to ask a gift or help. Jesus therefore means: “You will no longer address your questions to me, as when I was visibly with you; and in general I declare to you that as to what you may have need of, you will be able, because of the communion established henceforth through the Holy Spirit between yourselves and Him (your Father), to address yourselves directly to Him.”

The limiting phrase in my name would refer, according to the T. R., which has in its favor some Mjj. and the ancient versions, to the word ask; to this Joh 16:24 also points; nevertheless, this reading may come from the parallel passages in John 14:13; John 14:26, and from the following verse. These words should be placed with the Vatican and Sinaitic MSS., etc., at the end of the verse, in connection with the verb to give. It is on the basis of the divine revelation which God has given of Jesus to believers and of the knowledge which they have received from Him, that He will give to them the gifts and helps thus promised.

But as this full revelation of Jesus is made in their hearts only by the Spirit ( Joh 14:17-23 ), it follows that until the day of Pentecost the disciples could not have really prayed in the name of Jesus. There is therefore no reproach in the words: “Hitherto you have not prayed in my name,” as if Jesus meant that they had been wanting in faith or zeal; it is simply the true indication of their moral state up to the time of the inward revelation which the Spirit will effect within them. From that moment, united in heart with Him, they will be able to pray as if they were Himself. By the present imperative: ask ( αἰτεῖτε ), Jesus transports Himself to this great day which is foretold. Perfect and enduring joy will then take the place of the extreme grief of a moment. Jesus, however, perceives how all this must remain obscure to them. He acknowledges this, and refers them to that very day itself which He has just promised them, when everything will be finally made clear for them.

Verses 25-27

Vv. 25-27. “ I have spoken these things to you in similitudes; but the hour is coming when I shall no more speak to you in similitudes, but when I shall speak to you openly of the Father. 26. In that day ye will need only to ask in my name; and I say not to you that I will pray the Father for you; 27, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came forth from God.

It is not necessary to understand by the similitudes of which Jesus speaks the figures of the vine and the branches or the woman in childbirth, which He has just used, still less of the parables which have been preserved for us by the Synoptics. He means to characterize in general the manner of speaking of divine things in figurative language; comp. the terms Father's house, way, to come, to see again, to manifest oneself, to make one's abode, etc. It belongs only to the Spirit to speak the language which is really adequate to the divine truth. All teaching in words is but a figure, so long as the Spirit Himself does not explain. Παρρησία here: in appropriate terms, which do not compromise the idea by exposing it to a false interpretation; comp. John 11:14. On the word παροιμία , see John 10:6.

We may hesitate between the two verbs ἀπαγγέλλειν which signifies rather to announce (Alex.) and ἀναγγέλλειν , to declare (Byz.).

From the words περὶ τοῦ πατρός , concerning the Father, Weiss concludes that this promise can bear only upon the contents of John 16:23-24, and that the expression to speak in figures refers only to the symbolic term Father by which Jesus has just designated God. But how can we in a natural way explain in this sense the plurals ταῦτα and παροιμίαι ? Then Keil asks with good reason if the name of Father was for Jesus a simple figure. Is it not evident that the question here is of the teaching of the Holy Spirit, which will be a revelation of the Father, of His character, His will, His plans with relation to humanity? Besides, Weiss finds himself obliged, from Joh 16:25 onward, to acknowledge that there can be no longer a question as to the appearances of the Risen One, since the language in which Jesus spoke with His disciples after His resurrection did not differ at all from the ordinary human language which He had made use of previously. But how is it that he does not see that in acknowledging that the state described from Joh 16:25 onward is that which will follow the day of Pentecost, he retracts by this very fact his whole previous interpretation from ch. 14 onward? For Joh 16:26 evidently does not describe a different state from that in John 16:23-24; the day of which Joh 16:26 speaks and that of which John 16:23; Joh 16:25 speak cannot be any other than that of John 14:20-23. Why should not the speaking openly of the Father be the inward fact described in John 14:23: “The Father and I, we will come and make our abode with him.” And if the expression: I will openly announce in our Joh 16:25 refers to the day of Pentecost, as Weiss concedes, why should it not be the parallel of the: I will come again of Joh 14:18 ?

The declaration of Joh 16:26 seems, at the first glance, to contradict that of John 14:16. But in this latter passage, Jesus is still speaking of the time which will precede the day of Pentecost; He says that He will pray for the disciples, in order that He may be able to send the Spirit to them; here, on the contrary, the Paraclete is supposed to be already present and acting in them; this is the reason why they pray themselves to the Father in the name of Jesus, because they are in direct communication with Him. Consequently, as long as they abide in this state of union with God, the intercession of Jesus (Romans 8:34, Heb 7:25 ) is not necessary for them. But as soon as they sin, they have need of the advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John ii 1, 2). The expression: I say not that I will pray, is very admirably adapted to this state. He does not say that He will pray; for so long as they shall be in the normal state of fidelity, they will have no need of this; He prays then through them, not for them. Nevertheless, He does not say that He will not pray; for it may be that they will still have need of His intercession, if any separation intervenes between them and the Father. We see how completely Grotius and others have mistaken the idea in understanding the words: “I say not to you that...” in the sense: “ not to say that I also will pray for you.” This is to make Jesus say just the contrary of His thought, as is clearly shown by John 16:27.

On the words: The Father loves you because you have loved me, comp. John 14:21; John 14:23. The perfect tenses indicate a condition already gained: “Because you are become those who love me and believe....” In general Jesus does not place faith after love; but here He speaks of a special faith, of the belief in His divine origin. They were heartily attached to His person for a long time before comprehending all His greatness, as they were beginning to comprehend it now.

Jesus comes back in these words from the future, the day of Pentecost, to the work now accomplished in them, because this is the condition and basis of that future ( Joh 14:17 ). And in fact the supreme moment is approaching: it is time to affix the seal to this faith now already formed.

To this end, Jesus formulates the essential contents of it in a definite proposition: “you have believed that I came forth from God. Tischendorf himself rejects the reading of the Sinaitic MS. and the other thirteen Mjj. which read: from the Father, instead of: from God. It is the divine origin and mission of Jesus, and not His filial relation with God, which must be emphasized at this moment as the essential object of the apostles' faith. The case is wholly different in John 16:28. The preposition παρά , from, and the verb ἐξῆλθον , I came forth, express more than the simple mission, which would be designated by ἀπό and ἐλήλυθα ; these terms characterize the divine sphere, in general, from which Jesus derives His origin. They well bring out the heroism of the apostles' faith. In this being of flesh and bones, this weak, despised man, they have been able to recognize a being who came to them from the divine abode.

Verses 25-33

Vv. 25-33.

1. That the time referred to in John 16:25 ff. is the same with that described in Joh 16:20-24 is indicated by the fact that the same great characteristic of the period mentioned is here set forth as in the previous verses: the communication with the Father in the name of Christ. It is also indicated by the fact that after the ταῦτα λελάληκα of Joh 16:25 there is no distinct suggestion of a new subject, such as we find in John 15:12; John 15:18.

2. The force of the words καὶ οὐ λέγω κ . τ . λ . of Joh 16:26 is undoubtedly this: that the presentation of a request from Himself would not be necessary, because the Father would have an independent personal love for them on the ground of their acceptance of Him and love towards Him. The words “I do not say,” instead of an expression such as “I deny that I will, or say that I will not,” as well as the very nature of the relation between Jesus and the disciples we may add, the indications elsewhere given of Jesus as an intercessor show that He does not mean to deny that He will thus ask the Father for them. He did not need, indeed, to assure them of this, for they could not doubt that it would be so. But the one thought here is, that they might have confidence, when approaching the Father in prayer, that He had a personal love for them, and, by reason of this, would be ready to answer their petitions and this would be a vital element in their future permanent joy.

3. The words of the disciples in John 16:29-30, which have a special reference to John 16:28, in its connection with what precedes, are a new declaration and measure of their belief. Coming, as this declaration does, at the close of the discourses and conversations of Jesus in chs. 13-16, it must be regarded as their profession of faith in view of this latest and most remarkable σημεῖον , in the sphere, not of works, but of words; and, by its position and its contents taken together, it shows an increase in their belief beyond any former utterance.

4. In Joh 16:31-32 Jesus acknowledges their faith ( ἄρτι πιστεύετε is an affirmation, not a question), and, at the same time, reminds them that it is not yet perfected. It will show its remaining weakness as the approaching evils and dangers come. Therefore He has spoken to them all the words of this discourse (the ταῦτα λελάληκα of Joh 16:33 points back to the whole of chs. 15, 16), that they may have peace and good courage in the midst of tribulation, being assured that He has overcome the world.

Verse 28

Ver. 28. “ I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; and again I leave the world and go to the Father.

What the disciples had the most difficulty in understanding was that Jesus should leave the world where, in their thought, the Messianic kingdom was to be realized. They had, moreover, no clear idea of the place to which He was going. Jesus starts from what is more clear, in order to explain to them what is less so. They have believed and understood that His origin is divine, that He has not, like the rest of men, behind His earthly existence, nothingness, but the bosom of the Father ( Joh 16:27 ).

Hence it follows that this world is for Him only a place of passage, that He has come to it, and come only to do a work in it, not to establish Himself here. What more natural, then, than that, when once this work is accomplished, He should leave the world, in which He found Himself only for a special purpose, and should return to God His true home? The ascension is the natural counterpart of the incarnation, and the divine future derives its light from the divine past. The symmetry of the four clauses of this verse throws an unexpected light on the history of Jesus and on each of the four great phases in which it is summed up: self-renunciation, incarnation, death, ascension. The expression come forth from God indicates the renouncing of the divine state, the divesting Himself of the μορφὴ θεοῦ ( the form of God) according to the language of Paul ( Php 2:6 ); the: come into the world, the entrance into the human state and into the earthly existence, the: being made flesh ( Joh 1:14 ), or the: taking the form of a servant ( Php 2:7 ). The leaving the world does not indicate the abandoning of the human nature, but the rupture of the earthly form of human existence. For Stephen also beholds Jesus glorified in the form of the Son of man ( Act 7:56 ), and it is as Son of man that Jesus reigns and comes again (Matthew 26:64, Luk 18:8 ).

Finally, the going to the Father designates the exaltation of Jesus, in His human nature, to the divine state which He enjoyed as Logos before the incarnation.

The Alexandrian reading ἐκ , out of, has, as Lucke himself has remarked, a dogmatic savor which is of too pronounced a character to be the true one (comp. Joh 1:18 ). Παρά , from, in the Sinaitic MS. and the other Mjj. includes, as in John 16:27, the two ideas of the origin and the mission.

Jesus here says the Father, instead of God ( Joh 16:27 ). The question is no longer, indeed, of the contents of the apostolic faith, as in John 16:27. All the tenderness of His filial relation to the Father, which He has renounced, pictures itself to His thought. The term πάλιν , again, which might be translated by: in return, indicates the correlation between the coming and the departure; it is as it were a: consequently; for the one justifies the other. The apostles understand that if He goes away, it is because He has come; and that if He goes to God, it is because He has come from God.

Verses 29-30

Vv. 29, 30. “ His disciples say to him, Lo, now thou speakest plainly, and dost use no similitude; 30. now we know that thou knowest all things and hast no need that any one should ask thee; for this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

On hearing this simple and precise recapitulation of all the mysteries of His past, present and future existence, the disciples are, as it were, surrounded by an unexpected brightness; a unanimous and spontaneous confession comes from their lips; the doubts which were tormenting them from the beginning of their conversations are scattered; it seems to them that they have nothing more to desire in the matter of illumination, and that they have already arrived at the day of that perfect knowledge which Jesus has just promised to them. Not that they have the folly to mean to affirm, contrary to the word of Him whose omniscience they are proclaiming at this very moment, that the time is already come which has just been promised them as yet to come; but the light is so clear that they know not how to conceive of a more brilliant one.

By answering so directly the thoughts which were agitating them in the centre of their hearts, Jesus has given them the measure of the truth of His words in general and of the certainty of all His promises. They have just had, like Nathanael at the beginning, experience of His omniscience, and, like him, they infer from it His divine character.

The relation of the words: Thou hast no need that any one should ask thee, to those of John 16:19: Jesus knew that they wished to ask him, is beyond dispute; only this relation must be understood in a broad sense and one worthy of this solemn scene (in answer to Meyer).

In the confession of the disciples, as in the expression Son of God, 1.50, the two ideas of divine mission ( ἀπό ) and origin ( ἐξῆλθες ) are mingled.

Verses 31-33

Vv. 31-33. “ Jesus answered them: Now you believe. 32. Behold, the hour is coming, and is now come, when you shall be scattered every one to his own home, and when you shall leave me alone; but I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace; in the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good courage, I have overcome the world.

Here is for Jesus a moment of unutterable sweetness; He is recognized and understood He Jesus by these eleven Galileans. This is for Him enough; His work is for the moment ended; the Holy Spirit will finish it by glorifying Him in them, and through them in mankind. There remains nothing further for Him but to close the conversation and give thanks. John alone understood the greatness of this moment, and has preserved for us the remembrance of it. The words: Now you believe, must not therefore be understood in an interrogative, and in some sort ironical sense, as if Jesus would call in question the reality of their faith. I do not think even that ἄρτι , now, forms a contrast with the very near want of fidelity to which Jesus is about to allude, as if He would say: “True, you believe now; but in a short time, how will you be acting!” Could Jesus, in ch. 17, give thanks to His Father with such outpouring of heart for a faith which He had just characterized in such a way? Comp. especially John 17:8: “ They have known truly ( ἀληθῶς ) that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me,” words in which Jesus certainly alludes to our John 16:30. The word now, therefore, seems to me rather to mean here: “Now at last you have reached the point to which I have been laboring to lead you: you have recognized me for what I am, and have received me as such.”

The connection in Joh 16:32 is not a but; it is a simple no doubt; in Joh 16:33 will be found the final but answering to this no doubt. This scarcely formed faith is about to be subjected, it is true, to a severe test; the bond will be broken, at least externally. But the spiritual bond will remain firm and will triumph over this trial and all others.

The νῦν , now, which we have rendered by already, is omitted by the Alexandrian authorities; it may have been rejected because it seemed that the moment indicated was not yet present.

The first aorist passive σκορπισθῆτε , you shall be scattered, is more suited to extenuate than to aggravate the fault of the disciples; it is, as it were, a violent blow which will strike and stun them. These words recall the quotation from Zechariah in the Synoptics: “ I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered ” ( Mat 27:31 ). It is in the following words: “ you will leave me alone,” that the idea of culpable desertion is expressed, but in the tone of sadness rather than of reproach. ῞Εκαστος εἰς ἴδια , each one to his own; each to his respective abode. Weiss finds in this expression the idea of the breaking off of the communion between them, as a sign of the shaking of their faith in the Messiah. It indicates rather the seeking of a secure shelter, far from the danger which touches their Master. Καί , evidently in the adversative sense: and yet.

Verse 32

Vv. 32 reassures the disciples as to the person of their Master; Joh 16:33 tranquillizes them for themselves. Everything that Jesus has said to them on this last evening should breathe into them a complete quietness, resting upon the foundation of the faith which they have in Him ( Joh 14:1 ). No doubt, He could not conceal from them that they would have to sustain a struggle with the world ( Joh 15:18 to Joh 16:4 ). But in the presence of the tribulations which this struggle will bring, it is necessary that their peace should take the character of assurance and become courage, θάρσος .

There is an opposition between the two limiting terms: in me and in the world; the first designates the sphere from which peace is drawn; the other, the domain whence anguish arises. ᾿Εγώ , I, brings out with force the unique personality of Him who, having already overcome for Himself, makes His victory that of His followers. The victory which Jesus has already gained is, above all, internal; He has resisted the attractions of the world and surmounted its terrors. But there is more: this moral victory is about to be realized externally in the consummation of the redemptive work, on the cross accepted in advance, which will be henceforth the cause and the monument of the world's defeat. This victory will be continued by means of the Eleven, who will be the bearers of it here on earth.

Bibliographical Information
Godet, Frédéric Louis. "Commentary on John 16". "Godet's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gsc/john-16.html.
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