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Bible Commentaries
John 16

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary

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The fifteenth and sixteenth chapters contain the discourses which our Lord uttered shortly before His passage over the brook Kedron; the seventeenth chapter contains His prayer to the Father. In His discourse to the disciples, the Lord first unfolds, in the section before us, the threefold relation in which they stand, first to Him, then to one another, and lastly to the world.

The Lord first gives to His disciples a commentary upon the first table of the Decalogue, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” That, under the New Testament, takes the form of abiding in Christ. Since the existences or natures of the Father and the Son perfectly coincide and cover each other, Jesus could not, in a separate section, adjust His disciples’ relation to the Father specifically. As they stood with respect to Himself, so they stood with respect to the Father; should they abide in Him, they would abide in the Father. Then, in ch. John 15:12-17, He turns to the second table. The commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” takes, in the kingdom of Christ, the form of Christian brotherly love. After the Lord had determined His people’s relations to Himself as their Head, and to each other as brethren (Augustin: “For on these two commandments of love hang all the law and the prophets”), He sheds light upon their relation to the world, and what they would have to expect from it, and what resources they would be able to use in defence against its enmity.

The sections are clearly and sharply demarcated. The first is separated from the second by the concluding formula in ver. 11; the second from the third by the concluding formula in ch. John 15:17. The third is distinguished from that which follows by the circumstance that the watchword world—which in the beginning of the section, is used with intentional frequency, in order to point attention to the theme which now begins to be treated—twice recurs at the end. And that all things down to the most minute are here ordered and sure, appears from the fact that, in the first section, the watchword abide occurs precisely ten times, as J. Gerhard long ago observed (μείνῃ? , in ver. 11, is a false reading); that in vers. 12-17, which are entirely devoted to love, there are seven characterizations of that grace, the seven further being divided as usual into four and three: ἀ?γαπᾶ?τε , ἠ?γάπησα , ἀ?γάπην , ἀ?γαπᾶ?τε—φίλων , φίλοι , φίλους ; that in the third section κόσμος also recurs seven times, the seven being divided into five at the beginning and two at the end—a division of seven which elsewhere accompanies that into four and three. We cannot attribute this to chance, especially as this kind of reckoning occurs so frequently, not only in the Gospel and the Apocalypse of St John, but also in the Lord’s discourses, as recorded by the first three Evangelists. We have only to refer to the petitions of the Lord’s prayer, the benedictions, and the seven words on the cross.

Verse 1

John 16:1. “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.”

We find here expressed the ultimate aim of all that had been said from ch. John 15:18 onwards, and the point of view is shown under which all must be viewed. The design was, namely, to obviate the offence which the hatred of the Jews could not fail to occasion, especially as authority and scientific knowledge were on their side. “These things” does not refer merely to the foreannouncement of their hatred; it includes also everything that had been said to place their hatred in the true light, as well as the help which had been promised in the sending of the Paraclete. “That ye should not be offended” leads us into a circle of ideas which the first Evangelists had already exhibited as realized. In them we have seen the hatred of the world becoming to the disciples a sore σκανδάλον , the source of a perilous temptation to apostasy from Christ,—comp. Matthew 13:21; Matthew 24:9; Matthew 26:31-33,—a temptation which had already hard beset the Baptist, Matthew 11:3.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”

The Lord indicates what direction the temptation to offence would take, and thus shows the necessity of those communications which had for their object to encounter and overcome that temptation. In reference to ἀ?ποσυναγώγους , comp. on ch. John 9:22, John 12:42: in these words there is involved the degenerating of the synagogue into a synagogue of Satan, Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9. The synagogue which could not tolerate Christians within it, would show by that fact that it was no longer a “congregation of the Lord.” Casting out Christians, they would cast out Christ, and with Christ the Father. The disciples were not voluntarily to depart out of the synagogue, but to await what would happen to them on a full proclamation of the Gospel. This gives a very intelligible hint to the faithful in times of the Church’s decline, viz. that they should keep far from their thoughts the idea of arbitrary secession. The new formation is right only when the casting out has gone before.

The λατρεία in itself signifies cultus in general; but the προσφέρειν shows that sacrificial worship is particularly meant: comp. Exodus 8:16; Exodus 8:21-22; 2 Samuel 15:8, where the sacrifice is certainly a λατρεία ; Romans 12:1, where θυσία and λατρεία are combined. We may find the basis of the opinion or thought, here ascribed to the Jews, in Exodus 32:29. There Moses declares the self-renouncing assault of the Levites upon the rebels to be an acceptable sacrifice which they had brought to the Lord: “Ye have to-day filled your hands [strictly, “Fill your hands;” the acceptance of what was done uttered in the form of command] in this, that ye have turned every man upon his son and his brother, and have thus obtained for yourselves a blessing.” The fearful quid-pro-quo, however, was this, that in the present case the rebels would think to make the faithful a sacrifice. They made their beginning with Christ Himself. That this was accomplished at the Passover, rested upon the view here indicated.

Verses 2-33

Chap. John 16:12-33

After the Lord had regulated the Apostles’ views of their fundamental relations. He now turns to His specific farewell discourse. This character we find in John 16:12-15. As Moses, when he departed, pointed to Joshua, Deuteronomy 31:23, so Jesus pointed to the Holy Ghost, who should lead His disciples into all the truth. With this is connected in John 16:16 an allusion to His immediate departure, and that seeing Him again which should follow upon it. So also the words of Christ in John 16:20-28, anticipating the question of the disciples as to the meaning of these words, lead back, according to the explanation given, into the track of the farewell discourse, inasmuch as they point to the impending departure of the Lord, and the advantage which should accrue from it to the disciples. So also the third paragraph, occasioned by the interruption of the disciples, bears a farewell character; it predicts to the disciples their approaching dispersion, but intimates that such calamities should never have the power to depress their spirit.

The fact that in John 16:12-15, just as in John 16:7-11, the Holy Spirit is the subject, has misled many expositors, leading them to think that a new section does not begin here. We have already pointed out, that, with John 16:11, there is a conclusion first of the section ch. John 15:18 to John 16:11, and then also of the whole discourse from ch. John 15:1 onwards. There is, indeed, a connection between the discourse beginning with John 16:12 and the general strain of the whole, inasmuch as here the internal work of the Spirit’s edification follows the Spirit’s operation as it respects the word. But that is only the connection of transition from one section to another; it serves only to connect what follows with the general body of the one discourse, and to show that it is not an absolutely new commencement that follows. That the work of the Holy Spirit, spoken of in John 16:12-15, is essentially distinguished from that of John 16:7-11,—and, therefore, that the link of connection is not very strict,—is plain from the fact that, in ch. 14, these two operations of the Holy Ghost are exhibited as totally distinct. As John 16:7-11 of this chapter refer back to ch. John 14:15-17, so John 16:12-13 refer back to ch. John 14:25-26.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. “And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me.”

The Lord here opens up another encouraging aspect of their case, in reference to the persecutions predicted in ver. 2. Calvin: “That the Apostles might scorn with lofty minds their blind fury.”

Verse 4

Ver. 4. “But these things have I told you, that, when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.”

The ἀ?λλά in the preceding verse stated why they would do these things; here it states why the Lord spoke of it. Ταῦ?τα refers, as in ver. 1, not simply to that which the disciples had to suffer from the world, but also to those consolatory suggestions which Christ had opened to them in regard to their sufferings. In what immediately preceded, the prophecy of their future suffering had been lightened by a prospect of joy. Our Lord had certainly before spoken to His disciples of their coming persecutions, Matthew 5:10; Matthew 10:17; but it had been to them as if He had not so spoken,) the blessed present having prevented their thoughts from lingering upon His words. The announcement never exerted a penetrating influence upon them until now, when Jesus, Himself on His way to death and deeply moved, addressed it to His deeply moved disciples; and when, without admixture of other elements. He made it the matter of one great division of His last discourses, placing it, by a fundamental and, as it were, systematic treatment, in an altogether new light. That Jesus, indeed, had earlier, and in a variety of ways, spoken to them on the same subject, is not only evident from the testimony of the first Evangelists, but is also obvious of itself, since His three years’ intercourse with the disciples must have furnished Him many opportunities for such discourse, and, according to the fundamental views of the Old Testament, especially the Psalms and the prophecies of Jeremiah, the way of the disciples through a world of sin could not be other than full of thorns.

Their Master had not from the beginning spoken it in so affecting a manner, because He was yet with them, and Himself defended them, ch. John 17:12, executing the office of their advocate in their conflict with the world, ch. John 14:16. But now, when His departure was at hand. He must tell them more definitely, in order that, when the persecution should arrive. His word might take the place of His personal presence.

Verses 5-6

Vers. 5, 6. “But now I go My way to Him that sent Me; and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.”

The Redeemer now begins to lead on their thoughts to the consolation which, as the expansion of ch. John 15:26, He would assure to them in the presence of an unfriendly world. The transition is made by δέ , because in the preceding verse the presence of Jesus with His disciples had been finally spoken of. But any external connection with what goes before is not to be sought.

Peter had in ch. John 13:36 asked, “Whither goest Thou?” But the Lord here means another kind of asking, such as would take pleasure in the subject, and spring from a heart never weary of hearing about it. The disciples ought in consistency to have besought Christ again and again to tell them of heaven, and the glory which He expected to enter there. This questioning would have been all the more reasonable, as on their adequate views of this subject rested all their joy in the prospect of the world’s hatred and persecution. Thither, where He was going, He would fetch His disciples, that they might be received into the fellowship of His glory, ch. John 14:3-4; thence He would send them power to perform the greatest works, ch. John 14:12; from heaven He would send the Holy Spirit as their advocate in their process with the world, and as their abiding teacher; from thence He would manifest Himself to them, clothed in the glory of the Father. But these questions had no impulse in their minds. They were altogether carried away by their sorrow at His departure.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”—“I tell you the truth” (Bengel: mentiri nescius): comp. ch. John 14:2, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” Jesus makes it express and emphatic that He tells them the truth in this matter; because, as the sadness of the Apostles shows in ver. 6, the matter seemed to be very different. Bengel is not right when he says that there is here a double function of the Paraclete, towards the world in this passage, and towards believers in ver. 12. As Paraclete, the Holy Ghost has but one office: to assure to the Apostles, and generally to all the faithful, help in their conflict with the world. The πρὸ?ς ὑ?μᾶ?ς must be carefully noted. It shows that the Holy Spirit is regarded here only as indwelling in the disciples, and not as a power which, in connection with them, works upon men’s minds. The ὃ?ν ἐ?γὼ? πέμψω ὑ?μῖ?ν , in ch. John 15:26, is strictly corresponsive.

Wherefore was the Paraclete to come only after His departure? The answer is, because Christ was to procure for them and minister to them the Holy Ghost only through His atoning death; and He could be imparted only to those who were reconciled to God through the blood of His Son: comp. what was said upon ch. John 7:39, John 12:32. According to Galatians 3:14, the sending of the Holy Ghost required as its condition that Christ should become a curse for us. J. Gerhard: “The corn of wheat falling into the ground produced this among other fruits, the gift of the Holy Spirit, John 12:24, in token whereof Christ after His resurrection breathed on the Apostles, and said, ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ ch. John 20:22.” Why did Jesus do this only after His resurrection? Manifestly because the Holy Spirit was a blessing obtained by His passion. Anton: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not divided; and no one Person can, without violation of the Divine holiness, work good in man without the Redeemer’s atoning entrance into heaven.” That was the true reason. On the other hand, that the presence of Christ in the flesh placed a wall of partition between the disciples and the Holy Spirit, is an altogether unfounded idea, though Augustin led the way in it: “What is therefore If I go not away the Paraclete will not come but this, that they could not receive the Spirit so long as they persisted in knowing Christ after the flesh?”

Verse 8

Ver. 8. “And when He is come. He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

We have here the leading features of the preaching which the Apostles, under the influence of the Spirit, were to engage in. The meaning of the present verse must first of all be sought in its own terms. The further expansion in vers. 9, 10 can be regarded only as the touchstone of the interpretation found independently of it; especially as the Lord’s saying in those verses can be rightly understood only on the basis of a right understanding of our present passage. The world, after what has preceded, must be regarded primarily in its Jewish manifestation: that is, the Jews. So Heumann stated it rightly: “The Lord here sets before the Apostles only their first apostolical work, since they were to urge upon the Jewish people the sin of their past unbelief, and were to convert a great multitude of them.” So also the later preaching among the heathen population of the world had essentially the same foundation of principles. Yet these sustained a certain modification, inasmuch as the Apostles had not to apply their preaching to those who were already unbelievers, but simply to those who did not believe. The Jews were to be reproved because of their already present unbelief; but it was to be set before the Gentiles how great would be their sin and guilt if they did not believe, and thus despised the only remedy for their sins. In reference to the righteousness and the judgment, the heathen were to receive exhortations, in order that they might place themselves right, appropriate the righteousness, and escape the judgment, instead of the condemnation or reproof that the Jews required, who had already placed themselves in an attitude of contempt.

The sin can be only, according to ch. John 15:22; John 15:24, unbelief in the manifested and gloriously authenticated Redeemer. For that was there pointed out as the single great sin of the Jews. Augustin: “He put this sin before all the rest, as if it were alone: because, this sin abiding, all others are retained; and, this sin departing, all others are remitted.” This sin would be mightily detected in them, and pressed upon their consciences, by the Holy Spirit’s demonstration accompanying the Apostles.

The righteousness must necessarily belong to the same to whom the sin belonged, that is, the world: else we are left to random conjecture. The righteousness of Christ would never have been thought of here apart from ver. 9; nor can that verse justify such an interpretation of the present passage. Still more remote is the righteousness of God, to which not even ver. 9 gives the slightest semblance of plausibility. But the righteousness cannot be regarded as having grown in the soil of their hearts to whom it belongs: from their hearts only the sin proceeds. By the preceding mention of sin, every notion of “a righteousness of their own,” ἰ?δία δικαιοσύνην , Romans 10:3, is excluded. Their righteousness must rather come to them from without. And whence it comes we gather from the foregoing words, “He shall convince the world of sin.” If the sin, according to ch. John 15:22; John 15:24, consisted in this, that they believed not in Christ, then the righteousness could be theirs only through their believing in Christ. The prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures had, in the most various forms, referred to a righteousness coming from above, which would be part of the prerogatives and blessings of the Messianic age; so that there is no ground for the objection that this interpretation of the passage is a premature intrusion into the specific phraseology of St Paul. “In His days,” we read, Jeremiah 23:6, “Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.” The Messiah was to bear the name of “The Lord our Righteousness,” because He would be the channel through which the righteousness of God would flow to His people, and become our righteousness. According to Daniel 9:24, the Messiah was to bring in an “everlasting righteousness.” Isaiah says, in ch. Isaiah 53:11, “By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities.” And in ch. Isaiah 45:24-25, “Surely shall one say. In the Lord have I righteousness and strength; in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory:” comp. further, ch. Isaiah 45:8; Psalms 85:11. To this righteousness, which indeed belongs to the people of” God, but did not grow up in the soil of their own nature, the Lord’s saying in Matthew 5:6 refers, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled,” which again points us back to Isaiah 4:1.

And as the sins and the righteousness belong to the world, so also does the judgment. It can be no other than the condemnation which falls upon the world, and primarily upon the Jews, when they persist in the sin of unbelief towards Christ, and will not become partakers of the righteousness which springs from faith in Him.

Around these three centres, in fact, revolves all the preaching of the Apostles to the Jews after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For the περὶ? ἁ?μαρτίας we may compare, for example. Acts 2:22-23, as also ch. Acts 3:13-15. For the περὶ? δικαιοσύνης , ch. Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” and ch. Acts 4:12, “Neither is there salvation in any other;” Acts 5:31, Acts 8:37, Acts 10:43, Acts 13:38-39, “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” For περὶ? κρίσεως we must compare ch. Acts 2:19-21; and “fear was upon every soul,” in Acts 2:43, with ch. Acts 3:23.

In all other parts of the New Testament, ἐ?λέγξειν stands for a reproving charge, the conviction which impresses guilt upon the conscience, and is everywhere used only of moral crimination. So ch. John 3:20, John 8:46, Revelation 3:19. In 2 Timothy 4:2, ἔ?λεγξον and ἐ?πιτίμησον go together. In Titus 1:13 we read, ἔ?λεγχε αὐ?τοὺ?ς ἀ?ποτόμως . In James 2:9, ἐ?λεγχόμενοι ὑ?πὸ? τοῦ? νόμου ὡ?ς παραβάται . Hence the ἐ?λέγξειν has always to do with transgressors, and this is its meaning in our present passage. Its reference to righteousness and judgment has also a reproving tone. It is directed, as the preceding “of sin” shows, against those who were involved in unbelief, who through their guilt robbed themselves of righteousness, and, unless they repented, would fall into condemnation. That the ground-tone of apostolical preaching after Pentecost was conviction and reproof, is evident from its result in Acts 2:37, “pricked in their heart,” and the affrighted “What shall we do?” In Bengel’s note, “He who is convicted of sin, afterwards passes over into the righteousness (of Christ), or shares (with Satan) condemnation,” the bracketed words are unwarranted interpolations from ver. 9.

Verses 9-10

Vers. 9, 10. “Of sin, because they believe not on Me: of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more.”

The righteousness forms the antithesis to the sin (δέ ); the judgment, the antithesis to the righteousness (δέ ). The ὅ?τι is—“with reference to the fact that,” John 2:18. In the first clause, it means “consisting in this, that;” in the second it is equivalent to “thereby attained, that;” and in the third, once more “consisting in this, that.” Righteousness consists not in the going of Christ to the Father, and His not being seen by His disciples; but through this the righteousness was obtained for us. The form which the statement assumes is explained by reference to the state of the Apostles’ minds. That which filled them with the deepest grief would bring to them the wholesome fruit of righteousness; and was therefore, rightly viewed, not matter of sorrow, but of joy. It is not “because they see Me no more,” but “because ye see Me no more.” The appearances of the risen Lord are here taken no account of, because they were of a transitory character, and served only as means to an end, viz. the full conviction of the Apostles.

The judgment is, in ver. 8, that which impended over the unbelieving Jews, in case they should continue in their unbelief. And that here also we are to understand, beneath the judgment already accomplished on Satan, a latent reference to the judgment threatening the Jews, is plain from the “convince the world,” which must be the supplement of each clause, and in harmony with which the mention of the judgment upon Satan must have a condemnatory meaning for the world and the Jews. In fact, the already executed judgment upon Satan, the prince of this world, contains in itself a denunciation of judgment upon the κόσμος of his subjects, provided they do not in good time release themselves from their bond of subjection to him, which they can do only through faith in Jesus Christ. Augustin: “Let those who follow him who is judged, take heed lest they be hereafter judged like their prince, and condemned.” Quesnel: “Blind men, who still cling to the world and set your hopes upon it, what will become of you when your prince is already adjudged to eternal punishment?” The judgment upon Satan was accomplished through the death of Christ, comp. on ch. John 12:31; and with Satan the world itself is virtually condemned. In ch. John 12:31, the world, as the object of the judgment, is mentioned before the prince of the world. That world can, however, escape through penitence the execution of the suspended sentence; it may by faith pass over into the domain of another Prince, of Him who hath judged the prince of this world. It is a perilous thing to continue a subject of an already condemned prince, and to refuse submission to Him who hath condemned that prince. If the prince of this world is judged, the cry rings out, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation,” Acts 2:40—a generation which has Satan for its lord, ch. John 8:44.

The judgment upon Satan was not actually consummated but by the atoning death of Christ; but here it is regarded as already accomplished, κέκριται , because it was immediately at hand, and because it would be an actually effected judgment when the Holy Spirit should begin to exercise His reproving function.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”

It is not “I might have,” but “I have;” and it leads to the conclusion that Christ could not now say it to them on account of their weakness, but that He would say it at a later period. The Spirit of truth, who should impart it to them, would give what He received of Christ, John 16:14; and through that Spirit Christ therefore would speak to His disciples. The Revelation of John, which was included under this promise, and itself formed a considerable part of its matter, is in ch. Revelation 1:1 referred back to Christ as its author; and the Spirit in whom John found himself when he received the revelation (ch. Revelation 1:10) was only the medium of the reception of the contents which sprang from Christ, and, finally from God. In ch. Revelation 1:10, Revelation 19:10, Revelation 22:16, the substance of the Apocalypse is directly said to be derived from Christ.

Of what nature were the many things which Christ had yet to say to His Apostles? It appears from a comparison with ch. John 15:15, that in all great essentials the revelation already imparted through Christ had a certain completeness, and that the supplement promised through the Holy Ghost could refer only to specialties. What follows, shows that among the many things the future destinies of the Church occupied the first place. One instance we have in the revelation which St Peter recorded in Acts 10, concerning the reception of the Gentiles into the kingdom of Christ. So also there were to be further revelations concerning the great facts of our Lord’s passion, resurrection, exaltation, which should be based upon these facts, not yet accomplished, themselves.

Those to whom Christ had yet much to say, were manifestly the same to whom He had already spoken many things. And as these were the Apostles, we, have no right to go beyond their circle for the fulfilment of the great promise of future communications; and Beza was quite justified in his zeal against those who “dare to continue into long ages after the Apostles’ death, the revelations which our Lord promised to the Apostles whom He Himself chose.”

Βαστάζειν does not mean “apprehend.” The sense is, that the Apostles must not generally be overweighted. Their weakness required that the truth should be gradually imparted to them, as the Lord, in Luke 12:42, required that the wise householder should divide the food in due season, ἐ?ν καιρῷ? . Much of that which they had already heard was not less beyond their apprehension than what had been hitherto withheld (comp. ver. 25). The victory of Christianity over the power of heathenism was not in itself harder to “be understood than its victory over Judaism. But the Lord contents Himself with depicting the latter point in lively colours; He speaks of the victory over Gentile powers only in hints: the full expansion of the truth He reserves for the Apocalypse, after the catastrophe of Jerusalem had already taken place.

These disclosures, prematurely imparted, would have been to the Apostles only a useless burden; they would have been only distracted, by matters of no immediate practical significance, from the point to which now their attention should be supremely directed. Matthew 23:4 furnishes a comment on the βαστάζειν : Jesus says of the Pharisees, “They bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, δυσβάστακτα , and lay them on men’s shoulders.” Jesus would not lay doctrinal burdens upon the shoulders of the Apostles which they could not yet bear, and in this He gave His Church a pattern: we also, following His example, should avoid overloading. J. Gerhard is wrong in saying, that by naming the Spirit, Christ gives the reason why the Apostles could not bear what He had yet to say,—because they were yet carnal. The Spirit of Christ would tell them what Christ did not, simply because, after the Lord’s departure, He would take His place.

Verse 13

Ver. 13. “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.”

P. Anton: “As He will rebuke the world upon the three points of which we heard in ver. 8, so He will not forget His other office. He will lead you into all truth.” That the “you” must refer only to the Apostles, has been shown in our remarks upon ver. 12. On this point Tholuck says: “The persons addressed are no other than the witnesses to the truth of ch. John 15:17,—those to whom vers. 17, 18 apply,—for whom He primarily prays in ch. John 17:9, the rest being prayed for in ver. 20.” We would add, that what is here meant is not the quickening of truths already present in the minds of the individuals (so that 1 John 2:27 might be brought into comparison); but the first impartation of truths not yet made known. This is evident from the reference to ver. 12, according to which we can only include matters which Christ had not yet spoken of. It is plain also from the words which follow, “He will show you things to come,” where we may, from the species, infer the kind, the revelation of hitherto unknown mysteries. The Apostles laid the most decisive claim to be the organs of such revelation. “Regarding this promise,” says Grotius, “the Apostles say. It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” Acts 10 records an important revelation made to Peter. John, in the Apocalypse, declares himself to be the organ of high revelations. With regard to the revelations and prophetic position of Paul, see 2 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 3:3; Galatians 1:1; Galatians 2:2. It has been shown in my Commentary on the Apocalypse (Clark’s Transl.), ch. John 1:1, John 18:20, that for the reception of new truths there is no other organ than the prophetic; and that this organ, under the New Testament, is intimately connected with the Apostolate, forming a portion of its prerogatives. We find no trace in the New Testament that any disclosures of secret truth, important for the whole Church, were made beyond the circle of the Apostles; or any revelations which affected the doctrine or the future destiny of the whole Church. What we read in the Acts of the manifestations made to other prophets, bears always a very subordinate character; we never read that they were the organs of any great and new revelations.

It has been maintained, entirely without reason, that the truths into which the Spirit of truth should lead them were not to be more closely defined. They were simply all those which first were clearly expressed in the Apostolical Epistles and Apocalypse, and concerning which the discourses of Christ had given in the Gospels no adequate disclosure. That the Apocalypse in particular occupies an important place among them, is plain from the triple ἀ?ναγγελεῖ? , in vers. 13, 14, 15, and from the corresponding high importance which, in the Apocalypse itself, is ascribed to its revelations and teachings. The promise given, as we have seen, to the Apostles alone, would have been wavering and useless, if it had not resulted in documents from which we might gather the nature of the disclosures communicated to them. Only by the presence of such archives could the appeal of enthusiasm and heresy to this promise be foreclosed and cut off. (Augustin: All the most senseless heretics, wishing to bear the name of Christians, have sought to give, by occasion of this passage, an evangelical colouring to lies against which man’s common sense rebels.) The apostolical writings, the monuments of the fulfilment of this promise, form, notwithstanding their apparent independence, an organic whole, in the instruction of which the Spirit of truth has provided for all the needs of all ages of the Church. Stier’s assertion, that this passage is not strictly a proof of the infallibility of the Apostles, inasmuch as the promise essentially belongs to us all ( 1 John 2:27), is based upon an opinion which we have already rejected, viz. that the promise was given to all believers generally, while it was really given to the Apostles alone, who were consecrated as the organs of the establishment of the whole treasury of the truth needed by the Church. On the same false foundation rests the Romish view, which refers the saying to a revelation running through all ages of the Church.

The Spirit would lead into the whole or the full truth, inasmuch as He would supplementally add what Jesus during His life had not communicated; and bring to their remembrance that which He had spoken to them. The difference between the two readings, ἐ?ις πᾶ?σαν τὴ?ν ἀ?λήθειαν (for which Mark 5:33 speaks), and, ἐ?ις τὴ?ν ἀ?λήθειαν πᾶ?σαν , into all truth, and all of it, touches not the sense.

That the Spirit would lead them into all truth, is grounded upon this, that He would not speak of Himself, but speak that which He had heard. The Spirit cannot absolutely speak of Himself, because He exists in the most intimate communion of nature with the Father and the Son; because it belongs to His essence to be the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Augustin: “He will not speak of Himself, because He is not of Himself. But whatsoever things He shall hear. He will speak: whatsoever He shall hear of Him from whom He proceedeth.” That which is self-understood is, however, here emphatically stated, because there is a false “spirit,” which speaks of itself, and on that account can lead not into truth, but only into error. (Luther: “His preaching would not be like a dream of man, like that of those who bring matter of their own,—such things, to wit, as they have neither seen nor known. But He would preach such things as had a foundation under them; that is, what He received of the Father and Me.”) That was the spirit who was active in the false prophets of the Old Testament: comp. Jeremiah 23:16, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts. Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart [Michaelis: ‘Ex corde suo tanquam principio oriundam,’ corresponding to the ἀ?φʼ? ἑ?αυτοῦ? here: in ver. 26 they are called ‘prophets of the deceit of their own heart’], and not out of the mouth of the Lord:” comp. Isaiah 14:14; Isaiah 14:27; Isaiah 9:14. In 1 Kings 22:21 this spirit appears personified, in harmony with the character of the vision, and offers to deceive Ahab, by being a lying spirit in the month of all the prophets of the calves. In Zechariah 13:2, the Lord promises, “And also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.” That this spirit still existed in the times of the New Testament, and that there was needed a rampart against him in the Spirit who should not speak of Himself, and in the trustworthy monuments of His revelation, is plain from Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:24; Revelation 16:13-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:2.

As the “not of Himself,” so also the “what He hath heard,” points back to the Old Testament. “That which was heard” was the term by which the true prophets (see Isaiah 53:1; Obadiah 1:1) designated their announcements, in order to express that they had nothing to communicate which they had not received, and thus to arrogate to themselves absolute authority. In Isaiah 28:9, the prophets take their taunting word out of the mouth of the mockers, who cried, “To whom shall he teach שׂ?מועה ?” the comment on which is ch. John 21:10: “That which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.” Of whom the Spirit heareth, is not here declared, because the main point primarily was to emphasize His hearing. According to John 21:14, He hears primarily from Christ; according to John 21:15, what He hears goes back to the Father. Against those who at once supplement “of the Father,” Kling rightly observes: “If we suppose the Spirit hearing, as it were by the side of the Son, from the Father, the whole relation is disturbed, and the subordinate and false position of the Greek Church theory is assumed.”

“And He will show you things to come.” Τὰ? ἐ?ρχόμενα—here we have the most distinguished species of the class. “Things to come” is an expression which a series of prophetical passages in Isaiah use to designate the events of the future, which form the object of prophecy: ch. Isaiah 41:22-23, Isaiah 44:7, Isaiah 45:11. Τὰ? ἐ?ρχόμενα , so far as they were peculiar to the revelation given to the Apostles, can be only the future destinies of the kingdom of God. We are led to this conclusion by the original in Isaiah, where, on the ground of the revelations made by the prophets concerning the future of the kingdom of God, the false gods are tauntingly challenged: “The things that are coining and shall come, let them show unto them.” Nor is it very difficult to determine what theme those future revelations to the Apostles would mainly dwell upon. Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the Lord had Himself given clear prediction; so clear and perfect, that the boundary line was reached which separates between prophecy and history. Hence we expect disclosures concerning the history of the Church, in its relation to the Gentile secular power. This had been lightly indicated by our Lord as the second hostile agency; even as it is exhibited in the scenes of the crucifixion, which bear upon them a symbolical character. In Matthew 21:21, the Lord sets over against the fig-tree of the Jewish people the symbol of a mountain for the Gentile power, to remove which was the task assigned to the faith of the Church. In Matthew 10:18, “And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles,” the Lord gives an intimation of the persecutions which threatened the Church from the heathen world, and of the judgment upon it which would ensue. In Luke 21:24, He speaks of the times of the Gentiles being accomplished, following upon the judgment upon Jerusalem. In Matthew 18:6, there is a reference to Jeremiah 51:63-64, where Jeremiah gives to Seraiah, going to Babylon, the command to read his prophecy: “And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates: and thou shalt say. Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her; and they shall be weary.” And this shows that, behind the reference to events immediately coming, there lay concealed a reference to the Gentile powers, which would one day in a more serious manner offend the little ones: comp. Revelation 18:21. These hints we expect to see expanded by the Holy Ghost, and with a precision, luminousness, and practical force, somewhat corresponding to the pattern given in our Lord’s description of the catastrophe of Jerusalem. If this be so, Stier’s observation is quite correct: “And now let him who hath ears to hear, hear what the Spirit saith to the churches, through the bosom-disciple in Patmos, who was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” The Church and the Gentile power are the theme of the Apocalypse. I observed in my commentary on that book as follows: “It is remarkable that this promise of our Lord should have been found in the Gospel of John. The intimations of what was to come, given elsewhere than in his writings, are only of an occasional scattered description. They are to be met with chiefly in Paul, who did not belong to the apostolic circle as it then existed. If we were to conceive of the Apocalypse dropping away, we should at once feel that the promise of Christ had found no adequate fulfilment. Even from the analogy of the fulfilment given to the parallel declaration, ‘He will bring to your remembrance whatsoever I have said to you,’ as it is to be found in the Gospels, especially in those of John and Matthew, we are naturally led to expect a book specially devoted to the announcement of what was to come; and this so much the more, as the prophecy of the Old Testament presented the type of something independent and complete. The Gospel itself thus looks beyond itself to another book, that should be peculiarly occupied with the revelation of things to come, as these belonged to the many things of which the Lord had said to His disciples that they could still not bear them.” Our Rationalist criticism cannot confront the Lord’s declaration in this passage; more especially after having, as it has, contended against the genuineness of the Second Epistle of Peter, the only book springing from an original Apostle, which, apart from the Apocalypse, contains a detailed foreannouncement of future things: comp. 2 Peter 2:1 seq., and the allusion to this passage in the Epistle of Jude, vers. 17, 18.

Verse 14

Ver. 14. “He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you.”

The Holy Spirit would glorify Christ, inasmuch as He would impart revelations which could not be explained from natural causes, leading the mind up beyond the human domain into the divine. This importance could not be attached to the doctrines generally, so much as to those special disclosures of the future. That these are more particularly to be considered here, is plain from the repetition, here and ver. 15, of the ἀ?ναγγελεῖ? , the triple recurrence of which serves to demonstrate what deep significance our Lord attached to these revelations of futurity. Grotius’ observation is correct: “By this He will show forth My glory, inasmuch as through Me future things will be fore-announced to My people.” In a long series of passages in the second portion of Isaiah, it is shown to have been the design of the many predictions of the future contained in the book, to demonstrate that Jehovah was God, or to glorify Him: see ch. Isaiah 41:25-26, Isaiah 43:9-11. As those prophecies were to serve for the glorification of Jehovah, so those of which our passage speaks were to serve for the glorification of Christ. They would show that to Him was applicable the word spoken, in Daniel 2:22, concerning Jehovah: “He revealeth the deep and secret things; He knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him.” The world would, in consequence of the confirmation which these prophecies should receive, say, as Nebuchadnezzar said, Daniel 2:47, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.”

All that the Holy Spirit would communicate, should return back to Christ, and serve to His glorification. The Holy Spirit receives His disclosures from Christ (comp. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:16); and that they really belonged to Him, is plain from the fact that an actual knowledge of the future is found only within the domain of the Christian Church. When heathen Rome was still dreaming of immortality, the Christian Church, taught by the Apocalypse, was as surely persuaded of its impending fall, as if it had already sunk before its eyes.

The saying we now consider suggests to us that we should reverently dwell upon the Apocalypse, and, if we find in it obscurities, reflect upon the dimness of our own vision. If we do not take this book into the account, it is hard to indicate how the promise was fulfilled. We cannot then point to any apostolical revelations or disclosures of the future which contributed in any striking manner to the glorification of Christ. The prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem were not such; for the Son of man had already, before the Spirit’s revelations, preoccupied that theme. Nor the predictions of the end of the world; for the glorification ensuing was to be of a practical kind, and to serve to the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom upon earth. Thus, the communication of the Holy Spirit that should glorify Christ must move in the same circle as the predictions of the Apocalypse. In harmony with our passage is the high significance which that book ascribes to its own prophetic revelations (comp. ch. Revelation 19:10, with my commentary): there also the disclosures which the spirit of prophecy makes are referred back to Christ (compare my remarks on the same passage, ch. Revelation 22:16); further, the prophetic testimony of Jesus, according to that book, culminates in the Apostles. With ἐ?ρχόμενα , compare ἃ? μέλλει γενέσθαι μετὰ? ταῦ?τα , Revelation 1:19.

Verse 15

Ver. 15. “All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall show it unto you.”

Jesus now shows how great things the Apostles had to expect in the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the future, by declaring that, in this matter as in all others. His domain was co-extensive with that of the Father; so that nothing Was inaccessible to Him, nothing going beyond His own sphere. The “of Me” needed this explanation all the more, inasmuch as the Old Testament had always most decisively referred the disclosure of the future to God alone, exhibiting it as His supreme and sole prerogative. In harmony with the present passage, the Apocalypse in its very first words refers itself to God as its original: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him:” comp. also ch. Revelation 22:6. The triple ἀ?ναγγελεῖ? ὑ?μῖ?ν , “will show you,” must have had the effect of making the Apostles anticipate with the most anxious expectation the disclosures which were foreannounced with such deep emphasis. When they subsequently recalled this promise, and reflected who among them would be the instruments of these high revelations, the three, Peter, James, and John, would be the most prominent; for these three had been on every occasion distinguished by our Lord, and were among the Apostles “the greater.” Of these three, again, that disciple who leaned on the Lord’s bosom seemed the most adapted to the revelation of these deep mysteries, Amos 3:7. His self-renouncing, contemplative, mystical peculiarity, placed him in the forefront.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. “A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again a little while, and ye shall see Me; because I go to the Father.”

The Lord utters here the proper farewell word. But He veils it in intentional mystery, in order that the difficulty which it presented to the understanding of the disciples might give opportunity for further explanation. The connection with what precedes is made plain by ver. 7. The sending of the Holy Ghost had His going to the Father, His death and His resurrection, for its condition.

The double μικρόν , a little while (comp. Isaiah 10:25, Haggai 2:6), shows that we must interpret it of events which belonged to the immediate future. As the former, the not seeing, manifestly referred to the death of Christ, which was close at hand, so we must understand the second of an event which was the next in order of those then under consideration. For that reason alone we must prefer applying it to the resurrection (Bengel: In universum quatriduum) rather than to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. That the latter event does not satisfy the Lord’s meaning seems plain, further, when we consider that at the Pentecost the disciples did not see the Lord, saving in a figurative and spiritual sense; whereas in the resurrection they saw Him literally, and that literal seeing preceded the other. The reference to the resurrection is, as Stier remarks, “incontrovertibly established by the simple antithesis between ὄ?ψεσθε and οὐ? θεωρεῖ?τε ; if the one takes away the bodily visibility, the other must give it back again.” Moreover, the ὄ?ψομαι ὑ?μᾶ?ς in ver. 22 corresponds to the ὄ?ψεσθέ με in our present passage. If this latter might indeed in itself and in another connection be referred to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, yet the former could not, since we hear nothing of a Christophany at the Pentecost. But it must not be overlooked that these terms, ὄ?ψεσθε and ὄ?ψονται , are used in Matthew 28:7; Matthew 28:10, Mark 16:7, when recording the Apostles’ seeing their risen Lord; comp. the ὤ?φθη in Luke 24:34; Acts 13:31; 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. But the verb ὄ?πτομαι is never once used with reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is, generally, never used elsewhere save to express an actual personal beholding, πρόσωπον πρὸ?ς πρόσωπον , face to face, 1 Corinthians 13:12: comp. Acts 20:25; Revelation 22:4.

The clause “Because I go to the Father,” gives the reason of both assertions, “A little while, and ye shall not see Me,” and “again a little while, and ye shall see Me.” Christ could not go to the Father otherwise than by that bodily death which made Him invisible to the disciples. But since going to the Father was the same thing as entering into His glory, therefore the resurrection was inseparably connected with the death. He who was thus going to the Father could not be holden by the bands of death. But the resurrection necessarily involved His appearance to His disciples; only through it would the death and resurrection produce their fruits.

He went to the Father before the day of the ascension came: concerning the ascension, He says in ch. John 20:17, not ὑ?πάγω , but ἀ?ναβαίνω πρὸ?ς τὸ?ν πατέρα . The resurrection, which was not merely a revivification, but a glorification also, showed that He had already gone to the Father.

The omission of the words ὅ?τι ὑ?πάγω πρὸ?ς τὸ?ν πατέρα , in several important MSS., may be explained partly by the difficulty of the sense, and partly by the fact that Jesus in ver. 19 omits these words. But their genuineness is vouched for by their recurrence in ver. 17. That the Apostles took the clause from ver. 10, and attached it arbitrarily to clauses with which it originally had no connection, and that they thus even wilfully aggravated the difficulty of the passage, is in the highest degree improbable. The words are here absolutely indispensable; for they alone give the Lord’s saying its character of inexplicable mystery: the mere “A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me,” they would have been able to interpret, even as they had not failed to understand, according to ver. 22, the very similar declaration of Christ in ch. John 14:19. It was the ὅ?τι ὑ?πάγω , “because I go to the Father,”—to the present day so full of embarrassment to expositors,—which made the saying hard to be understood by the Apostles. These words of themselves were not difficult. The thought had become familiar to them in the Lord’s discourses: comp. ch. John 7:33, John 13:33, John 16:10. The difficulty arose from its being connected with what went before by ὅ?τι , “because.” The former of the two clauses might be naturally so explained. “I go to the Father, and ye see Me no more,” had been said in ver. 10. But that the going to the Father should at the same time be the reason of their seeing Him again, was what the disciples could not understand; and the obscurity of this point was diffused over the whole. It was all the worse, as the matter concerned the most important catastrophes, which were immediately impending, and as they were robbed of that understanding of these important declarations which they thought they had. But their Master would exorcise their spiritual discernment, and therefore designedly threw this stone of offence in their path. Luther remarks on the double “little while:” “Thus there is here on earth an everlasting change going on among Christians. Now dark and night, presently it will be day.”

Verses 17-18

Vers. 17, 18. “Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again a little while, and ye shall see Me: and. Because I go to the Father? They said therefore. What is this that He saith, A little while? we cannot tell what He saith.”

The proceeding is a natural one. First, they ask one the other what Jesus could mean; for they suppose that the cause of their not understanding might possibly be an individual defect in themselves. As they receive no satisfactory reply, they come to the conclusion, that in these words there was a mystery not to be solved by any of the company of the disciples. They do not venture to carry their difficulty at once to Christ; they are ashamed of their ignorance, and fear to augment their Master’s sorrow, by exposing their slow progress in the school of His instruction.

The “little while” which they single out, and all that was immediately connected with it, was not preeminently the obscure part of His words, but the pre-eminently interesting to their minds. They would fain have an explanation concerning every part of an announcement which placed in the prospect a doubly momentous catastrophe. Their desire was all the more urgent, inasmuch as their half-won understanding had been abruptly taken away from them by the clause which the Lord had added.

How important the μικρόν was, and how it formed the centre of all the disciples’ thoughts, may be gathered from the fact, that in vers. 16-19 it occurs no less than seven times, which was certainly no more accidental than the threefold repetition in vers. 13-15 of ἀ?ναγγελεῖ? .

Verse 19

Ver. 19. “Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again a little while, and ye shall see Me?”

That this knowledge on the part of Christ belonged to Him, as knowing what was in man, ch. John 2:25,—that is, that the Apostles had in no way given outward intimation of their determination to ask Him,—is plain from ver. 30, where the disciples concluded that Jesus knew all things, from the fact that His answer anticipated their question. The Lord designedly omits, in the repetition of His saying, the words, “because I go to the Father,” which involved the greatest difficulty, and a difficulty which could hardly be removed at present; He limits Himself to the elucidation of the two former clauses, to understand which, as the “What is this that He saith?” shows, was the point of most immediate concern to the Apostles.

Verse 20

Ver. 20. “Verily, verily, I say unto you. That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”

The strong affirmation at the beginning was intended, in the first place, to dissipate at once the illusion that events might take another and more favourable turn; but it must be regarded, at the same time, as equally belonging to the latter clause of the verse. Heumann: “Believe Me once more, when I affirm it most solemnly, that your sorrow will be followed by the greatest joy; and when that sadness shall come upon you, fail not to remember, in your distress and anxiety, what! now so solemnly affirm to you.” “A little while, and ye see Me no more,” is thus explained as meaning such a withdrawal as would cause deep sorrow to the disciples. Accordingly, it was plain to them that Jesus was speaking concerning His impending death; and the rather, as θρηεῖ?ν , θρῆ?νος , were used especially of lamentation for beloved persons departed: Mark 2:18; Mark 11:17; Luke 23:27.

The words, ἀ?λλʼ? ἡ? λύπη κ .τ .λ ., echo Psalms 30:12: comp. also Esther 9:22.

Verses 21-22

Vers. 21, 22. “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and our joy no man taketh from you.”

According to the express exposition of our Lord Himself, nothing is to be imported into the figure of the bearing woman beyond the immediate transition, in which the deepest sorrow is followed by the highest joy; and the edifying meaning which the saying has, when thus simply viewed, is rather lessened than augmented by the other deeper significations which are sought in it. In the Old Testament, the image of the bearing woman is everywhere viewed under one aspect, that of sorrow; and the other, that of joy following, is not included: comp. Micah 4:9-10; Isaiah 26:17; Jeremiah 4:31; Hosea 13:13. Thus there is here an extension of the figure which is already familiar in the older Scriptures.—“And your heart shall rejoice” is taken from Isaiah 66:14.

The words, “and your joy no man taketh from you,” point to the fact that their seeing Christ again would be, in contradistinction to or contrast with the transitory sorrow which the not seeing Him would cause, a source of imperishable and everduring joy and rejoicing. That their seeing Him again would be only transitory, the Lord had very explicitly intimated, when He referred the Apostles, in ver. 13, to the Holy Ghost; but this transitory seeing would be sufficient to lay the foundation of an abiding joy. From that time it would be true, “In whom, though ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory,” 1 Peter 1:8. We see in Luke 24:52-53, that the ascension was not an interruption to the joy of the disciples: as surely as their Head was in heaven, so surely would it stand firm that He would be with them unto the end of the world: comp. Acts 1:11; Acts 3:21.

Verse 23

Ver. 23. “And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you.”

Jesus had in the previous words answered the question of the disciples before it had been put. Here He takes into view the condition of the disciples, out of which the necessity for asking had arisen. The day is here the day when Jesus would see His disciples again, and they should see Him; but this day is, in the Old Testament manner, regarded as the beginning term of a new epoch, in which the Apostles should be elevated above the low position which they had hitherto occupied. From the moment of their first seeing Him again, the Apostles were exalted into a new being. This developed itself, however, by degrees. That the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost did not constitute a new beginning, is plain from the fact, that on the evening of His resurrection the Lord said to His disciples, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” ch. John 20:22.—“Ye shall ask Me nothing” stands in obvious connection with the purpose of the disciples, perceived by Jesus, to ask Him in ver. 19: comp. ver. 30. That lower position of spiritual insufficiency and impotence from which their question sprang, would cease from that day: they would no longer need to seek instruction in that external way, wherein it could be only very imperfectly obtained; but approach to God, the source of all true internal perception, would be opened up to them, according to the predictions of the Old Testament, which foreannounced such an unmediated knowledge of religious truth: comp. Isaiah 54:13, “All thy children shall be taught of God;” and Jeremiah 31:34, “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying. Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord.”

“Whatsoever ye shall ask” must be referred, as the “ye shall ask Me nothing” shows, specially to matters of uncertainty in their knowledge (Bengel: “Ye shall not need to ask Me; for ye shall clearly know all things”): comp. James 1:5, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally; and it shall be given him. Yet the promise goes beyond this specific reference: whatever ye may ask in those circumstances in which, during the time of your imperfection, ye were wont to ask Me; and in all other cases: comp. Matthew 21:22.—“In My name:” this intimates that, in order to prayer being answered, the petitioner must have the whole historical personality of Christ before his eyes; that he must go to a God not concealed, but manifested in Christ; that in his prayer he must sink into and be absorbed by what Christ hath done and suffered for us, grounding upon that all his hope of acceptance: comp. on ch. John 14:13-14, John 15:16.

In Matthew 21:22 it is not “in My name,” but “believing.”

Verse 24

Ver. 24. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

The Lord does not here throw any reproach upon His disciples. The reason that they had not hitherto asked anything in His name, was that that name had not yet been perfectly unfolded in all its meaning; that the main elements of its development, the atoning sufferings, the resurrection, and the glorification of Christ, were still in the future. Jesus must first perfectly exhibit Himself as a Saviour, before faith in His name could perfectly exert its power. Here, as frequently elsewhere (comp. for example, ch. John 1:17, John 7:39), the opposition which is in fact only relative is uttered absolutely; to intimate, that in comparison of their future confidence in the name of Jesus, that which they had already exercised was scarcely worthy of regard. From the very beginning of the disciples’ relation to Christ, there had been in their prayers an element of trust in the name of Jesus. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to whom alone the Jews turned—began to recede before the Father of Jesus Christ; and in consequence of that fact, the disciples’ prayers had acquired a new element of inwardness and depth. But in comparison of their future prayer, in the name of Jesus, that was not to be regarded or remembered. The advancement was not merely matter of subjective joyfulness: that was only subordinate. The true root of the higher prayer was the elevation of the objective significance of the name of Jesus; that of itself would result in higher personal joy. From the time that Christ gave His life for His friends, ch. John 15:13, and for their salvation sat down at the right hand of God,—or, to use Luther’s phrase, “atoned for sin, strangled death, ravaged hell, and opened heaven,”

His name would become to them, in quite a new sense, the pledge and guarantee of their prayer being heard. They would then have to do with a propitiated God, at whose hands all their prayers would be sure of immediate acceptance. The Father cannot withstand the name of Christ made perfect (comp. the τετέλεσται , John 19:30), when it is urged before Him. Luther: “When that name is complete, and everywhere preached, there will be new prayer and new worship in all the world; ye will then pray in My name to good purpose, and the virtue of My name will be proved by your prayers being mightily heard and answered.”

Their full joy was to be the antithesis of their former imperfect joy. It would grow out of their prayer being perfectly granted.

Verse 25

Ver. 25. “These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father.”

That which is here spoken must be regarded as parallel with what was, in vers. 23, 24, held out to the expectation of the disciples: for, in vers. 26, 27, the Lord recurs to this latter. There was a strict connection between the disciples having an entirely different access to God generally and specifically in the domain of knowledge, and His words to them becoming clear and transparent: before, those words had been full of obscurities and unsolved mysteries; they had had to say, with Ezekiel’s hearers, “Doth He not speak parables?” and everywhere they had been obliged to put questions, the answers to which were not always satisfactory. But they would be translated into an entirely new life; and both those results would follow from the Lord’s being able to say to them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”—“These things” refer primarily to vers. 19 seq.; but really they refer to the whole course of our Lord’s previous teaching. Everywhere they had encountered manifold obscurities. Not only in the Gospel of John, but often in the other Gospels, we find this illustrated: for example. Matthew 13:36; Matthew 15:15 seq., Matthew 16:5 seq. For παροιμία , corresponding to the Hebrew משל , primarily a figurative saying, then generally any difficult and obscure saying, comp. the remarks on ch. John 10:6. Παῤ?ῥ?ησία is boldness in speaking, then generally any open and unfettered speech: comp. ch. John 11:54, John 18:20. Our Lord’s words in ch. John 11:14 come nearest as illustration: “Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” Before He had said, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” It was not that Jesus would change His speech: the change would pass upon the disciples, who would see clearness where they had formerly seen only obscurity. They were to be raised to a higher position; and to them, therefore, the Teacher would be quite different. The hour of this passage is identical with the day in ver. 23, the time of the resurrection. That was the date of the elevated condition of the disciples. The Lord’s prophetic promise referred especially to the words which He would speak as the risen Redeemer: comp. Luke 24:44; Acts 1:3. But it includes also all the earlier words. These recurred after the resurrection anew to their minds: comp. ch. John 14:26, according to which the Holy Ghost would bring to remembrance all that the Lord had told them. Then it seemed as if Jesus was saying all anew; everything obtained a new meaning and force for them. We may add, that Jesus also spoke to them through the Holy Ghost: comp. vers. 12-14.

Jesus names the Father as the matter of the communication He would make. Everything in religion goes back to Him. His domain embraces at the same time that of the Son and the Holy Ghost: “Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things,” Romans 11:36.

Verses 26-27

Vers. 26, 27. “At that day ye shall ask in My name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God.”

The words are not, “I will not pray the Father for you,” but, “I say not that I will pray the Father for you.” This only means that the emphasis does not fall absolutely upon His intercession; that it was not needful that He should first render gentle the Father’s countenance; that they would have not only the Son, but the Father also, unconditionally on their side. Grotius: Praetereo hoc quasi minus eo, quod jam inferam. They were to pray in the name of Christ, involved in Him, and wrapped up in His atonement: therefore they would have not merely a merciful Saviour, but a merciful Father also. It is perfectly clear that the Lord does not here deny, or exhibit as needless, that intercession for His own which is elsewhere so expressly insisted on: comp. ch. John 17:9; 1 John 2:1; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25. That rather is indirectly confirmed by the “in My name.” How could the Redeemer assume an attitude of indifference towards the details of the life and needs of those who, trusting to His accomplished work, come as suppliants before God? He does not take away from the disciples the prospect of His intercession, which was so consolatory to their minds; but it was His purpose to open, in connection with that, another and a second source of consolation and joy. Anton excellently remarks: “He would remove everything out of the way. For man is so constituted as willingly to turn everything into gall and bitterness; and this is true even of the intercession of Christ. That intercession is an excellent consolation! But then man comes to think that the good God must have a hard heart if He must needs be urged and impelled by an intercessor; and thus the coarsest idea of intercession is interwoven into the material of Christ’s intercession. That was one main reason of the subsequent multiplication of many intercessors besides Christ. For they said we must have as many intercessors as we can. One land has this, another that; one town this, another that: thus the blessed Lord is dealt with as if He were a Saturn. No, the fault was not with God, that ye so dealt with the matter. I tell you ye must not so think of My intercession as if the Father were not Himself well disposed, but must first be coerced into kindness. No, He Himself loveth you, and Himself ordained My intercession. He appointed the way of acceptable prayer, that ye might know whence to draw your confidence. But ye must not take away the blessedness of it again.”

The love of the Father is here grounded upon the disciples’ love to Jesus, and their faith in Him. But this love which has their faith for its condition, was preceded by another love which appointed the atonement, and opened up the way to faith: comp. ch. John 3:16; 1 John 4:19. To those who stood only under the government of this love, our Lord would never have said, “I say not that I will pray the Father for you.” In that case, the intercession of Christ occupies the foreground: that intercession, of which we read in Isaiah, “He will make intercession for the transgressors,” Isaiah 53:12. Then the propitiation of the wrath of the Father, coexisting with His love, was necessary.

Verse 28

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

As in ver. 16, so here again at the end of this part of the discourse, our Lord speaks words which prepare the way for His farewell. The point of connection is provided by the last words of the preceding verse. Luther: “That He might show what that going to the Father meant. He says, ‘ I leave the world,’ that thus the disciples might mark that He now spoke somewhat more clearly than before.

In the same way also, after the resurrection, He spoke of it ( Luke 24:44), and said, These are the things which I spoke unto you while I was yet with you.’“ Jesus left the world at the moment of His death, and did not return to it in His resurrection. The existence of the risen Lord belonged to another world, and His appearances transitorily broke through the limits which generally distinguish the two spheres of existence.

Verses 29-30

Vers. 29, 30. “His disciples said unto Him, Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee: by this we believe that Thou earnest forth from God.”

The words of the Apostles in ver. 29 have special reference to the more than ordinarily clear and simple saying of Jesus in ver. 28. They are heartily rejoiced at their own understanding; they congratulate themselves that they can gladden their Master by the declaration that they understand Him. They recognise, in their thus understanding, a foretaste of the fulfilment of the promise given them in ver. 25, to which they verbally refer. Anton: “Now they breathe freely, and inhale the fresh air. The disciples did well in that they did not complain alone, but told freely out their lightened feelings. To be always complaining is no virtue. And as they had affected their Master with their sorrow, so they would now rejoice Him with their little glimmer of joy in faith.

And not with one little word alone do they attest their recovery; they three times as it were lift up their voices. And this is appropriate to thankfulness. These are the offerings of the lips that praise Thy name, O God.”

In ver. 29 the Apostles had referred to the conclusion of Christ’s words; in ver. 30 they go back to its beginning again, which was to them not less consolatory than the end. By anticipating their question by His instruction, ver. 19, Christ had manifested Himself the possessor of omniscience, the καρδιογνώστης , Acts 1:24; Acts 15:8, Jeremiah 11:20. In this they behold, recurring to the close of the Lord’s discourse, a great assistance to their faith in His saying that He came forth from God. These words of the disciples stand in no connection with ver. 23. There it was promised that they should not find it necessary to ask Christ; here the matter is, that Jesus did not need to be asked by the disciples. Ἐ?ν τούτῳ? , properly “in this, by this.” The effect upon their minds is thus traced to its cause.

Verses 31-32

Vers. 31, 32. “Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.”

It makes no essential difference whether we take ἄ?ρτι πιστεύετε as a question or as a declaration. For, even in the former case, Jesus concedes to His Apostles that they do now believe, and only warns them not to lay too much stress upon that uncontestable fact (comp. ver. 27, ch. John 17:8). The question simply intimates that all was not yet quite right with their faith, that there was some reason why they should not so very confidently build upon it: Are ye so absolutely assured that ye now believe? The interrogatory construction is favoured by a comparison with ch. John 6:70, John 13:38, where our Lord tests the confident faith of Peter by a similar question. If we drop the interrogation, and make it a simple affirmative, the antithesis seems too violent, Jesus could hardly declare the Apostles absolutely to have faith, and then forthwith, without anything intervening, attach to it a prediction of their utter weakness.

‘The announcement of their coming infirmity was not designed solely as a reproach. According to ch. John 18:8, our Lord Himself paved the way for the flight of His disciples. It was, as it were, in the order of things that their company was scattered. Christ must die for them and rise again before they were to be equipped with invincible assurance and boldness. Cowardice in the cause of Christ could be objected to only after His death and resurrection. To require that the Apostles should have sacrificed themselves for Christ before He had sacrificed Himself for them, would be to demand from a child the work of a man. The word σκορπισθῆ?τε points back to Zechariah 13:7, and suggests the Lord’s recent quotation of that passage and application of it to the Apostles, Matthew 26:31-32. The passage contained in it an element of consolation, since there was connected with their dispersion, both in the original passage and the quotation, the renewal of the bond between the Shepherd and His scattered flock. Τὰ? ἴ?δια , the individual refuges of the disciples, in contradistinction to the one rallying-point, Christ. For “leave Me alone,” comp. Matthew 26:56. Μόνος points to Psalms 22:21, where the Righteous One cries, “Deliver My soul from the sword, My darling (My only one) from the power of the dog.”

Verse 33

Ver. 33. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

We have here the close of the whole discourse continued in ch. 15, 16. That discourse had for its end, after the hortatory portion, to lead the disciples to perfect peace in Christ. Abiding in Christ, brotherly love, stedfast fortitude amidst persecutions of the world, were all conditions on which was suspended the enjoyment of peace in Christ. This peace includes assurance against all hostile powers: comp. on ch. John 14:27. The having is not to be referred so much to the state as to the consciousness of it. To the having peace corresponds the θαρσεῖ?ν , he of good cheer. The words of Christ should lead them to the confidence that all the hosts of their enemies could not touch them. But the subjective consciousness of peace must rest upon the objective possession of that peace which Christ hath obtained. Nενίκηκα is anticipatory: the great work of redemption, now to be accomplished, and by which the victory was to be achieved, is regarded as done (comp. on ch. John 12:31-32). By similar anticipation, we have ἐ?νίκησαν in Revelation 12:11, and νενικήκατε in 1 John 4:4.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 16". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/john-16.html.
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