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Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
John 16

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

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Verses 1-4

Comfort against the World's Hatred.

The intensity of the world's hatred:

v. 1. These things have I spoken unto you that ye should not be offended.

v. 2. They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

v. 3. And these things will they do unto you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

v. 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.

Jesus had both warned His disciples of persecution and hatred, and had given them encouragement to meet all such demonstrations. And all these statements were made with the view of saving the disciples against being offended, that the coming of the predicted tribulations should not scandalize them. They now know that all these things happen in accordance with God's counsel and will or by His permission. The hatred of the world, of the children of unbelief, may have various forms or degrees. For one thing, they will excommunicate the believers in Christ, they will exclude them from all external communion. The ostracism of the true disciples of Christ, in both church and society, is a favorite method of manifesting enmity toward Christ to this very day. And the time will come, Jesus says, when bigotry and hatred against Christ and His followers will not be satisfied with such measures, but will not even shrink back from murder itself. Every one of them, as a fitting representative of the whole class, will have the idea that he is thereby doing an act of special worship toward God. Everyone will believe that his murderous intent and execution is a work of great merit and well pleasing to God. These words have been and are being fulfilled continually. The believers have ever been accounted a mad and malicious company. But the reason for this hatred, its intensity and its expression, is found, as Jesus has remarked before in the fact that the unbelievers know neither the Father nor the Son. From the beginning Jesus had attempted to bring out the relation between Himself. and His Father very strongly; both His words and His works proclaimed the union between them, and yet the deliberate blindness of the unbelieving Jews continued. "But this is said for our comfort and strength against such excommunicating and murdering, that we pay no attention to it nor be offended. For here we have the testimony and the glory, which they themselves must give us by their own confession, that they do not persecute us on account of such matters in which they could adduce a public proof as doing well and right, as in the things in which the world has a right to condemn and to punish, so far as notorious scoundrels, thieves, murderers, and rebels are concerned, but they persecute us in those matters of which they neither know nor understand anything, namely, that we preach of Christ and the Father, whom they know not, and yet, in their blindness, they oppose such preaching and rage against it. " What Jesus therefore has told His disciples will serve both as a warning and as a consolation, lest the coming of the trials and persecutions occasion surprise and offense. It had not been necessary for Jesus to give them such a full account at the beginning of His ministry for in those days, and since, He had been with them as their Friend and Protector, guarding them against both weakness and persecution.

Verses 5-7

The comfort of Christ's going away:

v. 5. But now I go My way to Him that sent Me; and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou?

v. 6. But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.

v. 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.

So long has Jesus been with them as Guide and Protector; but now the time for departure has come. But instead of provoking all manner of inquiries on their part, the announcement has stunned them with sorrow. The Lord has discharged the mission for which He was sent, and, in a manner of speaking, goes to report on a duty properly performed. But His words concerning His leaving find no interest on the part of the disciples as to His future welfare. Their attitude savors strongly of selfishness at the loss of the Master and grief at His departure. They are insensible to the real issue involved. And therefore He gives them the comforting, cheering assurance that His going away is expedient for them, that it will accrue to their advantage, that they will reap only benefit from it. If He should stay in their midst with His bodily presence, then the other, greater event would be rendered impossible: the Comforter would not come. The sending of the Spirit depended upon the fact that Christ should enter into the glory of His Father according to His human nature. As the exalted Son of Man He would have and make use of the power to send them the Comforter. "This is the meaning of these words: If I go not away, that is, if I do not die and be removed from this corporeal essence and life, nothing is gained, but you remain where you are now, and everything will remain in the old way as it was formerly and still is: the Jews under the Law of Moses, the heathen in their blindness; all under sin and death, and no one can be delivered there from nor be saved. Thus no scripture would be fulfilled and I should have come in vain, and all would be useless, both what the holy fathers before you and you yourselves believed and hoped. But if I depart and die and carry out what God has decided in His counsel to perform through Me, then the Holy Ghost will come to you, and work in you, and give you such courage that you will become My officers and coregents, change the whole world, abrogate the Law, or Jewry, destroy the heathen idolatry, and rebuke and change the whole world, so that your doctrine will remain and penetrate everlastingly, though it will displease the devil and the whole world. That is the gift and the glory which My going away brings to you. " Note: It appears from these words of Christ that we Christians of the present time have more benefit from the work of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, than the disciples had of the personal, visible presence of the Lord when He dwelt among them in the form of a servant.

Verses 8-11

The reproof of the world:

v. 8. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment:

v. 9. of sin, because they believe not on Me;

v. 10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more;

v. 11. of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

And that Person, the Holy Spirit, coming into the world, will convict the world. That is one special function and activity of the Spirit, to convict the unbelieving world on three counts, with regard to sin, justice, and judgment. This the Lord explains. Of sin the world stands accused and unable to deny the charge that they do not believe on Christ, because they willfully choose unbelief. That is the chief sin of the world, of the unbelievers, that they reject Christ and His Gospel. All other sins do not come into consideration if a person but believes in the forgiveness of sins. And therefore unbelief, which refuses to accept the forgiveness of sins, deliberately cuts itself off from salvation. This fact the Spirit impresses upon the minds and hearts of the unbelievers. "The world will not hear such preaching that they should all be sinners before God, and that their pious works have no value before Him, but that they rather through this crucified Christ must obtain mercy and salvation. Such unbelief against Christ becomes the sum and substance of all sins that lead a person into damnation, so that there is no help for him. " In close connection with this fact is the further truth that the Spirit convicts the unbelieving world of righteousness, since Jesus was going to the Father and would no longer be with them according to His visible presence. The true righteousness consists in this, that Christ, by His going to the Father, by His suffering, death, and resurrection, earned and prepared the righteousness which is acceptable with God. But the world wants nothing of Christ's blood and righteousness, preferring its own self-righteousness. And so both righteousness and salvation are lost to them by unbelief, as the Spirit will impress upon them. And He will finally convict them of the judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged and condemned. The redemption of Christ sealed the devil's doom; he has lost might and right with regard to mankind since sin was conquered by Jesus. This the Holy Ghost testifies to the hearts of the unbelievers, showing them that because of their unbelief they will have to share the doom of the devil, that they are condemned for rejecting the Conqueror of Satan. This also serves for the comfort of the believers, since they know that the world is even now convicted.

Verses 12-15

The Spirit's work for the believers:

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

v. 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.

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

v. 15. All things that the Father hath are Mine; therefore said I that He shall take of Mine, and shall show It unto you.

Much more remains to be said, much more Christ would like to tell His disciples, but in their present state of little faith, of immature spirituality, mixed with sorrow and grief over His leaving, they would not be able to grasp, to understand it. Jesus had indeed told His disciples all that they needed for their salvation, and there was and is no need for further arbitrary revelations, no matter from what sources these claim to come. But the disciples needed further instruction in order to understand the instruction which they had already received from the Master. And this would be provided for by the Spirit of Truth, by the Spirit whose essential function would be the teaching of the truth, the Word of God. He will teach them, serve as their Guide in leading them into the whole truth. He will bring their hearts and minds into the truth, make them familiar with it, let them understand and grasp the truth, have them realize the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And in doing this, the Spirit will not display an arbitrary, independent activity. The relation between the persons of the Godhead is the intimacy of unity and precludes any such possibility. The Spirit can and will lead the believers into all truth, because He will not bring a separate, independent revelation and Gospel, but will speak what He has heard in the council of the Godhead. The guarantee of the Spirit's teaching is that He will utter the words of the Triune God as such. "Here He makes the Holy Ghost a preacher, in order that no one shall stand gaping up into heaven (as the flighty spirits and enthusiasts do) and separate Him from the oral Word or ministry of preaching, but know and learn that He wants to be with and in the Word, and through it lead us into all. truth, that we have faith in it, and fight therewith, and be kept against all lies and deceit of. the devil, and conquer in all tribulations. " Thus the Spirit, in the Word, revivals and makes plain the mysteries of God and heaven. And since He is a Spirit of prophecy, He will tell also of things that are to come, that are now coming. The future salvation also belongs to the counsel of God the coming of Christ to judgment, the consummation of the redemption in the Kingdom of Glory. And in regard to all these facts the Spirit will give the proper information. Moreover, in doing so, His work will redound to the glory of the Savior, since the truth which He will reveal He will receive from Christ for the purpose of preaching. By picturing Christ before the eyes and hearts of the believers, the Holy Spirit provides and gives to Christ the glory which is due Him in His capacity as Savior. And in taking His doctrine from the Son, the Spirit incidentally receives His doctrine from the Father, for since they have the Godhead in common, they have also the divine knowledge in common. Jesus here makes a very bold statement, as Luther says, and one that could not be made by any mere man. All that the Father has, He says, is Mine. He not only has charge of it; it is not only in His possession for a short time, but He has absolute power over its disposition, for He and the Father have everything in common. The Spirit has the unlimited fullness of the Godhead to draw from, all in the interest of the believers. That is the work of the Spirit for and in the believers, that He teaches them to know Jesus Christ, the Savior, aright and with ever-increasing clearness.

Verses 16-18

The Comfort of Christ's Second Advent.

The comfort of the short separation:

v. 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.

v. 17. 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?

v. 18. They said therefore, What is this that He saith, A little while? We cannot tell what He saith.

Only a little while it was, only a few short hours, and the Savior would be hidden from the eyes of His disciples in the darkness of the tomb, and they would not be able to behold Him. But then it would again be only a short while, a matter of a few days, when their eyes would be gladdened by His reappearance as their living Savior. But the intention of the Lord seems to be to convey also another great truth to their hearts, since He says that He is going to the Father, making this statement the basis for the others. His ascension was but a few days away, after which they would no longer enjoy the comfort of His personal, physical presence; but His return to glory would follow very shortly after that. In either case, and with either intended meaning, the words were full of comfort and cheer for the disciples. But the latter understood nothing of the joyful message. They were aroused from their apathetic dullness only to the extent that they discussed the probable meaning of Christ among themselves. The result of their discussion was that they frankly stated their inability to understand, to know the meaning of, the Master. They were utterly bewildered and alarmed; a dread sense of impending disaster took hold of their hearts.

Verses 19-22

The consoling assurance of Jesus:

v. 19. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire 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?

v. 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.

v. 21. 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.

v. 22. And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

Jesus was fully aware of the anxious bewilderment and embarrassment of the disciples, and that they were ashamed to ask for an explanation. In His usual kind manner, therefore, He comes to their assistance by stating the difficulty which was agitating their minds. They could not quite become reconciled to the idea of His leaving them and going to the Father, nor did they fully comprehend what was included in these statements, as well as in the others that He should be removed from their sight for a little while and in just as short a space of time be seen of them once more. "We have now often heard what it means 'to go to the Father'; which indeed is not a common expression, such as men usually employ and as they generally understand it, but is the language of the Lord Christ and His Christians. That Christ went forth from, or was sent by, the Father means nothing else than that He, the true Son of God from eternity, became a true man, and revealed Himself on earth in human nature, essence, and form, permitted Himself to be seen, heard, and felt, ate, drank, slept, worked, suffered, and died, like any other person. Again, that He goes to the Father, that means that He will be glorified by His resurrection from the dead, that He sits at the right hand of God and reigns with Him in eternity, as eternal, almighty God. For by His coming down or going from the Father He revealed and proved Himself a true, natural man; but by His return to the Father He declares Himself to be true, eternal God, out of God the Father, and thus remains in one person both God and man, and should be thus known and believed. " Very impressively Jesus tells the disciples the natural result of His removal from them, especially under such conditions as would soon be evident. They would weep and lament at the bitterness of His Passion, His crucifixion, and His death, while the world, represented by the unbelieving Jews, especially the leaders of the Church, would be filled with joy. But their sorrow-stricken souls would very quickly find wonderful consolation, which would turn their grief into rejoicing. The Lord adds an illustration to show in what way the acuteness and intensity of an overwhelming sorrow will be converted into joyful delight. At the time when the sorrow and pains of the mother are greatest and death itself seems imminent, the crisis is practically past; and with the birth of the child there comes the joy over the safe delivery and over the babe itself, causing the remembrance of the great sorrow to vanish. So the sorrow and pain of the disciples would be very acute and harsh, but with the return of their Master their joy would be all the greater; it would be such a joy as would surpass all human happiness, such a joy as could never be taken from them. Since the time of Pentecost with its wonderful revelation all believers may become partakers of this joy. Sorrow over the death of Christ can no longer affect us; Jesus now comes to us in a spiritual manner, with His Holy Spirit; He revivals all the glories of His salvation to our hearts. The Christians see and know Jesus by faith as the Son of God and their Savior, and are filled with a joy which will continue as long as His presence continues, to the end of time.

Verses 23-28

The prayer that never fails:

v. 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.

v. 24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name. Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

v. 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.

v. 26. At that day ye shall ask in My name; and I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you;

v. 27. for the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God.

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

In that day, with the coming of the revelation through the Spirit, there will no longer be need to ask the Lord any questions. Though the personal intercourse between them and their Master had terminated, they would have the benefit and the certainty of a direct communion through the work of the Spirit. And solemnly Jesus assures them that their relation to the Father will be of a nature permitting them to go directly to Him with all their desires and needs, for their prayers will all be made in the name of Jesus. Because the atonement of Jesus has effected peace with the Father, has restored the believers to their position as children of God, they have but to refer to Jesus and His work, to appeal to His redemption, to be assured of the hearing of their prayers. The work of the Mediator and Savior had not been completed, and therefore the disciples had not prayed in His name. But now the road to the Father's heart has been opened, and they shall entreat, they shall ask, knowing that they will receive, and thus have also the fulfillment of their joy. The efficacy of prayer depends upon faith in the Savior as the Substitute of mankind, by whom we have free access to the Father. In order to bring this truth home to the disciples still more strongly, the Lord frankly tells them that His teaching has been, to a large extent, in proverbial, parabolic sayings. But the hour is coming, after He will have entered into His glory, when He will speak to them without pictures or difficult figures, through the work of the Spirit. Then He will also teach them, announce to them plainly, what is meant by knowing the Father, by having the right understanding of His love and mercy. At that time prayer in the name of Jesus will be so strong, so efficacious, that there will not even be need of His special intercession for them. This is necessary, as a matter of course, to establish the right relation between God and the believers. See Romans 8:34. But so great is the Father's love which has been evoked by the love of the believers in Christ and by their firm belief that He came into the world to reveal the Father, to be His Ambassador, that the Father will deal directly with His children and will grant their prayers. And this the disciples should once more be assured of: Jesus went forth from the Father and came into the world to carry into effect the plan of salvation for all mankind. And now He leaves the world and goes to the Father, thus signifying that the work which He intended to perform has been done. That fact establishes the relation between God and the believers, and renders all their prayers in the name of Jesus acceptable to Him. Note: Everything that the believers ask of God in the name of Jesus, by faith in His merit, He will give to them. For they pray as the children of God, that have the nature and manner of their Father. It is self-evident, therefore, that they pray only for such things as please the Father, 1 John 5:14. That includes, above all, that they leave both the time and the manner of the hearing to His fatherly wisdom.

Verses 29-33

The close of the discourse:

v. 29. His disciples said unto Him, Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.

v. 30. Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee; by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God.

v. 31. Jesus answered them: Do ye now believe?

v. 32. 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.

v. 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.

The last statements of Jesus had been so clear and unmistakable, of the love of the Father, of Christ's coming from, and going to, the Father, that the disciples thought they understood Him perfectly. There was neither parable nor proverb in these sayings, and they had the conviction, which they also freely expressed, that He had a full knowledge of all things, and that His teaching was free from all obscurity. The implication of the disciples is that they need not wait for some future manifestation and revelation, when everything would be clear to their minds. They were persuaded now of His divine Sonship. But the enthusiasm of the disciples was premature; the time of Pentecost had not yet come; they must first experience sorrow and suffering. Jesus tells them that the test of their faith, of which they now seemed so sure, would come very soon. And the result would be most disappointing. They would be scattered, they would flee from His side, leaving Him all alone in His great Passion. Their own interests, their life and safety, would claim their first consideration. So would they fail Him in the critical hour. But as for Him; the prospect did not fill Him with terror; He would not be alone, since His Father would be with Him. His presence would at all times be sufficient for all needs. And now the Lord once more summarizes His loving sayings of the evening in one short sentence. He has spoken to them, He has given the all the necessary assurances, in order that in Him they might have peace. He places Himself and His sphere of activity in contrast to the world and her sphere of influence and activity. In the world, in the midst of the unbelievers, the disciples of all times have tribulation; from them they may expect only persecution and torment. That is the inevitable lot of the confessors of Christ. And yet they should feel happy and be of good cheer. For in Jesus they have peace. Amidst all the turmoil and hatred and persecution of these latter days the Christians have peace with God, peace in Christ the Savior. For He, Jesus, our Champion, has overcome the world. Though His Passion proper had not yet begun, the Lord knows that He will be Conqueror in the battle with sin, death, and hell, that all His enemies will be made His footstool. And therefore He will make the necessary provisions that His disciples will not be overcome by enmity and persecution. "Behold, that is the kind farewell and comforting last word which Christ leaves to His disciples; He would fain talk into their hearts. Although the apostles at that time did not understand it and even we do not yet understand it,... yet we have seen, by the grace of God, that the Holy Ghost reminded many hearts of these words when it came to the battle, and strengthened them that in the memory of that victory they endured everything, and died a peaceful death. May God help also us and give us that mind that we also cling to this fact in misfortune and death!"

Summary. Jesus teaches concerning the office of the Holy Spirit, both in rebuking and in comforting, and of His own going to the Father, and the blessed results which would thereby come to the believers.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 16". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/john-16.html. 1921-23.
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