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(c) The bitter issues of the hostility of the world.
These things. What things? Primarily the explanation he had given of the opposition and hatred of the world, and the vast consolation which he had promised in the identification of the disciples with himself, and the witness which would be borne by the Paraclete; but not exclusively, for they include all the preparatory instructions based on his own Person, his going to the Father, his return in the power of the Spirit. Have I spoken to you, that ye should not be offended; that you should not be made to fall over the stumbling block of persecution, and the refusal of the people to hear your message concerning me. For the moment he passes over the terrible stumbling and falling of that very night, whose shadows were deepening as the hours moved on, and he anticipated their future temptations and the source of their ultimate heroism.
John 16:2, John 16:3
They (used impersonally, as the German man, or the French ou) shall make you excommunicate—ἀποσυναγώγους "put you out of the synagogue," expel you from the fellowship of your country's worship (cf. John 9:22 and John 12:42)—nay, further (the ἀλλὰ abruptly introduces a very much stronger assertion) an hour cometh, that—ἵνα is here, by Meyer and many others, said to involve a Divine order, purpose, or destiny, intended by the drawing on of the foreordained crisis; but it seems enough to convey by it the contemplated result—whosoever killeth you will deem that he is offering service—sacrificial homage—to God (προσφέρειν; both these words are persistently used with this meaning. See, for προσφέρειν, Matthew 5:23; Matthew 8:4; Acts 7:42; Hebrews 5:1). The well-known quotation from 'Bammidbar Rabba,' fol. 329. 1, "Every one shedding the blood of the wicked is equal to him who offers sacrifice," may throw light on the expression. The intensity of the fanaticism was well exhibited in the persecution in which Stephen fell, and which St. Paul deemed worthy service, and one which he ought to have rendered (Acts 26:9; Galatians 1:13, Galatians 1:14). The curse was long and deep and tragic, and Christ explains it by the awful reiteration, These things will they do £ because they have not known the Father, nor me (see John 15:22, etc.). He reiterates the explanation already given of the manner and form as well as the fact of the world's hatred.
But—the ἀλλὰ suggests a kind of pause, as if he had said, "I will go into no further details" (Meyer)—these things—these prophecies of approaching persecution—I have spoken to you, that (here ἵνα has its proper relic force) when [their] hour is come, ye may remember [them] how that I told you. £ This awkward form is that due to the perplexities of the position of αὐτῶν in the text. Frequently our Lord thus prepared his disciples for the future, called upon them to remember his predictions as pledges of his Divine mission, but still more as consolations and supply of strength when they would most of all need it. These things I told you not from the beginning; not "at the beginning," ἐν ἀρχῆ, nor ἀπ ἀρχῆς, but ἐξ ἀρχῆς (cf. Isaiah 40:21; Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 43:9), from the beginning of my ministry, and continuously throughout it. If "these things" are restricted to the prediction of cruel persecution, they are certainly contradicted by the language of Matthew 10:17, Matthew 10:21, Matthew 10:28; Luke 6:22; Matthew 5:10, etc.; Matthew 21:36; Matthew 24:9; Luke 12:4, etc. The numerous explanations of the commentators, that Christ had now given a more detailed, particular, and tragic outlook, cannot be sustained. Nor does the supposition that John is here the corrector of the synoptic narrative satisfy (Meyer); nor that of Godet, that Matthew, in his tenth chapter, was gathering together all that Christ had said of this nature, antedating instructions that the Lord had given, at all explain the corresponding passages in Luke's Gospel. The language of the last clause, because I was with you, throws more light upon it. This does not surely mean "because I was bearing for you the brunt of the opposition,"—it would be unnecessary altogether to say that. All along they must have bitterly felt the antagonism which their Lord encountered. The difficulty is removed by including in the ταῦτα of verse 4 what certainly is involved in the ταῦτα of verse 1; and the reference is to the whole of his instructions touching his departure and the coming of the other Paraclete, and the principle from which the hatred of the world would spring; the explanation of the anticipated hostility which he had now offered, and the way in which they might overcome it. So long as he was with them they could not be made to understand the Divine riches of the consolation which was now so near. From the beginning he had not given all this class of instruction, because he was with them. While at their side, it was premature to speak of the special help they would require in their bereaved condition.
John 16:5, John 16:6
Now—at this very moment—I go away to him that sent me. I have completed his work, and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? This seems at variance with Peter's inquiry, "Whither goest thou?" (John 13:36), and with Thomas's question (John 14:5), "We know not whither thou goest," etc.? yet they are only opposed in appearance. Peter's question had obviously turned the whole matter back upon himself, and the way in which the Lord's departure affected his own duties and position; and the same may be said of Thomas. They had both lost sight of the "whither" in the pain and anguish of the departure. Our Lord had great difficulty in inducing them to realize the blessedness that would befall themselves from his own exaltation, and even now, after all that he had said about this great power and glory which awaited him, he added, Because I have spoken these things to you—since all along you are taking the dark side, and looking on the anguish of my departure and desolateness of your own condition, instead of the grandeur of the new kingdom and dispensation of which you will be witnesses and organs—sorrow hath filled your heart; the one heart which I throughout have been seeking to comfort. You are not looking on the end of my departure, or on the fullness of my glory, or on the addition to your own blessedness, but on your own loss, disappointment, and chagrin.
(9) The promise of the Paraclete.
(a) The threefold conviction of the world. The extraordinary fullness of suggestion in the following words, and the strong opinions entertained by different theological schools, render interpretation a difficult task.
Though you are crushed with a sense of your approaching bereavement, and so imperfectly apprehend the conditions of your future power and the method which it is incumbent upon me to adopt for your consolation and the completion of my earthly work, nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is wonderful that he who is the Truth itself should have needed, in such various forms, to have reiterated and affirmed the supreme right he possessed to claim their acceptance of his veracity. The truth, then, thus solemnly asserted, because in their then frame of mind it was so utterly unpalatable and incredible notwithstanding all that he had said—the truth is, It is expedient for you that I go away. The ἵνα ἀπέλθω clause simply defines that which is expedient, profitable to the disciples. Many commentators, holding everywhere the relic force of ἵνα, say, with Meyer and Lange, that "ἵνα marks fact considered with regard to the purposes destined to be accomplished by it." Here, however, the profitableness to the disciples is the chief and solitary thought. "For you:" here lies the gist of the mystery. They might have accepted his own assurance that, bitter as the mode of his departure must be, yet they ought, to and would rejoice because he was going to the Father. How was it possible for them to rejoice so far as they were personally concerned? He answers the question, For if I go not away—and surely this solemn departure meant, as he had recently told them, by the way of death and glorification—the Paraclete, of whom I have spoken, the Spirit of truth (see John 15:26, John 15:27), will not come to you; but if I go (πορευθῶ, to my Father; observe the form of the two conditional sentences, the degree of uncertainty as to the issue, to be determined by the result), I will send him to you (see notes on John 7:39. "The Holy Spirit," as the Divine dispensation of grace to men bringing a renewed humanity into living incorporation with its great Head, was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified). Jesus could not become the Divine Life-center of the human family, radiating from himself the full glory of a universal harmony, until he had been taken up, until he had been glorified in God. Unspeakably precious as many of our earthly gifts and friendships are, we do not apprehend them, nor profit by them to the full, until they are taken from us. The youth, submitted to the condition of perfect dependence on a parent's care and guidance, can scarcely ever reach the fullness of his manhood until he is thrown back upon the spirit of his father's counsel, apart from that father's presence, and brings into daily practice from a new standpoint the principles he has learned. So, without any hyperbole, nothing had ever been so wonderful and blessed to the human spirit as the fellowship which had prevailed between the Son of man and his disciples. They were with him, they sat at his feet, they watched his countenance, they experienced a continuous series of Divine surprises at his judgments and his mercies. They were walking by sight, as the children of Israel did, following the pillar of fire and cloud, and drinking of the living water; but they were nevertheless living by sight. Nevertheless, there was something more wonderful and gracious still, when, in his physical absence, they would have the sense of his spiritual presence. They would lose him as an earthly Friend, but they would regain him as a Divine Reality; they would discover more than his humanity in his God-Manhood. They would wield his Divine Word as their weapon, and would become the channels of his healing and convincing and judging powers. The promise, "I will send him," is the guarantee of something more than a "Christ after the flesh" could ever be.
And he, when he is come (ἐλθών). A right royal assurance. The Holy Spirit will come, as my grace and the result of my sending. He will convict the world. Little doubt is now entertained that this ἔλεγχος implies the refutation of error, the discovery of wrong-doing, the bringing it home to the person convinced, and thus convicted (John 3:20; John 8:9, Joh 8:46; 1 Corinthians 14:24; Titus 1:9; James 2:9); making such a one see that he is open to the condemnation of conscience, or of men, or of the Law of God. This conviction may in some cases lead to conversion and deliverance, but is distinct from it, and sometimes also may issue after such a manifestation in hardness and impenitence. The patristic interpretation (Authorized version and Hengstenberg), "He will reprove," might pass as a fair translation of the word, in its reference to sin, but would have small meaning as applied to righteousness or judgment. Meyer, Godet, Luthardt, Lange, Westcott, Stier, and Moulton agree that ἔλεγξει means more than "reprove," less than "convince." The world is spoken of, not Jews merely, or their leaders. Humanity itself, with its false standards of judgment, and its self-complacency, is to be convicted of being in the wrong; all kings, princes, potentates, priests, and publicans, who are out of harmony with God, wilt be convicted by the Paraclete. The conviction of the world is threefold—in respect of sin, in respect of righteousness, and in respect of judgment. The three great categories of thought, custom, and conduct; the three themes where the world is in infinite need of being compelled to see that it is altogether in the wrong. The disciples are to overcome the whole world by the intensity with which they will be instrumentally the occasion of this conviction. The world under the depressing and distracting influence of its own principles, as well as its passions, has misconceived the whole nature of "sin," the entire mystery of "righteousness," the certainty of retribution, and the things and principles on which condign "judgment" must fall. The Advocate, the Divine, indwelling Spirit of the truth, whom Christ will send into his disciples as compensation for his own absence, will through them do this strange and tremendous work. Our Lord does not hero promise the conversion of mankind, but such a conviction that the blessed consequence may follow. The first great step will be taken.
The three elements of this conviction of the world are separately treated. In respect of sin, because they believe not on me. The ὅτι, has been restricted by Meyer to "so far as," as though the conviction with respect to sin was limited to a charge of specific unbelief; and Hengstenberg would render it "consisting in this, that," etc. But surely the full causal force of the particle is to be pressed, "because they believe not on me." The essence of all sin is unbelief, a refusal to surrender heart and will to the Divine will and authority, though the world generally had taken different views of it: supposing "sin" to be disobedience to some particular class of duties, or the neglect of certain specific ceremonial. Christ declares that the Spirit which has always been striving with men to bring them into reconciliation with God, will now convict the world that its sinful tendencies and principles have reached their highest and most willful expression in unbelief εἰς ἐμέ, towards me. The most complete manifestation of God has received from the world the most utter and insensate repudiation. The very nature of sin thus stands revealed, the leprosy of sin will come out on the smiling self-complacency of the world. It will no longer be able to charge upon Adam, nor the devil, nor upon natures nor upon temptations of the flesh, the blame of sin; but will take the guilt home, and see that, in this crowning act of human folly, unbelievers have rendered themselves personally liable to condemnation, and, by rejecting infinite love as well as eternal law, have left themselves without excuse.
In respect of righteousness, because I go to the Father, £ and ye behold me no more. Not merely that the world will be led to form a new conception of righteousness, seeing that God has exalted him whom they have condemned as a malefactor,—that would really, with Lucke and Meyer, limit this "righteousness" to a judgment concerning the guiltlessness of Christ; nor can we, with Luther, etc., regard it as equivalent to the δικαιοσύνη of Romans 1:17, the righteous attribute and righteous process by which God is able to treat as righteous those who believe. This is the only place in the Gospel where the word occurs, and it can scarcely bear the technical significance of the great theological discussions with which it was afterwards associated. Schaff has called attention to the vulgate translation justitia, which is represented in the Rheims English version by "justice," and reminds us how Archdeacon Hare urges that "righteousness" and "justice" correspond to the entire theology of the Protestant and Romanist Churches. The Protestant sees in "righteousness" an ideal never reached by the human will in its own strength; the Romanist, by the term "justice," embodies itself in outward acts. The idea of righteousness involves the demand for purity; the idea of justice, one for cleanness. But seeing that Christ had all along called urgent attention to the fact that that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God, and that the righteousness of his kingdom must exceed "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees," it becomes clear that his exaltation to the right hand of the Father would exhibit God's ideal of righteousness; and by the aid of the Holy Spirit working through the word of the apostles, the world's view of these things would be utterly subverted, the world would be silenced, convicted of being utterly in the wrong in its idea of righteousness as well as in its judgment upon the nature of sin. The idea of righteousness will be expanded and transfigured; the idea of sin will be deepened and intensified and brought home. Stier has, with great eloquence and power, pressed the other view, which makes the ἐλέγχος of the Holy Ghost nothing short of this—that there is no other righteousness for men than the righteousness of God in Christ and the righteousness of Christ before God. Notice, nevertheless, the occasions on which the world was brought to recognize the triumph of Christ's righteousness and confusion of its own prejudices (Acts 2:27, Acts 2:31; Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52).
In respect of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. The conviction of sin will have a peculiarly and specially subjective cause; that of judgment will, like that of righteousness, be preceded by two stupendous objective facts—the exaltation of Christ and the judgment of Satan. The glorification of the Son of man, to the extent of his being declared to be the Son of God with power, will be the grand event which human nature will be powerless to counteract or ultimately to resist. "Know assuredly that this same Jesus whom you have crucified is both Lord and Christ." The judgment of the prince of this world is also a fact lying outside the politics of the world, which may fume and rage as it will; it is beyond the reach of the philosophy or literature, the courts or armies, the fashions or the force, of this world. The central prince and spirit of the world is judged by the Lord Jesus, and condemned; and the time is coming when the old standard of judgment will be cast out, and the world will be compelled to admit that it has been vanquished (John 12:31). The conviction concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, by the aid of the Advocate whom Christ will send, will become the great work of the apostles and of the Church, until he comes again in his glory. While commenting upon this sublime assurance the awful process must not be forgotten, nor the fact that the prince of the world dies hard. The atrocious wickedness which burst out after the exaltation of Christ among the people who had rejected their Lord, and the consummation of the mystery of iniquity in the Roman empire, was a part of the providential conviction of the world. Archdeacon Hare, in his ' Mission of the Comforter,' insists that the entire conviction of judgment, righteousness, and sin must be the work of "the Comforter;" that all the objective facts, all the teaching of example, all the thunder of prophecy, nay, all the outward demonstration of sin, righteousness, and judgment, made in and by the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ, must be complemented by the grace of the Holy Spirit on individuals, nations, and humanity at large; and that it is in the capacity of human "Comforter," or "Advocate," that this conviction is wrought.
(b) The power of the Paraclete on the disciples themselves. From the twelfth to the fifteenth verse the relation of the Paraclete to the disciples themselves makes yet more evident the expediency of the glorification of the Son of man, and demonstrates the authority of the apostolic teaching.
Notwithstanding the abundance of the revelations which Christ had given, still, said he, I have many things yet to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now (ἄρτι); i.e. at this epoch of your training. Christ (John 14:18, etc., in a passage which he proceeds to enlarge and deepen) has already said that the coming to them of the Paraclete would be one method of his own Divine approach to them for purposes of consolation and instruction; consequently he does not now allow them to suppose that, though separated from them by death, he would ever cease to instruct them. They could not in their present condition, and before the great events should have happened—events on which so much revealing fact would turn—bear the revelation of these "many things." Pentecost will enable them to appreciate the full mystery of love. The word used for "bear" is that which is used (John 19:17) to describe the bearing of the cross by Christ himself. Some have found in these "many things" new articles of doctrine which have been preserved by tradition; and others, a development of truths already presented in germ; and others, again, much of the future order of the world and the Church, such as gradually evolved itself to the vision and insight and spiritual wisdom of apostolic men. But they could not, on the eve of the Passion, have borne the full mystery of the atonement, or sufficiently have comprehended the glory of the enthroned King.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come. This points to the definite promise already made (conditioned by his own departure, and so rendering that departure "expedient") when the Spirit of truth is come, having been sent by me from the Father. He will be your Guide into the truth in all its parts. £ As Godet says, "The reading εἰς suits ὁδηγήσει better than ἐν." A most glorious promise this, for as days of darkness and perplexity draw on, fresh needs will arise. The "many things" which would thus be said must be presumed to have been said on highest authority; and hence the unapproachable dignity of the apostles themselves; hence the secret of all their binding and loosing power; hence the revelations they have been able to supply with reference to Christ and salvation, glory, duty, and eternal life, and all the laws of the kingdom. From this vast promise we see the sufficiency of the apostolic teaching, and by implication the portion of it which is committed to writing. Our Lord had delivered to his disciples "nothing but the truth;" but from the nature of the case they must wait for the truth in its completeness, the whole truth of salvation and deliverance. But our Lord proceeds to show that the infallibility of the Holy Spirit is not that he will be a secondary, or tertiary, or independent Divinity. Like Christ, the Son of God, who was in the bosom of the Father (see John 7:17, John 7:18; John 8:28), so he who proceedeth from the Father will not speak from himself, as from any spontaneous, independent source. He is, in his gracious operations, no rival Deity, but the Spirit of the Father and the Son (comp. John 8:44, where the essence of the lie is that the devil speaketh of his own), and whatsoever things he shall hear £ (or, heareth, or, shall have heard), that shall he speak. The verb "hear" is used absolutely, and has been variously completed with the words, "of me" or "of the Father," whether verbally supplemented or not. We learn that the Holy Spirit is limited by the revelation already involved in the great fact of the Incarnation. "He will speak" of that which he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are coming. The revelation will concern Christ and the future. The whole New Testament, so far as it is apostolic, is here declared to be the work inspired by the Spirit's guidance of the apostles' mind into the truth in all its completeness and in all its parts. Some, like Westcott, refer the ἐρχόμενα to "the constitution of the Christian Church;" but the most satisfactory view is that the Spirit would himself be the Source of the prophetic hope and wondrous vision of the future which pervades the apostolic writings. Hengstenberg runs here into great detail. His remark is of deep interest—that such a promise should be found in the Fourth Gospel, preluding those sublime premonitions which the beloved disciple, when "in the Spirit," received and recorded concerning the things which are and are to come (Revelation 1:19). Not only in the writings of John, but of Peter, and in the prophetic spirit given to Paul, we see how the Lord the Spirit fulfilled the promise.
He shall glorify me. Christ has spoken of being straightway glorified, lifted into the fullness of the Godhead, glorified in God himself (John 13:32). This statement is partly explanatory of that, but is also an addition to the previous assurance. The Spirit will glorify the God-Man, will augment the luster of his blessed Name, will crown him with honor, and multiply the mirrors of his majesty and the subjects of his power; and the reason is given: For he shall take of mine, and (for the second time, ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν) declare it to you. Christ is here profoundly conscious of the abundance of truth and reality involved in himself and in his functions, in the work he is doing and will continue to do. He is mournfully alive to the fact that the disciples were not able to perceive what there was in him without supernatural aid. The Spirit of God will augment Christ's glory in the Church, seeing that he will reveal to men the Person and glory of the Christ, by inward processes, by vivid spiritual intuitions, by mental exercises which we are quite ready to confess are far beyond the compass of logic, and break through all laws of induction or evolution. This is the high function of the Spirit in inspiration—to take of that which belongs to the Son of God, and so to quicken the spiritual faculty of men that they can and do understand it. "The Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of Deity," and reveals them to those who receive the Holy Ghost. Our Lord declares that all truth is implicitly contained in himself. In John 14:1-31. he said, "I am the Truth" about God and about man, and about the relation of man to God. The Spirit will draw aside the veils which hide this truth, will draw forth the hidden harmonies contained in this wondrous Personality. Such continuous revelation is from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:17, 2 Corinthians 3:18). St. Paul at the close of his ministry was aware of unfathomed treasures still hidden in the Christ, and he put before himself, as the goal of his highest ambition, "that I may know him" (Philippians 3:10).
In this verse our Lord makes a still more superlative claim. All things which the Father hath (ὅσα ἔχει) are mine. Perhaps no sentence recorded by St. John is more difficult to reconcile with the mere humanity of our Lord, even of the loftiest kind. The "mine" of the previous verse is declared to embrace something more than the mystery of his Person and sacrifice. "All that the Father hath," all his fullness of being, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, all the power, all the effulgence of the glory of the Father, of the human race, and of all things, "are mine." This makes a spiritual apprehension of Christ include a perfect revelation of all the Father's character and work. Therefore said I, that he (the Spirit of truth, in being your Guide into all the truth) £ taketh of mine, and will declare (it) unto you. Because "mine is the Father's, and the Father's is mine;" because, i.e., he is the Center, and Agent, and Motive, and Force in all the Divine self-revelation, and because he possessed as his own this vast range, this infinite fullness of Divine operations, he promised them this spiritual teaching, and assured them that his highest glory was simply to be made known as he is. Calvin, "We see how the greater part of men deceive themselves; for they pass by Christ, and go out of the way to seek God by circuitous paths."
In these verses we have a very abundant exhibition of the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, coupled with a very remarkable setting forth of the tri-personality. The Father "hath" (ἔχει) that which is in very. essence the Son's (ἐμα); and the Spirit, whose purpose is to glorify the Son by making him known to men (λαμβάνει), takes of "mine" and will declare it (see Stier, Schaff, note to Lange). Luthardt once thought with Stier, but now limits the reference, without giving any reason for it, to what he calls "the deposit of Divine truth in the humanity of Jesus." The sum of this astonishing assurance is that the Holy Spirit of truth, an essential element if not Personality in the Godhead, will lead these apostles into the fullness of truth, and of knowledge of the future, by taking up the essential realities of the Christ in the fullness of his being and work, and disclosing them by spiritual insight and supernatural quickening. These realities of the Christ will prove to be the fullness of the Father's heart—all that the Father hath. Again we ask—Does St. John even here travel beyond his prologue?
(c) The sorrow turned into joy. In these verses he approaches the final farewell, in which the whole body of the disciples are introduced as inwardly or among themselves perturbed by the special difficulty of the words. Before the Spirit can do all this, a separation must be experienced.
A little while. A phrase repeated seven times in this brief passage, emphatically encouraging his own disciples to rise above the limitations of time, and enjoy the habits of eternity. Ye behold me no more. The first puzzle of this utterance lies in this—that (John 14:19) he had told them that, though the world would see him no more, they would behold him in the power of the Spirit, and that they would moreover have adequate preparation for such spiritual beholding in the resurrection; yet now he says, "Ye behold me no more." True, he has associated this phrase already, in John 16:10, with the conviction of the world touching true righteousness and his "going to the Father," so that henceforth he would be hidden in God; but now he increases the perplexity by adding, And again, a little while, and ye shall see me. The commentators differ greatly as to the reference, but (with Hengstenberg, Weiss, Stier, Westcott, Ebrard, Ewald) the most obvious explanation is that he is referring to the resurrection, which in itself would be in part a glorification of Christ, and which, from its entire method of manifestation to them, would prove a preparation for the spiritual sense of his continual presence. This was perfected at Pentecost, and will be completed when he shall come again in his glory. £
Then said (some) of his disciples one to another, not daring to utter it to him, What is this that he saith to us, A little while, and ye behold me not: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? This clause now aggravates their difficulty, whether they associate it with the idea already uttered, or whether they repeat the Lord's word. The program of the future—e.g.
(1) death and momentary absence,
(2) resurrection and transitory presence,
(3) departure to the Father and abiding presence
form a group of ideas very difficult even for us now to realize or "to know" fully what he saith. Who need wonder that these disciples should have been in doubt, since one of their number intimately acquainted with them and their state of feeling records it of them?
They said, What is this little while whereof he speaketh? £ (λέγει; Vulgate, dicit). (The R.T. and Westcott and Hort invert the τοῦτο and τί, and thus greatly increase the simplicity of the passage.) What are these two short periods of which he speaks, so full of mysterious significance? We know not what he saith (λαλεῖ; Vulgate, loquitur). We do not apprehend the wonderful interchange of vision and blank darkness—of presence and absence and presence again!
Now £Jesus knew (perceived by his Divine penetration of human thought here quickened by their anxious look and hurried whisperings) that they were wishing to question him, and he said to them, Are you inquiring among yourselves concerning this that I said, A little while, etc.? In his repetition he does not quote the clause which they had added—i.e. added if the clause, John 16:16, is not genuine. He proceeded to meet their difficulties.
There is no exact or categoric reply to the very inquiry which he has heard and cited, but there is more of prophecy and help than if he had said, "Tomorrow I die and shall be laid in the grave, and on the third day I shall rise again." He had often said this, and they refused to understand. It was not merely a resurrection of the body, but the glorification in the Father of his entire Personality, for which he wished them to be prepared. A simple restoration like that of Lazarus would not have secured him from the malice of those who sought to put Lazarus also to death. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that weep and lament you shall, and the world shall rejoice. Here is his own account of the effect upon them of that he said, "A little while," and you will behold me, as you think, no more. The world will rejoice, because to some extent it will be the world's doing, and it will fancy for a little while that it has got its way and succeeded excellently well The world will roll a stone to his sepulcher, and make it as sure as they can, sealing the stone and setting a watch. Pharisaism will exult that this demand for a higher righteousness than its own is for ever hushed; Sadduceeism will rejoice that this troublesome witness to unseen and eternal things is silenced; the hierarchy will boast that now no danger prevails of the Romans taking away their place and nation; the world will praise the deed of blood; but all this rejoicing will last "a little while." Christ reaffirms their grief, and even for "a little while" justifies it, so long as they can hear the jubilate of the world over their personal burden of unutterable sorrow. He continues: You shall be sorrowful, but in a little while your sorrow shall be (ἐγένετο εἰς, Acts 4:11; Acts 5:36) turned into joy. Clearly because "you shall see me." It cannot be said that our Lord here positively asserts his resurrection; but when we remember how "the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord," how Mary ran "with great joy to bring his disciples word," we feel that here was the simple solution of the mystery, and that our Lord's intercourse with them in his resurrection-body was the great prelibation of the method of his continuous abiding with them in the power of his Spirit and the glorification of his body—we cannot doubt that this was his meaning and the purpose of the evangelist in recording it.
The next illustration is very remarkable, and surely cannot be a simple analogy of the supervening of joy on sorrow. The woman (the article does not point to any special γυνή, but refers to a universal fact and law of womanhood, cf. ὁ δοῦλος, John 15:15) when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come. So now there are the travail-pangs of the new humanity, the new theocracy, bitter and terrible, But as soon as she has brought forth the child, she remembereth no longer the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world. The old prophets often compared the grief of Israel or her peril to the pangs of a travailing woman preluding deliverance (Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:6, Isaiah 66:7; Hosea 13:13) and even joy—the joy of bringing manhood into the world and the new consciousness of maternity. Meyer and others rebel against any meaning beyond that of the following of joy upon sorrow; but Tholuck, De Wette, Ebrard, and Moulton see here the obvious reference to those "travail-pangs of death" with which St. Peter (Acts 3:24) said that the Holy One could not be restrained, agonies in which for a while every apostle must have wept and lamented, dying and being crucified with him, and to the glorious deliverance of all who suffered with him, when they live again in newness of life by the power of his resurrection.
And, so he continues, ye therefore £ indeed now have sorrow—your hearts are troubled, you weep and lament to-night, your desolation for "a little while" will be utter collapse and dismay—but I shall see you again. He does not repeat, "Ye shall behold me" (θεωρεῖτέ με, cf. John 14:19), but "I shall see you (ὔψομαι ὑμᾶς)." The same word, however, is used repeatedly in the record of the resurrection, and in John 16:19 he had said ὄψεσθέ με. The point of the vision is his own consciousness of their human need filling all the forty days with its glory. The occasional manifestations of his Person during that interval helped them in a wonderful way to recognize the fact that he was ever watching them, and was at their side under all the circumstances of human life. And your heart shall rejoice, and this joy of yours no one taketh (present in the full sense of a realized future) from you. The ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς lends itself to the larger conception which, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, they at length fully apprehended, that he was with them always, even to the end of the world. That conviction was forced upon them before Pentecost (see Matthew 28:19, Matthew 28:20, and the account in this Gospel of the spiration and communication of the Holy Ghost, John 20:22), before he came as the sound of a rushing mighty wind, or sat in tongues of flame on their heads. Your joy in the sense of my constant presence no one, neither man nor devil, taketh away from you. That presence will not be any further exposed to Jewish malice or treachery, nor darkened by persecution, nor destroyed by death; though with bodily eyes ye see me not, yet, fully realizing that my eye is on you, "you will rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).
And in that day—that long and blessed period beginning at the Resurrection with your vision of me, and being ever more and more enhanced in blessedness by your intense conviction that "I am with you" and "see you," though you see me not—in that day ye shall put me no question, as in the old method of confidential intercourse of man with man. That period passes away with this solemn night. Not in this way will the intercourse be carried forward. "That day" started from Easter morning, and it is not yet noon. Perhaps one reason for this statement is that the illumination of the Spirit would render such questioning unnecessary, but a more certain explanation is that they would themselves stand in new relations with the Father through him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever £ thing ye shall ask (αἰτήσητε) the Father, he will give it you in my Name. The modern editors, by placing the ἐν τῷ ονόματί μου ("in my Name") after δώσει ὑμῖν, or as Tischendorf (8th edit.), in a clause commencing with δώσει, suggest that in this particular clause the Name of Christ is not only the medium by which the disciples approach the Father (which is obvious enough from John 16:24), but the manifestation and ministry by which not only is the prayer heard, but the gift or answer bestowed. As sentence after sentence follows, the disciples are led up to the heart of the Father himself.
Hitherto—up to the present period—ye asked (£ἠτήσατε, the common word for petition and request made by the inferior to the superior, the man to his Maker) nothing in my Name. The disciples had not comprehended the fullness of that Name of the well-beloved Son, filling their minds with the revelation of God made in it, and feeling it to be the great inducement anti guarantee of acceptable prayer. Ask (continuously, habitually, for this is no longer in aorist, but in the present tense), and ye shall receive (ἵνα here not relic, but indicates "contemplated result"), that your joy may be fulfilled [rendered complete and full] (comp. John 15:11; John 15:22); the joy of your love to one another and to me may reach its highest expression. There may be reference to their unanimity in the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal outburst of perfect love which casts out fear.
(d) The final conviction wrought that Jesus was what he had said that he was. The joy of Christ, with its note of warning.
These things I have spoken to you in proverbs (see John 10:6); i.e. in concentrated and to some extent enigmatical utterances, "in dark sayings upon a harp," in words which subsequent events and higher enlightenment would interpret (cf. here Christ's distinction between his disciples and the multitude in the matter of parables, Matthew 13:1-58.). He used the parable to the stupefied, that they might thus separate between those who were susceptible to his teaching and those who were not. To his disciples he interpreted his parables, still leaving much which might be regarded as παροιμίαι, condensed word-utterances, in which words stood for higher things than in their ordinary usage. Thus the similitudes adopted throughout John 9:1-41., John 9:10., John 9:11., John 9:12-16., are numerous, intended to draw the disciples on from their ordinary ideas to the heights of his thought and the mystery of his Person. The ἀλλ' is omitted by modern editors. The hour cometh—the great climacteric period of my revelation—when I shall no longer speak to you in proverbs, when, indeed, the sound of my voice will be hushed, and words will no longer be needed, when Divine spirations and heavenly pulsations shall convey to you what my parabolic teaching and my paroimic interpretations have failed to impart, when I shall be with you and in you, and by the energy of the Paraclete I shall declare £ (to you) plainly, with clearness and openness, in the fullness of spiritual light, without reserve, circumlocution, or parable, concerning the Father. This promise declares that the glorious revelations of Pentecost and the teaching of those who received the Holy Ghost will be verily and indeed our Lord Christ's own most personal and frank and outspoken revelations of the Father;
In that day—pointing to "the hour" of these open declarations—ye shall ask (make petitions, not ask or demand of me, in the tone of equality) in my Name. The opportunity will come when all my Name will be appreciated by you, and your spiritual reception of me will teach you to approach the Father, who is thus revealed to you. Calvin in these verses calls attention to the familiarity of Israel with the idea of a Mediator, one by whom they drew near to God, and that Christ places himself here in the stead of the whole propitiatory service and ritual of the temple. "His Name" was the Divine equivalent of all the work of the high priest from one Day of Atonement to another and for evermore. And I do not say to you, that I will make my request to the Father concerning you (see note on ἐρωτάω and αἰτέω, John 16:23, etc.). It will not do to argue, with Grotius, that this is just as if he had said, "To say nothing of my own intercessions for you," or, "You may take these for granted;" because the very next verse gives his reason for the assertion. Nor is it satisfactory to say, with Meyer, that the "prayers" of which he speaks (John 14:16; John 17:9, John 17:20) are before the gift of the Paraclete, and not inconsistent with the higher condition of the disciples after the Paraclete should have been given; because John had received the Paraclete when he wrote, "We have an Advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). Nor can we suppose that the great utterances of Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 9:25 are vain imaginations, and that there is no sense in which the Lord does augment and complete our prayers, taking them upon his heart and going in his high-priestly prerogative into the holy place with his own blood; but the words must nevertheless be pressed, and their meaning held to be compatible with what Paul and John say of the" intercession of Christ." They reveal the perfect access to the Father's heart which he has secured for his disciples, the full reconciliation effected as well as devised and consummated by the Father's own love (cf. Ephesians 2:18, "By Christ we both [Jew and Gentile] have access (προσαγωγήν) in one spirit to the Father"). The end of the whole ministry of Christ is, in the power of the Holy Ghost's revelation of him, to bring men to the Father and let them know it. There is no need that Christ should (ἐρωτᾶν) make special prayer to the Father, as though he were merciful and the Father needed to be appeased towards those for whom he had prepared so great a salvation (see Romans 8:34, where Philippi, Calvin, and others show that Christ's ἐντυγχανεῖν is the effect of his own glorious and eternal work). His appearance in the presence of God for us is the perpetual pledge of the completeness of his sacrifice. These very passages in Hebrews and Romans have to be interpreted in harmony with this great statement of his own, viz. that there is no reason to ask the Father concerning them; all has been asked and answered, the intercession is complete; his whole work will have reconciled the Father with his children, and that by reason of the Father's own love.
For the Father himself loveth you (φιλεῖ), with love of a fatherly affection, such as mine to you, because ye have loved me (the perfect preterit, in the sense of the realized past in the present which shall then be), and have believed that I came forth from the side of (παρὰ) the Father. £ In their belief of this transcendent fact is the hope of the world. It was wrought in them by the strengthening pulses of a deepening love, and to this love God himself responds with a personal tender affection that encourages boundless prayer. The disciple and lover of Jesus, having Jesus in the heart, united to him by living faith, will find in Christ that there is a perpetual pledge of reciprocal love between the Father and himself. Christ will not (ἐρωτᾶν) ask the Father, because his entire position as Mediator establishes a continual appeal, is a perpetual ἔντευξις, a continuous drawing near and appeal to God on our account, a pledge and guarantee of our own fellowship with and access to the Father. Our English word "intercession," though apparently corresponding with the Latin and with the Greek word, does not now represent its original meaning. That meaning is by no means equivalent to the hind of prayer which is here excluded (Trench, 'Syn. N.T.,' § 51.).
In these words our Lord gathers sublimely up a record of his entire self-manifestation. I came forth out of the Father (where ἔξελθον ἐκ, instead of παρὰ, is the new and better reading), as from the Divine Source of my pre-existent glory, I have come into the world, incarnate in humanity, "the Word was made flesh," "the Light lighting every man has come into the world." Again, I am leaving the world behind me, though for a little while you may behold me, and I am going on a great mission, with a goal in view, to the Father. "Recapitulationem maximam habet hic versus" (Bengel). Christ had said all this before, but they have never seen it as a whole. The several parts had been so impressive, that the whole truth had been concealed from them.
His disciples say to him, Behold, even now thou speakest (λαλεῖς); thy utterance is with plainness and clearness, and speakest (λέγεις) no proverb. £ The promise made so recently (John 16:25) seems to them already fulfilled. Some beam of the heavenly light has begun to irradiate the whole of this sublime but partially realized revelation of God in Christ. The doubts vanish in this sunshine.
Now know we that thou knowest all things. He had answered their unutterable yearning. That which stirred them very deeply on many occasions was this proof that nothing in their hearts was hidden from him. Nathanael was one of them, and now he saw "angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man." "Thou knowest all things." The idea in their minds does not embrace the full range of human inquiry, nor the depths of Deity, but all the things which are in their hearts to ask him. Their word is true even if in their intention they fall short of ascribing omniscience to their Lord. And thou hast no need that any one should put to thee these inquiries. Thou hast sounded the depths of our hearts, and found out the unutterable and unuttered within us. When we were afraid to ask thee concerning "the little while," thou didst discern our unspoken yearning, and now thou art so establishing thy Divine claim upon our reverence and affection, that we can trust thee to give us all needful illumination when we most require it. In this fact, in this consideration just stated, we find our justification and the cause of our faith. We believe that thou earnest forth from (ἀπό) God (ἀπό differs from the solemnity of the παρά or the ἐκ of John 16:28. Though Lange makes the ὅτι equivalent to "because," yet generally John gives to the ὅτι which follows a verb after ἐν τούτῳ the sense of "that," thus introducing the object of the verb, though in one place, 1 John 4:13, both constructions are seen in the same sentence. The objective force of "that" is to be preferred here). We believe that thy whole ministry and message is a revelation of God, a coming near to us of the Father. Thy name is "Immanuel, God with us." A question arises whether the disciples in this gush of faith said more than they really meant, and deserved reproof, or whether they had reached an elevation of thought from which they never would absolutely recede.
Jesus answered them, Now, at this stage in my self-revelation, do ye believe? It seems as though the whole of Christ's ministry turns on their acceptance of his claims. If he should pass from the world and return to the Father, and leave behind him none who had discovered and become intensely convinced of his Divine nature, the whole work he had done would be, humanly speaking, a failure. An almost womanlike passion of desire breathes through the inquiry, "Do ye now believe?" or, as some commentators (Gorier and Meyer) translate it indicatively, "Now ye believe." There is truly no essential difference whether it be taken interrogatively or indicatively. Both forms mean, "I have at length brought you to the point of faith. The kingdom of God is now established, and the prince of this world cast out. But a terrible trial awaits the new-born faith." Christ had warned them of the treachery of the absent one, of the approaching denial of the foremost of their number, and he now gives them another warning of the severity of the trial which awaited them all. The power and permanence of their faith may be open to doubt, but not its essential quality. Their faith may not stand firm on that awful night, but it will ultimately prevail, and Christ rejoices in the fact that his words have at last evoked this genuine response. In the prayer which follows (John 17:8) he thanks God "that they have known verily that I came forth from thee, and have believed that thou hast sent me."
Behold, the hour cometh, [yea] £ is come, that (see John 16:2. The effort made by some to preserve the relic force of ἷνα here breaks down. It has very little mere than the power of "when," and the bringing in of the notion of a purpose or Divine counsel encumbers the sense) you shall be scattered (i.e. the fact is as good as already enacted) every man to his own, and shall leave me alone. The σκορκισθῆτε points back to Zechariah 13:7, and reminds us of our Lord's recent quotation of this very prophecy, and his application of it to the disciples (Matthew 26:31, Matthew 26:32). This falling away from Jesus as he rises more and more into the greatness of his work is one of the witnesses of his Divine mission into such a world as this First the Galilaean hosts and the multitudes who shouted "Hosanna!" then his own brethren, then all except the twelve, then all the authorities, are openly hostile. Even Joseph and Nicodemus and Lazarus are silent, Judas is treacherous; but the eleven still cling to him. Soon Christ selects from the faithful few the faithfullest for the watch over his last agony, but one of these denies him, and they all forsake him and flee. John and his mother, who follow within earshot of the cross, are sent to their own home, and there is a moment when he is absolutely alone. He even says, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But as in this agony he can still say, "Father, into thy hands," so here he anticipates the Divine overshadowing presence, and adds, Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. The sublimest word of all, charged with consolation.
These things have I spoken (ταῦτα; all the farewell discourses. The tone of these last triumphant words reminds them of the finest and noblest of his previous assurances, his promises of peace, courage, and victory over all the evil and power of this world) to you, that in me ye might have peace (see note, John 14:27, John 14:28). The entire issue of the discourse is the conference on his disciples of his own secret of peace—the adequate support amid the crushing force and vehement hostility of the world (cf. Psalms 46:2-4, "Though the earth be removed.., there is a river," etc.). Peace is the balance of equilibrating forces; and man needs a Divine force behind and within him to encounter the tremendous odds arrayed against him, in mysteries of life, temptation of the devil, infirmity of the flesh, and antagonism of the world, so that we need not be surprised to hear him say, In the world ye have £ tribulation. It is the fundamental condition of Divine life in this world. Christ's disciples may take that for granted (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:4), but the most striking and unique note of the true faith is that this sorrow is blended with an inward rapture which transforms it into peace. The blending of fear and love, of law with promise, of righteousness with mercy, of the sense of sin with that of pardon, of a great peace with a crushing tribulation, is one of the most constant tokens, signs, or marks of the mind of Christ. But be of good courage. This is the practical uprising of the soul into the joy of the Lord (cf. also John 14:1, John 14:28). 'Εχο, I—very emphatic—have overcome the world. "A vous encore le combat, a mot des a present la victoire! Mats en mot la meme victoire a vous vous aussi" (Reuss). The royal sublimity of this last word, on the eve of the Passion, became one of the perpetually recurring thoughts of Jn (1 John 5:4 and Revelation 2:1-29., Revelation 2:3., where the ὁ νίκων is again and again referred to). Christ's victory already assured to him becomes theirs. So "by similar anticipation we have ἐνίκησαν in Revelation 12:11, and ἡ νικήσασα in 1 John 5:4." The victory had been, however, already achieved over the world's temptations, and over the bitterness of internal treachery, and the vast sum of human ingratitude; and this may in part explain the use of the perfect tense, "I have overcome."
A warning of future persecutions.
Having spoken of the guilt of the persecutors, our Lord refers now to the sufferings of the disciples.
I. THE DESIGN OF THE WARNING. "These things have I spoken unto you, that you should not be offended."
1. The obstinate unbelief of the Jews would be not only a great surprise to the apostles, but a profound disappointment. They always lived in the expectation of a national conversion of Israel.
2. It was therefore necessary to prepare them by timely warnings for a fact so unexpected and so tragical in its results.
II. RELIGIOUS ZEAL THE PRETENCE Or FUTURE PERSECUTIONS. "They shall put you out of their synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think he offereth worship to God."
1. The persecutions would either take the form of
(1) excommunication or
2. Fanatical religious zeal would prompt the most extreme action, as it did in the case of Saul the persecutor, who thought he ought to do many things contrary to the Name of Christ.
3. The cause or ground of this persecuting zeal. "And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me."
(1) Blindness and hatred often go hand-in-hand.
(2) The Jews were not guiltless of cruelty on the ground of their ignorance, because they had the amplest opportunities for knowing Christ and his Father.
III. OUR LORD'S PREDICTION OF COMING PERSECUTIONS OUGHT TO BE A GROUND OF FAITH. "But these things I have foretold you, that when their hour shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them."
1. Our Lord will not allow his disciples to go forward into suffering without being prepared and trained to meet it.
2. He had hitherto spared them this disclosure of coming evil. "These things I said not unto you from the beginning, because I was with you."
(1) He had often spoken of persecutions as awaiting them, but not in such close connection with their relationship to himself and the manner in which they were to be encountered in the comfort and strength of the Spirit's witness.
(2) So long as Christ was with the disciples, the rage of the Jews was directed against himself, and not against them.
The rectory of the disciples.
Jesus now describes the power which will gain their victory over the world.
I. THE POWER WHICH WILL GIVE THE VICTORY.
1. The disciples were too absorbed by the sorrows of the approaching separation to think of anything but themselves. "But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? Bat because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart."
(1) They were so absorbed with the thought of their own immediate loss that they missed the meaning of his departure for themselves.
(2) They ought not to have so greatly lamented his bodily absence and overlooked all the spiritual advantages that would accrue to themselves from his ascension to heaven and his participation in his Father's glory.
2. The expediency of his departure from the world. "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."
(1) Our Lord's departure the Church's gain. It would lead to truer conceptions of Christ's Person and work.
(a) A great man's greatness is usually increased by death. The removal of Christ would dissolve the illusion of familiarity. He could only be truly understood after he was gone.
(b) The souls of the apostles were greatly quickened after his departure. Their faith, hope, charity, were increased after Pentecost.
(2) Our Lord's departure was the condition of the Spirit's advent.
(a) He left the earth to return as a quickening Spirit. Christ after the flesh must disappear, to make way for Christ after the Spirit.
(b) The vicarious sacrifice of Christ stands to the mission of the Comforter in the relation of cause and effect.
(c) The dispensation of the Spirit is superior to the dispensation of "Christ come in the flesh," for the following reasons:
(α) Jesus in the flesh could not be present in every place or in all the households of the world; but Christ by his Spirit can dwell in the hearts of millions at the same moment of time as the Hope of glory.
(β) If Christ were still in the flesh, his presence would only be temporary and occasional; but Christ by his Spirit can be always everywhere at the same moment of time.
(γ) As a matter of fact, he was never but in one spot of earth—Palestine—and never out of it. We revere Palestine as the home of our Lord, but we must rise above the mere sentiment of local association in the experience of communion with an everywhere-present Lord.
(δ) Mere contact with Christ in the flesh would have no necessarily saving efficacy. The Jews were not converted by seeing him in the flesh.
(3) Practical conclusions.
(a) Let us rejoice in our Lord's exaltation.
(b) Let us guard against the worship of the outward.
(c) Let us learn that the Lord never takes away one blessing bat he leaves a greater in its place.
II. THE EFFECTS OF THE SPIRIT'S COMING. "And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment."
1. The Spirit wilt convict the world of the sin of unbelief. "Because they believe not on me." The sin of the Jews was essentially unbelief; for
(1) they withstood all the evidence of ancient prophecy;
(2) they withstood the evidence of his remarkable life,
(3) his remarkable discourses,
(4) his remarkable miracles.
2. He will convict the world of righteousness. "Because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more."
(1) His sufferings and death were the pathway by which he returned to his Father.
(2) By righteousness our Lord understands, not the mere justice of his cause, but the righteousness which he wrought out in his atoning death for his people. He regards his death as the true righteousness of his people. His incarnation and death were designed to bring in this everlasting righteousness.
3. He will convict the world of judgment. "Because the prince of this world is judged."
(1) He does not refer to any judgment on Satan for his primordial fall, nor for his deceptive temptations so fatally exercised against man.
(2) He refers to the subversion of Satan's empire, to the abrogation of his usurped rights over man. The death of Christ effected this result in the following way.
(a) As sin was put away by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26), the supreme Judge discharged the guilty.
(b) The accuser of the brethren could not demand their condemnation (Romans 8:1).
(c) Christ broke the power of death "by destroying him that had the power of death" (Hebrews 2:14).
The Spirit's office is not confined to the convection of the world.
It has relation to the needs of the Church as well as the world.
I. OUR LORD'S CONSIDERATION FOR THE SPIRITUAL INCAPACITY OF HIS DISCIPLES. "I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now."
1. He had already told them many things which they could hardly understand. The communications of his truth were the marks of his loving confidence (John 15:15).
2. Other truths were yet to be imparted, which, in the present stage of their spiritual growth, would be quite unintelligible. They were the truths concerning his incarnation and death, the relation of grace to the Law, the inclusion of the Gentiles in the kingdom of God, the final apostasy, the destiny of the Church till its end.
3. It is a mark of our Lord's wisdom and tenderness to adapt his lessons to the growing capacity of his disciples.
II. THE OFFICE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
1. His personal guidance. "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all the truth."
(1) The Spirit is Divine Person, not a mere influence or energy of God.
(2) He gives expression to the truth; for he is "the Spirit of truth."
(3) He is the Guide to Zion's travelers, leading them past the byways of error and the quagmires of subtle deception, till he places them in the land of truth.
(4) This truth is not all truth abstractly, but "all the truth" concerning Christ's Person, work, and kingdom.
2. The test of his true guidance. "For he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he shall announce to you things to come."
(1) His teaching is not self-originated, like that of Satan (John 8:44). He shares in the intellectual fellowship of the Father and the Son, is initiated into the Divine scheme of salvation, and is thus enabled to make known the revelation which "God gave to Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1).
(2) His teaching lifts apostolic inspiration above the region of mere spiritual illumination enjoyed by all saints. It was an instruction as to things not yet disclosed or known on earth (John 16:12).
(3) His teaching lifts the veil of the future.
(a) The things to come are the destiny of the Church till its final consummation.
(b) The Holy Spirit thus declares beforehand the inspiration of the Epistles and the Apocalypse.
III. THE GLORIFICATION OF CHRIST THE DEFINITE WORK OF THE SPIRIT. "He shall glorify me: for he shall take of what is mine, and shall show it unto you."
1. Mark the interrelation of the Divine Persons. The Son glorifies the Father; the Spirit glorifies the Son.
2. The method of glorification was by the manifestation of the truth.
3. Our Lord has a full consciousness of the greatness of his Person and his truth. "All that the Father hath is mine: therefore said I, he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." It has been well said, "There is nothing Christian that is not Divine, nothing Divine which is not Christian."
4. The personality of the Holy Spirit is set forth in the use of ἐκεῖνος in relation to one described by a neuter noun all through this discourse.
The departure of Jesus, with its experiences of sorrow and joy to the disciples.
They were soon to stand in a new relation to Christ.
I. THE DEPARTURE AND THE RETURN OF CHRIST. "A little while, and ye shall see me no more: then a little while more, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father?
1. Our "Lord foresees and declares his death as almost at hand. That would for the time sever him from the sight of his disciples.
2. He foresees and declares his return, which would have three stages.
(1) At his resurrection;
(2) at Pentecost;
(3) at the day of judgment.
His ascension to the Father would restore him spiritually to his disciples through the work of the Holy Spirit.
IX. THE PERPLEXED AND SORROWFUL CURIOSITY OF THE DISCIPLES. They could not understand his words.
1. If he were going to found an earthly kingdom, why should he depart?
2. If not, why should he return?
III. OUR LORD'S SATISFACTION OF THEIR CURIOSITY.
1. He gives them a last proof of his omniscience; for "Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him."
2. His explanation turns upon the various emotions that will be excited in their breasts by his departure and his return.
(1) His death will be the signal for great sorrow. "Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy."
(a) The condition of the scattered disciples after his death, and the tears of Mary Magdalene, explain the first statement.
(b) That death, however; would be a source of joy to the world, which had triumphed in the riddance of earth of a dangerous Teacher.
(2) His return will be the signal for great joy.
(a) The grief would be short, like the sufferings of a woman in travail.
(b) The joy which would follow would spring out of the grief.
(c) The joy would touch the deepest springs of the heart. "And your heart shall rejoice.
(d) It would be beyond the power of man to check or destroy it. "And your joy no man taketh from you."
The consequences of Christ's ascension to the Father.
I. Pulpiness OF KNOWLEDGE. "And in that day ye shall no more question me in anything."
1. Our Lord was always ready, in the days of his flesh, to answer the questions of his disciples. Yet their questions often showed
(3) and often perverseness of understanding.
2. Hereafter there would be no need for further questioning; for the Holy Spirit would solve all their difficulties.
II. FULLNESS OF POWER. "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my Name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my Name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be made full." The power of prayer would give them a participatior in omnipotence itself.
1. The apostles could not pray in Christ's Name while he was still with them in the flesh. They had often prayed to him, but never in his Name.
2. His return to heaven would restore the broken link between earth and heaven. The way would be henceforth and for ever open for the down-pouring of heavenly blessing.
3. The command of Jesus—"ask"—
(1) implies that the Lord is always at hand;
(2) that the praying is to be continuous (αἰτεῖτε).
4. The ultimate result of the prayer. "That your joy may be made full." There is no spiritual joy apart from the exercise of spiritual prayer.
III. THE CLEARER REVELATION WILL LEAD TO GREATER CONFIDENCE IN PRAYER.
1. Jesus had hitherto imparted much knowledge by proverbs, on account of the weakness of their receptive capacity.
2. Hereafter the Spirit would impart truth in all its plainness. The clearer insight came to the disciples after Pentecost.
3. The truth was mainly concerning their relation to the Father as his adopted children.
4. Their confidence would rest, not upon his own intercession so much as upon their direct connection with the Father.
(1) He does not repudiate his intercessorship on their behalf, though he says, "I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father about you."
(a) It is a blessed truth that "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous" (1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:2).
(b) Yet it would not be necessary, as he here says, to inquire (ἐρωτᾷν) what was the Father's will, with the view of laying the case before him.
(2) The Father's own love, without any pleading on the Son's part, would secure every blessing for them. "The Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God."
(a) The Father's love is connected with the disciples' love to Jesus. "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father" (John 14:21).
(b) Their love was connected with their faith. They believed
(α) in Christ's Divine mission, as well as in
(β) the unity of his essence with the Father. "I came out from God."
(γ) Jesus assures them of his approaching ascension. "I leave the world, and go to the Father." The Ascension is explained by the Incarnation. Four facts are plainly revealed—his mission, incarnation, death, ascension.
IV. THE SATISFACTION OF THE DISCIPLES. "Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb."
1. They recognize his Divine mission in their experience of his omniscience. "Now we know that thou knowest all things."
2. This experience was enough for their want; for the Lord would satisfy it in his own time and way.
The faith now acknowledged was destined to be severely tried.
I. THE FAITH OF THE DISCIPLES WAS GENUINE, BUT INCOMPLETE. "Now ye believe."
1. Trial is needed to test the existence and strength of faith.
2. It was a mark of our Lord's love and wisdom to warn the disciples of coming trial.
3. Their desertion of their Master here foretold must have been incredible to their minds. "Behold, the hour cometh … that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone."
(1) The thought must have been painful to our Lord.
(2) The desertion was foretold in Old Testament Scripture (Zechariah 13:7).
(3) The prediction almost implies in it the pardon beforehand of their weakness and unfaithfulness.
4. Our Lord had a consolation in prospect of their desertion. "And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me."
II. THE DESIGN OF OUR LORD'S PARTING ADDRESS TO HIS DISCIPLES. "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace."
1. The precious legacy of Christ to his people is peace.
(1) It is peace by the cross (Colossians 1:20).
(2) It is peace perfectly consistent with severe trial, sore affliction, and bloody persecution. "In the world ye shall have tribulation."
(3) It is peace in himself.
2. The guarantee of peace. "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
(1) The world is the center of disturbance to the peace of God's people. It is the sphere of tribulation.
(2) The summons to have "good courage" suggests the faith which is to have overcoming rower. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4).
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
John 16:2, John 16:3
Persecution foreseen and foretold.
The great aim of the Lord Jesus, in his final conversations with his apostles, was to convince them of their perfect union with himself. They were the branches of the living vine; they were his beloved and confidential friends. Were these revelations made merely to assure them of privilege, merely to make them happy in the consciousness of an honorable and inseparable relation? Certainly not. This spiritual fellowship was to be the power for holy service and the motive to patient endurance. It is in this last respect that, in the verses before us, our Lord relied upon the revelation already made as sufficient to secure his disciples from being "offended" with him. He felt that, having explained the community of life and interest subsisting between himself and his own, he might open up before them the prospect of persecution. Forewarned, they would thus be forearmed. He treated them herein not as children, but as soldiers in a spiritual war, whose allegiance he did not doubt, and of whose fortitude he was perfectly assured.
I. THE NATURE OF PERSECUTION. It was no new thing in the world that men should be pursued with bitter hostility for their devotion to truth, to duty, to righteousness, to God. The history of Israel contained but too many illustrations of the enmity with which the good have been assailed by those to whom their life and testimony were a rebuke. And Jesus foresaw that confessors and martyrs were to render a service in his kingdom, both by establishing the faith upon a basis of hard trial and proof, and by extending the truth amongst unbelievers. Jesus here refers to two ways in which his disciples should experience the hostility of an unbelieving world.
1. Ecclesiastical censure and excommunication. Doubtless the reference here is to the Jews. Even during our Lord's ministry, those who confessed him were in some instances excluded from the synagogues. And when the Church was constituted by the descent of the Spirit, and especially when the broad designs of Christianity as a religion, not for Israel only, but for mankind, were clearly exhibited, then the hostility of the bigoted among the Jewish leaders and the Jewish populace knew no hounds. Reverencing everything connected with the Law and the prophets, the preachers of Christ would fain have resorted to the synagogues as of old, would fain have reasoned out of the Scriptures with a view of proving that Jesus was the Messiah, and of showing how his religion realized all the types and predictions of Judaism. But the merit and the glory of Christianity was, in the eyes of legalists and formalists, its chief offence; and a sharp line was drawn, over which the followers of the Nazarene were not suffered to step.
2. Temporal and corporal infliction, reaching even to death. The Jews did, as we know from the record of the Acts, even very early in the history of the Christian faith, carry their enmity so tar as to inflict capital punishment upon a Christian advocate. But it seems as if our Lord, in this prediction, looked forward to events which should follow the proclamation of the gospel among the Gentiles. The annals of the Church of Christ are rich indeed in instances of martyrdom. And it has passed into a proverb, that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."
II. THE MOTIVE TO PERSECUTION. Our Lord admitted that the motive to much of the persecution that should assail the professors of the faith was a conscientious and even a religious motive. Events have confirmed this attribution of motive. No doubt there have been persecutors who have acted from interested, selfish motives. But there have been those who have persecuted Christians in the belief that they were doing God a service, offering to him an acceptable sacrifice in the blood of the "faithful unto death" The Jews particularly were, in many instances, influenced in their hostility to Christians by a reverence for what they believed, however erroneously, to be the perfect religion, capable of no addition, no improvement. The professions and claims made first by Jesus, and afterwards by his servants on his behalf, were of a very high and authoritative character. Christ was either the Son of God or be was a blasphemer; and we know that the latter view was taken by many of the Jewish unbelievers. It is no justification of evil conduct that those guilty of it are sincere; yet sincere ignorance is an extenuation, though not a vindication, of guilt. Alas! what evils have been wrought in the name, not only of liberty, but of religion!
III. THE EXPLANATION OF PERSECUTION. Our Lord was a Revealer of all hearts. He looked below the profession, and even below the belief. He penetrated deep into the spiritual nature of men, and was familiar with the hidden springs of thought and of action. There was a reason, not in every case known to the agents themselves, for the actions which they committed. The Lord Jesus was able to account for conduct by searching the inner nature. And so doing he discovered, in the spiritual ignorance of the persecutors, the true and all-sufficient reason for their attitude and proceedings. "They have not known the Father, nor me." They cannot "know" Christ by the knowledge, that is, of spiritual appreciation and sympathy, who persecute and slay his friends and the promulgators of his faith. They must utterly misunderstand him, his character, and his mission, if they suppose that God can be pleased when Christians are persecuted. For it is not to be believed that the Father can look with satisfaction upon injuries done to his own Son in the person of his followers. Had the Jews known Christ, they would not have slain the Lord of glory. And none who truly knew our Lord could have persecuted his faithful people in order to do his Father service.—T.
John 16:5, John 16:6
The absorbing power of sorrow.
There was sympathy between our Lord and his apostles, but that sympathy was not perfect. Even in the latest of the quiet conversations between the Master and the disciples, it is evident that the perception of the learners was now and again very dull, and that their response to his communication was very inadequate. There is a tone of expostulation, almost of upbraiding, in this as in other portions of the recorded discourse.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THE REVELATIONS WHICH CHRIST HERE REFERS TO.
1. Concerning himself. Jesus had uttered language which both perplexed and distressed his friends. He had spoken of his approaching departure—a prospect which could not but grieve, and which clearly did depress his hearers. Their life was bound up in his life, and separation could not be faced without sinking of heart.
2. Concerning them, the Lord had opened up a prospect which dismayed, or at least disconcerted, them. He had plainly told them that they should be both hated and persecuted. Such an outlook as this was very gloomy. They were not prepared to endure such tribulation, especially when deprived of the presence and support, visible and tangible, of their Chief.
II. THE EFFECT OF THESE REVELATIONS UPON THE MINDS OF THE APOSTLES. "Sorrow," said Jesus, "hath filled your heart." He had opened the conversation by bidding them trust in him, and dismiss fear and trouble from their mind. And he had given them reasons for confidence, grounds for hope, motives to peace. But they were conscious of their feebleness, their dependence. They had accordingly no thought but for themselves. As they looked one at another, they must have felt that there was among them no ore upon whom they could lean in the absence of their Lord. And he was going, and going soon. How were they to keep together? And if they should keep together, what was there for them to do? Had not the Master done everything? Without him, where would be the meaning of their fellowship—the purpose of their life? It is a proof of the reality of their attachment to Jesus, of the bitterness of their disappointment at his departure, that in this hour their souls should he burdened, and all but overwhelmed with grief.
III. THE EFFECT OF SORROW TO TURN AWAY THE MIND FROM INQUIRIES WHICH MAY LEAD TO CONSOLATION. The apostles were absorbed in their own grief and trouble. Hence they were prevented by their own depression from inquiring further into the Lord's departure. Not that they were altogether incurious and careless concerning this; some of them had put questions suggested by the Lord's words. But they sank back at once upon their own condition and prospects. If they had turned away from their own loss, if they had followed Christ's declarations concerning himself with interest and faith, if they had asked for further revelations, they would both have forgotten their personal distress, and they would have received inspiration and fortitude as they realized the victory which should follow the Savior's humiliation, and as they understood that in that victory they themselves should share.
IV. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE IS THUS REACHED, THAT THE BEST AND MOST HELPFUL HABIT OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE IS THE CONCENTRATION OF THOUGHT AND FEELING RATHER UPON OUR SAVIOR THAN UPON OURSELVES. Experience has shown that it is a most deleterious practice to direct thought too much inwardly upon our own sorrows and perplexities, or even upon our joys and comforts. Religious progress is made by fixing the gaze of the heart upon him who is infinite Excellence and infinite Faithfulness. Let our chief interest, our most earnest questioning, our most ardent affection, be directed towards him; and then sorrow will vanish and peace will reign.—T.
The advantages of Christ's departure.
The world enjoyed many benefits by reason of Christ's presence: he healed the sick, and taught the ignorant, and was a kind, wise, and faithful Friend to all men. How much more were the disciples of Jesus indebted to that presence! His intimate friends owed their all, their very selves, to him, and could not look forward to losing him without dismay.
"My Savior, can it ever be,
That I should gain by losing thee?"
Yet our Lord taught that it was really for his people's good that he should leave them, and the experience of the Christian centuries has proved the wisdom of his teaching.
I. THE DISPENSATION OF PERSONAL PRESENCE WAS THUS SUCCEEDED BY THE DISPENSATION OF SPIRITUAL POWER. The ascension of Christ was the occasion of the descent of the Comforter. The Holy Spirit was indeed no stranger to our humanity even before our Lord's coming, hut his influences were to be more widely diffused and more powerfully active than in the earlier ages. Why the coming of the Spirit was made, in the wise counsels of God, dependent upon the departure of Jesus, we can only partially understand. But the events of Pentecost are matter of Scripture history. The records of this dispensation reform us how the Spirit has convinced the world of sin, of righteousness, of judgment. The Church has never, since our Lord's ascension, ceased to enjoy the enlightening, quickening, sanctifying influences of its Comforter.
II. THE LIFE OF SIGHT WAS THUS REPLACED BY THE HIGHER LIFE OF FAITH. It was necessary that the Son of God and the Savior of mankind should dwell upon earth, and, by the deeds of his ministry and his death of Sacrifice, reveal God to his sinful children, and furnish a basis for the spiritual life of humanity. A revealed Object of faith was thus provided. But when the manifestation was complete, it was withdrawn. The special excellence of the Christian religion lies here: it is a religion which calls for, justifies, and encourages faith—faith in an unseen, but mighty, ever-present, and ever-gracious Redeemer and Lord. "In him, though now we see him not, yet believing we rejoice."
III. CHRISTIANITY WAS THUS MADE NO LOCAL RELIGION, BUT A RELIGION FOR HUMANITY. So far as we can see, the bodily presence of Jesus upon earth could not but limit his reign; it could not well, in such case, be other than partial, local, national. But the purposes of the Eternal were comprehensive in benevolence. It was designed that "all the ends of the earth should see the salvation of our God." The going away of Jesus assured to the new humanity a Divine and heavenly Head. By his Spirit the ascended and glorified Lord is equally present in every part of his dominions. Thus all local limitations are transcended, and provision is made for the extension to all mankind of the blessings of our Savior's spiritual presence, authority, and grace.
IV. THE HOPE OF CHRISTIANS IS THUS BEHOVED FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN. If Jesus were still on earth, who would not be content to live and loath to die? What prospect would have reconciled his friends to death? But our Divine Friend has gone on before us, and we can only join him upon the condition of the taking down of this perishable tent in which we dwell. It is the prospect of going to him who has gone away from earth which lends brightness to the Christian's future. His prayer has secured that, where he is, there also his friends and disciples shall be. Accordingly an apostle could speak of removing hence as being "with Christ, which is far better." And there is no prospect so dear to the Christian's heart as that of ever being with the Lord.—T.
John 16:8, John 16:9
Conviction of sin.
Looking forward to the dispensation of the Spirit, the Lord Jesus described by anticipation the work of the Spirit in the world. It cannot be overlooked that this work has been, and ever must be, connected with the publication of the gospel of salvation through the Divine Redeemer. It is not to be supposed that we exalt the office of the Spirit when we neglect or depreciate the Word with which and through which the Spirit acts.
I. THE SIN OF WHICH THE SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD. By the world we understand humanity at large, as alienated from God, and as in rebellion against him. Our race has been the prey of sin. However the form of sin has varied, the principle has remained the same. But the most striking and the most awful proof of the presence and the power of sin in the world is its rejection of Christ. "They believe not on me." For Christ was goodness incarnate; a greater sin it was not within the power of man to commit than to reject the Holy One and the Righteous. Jesus foresaw how he was about to be treated by his fellow-countrymen the Jews, and by the Romans.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE SPIRIT CONVICTS THE WORLD OF SIN. In the Mosaic dispensation very much was done to introduce into men's minds the Divine estimate, the Divine abhorrence, of sin. The Law and the prophets ever kept this in view, and their work was doubtless that of the Spirit. But in the later and completer dispensation the Spirit has made manifest in many ways the exceeding sinfulness of sin. We may instance the emphatic condemnation of sin in our Lord's words, in which it is come, red to darkness, to bondage, to death; and yet more in the contrast presented to a sinful world by the spotless character and perfect moral example of the Son of man. Yet to the Christian mind the world's sin is brought home most effectively by the provision of redemption. Jesus was the Sin Offering; he condemned sin in the flesh; he redeemed the sinner at the priceless cost and ransom of his life. The Spirit, accompanying the gospel which conveys these tidings, has rendered sin obviously and flagrantly such in the view of all who are capable of judging. Especially the sin of unbelief, of willfully rejecting the Savior, has been charged upon the human conscience in such a manner as to lead multitudes to contrition and repentance.
III. THE RESULTS WHICH HAVE FOLLOWED THE CONVICTION OF THE SINFUL WORLD BY THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. There is something paradoxical in attributing such a result as conviction of sin to the Paraclete, the Comforter. Yet it is not to be questioned that the consciousness of sinfulness is essential in order to its forgiveness. It is the Spirit of God who renders the sinner not merely aware of his state and of his danger, but contrite and penitent; whilst contrition and penitence are necessary and indispensable in order to pardon and acceptance. There is for the sinner no true consolation which does not come by way of conviction.—T.
John 16:8, John 16:10
Conviction of righteousness.
In order to moral improvement there must be a sense of sin and its degradation and misery, and there must be some apprehension of righteousness and holiness accompanied by both admiration and aspiration. It is an evidence of the divinely wise provision of the gospel of Christ, that there is secured for man, in the influences of the Spirit of God, not only a power which dissatisfies men with sin, but a power which impels men to righteousness.
I. THERE IS A CLOSE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONVICTION OF SIN AND CONVICTION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. The knowledge of the Law gives the knowledge of sin. Obedience and disobedience are correlative. The good man by his goodness enforces the excellence of the Law he obeys, and at the same time suggests the flagrant enormity of defying and despising that Law. There is nothing inconsistent in the performance by the same Spirit of this twofold office. In a world where sin abounds the functions cannot be separated.
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT CONVINCES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE RECORD OF CHRIST'S JUST AND HOLY LIFE. The narratives of the evangelists are expressly attributed to the Spirit of Christ, who brought all that it concerned the Church and the world to know concerning Jesus to the minds of the inspired and sympathetic writers. What a record these memoirs constitute! Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, magnified the Law, was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was actively and benevolently good. It is one thing for righteousness to be expressed in the Law; another thing for it to be embodied in a life. Wherever the record of our Savior's ministry is read, there the Spirit testifies to the reader's heart of a righteousness faultless and peerless, fitted to command reverence and adoration.
III. THE DEPARTURE AND ASCENSION OF CHRIST WERE THE OCCASION OF THIS CONVINCING WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT. His going to the Father and his consequent concealment from the bodily eyes of men were mentioned by himself as thus connected with the conviction of the world. How this was so we, as a matter of fact and history, can see. A completed life was crowned by a sacrificial death and by a triumphant ascension; the Representative and Savior of man was accepted by the Father; his work was secured beyond all possibility of failure. The personal animosity which beset the Incarnate One came then to an end; the protest against sin, and the exhibition of righteousness, both of which were perfected in Christ, were now presented to men with a completeness which was impossible during his ministry. Righteousness had been resented and rejected when it conflicted with personal interests, when it visibly and audibly set itself against individual and national sins. It was necessary that this should be so for a season. But the time came when the protest of Christ was heard from heaven as the authoritative voice of God himself. The Holy Spirit works with this now historical and ideal exhibition of righteousness, in order to make it a mighty factor in the moral life of humanity.
IV. THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS BEEN DURING THIS DISPENSATION CONVICTING THE WORLD OF ITS SIN IN REJECTING THE SUPREMELY RIGHTEOUS. The Jews would not have this Man to reign over them; his justice, his truth, his purity, his spirituality, were an offence to them; they slew him whose presence was to them a perpetual rebuke. But to how many was the preaching of the gospel by the apostles a convincing of sin? When these fearless heralds, under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, charged upon the nation their sin and guilt, many were "pricked to the heart," feeling as if their own hands had slain the Prince of Life; many sought mercy for their unjust and fearful sin. They saw the righteousness of the Redeemer in a new light. The sick had slain their Physician, the enslaved their Liberator. Thus did the Spirit bring the enemies of righteousness to seek for themselves the righteousness they had despised when it had come to them in the Person of the Son of God. And in this the action of these aroused, repentant Israelites was an earnest of the turning unto God which should follow upon the preaching of Christ to the Gentiles also.
V. IT IS THE GRACIOUS OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST TO LEAD THE WORLD TO SEEK AND TO APPROPRIATE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS IT HAS SCORNED. It would not have been in harmony with the character of our Redeemer to have laid stress upon righteousness as rejected, and to have lost sight of righteousness as acquired and appropriated. The Holy Spirit does indeed convince men that they have violated righteousness in their denial and contempt of Christ. But in this is no gospel. And Christ died, and the Holy Spirit was given, for the good of man, for the salvation and not for the condemnation of the sinner. Accordingly, it is by these heavenly influences exerted by the Spirit of God that men are led not only to lament their deficiency, but to seek that that deficiency may be supplied. Jesus becomes to us who believe "the Lord our Righteousness;" he is "made unto us of God Righteousness." And it is for the Spirit that we must give thanks for leading us into the possession and enjoyment of "the righteousness which is by faith."—T.
John 16:8, John 16:11
Conviction of judgment.
It is usually said that the sin of which the Spirit convicts is the sin of the world; that the righteousness is that of Christ; and that the judgment is the judgment of Satan. In this last reference our Lord's language must be regarded as anticipatory. Satan's power was never so awfully evinced as in the condemnation and crucifixion of the Son of God; yet the hour of his apparent triumph was in reality the hour of his fall. Translated into ordinary language, this grand saying of Jesus affirms that the Holy Spirit convinces those who ponder the facts upon which the Christian religion is based, that the world is indeed beneath a moral government, and that the righteous rule of the Eternal has been and will be vindicated.
I. THE MORAL NECESSITY THERE WAS THAT THE PRINCE OR RULER OF THIS WORLD SHOULD BE JUDGED.
1. The power of evil had already had a long and prosperous course. In the lapse of centuries and millenniums every possible form of sin had flourished in one community or another. Satan had had things almost his own way.
2. Yet the ruler of this world de facto was not its ruler de jure; he was a usurper meeting with too ready a submission on the part of men.
3. Neither the operation of natural laws nor the occasional judgments and interpositions of the Supreme had been sufficient to arrest the downward progress of humanity. The laws of society, the Law given by Moses, nay, the very law embodied in the constitution of human affairs, had been effective chiefly as a protest against disobedience and iniquity.
II. THE FACT THAT THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD WAS JUDGED IN THE CRUCIFIXION AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. It is a grand and solemn hour when an evil ruler or an unjust, perfidious prince is brought to trial and to the block. How great is the solemnity and awe attached to the scene, the time, when the power of evil was met on the field, discomfited, and crippled by the irresistible might of God's own Son! This was the issue of the combat, as foreseen by Christ himself. As the struggle approached, the Lord Jesus realized its momentous character and its glorious results. He saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven. "Now," said he, "is the judgment of this world; now is the prince of this world cast out." The hour of Christ's death was the hour when he "destroyed him that had the power of death." In his resurrection Jesus led captivity captive, and robbed death of its sting. The sinful, unbelieving world was judged in its prince. The sentence against the prince of darkness was pronounced; the execution of that sentence should follow.
III. THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT WAS TO CONVINCE THE WORLD THAT ITS ANCIENT USURPER HAD BEEN DETHRONED BY CHRIST. The two kingdoms—that of sin and darkness, and that of light and holiness—could not exist side by side. The stronger must needs prevail over the weaker. Immediately upon the resurrection and ascension el Jesus, and upon the gift of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of Christ began to prosper, and to prevail against that of the adversary. The demoniacs who were set free from Satanic possession were the earnest of the liberation of the ransomed humanity. When the idols were abolished, the kingdom of error and of sin felt the blow. When worshippers of cruelty and lust transferred their homage to the holy Savior, the contest issued in victory for God. And every human soul in which the Spirit has wrought the work of enlightenment and enfranchisement is a new trophy won for Christ. The day shall surely come when every foe shall be beneath the Master's feet, when "the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ."—T.
John 16:13, John 16:14
The guidance of the Spirit.
In the preceding verses our Lord has described the work of the Spirit in reference to the world; he here very fully, though succinctly, declares what is the work of the Spirit on behalf of the Church.
I. IT IS NOT THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT TO ORIGINATE AND EMBODY TRUTH. This is an error into which Christians of different Churches and different tendencies have fallen—an error sometimes designated "mysticism." Good men have often looked to the enlightenment of the Spirit for a manifestation of new truth. Light proceeds from a visible object directly or by reflection, and by the light we see the object and its visible qualities; but the object must be there in order that the light may reveal it. So is it in the spiritual realm. The Spirit does "not speak from himself;" this is not his office. The truth is embodied in revelation, in the Law, the Gospel, especially in the Lord Jesus, who is "the Truth." If men turn away from the revelation and look to the Spirit alone for illumination, they will mistake their own tastes and prejudices for the truth of God.
II. IT IS THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT TO LEAD THE MIND TO RECOGNIZE AND APPRECIATE DIVINE TRUTH. The words here used by Jesus concerning the Spirit are decisive upon this point; he will "guide" and "show." The truth exists in the revealed counsels of God, and especially in the character and the mediation of Jesus Christ. But for the ignorant, the untaught, the unspiritual, the truth is as though it were not. The work of the Spirit is to witness to the soul, i.e. to bring the soul into harmony with the Divine revelation, to remove the dullness, the coldness, the sin, which would prevent men from realizing God's truth. A landscape in the dark midnight can afford no man pleasure, however artistic and sympathetic be may be by nature; but when the sun arises and irradiates the scene, and pours the light, in all its power to reveal the beauties of form and color, into the eyes of the beholder, then his pleasure is perfected. So is the case with the soul of man, which needs Divine illumination in order to value and enjoy Divine truth.
III. THE SPECIAL OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT IS TO REVEAL AND THUS TO 'GLORIFY CHRIST HIMSELF. He knows the way, and guides God's people into it; he hears the truth, and repeats it in the spiritual hearing of the susceptible; he receives, and what he receives he imparts to those who are prepared to accept it. In these verses the substance of the revelation is represented in three different lights. There is the Person Christ, only to be apprehended by the spiritual quickening which enables the mind to discover in him the Gift of God himself. There is the truth, all gathered up in Chest, and made in him an object of faith and delight to the soul. There are the things that are to come, the unfolding of the counsels of the Mediator in the growth of the Church and the universality of the kingdom.—T.
Grief and gladness.
Our Lord gave his apostles to understand that he was no enemy to the emotions that are characteristic of humanity. By becoming his disciples men did not exempt themselves from the common sorrows, nor did they forfeit the common joys, of human life. But these emotions were to be excited by greater and worthier occasions than those met with in ordinary experience. To be a Christian is to know profounder sorrow, and to rise to loftier joy, than falls to the lot of the unspiritual. And our Lord's first disciples were to prove this at the very outset of their spiritual life.
I. THE GRIEF OCCASIONED BY THE LORD'S ABSENCE. Probably had the twelve been perfectly informed, perfectly sympathetic, and perfectly patient, they would not have undergone all the distress which came upon them when their Lord was seized, insulted, and crucified, and whilst his body lay in Joseph's tomb. But as it was, their experience was more like our own, and therefore more instructive and helpful.
1. The disciples sorrowed because of their own loss. Jesus was everything to them, and they were about to lose him; this they knew, and the consciousness of this loss, which was imminent, seems to have occupied and absorbed their souls, to the exclusion of considerations which might have brought consolation. Thus it has often been with all of us; grief is so close to the heart that it shuts out the vision of aught beyond.
2. The disciples sorrowed through sympathy with the sorrow of their Lord. He was to be hated, to be persecuted, to lay down his life. Yet he was not only innocent, he was the Friend and Benefactor of men. The treatment he received from the world was a proof of monstrous ingratitude. Those who were nearest to him, and who knew him best, could not but sympathize with him, and in some measure, though very imperfectly, share his grief.
3. The disciples sorrowed because of the cloud which gathered over their hopes. These hopes were to some extent indefinite; yet they looked forward to a Messianic kingdom of which their Master should be the Head, and in which they should hold place and sway and honor. They trusted that he should redeem Israel; and they could not understand how such a fate as that which was, according to his own words, about to overtake him, could be reconciled with the prospect which they had been cherishing. Hence their weeping and lamentation.
II. THE GLADNESS TO BE CREATED BY THE LORD'S RETURN. There was only one antidote to sorrow such as that which was oppressing the apostles' hearts, and which was to deepen into anguish and terror. If their Lord was all to them, their minds could only be relieved by the prospect of reunion with him.
1. Jesus promised that after "a little while" his friends should again behold his form and hear his voice. How this prospect was consistent with the assurance that he was about to be slain, these inexperienced and bewildered friends of Jesus could not see. But events were to teach them. That the Resurrection came upon them as a surprise, the narrative makes abundantly clear. But the disciples were "glad when they saw the Lord."
2. This fellowship for a brief season to be accorded to the disciples was an earnest of a spiritual communion never to cease, and of a final and perfect reunion in a higher state of being. There were in our Lord's last discourses and conversations many intimations of this glorious prospect. Very inadequately did these simple learners grasp truths so great and so new, that only time, experience, and the Holy Spirit's teaching could possibly bring them home to their hearts. The revelation was too grand to be grasped at once. Yet it was a revelation which was to nourish the faith, impel the consecration, and inspire the patience, of the Church of Christ through the long ages of the spiritual dispensation. What joy the spiritual fellowship with the unseen Savior enkindled in the souls of his faithful people, we know from their recorded experience and from their confident admonitions. "Joy unspeakable and full of glory" was, in the view of the apostles, the proper portion of those who believed in Jesus. "Rejoice evermore!" was the exhortation with which gloom was rebuked, with which privilege and hope of immortal progress were indissolubly connected.—T.
"I will see you again."
The sympathy and the wisdom alike of our Lord's declarations and promises to his disciples upon the eve of his departure, command our warmest admiration. He both felt for those who were about to pass through a trial so severe, and he knew how to minister to their heart's necessities. What a knowledge of human nature is apparent in this simple bat most significant promise!
I. THE OCCASIONS UPON WHICH THIS PROMISE WAS FULFILLED.
1. Upon our Lord's resurrection. Had he not taken this very early opportunity of again seeing his own, it is not obvious how their faith and courage could have been sustained. They were depressed almost to despondency by their Lord's Passion and burial. Had he not appeared when he did, it would seem that their confidence in him must have been shaken, and their mutual unity must have been dissolved. But when he saw them, gladness took the place of sorrow, attachment was strengthened, and hope banished despair.
2. The descent of the Spirit was a richer and fuller accomplishment of our Lord's designs of grace towards his Church. He had promised the Comforter, whose coming should keep them from being orphans, abandoned, and friendless in the world. And in the Spirit he himself came again to his own, visiting them in showers of spiritual blessing.
3. The return at the second advent must also have been in the Master's mind when he uttered these gracious words of friendly assurance. His parables and his direct discourses alike animated the breasts of the disciples with this blessed hope. All the more did they rejoice in this prospect, because they were taught that he who had come the first time in humiliation and obedience would come the second time to judge and to reign.
II. THE FULLNESS OF IMPORT AND BLESSING WHICH THIS PROMISE CONTAINS.
1. The assurance that Christ will see his people is even more precious and welcome than the assurance given (in previous verses) that they shall see him. Our religion teaches us to look away from ourselves to God, to rest on his declarations, his faithfulness, his love. Unless we are in a morbid, self-conscious state, it will give us strength and comfort to forget ourselves in order to concentrate our thoughts and desires upon him who holds us dear, and who will never forget and never forsake his own.
2. That Christ will see his people, involves an accession to their happiness. To know that the eye of our dearest friend is resting upon us, and that with interest and approbation, what so fitted as this to send a thrill of joy through all our nature? We are encouraged by the language of the text to think of Christ thus affectionately and (so to speak) in a manner so truly human.
3. That Christ will see his people, assures them of the supply of all their wants. Can our dearest and mightiest Friend see us in danger, and not deliver us? in temptation, and not succor us? in sorrow, and not console us? in need, and not minister to us? For a Being so sympathizing, to see is to pity; for a Being so mighty, to pity is to aid.—T.
John 16:26, John 16:27
The Father's love.
The time here referred to must be the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. A great purpose of the gift of the Comforter and the establishment of the Church on earth was that a new, intimate, and happy relation might be constituted uniting the eternal God by personal and spiritual bonds to those who, made in his image, should become by grace partakers of his character.
I. THE OBJECTS OF THE FATHER'S LOVE. The description given of such as the Father regards with affection is very definite and very instructive.
1. They are those who love Christ. Undoubtedly, the apostles, to whom these words were originally spoken, did love their Master; events proved the sincerity of their attachment. Yet this qualification is one which may exist in those who have not seen Jesus in the body, but only with the eye of faith. Christians, who are such in reality and not merely in name, cherish a warm and grateful affection towards the Son of God, who himself loved them and bought them with his precious blood. Their love does not evaporate in sentiment; it displays itself in their reception of his doctrine, their obedience to his commands, their imitation of his holy example.
2. They are those who believe in Christ's Divine mission. If any man thinks of Christ as of One who is "of the earth," who is a merely human development, who has no special and Divine authority to save and to rule, such a one is not described in this language, and shuts himself out from the blessing which is accessible. But he who thinks of Jesus as of the Being who came forth from the Father, commissioned and equipped by the Father to be the Savior of men, and who not only thinks of him aright, but acts towards him in such a way as this belief authorizes, he may be encouraged to regard himself as the object of the Divine Father's love. Thus love and belief are both necessary. In this passage love takes precedence; but some belief concerning Christ must come before love, though unquestionably the loving soul learns to believe more richly and fully concerning the Divine, incomparable Friend.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE FATHER'S LOVE.
1. It originates in his benevolent nature. His love is not caused by ours. "We love him, because he first loved us." But the love of Divine pity revealed in Christ enkindles the flame of love upon our hearts.
2. It manifests itself in the mediation of the Son. The love of God is not caused by the intercession of our Divine Advocate and Representative.
3. It is, towards these who believe in Christ, the love of satisfaction and complacency. Beginning with pity, the Divine love goes on to approval. The Father recognizes in the friends and followers of Christ the same moral features and expressions which he looks upon with delight in his Son. This is a view of God which is eminently and distinctively Christian. The God whom we worship is a God who can love man, whose love flows forth in streams of compassion towards all men, but whose favor is revealed to those who display moral sympathy with his own beloved Son.
III. THE PROOF OF THE FATHER'S LOVE.
1. The objects of this Divine affection are encouraged to ask for what they need from him who is able to supply their many and varied wants. What greater evidence can there be of fatherly and filial feeling than when a son is at liberty to prefer requests to a parent who has confidence in his child and has the means of satisfying and of pleasing him? Such are the relations between the heavenly Father and those whom he adopts into his family.
2. The spontaneous disposition of the Father is to grant the requests of his children. This language casts light upon the Scripture doctrine of intercession. Christ is the Advocate with God, but his advocacy does not consist in persuading an unwilling Deity to relent from his severity and to act with generosity. On the contrary, the advocacy is the appointment of Divine love and the channel of Divine favor. Christ does not mean that he will not pray the Father for us; but that this fact of intercession is not the point upon which he is now dwelling. He is anxious that his friends should understand that the Father's love is free, that his liberality is such as to secure to his Son's friends the enjoyment of all good. And, as a consequence, every Christian is encouraged to bring his petitions to God, in the Name of Christ indeed, yet with the assurance that there is now nothing on the part of the Father to hinder the bestowal of all needed and desirable blessings.—T.
Words of cheer.
These last words of our Lord's last discourse must have rung melodiously in the ears of those who were privileged to listen to them. No more cheering tones, no brighter vision, could Jesus have left with his bereaved, but not orphaned, not comfortless, disciples.
I. CHRIST'S PEOPLE MUST ENDURE TRIBULATION.
1. This is the consequence of their remaining for a season in a world where sin and sorrow still prevail.
2. It is involved in their participation in their Master's lot. If he was hated and persecuted, how can his followers escape? As the world treated the Lord, so in a measure will it treat those who are faithful to him, and who tread in his steps.
3. This lot is not one of unmixed evil. Tribulation is discipline; the wheat is threshed in order that it may be set free from the husks and straw, and the character of Christians is, as a matter of fact, refined and purified by the winnowing of affliction and persecution.
II. CHRIST HAS CONSOLATION AND ENCOURAGEMENT FOR HIS PEOPLE WHEN THEY ENDURE THE TRIBULATION OF THE WORLD.
1. His words bring peace. The whole of the discourse which here concludes breathes of peace. His revelations of the present and of the future are alike tilted to soothe the mind perturbed by the distresses and the disasters of this life.
2. His sympathy brings courage. It seems to have been a favorite saying of our Lord, "Be of good cheer!" Be courageous and confident! It was, however, a saying always accompanied by his own Divine presence and voice. It was powerful because it came from his lips, from his tender heart, because with it there went out from him to his afflicted ones the spiritual power which enabled them to endure and strive and hope.
3. His conquest brings victory. Even now, before he was overwhelmed with the baptism of sacrificial sorrow, he could speak of himself as having overcome the world. But a few hours had yet to elapse, and the world should lie at his feet, purchased, vanquished, subdued! And Christ overcame, not for himself, but for his people; that, fighting by his side on earth, they might reign with him above; that, overcoming in and with him, they might sit down with him upon his throne.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
The expediency of Christ's departure.
We shall elucidate the truths of the text by the following remarks.
I. THAT THE MISSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE GREAT PLAN OF REDEMPTION. "The Comforter will not come," implying that his coming was essential to the carrying on of the good work in them and through them.
1. As the Divine Revealer. Christ revealed the Father; the Spirit was to reveal Christ. This revelation involves:
(1) Inward light. The illumination of the soul, the mind, the intellect, the heart, and conscience.
(2) Outward light. The great truths concerning Jesus and all the facts of redemption, would be presented in a new and clearer light by the ministry of the spirit.
(3) Inward application, He not only sheds fresh light upon the great facts of redemption, but specially and directly applies them to the soul. As the Spirit of truth, capable of inspiring and influencing directly the springs of action and choice, he is specially adapted for this inward application without which the revelation is incomplete.
2. As the Divine Regenerator. The Creator of the new life, the new heart, the new man, and the new world, and the Builder of the spiritual temple. This new creation is an essential part of the plan of redemption, and is the department of the Holy Spirit.
3. As the Divine Sanctifier. Carrying on the good work gradually unto perfection.
4. As the Divine Comforter. As such he is introduced by our Lord. This was their special need, as well as the special need of all believers in all ages.
II. THAT THE DEPARTURE OF JESUS WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. "If I go not away," etc.
1. His departure was essential to the completion of his own work and the fulfillment of his mission. He could say with propriety, "If I go not away, I cannot finish the work given me to do." This involved:
(1) A perfect atonement for sin. It is true the atonement was begun in his life; for "he is the Atonement;" but completed by his voluntary and self-sacrificing death, and it was through death he was to depart and by death complete the atonement.
(2) His perfect example.
(3) His perfect and glorified life. Only in consequence of his departure
by death these were attainable. He was made perfect through sufferings.
2. The completion of his work was essential to the coming of the Holy Spirit. "If I go not away, the Comforter," etc.
(1) The Holy Spirit could not come without a complete commission. In all the Divine proceedings there is perfect order. There is nothing done at random or by accident, but all according to the strictest laws of order and fitness. When Christ came, he came with a complete commission, in the fullness of time, and in the fullness of his Father's love. The Spirit could only come in the same way.
(2) He could not obtain his full commission until the triumphant arrival of Jesus at home. Then iris commission would be complete in the completed work of Christ. Its conditions were then fulfilled and its substance then perfect, ready for use.
(3) The departure of Jesus was not only essential in relation to the commission of the Spirit, but also in relation to the disciples themselves. The remaining of Christ with them in the flesh was incompatible with the full enjoyment of the Spirit. He had to ascend on high, not only to receive the gift of the Spirit, but also to make room for him in their heart and faith. In a sense there was no room for both at the same time.
3. The completion of his work would result in the certain coming of the Spirit. "If I go away, I will send," etc. This certainty lies:
(1) In the finished work and glorified life of Christ. This deserved and even demanded the coming of the Spirit. The latter is the natural result of the former.
(2) In his personal and official influence with the Holy Spirit. This was the result of their oneness of nature, sympathy, will, and work. He was fully conscious of the Spirit's readiness to come at his request.
(3) In the unerring fidelity of the Divine promises. The promise of the Father to Jesus and that of Jesus to his disciples: "I will send him," etc. He could not forget his promise, nor fail to send him. The struggles and agonies of the past would remind him, the infinite price paid and the importance of his coming would remind him, the tender and eternal love he bore them would make him careful to send him. They had the earnest when he breathed upon them. Let him go away, and the Spirit would come in his Divine fullness.
III. THAT THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WOULD BE MORE BENEFICIAL TO THE DISCIPLES AND ALL BELIEVERS THAN THE PERSONAL MINISTRY OF JESUS. "It is expedient," etc.
1. The personal ministry of Jesus was local; that of the Spirit is universal. Christ could not be personally present in more than one place at the same time; the Spirit can be everywhere.
2. The personal ministry of Christ was outward; that of the Spirit is inward. Christ appealed, with words and voice, to man through his physical senses; but the ministry of the Spirit is inward, appealing directly to the human heart, will, and conscience.
3. The personal ministry of Christ had a tendency to keep alive and foster the material and temporal ideas of his reign; that of the Spirit had a direct tendency to foster and establish spiritual ideas of his kingdom. While he remained with his disciples, they tenaciously clung to the idea of a temporal king and a temporal kingdom, and this idea would last as long as his personal presence; but his departure by death, had a direct tendency to destroy this notion and blast this hope for ever, and prepare them for the advent of the Holy Spirit, who would, on the ruins of the temporal kingdom, establish a spiritual one, a kingdom of God within. So that to the advent of the Spirit, in consequence of the personal departure of Jesus, they were indebted for true notions of the nature of his kingdom.
4. The personal ministry of Jesus was essentially temporary; that of the Spirit is permanent. He came only for a time, and under human conditions was subject to persecutions and death, and would ever be so, therefore his ministry could only be temporary; but the Spirit came to remain with and in his people for ever, and was personally above any physical injury from the wicked world. Christ, like the Baptist, was only a temporary herald in the world. As soon as his mission was fulfilled, he disappeared; but the Spirit is a settled Minister, and his charge he will never relinquish.
5. Christ, by the Holy Spirit, was more really and efficiently present with his disciples than he would be by his continual personal presence. So that he went away in order to come nearer to them, and come in a higher and diviner form; not in weakness, but in power; not in shame, but in glory; not in the shadow of death, but in the halo of a" Divine and glorified life;" not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; not outside, but within them; so that his departure resulted to them in more of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit as well.
6. By the Spirit, not only he could be more to them, but they also could be more to him and to his purposes of grace. More to themselves in the progress and development of their spiritual nature and character. More to the human family in their conversion and progress in holiness. With Christ's ministry of reconciliation, his perfect example, the inspiration of his devoted life, and self-sacrificing and atoning death, with the indwelling and accompanying influences of the Spirit, they could do infinitely more for Christ than if he were alone to remain personally with them. This was demonstratively proved after Pentecost. They were better missionaries, better heralds of the gospel of peace, and more heroic and enduring soldiers of the cross. In fact, in this way alone Christ could fulfill his purposes in them, and through them in the world.
1. All the teaching of Jesus to his disciples was absolutely true. "I tell you the truth." He never told a falsehood; he was incapable of this. He knew the truth, so that he could not mistake. He was true—the Truth, so that he would not deceive. It would be as easy for darkness to proceed from light as for falsehood to proceed from him who is the Truth.
2. He told them the truth, although he knew it to be at the time most unpalatable. "Nevertheless," etc. This truth concerning iris departure was so. Nothing could be more distasteful to their feelings and sentiments. Still he told them. He was most tenderly careful of their feelings. Still these were not the chief regulators of his revelations.
3. Some truths which at the time are most unpalatable prove at the end most beneficial and joyous when fully understood and realized. The departure of Jesus was such. It filled, at the moment, their heart with sorrow, but filled it afterwards with spiritual joy.
4. Christ, in all his sayings, deeds, and movements, was ever actuated by the supreme good of his disciples. "It is expedient for you," etc. Not what was best or most convenient for him, but what would best serve their spiritual interest and that of the world.—B.T.
An epitome of Christ's history.
I. WHENCE HE CAME. "I came out from the Father." This implies:
1. Unity or oneness of nature. It is not "I came from the presence of the Father," or "from a near point to him," but "I came out from him"—an expression which would be highly improper to be used by any one but by him who is equal and one with the Father, one in nature and essence. It is clearly the language of an equal, and not of an inferior.
2. Nearness of relationship. The human relationship which best expresses the relationship of the "eternal Word" to the Godhead is that of father and son, and this is used. It must not be carried too far, but we are grateful for it, as it sheds some light on Christ with regard to the Godhead; he stands in the most near and natural relationship to him, and this relationship is not outward, accidental, and transient, but inward, essential, and everlasting—the relationship of nature and essence.
3. The most intimate fellowship and acquaintance. The Divine nature is social. We like the idea of the unity of God, one supreme Being fulfilling the idea of perfect oneness; and we like also the idea of a Trinity which deprives mere unity of its dreariness, loneliness, anti monotony, and fills it with the joys and delights of society—the royal and Divine society of the Divine nature. "I came out from," etc. Their fellowship must be most intimate, inspiring, and pure, and their acquaintance perfect.
4. The warmest friendship. What must be the mutual friendship of the Father of love with the Son of his love? It must be the warmest, intensest, sweetest, and most delightful. The purest and most loving human friendships fade before this.
5. The most dignified and glorious position. "From the Father." The most glorious position in the universe. His position was equal with that of the eternal Father, his glory was as resplendent, his throne as majestic, his scepter as universal, and his throne as dignified.
6. A Divine procession. It is difficult, in human language, to describe the Divine movements, and to add anything in explanation to the simple statement of our Lord, which to him was quite plain. "I came out," etc. But there must be a special movement of the Divine nature on the part of the Son, a coming out from the Father, a partial but temporary separation, and a procession of him whose goings forth have been from of old.
II. WHITHER WE CAME. As we see the first movement of the eternal Son, we are inclined to ask whither will he go? Doubtless to one of the largest planets, in one of the most glorious systems in the universe. No; but he came into the world. He was in the world before, but now came to it, and came into it in a usual, natural way, by birth. This implies:
1. A great distance. From the Father into the world. The physical distance must be great, but the moral distance greater still. From the Divine to the human, from the sphere of Divine glory, purity, and life, to the sphere of shame, sin, sorrow, and death. The distance was infinite, and the journey was long.
2. A great change. There is a change of air, from the pure air of the Father's presence to the foul air of this world. A change of sceneries, of society, of associations, of relationships. The old ones were only partially left, but new ones were formed. A new nature was assumed; new conditions, circumstances, and employments under-token. The nature of the creature was assumed by the Creator, the nature of the sinner was assumed by Divine purity, and the nature of weakness was assumed by infinite power. The Son of God became the Son of man, the form of God was exchanged for the form of a servant, and the Lord of heaven became the tenant of this wretched, insignificant, and rebellious world. What a change! What a change from the throne to the manger, from the crown to the cross, from the society of the Father and angels to that of the rebellious children of the Fall, from the sweet music of heaven to the malignant execrations of earth!
3. A great mission. "Am come into the world." This suggests that he came as an Ambassador; and the very fact that he came from the Father into the world proves that he came upon a most important mission—a mission which deeply affected the very heart of the King, the honor of his throne, and the well-being of his subjects. His important mission was to effect reconciliation between earth and heaven; to condemn sin and save the sinner; to conquer forever the prince of this world and the powers of darkness, and create a new heaven and a new earth. His mission affected not merely this world, but the whole universe.
4. A great sacrifice. This was required to meet the demands of justice and law, and the need of the world. And his mission was a sacrifice from beginning to end; from the first movement, the coming out from the Father, the coming into the world, his life in it, and his departure from it through the ignominious death of the cross,—all this was an infinite sacrifice sufficient to answer the purposes of Divine love involved in the mission of the Son in the world.
5. A great fact. What is this? That the Son of God was incarnate in this world, and it includes all the great facts of his earthly history, which are summed up here in one, "Am come into the world." This is the greatest in this world's history—the fact of the greatest glory, interest, and consequences in all its annals. It has made this world a center of interest, meditation, and wonder for all the intelligent universe.
6. A great responsibility. If the Son of God was in this world, and for it lived and died in order to bring it into allegiance with heaven, in the face of such a condescension, expense, and sacrifice, its responsibility is infinite.
III. WHITHER HE WENT.
1. He left the world.
(1) His stay here was not intended to be long. When he came, he came only for a short time. He was a pilgrim in the land rather than a permanent resident. He came as an Ambassador, to perform a special work, and his hard work bespoke a short stay.
(2) He accomplished his work here. He came to the world, not to enjoy, but to work; not to rest, but to toil; not to live, but rather to die. He worked hard, and finished his work early; then he left—there was no more to do here. The world tried to send him away before his work was finished, but failed. Not before he cried, "It is finished!" he gave up the ghost.
(3) He had a work to do in another place—within the veil. He could not do that work here. He could not be idle. If there was no work here, he would go where it was. He was bound to time and special employments.
2. He went to the Father—to the same place as he came from.
(1) This was in the original plan. It was one of the conditions of his departure that he should soon return to the same place and to the same glory. The inhabitants could not be long happy without him. Heaven was not the same during his absence.
(2) His mission was fulfilled to the Father's entire satisfaction. Jesus was fully conscious of this, otherwise he would not speak with such confidence and delight of returning to his Father. This is the last thing a disloyal and inefficient ambassador will do. The sweet voice ever rang in his soul, "I have both glorified, and will glorify thee."
(3) His return was most natural and sweet to him, to the Father, and to all. He was never so far and so long from home before, and his return was most gratifying to the Divine heart, and it fulfilled the Divine love. Never had a conquering hero such welcome on his return. Welcome was the language of all the happy family, and the sweet burden of every strain which streamed from harps of gold. It was specially delightful to him. After the hardships of his earthly campaign, home must be indeed sweet; but all the sufferings he forgot in the ecstasy of Divine welcome and the delight of triumph.
1. All the promises of Christ to faith will be fulfilled. He had promised it plainer revelations of the Father, and the text is the first installment. Christ's light is ever in proportion to the strength of the eye, and his revelations, in substance and language, suitable to the capacities of faith—now in proverbs, now in plainer language and with greater confidence, introducing to it deeper mysteries and brighter visions.
2. All the movements of Christ in connection with the great scheme of redemption were purely voluntary. Those indicated in these words were so. "I came out from the Father," etc. He had perfect control over all his movements, and they were invariably the results of his sovereign and free will.
3. When he went to the Father he took the cause of the world, especially that of his disciples, with him—in his nature, in his heart, and will never leave nor forget it.
4. When he left the world he left the best part of himself behind. He left the precious results of his life and death, his example, his pardoning love, his Spirit, his blessed gospel with all its rich contents.
5. As he went to the Father, this indicates the direction we should go, and ever look for him. We know where he is. He left not his disciples in ignorance of his destination; he left his full address, and in its light we have a Father, and an Almighty Advocate with him.—B.T.
Faith in calm and storm.
I. THE CONFESSION OF FAITH. "By this we believe," etc. This indicates:
1. Faith in the proper Object. "We believe that thou," etc. They believed in his Person and character, and in the Divinity of his mission. Their faith, even at this time, had not made much progress in spiritual elevation and grasp of its Object; still, this fresh confession of it was encouraging. If not much progress is made, it is cheering to know there is no retrogression.
2. Faith is founded upon intelligent basis. "By this we believe," etc.
(1) The plainness of his speech. In his last words there was no proverb. The revelation is clear. He had promised them this, and now it is partly fulfilled, and fulfilled sooner than they expected. This prompt fulfillment of his promise gives new life to faith.
(2) The Divinity of his knowledge. They are struck with its Divine extensiveness: "all things;" and with its Divine quality. It is not derived through the ordinary human channels of answers to questions, but it is independent of these, and the inherent produce of his own mind. And this they had learnt, not from hearsay and observation, but from experience. He revealed and satisfied their most secret wants and wishes without any questions.
3. Its confession is very confident. "Now we know," etc. This knowledge is experimental, and such knowledge is the confidence of faith. Knowledge is helpful to faith, and faith is helpful to knowledge. Knowledge is the resting-place of faith, and the steps over which it climbs the alpine heights of Divine truth.
4. Its confession is enthusiastic. "Lo, now speakest thou," etc. This is the glow of faith on emerging from darkness into light, its first blush at the sight of a new vision, its enthusiasm on the hill of a newly acquired knowledge. The plainer revelation of Jesus was sudden, and produced in the disciples a triumphant outburst of confidence in the Divinity of his mission. The confession has some light, but more heat.
5. Its confession is united. "By this we," etc. There is not a dissentient voice. One spoke for all, and all spoke in one. It is the chorus of young faith.
II. THE EXAMINATION OF FAITH.
1. It is examined by Jesus. He is the Object of faith, and its only infallible Examiner; the examination is short, but very thorough and improving. "Do ye now believe?"
(1) This question is very important. Important to the Master and the disciples. Every true master feels an interest in the success of his pupils. Jesus was intensely desirous that they all should pass in faith successfully. His reputation as a Master and a Savior was at stake, and he trained them for service which he required, and for which faith was essential. It was still more important to them. "Do ye believe?" This is the first and greatest lesson of Christianity, and the crucial question of Christ to his disciples.
(2) This question naturally anticipates an affirmative answer. Indeed, it had been enthusiastically answered in the affirmative in the confession just made. And this was quite natural and true. Their faith was genuine, and ought to be strong and firm; they had great advantages, and Jesus had taken infinite pains with them.
(3) This question is very searching. Do you believe, and believe now? And not merely Jesus by this question searches them, but inspires them to search themselves. This was highly characteristic of him as a Teacher. He did not cram his disciples with his own thoughts, but rather inspired and helped them to think themselves. He set the mental and spiritual machinery in motion, and this simple question is highly calculated to inspire them to think and reflect and search themselves, and to look about within as to the real and present state of faith.
(4) This question is as tender and sympathetic as it is searching. Worthy of the great Master and suitable to the condition of his disciples. His patience and compassion were Divine. He does not upbraid them with slowness, imperfection, and vacillation of faith in spite of all his tuition. He does not break out into a storm of impatience and recrimination, hut tenderly for the moment leaves the question to them, and gradually sends more light so as to bring it fully home to them.
(5) This question involves joy and sorrow. The joy and sorrow of perfect knowledge. He knew that their faith was genuine and would be ultimately triumphant: this was a source of joy. He knew as well that at present it was weak, too weak to withstand the impending storm: this was a source of sorrow. And in this short question the sad and joyous notes are distinctly heard.
2. Faith is examined by Christ in connection with a most extraordinary trial. His own trial, the great tragedy of his crucifixion, which also would be the trial of faith. This is foretold.
(1) It is foretold as being very near. "Behold, the hour cometh," etc. They were within the hour and already within the vortex of the terrible whirlpool.
(2) It is foretold as being certain. There was no doubt about it, and this they would readily believe from the new glimpse they profess to have had of his perfect knowledge of all things.
(3) It is foretold in the interest of faith. Not to discourage and damp its ardor, but rather to break its inevitable fall from the height of present confidence to the depths of momentary doubt and darkness. Over the ladder of his revelation it had climbed up, and ought to remain there; but knowing that it would not, he furnishes it with another ladder to descend, so as not to be destroyed if somewhat daunted. It was foretold in the present and future interest of faith.
III. THE TEMPORARY FAILURE OF FAITH. "Ye shall be scattered," etc.
1. Its failure happened when it was thought to be strong. Think of their enthusiastic confession a short time ago. The gloom of doubt is often at the heels of the glow of faith. The fire often blazes brightly just before it is partially extinguished. When we are weak we are strong, and when we are strong we are weak.
2. Its failure happened when it ought to be firm, and when it was most needed by them and the Savior. When was it needed more than when its Object needed sympathy? It was one thing to be loud in their professions of faith in him during the palmy days of his triumph and miracles, but quite another to cling to him in his apparent defeat. They left him in the storm, when their adherence would be most important and valuable. "A friend in need is a friend indeed."
3. The manner of its failure reveals its real cause. "Every man to his own." The cause of the failure of faith was selfishness. Faith in Christ is essentially a denial of self, but in this hour of severe trial faith for a moment left Christ and clung to self. Is not this a true picture of weak and imperfect faith in all ages?
4. Its failure is very melancholy in its immediate results.
(1) A temporary separation from one another. "Every man to his own." Weakness of faith in Christ tends to dissolve society. Genuine faith in Christ sends every man out of himself to his fellow, and finds strength and happiness in union.
(2) A temporary separation from Christ. "And shall leave me alone." What weakness, inconsistency, and cowardice! And what a sad failure of even genuine faith at the beginning of its glorious career! And this will appear especially when we think that he was a Divine volunteer from the other world come to fight and conquer their foes. They left him in the grip of the enemy, and fled. What British soldier would behave so towards his general? But such was the sad failure of the bravest soldiers of the cross in the ever-memorable battle between self and benevolence.
5. This temporary but sad failure of faith engages his sympathy. We describe it as base and cowardly, and so it was; and so it is in us often under less trying circumstances. But not a harsh word drops from his lips, but words of encouragement and comfort. In order that they might, not be too depressed on account of their cowardly conduct in leaving him alone, he tenderly adds, "Yet I am not alone," etc.
1. Faith may be genuine, yet weak, inconsistent, and temporarily eclipsed. It was so in the case of the first disciples. It miserably gave way in the hour of trial; yet it was genuine, as the sequel amply proves. We must not judge too soon with regard to the reality of faith and its ultimate fate.
2. A severe trial is a test of the strength of faith. But in judging the partial failure of faith we must take into account the severity of the trial. The most heroic faith will often be baffled in a terrible storm. Such was the storm in which the disciples' faith was now.
3. Genuine faith, however weak, wilt benefit by its own failures. This was the case with regard to the disciples. Their faith never gave way afterwards.
4. The partial failure of genuine faith often culminates in a most glorious triumph. Genuine faith seldom sank lower than in the case of the disciples here, but certainly never rose higher in heroism and victory than in their after-life.
5. Although genuine faith may sometimes leave Jesus, he never leaves genuine faith. Hence its ultimate triumph. In his first disciples he nursed faith with the patience and tenderness of a mother, and in its greatest weakness and shame cast on it a tender look of love. Faith can only live on Divine love. And although he set the highest mark before his disciples, and ever encouraged and inspired them on to it, yet he was most sympathetic with their failings, and ever treated them as human. And so successful was his tuition, that eleven out of twelve passed with honors, and the only failure was the son of perdition. This is the greatest encouragement to the weakest faith in him.—B.T.
Christ alone, and not alone.
I. CHRIST ALONE. "Shall leave me alone." Through the great tragedy which followed, of which Gethsemane was but a short prelude, and of which the visible was but a small part, Christ, as far as this world was concerned, was alone.
1. He was socially alone. He could really say, "And of the people there was none with me." The world was against him, and even the existing Church was against him, its chief magnates being the ringleaders in his crucifixion. And, more than all, he was alone as to the adherence of his most faithful followers, which he might naturally expect and would so much appreciate. At this very time one of them was in the city betraying him to his most inveterate foes; another was about to deny him in the most determined manner; all were about to leave him in terror. So that from Gethsemane to the cross he was socially alone—alone amidst such a vast throng of men.
2. He was mentally alone. He was ever so. Even when his disciples were with him, his mental conceptions towered above them; they could not understand his thoughts, comprehend fully his mission in the world, nor grasp the meaning of his life and death. The Baptist, who hitherto had the highest conception of him when he exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God!" was gone, and even the few glimpses which his disciples caught of his scheme were now extinguished. His mind had no associate, and there was no mental reciprocity between him and any human being. He stood in the world of thought the lonely Thinker.
3. He was spiritually alone. He was the only sinless Being in the world, and there was not a single soul in full spiritual harmony with his. His disciples still clung to the idea of a temporal kingdom. Peter manifested his sympathy in a clumsy attempt to fight his foes with a sword, which was to him a greater insult than help. And even the wail of the tender-hearted women at the cross was misapplied, lacked spiritual virtue, and did not rhyme with the agonizing wail of his soul for sin. In the yearnings and. struggles of his holy nature, and the spiritual conceptions and purposes of his heart, he stood the lonely King and Savior.
4. To a great extent he was necessarily alone. In a great portion of his work no one could help. He drank a cup of which no one could drink a drop, and carried a burden of which no one could carry an atom—the cup of our curse and the burden of our sin. When making an atonement, satisfying justice and honoring Law, and manifesting Divine love in sacrifice, he was necessarily alone. He fought the powers of darkness, vanquished death and the prince of this world in a single combat. He trod the wine-press alone. No one could help him, and he did not expect it. But he expected the allegiance of his friends. But even this was denied him for a time, not for want of genuine love, but for want of intelligent and courageous faith and self-sacrificing adherence and spiritual discernment. He does not complain of this; still, he keenly felt it, and it pained him. What pain was it?
(1) The pain of perfect and tender sociality at being alone. To be left alone would not affect an unsocial hermit, a cold misanthrope; such would be in their element. But Jesus was the most social of beings; he would associate with the poor, and would appreciate the least kindness. The desertion of friends would specially pain such a nature.
(2) The pain of perfect humanity in the total absence of genuine sympathy in suffering. It is not more natural for the thirsty flower to look to heaven for its dew than for man to look to his friend for sympathy in suffering. But this was denied Jesus. When he cried," I thirst," there was only the rough and unsympathetic hand of a foreigner to give him a sip of drink.
(3) The pain which perfect benevolence feels at ingratitude. He felt this with regard to the nation, and with regard to hundreds in that crowd whom he had personally benefited, and all of whom he had sought to benefit; but especially with regard to his disciples, whom he had loved, and loved to the end. But they deserted him while fighting their battle and the battle of the world.
(4) The pain of an absolutely pure and loving being at the terrible and universal sinfulness and selfishness which his loneliness indicated. He was face to face with this as he was never before. From it there was not so much as a weak disciple to shelter him. "Every man to his own," and he alone for all.
(5) The pain of perfect sympathy with the weakness of friends, lie loved them still. Hence the special pain caused by their desertion. The betrayal of Judas was to him more poignant than the nails of steel, the denial of Peter keener than the spear of the Roman, and the flight of his friends more painful than all the cruel treatment of his foes.
II. CHRIST NOT ALONE. "Yet I am not alone, because the Father," etc. Tie had the fellowship of his Father.
1. This fellowship was essential. Being one in nature and essence, nothing could separate him from this. It was one of the special and essential privileges of nature and relationship.
2. This fellowship was deserved, and bestowed upon him as a Divine favor for his perfect obedience. It was not interrupted by his incarnation, but fully enjoyed by him in human nature and under human conditions. It was the reward of his voluntary sacrifice and his perfection as a Mediator and the Author of eternal salvation. He did nothing to forfeit it, but everything to deserve and secure it in the fullest measure.
3. This fellowship was continuous and unbroken. It is not "The Father was," or "will be," but "is with me"—with me now and always. He was fully conscious of his Father's cheering and smiling presence in every emotion he felt, every thought he conceived, every word he uttered, every purpose he executed, every act he performed, and in every suffering he bore. His whole life was such a manifestation of his Father's character and love, such an execution of his will and purposes, that he was ever conscious of his loving and approving fellowship. It is true that at that darkest moment on the cross he exclaimed, "My God, my God," etc.—the full meaning of which we probably can never know. When drinking the very dregs of the cup of our curse, he could not describe his experience better than by saying that he felt as if the Father had for a moment hid his face from him. But he was still conscious of his fellowship, addressed him as his God, and soon committed his Spirit unto his loving care.
4. This fellowship was to him now specially sweet and precious. It was ever precious, but specially so now. He could not bear the opposition of foes, and especially the desertion of friends, were it not for the continued fellowship of the Father. And who can render such help and solace in the hour of trial as an able and a kind father? Jesus, the most lonely of human beings, especially now, was yet not alone; deserted by the best human fellowship, he still enjoyed the Divine, and the human desertion made the Divine all the more precious and sweet. This was his support in trial, his light in darkness, and his safety from utter loneliness. He enjoyed the best and Divinest society.
1. There was one thing which neither friends nor foes could do to Jesus, viz. deprive him of Divine fellowship. From the greatest human loneliness he could say, "I am not alone, because the Father is with me." Neither earth nor hell can interfere with Divine fellowship with regard to Jesus or believers.
2. We should not be disappointed or despair if in the hour of trial we are deserted by the best of friends. Think of Jesus.
3. True fellowship with the Father by faith in Christ can only preserve us from utter loneliness. We can bear every loneliness but that in relation to our Father.
4. When deserted by friends and by all, God comes nearest to us. The least of man the most of God, often; furthest from earth the nearest to heaven.
5. The fellowship of the Father will more than compensate for all the desertions of earth. One day in his courts is better than a thousand.
6. Let us cultivate the fellowship of Christ, especially in his loneliness, then we shall enjoy with him the fellowship of his Father. Let us prepare for human desertions, for they will certainly come; but let them come upon us in the best society—that of the Father. To be left alone by him is the most horrible loneliness, but his fellowship will be sufficient in all circumstances, even in death itself.—B.T.
In Christ and in the world,
I. THAT THE CHRISTIAN IN THE PRESENT STATE IS BOTH IN THE WORLD AND IN CHRIST.
1. He is in the world.
(1) He is in the material world. In virtue of his connection with the material world he is a man, and in it he finds the present essential sources and elements of his physical life.
(2) He is in the social world. He is a member of society, and subject to its various laws, arrangements, relationships, and obligations. He eats his bread by the sweat of his brow.
(3) He is in the wicked world. We mean that he lives among wicked men; for the world in itself is good and beautiful, but there are in it many wicked inhabitants. As a subject, he may have a tyrannical sovereign. As a citizen, he may have oppressive and persecuting laws, which interfere with his rights as a man and as a Christian. As a member of a Church, he may have more than one Judas to deal with. The world is full of ignorance, carnality, selfishness, pride, hypocrisy, bigotry, and intolerance. He may have to do with men who deem it a sacred duty and a Divine service to take away his life.
2. He is also in Christ. He is united by faith to him. As his physical life is in the world, his spiritual life is in Christ.
(1) As to its source and authorship.
(2) As to its support.
(3) As to its Example and Model.
(4) As to its continuance and safety.
(5) As to its present and final end.
He is in Christ, and Christ is in him. But although he is the world, the world is not in him. He is a mere pilgrim in the world; his home is in Christ.
3. He is in the world and in Christ at the same time. He is a member of society and a member of Christ; a citizen of earth and a citizen of heaven; the subject of an earthly sovereign and a loyal subject of the King of kings; carries on business in this world and in another; deals with different men and perhaps different nations, and deals with angels and God; his feet walk this earth, and his conversation is in heaven at the same time. He is two, and yet one. He has physical and spiritual life, human and Divine nature, and has to do with two different spheres at the same moment.
4. He was in the world before he was in Christ, not, perhaps, in all its relationships, but he was certainly in the wicked world, and the wicked world to a more or less extent in him. From the world are all those who are in Christ. Some of them were about to pass out of the world when they passed by faith into Christ. A second birth presupposes a first, and the first is a birth into the world, and the second into Christ.
5. He will be in Christ after he has left the world. If the world had him first, Christ will have him last. The world will soon expel him, but Christ never. The world shall ultimately pass away, but Christ shall remain. The world shall vanish, that Christ and all in him may appear and enjoy each other all the more. The Christian was born into the world soon to die, but born into Christ to live forever. When lost from the world he will be found still in Christ. His connection with the world is temporal, but his connection with Christ is eternal. The requirements of physical life will soon be at an end, but those of spiritual life are coeval with the life of Christ himself. Circumstances will inevitably break our connection with this world; but "who shall separate us from the love of Christ? etc.
II. THAT WHICH THE CHRISTIAN HAS IN THE WORLD IS VERY DIFFERENT FROM WHAT HE HAS IN CHRIST.
1. He has tribulation in the world. Not in the material world. This is as kind to him, and perhaps more so, than to any. The material world has ere this been rather partial to the Christian. This is very natural. He is on the side of and friendly with its Author, Proprietor, and Ruler, and has special capacities to really appropriate and enjoy it. The world in which he has tribulation is the wicked, ignorant, religious, ecclesiastical, bigoted, and intolerant world. This is the world which worried the patriarchs, killed the prophets, martyred the apostles, and persecuted and butchered believers through many ages. And the wicked world is still full of the genius of tribulation.
2. He has peace in Christ. There is no peace in the world; there is no tribulation in Christ, but unmixed peace. One of his names is the Prince of Peace, and the motto of his kingdom is "Peace on earth, and good will." He is the Author, Medium, and Supporter of Divine peace to all connected with him by faith.
3. He has tribulation in the world because he has peace in Christ.
(1) The passage between the world and Christ is rough. In a sense it is but a narrow sea, but the hostile world and its prince from within and without manage to make it generally stormy. Many have commenced the voyage and almost reached the shore, but were swept back by the storm. That young man who came to Christ asking, "What must I do," etc., almost had reached "the Rock of ages," but was dashed back by an awful wave of worldliness, and was disheartened.
(2) The passage through the world in Christ is rough. He is safe in Christ, but cannot reach the desired haven without storms and hurricanes. If a man is in Christ, he must steer through the same course, and, if so, must go through tribulation, shame, persecution, and perhaps martyrdom. Whoever has invariably fine weather on the Christian voyage may well question whether he is in the right vessel and in the right course. For "through much tribulation ye must," etc. Some may fare better than others, but it is ever true that "whoever will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." The nearer to Jesus the greater the tribulation of the world.
4. The Christian has peace in Christ because he has tribulation in the world. Those who have the world's frowns have Jesus' smiles. At every point the world troubles Jesus has provided special peace. At every stage of the voyage there is a harbor of refuge, and at every port there is a "Sailors' Home." When persecuted in Christ we can bless our persecutors; when misjudged by a selfish world we can well wait in him for the day of revelation and redress. When the Christian has most tribulation in the world then he has most peace in Christ—then he needs and is driven for it. It was never so dark with Stephen as when under that terrible shower of stones; but it was never so bright between him and above,—then he saw heaven opened, and the "Son of man," etc. When Paul and Silas were in chains in the world, then they sang in Christ. When the world banished the beloved disciple, then he was received into Christ's inner court of revelation and peace.
III. THAT ALL WHICH CHRIST SAID AND DID ON EARTH WAS IN ORDER THAT HIS PEACE SHOULD OUTWEIGH THE TRIBULATION OF THE WORLD. "These things," etc. Notice:
1. What he said as a source of peace.
(1) He foretold the tribulation of the world. He faithfully drew the map of their pilgrimage, and indicated their sufferings in red lines and marks. No tribulation, however severe, could take them by surprise. And to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
(2) He explained to them its nature, degree, causes, and effects, and how to behave in it. He describes the tribulation as only limited and temporary, and, under his gracious direction and influence, sanctifying and spiritually advantageous. It is a tonic to the soul, a furnace to purify, a storm to blow them from the material to the spiritual, and ultimately from a foreign and hostile land to their peaceful home.
(3) He pointed them to an infinite Source of comfort. "That in me ye may," etc. Himself as a Source of peace, he describes as never failing, ever near, and most communicative and satisfying. The cruelest storms of tribulation can only drive the Christian nearer to the Source of peace, and its last wave can only cast him on the shores of the pacific ocean of endless life and love. Every word of Christ, especially his last words, is a pipe through which the oil of peace flows to the believing heart, and a golden pitcher with which to draw water from the wells of salvation.
2. What he did as a Source of comfort. "I have overcome the world." This is a source of something more than peace. It is a source of joy. "Be of good cheer," etc. What good cheer is this?
(1) The good cheer of a complete victory over the greatest foe. The wicked world is the greatest foe of God and man. Christ overcame it completely in all its corrupt elements and forces, temptations and destructiveness, including its prince. He gained a complete victory over the great empire of evil. The world was the champion before Christ appeared, but he is the Champion now. His followers have only a conquered foe to fight.
(2) The good cheer of a complete victory ever the world for us. It certainly would be some source of comfort in fighting the wicked world to know that it had been conquered at all, but this comfort rises into a cheer when we know that it has been conquered for us. This Christ did:
(a) As our Substitute. He fought and conquered for us. This is self-evident. He was infinitely above the world, and would be eternally happy apart from our destiny; but in his love he took up our cause.
(b) As our Example. In our nature and in our circumstances, tempted in all things as we are, but without sin, he has shown us in his own life that there is something in us that is superior to the world, superior to suffering and death; that we can live a spiritual life independent of this, and can conquer every element opposing our progress. He conquered the world to show us the way to conquer it ourselves.
(c) As our Inspiration. All he said, and especially what he did, cheers us in the battle.
(3) The good cheer of a certain victory in and through him. "I have overcome the world," and it is unquestionably understood, "you will also overcome in me." Those who fight the world in him, his presence is theirs, his substitution is theirs, his example is theirs, his good cheer is theirs, and his conquest will be theirs. He throws all he said, and did, and does, and will do into the balance on their side, and the result will be certain victory over the world.
1. The great difficulty of a Christian life is to live in the world and in Christ at the same time. It would be easy to live in the world in complete agreement with it, and it would be easy to live in heaven as a perfect saint; but to live in the world and in Christ means a conflict with the former, and it is the difficulty to triumph.
2. This is alone possible by vital union with him. In him alone there is peace, and through him alone there is victory.
3. Then the certainty of victory depends entirely upon our union with him. There is a great danger of misappropriating the greatest truths. "I have overcome the world." This may be developed into a delusive confidence; still it is highly intended to cheer the weakest but honest faith. Let the practical side of his substitution inspire us to make an honest effort in our spiritual conflict with the world; and let its meritorious, vicarious, and gracious side keep us from despair even in our failures, but even down under the foe's feet let us cling and look to Christ, ever remembering the infinite possibilities of his complete victory for us, and, if we fail, we will fail in faith in him, and not in victory over the world in him.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY GEORGE BROWN
The Christ glorified by the Spirit.
"He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." Thus our Lord sums up the work of the Holy Spirit within the Church. He had just said that the Comforter is not to come as it were on an isolated and independent mission. "He shall not speak of himself." For, though he is another Comforter, he is not a second Mediator between God and man. He is not a second Redeemer, Prophet, Priest, and King. No; there is but one Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. The office of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to us that Name. He is to limit himself, if we may so speak, to bearing witness concerning Christ. This may be said with perfect reverence. Doubtless to the infinite Spirit of the Eternal all secrets of creation and providence, and all the most hidden things of the Divine counsels, lie open; they are all his own. But mark! it is not to reveal these that he comes as the Church's Comforter, the one economy of grace that is the sphere of his mission, the one mystery of godliness that he has taken upon himself to disclose. He is to continue Christ's own instructions. He is to guide the disciples, step by step, "into all the truth," the whole truth as it is in Jesus.
I. THIS PROMISE WAS LARGELY FULFILLED IN THE MINISTRY OF THE APOSTLES THEMSELVES AFTER PENTECOST. They knew all the facts of our Lord's history already—his birth of a virgin, his death on the cross, and his resurrection and ascension into glory. But they were not left to themselves to interpret these facts and explain their spiritual meaning. Far from it; their eyes were opened, and their understandings guided from above. They and the Apostle Paul, who was ere long to be added to their company, had the mighty work entrusted to them of explaining to all ages the true significance of the mission of Christ in the flesh. They were inspired to do this. A wisdom not their own was given to them. They were no longer "fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken." Formerly they had been like children; now they were men of full age, and became the authoritative heralds and expounders of the gospel. Paul was fully conscious of this when he said, "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts," etc. (2 Corinthians 4:6). It is important to observe the order, so to say, of the Spirit's revelations concerning Christ. The great outstanding facts, as just noted, of our Lord's manifestation to men are
(1) his incarnation;
(2) his cross;
(3) his crown.
It is around these that all the doctrines of the faith are clustered; out of these facts they may be said to grow. From the very first—that is to say from Pentecost—the Holy Spirit bore a certain witness concerning them all. But in what order did he bring them into prominence? Which did he first show forth in light and glory to the eyes of men? Plainly it was not the birth of Christ, but his exaltation to the right hand of God. This was the great and urgent theme of Pentecost and of the days which immediately followed (see the Book of Acts). The words of the Apostle Peter," God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ,"—these words were the beginning of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And then, as time went on, the full meaning of the cross was unfolded, and the Apostle Paul, who, above all things, preached Christ crucified, was inspired to declare it as no one else had done. And, last of all, the deep mystery of Christ's incarnation, how "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,"—that in its turn was chiefly explored by the beloved disciple John. Thus, through the illumination of the same Spirit, the crown shed its light upon the cross, and the cross and the crown shed their united light on the cradle. The ripe fruit, the imperishable record of all this, is to be found in the Scriptures of the New Testament. How did the Spirit of truth glorify Jesus in guiding and inspiring their human authors! What a revelation do they contain of the Person and work, the mind and heart, of the Holy One, never to be superseded by any newer Testament so long as the world lasts!
II. THIS PROMISE HAS BEEN FURTHER FULFILLED IN THE SUBSEQUENT HISTORY AND LIFE OF THE CHURCH. It was by no means exhausted when the eyewitnesses and first ministers of the Word had gone to their rest, leaving behind them the memory of their oral teaching and the Books of the New Testament. So far from this, it has ever been by the Spirit of truth that the voice of Christ, even in the Scriptures, has continued to be audible and mighty, and that his presence in any of the means of grace has been realized. We are warned that the letter killeth; and, alas! there have been Churches whose candlestick has been removed out of its place. But in each living Christian community there are men whose lips and hearts are touched by fire from God's altar, that they may interpret the gospel to their own times and their own brethren. Like householders, they bring forth out of their treasures things new and old. By their spoken words, by their written treatises, perhaps by their hymns of faith and hope, they declare afresh to those around them the unsearchable riches of Christ. In its essence and substance their message is still the same—"That which was from the beginning;" in its form and expression it varies with the aspects of providence and the problems of human life. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and the age will never come when these treasures shall be exhausted, or the Spirit's ministry of revelation shall cease. "The world will come to an end when Christianity shall have spoken its last word" (vinet). Great, indeed, is the responsibility of Christian pastors and teachers, called as they are to be fellow-workers with God. The means of grace, the lively oracles, are committed especially to their trust. It is theirs to trim the lamps of life in a dark world; it is theirs to feed the flock of Christ, to stand by the wells of salvation and draw water for every one that is athirst. And who is sufficient for these things? But it is the Master's work, and here is the promise which he has given for the encouragement of all his servants. Light and power from on high are assured by it, and God will give his Spirit to them that ask him.
III. THIS PROMISE IS CONSTANTLY FULFILLED IN ALL TRUE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE; for in the case of each individual believer the Holy Spirit takes of the things of Christ, and shows them to his soul. It is no doubt true that the gospel record is the common property of all mankind, and that any man in the mere exercise of his natural intelligence can see clearly enough how the great doctrines of the faith are founded on the record, and grow out of it. And thus, in point of fact, there are thousands who look upon Christ as a great historical Teacher, and content themselves with making what we may call an intellectual study of his own words and those of his apostles. But his true disciples go further, much further than this. How shall we express the thoughts of their hearts about Christ? May we not say that these correspond to his own words, "Behold, I am alive for evermore;" "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world"? They think of him not as a Being separated from them by eighteen long centuries of time, but as One who is really, though spiritually, present with them, at once human and Divine. They habitually rejoice in his exaltation as "Lord of all." They feel a present peace in the blood of his cross. They bow before the mystery of his taking on him our nature. His authority over them is supreme, and altogether welcome. His example is ever immeasurably in advance of them, though they humbly seek to follow it; and his words are like no other words—spirit and life to their hearts. And we may say that these feelings and convictions of Christ's disciples are altogether reasonable—that is to say, they are entirely in accordance with the supernatural fact that Jesus is the Son of God. But whence came these convictions? Whence their depth and their permanence and their power? There is but one explanation, and we find it in the promise before us: "The Spirit of truth shall receive of mine," etc. Not that he brings any fresh tidings from the invisible world concerning Christ, or adds a single fact or truth to what the Scriptures contain; but to those who resist not his teaching he manifests what is already known in its reality and glory. He opens their eyes, purges their vision, sweeps away the veil that comes between them and their Lord. And it is ever the same Christ that the Spirit of truth reveals to the soul of man; and yet under his teaching what room there is for variety and progress of spiritual apprehension! The same sun puts on a different glory every hour of the longest day. His light is as various as the lands on which he shines; and so it is with Christ, our unchanging Sun of Righteousness—himself "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." He has an aspect for every period of life, and for all life's great vicissitudes, to those who believe. In childhood he may chiefly appear as a gentle Shepherd, in youth as an earnest Counselor, in manhood as a mighty King, and in the evening of life, when its battles are well-nigh over, and its companions scattered, as a faithful, never-dying Friend. What is the result of this teaching of the Spirit of truth? Under his illumination the soul cannot remain unchanged. It is true that here below Christians see through a glass darkly—not yet face to face. Still, amid all the imperfections of the life of faith, what they do see of the glory of Christ makes them see all things in new light, and judge all things by a new standard. The world cannot be to them what it was before, for their horizon widens out far beyond its frontiers. Self can no longer be their idol, for they have become conscious of a Presence which raises them above themselves. In their own measure and degree "they have the mind of Christ." Grandly and powerfully does the Apostle Paul describe the ultimate effect of the Spirit's teaching: "We all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed," etc. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
IV. In conclusion, WHO SHALL PUT BOUNDS OR LIMITS TO THE FULFILLMENT OF THIS PROMISE IN THE FUTURE? We know that men shall be blessed in Christ, and all nations shall call him blessed. On this earth, where he was despised and rejected, he is yet to be crowned with glory and honor from the rising to the setting sun. Human life in all its departments is to be gladdened by his presence, inspired by his example, molded by his will. Through what means, or after what convulsions or shakings of the nations, this is to be brought about we cannot tell; but it will not be by human might or power, but by the Spirit of the Holy One, that the grand result will be achieved. It is written that "he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations;" and when that veil is rent from the top to the bottom, then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.—G.B.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
Concerned for the stumbling-blocks.
The disciples of Jesus evidently entertained many expectations which, though plausible and excusable enough, were not reasonable; and hence inevitably, sooner or later, there must be a crushing collapse of their hopes. Indeed, the sooner such a collapse came the better. Terrible and overwhelming was the experience, but it was brief; and once over, it did not return. And all the while we can see that Jesus had these experiences constantly in mind.
I. THE FIGURE HERE EMPLOYED. Jesus would speak words of such a kind as that, by attending to them, the disciples would escape offense. The allusion is to something coming in our way which may cause us to stumble, perhaps to fall. This agrees with the whole spirit of the discourse, in which Jesus again and again speaks of his disciples as making progress in a particular way. And what Jesus wants is to take out of the way all difficulties coming from wrong notions and expectations. We all have difficulties enough in our Christian life, what we may call external difficulties, without adding to them difficulties of our own making. And surely in that same spirit Jesus deals with us still. He seeks to spare us the stumbling-blocks. Others may have stumbled, but that is no reason why we should stumble too. And just as we put up signals of all sorts to catch eye and ear in dangerous places, so Jesus does the same. If any one has to do with guarding against the main dangers that beset human life, surely it is he who is eminently called the Savior. He who leaves the ninety and nine to bring back the wanderer will take all possible means to keep him from wandering again.
II. THE EFFECT OF SUCH AS INTIMATION ON OUR MINDS.
1. A continuous feeling of self-distrust. We must never forget how easy it is to go wrong. The longer we live the more reason we have for distrusting ourselves. We need a wisdom, a foresight, a largeness and depth of view, altogether beyond our own. Our hesitating, vacillating actions come often just because we listen too entirely to the suggestions and prophecies coming out of our own hearts. Our natural boldness and our natural fearfulness are equally without reason. We must not listen too readily either to the suggestions of self or the suggestions of others. Be warned by the experiences of these first disciples. All their notions had to be upset, all their dearest fancies dissipated, before they could get at the truth.
2. A continuous regard to Jesus. Jesus must be ever in the foreground if self is to be ever in the background. Stumbling begins the moment the hand of Jesus is let go. We are but of yesterday, and know nothing; Jesus is of eternity, and knows everything. He who seeks to sweep all stumbling-blocks out of our way never stumbled himself. We can only take a step at a time, and it must be just where Jesus tells us to plant it. That is the secret of safe progress, and progress always in the right direction.—Y.
Absent in the body, present by the Spirit.
I. THE NEED OF A STRONG ASSERTION. Jesus says, "I tell you the truth." Jesus never says anything but the truth, and yet we can see here clearly what need there was for the most solemn and emphatic mode of statement. For what an antecedent improbability there was that his absence could ever be better than his presence! For him to vanish from the natural sight of his disciples might well be reckoned the greatest of calamities, until actual and abundant experience showed it to be one of the greatest of blessings. Jesus had to make it clear that he meant exactly what he said, nothing else and nothing less. Until we become wiser, it is the natural, the inevitable view that to lose what we can see is a loss never to be made up from some unseen source. Not without reason did these disciples set value on the incarnate life of Jesus.
II. LOOK AT THE ASSERTION IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORICAL CONFIRMATION. It is clear to us, looking at all the facts in their connections, that the departure of Jesus was an advantage to the disciples. If we had been numbered among them we should have said beforehand, "Impossible!" And now looking back on all in the light of history, it is plain that what caused at the time such exquisite grief opened wide the door to joys and blessings unspeakable. It is also plain what a boon the death of Jesus was to himself, delivering him, as it did, from all further exposure to pain of body and grief of heart. But what Jesus would ever have us comprehend is how his departure is distinctly an advantage to his people. He wants us to feel how much better the spiritual is than the natural; how much better it is to have the invisible Jesus doing good to our inner life than the visible Jesus doing good to our outward life. If ever the visible is to be made better, it will be through the invisible. He who made the outside made the inside also, and to get the inside thoroughly pure and strong is the only way to make the outside the same. We are but extending the great principle which Jesus laid before Nicodemus, when we say that flesh can only minister to flesh, spirit only to spirit. Even as the old dispensation was preparatory to the new, so the manifestation of Jesus in the flesh was preparatory to the manifestation of Jesus in the spirit.
III. AS ILLUSTRATION OF HOW THE PLANS OF HEAVEN ARE BETTER THAN THE WISHES OF EARTH. Well was it that Jesus did not leave his disciples to decide. They would all have said, "Stop with us longer;" but who of them could have said how much longer? That would have sent their thoughts in a direction by no means pleasant to follow out. If Jesus must be more to humanity than any one else who ever trod the earth in human form, it can only be by having a different end to his life and a different result of it. Fancy Moses or Elijah (those two names which are so eminently coupled with Jesus) saying that it was expedient for the people they had to do with that they should go away. When we consider what we owe to the Paraclete, when we consider all his deep and abiding ministries, here is a fresh cause of profound thankfulness to Jesus that he accepted the sufferings of death that the Paraclete might come. The Day of Pentecost was not easily achieved; other days had to go before—the day when he sweat as it were great drops of blood, the day when he stood among the soldiers with the thorny crown, and was afterwards nailed to the cross.—Y.
The convicting work of the Spirit.
Here surely is the true and abiding blessing for those who labor to look under the surface, and see Jesus dealing with the deep, ancient, and malignant causes of all human trouble. Jesus came teaching, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness. The blessing of his incarnate ministry was just as deep, just as shallow, as the recipient chose to make it. But when the incarnate Jesus departs to make room for the Paraclete, the work must be deep, or practically it is nothing. You shall know the Spirit's blessing only as you accept the two-edged sword piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. The Spirit can only bless as it works into the very depths of the conscience and affections.
I. NOTE WITH WHOM THE SPIRIT HAS TO DEAL. His work is with all who are comprised under that wondrous and frequent word in this Gospel, "the world." Elsewhere Jesus speaks of the world hating the disciples. But that very world which hates is not merely to have its malignities warded off; its hatred must, if possible, be changed to friendship, its opposition must give way to support. The spirit of the world in all of us is to be beaten down and starved out by the persuasions of a nobler Spirit ever striving to make friends with the conscience within. This word "reprove," or "convict," is a grand word. It shows us what noble thoughts God has of us. There is no true submission to God in Jesus unless through persuasion. The door of the heart must ever be opened from inside.
II. THE OBJECTS OF HIS CONVINCING WORK.
The connection of these three words is obvious. The presence of sin is the absence of righteousness, and vice versa. And the possibility of sin and the possibility of righteousness mean the coming of a judgment which shall settle with authority whether sin has overcome righteousness or righteousness overcome sin. The Spirit comes, making it clear to men what is the deep, underlying cause of all human unrest and weariness. The work of conviction as to sin, righteousness, and judgment all goes on together. It is, of course, not so much an appeal to the intellect, though the intellect cannot be left out of the operation. The process is one in which there goes on contemporaneously a revelation of self and a revelation of Jesus. Old words have to be emptied of old, insufficient meanings. When the Holy Spirit brings the word "sin," he brings no new word. The old covenant was full of it, the thoughts of men were full of it, but as of something which could be easily put away by the blood of some slain animal. The Holy Spirit makes us ask the question why we are so different from Jesus. The image of Jesus to our understandings should always be a rebuking image, filling us with a deep sense, in no way to be removed by mere lapse of time, of our shortcomings and pollutions. The greatest miracle about Jesus is his pure and perfect character, and the more intense becomes our desire after likeness to him in this respect the more it is evident that the convicting work of the Spirit is going on in us. Ever the humbler we become at the sight of ourselves, the more hopeful shall we become at the sight of Jesus. For, as Jesus goes on to say in a sentence or two later, the Spirit's work is not only a revelation, but a guidance.—Y.
How to get at the fullness of truth.
Jesus said, "I am the Truth." Hence it is just the thing to be expected that he should talk again and again concerning the blessing to men which is so bound up with his being. The truth as it is in Jesus must become truth in us. What glorious aims he has with respect to his friends! He wants us to master the whole truth of what every human being ought to experience. We cannot look ahead to the fullness, but Jesus can. He sees the end toward which we are to be guided, and he points out the Guide. He cannot do things all in a hurry, in grace, any more than in nature.
I. LOOK AT THE POSSIBILITY HERE SET BEFORE US. We may be led into the whole truth. He wants us thoroughly to know the fullness of which we already know the part. What we need above everything, and what is quite possible if only we choose to make it possible, is to get the full benefit meant to come to every human being from the entrance of Jesus into the world. We are already better off in an indirect way. But indirect benefit must always be superficial benefit. Jesus, having great expectations for us, wants us also to have great expectations for ourselves; expectations going out after the true crown and glory of humanity. Our own wish surely ought to be to know all a human being can know about this wondrous Jesus, and have all the transactions with him that a human being can.
II. THE WAY IN WHICH THIS WHOLE TRUTH IS TO BE GAINED.
1. There is the significant word about being guided. We may be among those taking things just as they come, following our own inclination when we can, and, when we cannot, submitting to necessity; or we may be distinctly conscious that we are led—led as by one in authority, whom we feel that we ought to follow. In lesser things it makes all the difference whether we are led or not led. The child left to grow up pretty much as it likes, without any attempt to guide it and put something like order into its life, is sure to suffer. We always gain in being led by those who are competent to lead. Those whom we call pioneers, who seem to have found out a way for themselves, have often been under some overmastering impulse which has really amounted to a leading. And if the loss of leading be so serious a loss in lower, visible affairs, what must it be in dealing with the unseen and eternal!
2. The Guide is pointed out. The Spirit of the truth will lead us into the whole truth. The process is a gradual, persuasive, and certain one. The Spirit of Jesus did for these disciples what Jesus in the flesh was never able to do. The Resurrection came to lift the obscuring film from their eyes. Their thoughts were sent into a new channel. The ordinary objects of human ambition became very paltry and worthless. What a difference between the Peter of the Gospels and the Peter of the First Epistle! These men were actually guided into a firm and satisfying grasp of the whole truth; and we want the same. We want a power all-sufficient to guide our feelings and behavior every day of life. The influence of the unseen and eternal must swallow up the influence of the seen and temporal. And this is all secured by submitting to the leadership and absolute disposition of the Spirit promised by Jesus.—Y.
The ground of successful prayer.
The presence of the Lord Jesus in the land of his sojourn during his incarnate life made a great difference to many dwellers in that land. It made a great deal of difference in point of resource and hope to all suffering from afflicted bodies. And thus also Jesus brought a great change in the region of religious need and duty. He did not come into the midst of a laud all unused to prayer. The quality of the prayer may have been very defective, but there is no reason to doubt that the quantity would be great. And now Jesus comes to make a difference, an abiding difference, in prayer. To pray with a knowledge of Jesus in our minds, and yet without the constant thought of him mingling in every element of the prayer, is really not to ]pray at all.
I. OBSERVE EXACTLY WHAT JESUS HERE SPEAKS ABOUT. He is dealing with a part of prayer—the petitionary part, the part where need should be deeply felt and clearly expressed. And yet, after all, in what part of prayer can the sense of need be absent? For instance, it will not be pretended that it is an easy thing to give adequate utterance to adoration. As we go on in the spiritual life, we shall more and more feel that all true prayer, from the very beginning to the end, has asking lying under it. Though there be not always petitionary form, there will be petitionary reality. The spiritual man is not one whit less needy than the natural man. The further he advances, the more do his own needs and the needs of the world press upon him. Left to himself, he is very likely to become confused among a multitude of perplexing thoughts. Now, here is a recommendation and promise of Jesus which most assuredly will simplify and concentrate prayer.
II. WHAT IT IS TO PRAY IN THE NAME OF JESUS. No particular name can be said here to be meant. All the names are needed, and even then there is not enough to indicate the fullness of the person named. We must get underneath names to things. Asking in the Name of Jesus means fundamentally asking in connection with him. Think of yourself habitually as the servant of Jesus, bound to attend to his interests, bound to consult his wishes, hound to carry out his purposes, and then you will get wonderful light as to what things you should pray for, and wonderful help in making them really subjects of prayer. A banker honors immediately all checks that a servant presents signed by his master. The self-willed and the self-indulgent cannot truly pray; their cry may be genuine and intense enough; but it is only the cry of exasperation and disappointment. No prayer is worth the breath it is uttered with that leaves the Lordship of Jesus out of the question.
III. THERE MUST BE A REAL CONNECTION WITH JESUS. It will never do to go by our own notions of what Jesus wants. There is such a thing as unwittingly presenting forged checks at the bank of heaven. Each of us must be like a hand of the living Jesus, in immediate and flexible connection with his will. We must be really at his disposal, ready and ready ever for the doing of his will and his will only. There must come a time in the history of the heart when everything less than the truth as it is in Jesus will fail to command us.—Y.
The loneliness of Jesus.
I. A PREMATURE BOAST. Faith is necessary, faith is possible; but a deep-rooted faith that shall itself be trustworthy is not easy. Jesus knew that in due time he would have full power over the devotion of his disciples, but their hearts had yet to be won from that fear of the world which bringeth a snare. A faith that shall be superior to all conceivable temptations must be the result of much humble and patient watchfulness. It is for Jesus rather than for us to say when true faith is attained. Faith must show itself by its fruits. Not he that commendeth himself is commended, but whom Jesus commends.
II. HOW THE LONELINESS OF JESUS COMES ABOUT. By the departure of those who professed to be his own. It is plain that as yet there had been no real κοινῶνια. There had been outward companionship; service of a certain sort; generous intentions; but the disciples had not yet entered into the aims of Jesus; and directly their lives seemed to be in peril, they showed how fragile was the bond that united them to him. They showed that they could not believe in Jesus whatever happened. As long as Jesus bade a calm defiance to the worst plots of the Jews, as long as he escaped out of their hands, as long as he went on adding one wondrous deed to another, they seemed to believe. But when the hour and power of darkness came they lost at once what little presence of mind they ever had. Hence we see that the loneliness of Jesus did not begin with that hour when his disciples forsook him and fled. No one ever knew more of what it is to be alone in a crowd than Jesus did. With regard to many, the solitude is simply that of the stranger; in proportion as they become acquainted with others, the solitude passes away. But the more Jesus mingled with men, the lonelier in a certain sense he became. The nearer they drew to him, the plainer it became what an immense change must take place in them before they could look on all things just as he looked at them. He said he was like the seed, abiding alone till it is planted in the ground. But the seed cannot feel, and Jesus had to know the loneliness that comes from having higher aims than all round about him. Moses and Elijah had the same feeling.
III. THE LONELINESS WAS ONLY RELATIVE. In one sense Jesus did not know near so much of loneliness as John the Baptist. He was a great deal in society; he, the loneliest of beings, was also, after a fashion, the least lonely. Jesus always had One with him whom the world knew not, whom his own disciples knew not. Jesus continually carried about with him the essentials of heaven. When men showed themselves furthest from him, God was nearest. The wide gulf that separated Jesus from even his closest companions was well made manifest, for so it was also made manifest that he had resources far beyond any that human intercourse could supply. Jesus meant his disciples not to reflect too hardly on themselves when they came to look back on their leaving him alone. They were but showing the weakness Jesus expected them to show. It is well for us that, so far as human support was concerned, we should see Jesus alone; for so it becomes clearer and clearer to us that through those hours of seeming solitude a presence gloriously superhuman, and full of all possible strength and comfort, must have been with him.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 16". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29