Jesus teaches about the Holy Spirit, prayer and reminds us that trouble is part of life.
“Troubles remind us to ask for Jesus’ peace. God’s answer will not usually mean that the problem will be over, but that Christ’s peace will see us through it. How much have you relied on the peace of Jesus when you face trouble?”
This and other *Life Applications are in today’s reading.
Jesus Warns about the World’s Hatred / 16:1—16:4
16:1-2 Jesus warned and safeguarded the disciples against the trials that awaited them. He did not want them to be caught off guard, to stumble, or to fall when trials came. Jesus wanted them to remember that he had predicted his own persecution and theirs in order to fortify them for the difficult times to come. He also wanted them to remember the rest of his teaching (these things). His accurate predictions would increase their trust in his instructions.
In 9:22 and 12:42 we are told that the religious leaders had decided that anyone who confessed Jesus as the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogues. Jesus predicted that this would happen to the disciples. By the time John’s Gospel was recorded, Christians were already frequently barred from the synagogues. The prophecy that some would be killed would come true very soon. An early deacon in the church, Stephen, would become the first martyr for the faith (Acts 7:54-60). James, one of the disciples present with Jesus during this teaching, would be put to death by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2). Saul of Tarsus—before his conversion—went through the land hunting down and persecuting Christians, convinced that he was serving God by killing those who proclaimed Jesus as their Messiah (Acts 9:1-2; 26:9-11; Galatians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:6).
*LIFE APPLICATION: DOING GOD A FAVOR
Some of the most shameful acts throughout history have been perpetrated by those who thought they were offering a service to God. Attempts have been made to convert pagans by force. People have been tortured and killed in the name of religion. For the sake of orthodoxy, Christians have persecuted one another with remarkable lack of mercy or love.
We must not harm others in our zeal for his concerns.
16:3-4 Those who would persecute believers would do so out of ignorance. They had never known the Father or Jesus. They did not understand that God was at work through Jesus; so, when they rejected Jesus, they also rejected God. When the persecutions would actually occur, they would be prepared because they would remember what Jesus had said. Jesus’ predictions hold today. The world is still hostile toward Jesus and his disciples. When a tree in the forest stands taller than the rest it must endure the full force of the wind. When Christians take a stand for Christ in their cultures, they will experience the full force of the opposition. Jesus waited until the very last evening to warn his disciples because he himself had been their protection from the beginning. Jesus had deflected any criticism and opposition away from the disciples. But after Jesus was crucified, the persecution would shift to his followers and would focus on these men, his inner circle.
*LIFE APPLICATION: IT WILL COST
Like Jesus, we must warn new and younger disciples that hatred from the world and hard times are ahead. We must dispel illusions and deal honestly with unrealistic expectations. In our eagerness to promote the benefits of following Christ we must not shrink back from also presenting the cost of discipleship. Preparing new believers for times of discouragement will teach them to rely on the Holy Spirit’s comfort and guidance along the way. When Christians assume that following Christ will be easy, they neglect the daily spiritual resources provided for them. These include Bible study, prayer, and the promises and directions that Jesus gives us.
Jesus Teaches about the Holy Spirit / 16:5-15 /
Not all the news for the disciples was grim. There would be persecution, but Jesus comforted his followers with the promise that they would not be alone; he would send them the Counselor, the Spirit of truth. John highlighted five important tasks of the Holy Spirit: (1) to convict the world of its sin and call it to repentance, (2) to reveal the standard of God’s righteousness to anyone who believes because Christ would no longer be physically present on earth, (3) to demonstrate Christ’s judgment over Satan, (4) to direct believers into all truth, and (5) to reveal even more about Jesus Christ.
16:5-6 The verb tense for has asked is present; otherwise, this statement would contradict 13:36 and 14:5. The disciples had asked (past tense) where Jesus was going. In this verse, Jesus was looking for an immediate reaction to his words about his departure. But instead of asking, “Where are you going?” at that time when Jesus was ready to answer, they were very sad. Although the disciples had previously talked with Jesus about his death (see 7:33-34), they had never truly understood its meaning because they had been mostly concerned about themselves. If Jesus went away, what would become of them? If they had asked where Jesus was going, and then had understood that he was going to the Father, they would not have been filled with such sorrow—they would have realized that Jesus’ departure was for their good.
16:7 Without Jesus’ death and resurrection we could not be saved. His death made it possible for him to remove our sins. Before Jesus could defeat death by his resurrection, he had to submit to death. And if he would not go back to the Father, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, would not come in the way God had planned (7:39). After his glorification—through the process of crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension—Jesus could send the Spirit to the believers. Christ’s presence on earth was limited to one place at a time. His leaving meant he could live, through the Holy Spirit, in every believer in the whole world. Thus, it was for their good that he had to go away. The Spirit would carry Jesus’ work to a more intense level during the history of the church. By the Spirit the gospel would go out to all the world.
*LIFE APPLICATION: FOR YOUR OWN GOOD
Who among us does not react with skepticism to the statement, “I’m doing this for your own good”? Yet who beside Christ has better credentials to carry out his beneficial purposes for us? If Jesus had not gone away, the disciples would never have learned to walk by faith, and neither would we. When Jesus seems distant or our problems threaten to overwhelm us, let us keep walking by faith. Trusting during a trial means waiting to see what good Jesus can bring out of what may seem like complete chaos. Christ uses trials to strengthen us for even greater service.
16:8-11 To convince means “to expose the facts, to convince someone of the truth, to accuse, refute, or to cross-examine a witness.” The world’s sin is unbelief in Jesus. The greatest sin is the refusal to believe in Jesus (3:18). Those who reject Jesus are in danger of eternal separation from God.
Righteousness is available to people because Jesus goes to the Father. The Spirit’s function will be to show all people that Christ alone provides the standard of God’s righteousness. The Holy Spirit must make unbelievers recognize God’s perfect standard before they will admit their own deficiency. This can also mean that the Spirit will show the world the futility of religious self-righteousness. The Holy Spirit will show the inadequacy of ceremony and ritual in making one right with God (see Matthew 5:20; Romans 10:3; Philippians 3:6-9).
The Spirit will show that, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the prince of this world has already been judged and condemned. Though Satan still actively attempts to harden, intimidate, and delude those in this world (1 Peter 5:8), we are to treat him like a condemned criminal, for God has determined the time of his execution (see Revelation 20:2, 7-10).
Convincing us of our sin, convincing us of God’s righteousness, and convincing us of Satan’s (and our) impending judgment describes three approaches that the Holy Spirit uses. We do not all require all three in order to be convinced that we need God’s grace. The Holy Spirit does not crush those who only require prodding. Some are simply more stubborn and resistant than others. God demonstrates his grace by approaching each of us with that level of conviction necessary for our response.
16:12 Having indicated what the Spirit would be doing in the world (16:7-11), Jesus then related to the disciples what the Spirit would be doing in believers. But most of what Jesus told the disciples would be unclear to them until after the events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Thus Jesus wanted to tell them more, but they couldn’t bear it then.
*LIFE APPLICATION: THE PATHFINDER
The Holy Spirit is our guide, navigator, and pathfinder. Jesus gave us a reliable map when he gave us his life and his words. These essential resources assist us to find our way as his disciples. Jesus has also given us time. The original disciples could not absorb all Jesus had to teach them at once. Some steps of discipleship cannot even be comprehended until we have taken previous steps of obedience. We must never resent the limitations we have. Our knowledge of the way and the future will always be limited. Instead, we must trust and follow the pathfinder Christ has given us.
16:13 The prominent role of the Spirit of truth is to guide the believers into all truth. By truth Jesus meant the truth about his identity, the truth of his words and actions, and the truth about all that was to happen to him. In time they would fully understand that he was the Son, come from the Father, sent to save people from their sin. But only after these events occurred, and only through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, would the disciples be able to understand. The Holy Spirit is the true guide for all believers; his primary task is to instruct us about the truth (1 John 2:20).
The disciples were not given power to predict the future, but the Spirit would give them insight into the future—that is, the events of the Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, and perhaps the Second Coming. The disciples would not fully understand until the Holy Spirit had come after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then the Holy Spirit would reveal truths to the disciples that they would write down in the books that now form the New Testament.
*LIFE APPLICATION: GOD’S TIMING
Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to have been one of the original disciples? Perhaps you have thought, Back then, my life would have been so different. Knowing Jesus and then being filled with his Spirit would have made me one of those dynamic Christians. But if looking backward makes us dissatisfied with the present, we will not fully appreciate God’s present plan.
Jesus wants each believer to be empowered by his same Holy Spirit who filled the disciples. His Spirit lives in us today, and God’s best time for us to be alive is now. We don’t need to dwell on the past or be preoccupied with the future. God has plenty of work for us and power to help us this day.
16:14 The Spirit does not glorify himself; rather, he brings glory to the Son. The Spirit takes what the Son is and reveals it to believers. In so doing, he individualizes the teaching of Christ and calls people to obey. The Holy Spirit makes us want to apply, teaches us to apply, and then helps us apply Christ’s words!
16:15 Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit works in complete submission to, and in harmony with, the Son and the Father. The Spirit reveals the Son to the believers. Yet as he reveals the Son, the Spirit is also revealing the Father because all the attributes of the Son are the attributes of the Father: “All that the Father has is mine.” Thus the Spirit reveals to believers whatever he receives from the Son, who, in turn, expresses the Father. This verbal picture of what cannot be fully seen by finite humans helps us understand the profound unity of God.
What we call the doctrine of the Trinity is a summary of what Jesus taught about his relationship to the Father and the Spirit. Without in any way diminishing the awesome revelation of God as one, Jesus demonstrated that God’s oneness is at the same time a threeness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God exists in perfect, unbroken harmony while at the same time functioning in the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are one; yet they relate to one another. They are beyond our complete grasp; yet they have graciously revealed themselves to us so that we may trust and be saved!
*LIFE APPLICATION: SUSPICIOUS
Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit explains why Christians should be suspicious of those who claim to have new and special revelations from God. We should be very cautious when these “new revelations” call into question the words and character of Jesus. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would continue to make him known, to bring honor to him, and to complete his work. All that the Holy Spirit does clarifies and glorifies Jesus. Believers have the authority to question and repudiate any religious system claiming to have new knowledge or understanding that contradicts God’s Word or any leader claiming to have special power and status equal with Christ.
Jesus Teaches about Using His Name in Prayer / 16:16-33
Jesus explained to the disciples that his departure would only last “a little while” (actually only three days), for he would see them again on the day of his resurrection. Then a new relationship between the disciples and Jesus’ Father would begin. They would then be able to approach God the Father as his children and bring to him their requests through prayer. Jesus concluded this section with yet another prediction and teaching to prepare them. He informed the disciples that, while they thought they believed, within hours they all would abandon him. Jesus did not berate them for their weakness but prepared them to endure in spite of it.
16:16-19 Jesus was referring to his death (“I will be gone”), only a few hours away, and his resurrection (“You will see me again”) three days later. But the disciples didn’t understand this, so they were grieved and perplexed. They kept asking each other what he could possibly mean. Jesus had already told the disciples that he would go to the Father and return to them after his resurrection (chapter 14), but they didn’t understand.
*LIFE APPLICATION: ENDLESS JOY
Because Jesus lives forever, the disciple’s joy would be endless. No one, not the persecutors, not the doubters, not the unbelievers, not the murderers, could take away their joy. This is a tremendous promise for all believers. No one can take away our joy!
When we understand Christ’s resurrection, it will have a powerful impact on our lives. The Resurrection guarantees our forgiveness and assures us that Jesus will return. Jesus’ resurrection realizes our hope to be reunited with believing friends and loved ones beyond death. No opposition or criticism should ever destroy or diminish our joy!
16:20-22 Following his explanation of the time between his departure and return, Jesus used a figure of speech to depict how quickly the disciples’ grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy: “It will be like a woman experiencing the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives place to joy.” The disciples would grieve for their crucified Master, and the world (the mass of people opposed to Jesus) will rejoice that this “madman” had finally been silenced. But the disciples’ grief would turn to joy when they would see their resurrected Lord. In addition, the Holy Spirit would help them understand the true purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—that it meant salvation from sin and eternal life for everyone who believes! Indeed, they would rejoice, and no one would be able to rob them of that joy.
16:23-24 At that time refers to the time subsequent to Jesus’ resurrection. From that day forward, when they had a request, the disciples could go directly to the Father and ask him (see 14:13-14; 15:7). This was another reminder that Jesus would not remain on earth indefinitely after he rose from the dead. Requests asked in Jesus’ name are requests that the believer knows Jesus would be pleased to answer, requests that are in accordance with the Father’s will. Any such request will be given. Answered prayer brings abundant joy—just ask any believer! Jesus encouraged the disciples to ask, so that they might receive and have full and complete joy (see also 1 John 5:13-15).
LIFE APPLICATION: GO STRAIGHT TO THE TOP
Jesus clarified a new relationship between the believer and God. Previously, people approached God through priests. After Jesus’ resurrection, any believer could approach God directly in Jesus’ name. A new day has dawned; now all believers are priests, talking with God personally and directly (see Hebrews 10:19-23). We approach God, not because of our own merit, but because Jesus, our great High Priest, has made us acceptable to God. When was the last time you asked God for what you really need?
16:25-27 Specific predictions about future events would have been too much for the disciples at this point (16:12-13), so Jesus spoke to them in parables. After Jesus arose, however, the disciples were given a new, living relationship with the Father (see 20:19). Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus would tell them plainly all about the Father (16:13-15). The disciples would have direct, personal access to the Father. Jesus would not have to make their requests for them; instead, they would go straight to God, asking in Jesus’ name. Jesus was not withdrawing from representing us before the Father. He still makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus was preparing the disciples for the reality that his death would allow them direct access to the Father in prayer and that they ought to make use of it (Hebrews 10:19-25)! The Father would respond to the disciples because, as Jesus said, “The Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.” All who love Jesus and believe in him as God’s Son are loved by the Father. Why? Because they have loved him whom the Father dearly loves. God remembers our faithfulness to his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus not only encouraged the disciples to love him and remain faithful, but he also reminds us how essential our faithfulness really is.
16:28-30 In this sentence, Jesus plainly described his entire mission—he was incarnated (came from the Father), he was made a human being in order to secure the salvation of human beings (into the world), and he would be resurrected from death and ascend back to the glory from which he came (return to the Father).
The disciples finally realized that Jesus had been speaking of his departure to the Father. Then they said, “We believe that you came from God.” Jesus’ repeated predictions of his imminent death, resurrection, and ascension (7:33; 10:11-18; 12:23-24, 30-36; 13:18-38; 14:1-5, 15-31; 16:5-7) finally left their mark on the disciples. Now they were convinced that Jesus’ knowledge about future events marked him unquestionably as the Son of God come from God. The disciples believed Jesus’ words because they were convinced that he knew everything. He even knew the questions on their minds before they asked them (16:19). They were making a claim, not about their own knowledge, but about his. Jesus’ omniscience was another proof of his divinity. But their belief was only a first step toward the enduring faith they would receive when the Holy Spirit came to live in them.
*LIFE APPLICATION: JESUS KNOWS
John portrayed Jesus’ sensitivity toward his disciples. He knew them. He based his words and actions toward them on his intimate awareness of them. He knows us just as well. None of our problems, griefs, questions, and concerns are hidden from him. He knows about them, and he knows them. Hebrews describes Jesus as the High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses, having experienced them first hand, and who is therefore approachable (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16).
No matter how great our unfaithfulness or weakness, Jesus knows and understands our situation and our needs. Although he knows us, he still loves us and calls us to return and remain faithful.
16:31-32 The implied exasperation in the statement is conveyed better by “You believe at last!” The disciples had taken a small but real step forward in understanding. Jesus continued to tell them what was going to happen so that their faith would be strengthened in the end: “But the time is coming—in fact, it is already here—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone.” Scattered alludes to the prophecy in Zechariah 13:7. As predicted, the disciples abandoned Jesus when he was arrested (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50). Even though Jesus was abandoned by his disciples, he was not completely alone. As Jesus said previously (8:29), here he says, “Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.”
16:33 In a final note of encouragement, Jesus promised the disciples peace through their union with him—for he would overcome the world by rising from the grave. The world, Satan’s system that is opposed to God, will give the believers many trials and sorrows. But Jesus has beaten Satan’s system, won the victory, and overcome the world. Before his own trial, Jesus could already speak of an accomplished task. This adds impact to his victory over Satan since he not only accomplished it, he predicted it! The disciples could constantly rejoice in the victory because they were on the winning team.
Jesus summed up all he had told them this night, tying together themes from 14:27-29, 16:1-4, and 16:9-11. With these words he told his disciples to take courage. Despite the inevitable struggles they would face, they would not be alone. Just as Jesus’ Father did not leave him alone, Jesus does not abandon us to our struggles either. If we remember that the ultimate victory has already been won, we can claim the peace of Christ in the most troublesome times. Jesus wants us to have peace.
*LIFE APPLICATION: TROUBLESOME PEACE
In contrast to our assumption that peace means the absence of conflict, Jesus promises that his peace becomes apparent in the very middle of trouble and conflict. Troubles remind us to ask for Jesus’ peace. God’s answer will not usually mean that the problem will be over, but that Christ’s peace will see us through it. How much have you relied on the peace of Jesus when you face trouble?
— Life Application Bible Commentary
— Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary