Divine Provisions for the Time of Jesus’ Absence
John 16. Having just spoken of the characteristics of the world, and the believer’s portion in it (John 15:18-27), the Lord gives the disciples five things that would help them, and encourage their hearts during His absence. First, we have knowledge of world’s opposition ahead of time (vv.1-4). Second, we have the abiding presence and power of the Spirit of God (vv.5-15). Third, we have unassailable joy at knowing the Lord is risen and victorious over death, and the definite hope of His soon return for us (vv.16-22). Fourth, we are in relationship with God as our Father (vv.23-28). Finally, we can have peace in spite of tribulation because of Christ’s victory over the world (vv.29-33).
Knowledge of Opposition Ahead of Time (16:1-4)
1 These things I have spoken unto you that ye may not be offended. 2 They shall put you out of the synagogues; but the hour is coming that every one who kills you will think to render service to God; 3 and these things they will do because they have not known the Father nor me. 4 But I have spoken these things to you, that when their hour shall have come, ye may remember them, that I have said them unto you. But I did not say these things unto you from the beginning, because I was with you. vv.1-4 The Lord had spoken of the opposition that the disciples would face after His departure (“these things”) in order that they would “not be offended”. Offense in this context is to be deeply discouraged by great and unforeseen obstacles. It is a tremendous help to know what we are facing: persecution here in this world. Of course, this was specifically directed to the apostles, many of whom would later suffer martyrdom. But certainly, we can apply these words more broadly to all faithful believers; for “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Primarily, the Lord refers to religious persecution that would come from the Jewish establishment. The persecution would take two forms: it would be negative, “they shall put you out of the synagogues”, unwilling to tolerate the preaching of Christ by the disciples. He speaks of it as “their hour”, one of the various “hours” in John’s Gospel, and which corresponds to “man’s day” (1 Cor. 4:3). We see the first inklings of this in Acts 5. But the Jewish leaders would not be content to have the apostles excommunicated from the Jewish synagogues. Their hatred would manifest itself in positive aggression; “every one who kills you will think to render service to God”. How disheartening this form of persecution is, that the faithful are counted as unrighteous by their persecutors (see Isa. 5:20). For an example of this, we need look no further than the notorious Saul of Tarsus, who said of himself, “beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it” (Gal. 1:13), and “was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). Paul thought he was rendering service to God, but it was really the opposite. What was the reason he was ignorant of God’s will? Saul of Tarsus did knew neither the Father, nor His Son, Jesus Christ; “these things they will do because they have not known the Father nor me” (compare John 17:3). This is the flash-point of religious persecution. By God’s grace, Saul was converted. But our Lord warned the disciples of these things so that they would later recall that Jesus knew all about it ahead of time. There is no trial allowed in our lives that our Lord is ignorant of! Yet He adds, “I did not say these things unto you from the beginning”, because while the Lord was with the disciples on earth, He would protect them from bodily harm; He was their Comforter. There was nothing that could hurt them while Jesus was near. But now the Lord was going away, and they could expect persecution. Therefore, the time had come for Him to speak these difficult words.
The Presence and Power of the Spirit of God (16:5-15)
5 But now I go to him that has sent me, and none of you demands of me, Where goest thou? 6 But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. vv.5-6 The revelation of Jesus’ departure, coupled with the somber warnings of coming persecution for the disciples – and the strong possibility of eventual martyrdom – had filled the their hearts with sorrow. Ignorance of God’s mind leads to sorrow. For instance, the Thessalonians were “ignorant concerning them which have fallen asleep”, and the result was sorrow. They needed more light. Sorrow, when only natural sorrow, can often have a blinding influence. For example, Mary’s sorrow at the empty tomb made her blind to see the risen Lord, which led her to mistake Him for the gardner! Here, the sorrow of the disciples caused their thoughts to be focused on themselves rather than on the Lord. Jesus remarked on this: “none of you demands of me, Where goest thou?”. What of the place their Master was going? Sorrow had filled their hearts, and therefore they could not think of any but themselves. In the following discourse, Jesus sought to comfort the disciples with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
7 But I say the truth to you, It is profitable for you that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you. v.7 Sending the Comforter. Far from the ascension of Jesus being a net loss for the disciples, it would actually be a huge gain! “If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you.” The sending of the Holy Spirit (called here, “the Comforter”, or Paraclete) is the distinctive character of of Christianity, in contrast with Israel under law,1 and the enjoyment of our Christian blessings are connected with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How could it be better for the disciples that Jesus would go away? Because we could not know Christ in glory without the ascension and without the indwelling Spirit. It is better to know Christ as a glorified man in heaven than to know Him “after the flesh” (2 Cor. 5:16). Here, the Son is He who would send the Spirit; compare with John 14;24 where the Father would send the Comforter. So we find in Acts 2:33; “Having therefore been exalted by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which ye behold and hear”. It was necessary for Jesus to go to the cross before the Holy Spirit could be sent, because God’s judgment on sin must be passed, and redemption accomplished, before the Spirit could take up residence in any other than the Holy Son of God. The blood of Jesus Christ must first cleanse us from all sin, then the Spirit can come and indwell us. Elsewhere we find it was not only necessary for Jesus to die before the Spirit could be sent, but also that He should be glorified (John 7:39). This was necessary because the gift of the Spirit was in response to the Father’s satisfaction with the work of the cross, and also because the Head had to be glorified in heaven before the body was formed through the Spirit on earth! Read more…
8 And having come, he will bring demonstration to the world, of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe on me; 10 of righteousness, because I go away to my Father, and ye behold me no longer; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. vv.8-12 Three things the Spirit would demonstrate to the World. There are three things that the Spirit would bring proof of – to the world – when He was sent down on the day of Pentecost. The word sometimes translated ‘convict’, ‘convince’, ‘rebuke’, etc. is better translated ‘prove’, or ‘demonstrate’.
- A demonstration of sin. The coming of the Comforter is a demonstration of the sin of the world, “because they do not believe on me”. If the world had believed on Jesus, the Spirit would never have been sent, because Jesus would have remained on earth! The presence of the Spirit on earth is a witness of the sin of the world in rejecting the Son. But also, the coming of the Spirit to dwell selectively in believers (and not universally in the world, as will take place in the Millennium) is a pointed demonstration. When David returned from exile, he discretely rewarded those who had been faithful to him. Likewise the gift of the Spirit to those who believe on the Son is demonstration of the sin of the world, who cast out the Son of God.2 It isn’t so much that the Spirit demonstrates the depravity of the world in this or that particular vice (like the law), but specifically the sin of refusing to believe on the Son. Not that other sins do not warrant judgment; but there is one all-surpassing issue now. As another has suggested, the Holy Spirit here is like the voice of God to Cain, asking not “Where is Abel thy brother?”, but “What have you done with my Son?”3 Because of this continual demonstration, the world can never rest while the Christian, and thereby the Holy Spirit, is in it.
- A demonstration of righteousness. The coming of the Holy Spirit was also a public demonstration of God’s righteousness in bringing the Son to His own right hand, seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high; “of righteousness, because I go away to my Father, and ye behold me no longer”. The world awarded Jesus the cross; the ultimate display of unrighteousness. The Father awarded Him the throne; the ultimate display of righteousness. In fact, God’s righteousness was displayed in two ways: positively, in glorifying the Son (John 13:31-22), and negatively, in depriving the world if its only hope – the Messiah, Blesser of heaven and earth, the Desire of all Nations (Hag. 2:7). God’s righteousness is displayed in giving Jesus the highest place in heaven, and also in not letting the world have the One they rejected. But we have Him.4 In 2 Corinthians 5:21 we find that our blessing in Christ is also a display of God’s righteousness; an extension, in a certain sense, of what we have in John 16:10. But the sending of the Holy Spirit is proof that Jesus is at the right hand of God. If He were a mere man, and a dishonest or deluded religious fanatic, the Holy Spirit would not have been sent. But the Spirit was sent, and through Him Peter preached Jesus, “being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The testimony of the Spirit was then confirmed by signs and wonders (Heb. 2:4). The Spirit then, in giving evidence that Jesus is exalted at God’s right hand, demonstrates the righteousness of God.
- A demonstration of judgment. The coming of the Spirit is also a public demonstration of the judgment of the world, “because the ruler of this world is judged”. The one called here, the ruler or “prince” of this world, is Satan. There is a sense in which the judgment of Satan and his angels is still future, and will be accomplished at the appearing of Christ (Rev. 20:1; Isa. 24:21), but this “judgment” spoken of by the Lord was accomplished in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Satan, who is the political prince of this world, has been exposed for what he really is, and the world has been exposed in following her prince. A helpful passage regarding this is Colossians 2:15; “having spoiled principalities and authorities, he made a show of them publicly, leading them in triumph by it [the cross]”. The “principalities and powers” are the spiritual beings that are allied with Satan. They originated from the heavenly host, but evidently followed Satan in his fall. They lurk in darkness, but when Christ came, they were drawn out into the open. We see the beginnings of this in the temptation, and further in the Lord’s discourse with Legion, etc. But at the cross, the full powers of darkness came out into the open, like an army mobilizing for battle. “But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). On the cross, the powers of darkness were defeated. How so? “That through death he might destroy [annul] him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). The actual victory was accomplished on the cross, but the formal witness of its accomplishment is seen in the resurrection and ascension; “Wherefore he says, Having ascended up on high, he has led captivity captive, and has given gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). Christ has annulled the forces of evil, and triumphed over them. Christ “made a show of them publicly” though His humility. By taking a lowly path, and being obedient unto death, the forces of evil were drawn into public, and there totally defeated by Christ, who rendered Satan powerless by going into death. Jesus defeated Satan in a way he never expected; by laying down His life in submission to the Father’s will (Luke 22:42; 23:46). What Satan thought to be a sure victory was actually the total opposite! But it was too late, Satan was fully exposed, and morally judged. And the world, composed of Jews and Gentiles, was exposed also, because they followed their prince, and were willingly led by him to cast out the Son of God. The Holy Spirit sent down is a demonstration that Christ has been victorious over Satan, and that therefore, the prince and his world are under the sentence of judgment, although the execution of the judgment is still future.5
Man the cross to Him awarded;
Man the Savior crucified;
This world’s judgment stands recorded,
God’s own justice satisfied!
By the glory
Christ was claimed on earth who died.6
12 I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 But when “he” is come, the Spirit of truth, (1) he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but whatsoever he shall hear he shall speak; (1a) and he will announce to you what is coming. 14 (2) He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall announce it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are mine; on account of this I have said that he receives of mine and shall announce it to you. vv.12-15 Things the Spirit would do for believers. The Lord next explained that there were “many” more things He still had to tell the disciples, but they could not “bear them” at the time, because they did not yet have “the Spirit of truth”. This v.12 is important for a number of reasons, but one is that it shows the importance of the apostles’ doctrine. Some Christians fall into the trap of, while feigning a superior spirituality, reading only the words of Christ. We must not forget that the revelations of God through the New Testament apostles and prophets are nothing less than Christ speaking from heaven! Read more… Furthermore, He goes on to speak for the Spirit guiding them into “all the truth”; obviously there are some parts of the truth of God that were reserved for after the Holy Spirit was sent. The office of the Spirit of God goes beyond demonstrating sin, righteousness, and judgment to the world. The Holy Spirit is often mentioned with a suffix to highlight a certain aspect of office of His work. The “Spirit of truth” leads us into all truth. The “Spirit of Christ” forms the features of Christ in the saints. The “Spirit of adoption” causes us to understand our relationship to the Father. The “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” sets us free from the power of sin. But here the Spirit does a number of important things for believers:
- Guides us into all the truth. The first thing the Spirit of truth would do is “guide” the saints into “all the truth”. This would involve several things, including revelation; “whatsoever he shall hear he shall speak”. Revelation is the process by which the Spirit of God directly reveals to men the Word of God. Inspiration is the process by which holy men of God, moved by the Holy Spirit, write down the revealed words, forming the written Word of God. Illumination is the process by which God’s people are taught by the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, to understand the mind of God. All three of these “steps of Divine communication” are through the power and guidance of the Spirit of Truth. Read more about this in 1 Corinthians 2. The Spirit of God does not act independently; “for he shall not speak from himself; but whatsoever he shall hear he shall speak”. This doesn’t mean the Spirit doesn’t speak about Himself, for surely there is much New Testament doctrine regarding the Person of the Spirit, and for an example we must look no further than the gospel of John, not to mention Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 12, etc. Nor does it mean the Spirit is in some way deficient in knowledge. Quite the opposite; “For who of men hath known the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? thus also the things of God knows no one except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). It simply means the Spirit would not speak independently, but would be here to serve the Son, and glorify Him. The Spirit of God does not make Himself the object of His teaching, but rather exalts Christ.
- Shows us future events. The Spirit would give the saints an understanding of future events; “and he will announce to you what is coming”. Prophecy is perhaps not the largest of the Spirit’s works, but it is an important one. These subjects would include the revelation of what the church is, and how it is to function, as well as the destiny of Christ, the church, Israel, and the nations. Think of all that we have concerning things to come in the New Testament: the revelation of the mystery of God’s will, the hope of the rapture, the details of the appearing of Christ, the beast and false prophet, the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, the details of the great harlot, the new Jerusalem, and the eternal state. These are “things to come” that we would be imperfect in our understanding of, or else completely ignorant of, if the Spirit of truth had not revealed them unto us.
- Glorifies Christ by Announcing His Person and Place with the Father. The Son’s purpose in coming down was to glorify the Father. The Spirit’s purpose in coming down is to glorify the Son! To “glorify” is to cause the dignity or worth of a person or a thing to be magnified or acknowledged. The prime object of the Spirit of God here in this world is to exalt Christ; “He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall announce it to you”. In fact, this forms a great test of all Christian ministry. If we are wondering if certain ministry is of the Spirit: first, is it consistent with scripture? and does it glorify Christ? The Spirit receives things concerning Christ, and shows them unto us. What things? “All things that the Father has are mine”. Specifically, the “things” the Spirit would announce are the glories of Christ with the Father. It isn’t so much the official glories of Christ, or even His moral glories seen in His earthly pathway below that are comprehended here. The Spirit of God would announce the personal glories of the Son; “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). Remember that these words spoken by the Lord were intended to comfort the disciples concerning His departure out of the world. The Spirit of God announces to the believer the blessedness of Christ’s place at the Father’s right hand, and this comforts our hearts, and fills us with the hope of being with Him soon.
Unassailable Joy and Definite Hope (16:16-22)
16 A little while and ye do not behold me; and again a little while and ye shall see me, because I go away to the Father. 17 Some of his disciples therefore said to one another, What is this he says to us, A little while and ye do not behold me; and again a little while and ye shall see me, and, Because I go away to the Father? 18 They said therefore, What is this which he says of the little while? We do not know of what he speaks. vv.16-18 The enigma of “a little while”. The Lord then spoke of His being hid from their eyes, and in a “little while” of their seeing Him again. He was speaking in a veiled way, such that it applies to the Lord’s death and resurrection, but could also apply to His ascension and second coming. This was an enigma that the disciples, try as they might, could not understand. When the Spirit was sent they would understand.78 In v.25 the Lord tells them He had been speaking in allegories, but in a coming time, He would speak to them plainly.
19 Jesus knew therefore that they desired to demand of him, and said to them, Do ye inquire of this among yourselves that I said, A little while and ye do not behold me; and again a little while and ye shall see me? 20 Verily, verily, I say to you, that ye shall weep and lament, ye, but the world shall rejoice; and ye will be grieved, but your grief shall be turned to joy. 21 A woman, when she gives birth to a child, has grief because her hour has come; but when the child is born, she no longer remembers the trouble, on account of the joy that a man has been born into the world. 22 And ye now therefore have grief; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one takes from you. vv.19-22 Grief turned to Joy. The more immediate fulfillment of this would be when Jesus died and was put in the grave. This was roughly twenty-four hours away. The disciples would not be able to see the Lord, because He would be dead. This would plunge them into deep sorrow, as we see with the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:17). The attitude of the disciples at this time would be the opposite from that of the world; “ye shall weep and lament, ye, but the world shall rejoice”. The world would rejoice to be rid of God’s Son (compare Rev. 11:10). But the grief of the disciples would be turned to joy! This would take place when they saw the Lord again – the same Jesus, but now in a risen and glorified state – a Victor over the grave! The joy of seeing Him again would be so great that it would eclipse the sorrow they had felt in His absence. Just as a woman who gives birth, afterwards no longer remembers the pain of labor, because her joy is so great in the child that has been born. In v.22 the Lord speaks of the disciples’ grief even at the present time; sorrow had already filled their hearts. But when they saw Him in resurrection, they would be filled with joy; “and your joy no one takes from you”. This joy, founded on the victory of Christ in resurrection, thus characterizes Christianity. It was necessary for the disciples to see the Lord after His resurrection, because they needed to see Him, as a man, in the new state of resurrection. This is more fully taken up in John 20, where the Lord said “Receive ye Holy Spirit”, putting the disciples into communion with Himself in that new state. What else could give them joy and hope to sustain them when Jesus went back to the Father? Nothing less than seeing Him for forty days, as beyond sin, judgment, death, and Satan. And the risen Lord is the head of a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), into which we are introduced by the indwelling Holy Spirit. We do not know Christ after the flesh any longer, but we know Him in resurrection. The joy of knowing Christ in resurrection, and of our union with Him by the Holy Spirit, is the “joy” that no one takes from us!9 Although we do not yet see the risen Lord with our physical eyes, we see Him in glory with the eyes of faith! We too can have the joy that no man can take from us (1 Pet. 1:8).
Future Fulfillment of the “Little While”. Although the immediate application of the Lord’s words “a little while” is to His death and resurrection, the wording is somewhat veiled. This leaves room for a future fulfillment of the “little while”.10 During the Church period, the Lord is absent, and we do not see Him with our eyes. The writer of Hebrews uses the same expression to refer to exactly this: the Lord’s second coming. “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:37). The dominion of the risen Christ, which the disciples privately witnessed for forty days, will at that time be established over the whole earth, and universal blessing will result. The whole period of Christ’s absence, almost 2000 years, is viewed as “a little while”. During this “little while”, the world thinks it has gotten rid of God’s Son. The world celebrates, while the Christian suffers. Yet at the same time, the Christian possesses an unassailable joy, because he knows Christ is risen, and knows Christ’s place with the Father, and all of this is witnessed by the Holy Spirit. We see Jesus now, not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith (Heb. 2:9). We also possess a definite hope: that of being with Christ and seeing Him with our physical eyes, when He returns for us!
“A little while”—the Lord shall come,
And we shall wander here no more;
He’ll take us to His Father’s home,
Where He for us is gone before—
To dwell with Him, to see His face,
And sing the glories of His grace.11
In Relationship with God as Father (16:23-28)
23 And in that day ye shall demand nothing of me: verily, verily, I say to you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 24 Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. vv.23-24 Asking the Father in the Name of the Son. Before the cross, the Son would intercede for the disciples, and “demand” (as only the Son could) from the from the Father, those things which were necessary for His own which were in the world. We have a beautiful example of this in the following chapter; notice how often Jesus prayed, “I demand”. The Christian is never to pray to the Father in this way. We have no right to demand anything. As this verse says, we “ask the Father”, and it is a different word, meaning ‘request’ or ‘petition’ (see John 11:21-22). In fact, we never read of the Son using the second word (‘petition’) in praying to the Father, and in this we see our Lord’s personal glory guarded. No matter how low He went, Christ was never less than worthy to demand of the Father. The point is, in the day when the disciples’ sorrow was turned to joy (i.e. the resurrection), the disciples would be put into a new relationship with God, wherein they could pray to Him directly as “the Father”. This was fulfilled in John 20:17; “go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”. In this relationship, they would be able to speak directly to the Father, and make their requests to Him, rather than asking the Son, who would then demand from the Father. These requests made directly to the Father, asked in the Name of the Son, would be answered. Compare this with John 14 where prayers in the Son’s name would be answered by the Son; “I will do it” (John 14:14). Here the prayers are answered by the Father; “He will give you”. Obviously, this does not mean Christians should not pray to the Son; we have many examples to the contrary (2 Cor. 12:8; Rev. 1:5). Rather, it means we have free access to the Father. This is a quite a change from Judaism, where the disciples would address their requests to the Messiah. Here we have normal Christian relationships. Note however, that praying to the Son is equally valid and scriptural, as we see with Stephen (Acts 7:59) and Paul (2 Cor. 12:8). When we pray in the Son’s name, we bring before the Father all the value and acceptance of His Son. Our prayers can be answered in virtue of Him who is perfectly accepted before the Father, and has glorified Him on the earth! There is no limitation to the Father’s grace and mercy; “Whatsoever ye shall ask…” As a side note, it should be obvious that if we “ask amiss” (James 4:3) in selfishness, or not “according to his will” (1 John 5:14) we cannot expect those prayers to be answered. The Father will grant any request so long as it is His will to do it. But barring those disqualifications, the scope is unlimited! And when our prayers directly to the Father are answered, we enter into the enjoyment of our relationship with the Father, and joy is a result; “that your joy may be full”. The joy is more connected with the relationship than with getting the things we request.
25 These things I have spoken to you in allegories; the hour is coming that I will no longer speak to you in allegories [‘dark sayings’], but will declare to you openly concerning the Father. v.25 The Father Openly Declared. The Lord’s words to the disciples at this time were plain enough for those who have the Spirit of truth to guide them, but they were obscure to the disciples. It would not always be this way. When the disciples were reunited with the Lord in resurrection, they would understand. The Lord speaks of it as “the hour is coming”, one of the various “hours” in John’s Gospel, in which He would speak openly to the disciples of the Father, and it would be clear to them. For example, when He had risen from the dead, Jesus said to Mary; “go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17). This is characteristic of Christianity: that the Father has been plainly declared unto us, and we are in relationship with Him as Father. The Spirit of truth enables us to understand about the Father.
26 In that day ye shall ask in my name; and I say not to you that I will demand of the Father for you, 27 for the Father himself has affection [‘philleo’] for you, because ye have had affection for me, and have believed that I came out from God.vv.26-27 In the Circle of the Father’s Love. The Lord now uses the expression “in that day”, which He used throughout the upper room ministry (John 14:20; 16:23, 26). It refers to the Spirit’s day, the time when the Comforter would be sent. That “day” was future when Jesus spoke, but it is present for us today! We enjoy the blessings Jesus spoke about concerning relationship with and access to the Father. The Lord touches again on the subject of asking from the Father in the value of the Son’s name, but here He gives a different reason why God would answer the prayers; “for the Father himself has affection for you”. Believers are directly in the circle of the Father’s love! It isn’t that the Son would never demand from the Father things for the disciples, because we have an example of that in ch.17. Of course, there is still an intercessory work of the Son. The point here is that the Father’s heart and ears were not only open to the Son, but to the disciples as well. The disciples would be able to ask directly, and the Father would grant those requests, not grudgingly, but willingingly in love. In the following chapter, the Lord carries this to a higher note: “thou… hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:23). This stupendous fact goes beyond the limits of our understanding, but we can accept it by faith. The word used here is phileo love, which is the special love of affection. Father loves all people with agape love (John 3:16), but this special love of affection is only for those who believe; “because ye have had affection for me, and have believed that I came out from God”. The Father loves those who love the Son, and who believe in Him as the Sent One. We never read of God having the phileo type of love for the world, or even for the angels. It is only ever used for men and women who believe on His Son.
28 I came out [‘exerkomai’] from the Father and have come into the world; again, I leave the world and go to the Father. v.28 The Glory of the Son. In v.28 we have a wonderful declaration of the mission of the Son. It was fully Divine. This verse (v.28) confirms several profound realities about the Father and the Son. In passing, we can see that it confirms the eternal Fatherhood and the eternal Sonship. The Father had to be His Father before the incarnation or it could not say He came from the Father. He had come from a Person (the Father) to a place (the world), and was leaving that place to return to that Person. But more than that, the expression “I came out (exerkomai) from the Father” characterizes the Son’s relationship as a man in this world. It is an advance on v.27; from the Father vs. from God. Coming forth from the side of the Father, the Son came into the world enjoying the full communion of the Father’s deep affection. He always had that relationship of love (John 1:18), but it was declared when the Son came forth. This is implied in the term. Finally, the expression “and have come into the world” complements and strengthens the previous clause, showing that Sonship is His transcendent identity. The mere sending of a person to execute a mission or fill an office does not require transcendent identity; e.g. “there was a man sent from God whose name was John” (John 1:6). John was ‘apestalmenos’, or commissioned. But the sending of the Son was different. Not only was the Son “sent by the Father” but He “came into the world”. The coming of the Son is the counterpart to the sending by His Father. He did not merely arrive here. He came. That purposeful “coming” proves that He is not only a servant, but God Himself. The two expression, “come forth” and “sent” are different (John 8:42; John 17:8). In “coming forth” the Son acted in His own Personal rights and sovereign will. In His “being sent” the Son came to accomplish the will of God His Father. Both are true, but here the full, personal glory of the Son is emphasized; He came forth, He came into, He leaves, He goes. This went way beyond Christ’s official glory as Messiah, and it also went way beyond the minds of the disciples, because they were not yet indwelt with the Spirit of God. But the Lord said this to show the disciples the incredible favor that they had before the Father.
From the Father vs. From God. The Son is said in scripture to have come forth from the Father and from God (John 16:27-28). His coming out from the Father carries the thought of the Son coming into the world in the consciousness of His Father's affection. His coming out from God carries the thought of the Son coming into the world as a Divine Person in the Godhead; as "God was in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:19). The name "Son of God" carries more the thought of His divinity, His coming forth as a Person in the Godhead. The name "Son" carries more the thought of His relationship and place in the Father's affections; He is the Son of the Father, the Son of His love (2 John 3; Col. 1:13).
Christ’s Victory over the World (16:29-33)
29 His disciples say to him, Lo, now thou speakest openly and utterest no allegory. 30 Now we know that thou knowest all things, and hast not need that any one should demand of thee. By this we believe that thou art come from God. vv.29-30 The Disciples’ Assertion. The disciples attempted to comfort and assure the Lord that they knew what He was talking about. They were convinced of the Lord’s omniscience, and all-sufficiency. He knew all things, and certainly knew their thoughts; i.e. their lingering questions that they would have needed to ask had Jesus been a mere human teacher. “Now we know that thou knowest all things, and hast not need that any one should demand of thee”. In their minds, all Jesus had said was perfectly clear. They acknowledged His deity, and divine mission, and used the words; “we believe that thou art come from God”. But they could make nothing of His having come forth from the Father, and His returning to the Father. Their thoughts, limited by Jewish hopes, could not rise up to comprehend the magnitude of what Jesus was telling them. They could not possibly understand until the Lord communicated to them His resurrection life, plainly declared the Father to them, and they were indwelt with the Holy Spirit.
31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, and has come, that ye shall be scattered, each to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. vv.31-32 Self-confidence Rebuked. The Lord does not rebuke the disciples’ error.12 Instead He rebukes a deeper problem that He detected: self-confidence. This is a pattern in the Lord’s working with souls. Sometimes people would come to Him with a question, and often He would not answer their question, but would instead address a deeper issue. “Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, and has come, that ye shall be scattered, each to his own, and shall leave me alone”. It would only be a short time, in fact the hour had come, when all the disciples would abandon the Lord. They truly had faith, but they also had the flesh. When we become self-confident, we are heading for a fall. As the Lord drew near the cross, one by one, the interpersonal comforts that naturally strengthen the human spirit were removed. At last Jesus was left alone: alone “like a pelican of the wilderness”, “like an owl of the desert”, “like a sparrow upon the house top” (Psalm 102:6-7). And yet, while He was forsaken by man, the Lord still had the fellowship of His Father; “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). How beautiful, that the Son could count on that fellowship, in spite of the human failure around Him. But, in the abandonment of the last three dark hours, even that fellowship was taken away.
33 These things have I spoken to you that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world. vv.33 Peace and Tribulation. The Lord now concludes the whole matter of the believer’s portion during the time of Jesus’ absence. On one hand they would be in the world, and therefore they could expect tribulation. But the fact that they would have the Lord meant they could still have peace in Him. For one who loves Jesus and keeps His words, the Father and Son “will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). How can hearts be troubled when Jesus is near? The reason we can be of “good courage” is that Jesus has “overcome the world”. Our enemy is already defeated, in that the world and its prince are judged. We are in a battle, but our Captain has been victorious, and final deliverance is only a matter of time. The believer too can overcome the world, as 1 John 5:4-5 tells us, by believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Our faith has an object which has overcome the world. The Christian believes that Jesus – whom the world has crucified – is the Son of God. In this way our faith has a practical victory over this world.
- This, then, is the distinctive character of Christianity. It is not the kingdom, Christ reigning in Jehovah, power and glory, and the Spirit poured out upon all flesh, but Christ departing to be in heaven, and the Spirit as Paraclete sent and abiding with the saints on earth. – Kelly, William. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- Although it is a somewhat more negative example, we have a parallel to this in Exodus. In Egypt, after the first three plagues were accomplished, the Lord caused the remaining plagues to fall only on the Egyptians, and the children of Israel were spared. “I will put a separation between my people and thy people” (Exodus 8:22). This “separation” was a public demonstration of Pharaoh’s sin in refusing to let Israel go.
- Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- Having glorified God His Father, He was going to sit at His right hand, at the right hand of the Majesty on high, to be glorified in God Himself, to sit on the Father’s throne. To set Him there was divine righteousness (see John 13:31-32, and John 17:1-5). This same righteousness deprived the world, as it is, of Jesus for ever. Man saw Him no more. Righteousness in favour of men was in Christ at God’s right hand — in judgment as to the world, in that it had lost Him hopelessly and for ever. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- He who has the power of death committed himself thoroughly. In his desire to ruin man he had to hazard everything in his enterprise against the Prince of Life. He was able to associate the whole world with himself in this, Jew and Gentile, priest and people, governor, soldier, and subject. The world was there, headed by its prince, on that solemn day. The enemy had everything at stake, and the world was with him. But Christ has risen, He has ascended to His Father, and has sent down the Holy Ghost. All the motives that govern the world, and the power by which Satan held men captive, are shown to be of him; he is judged. The power of the Holy Ghost is the testimony of this, and surmounts all the powers of the enemy. The world is not yet judged, that is, the judgment executed — it will be in another manner; but it is morally, its prince is judged. All its motives, religious and irreligious, have led it to reject Christ, placing it under Satan’s power. It is in that character that he has been judged; for he led the world against Him who is manifested to be the Son of God by the presence of the Holy Ghost consequent on His breaking the power of Satan in death. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- Miss Burlingham, H.K. On His Father’s Throne Is Seated. Little Flock Hymnbook #39
- As testimony, this took place when He showed Himself to them after His resurrection; it will be fully accomplished when He shall return to receive them unto Himself. But when they had seen Him again, they should understand the relationship in which He has placed them with His Father, they should enjoy it by the Holy Ghost. – Darby, J.N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.
- This was surely true when He rose after His brief absence, as it will be fully verified when He comes for them never to part more… Even now His resurrection is a joy which none takes away. What will it be when He comes to receive us to Himself? – Kelly, W. Exposition of the Gospel of John.
- Now this new state of man was familiarly manifested to the disciples, during the forty days that the Lord passed upon earth after His resurrection, before He ascended to heaven. The return of the Saviour, when He shall come back in His glory, will be the moment when His dominion will be established over all things, when God will put them all under His feet, with an authority and power that He will make use of to subject them to Himself. Now that of which we speak, whether with regard to the state of man, or relative to the glory, is evidently something more than the presence of the Holy Ghost, precious as that is, and it is that which now occupies the Lord. The Holy Ghost was to be given to the disciples, but more than this, He should see them again. No doubt they would see Him, when He will return in glory, but then it will be no longer a question of a testimony to render. Before that time they should see Him for a little while, for He would then go to His Father. This was the introduction of the disciples into the realisation of that new state which Christ inaugurated by His resurrection, Son of God in power. They should see the second Man beyond death, and be in living communication with Him. It was not the revelation of the glorious things of the new creation by the Holy Ghost; this revelation was going to be given to them: it was Christ Himself, the Christ they had known during the days of His flesh. “Handle me,” He said, “and see that it is I myself.” Touching and precious word! It was He whom they had known and accompanied every day and all day, who had borne with their infirmities, sustained their faith and encouraged their hearts; it was the same Jesus who shewed Himself as familiarly with them as before, though in quite another state. He shewed Himself, said Peter, “not to all the people, but to us, who did eat and drink with him, after that he was raised from the dead.” It was the same Christ, but what is of all importance, the basis of all for us, it was Christ beyond death, the power of Satan, the judgment of God, and sin; He who had been made sin for us, by whom our sins had been borne and put away, that God might remember them no more. We see here the link between Jesus, known in His humiliation in our midst in grace, and man in his new state, according to the counsels of God, a state in which He could no more be subjected to death, nor put to the proof. – Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John.
- These words then (ver. 16, etc.)… their full and entire accomplishment should only take place when Christ returns… – Darby, J.N. On the Gospel of John.
- Deck, J.G. “A Little While”–The Lord Shall Come. Little Flock Hymnbook #173
- His return to the Father was a parable still, though the Lord does not correct their error, as, indeed, it was useless: they would soon enough learn how little they knew. – Kelly, William. Exposition of the Gospel of John.