3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 16

Contents

Chapter 16

stageThis is part 16 of a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

Chapter 16 opens with the profound words, “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling”, as if to underscore this theme of hearing and believing in a single breath.


REVIEWING THE TEXT – CHAPTER 16

The theme of the chapter is contained in the opening comments of Jesus:

I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

– John 16:1-4

Here is a clue as to why Jesus’ words are so important. They will “keep you from stumbling” in Jesus’ absence. He said them so that “you may remember”. This is why his words are so valuable, and the miracles are not necessarily a key to right belief. Throughout history, those who have recalled Jesus’ teachings and remained true to his words have generally been stable and safe. Those who have sought to focus instead on his miracles have frequently veered into excess or outright heresy.

I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.

– John 16:5

The “things” he is talking about is the persecution in verse 2, which continues from the previous chapter where Jesus was talking about “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.” – John 15:18. Jesus held these things until the time when he was going to leave his disciples. In his presence they didn’t need to hear these lessons. In his absence they will be vitally important.

The Holy Spirit will come and “prove the world wrong … about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer” – John 16:8-10. The fact that Jesus will be gone (ascended) will prove that the world is wrong about what constitutes righteousness. It is sacrificial love and faith that constitutes righteousness, and the Resurrection and Ascension proves it. In this sense it is what they don’t see that matters (“you will see me no longer”), rather than what they do see.

Jesus goes on to emphasise his teachings:

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

– John 16:12-15

In that section Jesus said, “All that the father has is mine”, and has equated this to the teachings that he has shared, and that the Holy Spirit will declare in Jesus’ absence.

The next paragraph, from verse 16-24, has more to do with demonstrating that the disciples are just as confused here as the Jews were on earlier occasions, asking similar questions. It mentions “seeing”, and “not seeing”, but the point is that the disciples will inevitably be fooled by what they see – they will become very sad, and then happy again. If they just believed, they would not have that experience.

The disciples’ questions are like those of the Jews earlier, in chapter 7 and chapter 8:

Chapter 16:

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.”

Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”

They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

– John 16:16-18

 

Chapter 7:

Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

– John 7:34-36

 

Chapter 8:

Again he said to them, “I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.”

Then the Jews said, “Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?”

– John 8:21-22

 

In the next section Jesus talks about the nature of his teaching. He is now speaking plainly. How do the disciples respond to that?

His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.”

– John 16:29-30

… and Jesus then returns to the theme of his introductory remarks:

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.

– John 16:33

This chapter contains a number of important reiterations of the hearing/believing theme, and also a drawing together of some of its implications. In this chapter we have seen Jesus reveal the reasons why his words that matter so much, a reminder that his words are divine, a reminder that the Holy Spirit’s role has a lot to do with Jesus’ words, and above all, an assurance that it is Jesus’ words that will equip the believers when they are being persecuted.

One way to summarise the chapter would be to concentrater on his main point, igniring everything else:

I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have overcome the world!

– John 16

The words of Jesus are critically important for the survival of God’s persecuted people. No wonder Peter called them “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).


Questions to Ponder from Chapter 16

What else would Jesus have said, if only his disciples could bear it?
If your community was to be violently persecuted, what courage would you find in Jesus’ words?
How would you have felt if you were one of Jesus’ friends, hearing all this?

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