Last Words to the Disciples
1. These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be caused to stumble.
2. They shall make you be put out of the synagogue; but the hour comes, that everyone that kills you will think that he offers a service to God.
3. And these things they will do to you, because they have not known the Father nor Me.
4. But these things have I spoken to you, that when the hour comes, you may remember them, because I said them to you; but these things I said not to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
Throughout His time on earth, Jesus did many miracles. He turned water to wine, calmed the sea, fed the multitudes, healed the sick, and raised the dead. But, above all, Jesus came to save people through teaching the truth. Even though Jesus did many miracles, every miracle was primarily a spiritual lesson. Through these miracles Jesus was illustrating how God heals us from every spiritual infirmity, cleanses us with the water of His divine truth, nourishes us with the bread of His divine love, and restores us to new life. 1
As Jesus said just after He healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:26). To “hear the voice of the Son of God” is to receive the truth that Jesus teaches and to put it into one’s life. This is salvation. Therefore, Jesus says to the man at the Pool of Bethesda, and to all of us, “These things I say to you that you might be saved” (John 5:34). 2
This idea, that Jesus says these things so that we might be saved, relates to His primary mission. It is to save humanity through the things He teaches. This becomes especially clear in the farewell discourse. In these final words to His disciples, Jesus continues to teach them the most important things they will need to know—the things that are necessary for their salvation. After washing their feet, Jesus said to them, “”If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:17). They must first know the truth that Jesus has been teaching them before they can experience the joy of living according to it.
Now, as Jesus approaches the end of the farewell discourse, He once again reminds His disciples to keep their focus on what He has been teaching them. As Jesus puts it in the opening words of this chapter, “These things I have spoken to you that you not be made to stumble” (John 16:1). Jesus knows that His disciples will encounter great difficulties, and their faith will be put to the test. Therefore, Jesus says to them, “They will put you out of the synagogue, and whoever kills you will think that he offers service to God” (John 16:2).
In sacred symbolism, the disciples represent all who humbly live according to the truth that Jesus teaches. But just like those who want to put the disciples out of the synagogue, there is a part of us that does not want to hear the truth, and resists living according to it. Led by self-interest rather than by the Lord, it would rather turn away from the truth, avoid it, or even attempt to destroy it. This is the inner meaning of Jesus’ warning, “They will put you out of the synagogue, and whoever kills you will think that he offers service to God.” 3
Jesus then explains why they will do these things to the disciples. He says, “They will do these things to you because they have not known the Father or Me” (John 16:3). Here the “Father” stands for divine love, and Jesus stands for divine truth. In our own lives, there may be times when our understanding of what is good and true is distorted by self-interest or falsified by the persuasive influence of others. At these times, we have rejected Jesus, expelled Him from the synagogue, and destroyed the truth He came to bring us. All of this is contained in the brief statement, “They have not known the Father or Me.” 4
These are the spiritual struggles that lie ahead for the disciples. It is vital, therefore, that they know these things that are about to take place. As Jesus says to them, “These things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (John 16:4). Jesus then explains why He has waited until now to tell them about the coming persecutions. As He puts it, “These things I did not tell you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go away to Him who sent Me” (John 16:4-5).
For the most part, the beginning of our spiritual life is an exciting time. Learning new truth can be thrilling, and it is often attended with the feeling that we will never again succumb to the desires of our lower nature. Even though the Word of God might speak about coming persecutions, this doesn’t seem to apply to us. We can’t even imagine a time of temptation when we feel separate from God. But the time will come when we will be challenged to live according to what we believe. At such times, even though the Lord is still with us, it will feel as though we are on our own.
Therefore, when Jesus says to His disciples, “These things I did not tell you at the beginning, because I was with you,” He is referring to the early stages of regeneration. But the time has now come for the disciples to know about the persecutions that will soon take place, especially since Jesus will seem to be absent. At that time, the fierce anger of all those who have hated Jesus will be turned towards His disciples. Therefore, the disciples need to be ready. To repeat what Jesus said as He began this section of the farewell discourse, “These things I have spoken to you that you not be made to stumble.” 5
A practical application
As Jesus begins the final section of His farewell discourse, He tells His disciples that persecutions will come. He says that He is telling them these things so that they might not stumble. Like the disciples, we need to know that situations will arise that will challenge our deepest convictions. For example, something might happen, or something might be said that triggers an immediate emotional response. Suddenly, we find ourselves feeling defensive, fearful, angry, hurt, or resentful. Surprise attacks like this, which seem to come out of nowhere, can catch us off guard. At such times, it can feel as though we are being ambushed by negative thoughts and feelings, and that we are about to stumble. As a practical application, then, select a passage of scripture that you can bring to remembrance when the inevitable ambush comes. Write it on a notecard and carry it with you during the day. For example, you could deploy a passage like this: “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, and I will help you” (Isaiah 41:10). Or simply, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). 6
Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment
5. But now I go away to Him that sent Me, and none of you asks Me, whither goest Thou away?
6. But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart full.
7. But I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.
8. And when He has come, He will reprove the world about sin, and about justice, and about judgment;
9. About sin indeed, because they believe not in Me;
10. And about justice, because I go away to My Father, and you behold Me no more;
11. And about judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
After giving these warnings, Jesus reminds His disciples that He is about to depart. As He puts it, “I now go away to Him who sent Me” (John 16:5). Jesus then adds, “None of you asks Me, ‘Where are you going?’” (John 16:5). At first glance, this can be confusing. After all, when Jesus first told His disciples that He was going away, Peter said, “Lord, where are you going?” (John 13:36). And a few verses later, Thomas said, “Lord we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
While it’s true that Peter and Thomas had already asked about where Jesus was going, their questions were not about Jesus and what would happen to Him. Rather, their concerns were about how they would manage without Jesus’ physical presence. What would happen to them? What would they do when Jesus was gone? How would they know where to go? As Jesus puts it, “Because I said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” Nevertheless, in the next breath, Jesus offers words of comfort. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus says to them. “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7).
The time comes in each of our lives when we must make the transition from learning to doing. This is the case, as well, for the disciples. Jesus will be stepping aside, so to speak, so that His disciples might step up. And yet, even if Jesus is not with them physically, He will be with them in an even deeper way: He will be with them in spirit. In this way, their convictions will be strengthened as Jesus continues to work through their developing understanding, inspiring them to apply the truth He has been teaching them. In this way, they will be developing a new will. It’s as if Jesus is saying to them, “Now it’s your turn to put everything I have taught you into practice. Don’t worry; I will be with you. Even in the most difficult times, I will be there for you. I will still be helping you—but from within.” 7
This, then, is the “Helper.” It refers to how Jesus will help them from within through the truth that He calls to their remembrance. It is for this reason that the Helper is also called “the spirit of Truth.” It is God’s Holy Spirit with them, calling to remembrance all things that Jesus has taught them, enlightening them, and inspiring them to persevere in their efforts. 8
All of this is part of what happens when the Holy Spirit—the Helper—comes to us. There is enlightenment; there is inspiration. But there is something else as well. Jesus puts it like this: “I will send the Helper to you…. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
Convicted of sin
Jesus has just said that the Helper will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The first of these is to “convict the world of sin.” The reason, says Jesus, is because “they do not believe in Me” (John 16:9). The Greek word that is translated as “convict” is ?????e? [e-leng-si-eye]. It carries the meaning of having one’s guilt suddenly proven, or one’s wrongdoing suddenly exposed. Other meanings include being rebuked, admonished, or reproved for one’s behavior. This is especially the case when we suddenly become aware that we have been living contrary to the truth. As Jesus says, the Helper will convict the world of sin “because they do not believe in Me.”
When Jesus says, “they do not believe in Me,” He is not speaking about an abstract statement of faith, or a declaration of allegiance to a particular creed. He is speaking about a life according to His commandments. As He told His disciples at the beginning of the farewell address, “If you love me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Returning to this theme a few verses later, Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:21). And He adds, “And He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:24). In brief, we demonstrate our belief in Jesus by living according to His teachings. 9
Being “convicted of sin,” then, refers to a time, or even a moment, when we realize that we have not been keeping God’s commandments, nor have we been living by His words. We might find ourselves saying, “What I have just done is not the person I want to be,” or “The way I spoke to that person is not the way I want to treat people,” or, “This thought that is going through my mind right now is not the kind of thought I want to have.” In moments like this, we realize that we have been living apart from God’s order, and feel deeply sorry about it. This is what it means to be “convicted by conscience,” or, as Jesus puts it, the Helper will “convict the world of sin.” 10
In this context, it is important to note that we cannot be “convicted by conscience” or “convicted of sin” unless we first know what sin is. That’s why spirituality begins with the commandments. In the briefest form, they teach us what evils are sins—not just sins against people, but also sins against God. Once a foundation has been laid down in the Ten Commandments, this can be deepened through an ongoing study of the Word, especially its spiritual meaning, and the practice of the truths that are learned in the process.
Gradually, as an individual begins to see more interiorly the evils one is intending, and turns away from them, the more a spiritual character is developed. Eventually, the individual comes to have an aversion to evil and a love for goodness, an aversion to falsity and a love for truth. This is how spiritual life is acquired. And this is what enables people to experience what it means to be “convicted of sin.” 11
Convicted of righteousness
Once people realize that they have been living a sinful life—that is a life that is contrary to God’s commandments—they might decide to change their ways. As they begin to keep the commandments, they put God first, they avoid taking His name in vain, they remember the sabbath to keep it holy, and they honor their father and mother. Additionally, they strive to resist every desire to murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet.
While this is a good beginning, a new problem arises. The righteousness that Jesus came to bring is, at first, replaced by their own righteousness. Believing that the good they do is from themselves, they become self-righteous, It is for this reason that Jesus now says that when the Helper comes, He will convict the world not just of sin, but also of righteousness. When self-righteousness is exposed, people once again feel “convicted.” They realize that they have been under the delusion that their goodness is self-derived rather than a perpetual gift from God. It is for this reason that Jesus says that the Helper will “convict the world of righteousness.”
Jesus then says that the world will be convicted of righteousness “because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more” (John 16:10). At the literal level, Jesus is speaking about His impending crucifixion. At that time, He will be “going to the Father” and will be “seen no more.” At a deeper level, when Jesus says that He is “going to the Father,” He is saying that divine truth is being united with divine love, and that the two will become as one. And when Jesus says, “You will see Me no more,” it means that when truth is fully united with love, only the love will be seen.
This is precisely what takes place in our spiritual development. At first, we compel ourselves to do what truth teaches. This is to be led by truth. But when we see the goodness within the truth, a change comes over us. We begin to do what is right, not from truth, but from goodness. This is what Jesus means when He says, “I go to My Father, and you see Me no more.” When this transition time comes, we operate not so much from truth, but rather from the goodness within the truth—that is, from love.
While this is a wonderful transition time for us, it also involves a spiritual danger. As long as we are operating from truth, and not yet from love, we are mindful of our shortcomings, conscious of our selfish inclinations, and aware of our resistance. Therefore, we need to keep compelling ourselves to do what is right. But when we begin to operate from love, it can feel as though we are doing it ourselves, easily and freely, without God’s assistance. It seems as though it comes naturally.
When this takes place, the truth that brought us to this turning point is temporarily out of sight. This is what happens when we forget that all truth and all goodness belong to the Lord alone. When we lose sight of this truth, we falsely believe that the good we do is from ourselves. This leads to confidence in self rather than confidence in God, in self-sufficiency rather dependence on God, and to self-righteousness rather than attributing all righteousness to the Lord alone. 12
But the time comes, when we realize that we can do nothing good from ourselves, and that everything good has its origin in the Father’s love. Like the branches that must abide in the vine, we must abide in the Lord if we are to receive the goodness and truth that only He can supply. To believe that we can exist apart from the vine, or do anything good from ourselves, is a self- righteous delusion. Just as the lungs cannot breathe by themselves, and the heart cannot beat by itself, we cannot understand truth or manifest love apart from the Lord. 13
The Helper, then, comes not only to convict the world of sin, but also to convict the world of the self-righteous belief that people can do good through their own efforts or that they can save themselves on their own—apart from God. This is what it means to be “convicted of righteousness.” 14
Convicted of judgment
Jesus has already said that the Helper will convict the world of sin and of righteousness. He now says that the Helper will convict the world “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:11). One way of understanding these words is to consider the state of the world at the time of the Lord’s first coming. At that time, selfishness, greed, and the lust for power had grown so great that hell was invading heaven. Evil was having dominion over good in people’s minds. Falsity was governing in place of truth. In brief, the love of self and the love of the material things of the world were “ruling.” This is what Jesus calls “the ruler of the world.”
At the same time, religion was at its lowest ebb. Fear was taking the place of faith; legalism was replacing love. Good people had nowhere to turn for the truth that could protect them from falsity. Because evil spirits were not only controlling people’s minds, but also their bodies, demonic possession was widespread. Even the angels of the lower and middle heaven were being attacked by hellish influences. Therefore, a general judgment had to take place. God had to come in human form to subjugate the hells, restore heavenly order, and teach the truths that would lead to the re-establishment of true faith. This was true at that time, and is still true today. 15
In effecting this judgment, God provided the truth that would help people separate that which is good from that which is evil within themselves, that which is honest from that which is dishonest within themselves, and that which is well-intentioned from that which is wicked within themselves. No one was cast into hell or raised up into heaven, but freedom of choice was once again restored. People could freely choose a path that would lead to a miserable, tormented existence in hell or a path that would lead to a joyful, peaceful existence in heaven. Divine order had come to earth again, through the teachings of Jesus Christ, making it possible for people to live in spiritual freedom. In this way, the ruler of the world was judged. 16
But there is also a way to understand Jesus’ words about the ruler of the world on a more personal, individual level. We, too, have a tendency to allow the ruler of the world in us to usurp the place that belongs to God. This can happen whenever the ruler of the world is governing in us. When this is the case, our own judgments take the place of God’s truth.
To the extent that we do this, assuming that our judgments are indisputably correct, we are eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is how self-righteousness both precedes and leads to contempt for others and condemnatory judgments. At such times, we believe that we are “like God,” and that our judgments are superior to those of others. Whenever we realize that this is happening within us, we are being “convicted of judgment.” 17
A practical application
While it is true that we should never make self-righteous judgments, we still must make righteous judgments—that is, judgments that are devoid of condemnation. As Jesus said earlier in this gospel, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). For example, we need to make judgments about whether we will loan a tool to someone who may not return it, or accept a ride from someone who is under the influence of alcohol. Teachers need to make judgments about promoting students. And courtroom judges need to make judgments about whether a person is innocent or guilty. If you make these kinds of judgments, it does not mean that you are being “judgmental.” Judgments are necessary. Without them, society would fall apart. And yet, even though we must make judgments about actions and enforce consequences, we should continue to think well of others and strive to understand their behaviors. As a practical application, then, avoid judgments in which you automatically assume that there is an evil motive. Instead, strive to think well of others and understand their behaviors. Only the Lord knows a person’s intentions. 18
Jesus Is the “Spirit of Truth”
12. I have yet many [things] to say to you, but you cannot bear [them] now.
13. But when it shall come, the spirit of Truth, it will guide you into all truth; for it shall not speak from itself, but whatever it shall hear, it shall speak; and it shall announce to you things to come.
14. It will glorify Me, for it shall receive of Mine, and shall announce [it] to you.
15. All things whatever the Father has, are Mine; on this account I said that it shall receive of Mine, and shall announce [it] to you.
Although Jesus has many things to tell His disciples, He knows that most of the information He would like to share with them is far beyond their comprehension. Therefore, He says to them, “I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). He then adds, “But when the spirit of Truth has come, it will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The spirit of Truth will be Jesus Himself, coming to them and opening their understanding of His Word.
Jesus then says that when the spirit of Truth comes, “He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). These words refer to the nature of revelation. All revelation has its origin in divine love. That love, which is infinitely beyond human comprehension, is accommodated to human understanding through the words that Jesus speaks and the illustrations that He gives. When Jesus says that He “hears,” it refers to His ability to perceive the divine love from which truth comes. It is from this love that He speaks to His disciples and to each of us, translating the infinite language of divine love into words and images that can be understood and applied to life. 19
Even so, much of what Jesus says, especially in this farewell message, is difficult to understand. This is especially true for the disciples. Because the Word contains infinite depths of wisdom, it is understandable that the disciples will not be able to comprehend everything. But they can be sure of one thing: when the spirit of Truth comes to them, it will glorify Jesus. It will reveal who Jesus really is, in what way the Father is in Him, in what way He is in the Father, and in what way Jesus and the Father are One. As Jesus puts it, when the spirit of Truth has come, “He will glorify Me.” Moreover, “He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). 20
The spirit of Truth, then, will reveal the full divinity that is within Jesus. It will teach that the trinity of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” is not a trinity of separate persons, but rather three aspects of one God. The “Father” is the divine love within Jesus. The “Son” is the divine truth that Jesus speaks. And the “Holy Spirit” is the power and influence of that truth as it goes forth to bless, enlighten, and inspire all who receive it. In other words, Jesus and the Father are not separate beings. They are One. As Jesus says, “Everything that the Father has is Mine” (John 16:15). 21
In the most general sense, then, the Holy Spirit is everything that proceeds or comes forth from God. This includes everything that is good, everything that is true, and everything that is holy. Nevertheless, important questions still remain about how people can be sure that the Holy Spirit is with them. They need only to remember that the Holy Spirit will convict them of sin, convict them of righteousness, and convict them of judgment by first calling to their remembrance God’s teachings, and then inspiring them to live according to those teachings.
To the extent that people do this, Jesus’ Holy Spirit will become a living, guiding, enlightening, and convicting presence in their lives. In this regard, it can be truly said that Jesus is the Holy Spirit with us. He comes as the spirit of Truth, not only to convict, but also to enlighten, not only to expose, but also to teach, not only to rebuke and reprove, but also to comfort and inspire.22
Sorrow Will Be Turned to Joy
16. A little [while], and you shall not behold Me; and again a little [while], and you shall see Me, because I go away to the Father.
17. Then said [some] of His disciples to one another, What is this that He says to us, A little [while], and you shall not behold Me; and again, a little [while], and you shall see Me; and, Because I go away to the Father?
18. They said therefore, What is this that He says, A little [while]? We know not what He speaks.
19. Then Jesus knew that they willed to ask Him, and said to them, Do you seek with one another concerning this, that I said, A little [while], and you shall not behold Me, and again a little [while], and you shall see Me?
20. Amen, amen, I say to you that you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall sorrow, but your sorrow shall be made into joy.
21. A woman when she brings forth has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when the little child is born, she remembers no more the affliction, for joy that a man is born into the world.
22. And you now therefore indeed have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one takes from you.
23. And in that day you shall ask Me nothing. Amen, amen, I say to you that whatever things you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give you.
24. Hitherto you have asked nothing in My name; ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be filled full.
Even though the disciples are standing in the presence of the Light of the World, they are still very much in the dark. They do not understand why Jesus needs to leave them, or what He means by “going to the Father,” or what He means when He says that He will be coming back to them in a little while. As Jesus puts it, “A little while and you will not see Me; and again, a little while and you will see Me, because I go to the Father” (John 16:16).
Confused by what Jesus is saying, the disciples say among themselves, “What is this that He says to us? ‘A little while and you will not see Me; and again, a little while and you will see Me, because I go to the Father’?” (John 16:17). Jesus knows that when He leaves the physical presence of His disciples, they will grieve. Nevertheless, Jesus tells them in advance that they should not worry. It is noteworthy that Jesus does not focus on His own suffering, which is only a few hours away, but rather on the suffering that His disciples will undergo.
Jesus also knows that some people will rejoice at His apparent death, believing that they have killed Him. But Jesus tells His disciples not to worry about this. He assures them that although they will be sorrowful, their sorrow will not be permanent. As Jesus puts it, “Most assuredly I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16:20).
Jesus then compares the sorrow that the disciples will experience to the sorrow of a woman who is giving birth. He says, “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21).
The analogy is clear. Jesus has already told His disciples that His “hour has come” (John 12:23). In other words, the hour of His crucifixion is drawing near. He knows that it will be a time of anguish. Like a woman in labor, the disciples will also undergo a painful time. And yet, labor is necessary before there can be a birth. Similarly, the disciples will undergo further trials before their faith can be made complete. But if they push through, trusting in Jesus, the result will be glorious. Their sorrow will be turned to joy.
In the woman’s case, a child is born. For the disciples, and for all people who undergo the process of regeneration, a new will is born within them, along with a new sense of joy. All this is contained in Jesus’ comforting words when He says to His disciples, “You now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (John 16:22).
Asking nothing of the Son
Jesus then makes a further prediction. He says, “In that day you will ask Me nothing” (John 16:23). Asking nothing of the Son means that they will no longer rely primarily on truth. Although their spiritual development must necessarily begin with learning the truth, the disciples would be called to take the next step in the process. This would involve living according to the truth. In doing so, they would gain access to the love from which that truth comes. This is what Jesus means when He says, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23).
Jesus is using figurative language to explain the next step in the spiritual evolution of His disciples. Whereas they would begin their spiritual journey by learning truth, they would gradually come to see and experience the goodness within that truth, especially as they lived according to it. In doing so, there would be a reversal. Truth would no longer be first, but rather goodness would be first. This is what Jesus means when He tells them that at that time they would go directly to the “Father.” In other words, they would begin to operate from love.
For the disciples, going directly to the Father means that love and goodness would come first. Then, from that love and goodness, they would experience deeper truth. Living according to that new and deeper truth, they would experience even deeper states of love and goodness, and so on throughout eternity. Once started on this journey from truth to goodness, and from goodness to truth, whatever they would ask would be in alignment with the Father’s will. Therefore, Jesus can truly say to them, “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.”
This reversal does not come easily. Before it can take place, there is a long struggle in which the old nature must be laid aside, and a new nature taken on. While the old nature is being weakened and broken down, there is necessarily a period of mourning and pain. Letting go of old habits, whether it is a physical addiction or an inherited inclination to evil, can involve a great deal of struggle. And yet, this is the only way that a new will can be born in us, along with a new sense of freedom. In this new freedom we follow Jesus, not because it is the right thing to do (which is truth to good), but because we love to do so (which is good to truth). 23
As long as the disciples go directly to the Father in this manner, allowing themselves to be guided and directed by the truth of God’s Word, and doing so from love, they will receive all that they ask for. That is why Jesus says, “Until now you have asked nothing in My name.” Previously, their prayers had not been in Jesus’ name. That is, they had not prayed in humility, or for those things that are consistent with God’s will. From now on, however, they would pray “in Jesus’ name”—that is, not only through the truths He has given them, but also from a humble, loving heart. To the extent that they do this, their prayers will be answered in wonderful ways. As Jesus says, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24).
A practical application
Relying on one’s “inner voice,” apart from the guidance of sacred scripture, can lead people into a great deal of trouble. That’s why God has provided a revelation called the “Word of God.” Even then, it is possible to get carried away with our own ideas, take things out of context, read scripture through the lens of our own agenda, and make it say what we want it to say because we are eager to prove our point. To prevent this, the Lord promises that He will come again as the spirit of Truth—the truth that will lead us into all truth. In order to rightly receive the spirit of Truth when it comes to us, we must be free of every agenda except the humble desire to learn and apply His truth to the uses of life. Therefore, as a practical application, prayerfully read the Word with only one desire in mind: that is, that the Lord might open your eyes to see how you might apply His truth to your life. It is what David was talking about when He prayed to the Lord, saying, “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in Your law” (Psalms 119:18). 24
25. These things I have spoken to you in parables; but an hour comes when I will no more speak to you in parables, but will announce to you openly concerning the Father.
26. In that day you shall ask in My name; and I say not to you, that I will beseech the Father for you;
27. For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.
28. I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; again I leave the world, and go to the Father.
29. His disciples say to Him, See, now Thou speakest openly, and sayest not any parables.
30. Now we know that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that anyone should ask Thee. In this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
31. Jesus answered them, Do you now believe?
32. Behold, the hour comes, and is now come, that you shall be scattered, every one to his own, and shall leave Me alone; and I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.
33. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace; in the world you shall have affliction; but have confidence, I have overcome the world.
The time has now come for Jesus to conclude His farewell address. He has consoled His disciples, exhorted them, warned them, and told them what to expect. He has also promised that the Holy Spirit will be with them.
Much of what Jesus has told His disciples has been in figurative language. He has used terms such as “the Father” and “the Son” in ways that they cannot yet understand. How could they have known that by the “Father,” He was speaking figuratively about the divine love within Him? How could they have known that when He referred to Himself as the “Son,” He was speaking figuratively about the divine wisdom that He was teaching them? And how could they have known that when He was speaking about the “Holy Spirit,” He was speaking figuratively about the divine influence that goes forth from Him to warm their hearts with love and inspire their minds with truth? The disciples may have had a dim awareness of these things, but, most certainly, it had not yet become completely clear to them. 25
Therefore, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father” (John 16:25). When that day comes, people will be able to understand that Jesus and the Father are indeed One. There will be no need to pray for the Father’s mercy through the intercession of the Son. Instead, people will be able to approach the infinite love of God through the truth He has given them in His human incarnation. As Jesus says, “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God” (John 16:26-27).
In this passage Jesus says, “I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you.” In other words, there is no reason to ask Jesus to intervene for us before the Father when we are in prayer. The Father is not angry with us. On the contrary, He loves us, and He desires that we come to Him directly to receive the blessings of His love. And we do come to Him directly when our prayers are guided by the wisdom He has given us through His incarnation as Jesus Christ.
Jesus then says, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (John 16:28). In just a few words, Jesus sums up His entire mission: He came forth from the Father as the Word made flesh; and He will return to the Father. He will again assume the full glory that He had at the beginning. Because of this, people will now have a clarified understanding of truth, eternal protection from hellish influences, and a visible idea of a loving God.
The words, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father,” strike the disciples as easy to understand. And so, they say to Jesus, “Now you are speaking plainly, and not using figurative language” (John 16:29). They are now convinced that Jesus’ authority is beyond question. As they put it, “Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You” (John 16:30).
It does seem that they are finally beginning to understand, even if it is just in a literal way. As they put it, “We believe that You came forth from God” (John 16:30). Although they may not clearly understand what Jesus means by the terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit,” they do recognize Jesus’ divinity. It’s the place where true faith begins. 26
“Do you now believe?”
In response to the disciples’ bold declaration of faith, Jesus asks them a question. He says, “Do you now believe?” (John 16:31). This is an intriguing question, especially because the disciples have just asserted their belief in Jesus’ divinity, claiming that He knows “all things,” and that His teachings are beyond question. Why then would Jesus ask them, “Do you now believe?”
Jesus’ question calls to mind a similar situation when Peter proclaimed that He was willing to follow Jesus anywhere and even lay down his life for Him. In response, Jesus said, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?” (John 13:38). Jesus then told Peter that the rooster would not crow until Peter had denied Him three times. Similarly, even though the disciples are now proclaiming that Jesus knows all things, and that their belief in Him is sure, Jesus questions the firmness of their belief with the simple question, “Do you now believe?”
Why would Jesus say this? One answer is that Jesus wants them to re-examine the depth of their convictions. The disciples seem to be convinced, committed, and totally devoted. But Jesus knows that there is a difference between the untried faith of a beginner and the seasoned faith that has undergone the fires of temptation. He knows that although they are sincere in proclaiming their faith, it is not yet unshakeable. It may be real, but it is still weak. That is why Jesus adds the word “now” when He asks, “Do you now believe?” It is as if He is saying, “Yes, I see that your belief is real at this moment—right now. But will you continue to believe when you go through the coming trials?”
It is similar for each of us. When we are in our mountain-top states, it is relatively easy to proclaim that we believe in God. We can proclaim that He knows everything, that His Word is the highest authority in our life, and that we are willing to follow Him anywhere. These highest states of belief are important, but they are only the beginning of faith. True faith in God, genuine belief in Him, only comes as a result of remaining true to His teachings during difficult times—especially those times when we are inclined to lose our trust in His teachings, and abandon our faith in Him.
This becomes clear in the very next verse. Jesus says, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered each to his own, and will leave Me alone” (John 16:32). Jesus is here echoing Zechariah’s words, in which he prophesied that the Shepherd would be struck down, “and the sheep will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7).
They will be scattered, says Jesus, “each to his own.” Literally, Jesus is predicting that at the time of His crucifixion—the time when the Shepherd will be struck down—each will return to his own home, and to the safety of his own people. More deeply, Jesus is speaking about the process that we each go through during our most severe trials of faith. These are the times when we are inclined to revert to our former states, and our own unregenerate ways of thinking and feeling. At these times each of us is tempted to return to what is “our own.” As it is written in the Hebrew scriptures, “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned, everyone, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). 27
And yet, God is continually calling each of us to leave behind our selfish patterns of willing, thinking, and behaving. He asks us to follow Him into a new land, a land that He will show us, a land where our thinking, willing and acting are no longer our own, but rather God’s will in us. This is our new will. It’s the heavenly sense of self that arises in us whenever God’s way becomes our way, and whenever God’s will becomes our will. 28
“Be of good cheer …”
Jesus is now approaching the end of His farewell discourse. Rather than conclude on a solemn note of warning, Jesus closes with comforting words of assurance. He says, “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32). It is a reminder that even in our severest trials, even when our beliefs are shaken, and we feel utterly abandoned and alone, divine love, which is called “the Father,” is always present as the Source of our life, sustaining us as the root sustains the branches. This love is ever present, and always available. It is what Jesus means when He says, “The Father is with Me.” In the spiritual sense, Jesus is saying that divine love is always together with divine truth. They cannot be separated because they are one.
This also applies to each of our lives. There is no higher goal than uniting the truth that we know with the desire to live according to it. At the same time, we must be able to say, “the Father is with me”—that is, we must be sure that the truth we act upon is filled with the Father’s love. Whenever we do this, no matter how difficult the circumstances, and no matter how fierce the inner storms, we will have peace.
This is the central truth that Jesus expresses as He delivers the closing words of His farewell address. His words are clear, triumphant, and filled with the promise of peace. Returning to the reason behind all of His teaching, He says “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
A practical application
The words, “Be of good cheer” contain the sacred assurance that because Jesus has overcome the world, we can too. This does not mean that our days will be easy. In fact, just before exhorting His disciples to be of good cheer, Jesus says to them, “in the world you will have tribulation.” And yet, if we remain deeply rooted in the Word of the Lord, fighting from its truth, and trusting in Jesus alone, we will not only prevail during times of temptation, we will also have peace even in the midst of storms. As a practical application, then, use the phrase “Be of good cheer” as a reminder that Jesus has already subjugated every hellish thought and feeling that might arise in your mind. This is “the world” that Jesus has overcome—the inner world of thought and feeling that you, too, can overcome. Therefore, when inner conflicts arise, fight as if from your own strength, but know and acknowledge that all strength is solely from the Lord. In order to do so, you will need to place your complete trust in Jesus, the only one who can truly say, “I have overcome the world.” 29