Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 16


The apostles joined Jesus with some earthly expectations. Evidence of this in part is from the record of their discussions as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And when Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give to the poor, Peterís response was, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?" (Matthew 19:27). He was confused at that time because he and the others thought of earthly gain in being supporters of the Messiah, and one who was encouraged to follow the Lord was also encouraged to sell all his possessions. But, in the night in which He was betrayed, the Lord was now about to give their earthly hopes a final blow.

The Jewish people, like all others who are selfish, would attempt to mold God into an image of their own liking. They would, therefore, attempt to kill those who present the nature of God revealed through Jesus Christ because these men would be popping their imaginary bubble. The Lord was kind enough to forewarn them, that they might be "kept from stumbling." He did not want them to lose their faith because of the peopleís rejection of the message of the Messiah.

Jesus Is to Go

For two and one-half to three years, the apostles had been intimately associated with the Lord. They were close friends, as attested to by Jesus Himself. The Son of Man, however, was conscious that earthly friendship is only for an earthly lifetime. Judas was one of their earthly friends, for example, but in betraying His Lord, he became a son of perdition - forever! Jesusí desire was that these men, and all other disciples, be with Him in eternity rather than perishing in the fires of a godless hell. As He approached the valley of the Kidron, then, on His way to the Garden of Gethsemane, He was earnestly imparting some of His last words to these most favored of men, giving them the instructions that would carry them through the confusion of the crucifixion to the preaching of Pentecost.

Although things were looking pretty grim from a physical perspective, they were actually looking good from a spiritual perspective: Jesus had some good news for them. The message is the same for us in our day!

To Your Advantage

The spiritual realm is the real realm. The physical earth is a testing ground wherein its residents are separated into those who walk by faith as contrasted to those who walk by sight, those who make their decisions based on the eternal realm as contrasted to those who make their decisions based on the earthly realm. "We look," the apostle Paul reminded us, "not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen" (II Corinthians 4:16).

But the apostles had not yet been upgraded in their thinking to that point. Earlier, when Jesus had tried to impress upon their minds that "He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed ..." Peterís response was, "This shall never happen to you" (Matthew 16:21,22). Well, the unthinkable was about to happen. The Lord, however, was ready to carry their thinking beyond the physical, and to expand their comprehensions into the realm of the spiritual.

All saints should be gratefully praising the God of their salvation for sending the Helper. His power causes them to be born again in their immersions, He strengthens them in the inner man to sustain their Christianity, and He is the guarantee of their glorious resurrection from the dead. It truly has been to the advantage of all that Jesus would go to glory, and then send the Spirit.

The Convicting Helper

The Bible contains the progressive revelation of God to man. The culmination, of course, is the revelation of Jesus in glory as the exact representation of the Father, exhibited in the shining countenance seen by the eyes of the heart. But the Bible also contains the record of the progressive interaction of the All Loving in His relationship to man. The culmination of this is the coming of Christ in Spirit-form, the Helper or Holy Spirit. The promise to Abraham, as reiterated to Jacob, was that "in your seed all the families of earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 28:14). The "blessing of Abraham," then, was the promise of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles; Christ in the flesh came only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, whereas it is Christ in the Spirit who has come to the Gentiles. While Jesus was on earth in the flesh, the divine rules dictated that the Spirit could not come to indwell the chosen people of God. "If I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you," Jesus had stated, "but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).

The Holy Spirit continues to do His job. As He orchestrates the distribution of the Scriptures throughout the world, the world is increasingly convicted concerning sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come, and the world is reacting accordingly. And, praise God, through the midst of the discussion some are convicted enough to become true disciples of Christ. They are being immersed into Christ and following through with executing the desires of the Lord.

The Spirits Coming

Jesus had already told the apostles what would happen on earth. "The Son of Man," He stated, "is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later" (Mark 9:31). These specially chosen disciples ended up being eyewitnesses of His crucifixion and bodily resurrection, although when He spoke those words, "they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him" (Mark 9:32). But now, as the Lord approached the final hours before His death, He let them know that He had more information for them: "I have many more things to say to you," He notified them, "but you cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). These apostles, trusted men of the Lord, are not going to be ready for the next set of disclosures until the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts two.

Jesus had more information to share with His chosen eleven. But since the apostles were not yet spiritually prepared for that sharing, and since the things to be shared had not happened on earthís time line, they would have to wait until the coming of the Spirit. The Spirit Himself would actually make the final preparations for the apostlesí maturity and then would make the appropriate disclosures. What a divine plan!

The Spirits Disclosures

Jesus, in the night during which He was betrayed, talked to the apostles about the coming of the Holy Spirit. "I have many more things to say to you," the Lord informed them. But Jesus was not going to say those things; that would become the function of the Holy Spirit.

"He will guide you into all the truth," Jesus the Christ had informed them. Consequently, when these men were on trial before governors and kings, they were not to worry about what they would say, for the Spirit would give them the appropriate argumentation. When these men stood preaching before the Sanhedrin, or before the synagogue, or before an open-air crowd among the Gentiles, the Spirit was guiding them into teaching the whole message of Christ. Eventually what was given by special revelation is now recorded in written revelation, and the saint of God now has access to "all the truth" through what is recorded in the pages of the sacred word of God.

"I also overcame," said Jesus the Christ, "and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:20). Truly all things that the Father had were Jesusí; and this was then disclosed through the Spirit to the apostles and New Testament prophets. The saints of God, for whom the veil that lies over the heart of those still in the flesh has been removed, are the beneficiaries of this disclosure, as written in the pages of the New Testament. Truly many righteous men and prophets desired to see what the holy ones of God see!

A Little While...

The fleshly mind cannot put the proper appraisal on the spiritual realm. Hence it is, that when issues from the realm of faith are presented to the earthly mind, the earthly mind draws a blank. For instance, observation of the masses clearly shows that it is much easier to comprehend and celebrate the earthly birth of King Jesus than it is to get people to appreciate and focus on His ascension to glory. "Christmas" is widely celebrated (although under attack from the secular forces), but who celebrates "Ascension Day"?

Jesus, then, as He approached the hour of His departure, was in the process of moving these primary disciples over to the realm of the spiritual. "A little while," He said, "and you will no longer behold Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me" (John 16:16). What follows is a discussion that establishes that the great Teacher was preparing them for "seeing Him" by the eye of revealed faith at the coming of the Holy Spirit.

How diametrically opposed are the world and the people of God! What makes one happy is a source of sorrow for the other; and what is the fountain of rejoicing for the holy ones is a root of bitterness and focus of anger for the world. May each of us choose the proper side in this all-out battle.

What Joy!

It is, as the trite saying notes, always darkest before dawn. While this is to some degree whistling in the dark for most of the human race, it is really true for those who follow the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus Himself was pulled through His darkest hours through faith that God would raise Him from the dead and bring into existence the precious bride of Christ. Of Jesus, it is therefore written that it was "for the joy set before Him" that He "endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Thus it is: dark before dawn, sorrow before celebration.

Of Jesusí impending crucifixion, He Himself had just said, "The world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy" (John 16:20). These very apostles would go through the throes of grief also at the death of the Son of God, but they would be able to share in His rejoicing when He would rise again in triumph over death.

The apostles were to experience the deep grief of losing to death Someone closer than their wives or families. Yet out of that they were to experience the great joy of Jesusí resurrection from the dead. More than that, they were to rejoice in the visions of His coronation, and welcome the gifts He would distribute to the church in celebration of His Kingship. "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name," He remarked. "Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full" (John 16:24). What an accumulation of joy!

Asking in Jesus Name

There is power in the name of Jesus the Christ. There is power in His name because He has risen from the dead and taken His seat on the throne. Until Jesusí ascension He was not in the position to act as intercessor as High Priest; therefore the power of Jesusí name was not fully operative until after His accession. "Because He abides forever," noted Hebrewsí author, in reference to Jesusí possessing the High Priesthood due to the power of an indestructible life, He "holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:24,25). It is only because He lives as the resurrected Christ that He is the "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all" (I Timothy 2:5,6).

How exciting it is that the faithful God would be willing to grant remission of all sins through the authority of the name of Jesus Christ! And how awesome and provoking it is to realize from that point forward "everyone" who has thus called upon the name of the Lord can petition Him "who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).

The Coming of Plain Speech

"I have many more things to say to you," Jesus had begun this section of His discourse, "but you cannot bear them now." The communication problem that the Lord was facing was that He was going to ascend to glory, and in that realm all kinds of spiritual truths were going to come to the fore. The apostles, however, were not yet ready for that level of communication; hence the Christ was going to have to wait for the Spirit to reveal the spiritual truths to them. This night, "the night in which He was betrayed," was one where Jesus therefore was speaking of His upcoming ascension in indirect figures of speech.

They thought that He was speaking plainly at this point, and to some extent - especially with His simple statement that He had come forth from the Father and was returning to the Father - He was. But they were still far, far from understanding "the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow," as Peter would later state it. The truly "plain speech" of Jesus would have to come following His ascension, and would have to come from the Prophet who would speak from heaven.

Do You Now Believe?

"Now we know that You know all things," the apostles had confidently stated. But that confidence was about to be tested and shaken beyond what they could imagine as the full wrath and jealousy of the Jewish hierarchy and the force of the Roman Empire would be vented upon one Jesus of Nazareth. It was easy for them to say, in the calm before the storm, "You have no need for anyone to question You." But when the authorities would come to take Him away, then all of His judgment would be called into question. "We believe that You came from God," they had overconfidently stated; if they really believed that He came from God, then nothing would be upsetting to them as the plan of God rolled forward. The Lord, knowing all this, came back with His quizzical response, "Do you now believe?"

The world, egged on by Satan, put Jesus to death. But in His resurrection, the Christ would overcome both death and the world! In Christ, then, the apostles and all future disciples would find peace, an unruffled peace stemming from a restored relationship with the Father. In Christ, then, the apostles and all future disciples would be able to take courage, a confidence bold from knowing that a positive resurrection is certain regardless of earthly circumstances.

The warning is there: "In the world you have tribulation." Nowhere is the promise given that disciples of Christ would be spared persecution from a hostile world, with an agenda in opposition to that of the great Creator God. What is extended is peace in the midst of it all. The invitation to take loads of courage is proffered. Those early disciples staggered when all the world was unleashed on Jesus, but they were not yet indwelt by the Spirit and did not know the outcome. Modern saints are indwelt, and they know that Jesus rose victoriously from the dead. But the question and the challenge is still the same: "Do you now believe?"