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.
- Keep from stumbling - "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you," Jesus had stated. He was progressively informing them that they would be participants in the same type of suffering of which He was about to partake. But, after informing them of the challenging side, He then encouraged them by pointing out that they would be the great witnesses of the Christ in conjunction with the Holy Spirit. "These things I have spoken to you," was His asseveration, "that you may be kept from stumbling" (John 16:1). The forewarning and the offering of honor were designed to carry them through the trials of being the leading disciples of Christ.
- Outcasts from the synagogue - The apostles were good Jewish boys. They were spiritual in their orientation; otherwise they would have never been selected by Jesus. But their dedication to the Law and the customs was about to be turned upside down! "They will make you outcasts from the synagogue," the Lord informed them, "but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God" (John 16:2). Far from being the kingpins of Jewish society that they originally had imagined, they would be thrown out of the synagogues, and consequently cut off from the people and familiar relationships they had grown up with. The Lord was thus planting the seeds in their minds how their spiritual revolution would impact the Israelite nation.
- Offering service to God - The Lord, in keeping with His prophetic ministry, knew the future, and knew that the orientation of the Jewish people would remain physically rather than spiritually focused. He knew that they would continue to look to someone to save them from the Romans rather than to save them from their sins. He foresaw that they would continue to look for someone to sit on an earthly throne reigning over an earthly kingdom rather to look for Someone to sit on a heavenly throne at the right hand of the Father. He foreknew that the hard-hearted and spiritually calloused men of Israel would reject the claims of the apostles that Jesusí resurrection proved Him to be God in the flesh. And He anticipated that men like Saul of Tarsus would be temporarily blinded off, and in persecuting the apostles and early Christians, they would think that they would be "offering service to God."
- Not knowing God - "And these things they will do," the Son of God emphasized, "because they have not known the Father, or Me" (John 16:3). Knowing the Father includes knowing His character. "I, even I," He had spoken through His prophet, "am the Lord; and there is no savior besides Me" (Isaiah 43:11). They should have known that His character was one of saving His people from their sins.
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.
- Another reminder - In describing the upcoming hatred of the world for the apostles, and His offering them of the Helper, the Lord had noted, "These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling." He then observed that the Jewish people themselves would also make the apostles outcasts from the synagogues; in doing so He assured these disciples that the problem was with the Jews and not the apostles: "And these things they will do, because they have not know the Father or Me." Desirous that these apostles not be pulled in by the aforementioned earthly pressures, Jesus re-emphasized, "But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them" (John 16:4). Forewarned, the saying is, is forearmed.
- Personal protection - Luke records a portion of the conversation between Jesus and the eleven at this same time: "And He said to them, ĎWhen I sent you out without purse and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?í And they said, ĎNo, nothing.í And He said to them, ĎBut now, let him who has a purse take it along, likewise also a bag, and let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one.í " (Luke 22:35,36). One of the points that can be drawn out of this exchange is that while Jesus was on earth, there was special protection for the apostles during this training period, but that once He returned to glory, some of that direct protection was going to be removed. In Johnís account, Jesus has been discussing with them the persecution that they are about to undergo now that the direct protection has been removed. "And these things I did not say to you at the beginning," was His phraseology, "because I was with you" (John 16:4).
- Return to glory - As the Lord Jesus approached the Passover and the events leading up to His crucifixion, He was very conscious of His imminent return to glory. Jesus knew, affirmed Johnís inspired record, "that He should depart out of this world to the Father" (John 13:1). All through the evening, then, He was in the process of giving the apostles a "heads up," that His leaving the earth in physical form was something they would soon have to accept. "But now I am going to Him who sent Me," He averred, "and none of you asks Me, ĎWhere are You going?í " (John 16:5). In typical human fashion, these disciples did not want to talk about what was seeming to be unpleasant.
- Sorrow - From the apostlesí perspective, the "gang" was about to break up. Their leader was informing them that He was "checking out" and that they would, in their understanding, "be on their own." "But because I have said these things to you," was the Lordís observation, "sorrow has filled your heart" (John 16:6).
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.
- To your advantage - As long as Jesus was in what the apostle called "this world," He could only be in one place at one time. If Jesus was in Capernaum, and the disciples wanted to be with Jesus, they had to be in Capernaum. But if He could come in Spirit form, He could be with each of the disciples wherever they would go, and be with them as a constant companion. "But I tell you the truth," stated the Lord, "it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7). These men, if we recall, had left families, homes, and professions behind to be with Jesus; there was something about Him that produced love and devotion in the hearts of these faithful eleven. But now He is informing them that there would be something even better than His personal presence, and that was the presence of Christ in Spirit form. And the same holds true for each properly immersed and faithful disciple of Christ today. It is to our advantage to have the indwelling Spirit as opposed to being with Jesus physically!
- Jesus must go - In the economy of God, the Spirit could not indwell Godís people until Jesus had ascended to the position of Mediator and King. "The Spirit was not yet given," John had said earlier, "because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). Even though the apostles were sorrowful that Jesus had to go, the plan of God required that He go so that the Spirit of rejoicing could eventually dwell in the hearts of all disciples.
- Sending the Spirit - What the apostle Paul called "the Holy Spirit of promise" was what the Old Testament prophesied would indwell the people of God. "And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life," the eternal Father had promised (Ezekiel 37:14). The Spirit would first come to the apostles. "You shall receive power," Jesus told them, just before He ascended, "when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8). The apostles received the immersion in the Spirit, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the power of performing miracles, etc. on the day of Pentecost instantaneously. All who would follow would be immersed in Jesusí name for the forgiveness of their sins, and to receive the indwelling Spirit. Thus the mystery - Godís special secret - which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, was now revealed, and Christ would dwell by faith in the hearts of the faithful!
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).
- General outline - Because we have the continuing record, we know that the Holy Spirit came first to the apostles, then 3000 others, on the Day of Pentecost, 30 AD. From Jerusalem, the gospel message spread to Judea and Samaria, then finally to the remotest parts of the earth. This good news, offering forgiveness of sins and the indwelling Spirit, was dictated and directed by the Spirit Himself as He guided the formation and orientation of the church in the first century. The Lord Jesus, knowing what was to come, anticipated the impact of this preaching and teaching upon the world. "And He," remarked the Lord, concerning the Spirit, "when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:8). The coming Spirit would convict the world!
- Concerning sin - The inspired analysis of Jesus was that those who would continue to practice evil would do so because they loved darkness rather than light. Thus the failure to follow Christ would not be an intellectual or educational issue; it would be a moral issue. By Godís design, a personís response to Jesus shows his true heart condition. The Spirit, then, convicts the word "concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me" (John 16:9).
- Concerning righteousness - What a person is, is what he is when he thinks nobody is looking. The physical presence of Jesus in Israel caused great consternation, eventually resulting in His death because they wanted to remove the pressure that His righteousness was putting on them. "The righteous," expounded the prophet, "will live by his faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). The truly righteous will conduct themselves based on a belief in a Jesus they cannot see, but whose existence, sacrifice, and expectations are communicated through the word of God. The rest will continue to conduct themselves as though there were no Jesus, thinking that nobody is looking. The Spirit, however, prime promulgator of the faith, will convict the world "concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me" (John 16:10).
- Concerning judgment - Satan is the father of all lies and the fountain of rebellion against God. "The whole world," noted John in his first epistle, "lies in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19). The Spirit, through His message, would point out to the world the consequences of following the prince of darkness, that they would suffer the same fate of eternal destruction in the lake of fire. The Spirit will, said Jesus, convict the world "concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged" (John 16:11).
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.
- The coming of the Spirit of truth - "It is to your advantage that I go away," Jesus had informed them. By Jesusí ascending to heaven, He could send the Holy Spirit. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes," affirmed the Christ of God, "He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). When the Spirit came to the apostles as recorded in Acts two, several things happened at the same time. Firstly, the apostles received the indwelling Spirit as the first "Christians by miracle," so that from that point, the seed of the word of God would reproduce "according to its kind." Secondly, the "baptism with the Spirit" was poured forth upon the apostles as a sign which would verify their message of Christís resurrection. And thirdly, they received all the powers that an apostle would need to establish his apostleship, including the ability to lay hands on future disciples so that those disciples would have attesting gifts of the Spirit.
- The Spirit as a guide - The promise of the Christ was that the Spirit would guide the apostles "into all the truth." This truth began to be revealed as recorded in Acts two as those first hearers were told to repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus for the remission of their sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The revealed truth continued to increase as the Holy Spirit guided the church into bringing the message to the Samaritans and finally the Gentiles. When problems developed in the congregations, the Spirit continued to bring forth His teachings, so that as John finished the book of Revelation, all necessary truth had been revealed.
- No rogue Spirit - Just as Jesus was not going to run an independent operation, so neither would the Spirit. "For He will not speak on His own initiative," was the Lordís comment, "but whatever He hears, He will speak" (John 16:13). They were thus assured that the future guidance of the Spirit had the full backing of the Father, and was in consonance with Godís long-term plan for salvaging a remnant out of all the families of the earth.
- His disclosure - "Whatever He hears, He will speak," noted the Christ, "and He will disclose to you what is to come" (John 16:13). Following Jesusí upcoming death, other significant events were to take place in the courts of heaven. These events, and their significance, would be what the Holy Spirit would reveal to the apostles for them to disclose in turn to the rest of the hearers.
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.
- Jesus is the focus - The purpose and intent of the scripture is to testify of Jesus - coming in the flesh, crucified, buried, resurrected, appearing, ascending, and judging. He is the complete and accurate revelation of everything about God, as He Himself noted, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). But in order for the complete revelation to take place, the Holy Spirit would have to be involved. Jesus then assured the apostles concerning the Spirit, "He shall glorify Me" (John 16:14).
- The disclosures - The disclosures the Spirit would be making would establish the significance of the events the apostles were eyewitnesses to concerning the days of Jesusí earthly sojourn. Thus these chosen men would be able to explain the reason that Jesus was crucified, and how His blood was shed in the soldierís piercing of His side. But a major portion of the Spiritís revelation would be the events connected with the Lordís ascension to glory. "He shall glorify Me," was Jesusí affirmation, "for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you" (John 16:14). The disclosures would be connected with Jesusí being shown to be the High Priest of the order of Melchizedek, His accession to the heavenly throne as Christ or Messiah, His positioning as the chief cornerstone, etc. All this would have to be revealed by special revelation to the apostles, and would seen in connection with His glorification.
- Interconnectedness of Jesus and the Father - "I and the Father are one," Jesus had remarked (John 10:30). So it is not surprising if He should say, "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose it to you" (John 16:15).
- Seeing Jesus - In discussing the upcoming disclosure, the Lord made an interesting statement: "A little while, and you will no longer behold Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me" ( John 16:16). At first blush, this seems to be a reference to Jesusí bodily resurrection from the dead, and the apostlesí seeing Him prior to His ascension. But if a person were to take the time to follow the discussion through, he would see in vs. 23 that Jesus would say, in reference to their seeing Him again, "in that day ... ask the Father for anything [and] He will give it to you in My name" (John 16:23). "That day" is pointing to the Day of Pentecost, when the disclosure of Jesusí ascension was made known to these apostles by revelation of the Spirit.
"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.
- The apostlesí confusion - The apostles were selected because they were men who were intensely interested in spiritual things. The enigma, therefore, of His statement was immediately picked up by these men. "Some of His disciples therefore said to one another, ĎWhat is this thing He is telling us, "A little while, and you will not behold Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me"; and, "because I go to the Father"?í " (John 16:17). Note how the disciples are correctly tying His statement on "beholding" to when Jesus would ascend to the Father. The discussion continued: "And so they were saying, ĎWhat is this that He says, "A little while"? We do not know what He is talking about.í " (John 16:18).
- The Lordís query - "Jesus knew," recorded the apostle John, "that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, ĎAre you deliberating together about this, that I said, "A little while, and you will not behold Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me"?í " (John 16:19).
- Not beholding Him - Jesus knew that His crucifixion was imminent, although the disciples were having a hard time comprehending the impending circumstances. He therefore was going to stress the anguish of their separation from Him for the period of His burial, emphasizing the reality of their upcoming sorrow. "Truly, truly, I say to you," were His words of accentuation, "that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy" (John 16:20).
- Further emphasis - As if weeping and lamenting were not strong enough words, the Lord went on to further describe the anguish the apostles would experience in their separation from Him: "Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her time has come..." (John 16:21). "Travail" even sounds painful! Such would be the gut-wrenching feelings of these men who had "left all" to follow the Messiah, only to have their dreams staunched by (to them) the unexpected death of their hero.
- Rejoicing in the world - Jesus was something the world had to eliminate. His call for righteousness and making men accountable to God was unacceptable to those who intended to carry out their evil desires and corrupt dominions. "For truly in this city," the early church would later note, "there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You did anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel" (Acts 4:27). They rejoiced when Christ was safely in the tomb.
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.
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.
- Travail to triumph - Without duality, neither pleasure nor pain has meaning in earthly existence. The All Wise has thus chosen to communicate His lessons through a combination of the two, moving mankind to an understanding and appreciation of His goodness. The times of famine make it possible to savor the times of feasting. God "did not leave Himself without witness," noted Paul and Barnabas to the pagan crowds in Lystra, "in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:17). The ultimate, then, in communication has to do with the travail and triumph of Jesus, the Lamb of God. "Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow," was Jesusí point of emphasis, "because her hour has come; but whenever she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world" (John 16:21). This common, but oh so poignant, experience of motherhood was used by the Christ to point to His resurrection to the right hand of the Majesty on High.
- Grief to gladness - The Lord, in His conversation, made the point one more time: "Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you" (John 16:22). The significance of the impending pain and forthcoming power was lost on the apostles at this point; in the near future, however, these words would come roaring back to their memory, and they would draw strength and courage from them.
- Screened off to seeing - Even the bodily resurrection was not sufficient for the apostles to see what was hidden behind the veil of faith. They were still screened off from the full revelation until the Spirit came to them on the Day of Pentecost; then by revelation they were able to "see" Him crowned as the King of glory. At that point His NAME had the full significance that it deserved. "And in that day," the Lord noted, "you will ask Me no question. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name" (John 16:23).
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).
- "In that day" - "In that day you will ask Me no question," Jesus had asseverated. Specifically, He was looking to the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter two wherein the Holy Spirit revealed to the apostles the details of His ascension to the heavenly throne and the coming of the Spirit Himself. But that revelation was predicated upon the fact that the ascension had indeed occurred in accordance with Old Testament prophecy.
- "Until now" - "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name," He iterated (John 16:24). This was because the plan of God, as made known to the sons of man through the apostles, had not been consummated. While there is a sense in which Jesus was always the intercessor just as He was always the begotten Son of God, this was not revealed except in accordance with the definite and timed plan of the All Wise. It was in this context that the apostle Peter stated, as part of the first time the gospel message was preached to man, "God has made Him both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Until Jesus ascended to the rightful place as High Priest on His kingly throne, no one could really ask "in His name."
- Asking in Jesusí name - There is power in Jesusí name! "If you shall ask the Father for anything," the Savior had stated, "He will give it to you in My name." "Ask," [in My name] He added, "and you will receive" (John 16:23,24). The Lord then went on to make an additional power statement: "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request the Father on your behalf, for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father" (John 16:26,27). So influential is the name of Jesus in the courts of heaven that the great God over all, upon hearing the appeal in the name of the Son from one who loved the Son, will personally grant the request without any direct intercessory action on the part of Jesus!
- Immersion in Jesusí name - Anticipating the gospel, the prophet Joel had written, "And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21). The Lord who would be called upon would be Jesus Christ - "God has made Him Lord." The very first thing the one appealing to God does is to plead for the forgiveness of his sins. Hence it is that the respondent to the gospel repents, and "immersed in [upon] the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness" of his sins! (Acts 2:38).
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.
- Figurative language - "A little while, and you will not behold Me," Jesus had commented, "and again a little while, and you will see Me." The disciples indicated that they did not know what He was talking about. Then He used the illustration of a womanís travail and the subsequent joy of the resulting birth to foretell of the apostleís emotions as they would experience His crucifixion, resurrection, and ultimate ascension. "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language," explained the Lord. "An hour is coming," He added, "when I will speak to you no more in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father" (John 16:25). From the day of Pentecost on, the apostles had revealed to them the clear picture of Jesusí ministry as High Priest in the true tabernacle, His position on the kingly throne, and His exaltation to the right hand of power as the Savior. This, then, was the "hour" when Jesus would be speaking plainly.
- Revelation of the Father - The purpose of Jesusí coming into the world was to reveal the Father to mankind. One of the apostle Johnís sweeping introductory verses had summarized the point: "No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). By coming in the flesh, by proceeding through His bodily resurrection, and by His appearing in glory, Christ revealed the Father to us; in the written revelation He "speaks." Thus He tells saints through the apostles "plainly of the Father."
- From the Father - The Jews had difficulty believing that God would become a man, especially a man who would die. Jesus therefore commended the eleven for their believing "that I came forth from the Father," and honored them for this by granting their requests in His name.
- Return to the Father - "I came forth from the Father," the Lord reiterated, "and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father" (John 16:28). What a challenge it would have been for those men to really believe that not only had Jesus descended from heaven, but that He was somehow going to return to heaven! Say what you want about them, they were "game" men, and they kept on plugging along. "His disciples said," as John recorded, " ĎLo, now You are speaking plainly, and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came forth from God.í " (John 16:29,30).
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 coming hour - Unknown to the apostles, but known to the Lord, a multi-jurisdictional force was already being assembled. Officers from the temple, under the control of the Sadducees, and officials from the ranks of the Pharisees were merging with a Roman cohort to use overwhelming force in subduing this "dangerous revolutionary." Because Jesus was benign, a false picture of Him would have to be painted in order to justify such a forceís making such an arrest in the darkness of the night. Thus a subtle paranoia would be induced among the accosting troops, and the chosen disciples would see an attempted exhibition of "shock and awe." The Savior therefore commented, "Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home" (John 16:32). He was aware, and He was forewarning them.
- Alone - These men, in the words of the Christ, "stood by Me in My trials" (Luke 18:28). But seeing their hero arrested was going to melt their hearts, and this test would be too much for them to handle. They would be scattered, and "leave Me alone."
- His hope - When all the people around Him would abandon Him, His human side had confidence that One would still be there for Him. "You," said He to these trusted men, will "leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me" (John 16:32). This statement gives the proper background for His anguish when, in the midst of the darkness, Jesus had to cry out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34). He really did die alone, separated from the Father, bearing the sin of the world in His body on the tree.
- Courage for all disciples - These are the final words of His instructions and preparations for the eleven faithful disciples: "These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
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?"