Mar 31, 2019
John 16:5-33

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With the experiences of the cross just a few hours away Jesus is sharing with His disciples some parting words. In many ways Jesus is utilizing these final moments to prepare these men for what He knew was coming: His arrest, trial, scourging, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension to heaven, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. All of these topics establish the backdrop for the subject matter covered in John 13 through 17.

In order to set the scene for where we presently are in John 16… At the close of John 14 Jesus and His crew have left the upper room — then at the opening of chapter 18 we’re told they exit the Temple, cross the Kidron Valley, and enter the Garden of Gethsemane.

For reasons I’ve established over the last two Sundays, it is my belief that by verse 5 of chapter 16 Jesus and His disciples are likely somewhere in the Temple precincts continuing the very discourse He began earlier that evening around the Passover table. 

Though we’ll pick things up beginning with verse 5, in case you weren’t with us last Sunday, let’s get a running head-start with verse 1 of John 16, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 

And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”

John 16:5-7, “But now I go away to Him who sent Me (this being Jesus’ Father in heaven), and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ (In light of the fact Peter and Thomas have asked this question earlier in the conversation, David Guzik observes, “Their previous asking was in the sense — what will happen to us when You leave, not in the sense Jesus meant here – what will happen to You when You leave.”) 

But because I have said these things to you (the fact He would be leaving them soon), sorrow has filled your heart. (The disciples were filled with “sorrow” because they were only focused on the loss they’d experience through Jesus’ coming departure.)

Nevertheless (despite all of that — this inward perspective focused on what they’d loose) I tell you the truth (be sure on this). 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.”

Following this promise of a coming persecution and the fact these men were consumed with what they’d loose with His departure, Jesus again returns to the topic of the Holy Spirit. On three occasions during this final discourse Jesus has discussed the coming “Helper.” 

First, in John 14:16-17 and within the context of His impending departure, Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

Then, in John 14:25-26 and within the context of their continuing education apart from His physical presence, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Note: Only the Spirit can take God’s Word and supernaturally transform a person’s life!

Finally, in John 15:26-27 and within the context of the persecution these men would face for the cause of Christ, Jesus said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

Now Jesus continues to discuss “the Helper” by making a radicle statement… He tells these men that while they were focused on what they’d loose when He departed to heaven is was “to their advantage that He went away; for if He did not go the Helper would not have come.” 

Jesus is literally saying that it was better for His disciples that He leave them and ascend to heaven so that the Holy Spirit could take His place on this earth! From the perspective of these men who’d walked with Jesus for the last two and a half years this notion was inconceivable… “Guys, the best thing for you is that I leave you!” What!?

Before we unpack how this would be an “advantage” let me explain what Jesus meant when He said, “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” To begin with, it’s important to understand what Jesus isn’t saying. Jesus is not saying the Spirit and His physical presence on the earth could not exist at the same time — as if He had to leave for the Spirit to come.

The simple fact is that we have many Biblical examples of the Spirit and Jesus working together in the same space and time. For example… In Genesis 1:1-2, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

Aside from the creation narrative, we also read in Luke 3:21-22 that “when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.’”

You see the key to understanding what Jesus meant when He said, “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” is to again keep in mind the fundamental purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. To this point, remember back in John 14:16 when Jesus promised to send not just a “Helper,” but more specifically “another Helper.” 

In our exposition through this passage we noted how the Greek word “another” didn’t imply an additional Helper, but rather a Helper of the same kind as the first. Jesus is literally saying that what He had been to these men physically the Spirit would be to them spiritually!

Because the ultimate role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a disciple is to bring the presence of Jesus into an individual’s life through His indwelling, it appears Jesus’ physical departure from the world was required for His spiritual manifestation in our lives. Jesus needed to leave physically so that we could interact with Him spiritually!

So what makes Jesus’ presence in heaven and the Spirit’s on earth to our advantage? To answer this question let’s look at two different sides of the same coin — the advantage we have with Jesus in heaven as well as the advantage we have with the indwelling Holy Spirit.

First, what are the advantages of Jesus being in heaven as opposed to earth? For starters, Jesus had several important tasks He needed to accomplish in heaven that were to our specific benefit. For example, we noted in John 14:2 how Jesus had already told these men, “In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus went to heaven to prepare a place we’d spend eternity.

Aside from this, in the very next verse, Jesus promises that because He’s on the other side we can be confident that when we die He, as the firstborn of the resurrection, will “come again and receive us to Himself.” Because of His eternal state in heaven we can know with a surety that to be “absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Beyond these incredible benefits to a heavenly Jesus, according to Hebrews, it was essential Jesus be in heaven so that He could act as our “High Priest, Mediator, and Advocate.” Not only is it through Jesus that we now enjoy access to God the Father, but it’s through His presence before the throne of God that we are found justified and righteous! 

It’s an amazing thought to consider, but right now Jesus is in heaven working on your behalf! In Romans 8:33-34 Paul writes, “Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

1 John 2:1-2, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

While I could take the remainder of our time to expound upon all of this, let me just read for you a few passages in Hebrews that establish this idea. Hebrews 2:17, “Therefore, in all things Jesus had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” 

Hebrews 4:14-15, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses (resonate with our experiences), but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Hebrews 7:22-28, “By so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant… Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But Jesus, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 

For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests (earthly high priests), to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself (speaking of the cross). For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son (as High Priest) who has been perfected forever.”

Hebrews 8:1-6, “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest (Jesus), who is (presently) seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected…

For if Jesus were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things… But now Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (salvation through faith).”

In light of the obvious benefits of Jesus being in heaven preparing for us an eternal home, receiving us to Himself, and presently acting as our High Priest, Advocate, and Mediator… 

On the other side of this coin, we must consider… What are the advantages of having the indwelling Spirit instead of the physical presence of Jesus on earth? In order to answer this question please consider the very limitations if Jesus had remained on earth physically. 

Honestly, if Jesus was presently sitting on some throne in Jerusalem, what kind of relationship could you possibly expect to have with a man isolated to one physical location and in whose attention was reserved to only one interaction at a given time? Best case scenario you’d be lucky to have one intimate conversation with Jesus in a lifetime!

Beyond this… What purpose would we have as Christians in this world if Jesus was physically present? Our role in the work would be obsolete. What need would Jesus have of you and I being His representatives in a dark world when the Light of the world was present?

And yet, because the physical Jesus in heaven manifests in the world through His Holy Spirit such limitations no longer exist. You see through the Spirit it is now possible for each of us to spend time with Jesus irregardless of time or local. Because of His physical place in heaven and the practical indwelling of His Spirit, it is possible for each of us to have a personal, continual, and intimate relationship with Jesus independent of each other.

Jesus removed Himself from the physical limitations of time and space by ascending to heaven giving us instead an internal connection with Him through His Holy Spirit. 

In remarking on the amazing implications of this very idea one commentator remarked, “The dispensation of the Spirit is a more blessed manifestation of God than was even the bodily presence of the risen Saviour.” How amazing it is to consider our blessed advantage!

While the Old Testament saints had to go to a Temple to encounter the presence of Almighty God… And while Jesus walked the earth you’d have to cross paths with a man… According to 2 Corinthians 6:16 because you have the Spirit of God dwelling inside of you, “You are the temple of the living God! As God said, ‘I will dwell in them… and they shall be My people!’”

Jesus continues this topic… John 16:8-10, “And when He (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

While the majority of Jesus’ teaching concerning the Holy Spirit has centered on His future role in the lives of His disciples as “the Helper”, Jesus continues this section by speaking of the power and work of the Holy Spirit in the context of the unbelieving world. 

Before we look at the three things Jesus mentions the Spirit will “convict the world of…” it should be pointed out the Greek word we have translated as “convict” is much broader than the English implies. More than simply issuing a verdict, this word “convict” can be translated as reprove, expose, rebuke, to reveal one’s need, or literally to bring to a confession.

First, Jesus says the Holy Spirit “will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe in Him.” Much more than “sin” in a universal sense, Jesus mentions the specific sin of not believing in Him. Aside from the fact there is no provision for the sin of rejecting Jesus, the Holy Spirit is active in the world revealing to the world their fundamental need for a Savior!

Secondly, Jesus says the Holy Spirit “will convict the world of righteousness, because He went to His Father and they see Him no more.” Not only did Jesus establish a pure standard for what is right and wrong, but the empty tomb reinforced His teaching on the afterlife. More than simply their need for salvation, the Holy Spirit testifies as to what is the Truth and Life.

Finally, Jesus says the Holy Spirit “will convict the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” While Satan may have thought He dealt Jesus a fatal blow, in the resurrection Jesus emerged victorious! As such the Holy Spirit testifies of an inevitable judgment. The status quo will not continue indefinitely! A reckoning is on the horizon.

When considering the role of the Holy Spirit within this world I find it helpful to think of Him as a lawyer. For the believer the Spirit acts as our defense attorney. For the unbeliever the Spirit functions as a prosecutor. And note in both roles the Holy Spirit has never lost a case!

Before we move on I do think it’s worth adding Jesus is clear to His disciples that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment!” Our job is to shine light into the darkness — it’s to go and make disciples of the nations. Never forget the work of conviction is the Holy Spirit and not the disciples of Jesus.

Knowing His time is quickly expiring, Jesus adds… John 16:12-15, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”

In wrapping up this section on the Holy Spirit Jesus says a few fascinating things… First, He makes it clear that the Holy Spirit will declare things to these men He had not yet told them. 

Jesus’ point is that divine revelation would be completed by the Holy Spirit. You might say Jesus is anticipating the formation and completion of the New Testament — our Bible!

Notice how the Spirit would accomplish this… Jesus says, “He will guide you into all truth.” This word “guide” means to lead the way. Never forget all of the doctrine recorded in the New Testament was motivated by the Holy Spirit guiding each individual author. 

Jesus also says, “The Spirit will tell you things to come.” This word “tell” means to announce or make known. Additionally, we can surmise the Spirit’s unique involvement in the revelation of things to come — all future prophecy was also given to the writers by the Holy Spirit!

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul sums this up, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In the Greek this word “inspiration” literally means god-breathed — no doubt referring to the work of the Spirit.

Because of the important role the Holy Spirit would have in completing the revelation of God, Jesus provides a litmus test by pointing out there would be a continuity between His teaching and that of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would focus on Jesus… “He will glorify Me!”

John 16:16-18, “‘A little while, and you will not see Me (crucifixion and death); and again a little while, and you will see Me (resurrection and ascension), because I go to the Father.’ Then some of His disciples said 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’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?’ They said therefore, ‘What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.’” (The disciples are confused.)

Our author John adds… John 16:19-22, “Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, ‘Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 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.

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. (My wife Jessica has had this very experience with two of the three kids.) Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”

Again, what Jesus is articulating here is best understood by the various reactions to the crucifixion and later resurrection. They would be filled with sorrow by what would soon take place, but their “sorrow would be turned into joy” when He rose three days later! No question this promise “I will see you again” was supposed to be an anchor in the coming storm!

From an applicational point of view don’t miss a larger idea presented here. Jesus doesn’t promise to take away their sorrow. Instead, He promised to take their sorrow and transform it into joy. In fact it would be a “joy no one will be able to take from them!” In Psalms 30:5 we’re to sing how “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

John 16:23-24, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. (Literally, once all of these things had come to fruition they would have no more questions.) Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask (this is the Greek word that describes a servant making a request of a superior) the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask (the tense implies to continually and persistently ask), and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (Amazingly, Jesus connects joy to prayer.)

John 16:25-27, “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. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you 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.”

Up until this point in time Jesus had prayed for these men. However, Jesus is letting them know the day was coming when they’d approach the Father on their own — “In His name!” 

Friend, if “you love Jesus” you should never be afraid of approaching God for Jesus is clear “the Father Himself loves you” or literally “the Father is fond of you!” While you may not like yourself and others may find you to be grating, how encouraging it is to know God loves you!

John 16:28, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” What a wonderful summation of His time on this earth. “I came forth from the Father” substantiates Jesus’ claim to be the eternal God. The idea behind this phrase “came forth” indicates He was of the same eternal substance! 

Once more Jesus says, “And have come into the world” describing His incarnation — being born a man. “Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” When Jesus began this section He challenged them to ask “where He was going!” Now He answers this rhetorical question — I’m going home! His mission to earth would conclude with His resurrection and ascension! 

John 16:29-32, “His disciples said to Him, ‘See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” 

While these men thought they finally understood what Jesus was saying, Jesus makes it clear they had no clue what was coming. In fact, Jesus tells them their faith was about to be tested and they’d fail. “The hour is coming that you will be scattered and will leave Me alone!”

John 16:33, “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.”

Chapter 17 will record a radical moment by which Jesus prays for these men before they head over to the Garden of Gethsemane — it’s an amazing chapter. The reason this is significant is that it means verse 33 records Jesus’ final words to them before His arrest. 

For the last few chapters Jesus has been pouring out His heart not with the intent that they should be discouraged, but that “in Him they would have peace!” How amazing that while Jesus offered them peace (“you may have peace”) if they held fast to His Word, He promised them tribulation (“you will have tribulation”).

Furthermore, knowing “tribulation” was on the horizon, Jesus wanted them to be confident — in fact He wants them to “be of good cheer” knowing “He had overcome the world!” Over the coming days this statement would be tested. It would seem the world had overcome Jesus. And yet, Jesus presents this concept in the past and present tense. Victory was already His!


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