Jesus—His Life and Message: John 16:13–22
July 27, 2021
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: John 16:13–22
Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus spoke to His disciples about the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom He would send to them. He said, 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 that I have said to you.1 In chapter 16 of John, Jesus tells us more about the ministry of the Spirit.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.2
Earlier, Jesus had said that the Spirit would teach the disciples and bring to their remembrance what He had taught them. Here He added that the Spirit would lead them into all truth. In saying this, He was referring to the truth the Father had given Him to share with them, not all truth in the sense of all scientific truth about the natural world or other things which people can learn by observation or through normal inquiry.
Jesus went on to speak of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit would not speak on His own, but would speak only “what He hears.” This is similar to what has been said of Jesus; He would also not speak “on His own.”
I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.3
The Spirit only speaks what He has “heard” from the Father, just as Jesus does.
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.4
Within this Gospel, Jesus showed that He could inform His disciples of things which would happen in the future.
“Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” 5
I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.6
I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.7
However, for the most part, Jesus left revealing things regarding the future to the Holy Spirit.
He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.8
Jesus went on to explain that the Holy Spirit would glorify Him by taking what belongs to Jesus and declaring it to the disciples. It could seem a bit odd for Jesus to say that “all the truth” is His, or to claim that the Advocate will “glorify me.” However, He immediately gives an explanation: All that the Father has is mine, and for that reason the Holy Spirit will take what belongs to the Father and the Son and will declare it to the disciples. There is no division within the Godhead. What the Father has, the Son has, and the Spirit will declare it.
Jesus continued speaking to His disciples, and what He said next was somewhat of a riddle.
A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.9
Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus told His disciples: Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.10 The disciples had a difficult time understanding what Jesus meant.
Some of his disciples said to one another, “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 am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”11
Jesus’ words were rather mysterious to the disciples, and they were puzzled as to what they meant. However, they didn’t ask Jesus for an explanation; rather, they expressed their bewilderment to one another. Elsewhere in this Gospel, we find that there were other times when the disciples were hesitant to ask Jesus for an explanation of what He had said.
“But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going’?”12
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”13
The disciples repeated the riddle and asked among themselves what Jesus meant about a little while. In these two verses (17–18) the disciples refer to “a little while” three times.
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?”14
Noticing that they weren’t asking Him about what He had told them, but that they wanted to, Jesus verbalized their question. He then went on to explain.
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.15
Jesus once again used the truly, truly statement, pointing out that the disciples’ response to what was going to happen to Him was vastly different from the response of the world. Jesus had told His disciples that He was going away, that He would be absent from them as well as from the world. This would rightfully cause the disciples to grieve and to be sorrowful, which is quite different from the response of the world, which would rejoice at Jesus’ death. However, Jesus had said that a little while and you will see me. It is this that the disciples rejoice at, for the sorrow would be turned to joy when they would see Jesus once again.
In order to help them understand what He was saying to them, Jesus told a parable.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.16
When a woman is in labor, she experiences labor pains, referred to here as sorrow, and in other Bible translations as pain (NAU, NIV), suffering (NLT), and pains of labor (NLT).
Jesus contrasts the state of mind of the mother when she is in labor with her state after the birth of a child. During labor, she suffers severe pain, but that anguish gives way to joy when the child is born. Jesus likens this to what His disciples would soon experience. They would weep, lament, and suffer grief when Jesus was taken from them and crucified. However, their joy when they encountered the risen Christ would far outweigh the grief they experienced.
One author added an interesting comment on this verse.
Most mothers will dispute the accuracy of the claim that “when the child is born, she no longer remembers the distress” (evidence perhaps that the Gospel writer was a man!), but the words are not intended literally. They are simply a way of making the point that the prospect of “joy” renders all of the “grief” or “distress” that precedes it worthwhile.17
Jesus pointed out to His disciples that though they would experience deep sorrow, He would see them again, and their hearts would rejoice. He was likely referring to His post-resurrection appearances. One author states:
The disciples will then rejoice in a way that is permanent. No one will take away the joy they will then have. The thought is not, of course, that believers will never know sorrow. It is rather that after they have come to understand the significance of the cross they will be possessed by a deep-seated joy, a joy independent of the world.18
(To be continued.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 John 14:26.
2 John 16:13.
3 John 12:49.
4 John 15:15.
5 John 13:18–19.
6 John 14:29.
7 John 16:4.
8 John 16:14–15.
9 John 16:16.
10 John 14:19.
11 John 16:17–18.
12 John 16:5.
13 John 4:27.
14 John 16:19.
15 John 16:20.
16 John 16:21–22.
17 Michaels, The Gospel of John, 844.
18 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 627.