Jesus—His Life and Message: John 16:23–33

August 3, 2021

by Peter Amsterdam

Having told His disciples that they would weep and lament at His departure from this world while the world would rejoice,1 Jesus added that while they would experience sorrow for the present, He would see them again, and this would cause their hearts to rejoice with a joy no one could take away from them.2 Jesus then continued to speak about soon-coming events.

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.3

Jesus told His disciples that in that day, probably referring to after His resurrection and ascension to heaven, they wouldn’t need to ask Him questions, as they would understand what they did not yet understand. Their questions would have been answered.

There is, however, another kind of asking which would be needed and which Jesus commanded. While they wouldn’t need to ask questions about His departure, they would need to “ask” in prayer. This pointed forward to the time after Jesus’ resurrection when the Holy Spirit would be with them and would teach them.

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.4

Jesus pointed to a coming change. Until then, the disciples had asked Jesus for things directly and they had prayed to the Father directly. However, they had not asked the Father for anything in the name of the Son. Jesus instructed them that from then on, they were to make requests of the Father in the name of the Son.

I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.5

Jesus had been using figures of speech when speaking with His disciples. This could mean He was speaking in parables or using clever sayings of one kind or another. Either way, the understanding is that the meaning of what He was saying was not immediately understood, but rather needed to be searched for or thought about.

He referred to the hour that was coming when He would speak plainly about the Father. The disciples probably thought that Jesus was speaking of the present time, as shortly they would comment on how He was speaking plainly and without figurative speech. It is more likely that Jesus was referring to the time after His resurrection and ascension, as that was the time when things which were hidden or obscure would become clear to the disciples.

In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.6

Referring to that day confirmed that He was speaking of a future time after His return to the Father in heaven. Jesus implied that when that time came, the disciples’ relation to the Father would be closer and more direct than it was then. One author explains:

[Jesus] goes on to define what [you will ask in my name] means, or more precisely what it does not mean. It does not mean that He will intercede for them with the Father, or that He will somehow take their prayers and present them to the Father. On the contrary He says, “I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.” … In that day, after He goes to the Father, He will no longer need to do so, for their own access to the Father will be immediate and direct.7

Jesus made the point that the Father loved them because they had loved the Son and believed that He came from God.

The concept that the Father loves believers because we love Jesus echoes what was said earlier in this Gospel. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”8 In that verse, Jesus referred to believers obeying His word. Here (v. 27) Jesus refers to believing “that I came from God.” He acknowledged that the disciples believed that He came from God, which was made clear earlier in this Gospel when Peter confessed, “You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”9

I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.10 

Jesus had just stated that the disciples believed that He came from God. He then expounded on the point, in a way making a summary of this whole Gospel. He came from the Father into the world and He would soon return to the Father. This echoes what He had said much earlier in this Gospel to those who rejected Him. “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.”11

In this case, His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”12 The disciples had been silent since the middle of chapter 14, when Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?,”13 but here they once again speak directly to Jesus. They felt that they now understood clearly what Jesus had been telling them since He was “speaking plainly,” and to some extent this was true. However, until Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, they wouldn’t fully understand all that Jesus had told them.

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”14

This is the third time in this chapter that Jesus says the hour is coming. The first was the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.15 The second: The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech;16 and the third time He speaks of the hour when the disciples would desert Him.

In response to the disciples’ statement that they believed He came from God, Jesus questioned, Do you now believe? The disciples’ belief was real; however, it was “now,” meaning temporary. It would not stand the initial test of persecution. Jesus stated that the time had come that the disciples would be scattered, meaning that they would each return to their own homes, leaving Jesus alone to suffer and die on the cross.

Though the disciples would leave Him, Jesus said that He was not alone, as the Father was with Him. He made this point twice before, when speaking with the Pharisees at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.17

He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.18

The Father had been with the Son throughout His ministry, and there was no reason to expect Him to desert Jesus as the disciples did.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.19

Jesus ends His discourse by giving both assurance and warning. He sees the disciples having peace “in Me,” while at the same time having difficult times, spoken of here as tribulation, and as trouble, trials, suffering, and sorrows in other Bible translations. While the disciples lived in this world with all its challenges, tests, and tribulations, they also lived in Christ—which afforded them peace, because He has overcome the world.

(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.

General Bibliography

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1 John 16:20.

2 John 16:22.

3 John 16:23–24.

4 John 14:26.

5 John 16:25.

6 John 16:26–27.

7 Michaels, The Gospel of John, 849.

8 John 14:23.

9 John 6:68–69.

10 John 16:28.

11 John 8:42.

12 John 16:29–30.

13 John 14:22.

14 John 16:31–32.

15 John 16:2.

16 John 16:25.

17 John 8:16.

18 John 8:29.

19 John 16:33.