John 16:16-33 Sunday 24th February 9:45 and 11:30 am
By porthkerryandrhoose, Feb 26 2019 04:12PM
I have a few riddles for you; let’s see how you get on. (Answers at the end)
What has a tongue but cannot talk and gets around a lot but cannot walk?
A king, a queen and two twins all lay in a large room, yet there are no adults or children in the room. How is that possible?
You can run but cannot walk. You have a mouth but cannot talk. You have a head but never weep and have a bed but never sleep. What are you?
What is the first thing you see in an emergency but you only see twice in a lifetime?
I imagine that the disciples felt on occasion that Jesus was speaking to them in riddles. Certainly, as we’ve seen numerous times already in John’s gospel, and again in today’s passage, after Jesus has spoken to them, the disciples talk amongst themselves, trying to work out what Jesus means. We see in the opening verse of the passage exactly what is causing their confusion this time. V16 says ‘Jesus went on to say, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a while you will see me.’’ Jesus recognises their lack of understanding and offers them an explanation of what he meant. He tells them firstly that after a little while their grief will turn to joy. He goes on to explain the reasons that they will experience this joy. Finally, after the disciples make a profession of faith in him, Jesus has to prepare them for the fact that they will soon desert him.
Firstly, Jesus promises the disciples that their grief will, in a little while, turn to joy. Our text focus is on vv20-21: ‘ Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.’ In the previous chapters of John’s gospel, Jesus has spoken to the disciples of many things, including his imminent leaving of them, his returning to the Father, and sending the Holy Spirit. Now he’s telling the disciples that in a little while they will see him again. No wonder they are confused! Jesus now provides clarity as to the events that will cause grief and joy. Remember the words that caused the confusion: ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a while you will see me.’ The time Jesus is speaking of is imminent. He is speaking of his death and resurrection. Jesus’ words in v20 are most solemn. He begins with ‘Very truly I tell you’ and goes on to say ‘you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.’ The disciples will grieve at Jesus’ death but the world will not. The world will believe it has conquered its enemy; the One who challenged its way of life. And so the world will rejoice at his death. But, Jesus tells the disciples, ‘your grief will turn to joy’. They will see Jesus again ‘after a while’ because he will rise from the dead.
Jesus uses an image of childbirth to illustrate this in v21. The woman experiences labour pains ‘because her time has come’ – remember that Jesus has used that same phrase to talk about the time of his death, that his time has come. But, he continues, ‘she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.’ The disciples may have understood a little of the significance of this statement because the same image of childbirth is used in the Old Testament to refer to God’s actions. This same image of the pain and the joy is used in Isaiah 66: 7-14 to refer to God’s decisive act of salvation. In using this same imagery that the prophet used to speak of God’s salvation, Jesus is helping the disciples make sense of the events they are about to experience. They are at the approach of the time that Jewish believers were longing for – the time when God will, once and for all, save his people through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Jesus then goes on to explain the reasons for the joy that the disciples will experience. Our text focus is vv 23-24. Jesus says that when he sees them again after he rises from the dead, ‘In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.’ When Jesus sees the disciples again, their relationship with him will be restored. However, it will have changed. These verses show two changes in the disciples’ relationship with Jesus. Firstly, they will have a greater understanding of Jesus and will no longer need to ask Jesus questions as they have been. Once they have lived through Jesus’ death and resurrection and received the Holy Spirit, their understanding of Jesus will give them the heart of the truth about him – that he is the saviour of the world. They will still have questions, as we all do still, but they will understand enough to be able to live the new life Jesus’ death has given them.
The second change in their relationship will be that they will now share in Jesus’ work as his friends. This is what Jesus is referring to when he tells them ‘my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.’ In v24, he goes on to say ‘Until now you have not asked for anything in my name.’ This is because they have not dwelt in Jesus, nor has he yet dwelt in them. This will occur when the disciples receive the Holy Spirit. From then on, they will share in Jesus’ life with the Father, which includes sharing in the work of God in the world. Primarily, this is to reveal, as Jesus did, the love of God in word and deed, through their lives as individuals and through their lives as a community.
This is to be the reason for their joy – a new intimacy with God made possible through Jesus. As Jesus reveals in vv26-27, ‘In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.’ Jesus is our mediator, but not in the sense that he will ask the Father for what we request for us. It is Jesus’ saving work that mediates for us and allows us to have direct access to God in Jesus. Jesus also reveals the Father’s love for the disciples. God’s love is, of course, unconditional and universal. However, his love is fulfilled in those who love and believe in his Son. Love and belief are both significant. For God’s love to be fulfilled in us, we must love and believe in Jesus as the one who came from God.
Finally, after the disciples make a profession of faith in him, Jesus has to prepare them for the fact that they will soon desert him. After he has explained his earlier comments to them, the disciples say to Jesus in v30 ‘Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’ As one who comes from God, Jesus is all knowing and can anticipate questions before they are asked. So the disciples can trust in him and be sure of their belief about him. However, Jesus has another shocking statement for the disciples. They have made their declaration of faith before they have seen the cross. Jesus needs to prepare his disciples for their faith to be tested. He already knows how they will respond to this test. In v32 he tells them, ‘A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone.’ Each one of the disciples will abandon Jesus during the period of his arrest, trial and crucifixion. Yet Jesus will gather them back to him when he rises from the dead ‘after a while’. Jesus wants them to be prepared for this when it happens, as he has already spent time preparing them for the time of his death.
But Jesus doesn’t want his disciples to be despondent following his words. He ends with a message of hope for them in v33: ‘I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ We saw in ch14 that Jesus tells the disciples not to let their hearts be troubled and to receive his peace. Here, he emphasises that peace is to be found in him. The world will give them trouble but through his death and resurrection, Jesus has overcome the world, conquering the hold sin has over us.
So we see how Jesus continued to prepare his disciples for his imminent death. They do not understand that they will see them again. Jesus tells them that although they will grieve at his death, their grief will turn to joy when they see him again. Furthermore, they will have a new relationship with him, and with the Father because Jesus has removed the barrier of sin that stands between them and the Father. They will have direct access to God in Jesus. But the disciples’ faith will be tested by the events and they will be scattered before Jesus brings them back together. Jesus tells his disciples to take heart. And we can take heart too because when our faith is tested in hard times, we can also be sure that Jesus will gather us back to him if we scatter ourselves from him. Like the disciples, we too have direct access to God, and share the responsibility of doing God’s work. Then, as Jesus promised the disciples, in union with God, in Jesus by his Spirit, our joy will be complete.
1. A shoe
2. They’re all beds
3. A river
4. The letter E