Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of John/Chapter 16
Chapter 16: Verses 1-4
In the beginning of this chapter, Jesus warns his disciples that they can expect much persecution. He does this to keep his disciples from having unrealistic expectations. His advanced warning is intended to keep his followers from questioning their faith when things start to happen and, most of all, to keep defections at a minimum (Smith 291). "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God" (John 16:2). "Ejection from synagogues was a significant threat intended to discourage belief in Jesus as the Messiah" (291). The power behind such an ejection was communal. The synagogue was a very important form of community organization that was paramount to Jewish social and public life. To be effectively cast-out of your own synagogue represented therein an ejection from the community. After relating the cruel and harsh reality that was to come, Jesus reminds his disciples that his coming absence is reason enough for this warning. Jesus is once again foreshadowing his coming death at the hands of the Jewish authorities.
Jesus foretells to the disciples what will happen to them after the Romans decide the Christians are a threat and the Jews reject them from the synagogue. He tells them about the persecutions they will face in the future and the pain they will endure for their faith in him.
Chapter 16: Verses 5-16 (The Work of The Paraclete (a pneuma/angel different from the pneuma/angel that was in Jesus. The angel in Jesus was the angel of Wisdom. The angel for believers is called the angel of the Truth.)
In this portion of John Chapter 16, Jesus describes the work of the paraclete; The "Spirit of the Truth." First, Jesus addresses the question the disciples have not asked: Where is Jesus going? The peculiarity of this remark comes with a glance back to Chapter 14, where Peter has already asked this very question. Could the text be read in a different arrangement? Jesus goes on to answer his own question, saying that he will be with the Father. He says this to console them in their grief at his leaving, also, in his stead he promises consolation through the Spirit of the Truth. The Spirit of the Truth has a mission to help followers remember all the words Jesus spoke, to teach them the meaning of the parables and difficult sayings he spoke, to clarify the prophecies of his return, to help them understand the doctrines of sin, and righteousnes and give them a right understanding of Satan and his ongoing destruction. This spirit cannot be God or a third person in God for it has severe limitations. It is not allowed to speak its own thoughts, but only what it hears. It is merely a messenger (agellos-angel)
Essentially, the spirit of the truth may be regarded as a conduit to God's enlightenment of believers, who will then enlighten the world. In 16:12-13, Jesus says, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them (comprehend them) now. When the Spirit of the Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (that Jesus taught)." These verses identify the Paraclete as the medium of those encounters. In verse 16, Jesus has used the expression "a little while" to speak of his departure which limits his time in the present (referring to the time leading up to Jesus' death). "A little while" in the farewell discourse also seems to refer to the time between Jesus' death and his resurrection.
Jerome translated Paraclet as advocate. However, the paraclete is not a defense lawyer but a prosecutor, so advocate is not the correct word. It convicts the world of sin, so comforter is also not the right word.
Some try to say that it is the return of Jesus in spirit form but that would make verses 13, 14 and 15 quite confusing if you see the paraclete as "surrogate for Jesus himself." The paraclete is a pneuma/angel sent to illuminate the words of Jesus. Just as Jesus received a pneuma at his baptism to help him, all believers who ask for it will receive the paraclete to help them.
Verses 13-15 state, "When the Spirit of the truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (taught by Jesus); for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (the return of Jesus not a road map of the future). He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." If the Spirit is able to "speak whatever he hears," he is a separate entity from Jesus.
Another interesting characteristic of verse 14 and 15 is this idea of the Spirit "declaring" things to the disciples. It is not entirely clear just how this declaration will come about or what form it is to take. However, as D. Moody Smith points out in his commentary on John, there are some suggestions found elsewhere in the New Testament that might shed some light on the mystery. In 1 John 4:1-3 you have a christological test to determine false spirits from true ones, "1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize a Spirit from God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus the messiah was real human is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge that is not from God.
This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
To say that Jesus was God in the flesh means Jesus was not a real man like all other men. Or to say he pre-existed means he is not a like all other men.
To say he was human you must agree he was 100% human with nothing extra. If you add anything to his humanness or take away anything you are teaching the anti-christ doctrines of the Gnostics who said he was man but more than man. Some even say he only appeared to be a man. He only had the "likeness" of human flesh.
Chapter 16: Verses 17-33 (The Disciples' Grief will Turn to Joy)
At the very end of chapter 16 Jesus proclaims to his disciples that an hour is coming where his disciples will all leave and go there own ways, leaving him undoubtedly and utterly alone. Yet Christ is never alone because the Father is with him, and he tells the disciples all this that when they find themselves all alone and without him, they can turn and find him in spirit. There will be much suffering in the world but He will get them through it, like always.
You believe at last! Christ's words to his disciples in verse 31 raise an interesting point: exactly what does it take for humanity to believe at last? Christ's disciples had been with Him for the duration of his ministry, and were personal witnesses to many of His miracles. If these men could not readily accept him, how have many circles of modern Christianity become so "unwavering" in their beliefs? These circles, which are ironically the most bibliocentric, seem to ignore the doubt and fear evidenced by the Apostles in the Gospels. This doubt is glazed over in an attempt to assert that these men were rigorously faithful, warping an essential cornerstone of Christianity (that is, doubt) into blind faith. How has this proven detrimental to spreading the message of Christ in the modern world?
Jesus' death and resurrection foretold?
Many believe that in verses 16-19 Jesus is speaking to the disciples about his up and coming death and resurrection. This idea would correlate with one of the reoccurring themes in John of Jesus trying to explain to His disciples what was to come. For instance verse 16 states: "A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me." (NAS) this verse looks very similar to previous verses in the gospel of John. In John 7:33 there is a distinct resemblance in message "Therefore Jesus said, "For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me." (NAS) Jesus continually tries to get His disciples to believe in these things He says by performing His many works, but they still do not understand. Jesus has continued to foretell to the disciples of His upcoming death and resurrection in John 12:35, 13:33, and 14:19.
Verse 17 states: "Some of His disciples then said to one another, "What is this thing He is telling 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'?" (NAS) This verse reiterates verse 5 in the beginning of this chapter where Jesus says: "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?'" (NAS) Jesus tries to explain where He is going in previous chapters of John as well. For instance, look in John 7:33, 14:12, and 16:10.
Lastly in verses 18 and 19 it says: "So they were saying, "What is this that He says, 'A little while'? We do not know what He is talking about. Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, "Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'?" (NAS) The disciples still needed some type of validation to understand what Christ was trying to say. This questioning and confusion parallels their confusion in John 6:61 and also in Mark 9:32.
Even with these parallels in scripture, some also believe that these passages could be a foretelling of the second coming of Christ. To some, this notion seems evident in previous gospels. However, this idea would not precisely fit with the gospel of John since one of the major focuses of this chapter is of Jesus’ teachings and foretelling of His death and resurrection not of the second coming. It is also likely that Jesus is referring to his resurrection because of the time in which John was written, most likely the latest of the Gospels; a time when the expectations of the 2nd coming were wearing thin, and Christianity had to (in some ways) move away from its eschatological theology.
There are two changes in the relationship between the disciples and Jesus that will be a basis of joy for them. The first change is reflected in their no longer needing to ask Jesus questions (v. 23). The stuff the disciples have been asking about will become clear once they see the Lord's death and resurrection and receive the help of the Paraclete. The disciples will have an understanding of Jesus when the Father sends them the spirit/angel of the truth. The second change will be their sharing in Jesus' work as his friends (vv. 23-24). This is the truth behind Jesus' reference to asking the Father in his name (cf. 14:13; 15:7). They have not asked in his name up to this point because they have not dwelt in him and he has not dwelt in them. This will soon change, and then they will share in the eternal life that Jesus has with the Father (Gospel Communications, 2007).