Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
In John chapters 14, 15, and 16, Jesus made long speeches on random topics with lots of repetition. He predicted events but didn’t give a timeline. He said, “I’m going away. You can’t come. I’ll send an advocate. In a little while you won’t see me, and then in a little while you will see me.”
The confused disciples asked (in John 16), “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he’s saying” (vv. 17-18). I have the same problem: I often don’t understand Jesus.
Instead of interpreting Jesus’ speech in John 16, I’ll just make a few observations:
First, it’s a fool’s errand to improve Jesus’ message by giving it an outline, putting his predictions in chronological order, and deleting his repetitions. Charles Neider took that approach with Mark Twain’s autobiography, quite successfully I think, but it’s not a job I’m competent to do, especially with things Jesus said.
Second, I can’t explain Jesus’ words in a way that will give you “A ha!” moment making you feel, “Now at last I understand it.” For that, you need my Study Bible for Curmudgeonly Seniors. Unfortunately, I haven’t written it yet. I hope you don’t mind waiting.
Another observation on John 16: Jesus describes two departures, not just one.
First, he’ll go away for a little while. That’s when he is crucified and buried. It would have been much clearer if he had said, “Tomorrow is my crucifixion day. It will make you sad. But wait a little while, because Sunday is my resurrection day. That will make you glad.”
Jesus’ second departure would be when he returned to heaven, only a couple months after the Last Supper. And he promised that when he went away that time, he would return in the person of his invisible advocate–the Holy Spirit–who would live in his disciples. That too would make them glad.
My final observation is that Jesus promises to give many gifts to his disciples. One was the Spirit of truth (v. 12). We desperately need that gift today! Why? Because we struggle with many truths: the objective truth of science, the self-evident truth of nature, our intuitive sense of truth about people’s desires and motivations, the carefully interpreted truth we find in the Bible. We need the Spirit of truth to guide us to Jesus, who is himself the truth.
Jesus also gave the gift of prayer when he said, “My father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (v. 23). Prayer doesn’t work that way for me. I don’t get whatever I ask. But I’m with the disciples on this. I’m on the journey with Jesus. Somewhere, somehow, the promise is for me.
Jesus, John 16 closes with your statement “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world” (v. 33). You had trouble in this world, Jesus. You died a martyr, and you invite us to come and die. We experience the trouble you promised: trouble in our minds and hearts and emotions, trouble in our relationships, trouble finding our way in the world. And we hear your promise of more trouble ahead.
But we believe you have overcome the world. Conquer the world in which we live, and conquer the world within us, Jesus. Live inside us by the advocate you send, correct our thinking by the Spirit of truth, teach to us ask the Father for whatever we want in your name, and bring us to that place you promised where no one can take away our joy.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.