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Exegetical Commentary on John 16

OUTLINE:

    [3 A The Book of Glory: Jesus accomplishes his return to the Father (13:1-20:31)]

      [2 B The Last Supper: Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure (13:2-17:26)]

        [2 C The Last Discourse (13:31-17:26)]

          2 D The relationship of the disciples to Jesus and to the world after his departure (15:1-16:33)

            [1 E Jesus exhorts his disciples to remain in him as the True Vine (15:1-17)]

            2 E The hatred of the world for Jesus and his disciples (15:18-16:4a)

            3 E The coming of the Holy Spirit: his work (16:4b-15)

        1 F The Holy Spirit’s work with respect to the world (16:4b-11)

        2 F The Holy Spirit’s work with respect to the disciples (16:12-15)

            4 E Jesus’ return to his disciples will cause their sadness to turn to joy (16:16-24)

            5 E The disciples claim to understand who Jesus is and from whence he has come (16:25-33)

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bream, H. N., “No Need to Be Asked Questions: A Study of John 16:30,” in Search the Scriptures. New Testament Studies in Honor of Raymond T. Stamm, ed. J. M. Myers, O. Reimherr, and H. N. Bream, Gettysburg Theological Studies 3 (Leiden: Brill, 1969), 49-74.

Bruns, J. E., “A Note on John 16:33 and 1 John 2:13-14,” Journal of Biblical Literature 86 (1967): 451-53.

Carson, D. A., “The Function of the Paraclete in John 16:7-11,” Journal of Biblical Literature 98 (1979): 547-66.

Hatch, W. H. P., “The Meaning of John 16:8-11,” Harvard Theological Review 14 (1921): 103-5.

Lindars, B., “Dikaiosuvnh in Jn 16, 8 and 10,” in Mlanges bibliques en hommage au R. P. Bda Rigaux, ed. A. Descamps and A. de Halleux (Gembloux:Duculot, 1970), 275-86.

Patrick, J. G., “The Promise of the Paraclete,” Bibliotheca Sacra 127 (1970): 333-45.

Smith, D. M., Jr., “John 16:1-15,” Interpretation 33 (1979): 58-62.

Stanton, V. H., “Convince or convict (John 16,8),” Expository Times 33 (1921/22): 278-79.

Stenger, W., “Dikaiosuvnh in Joh 16, 8.10,” Novum Testamentum 21 (1979): 2-12.

DETAILED EXEGETICAL NOTES:

Introduction: Chapter 16 does not begin with a clear break in thought from the preceding chapter. As the outline indicates, the section which began in 15:18 continues through 16:4a. The theme of the world’s hatred for the disciples and its persecution of them which Jesus discussed in 15:18-25 reappears here, after the interlude in 15:26-27 which introduced the work of the Holy Spirit in the world, who will bear witness concerning Jesus to the world. In 15:18-25 the primary emphasis was on the world’s hatred for the disciples, which stands in stark contrast to Jesus’ love for them in 15:11-17. In 15:27 the disciples also are told that they will bear witness to Jesus, and now 16:1-4a picks up this theme as Jesus tells them the things the world will do to them to eliminate their witness.

            2 E The hatred of the world for Jesus and his disciples (15:18-16:4a)

16:1 Tau'ta lelavlhka uJmi'n This phrase occurs seven times in the Last Discourse, in 14:25, 15:11, here in 16:1, 16:4, 16:6, 16:25, and 16:33. Here and in 16:4 Jesus gives the purpose for his telling the disciples about coming persecution. He does so in order that when it happens, the disciples “may not be caused to stumble” (mhV skandalisqh'te) which in this context would refer to the confusion and doubt which they would certainly experience when such persecution began. There may have been a tendency for the disciples to expect immediately after Jesus’ victory over death the institution of the millennium, particularly in light of the turn of events recorded in the early chapters of Acts. Jesus here forestalls such disillusionment for the disciples by letting them know in advance that they will face persecution and even martyrdom as they seek to carry on his mission in the world after his departure. It is also clear that, whatever the disciples may have thought about the course of future events, Jesus himself is well aware of the future course of history, even beyond the cross (which he has mentioned many times in the Fourth Gospel).

16:2 e[rcetai w{ra Jesus now refers not to “his hour” as he has frequently done up to this point, but to the disciples’ hour. They will be excommunicated from Jewish synagogues. There will even be a time when those who kill Jesus’ disciples will think that they are offering service to God by putting the disciples to death. Because of the reference to service offered to God, it is almost certain that Jesus has in mind Jewish opposition here in both cases rather than Jewish opposition in the first instance (putting the disciples out of synagogues) and Roman opposition in the second (putting the disciples to death). Such opposition materializes later and is recorded in Acts: the stoning of Stephen in 7:58-60 and the slaying of James the brother of John by Herod Agrippa I in Acts 12:2-3 are notable examples.

16:3 o{ti oujk e[gnwsan… The reason why those of the world will persecute the disciples so thoroughly is because they do not know either Jesus or the Father. Ignorance of Jesus and ignorance of the Father are also linked in 8:19; to know Jesus would be to know the Father also, but since the world does not know Jesus, neither does it know his Father. The world’s ignorance of the Father is also mentioned in 8:55, 15:21, and 17:25.

16:4a ajllaV tau'ta lelavlhka uJmi'n The first half of verse 4 resumes the statement of 16:1, tau'ta lelavlhka uJmi'n, in a somewhat more positive fashion, omitting the reference to the disciples being caused to stumble. Instead, Jesus tells the disciples that he has informed them of these things so that when the hour of persecution comes, they will remember that he had foretold them. He did not want them to be taken by surprise.

            3 E The coming of the Holy Spirit: his work (16:4b-15)

        1 F The Holy Spirit’s work with respect to the world (16:4b-11)

16:4b Tau'ta deV uJmi'n ejx ajrch'" oujk eipon This verse serves as a transition between the preceding discussion of the persecutions the disciples will face in the world after the departure of Jesus, and the following discussion concerning the departure of Jesus and the coming of the Paraclete. Jesus had not told the disciples these things from the beginning because he was with them. As Jesus goes on to explain in the following verse, he is going to depart and return to the Father who sent him, so he must now inform the disciples of these things.

16:5 uJpavgw Now the theme of Jesus’ impending departure is resumed. It will also be mentioned in verses 10, 17, and 28 of this chapter. Jesus had said to his opponents in 7:33 that he was going to the one who sent him; in 13:33 he had spoken of going where the disciples could not come. At that point Peter had inquired where he was going, but it appears that Peter did not understand Jesus’ reply at that time and did not persist in further questioning. In 14:5 Thomas had asked Jesus where he was going.

Nu'n deV uJpavgw Now, in contrast to these former questions, none of the disciples asks Jesus where he is going, and the reason is given in the following verse: grief has overcome the disciples as a result of the predictions of coming persecution that Jesus has just spoken to them in 15:18-25 and 16:1-4a. Their shock at Jesus’ revelation of coming persecution is so great that none of them thinks to ask him where it is that he is going.

16:6 tau'ta lelavlhka uJmi'n On this phrase see the note at 16:1 above.

16:7 sumfevrei uJmi'n i{na ejgwV ajpevlqw Jesus now tells the disciples that in fact it is better for them if he goes away. They must have seen Jesus’ talk of departure (verse 5) as a disaster for themselves, and this added to their grief (verse 6) at the thought of persecution. Again this thought resumes an earlier statement by Jesus in 14:28, “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father.” There we pointed out that Jesus’ return to the Father signified the completion of his work and his glorification by the Father (cf. 17:5). The disciples should see this as a cause of rejoicing because when Jesus is glorified he will glorify them too, as he later informs them (17:22). Here it is better for the disciples if Jesus goes away not because he will glorify them if he does, but because of the sending of the Paraclete to be with them.

ejaVn gaVr mhV ajpevlqw, oJ paravklhto" oujk ejleuvsetai proV" uJma'" Why must Jesus go away before the Paraclete can come to the disciples? In 7:39 the Evangelist noted that the Spirit was not yet [given] because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Jesus’ glorification, as we have discussed before, consists in his death on the cross as well as his resurrection, ascension, and exaltation in the presence of the Father. It is Jesus who must go in order to send the Spirit (pevmyw aujtoVn proV" uJma'", here in 16:7), but it is also the Spirit who is to take the place of Jesus here on earth (cf. 15:26).

But why is it better for the disciples to have the presence of the Paraclete than the presence of Jesus himself as they do now? Because the Paraclete will not only be with them as Jesus has been, but in them as well (cf. 17:23, 26).

16:8 ejkei'no" ejlevgxei toVn kovsmon… Jesus now tells his disciples that when the Paraclete comes, he will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. Periv is used in 16:8-11 in the sense of “concerning” or “with respect to”. But what about the verb ejlevgcw? The basic meanings possible for this word are (1) “to convict or convince someone of something”; (2) “to bring to light or expose something; and (3) “to correct or punish someone”. The third possibility may be ruled out in these verses on contextual grounds since punishment is not implied. The meaning is often understood to be that the Paraclete will “convince” the world of its error, so that some at least will repent. But S. Mowinckel [“Die Vorstellungen des Sptjudentums vom heiligen Geist als Fürsprecher und der johanneische Paraklet,” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 32 (1933): 97-130] has demonstrated that the verb ejlevgcw does not necessarily imply the conversion or reform of the guilty party. This means it is far more likely that we are looking at conviction in more of a legal sense here (as in a trial). The only certainty is that the accused party is indeed proven guilty. Further confirmation of this interpretation is seen in 14:17 where it is stated that the world cannot receive the Paraclete and in 3:20, where it is said that the evildoer deliberately refuses to come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed for what they really are (significantly, the verb in 3:20 is also ejlevgcw).

However, if we wish to adopt the meaning “prove guilty” for the use of ejlevgcw in 16:8 we are still left with a difficulty: while this meaning fits the first statement in 16:9—the world is ‘proven guilty’ concerning its sin of refusing to believe in Jesus—it does not fit so well the second and third assertions in verses 10 and 11. R. Brown (AB 29a, 705) argues that the meaning of ejlevgcw must be similar in all three of the phrases and suggests the more general meaning ‘prove wrong’ which would fit in all three cases. This may be so, but there may also be a developmental aspect to the meaning, which would then shift from verse 9 to verse 10 to verse 11. (This discussion continues in the Notes on the following verses.)

16:9 o{ti ouj pisteuvousin eij" ejmev The three functions of the Paraclete introduced in verse 8 are elaborated in the following three verses (9-11). It is difficult to determine whether o{ti should be understood as causal or appositional/explanatory: Brown and Bultmann favor the latter, while Barrett and Morris prefer the former. I suspect that if we are forced to choose, a causal idea would be preferable here, since it also fits the parallel statements in verses 10 and 11 better than an appositional or explanatory use would. In this case Jesus is stating in each instance the reason why the world is proven guilty or wrong by the Paraclete.

Here in verse 9 the world is proven guilty concerning sin, and the reason given is their refusal to believe in Jesus. In 3:19 the effect of Jesus coming into the world as the Light of the world was to provoke judgment, by forcing men to choose up sides for or against him, and they chose darkness rather than light. At the very end of Jesus’ public ministry in the Fourth Gospel (12:37) the Evangelist offers this summary observation concerning the world’s response to Jesus’ ministry: “But as many sign-miracles as he performed among them, they kept on refusing to believe in him” (ejpivsteuon, iterative or customary/habitual imperfect).

16:10 periV dikaiosuvnh" dev Now the world is proven wrong concerning righteousness. There are two questions that need to be answered: (1) what is the meaning of dikaiosuvnh in this context, and (2) to whom does it pertain—to the world, or to someone else?

(1) The word dikaiosuvnh occurs in the Gospel of John only here and in verse 8. It is often assumed that it refers to forensic justification, as it does so often in Paul’s writings. Thus the answer to question (2) would be that it refers to the world. L. Morris states, “The Spirit shows men (and no-one else can do this) that their righteousness before God depends not on their own efforts but on Christ’s atoning work for them” (The Gospel According to John , 699, emphasis mine). Since the word occurs so infrequently in the Fourth Gospel, however, we must look very carefully at the context here. The o{ti-clause which follows provides an important clue: the righteousness in view here has to do with Jesus’ return to the Father and his absence from the disciples. It is true that in the Fourth Gospel part of what is involved in Jesus’ return to the Father is the cross, and it is through his substitutionary death that men are justified, so that Morris’ understanding of righteousness here is possible. But more basic than this is the idea that Jesus’ return to the Father constitutes his own dikaiosuvnh in the sense of vindication rather than forensic justification. Jesus had repeatedly claimed oneness with the Father, and his opponents had repeatedly rejected this and labelled him a deceiver, a sinner, and a blasphemer (5:18, 7:12, 9:24, 10:33, etc.). But Jesus, by his glorification through his return to the Father, is vindicated in his claims in spite of his opponents. In his vindication his followers are also vindicated as well, but their vindication derives from his.

Thus we would answer question (1) by saying that in context dikaiosuvnh" refers not to forensic justification but vindication, and question (2) by referring this justification/vindication not to the world or even to Christians directly, but to Jesus himself.

Finally, how does Jesus’ last statement in verse 10, that the disciples will see him no more, contribute to this? It is probably best taken as a reference to the presence of the Paraclete, who cannot come until Jesus has departed (16:7). The meaning of verse 10 is thus: when the Paraclete comes he will prove the world wrong concerning the subject of vindication, namely, Jesus’ vindication which is demonstrated when he is glorified in his return to the Father and the disciples see him no more (but they will have the presence of the Paraclete, whom the world is not able to receive [14:17]).

16:11 periV deV krivsew" In this verse, the world is proven wrong concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. Jesus’ vindication (justification) before the Father, as proven by his return to the Father, his glorification, constitutes a judgment against Satan. This is parallel to the judgment of the world which Jesus provokes in 3:19-21: as we have pointed out so often before, Jesus’ presence in the world as the Light of the world provokes the judgment of those in the world, because as they respond to the Light (either coming to Jesus or rejecting him) so are they judged. That judgment is in a sense already realized. So it is here, where the judgment of Satan is already realized in Jesus’ glorification. This does not mean that Satan does not continue to be active in the world, and to exercise some power over it, just as in 3:19-21 the people in the world who have rejected Jesus and thus incurred judgment continue on in their opposition to Jesus for a time. In both cases the judgment is not immediately executed. But it is certain.

Now having looked at 16:8-11 we may consider one last question: who are the objects of the work of the Paraclete in proving the world guilty concerning their sin of rejecting Jesus (16:9), proving the world wrong concerning the justification of Jesus (the vindication of his claims) before the Father (16:10), and proving the world wrong concerning the judgment of Satan, the ruler of this world (16:11)? The people in the world, i.e., non-believers, or the disciples, i.e., believers? In spite of the long tradition (going back at least to Augustine) of understanding this passage to refer to the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting the world (i.e., non-believers), the context of chapter 16 concerns Jesus’ reassurance to the disciples in the light of coming persecution (15:18-25 and 16:1-4a). Yet it is also true that in 15:26-27 Jesus tells the disciples that the Paraclete will bear witness concerning him, and they too will bear witness. The first instance could be understood to refer only to the disciples and not to the world, but the second, the witness of the disciples themselves, must refer to the world, and the parallelism between the two suggests strongly that the Paraclete also bears witness to the world. Thus it appears best to say that both the people in the world and the disciples (i.e., both non-believers and believers) are to be the objects of the Paraclete’s work as described here.

        2 F The Holy Spirit’s work with respect to the disciples (16:12-15)

From the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to the world, Jesus now turns to the work of the Spirit in relation to the disciples. Verse 12 serves as something of a transition.

16:12 “Eti pollaV e[cw uJmi'n levgein In what sense does Jesus have “yet many things” to say to the disciples? Does this imply the continuation of revelation after his departure? This seems to be the case, especially in light of verses 13 and following, which describe the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding the disciples into “all the truth”. Thus it would seem reasonable to understand Jesus to say that he would continue to speak to the Twelve, at least, after his return to the Father. He would do this through the Holy Spirit whom he was going to send. Revelation could potentially continue until the death of the last apostle. Although it is possible that an audience broader than the Twelve is addressed, this seems unlikely in context since other statements made by Jesus appear to be directed to those present when he spoke.

16:13 oJdhghvsei uJma'" ejn th'/ ajlgqeiva/ pavsh/ Three things of importance must be noted here.

(1) When the Holy Spirit comes, he will guide the disciples into all the truth. What Jesus had said in 8:31-32, “If you remain in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” will ultimately be realized in the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit to the disciples after Jesus’ departure.

(2) The things the Holy Spirit speaks to them will not be things which originate from himself, but things he has heard. This could be taken to mean that no new revelation is involved, as R. Brown does (AB 29a, 714-15). This is a possible but not a necessary inference. The point here concerns the source of the things the Spirit will say to the disciples (ajf! eJautou') and does not specifically exclude originality of content.

(3) Part at least of what the Holy Spirit will reveal to the disciples will concern things to come, not just fuller implications of previous sayings of Jesus and the like. This does seem to indicate (contra Brown) that at least some new revelation is involved. But the Spirit is not the source or originator of these things—Jesus is the source, and he will continue to speak to his disciples through the Spirit who has come to indwell them.

This does not answer the question, however, whether these words are addressed to all followers of Jesus, or only to his apostles. Since the in the context of the Last Discourse Jesus is preparing the Twelve to carry on his ministry after his departure, it seems best to take these statements as specifically related only to the Twelve. Some of this the Holy Spirit does directly for all believers today; other parts of this statement are fulfilled through the apostles (e.g., in the giving of the Book of Revelation the Spirit speaks through the apostles to the Church today of things to come). One of the implications of this is that a doctrine does not have to be traced back to an explicit teaching of Jesus to be authentic; all that is required is apostolic authority.

16:14 ejkei'no" ejmeV doxavsei Just as Jesus will say that he glorified the Father by revealing him to men (completing the mission on which he was sent by the Father, 17:4), so here the Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus by revealing him to men (revealing Jesus’ words to the disciples). It is important to note that the Holy Spirit’s ministry does not draw attention to himself at all, but rather to Jesus, whom he glorifies.

16:15 pavnta o{sa e[cei oJ pathVr Now the Father himself is mentioned. Everything the Father has belongs to Jesus also, so when Jesus has just said in the previous verse that the Spirit will receive from Jesus and proclaim it to the disciples, this includes the things of the Father as well. The closeness of the interrelationship between Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit is evident here. The Spirit will continue to declare what the Father is like, just as Jesus himself came to do (cf. 1:18). In revealing Jesus to the disciples (see the preceding verse) the Spirit will also be revealing the Father, just as Jesus did.

            4 E Jesus’ return to his disciples will cause their sadness to turn to joy (16:16-24)

16:16 oujkevti qewrei'tev me Jesus once more refers to his impending departure, his return to the Father through death, resurrection, and exaltation. He has said virtually the same thing to them earlier, in 14:19. The phrase kaiV o[yesqev me is sometimes taken to refer to the coming of the Holy Spirit after Jesus departs, but (as at 14:19) it is much more probable that it refers to the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to the disciples. There is no indication in the context that the disciples will see Jesus only with “spiritual” sight, as would be the case if the coming of the Spirit is in view.

16:17 tiv ejstin tou'to o} levgei hJmi'n The disciples appear not to have understood the majority of what Jesus has said. The statements which have caused them the most difficulty were in verse 16 (“a little while and you will not behold me, and again a little while, and you will see me”) and verse 10 (“because I am going to the Father and you will no longer behold me”). These appear to be mutually exclusive: how can Jesus say that he will disappear for a while and then reappear, and on the other hand say that he is going to the Father and thus they will see him no more? This is the first time the disciples have spoken since Judas (not Iscariot) spoke of his confusion in 14:22.

16:18 toV mikrovn These words really represent the heart of the difficulty for the disciples. They do not understand how Jesus is going to depart in only a little while, and then reappear to them a little while after that.

16:19 “Egnw oJ =Ihsou'"… The Evangelist informs us that Jesus anticipated their question. Supernatural knowledge of what was in the minds of the disciples is a possible, but not a necessary, inference here. The disciples had been speaking openly to one another, and Jesus repeats part of the questions they are asking among themselves. Their perplexity was probably evident.

Interestingly enough, when Jesus repeats the phrase mikroVn kaiV ouj qewrei'tev me, kaiV pavlin mikroVn kaiV o[yesqev me he does not repeat the exact wording of his own statement (in verse 16, where the negative is oujkevti) but the wording of the disciples’ repetition of his statement (in verse 17).

16:20 ajmhVn ajmhVn levgw uJmi'n… Jesus’ answer to the unasked question of the disciples begins here. Jesus, as often in the Fourth Gospel, does not answer their specific question about the time element (mikrovn) involved in his impending departure. Rather Jesus addresses what for the disciples is the real issue, their emotional distress at his departure. Jesus contrasts the response of the disciples to his death by crucifixion with the response of the unbelieving world. The disciples will mourn and grieve, but the world will rejoice to see the end of Jesus (compare the response of the world in Rev 11:10-11 to the deaths of the two witnesses).

16:21 hJ gunhV o{tan tivkth/ luvphn e[cei Jesus now compares the situation of the disciples to a woman in childbirth. Just as the woman in the delivery of her child experiences real pain and anguish, so the disciples will also undergo real anguish at the crucifixion of Jesus. But once the child has been born, the mother’s anguish is turned into joy, and she forgets the past suffering. The same will be true of the disciples, who after Jesus’ resurrection and reappearance to them will forget the anguish they suffered at his death on account of their joy.

16:22 kaiV uJmei'" ou nu'n meVn luvphn e[cete: Jesus now repeats the points he had made before the illustration (verse 20) with additional details. The disciples’ grief is already present (nu'ne[cete) as they struggle with the idea of Jesus leaving them. Jesus tells them he will see them again, once more a reference to the post-resurrection appearances he will make to the disciples. At that time no one will take their joy from them. The idea of permanence attached to the disciples’ joy at this point suggests more than just their joy in recognizing that Jesus has overcome death itself (20:20). They will also experience the permanent presence of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, as a result of Jesus’ departure (cf. 14:17).

Verse 22 is an allusion to Isa 66:14 LXX: “Then you shall see, and your heart shall be glad, and your bones shall flourish like the new grass; and the hand of the LORD shall be made known to his servants, but he shall be indignant toward his enemies.” The change from “you shall see [me]” to “I shall see you” places more emphasis on Jesus as the one who re-initiates the relationship with the disciples after his resurrection, but verse 16 (“you will see me”) is more like Isa 66:14. Further support for seeing this allusion as intentional is found in Isa 66:7, which uses the same imagery of the woman giving birth found in 16:21. In the context of Isaiah 66 the passages refer to the institution of the millennial kingdom, and in fact the last clause of 66:14 along with the following verses (15-17) have yet to be fulfilled. This is part of the tension of present and future eschatological fulfillment that runs throughout the NT, by virtue of the fact that there are two advents. Some prophecies are fulfilled or partially fulfilled at the first, while other prophecies or parts of prophecies await fulfillment at the second.

16:23-24 KaiV ejn ejkeivnh/ th'/ hJmevra/… There are two thoughts here. Jesus first tells the disciples that in that day they will ask (ejrwthvsete) him nothing. This most likely refers to the questions the disciples had had concerning Jesus’ departure. They will have no need to ask him anything any more, because the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will be residing in them permanently (verse 22, compare also 14:26 and 16:13), and he will give the disciples full understanding.

ajmhVn ajmhV levgw uJmi'n… A further thought is then introduced by Jesus’ use of ajmhVn ajmhVn. Whatever they ask the Father in Jesus’ name, the Father will give them. In 15:7 Jesus had promised, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.” The disciples will remain in intimate union with Jesus (note the consistency with the interpretation of mevnw in chapter 15), because they will have the permanent indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Thus they will be so intimately acquainted with the Father himself, that they will be able to ask him directly and expect an answer.

            5 E The disciples claim to understand who Jesus is and from whence he has come (16:25-33)

16:25 Tau'ta ejn paroimivai" lelavlhka uJmi'n This statement by Jesus gives the impression that his remarks to the disciples are drawing to a close. There is some difficulty in defining paroimivai" precisely: a translation like “parables” does not convey accurately the meaning. BAGD (629) suggest in general “proverb,” “maxim,” but for Johannine usage “dark saying,” “figure of speech, in which especially lofty ideas are concealed”. In the preceding context of the Last Discourse Jesus has certainly used obscure language and imagery at times: 13:8-11; 13:16; 15:1-17; and 16:21. In the LXX this word is used to translate the Hebrew lvm (mashal ) which covers a wide range of figurative speech, often containing obscure or enigmatic elements.

e[rcetai w{ra Jesus tells the disciples that a time is coming when he will no longer speak to them with this kind of figurative language, but will speak to them openly (parrhsiva/) concerning the Father. When will this take place? In light of the following verse where Jesus returns to the theme of the disciples asking the Father in his name, this would seem to refer to the situation of the disciples after the resurrection of Jesus.

16:26 ejn tw'/ ojnovmativ mou aijthvsesqe Here the theme of the disciples asking the Father directly is resumed from verses 23b-24. They will ask the Father in Jesus’ name themselves; they will not need Jesus to intercede for them. The reason for this is given in verse 27 following.

16:27 aujtoV" gaVr oJ pathVr fileiV uJma'" The reason why the disciples will be able after Jesus’ resurrection to petition the Father directly with their requests is because the Father himself loves them. This in turn is because the disciples have loved Jesus and believed that he has come from God. The Father is ready to hear and answer the prayers of the disciples because of their relationship to Jesus.

16:28 ejxh'lqon… This verse is a summary of the entire Gospel. It summarizes the earthly career of the Word made flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, on his mission from the Father to be the Saviour of the world, beginning with his entry into the world as he comes forth from God and concluding with his departure from the world as he returns to the Father. At this point in the discussion this statement explains further the statement in verse 27 that the Father is ready to hear the prayers of the disciples because of the relationship in which they stand to Jesus. Jesus is the mediator, the intermediary, between man and God, and this is the point of including the summary of his career in the present verse.

16:29-30 i[de nu'n ejn parrhsiva/ lalei'" How are we to take the disciples’ reply to Jesus that now they understand what he is saying to them? “Now you are speaking openly (ejn parrhsiva/) and no longer with figurative language (paroimivan),” said the disciples. These words seem a bit impulsive. It is difficult to believe that the disciples have really understood the full implications of Jesus’ words, although it is true that he spoke to them plainly and not figuratively in 16:26-28. The disciples will not fully understand all that Jesus has said to them until after his resurrection, when the Holy Spirit will give them insight and understanding (16:13).

16:31 a[rti pisteuvete… Jesus’ evaluation of the disciples’ response (verses 29-30) indicates that it was indeed premature. It does not imply that their faith in him is non-existent, but rather that at the present time it is inadequate. They have believed that he is the Messiah (cf. 2:11). They have yet to believe that he is both Lord and God (cf. 20:28). This expansion of their conception of who Jesus is cannot take place until after his resurrection.

16:32 ijdouV e[rcetai w{ra The proof of Jesus’ evaluation of the disciples’ faith is now given: Jesus foretells their abandonment of him at his arrest, trials, and crucifixion. This parallels the synoptic accounts in Matt 26:31 and Mark 14:27 when Jesus, after the Last Supper and on the way to Gethsemane, foretells the desertion of the disciples as a fulfillment of Zech 13:7—”Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Yet although the disciples abandon Jesus, he reaffirms that he is not alone, because the Father is still with him.

16:33 i{na ejn ejmoiV eijrhvnhn e[chte The purpose for which Jesus has told these things to the disciples is in order that they might have peace. Although the world will persecute the disciples (cf. 15:18-25 and 16:1-4a), they can take courage in the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the world (ejgwV nenivkhka toVn kovsmon). This is the only occurrence of the verb nikavw in the Fourth Gospel, although it occurs 6 times in 1 John, including similar phrases such as 5:4, and 17 times in Revelation.

The Last Discourse proper closes on this triumphant note, which recalls 1:5 of the Prologue: “the Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has not mastered it”. Jesus’ words which follow in chapter 17 are addressed not the the disciples but to his Father, as he prays for the consecration of the disciples.

Related Topics: Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit)