How to Handle a Hostile World (John 16)
In what is perhaps the most significant Christian book of this decade, J. I. Packer speaks to a certain type of evangelical ministry which is well-intentioned, but cruel.149 It is a ministry which means to offer men hope and encouragement by portraying the Christian life as a kind of utopian desert island, free from the trials and cares of life.150
In actuality it creates great upset in the lives of untaught Christians. Salvation in Jesus Christ does not promise freedom from difficulties.151 It does promise peace with God and the power to cope with life’s trials. When unsuspecting Christians encounter trials which they did not expect, they tend to question the reality of their faith, or the vitality of their spiritual life. Often they perceive problems as divine punishment for evils unwittingly committed.
Often this kind of teaching and ministry can result in despair. Many come to faith in Christ because of personal problems and difficulties. They are wrongly promised quick and easy solutions to life’s troubles if they simply trust in Christ as their Savior. They turn to God in desperation. But when their problems remain it appears that God has forsaken them. If God cannot deliver them, what hope is left?
The disciples of our Lord viewed the teaching of Jesus through rose-colored glasses as well. Their hope was for a Messiah who would come in a spectacular blaze of glory and who would put away all the evils and injustices of life.
As our Lord’s days on earth came to an end, more and more time was spent preparing the disciples for a future quite different than that for which they had hoped. Jesus would be put to a shameful death, and in His absence, the disciples would find themselves the object of the world’s hostility toward the Savior of men (cf. John 15:18ff.)
In the sixteenth chapter of the gospel of John, our Lord taught His followers what they should expect from an unbelieving world. He also revealed how a Christian can handle a hostile world. It is my hope that as we study this chapter we will come to see the Christian experience in the world for what it is and that we may learn from these words of the Master how to cope with these realities.
Opposition and the Necessity of Divine Enablement
The subject of persecution has already been introduced in chapter 15. It is the natural outgrowth of abiding in Christ (John 15:18-24). Love for one another is no option where Christians are despised for their faith in Christ. Abiding in Christ necessitates love for the brethren. We must love one another to prove ourselves to be His disciples (John 15:8-13). So we must love one another because we shall find little encouragement and comfort from the world.
The first provision of our Lord for those facing opposition is to be assured that it is a part of God’s will for our lives. In the words of the well-known proverb, ‘To be forewarned is to be forearmed.’ I can understand how it would be necessary for our Lord to inform His disciples of such hatred and animosity. Previous experience had not suggested it to them to any great degree. They had witnessed the crowds following Jesus, seeking to see Him and to touch Him. What little opposition Jesus had faced had been from a relatively small, but influential, group of the nation’s religious leaders. The triumphal entry fostered the hopes of the disciples that the sentiments of the masses would prevail.
Then, too, the Messianic expectations of the disciples did not include thoughts of suffering and rejection. They knew of passages which spoke of Messiah’s rejection and suffering (1 Peter 1:10,12), but practically, they set these aside in favor of more optimistic prophecies. They expected Messiah to gloriously reveal Himself, to win the support of the people, and to triumph over evil and especially Israel’s enemies. Suffering and rejection, until the last few days of Jesus’ life and ministry, were given little, if any, serious consideration.
Opposition had not yet been directed toward the disciples. The resistance that had surfaced during Jesus’ earthly ministry had come from the religious leaders who were as yet afraid to attack Jesus openly due to His popular support (cf. Matthew 21:26,46). The execution of the Savior was made possible by the rejection of Jesus by the common people. From then on hostility would be intense, and in the absence of the Master, it would be focused upon His disciples. More than anything else, the disciples needed to realize that such opposition was to be expected. It was a part of God’s plan for His own.
Not only was the opposition to be severe, even unto death (John 16:2), but it was to be religious in origin. Those who hotly pursued Christians were not atheists who believed in no god at all; they were devoted adherents of orthodox religion who considered their deeds an act of religious devotion (verse 2).152 Saul, before his conversion, carried out his work with religious passion (cf. Acts 9:1,2; 22:1-15; 26:4-12). Hostility clothed in the garb of religiosity, has always dealt harshly with its opponents.153
Unbelief so dominated the minds of men that they put the Messiah to death and would attempt to do the same to His disciples. Such opposition necessitated divine enablement if a lost world was to be won to Christ and the church was to survive. But verses 5 and 6 remind us that the disciples also needed divine enablement. It was their hardness of heart that kept them from accepting the truth which Jesus had revealed to them about His coming destiny, and theirs.
Jesus had told them He was going, and yet, He said, none of them was asking (present tense) Him where (verse 5). Now Peter had asked (John 13:36). And they still did not understand what Jesus meant by this (John 16:17:ff), but for the moment they would not ask. The reason for their present reticence, I believe, is found in verse 6: “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” While the disciples did not understand the predictions of Jesus, they did perceive that their outcome was not what they desired. Their hearts were filled with sorrow. It was an unpleasant subject, and they did not really want to understand more at the moment.
When our family goes home to visit with our parents, we find the last couple of hours before we must leave the most painful. We are often considerably more subdued and quiet, and we avoid the delicate subject of our departure. That, I believe, is what our Lord is referring to. The disciples lack of faith evidenced itself in a kind of resistance to explore future. For this reason, they, too, needed divine enablement.
Let us beware of coming down on the disciples for their avoidance of persecution and opposition. Suffering is not a popular subject among Christians today, either. Unfortunately, modern-day evangelistic methods have adopted the techniques of Madison Avenue. The approach is to capitalize on the positive benefits of the faith, ignoring or underestimating the costs involved. Evangelism is conducted more like the college athletic draft than the proclamation of the truth. We pick those who appear to be the most likely to succeed and then offer them all kinds of inducements to join up with God’s team. No wonder so many new Christians stumble over the opposition they face. Life in Christ is not what it was said to be. Fortunately for Christians, the courts have not yet entertained suits pertaining to false advertising in evangelistic efforts.
How sad it is that Christians have not understood that adversity is a part of discipleship. In the process of sugar-coating the gospel, we have placed a snare in the path of new converts. They expect a life of ease and they learn to their dismay that it is a life of struggle and opposition. The first thing we must know in order to handle a hostile world is that the world is hostile to Christ and His followers.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Contrary to some popular teaching, the world is not beating on our door for the good news of the gospel (cf. 1 Peter 4:12ff.). Men are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). They are blind to spiritual truths (2 Corinthians 4:4). They are enemies of our Lord and His people. While we are called to be witnesses (John 15:27), such testimony would be useless apart from divine intervention in the affairs of men. This is what is promised by our Lord in verses 7-11.
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
The departure of the Lord Jesus should not be a cause of grief, but a source of great blessing and encouragement. If our Lord did not ‘go away’ it would have been impossible for the Holy Spirit to come. When Jesus departed, He sent the Holy Spirit to minister in His stead (verse 7), and this would result in even greater miracles (in quantity) than those of our Lord (John 14:12).
The ministry of the Holy Spirit, with respect to the unbelieving world, is to confirm the witness of the believer. The matter of witnessing is a cooperative venture, involving men and the Holy Spirit. “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).
Our responsibility is to provide ‘external’ witness to the truth. We are to speak the truths of the gospel to men in such a way as to demonstrate their need of salvation. The Spirit’s task is to give ‘internal’ witness to the truths of the gospel. Our Lord described this internal witness as ‘convicting.’154
It would seem that there are various degrees of conviction, and that it is conducted at several levels. Not all men would experience the same degree of conviction, nor would all respond to it by repentance and faith in Christ. Conviction would seem to be universal on its lowest level. There is a certain amount of revelation available to all men (Romans 1,2). The Holy Spirit brings the issue presented by these facts into focus, so that men must see that the weight of the evidence demands a decision in agreement with God. A second level of conviction is on a moral plane. Inwardly, the Holy Spirit touches the conscience of man, bringing an inner sense of guilt, due to sin. The standard violated may be that of divine law, or simply of one’s own standards for the conduct of others (Romans 2).
The conviction of the Holy Spirit is necessary on both of these levels due to man’s fallenness. The doctrine of total depravity explains the effect of the fall on all men, in that every part of our being (intellect, emotions, will) has been polluted by sin. The convicting ministry of the Spirit overrides the effect of the fall on man’s mind by sharpening the focus on the issues of the gospel (or at least concerning some revelation of God, Romans 1). The evidence demands that men conclude with the Scriptures that there is a mighty, creative God Whose greatness is evidenced in creation. Man’s conscience has been rendered insensitive to sin, and so the Spirit at least momentarily and partially overcomes that insensitivity to bring an awareness of guilt.
One can be aware of the issues of the gospel and have a consciousness of personal sin and still not be saved. Man’s fallen will must also be changed in order to enable him to respond to the God toward which he is actively hostile (cf. Acts 16:14; Philippians 1:29). More than this, man is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and he must be given life if he is to respond to the call of the gospel (Ephesians 2:5; Titus 3:5).
In this way we can see that the work of the Holy Spirit has a universal scope, while at the same time all men are not saved by His ministry of conviction. Once the convicting work of the Spirit has taken place, man cannot plead an ignorance of the issues or of his need of salvation. Fundamentally, the reason for man’s unbelief is not ignorance but arrogance. He does not believe, not for intellectual reasons, but for moral reasons he will not believe. Man does not believe because he will not believe. From a human standpoint, man cannot be saved because he will not be saved.
So we see that the outcome of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to unsaved men is at least two-fold. They are intellectually cornered and morally conscience-stricken. But they are not necessarily converted. The verdict demanded by the Holy Spirit is that men are sinners and that the gospel is the only way of salvation.
The case pressed upon unbelieving mankind is primarily threefold: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8).
The first issue is that of a man’s personal sin. Although many lines of evidence could easily be brought against him, there is one primary issue and that is unbelief. Men may differ as to whether or not a certain action is a sin, but no one can excuse willful unbelief in the person of Jesus Christ. Perhaps, my friend, you have chosen to believe that God would judge men on the curve, and you have hoped to be in the winning half. First and foremost, I believe God is concerned with one thing: what have you done with His Son? He was sent to reveal the truth of God (John 1:14-18). Have you believed in Him? He was sent to bear the sins of the world and to provide the righteousness you need for eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:21). Have you trusted in Him? You may make all kinds of professions, but it is the Spirit of God Who searches your heart and either convicts of sin and unbelief or of faith and being a child of God (John 16:9; Romans 8:15-17).
The second issue pressed by God’s Spirit is that of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The unbelievers of Jesus’ day had concluded that He was a sinner (John 9:24) and that they were righteous (Luke 18:9). The Holy Spirit works to reverse this decision. The main line of evidence is that of the empty tomb. “… concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me” (John 16:10).
Three days after the crucifixion of our Lord He began to appear to His disciples, who were chosen to be witnesses of His resurrection (Acts 1:22; 2:32). Our Lord’s post-resurrection appearances proved that death could not hold Him in its power (Romans 1:4). Then the apostles saw Him no more, for He had ascended to the Father. His ascension (evidenced by the fact that His disciples saw Him no more) proved that the Lord Jesus was righteous and acceptable to the Father to Whom He returned (cf. Acts 2:24-36). The empty grave enabled the Christian church to be born with great power in the very city where Jesus had been executed and buried.
The third issue which the Holy Spirit brings before men is that of future judgment. If all men are sinners, rightly condemned before God, and they have rejected Jesus Christ, God’s only provision for salvation, then the only fate which awaits them is certain judgment. Certainty of man’s judgment is established on the fact that the prince of sinners, Satan himself, has already been judged on the cross of Calvary (John 12:31).155 If God has dealt decisively with His chief opponent, surely He will eventually judge all those who have chosen to follow him in rejecting Jesus Christ.
While Christians do live in a hostile world where men not only reject the Savior, but also those who trust in Him, God has not left us to our own devices. Our witness is effective in the salvation of men’s souls because of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit to the essential truth of the gospel, sin, righteousness and judgment.
Several truths pertaining to evangelism should be evident from our Lord’s words concerning the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit:
First, while it is our obligation to present the claims of Christ to unbelievers (John 15:27; Acts 1:8, etc.), it is not our job to convince men, nor to convert them. Ultimately, ‘Salvation is of the Lord’ (Jonah 2:9). We often make enemies of the unsaved by attempting to convince men through persuasive techniques or argumentative force. People are not argued into the Kingdom of God. Witnessing is our task; winning souls is not. Often times we may feel that our witness has fallen upon deaf ears. But long after we have left, the Spirit can press home the truths of the gospel.
Second, it should almost go without saying that sin, righteousness, and judgment should be the core of our evangelistic message. These are the truths to which the Spirit will bear witness. Obviously, those are the truths of which we are assured of God’s inner witness by the Spirit. And yet having said this, how seldom the gospel is presented in these terms. Every man is a sinner. His unbelief is manifested in a variety of overt actions and inner attitudes. Jesus Christ alone is the sinless Son of God. He alone can serve as our substitute and bear our penalty for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And for all who reject Christ as the righteousness of God, there awaits the judgment of God. Men without Christ are destined for eternity apart from God (2 Thessalonians 1:9), and sharing Satan’s doom (Matthew 25:41).
It is not just fallen men who need the truths of God impressed upon their minds and hearts, it is true believers who need the ministry of the Holy Spirit also. The disciples were unable to grasp the true meaning of the words of the Lord. In verses 5 and 6 of chapter 16, the Lord had once again brought out the dullness of the hearts and minds of the disciples which made them unable to grasp what He said, and even unwilling to seek the truth, because of their grief and sorrow (verse 6).
We know this inability to comprehend spiritual truths to be true of every Christian (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Even the Christian cannot comprehend divine truth unaided by the Holy Spirit. Just as the Spirit overcomes the effects of the fall on unsaved men to convince them of sin, righteousness, and judgment, so He illuminates and instructs Christians in the truths of God (John 16:12-15). There was much that Jesus wished to share with His disciples, but it would have been to no avail. The work of the cross was not yet accomplished. They would never understand this except as they looked back upon it. Jesus’ departure was necessary so that the greater work of the Holy Spirit could be accomplished in the lives of the disciples.
This work was to “guide them into all the truth” (verse 13). This ‘truth’ is not any and every truth—e.g., the truth of science, etc., as some have asserted. Jesus clarified His statement by telling us that it is all ‘the’ truth. The truth refers primarily to those truths pertaining to the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ (verses 13-15). Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (14:6) and yet the disciples did not understand these truths pertaining to Christ as yet. This would be the ministry of the Spirit to the disciples, removing the veil of fallenness from over their hearts and minds, disclosing the meaning and significance of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Apart from our Lord’s death and departure and the coming of the Spirit, He could have spent decades, even centuries, with His disciples and they still would not have grasped the meaning of His words concerning His departure. Only in retrospect by the illumination of the Holy Spirit did the disciples come to understand the meaning of Christ’s life and teaching.
The Relationship Between Sorrow and Joy
In spite of all the teaching of the Master, there still remained a cloud of confusion concerning His words. Jesus once more reiterated, in a somewhat indirect fashion, the fact that He was shortly to depart from His disciples by death, and then in a short while to return to them after His resurrection (verse 16).
This statement served to further frustrate the followers of our Lord who could make neither heads nor tails of what He was saying. Their theology of the coming kingdom contained nothing which would explain these words. Having asked before, they were reluctant to bring the subject up again. They revealed their confusion as they spoke to one another trying to determine what Jesus meant by His words.
Jesus answered their question, but in a different fashion than they expected. He would speak clearly in a few moments (cf. verse 28), but first He must deal with the problem underlying their question. The disciples refused to consider any explanation concerning the future which included suffering (cf. Matthew 16:21-23). They could not imagine how Messiah’s suffering could be consistent with His reign in glory. Because of this underlying misconception, Jesus explained the relationship between suffering and glory. Interestingly enough, Jesus did not speak of this in relation to Himself, but as it would be experienced by His followers. (Could this imply that the disciples were more concerned about their own suffering than that of Jesus?)
It was certain that the disciples would experience deep sorrow in the near future (verse 20). In contrast to this, the world would rejoice. They will grieve over the loss of their closest companion, but the world will think, “Good riddance!”
The eleven had come to look at sorrow as the enemy of joy, and this was simply not true. Suffering did not prevent glory; it prepared the way for it. God has not called us to suffer so that later He can take it away and replace it with glory. Suffering is the way to glory. Glory could not be attained through any other means but suffering.
An illustration of this is found in the birth of a child (verse 21). There is nothing pleasant about the labor pains which a woman endures in the child-bearing process. I have witnessed this with my wife six times, so I have some experience in this area. Obviously, my wife has even greater credentials here. But it is the pains of childbirth which prepare the mother’s body for the birth of the child. It is by means of the labor pains that a child is brought to life. Further, the pains of birth are forgotten in the joy of giving life. How quickly forgotten are all the unpleasant experiences of the birth process once the new child is in its mother’s arms. There will be sorrow for the disciples, but this sorrow is a necessary part of the process by which God gives life to fallen men. In the joys of new life, these sorrows will be considered worthwhile and will be quickly overshadowed by the glory that is sure to follow godly suffering.
The questions which filled the minds of the disciples would all be answered on the day in which sorrow is swallowed up by joy (verse 23). Their problem was one of perspective. From the perspective of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Savior, all of these things would fall into place. At this time, there will be no more questions for they will understand how suffering brings joy and victory. Instead of seeking the answers to their questions, they will devote themselves to prayer, by which God Himself will meet their every need.
We have not really given proper emphasis to the matter of prayer in the upper room discourse of chapters 14-16. Communion with our Lord since His ascension is to be carried on through the Word of God (John 14:21,23,26; 15:7,10; 16:12-15; 17:17) and prayer (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23f.). Repeatedly, Jesus assured His disciples of answered prayer.
Final Words of Assurance
The last recorded words of our Lord to His disciples (as recorded by John) before the awful events of that night are found in verses 25-33. They are not words of warning, but of assurance. Fear is never a healthy perspective by which to view the future. Jesus’ words are those which encourage faith.
His first assurance concerns one of the most distressing things the disciples faced: Jesus’ words about the future were obscure and confusing to their troubled minds. The Master promised them that in a short while they would understand all that they needed to live godly lives (verse 25).
Assurance was also rooted in the promise of an intimacy with the Father not previously known (verses 26-27). It would be incorrect to view the present ministry of our Lord in heaven, as one of continual pleading with the Father to bless and supply the needs of true believers. In a sense, that was necessary before the work of the cross. But after the Son died on the cross and the wrath of God against sinners was appeased, an intimacy with the Father was accomplished for the saints. God is not reluctant and unwilling to bless His children. He does not need to be pestered and prodded by the Son. He, Himself, loves His own and intimately involves Himself with their needs as a loving Father.156
Assurance is further given by a clear reaffirmation of Jesus as the divine Son of God, sent from the Heavenly Father, and soon to return to Him. “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world. I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father” (John 16:28).
These words of the Savior reinforced the faltering faith of the disciples: “His disciples said, ‘Lo, now You are speaking plainly, and are not using a figure of speech. Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God” (John 16:29,30).
But the most assuring certitude is yet to come. Yes, the disciples did find comfort and confidence in the words of Jesus. But in the storm of opposition that would soon come upon them their faith would seemingly be swept away. “Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone; because the Father is with Me” (John 16:31,32).
Is this not a word of warning, rather than of comfort? Jesus has predicted that the disciples will flee when the going gets rough within a short time. What the disciples needed to know was that ultimate victory was not dependent upon their faith, but upon the work of the Savior on the cross of Calvary. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
It is in Christ that we have peace. It is in Him that we overcome the world. Far too much emphasis these days is placed upon the quality of our faith rather than in the infinite goodness and power of the object of our faith, Jesus Christ.
Our perception of situations is not often what it should be. Surely our performance falls far short of divine standards. Our assurance and faith in times of trial and opposition seem to crumble. It is not that faith is unimportant. God forbid that anyone should suggest this, for “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). But let us not place our assurance and confidence in our faith. Our faith is of no more value than the object in which it is placed. Victory and peace are in Jesus Christ. Victory has been won. And we, too, shall overcome as we abide in Him. Praise God!
149 I highly commend for your careful reading, J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973). Here I refer particularly to Chapter 21 entitled, “These Inward Trials,” pp. 221-229.
150 “The type of ministry that is here in mind starts by stressing, in an evangelistic context, the difference that becoming a Christian will make. Not only will it bring a man forgiveness of sins, peace of conscience, and fellowship with God as his Father; it will also mean that, through the power of the indwelling Spirit, he will be able to overcome the sins that previously mastered him, and the light and leading that God will give him will enable him to find a way through problems of guidance, self-fulfillment, personal relations, heart’s desire, and such like, which had hitherto defeated him completely. Now, put like that, in general terms, these great assurances are scriptural and true—praise God, they are! But it is possible so to stress them, and so to play down the rougher side of the Christian life—the daily chastening, the endless war with sin and Satan, the periodic walk in darkness as to give the impression that normal Christian living is a perfect bed of roses, a state of affairs in which everything in the garden is lovely all the time, and problems no longer exist—or, if they come, they have only to be taken to the throne of grace, and they will melt away at once. This is to suggest that the world, the flesh, and the devil, will give a man no serious trouble once he is a Christian; nor will his circumstances and personal relationships ever be a problem to himself. Such suggestions are mischievous, however, because they are false.” Ibid., p. 222.
151 Note, for example, these words of the apostle Paul: “And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). The life of this great apostle was not a carefree existence (cf. 2. Corinthians 6:4-10).
152 It is interesting that the expression ‘offering service to God’ (verse 2), is a technical religious phrase, most often employed to describe the offering of a sacrifice. Cf. B. F. Wescott, The Gospel According to St. John, Reprint (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), p. 226.
154 William Hendriksen has a very helpful footnote pertaining to the Greek word (elengko) most often translated convict, convince, or reprove. He suggests that the Greek term has the same elasticity of meaning as its English counterparts. Convincing has a more intellectual flavor while conviction seems to deal with the moral consciousness of man. Cf. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953), II, fn. 200, pp. 324-325.
Note also Wescott’s comments on the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit: “Whatever the final issue may be, he who “convicts” another places the truth of the case in dispute in a clear light before him, so that it must be seen and acknowledged as truth. He who then rejects the conclusion which this exposition involves, rejects it with his eyes open and at his peril. Truth seen as truth carries with it condemnation to all who refuse to welcome it.” B. F. Wescott, John, p. 228.
155 The tense used is a perfect. It emphasizes the abiding results of Satan’s judgment. A past tense is legitimately employed to emphasize the certainty of Satan’s doom, even though the work of the cross was yet future when Jesus spoke these words.
156 “There is no contradiction with passages speaking of Christ’s perpetual intercession for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), nor with that in which John calls Him “an Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:l). In all four passages there is one basic underlying thought, namely, that our approach to the Father rests firmly on Christ’s priestly work for us. That work is itself a perpetual intercession. It does not require to be supplemented by further intervention on our behalf. There is also a firm exclusion of the thought that the disciples should enlist Christ’s prayers for them as though He were more merciful and more ready to hear than is the Father.” Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 710.
Morris also cites Calvin as saying, “when Christ is said to intercede with the Father for us, let us not imagine anything fleshly about Him, as if He were on His knees before the Father offering humble supplications. But the power of His sacrifice, by which He once pacified God towards us, is always powerful and efficacious. The blood by which He atoned for our sins, the obedience which He rendered, is a continual intercession for us. This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that we have the heart of God as soon as we place before Him the name of His Son.” Ibid., p. 710, fn. 64.