Text: John 16
Event(s): Jesus continues His upper room discussion with the disciples
Jesus’ method of teaching was not to give a thorough explanation of one subject, then a thorough explanation of another subject, and so on. It was rather to introduce several subjects initially, then return to them and give a little more information, then return again and give even more information. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is the main subject of this next section of the discourse.
John 16:1 “that you should not be made to stumble” The word used for stumble here means to be caught unaware. In other words, Jesus didn’t want the events that would come to pass to take the disciples by surprise. Even though not everything He was teaching them would make sense, He was giving them and teaching them the pieces they would need and when the time came to intersect with the events He mentioned, the Holy Spirit would be faithful to bring back to memory what Jesus had taught them and it would all fit together and make sense (as Jesus goes on to say He would in verse 4).
John 16:5-6 “and none of you asks Me, “Where are you going?…sorrow has filled your heart.” Because the disciples were so focused on what Jesus’ leaving would mean to them, they could not even think to ask or be excited about the bigger picture of what God was doing. We can be like that too sometimes. This is great to learn from, that when we feel discouraged, perhaps we’re missing the bigger picture.
John 16:9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me” Verse 9, 10, and 11 explain what Jesus said in verse 8. Let’s break these down. The goodness and mercy of God pursues us all the days of our lives. The Holy Spirit is right now, heavily pursuing that unbelieving friend or relative. But it’s important to recognize that He’s not pursuing them to try and tell them everything they’re doing wrong. (How many times have we tried this approach with leading our friends or relatives to God and failed miserably?) The “sin” this is referring to is their unbelief. As the Holy Spirit pursues an unbeliever the conviction He’s attempting to touch their hearts with is their need for Jesus. We participate in God’s plan most effectively when we do the same, for we have been given the ministry and the message of reconciliation. We get to share the “good news”. Once we are believers, the Holy Spirit does convict us of sin in our lives, but it doesn’t drive us away from God, instead it pulls us closer towards Him.
John 16:10 “of righteousness, because I go to my Father and you see me no more” The Spirit also convicts by pointing us to the One and only righteous One. The Holy Spirit brings the revelation to their hearts that because Jesus rose from the dead – they can be in right standing with God (positional righteousness). As well as the truth that the triumphant work of Christ proves the availability of righteousness to us. Meaning, we are empowered to not have to live the way we used to (ethical righteousness).
John 16:11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” The power of the enemy has been broken over our lives as believers. Jesus came to destroy the works of the evil one (1 John 3:8) and He truly brought an end to the enemy’s hold over us. The Christian walk is about having confidence and standing in a posture of victory.
John 16:13 “He will guide you into all truth…” It’s not through a well crafted argument or through a powerful presentation that the light goes on in a person’s heart and they turn to God. (This is why we must be careful to not get caught up in meaningless debates. Titus 2:9; 2 Timothy 2:23). It’s only by the word of the Spirit that people who are spiritually blind begin to see.
John 16:33 “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I love what one commentator said about this, “The Christian race is the only race in the world that begins at the finish line. We don’t fight for victory. We fight from victory. The battle’s already won. Jesus has already overcome. No wonder He says, “Be of good cheer.”
Today’s Takeaway: I want to go back to what I touched on in verse 1. Namely, that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to bring back to memory what has been spoken to our hearts. Jesus knew what and when to give the disciples instruction, direction, teaching – many times, before they even needed it. When it comes to reading the Bible, praying, etc. I have found this is very much the case. And it makes me sad when I hear people say they don’t read the word because they “don’t get anything out of it.”
In reading with an open heart, I have found that the seeds of the word are deposited in my heart. Sometimes, God does speak to me immediately; a comforting or strengthening word that I need right at that moment. But at other times, especially when it may not seem like anything jumps right out at me, I know I’m depositing the good seed of His word in my heart and it will produce the work He intends for it to produce in my life. It will never return void (Isaiah 55:11). And it never fails that at the right time, the Holy Spirit brings it back to me; whether for myself, or to be used as encouragement for another. Thy Word have I hid in my heart…Trust and believe that the more you deposit the life of the word in you, it will produce life. A harvest, in fact.
Additional (optional) reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 (MSG or NLT); Isaiah 55:11; Titus 2:9; 2 Timothy 2:23