John 16 Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
John 16
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
XVI.

[(2) THE LAST WORDS OF DEEPEST MEANING TO THE FAITHFUL FEW (continued).

(f)Their relation to the world and the promise of the Paraclete explained more fully (John 16:1-33).

(α)Though the world will hate them, it is still expedient that He should depart from them (John 16:1-7)

(β)The coming of the Paraclete and His office (John 16:8-15);

(γ)His own departure and return. Their sorrow the birth-pangs of joy (John 16:16-24);

(δ)He promises a full revelation of the Father (John 16:25-28).

(ε)Their faith is now weak, though they think it strong (John 16:29-32); their future shall be one of tribulation, but He has overcome the world (John 16:33).]

These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
(1) These things have I spoken unto you.—Comp. Note on John 15:17. Here, too, the reference is to the things which he had just said (John 16:17-27). He had foretold them of the hatred of the world and also of the witness of the Spirit.

That ye should not be offended.—Comp. Matthew 11:6; Matthew 13:21; Matthew 24:10, et al. In St. John the word occurs only here and in John 6:61.

They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
(2) They shall put you out of the synagogues.—Comp. Notes on John 9:22; John 12:42.

Will think that he doeth God service.—Better, will think that he offereth to God a sacrificial service. The word rendered “doeth” in the Authorised version, is the technical word for offering sacrifice. (Comp., e.g., Notes on Matthew 5:23; Matthew 8:4.) The word rendered “service” means the service of worship. This will be seen by a comparison of the other instances where it occurs in the New Testament—they are Romans 9:4; Romans 12:1, and Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:6. A Rabbinic comment on Numbers 25:13, is, “Whosoever sheddeth the blood of the wicked is as he who offereth sacrifice.” The martyrdom of Stephen, or St. Paul’s account of himself as a persecutor (Acts 26:9; Galatians 1:13-14), shows how these words were fulfilled in the first years of the Church’s history, and such accounts are not absent from that history’s latest page.

And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
(3) Because they have not known the Father, nor me.—Comp. Note on John 15:21. He repeats that ignorance of God is the cause of the world’s hatred and persecution, and adds here that it is ignorance of God revealed in Himself. There is a special force in the mention of this ignorance in connection with the previous verse. Men think that in exclusion, and anathemas, and persecutions, and deaths of men made like themselves in the image of God, they are offering to God an acceptable sacrifice. They can know nothing of the true nature of the living Father who pitieth every child, and willeth not the death of a sinner, and gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. They know nothing of the long-suffering and compassion of the Son of Man, who pleaded even for His murderers, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
(4) But these things have I told you . . .—He recurs to the thought of John 16:1. (Comp. also John 13:19; John 14:29.) He strengthens them by forewarning them. When the persecution comes they will remember His word, and find in it support for their faith and evidence of His presence with them.

These things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.—While with them, He would spare them, and it was against Himself that the hatred of His foes was directed. When He shall have left them they will represent Him, and must stand in the foreground of the battle.

These words seem to be opposed to Matthew 10 and parallel passages, where our Lord did tell the Apostles at the time of their call of the persecutions which awaited them. (See especially John 16:17; John 16:21; John 16:28.) The passages are not, however, really inconsistent, for “these things” in this verse (comp. John 16:3; John 16:1, and John 15:21) refers to the full account He has given them of the world’s hatred and the principles lying at the foot of it, and the manner in which it was to be met by the Spirit’s witness and their witness of Him. These things which the infant Church would have to meet, and meet without His bodily presence, He told them not at the beginning.

But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
(5) But now I go my way to him that sent me.—(Comp. John 13:1; John 14:12.) The work of His apostleship on earth was drawing to its close, and He was about to return to the Father from whom He had received it. This was to Him matter of joy, and if they had really loved Him would have been so to them. They would have thought of the future before Him, as He was then thinking, in the fulness of His love, of the future before them.

And none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?—Peter had asked this very question (John 13:36), and Thomas had implied it (John 14:5), but what the words here mean is, “None of you are out of love for Me asking about the place whither I am going. Your thoughts are not with Me. It is to you as nothing that I am returning to Him that sent Me.”

But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
(6) Sorrow hath filled your heart.—The thought of their own separation from Him, and of the dark future which lay before them, so filled their hearts that it left room for no thoughts of Him, and the brightness of the glory to which He was returning.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
(7) Nevertheless I tell you the truth.—The words He is about to utter are words of strange sound for the ears of disciples, and He prefaces them by an appeal to His own knowledge and candour in dealing with them, as in John 14:2. The pronoun bears the weight of the emphasis, “I, who know all.”

It is expedient for you that I go away.—“There is no cause,” He would say, “for the deep sorrow which has filled your hearts. It is for your advantage that I, as distinct from the Paraclete, who is to come, should go away” (John 14:16). Yes; for those who had left all to follow Him; for those who had none to go to but Himself (John 6:68); for those whose hopes were all centred in Him, it was—hard and incomprehensible as the saying must have seemed—an advantage that He should go away.

For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.—Better, . . . the Advocate will not come unto you. (Comp. Excursus G.) For the connection between the departure of Christ and the coming of the Advocate, comp. Notes on John 7:39, and Acts 2:33. We may not fathom the deep counsels of God in which the reason of these words is to be found; but the order fixed in these counsels was that the Son of Man should complete His work on earth, and offer the sacrifice of Himself for sin, and rise from the dead, and ascend to the Father’s throne, before the Advocate should come. The Son of Man was to be glorified before the Spirit was to be given. Humanity was to ascend to heaven before the Spirit could be sent to humanity on earth. The revelation of saving truth was to be complete before inspiration was to breathe it as the breath of life into man’s soul. The conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment could only follow the finished work of Christ.

But if I depart, I will send him unto you.—Our translators have sought to show the distinction between the words used in the earlier clauses, “I go away,” and that used here, “I depart”; but probably few English readers will have observed it. The former word means, “I go away from you,” the latter, “I go away to the Father.” For the thought of this clause, comp. Note on John 14:16; John 15:25.

And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
(8) And when he is come, he will reprove the world.—Better, as in margin, convince the world. (Comp. John 3:20; John 8:46.) The only other passages where it occurs in the Gospels are in Matthew 18:15, and Luke 3:19. It is not in the better reading of John 8:9; but it occurs not unfrequently in the Epistles. (See especially Note on 1Corinthians 14:24.) This conviction of the world is by witness concerning Christ (John 15:26). It is the revelation to the hearts of men of the character and work of Christ, and, therefore, a refutation of the evil in their hearts. The result of this conviction is two-fold, according as men embrace it, accept its chastening discipline, and are saved by it; or reject it, and in the rejection harden their hearts, and are thus condemned by it. (Comp. 2Corinthians 2:15-16.) The effect of St. Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost is the first great historical comment on this verse; but the comment is continued in the whole history of the Church’s work. The remainder of the verse enumerates the three steps in this conviction, which are more fully defined in the three following verses.

Of sin, because they believe not on me;
(9) Of sin, because they believe not on me.—This should not be interpreted, as it very frequently is, of the sin of unbelief, but of sin generally; unbelief in Christ is stated as the cause of sin. Sin is missing the aim of life, the disordered action of powers that have lost their controlling principle. Christ is the revelation to the world of the Father’s love. In union with God through Him the soul finds the centre of its being, and the true purpose of its life. By the witness of Christ the Holy Spirit convinces men that He is the centre of the moral harmony of the Universe, and that through Him their spirits have access to God. This conviction reveals to them their sin, because they believe not on Him. Its effect is salutary or condemnatory, according as we are convinced and converted by it, or refuse its influence and remain convicted.

Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
(10) Of righteousness, because I go to my Father.—In the conviction of sin, the world is convinced of its own sin by the Spirit’s representation of Christ to it. That representation of Christ brings also the conviction of righteousness, but this is the righteousness of Christ, not that of the world. The conviction of Christ’s righteousness necessarily precedes that of the heart’s own sin. The light makes the darkness visible, and the revelation of the darkness shows the clearness of the light. The special reason of the conviction of righteousness is the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. Men had called Him a sinner (John 9:24), and His crucifixion was the world’s assertion that He was a malefactor (John 18:30); but even when He was hanging upon the cross there came to the centurion’s mind the conviction, “Truly this Man was innocent” (see Luke 23:47); and moreover His return to the Father was Heaven’s witness to His righteousness. For the way in which this conviction was brought home to the hearts of the Apostles, and through them to the hearts of mankind, comp. especially Acts 2:27; Acts 2:31; Acts 2:36-37. See also Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52; 1Peter 3:18; 1John 2:1; 1John 2:29; 1John 3:7.

And ye see me no more.—The word means, “look upon,” “behold.” The going to the Father would cause that they should gaze upon His bodily presence no more; but the Spirit’s witness of Him, which would convince the world of sin and righteousness, would be, to them a truer presence of their Lord than any which physical eye could see. The eye of the spirit sees the reality; the eye of the body only looks upon the appearance.

Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
(11) Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.—Comp. Notes on John 3:17-18, and John 12:30-31. The tense here is perfect, marking the completion of the condemnation. “The prince of this world hath been and remaineth judged.” The conviction is regarded from the point of view of the coming of the Advocate when Christ’s work shall have been completed. That work is the redemption of the world, and is, therefore, the condemnation of the prince of this world. The conviction of this judgment follows upon that of sin and upon that of righteousness. The two kingdoms stand out in clear distinction. The power of the prince of this world is overcome by the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The King of Righteousness is in victory seated upon His throne, and claims mankind, whose nature He has assumed and whom He has redeemed, to be free from sin and servants of righteousness.

It is not within the scope of these Notes to discuss the theories of interpretation, and the many difficulties which attend every interpretation of John 16:7-11. All that can be attempted is to place the reader in possession of what seems to be the simplest meaning of the words. A more full treatment is the less necessary as a complete discussion of the whole subject is easily accessible in the Sermons of the late Archdeacon of Lewes, preached before the University of Cambridge, in 1840. The Notes attached to the Sermons are an exhaustive summary of the views held in ancient and modern times by men most capable of judging. (See J. C. Hare, Mission of the Comforter, Ed 3, 1876.)

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
(12) I have yet many things to say unto you.—The “many things” are defined by the next verse to be things with regard to which the Spirit of Truth shall be their guide—i.e., they are parts of the revelation which the minds of the disciples are not yet fitted to receive.

Ye cannot bear them now.—Comp. John 15:15. The statements are not opposed to each other. On His side there is the readiness to impart to them as friends all things that He had heard from the Father. But revelation can only be made to the mind which can accept it; and for those who have only in part understood what He has told them there are many things which cannot now be borne.

Of what the “many things” were, we have only this general knowledge. They would include, doubtless, the doctrinal system of the early Church, and they would not exclude all the lessons which the spirit of God has taught the Church in every age.

The fact that there were truths which Christ Himself could not teach is a lesson which men who profess to teach in Christ’s name have too seldom learnt. St. Paul found in it a rule for his own practice. He, too, fed men with milk because they could not bear meat. (Comp. Note on 1Corinthians 3:3.) It is true, indeed, that no one can teach who does not possess a higher knowledge than that of his pupil; but it is no less true that no one can really teach who does not take the lower ground of his pupil’s knowledge, and from that lead him to his own. Truths which the cultured mind accepts as obvious would appear no less so to the peasant if he were carefully taught them. Too often the weaker brother finds a stumbling-block in the very steps which should lead him to a higher truth, because he approaches them blindly, and without a guide. For the breach which exists between the higher Christian thought of our day and the faith of the masses of the people, Christian teachers are in no small degree responsible, and the only means by which the chasm may be bridged is to teach Christ’s truths as He Himself taught them.

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
(13) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come.—Comp. Note on John 14:17.

He will guide you into all truth.—Better, . . . into all the truth. The words do not mean that the Holy Spirit will fully guide them into truth, but that He will be their guide into the fulness of truth. The word rendered “guide,” occurs again in Matthew 15:14; Luke 6:39; Revelation 7:17; and metaphorically, as here, in Acts 8:31. A comparison of these passages will show that its meaning is “to point out the way,” “to lead one on his way.” The fulness of truth is for the disciples an unknown territory. They are spiritually as blind men, feeling after the truth, but not able to see it. The Spirit of Truth will take them by the hand, and, step by step, as they have strength to follow, will guide them into the territory, and unfold to them the treasures it contains. The promise has a special meaning for the disciples to whom it was spoken; but it holds good for every disciple who seeks to know the truth. We may pray,—without doubt that the prayer is in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and without doubt that it will be answered—

“Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,

And lighten with celestial fire.

Enable with perpetual light

The dulness of our blinded sight.”

The scribes, “instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, and bringing forth out of their treasure things new and old” (Matthew 13:52), may know that they can seek, and not seek in vain, a higher than human guidance, and may hope “by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in His holy comfort.”

For he shall not speak of himself.—Comp. Notes on John 5:19; John 7:17-18. The Holy Spirit’s power to guide into the truth depends upon the fact that He, like the Son Himself, will represent to the world the eternal truth of God. He, too, is subordinated to the Father, and His work is to seek the glory of Him that sent Him. (Comp., on the other hand, John 8:44, where the essence of the lie is that the devil speaketh of his own.)

And he will shew you things to come.—Better, and He will announce to you the things to come. (Comp. Notes on Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:6; Revelation 22:20.) We must again be on our guard against drawing limits which Christ has not drawn. These words, too, have their fulfilment in the Spirit’s illumination in all time; but we may still find their first and special meaning in the Revelation to the Apostolic Church, of which St. John’s Apocalypse is the most prominent example.

He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
(14) He shall glorify me.—The pronoun is here full of emphasis. The thought is that the future guidance of the Spirit promised in John 16:13, will be the revelation of the many things of Christ Himself which they cannot bear now (John 16:12).

For he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.—Better, as in John 16:13, . . . . announce it unto you. This is the test of the Spirit, “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God.” (Comp. Notes on 1John 4:1-2.) The revelation of Christ is not an imperfect revelation which the Holy Spirit is to supplement. It is a full revelation imperfectly received, and His office is to illumine the heart, and bring home to it the things of Christ.

All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
(15) All things that the Father hath are mine.—He has told them that the Spirit’s work is to glorify Him, to receive of His, and announce to the world. The ground of this saying is in the fact that the Son is the Revealer of the Father, and that the fulness of the truth (John 16:13) is given unto Him. The words appear from the context not to express the spiritual relation of the Son to the Father, but the fulness of the communication to Him in His human nature of the divine truth which He should reveal to man. (Comp. Notes on John 1:18; John 8:42; John 10:36; John 17:10; Matthew 11:27; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:2-3.)

He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.—Better, He taketh of Mine, and shall declare it unto you. The present expresses the unchanging relation of the Spirit to the Son. It should be noted that in these verses (14 and 15) there is an implication of the following doctrinal truths. They are implied, let us remember, in the words of our Lord Himself, and that they are implied and not stated increases the force of their meaning:—(1) The divinity of the Son: “He shall glorify Me;” “All things that the Father hath are Mine.” (2) The personality of the Holy Ghost: “He shall receive of Mine.” The Greek word, ἐκεῖυος, expresses this in the most emphatic way. The word is used of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8; John 16:13, and in John 14:26; John 15:26. (3) The Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity: “the Father;” “I;” “He.”

A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
(16) A little while, and ye shall not see me.—The better reading is, A little while, and ye no longer behold Me. For the sense, comp. Notes on John 14:18-19. The time here referred to is that between the moment of His speaking to them and His death.

And again, a little while, and ye shall see me.—The time here referred to is the interval between His death and the Day of Pentecost. That the vision is to be understood of our Lord’s presence in the person of the Paraclete (John 14:18-19), is confirmed by John 16:23. Note that in this clause the verb (“see”) is different from that in the preceding clause (“behold”). The latter refers rather to the physical, and the former to the spiritual, vision. (Comp. John 20:6-8.)

Because I go to the Father.—The majority of the better MSS. omit these words at this place. They have probably been inserted here from the end of the next verse. (Comp. Note there.)

Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?
(17, 18) Then said some of his disciples among themselves.—Better, Therefore said . . . The question arises out of what He has said. They draw aside and discuss the matter privately. It is beyond their comprehension, and seems to be contradictory.

A little while, and ye shall not see me.—Better, A little while, and ye behold Me not, as in John 16:16.

Because I go to the Father.—So far they have quoted word for word what He had said in the previous verse. They now connect it with what He had said in John 16:7; John 16:10, and this forms the ground of their surprise. There He had spoken of their beholding Him no more because He goeth to the Father. Here He speaks of a little while, after which they shall not behold Him, and again a little while, after which they shall see Him. They cannot reconcile these things. They cannot tell what He saith.

Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?
(19) Now Jesus knew they were desirous to ask him.—The purpose of His enigmatic saying (John 16:29) has been accomplished. Their attention has been excited, and they have taken the first step towards knowledge. They inquire among themselves, and this spirit of inquiry which He reads in their hearts (comp. John 2:25; John 6:6) He proceeds to answer. The first part of His answer is concerned with their difficulty about the “little while.” In Joh 16:28. He answers their thought about His going to the Father.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
(20) Verily, verily, I say unto you.—Comp. Note on John 1:51.

That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice.—Comp. John 20:11, and Luke 23:27. In the original the contrast between the sorrow of the disciples and the joy of the world is rendered the more striking by the order of the words, “Weep and lament shall ye, but the world shall rejoice.” The tears and the scoffs at the cross were the accomplishment of this prophecy.

And ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.—The expression is a full one. It is not simply that they shall pass from sorrow to joy, but that the sorrow itself shall become joy. They will rejoice in the presence of the Lord, when after a little while they will see Him and will feel that the separation necessarily went before the union, and that the sorrow was itself a matter of joy because it was the necessary cause of the joy (John 16:7, and John 20:20).

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
(21) A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow.—The Greek is more exactly, the woman . . . hath pangs—that is, “the woman in the well-known illustration.” (See Note on John 15:15.) This figure was of frequent use in the prophets. (Comp. Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17-18, and especially Isaiah 66:7-8; Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 22:23; Jeremiah 30:6; Hosea 13:13-14; Micah 4:9-10.)

That a man is born into the world.—The word is the wider word for “human being.” (Comp. Note on John 1:51.) The thought is of the joy of maternity swallowing up the pangs of child-birth. These cease to exist, but that continues. She forgets the one in the fulness of the other.

For the phrase “into the world” comp. John 1:9; John 18:37.

And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
(22) And ye now therefore have sorrow.—The same word is used. The hour of their travail-pangs was at hand; but it would pass away, and the fulness of joy would come in the constant presence of their Lord. Their sorrow would be but temporary; their joy would be abiding. The point of comparison between their state, and the familiar illustration of a woman in travail, is the passage from extreme suffering to extreme joy. We are not justified in taking the illustration as a parable, and interpreting it of the death of Christ as the birth-pang of a perfect humanity. This is the general interpretation of the more mystical expositors, and has been unfolded with great truth and beauty; but it is not an exposition of the present text.

But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice.—In John 16:19 He had said “Ye shall see.” This is the obverse of the same truth. He will again. be with them, and see them as they will see Him. The words include too the thought of His deep sympathy with them. He sees them now in the depth of their sorrow, and feels with them in that. He will see them again in the time of their joy, and will rejoice with them in that.

And your joy no man taketh from you.—The reading is doubtful. Some of the better MSS. have the future “. . . shall take from you.” “No man” is better rendered indefinitely, no one, as, e.g., in John 10:18; John 10:29. (Comp. Matthew 28:20, and Romans 8:38-39, and Notes there.)

And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
(23) And in that day ye shall ask me nothing.—Comp. Acts 1:6. The time here referred to is, as we have seen (John 16:16), the time of the gift of the Paraclete, who shall fully illumine them, so that they shall not need to ask the meaning of new thoughts and words as they have done hitherto. (Comp., e.g., the certain knowledge of Peter’s speech in Acts 2. with the misunderstandings of these last days of the Lord’s ministry.)

Verily, verily, I say unto you.—Comp. John 1:51. As we have so often found, these words precede a truth of -weighty import.

Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.—The more probable reading is, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, He will give it you in My name. The thought is that the prayer is offered in Christ’s name (comp. Note on John 14:13, and in this context John 16:24), and that the answer to every such prayer is in virtue of His name. The fact that we pray in His name makes it certain that the prayer will be answered. The fact that the prayer is answered is proof that it was in Christ’s name.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
(24) Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name.—Comp. Note on John 14:13. They had not up to this time received the Holy Spirit. When He came, He was as the presence of Christ dwelling in them. Under His influence their will became the will of Christ, and their thoughts the thoughts of Christ, and their prayers the prayers of Christ. They had not yet so learnt Him .as to pray in His name. It would be otherwise in that day.

Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.—The future is thought of as already present, and they are directed to ask, as though they had already entered into the new region of spiritual life. The pangs of the present travailing are passing away (John 16:22). The fulness of joy is already at hand. (Comp. Note on John 15:11.)

These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.
(25) These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs.—Better, as in the margin, . . . in parables. So in the second clause of the verse and in John 16:29. (Comp. Note on John 10:6.) “These things” refers specially to what He had just said from John 16:16 onwards. There is a sense in which it is necessarily true of all Christ’s teaching, and of all teaching in words. They are but parables until the truth which they contain has been thought out by the man that hears them. For the disciples much of Christ’s teaching remained in a parabolic form, until the Spirit brought all things which He had said to the mind, and quickened their minds so that they could grasp its meaning. (Comp. e.g., John 2:20-22.)

But the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs.—For “proverbs,” read parables, as in last verse. For the time referred to, comp. John 16:16; John 16:23. In that time He will be present with them in the Advocate, and will no longer need parables or words, but will, to the depth of their spirit, communicate to them in all fulness and plainness the eternal truth of the Father (John 16:13 et seq.).

At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
(26) At that day ye shall ask in my name.—Comp. Notes on John 16:23-24. When guided by the Paraclete, the life will be subject to the will of Christ, and the prayer will be in His name.

And I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you.—These words have often been taken to mean, “That I will pray the Father for you, is a matter of course, of which I need not tell you; but this sense is excluded by the following verse. The thought is rather, “I do not speak of praying for you, because in the presence of the Advocate you will yourselves be able to pray in My name to the Father.” His prayer is thought of as not necessary for them, and yet the form of the words implies that He will pray for them if it should be needed. While their hearts are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and they maintain communion with the Father, they will need no other Advocate, but “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1John 2:1). Comp. John 14:16; John 17:9, which refer to the time which precedes the gift of the Holy Ghost.

For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
(27) For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me.—Comp. Notes on John 14:21; John 14:23. The introduction of the thought again here reminds us that, although in the fulness of the higher spiritual life there is communion between the Father and the human spirit, because the Father Himself ever loveth the heart which can receive His love, this power to receive the love of the Father is itself the result of loving the Son, who has revealed Him. Our Lord is leading them to the fuller truths of spiritual communion with God, and even tells them that this will be independent of mediation; but the very words which tell them that it will be independent of mediation, tell them that all depends upon His own mediation and the manifestation of the love of God in His own person.

And have believed that I came out from God.—The reading is uncertain. Several of the better MSS. read, “. . . that I came forth from the Father.” (Comp. the first words of the next verse and John 13:3.) The perfect tenses represent their love and faith as completed, and continuing in the present. It is striking that the order of the words makes faith’ follow love. This order may be chosen to mark emphatically the connection between the Father’s love for the disciples and their love for the Son; but it also suggests that their convictions were the result of having their hearts opened by love so that they received the truth.

I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
(28) I came forth from the Father.—Comp. Note on John 16:19. He repeats with emphasis that which in the last verse He stated as believed by them—“It is true. I did come forth from the Father, and came into the world. But what follows from this? Heaven, and not earth, is My home. I leave the world again and return to the Father.” They had accepted the truth of the Incarnation, but in this there was already implied the truth of the Ascension, and in the truth of the Ascension there was implied the gift of the Paraclete, and the spiritual return and constant presence of Christ in the Church (John 16:7 and John 14:14-18).

His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.
(29) Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.—Better, . . . parable, as in John 16:25. (Comp. Note there.) The emphasis is upon the word “now.” He had told them (John 16:25) that the hour would come when He would speak to them no more in parables, but tell them plainly of the Father. His last words have explained what they before could not understand, and it seems to them that the illumination promised in the future has already come.

Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
(30) Now are we sure that thou knowest all things.—Comp. John 16:19; John 16:23. The “now” is emphatic, as in the previous verse. They see in His present knowledge of their thoughts, and in the light which has come to them from the statements of John 16:28, the fulfilment of the promise which He has made for the future (John 16:23). They think that the day has already come when they shall ask Him nothing, for He knows all things, and communicates to them the fulness of truth.

By this we believe that thou camest forth from God.—They had believed this before (John 16:27), but here, as frequently, St. John remembers the development of their faith. (Comp. Note on John 2:11.) They find, in His knowledge of their thoughts (John 16:19), and in the full solution which He gives to their difficulties, ground for a new faith; and upon this new proof of His divinity they have a new faith in Him. (Comp. the instance of Nathanael’s faith at the end of John 1)

Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
(31) Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe.—Comp. Note on John 1:50. Here, as there, the words do not necessarily ask a question; and, although many expositors prefer to take them interrogatively, a sense more in harmony with the context is got by understanding them as an assertion. Our Lord did not doubt their present faith (John 17:8); but He knew that the hour of their full illumination had not yet come, firmly as they believed it had. Their present light was as the flash of the meteor—brilliant, but passing away. The clear and steadfast light of day was in the future, of which He has spoken to them. They think the hour of full knowledge has come. He sees the time when they shall all be scattered and leave Him alone, close at hand. It is this thought which He expresses to them—“Now ye do believe: Behold, the hour cometh . . .”

Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
(32) Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come.—Comp. Notes on Matthew 26:31; Matthew 26:56.

Every man to his own.—Or, his own lodging in Jerusalem, which must be here intended. That is, as the margin renders it, “to his own home.” (Comp. Note on John 1:11.)

And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.—They would each flee to his own place of sojourn. He, too, though apparently left alone, had His own home in the presence of the Father, which was ever with Him. The fact of their leaving Him could not in truth have added to His sense of loneliness. He must, even when surrounded by them, have always been alone. The thoughts of His mind were so infinitely beyond them, that the true sympathy which binds souls in companionship could never have had place. And yet He was never alone, for His life was one of constant communion with the Father. (Comp. the consciousness of this in John 8:29.) Once only do we find the vision of the Father’s presence eclipsed for a moment by the thick darkness of the world’s sin; but the wail of agony, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) is straightway followed by the assurance of His presence, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46.)

Alone and not alone. It was so in the human life of our Lord; it is so in the life of His followers. There is a sense in which each one is alone; and there is a depth of being into which no human friend can ever enter. There is a loneliness which of itself would lead to despair, were it not that its very existence tells of and leads to the never-failing communion with God:—

“Who hath the Father and the Son

May be left—but not alone.”

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
(33) These things I have spoken unto you . . .—At the conclusion of the discourse He sums up in a single thought what was the object of it, “Peace in Him. In the world, indeed, tribulation, but this as conquered in Him, and not interrupting the true peace in Him.” The thought is closely allied to that of the last verse, “Alone and not alone;” “Troubled, and yet having peace.” He had spoken of this from John 14:1 onwards, and from John 15:18 to John 16:4 specially of the tribulation which awaited them. (Comp. St. Paul’s experience of these contrasts in 2Corinthians 4:8 et seq.)

That in me ye might have peace.—Comp. Notes on John 14:27; John 15:7.

In the world ye shall have tribulation.—The reading of the better MSS. is, “In the world ye have tribulation.” It is the general statement of their relation to the world. The two clauses answer to each other—the one defining the origin of their inner, the other of their outer life. The life in the world is but the life as it is seen by others; the true life is that which is in communion with God through Christ, and that is one of never-failing peace, which no tribulation can ever affect. Peace is the Christian’s birthright, and his joy no one taketh from him (John 16:22, John 14:27).

But be of good cheer: I have overcome the world.—The pronoun is strongly emphatic, “I have Myself overcome the world.” He speaks of the assured victory as though it were already accomplished. (See Note on John 16:11 and John 12:31; John 13:31.) Here is the reason why they should take courage and be of food cheer. He is the Captain of their salvation, and has already won the victory. The enemies they fear, the world in which they have tribulation, are already captives following in the Conqueror’s train. They themselves have pledges of victory in and through His victory.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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