February 28, 2021

John 16:16-33

Third Avenue Baptist Church

Sunday School — The Gospel of John Series

February 28, 2021


We're in John chapter 16. And after we pray, we'll begin in verse 16 of chapter 16, as we are seeing the groundwork laid for the high priestly prayer of Jesus coming in John 17, let's pray. 

Father, we're just so thankful that you give us what we need. And, that means sun and sometimes it means rain. And Father, you knew that now we need rain. Thank you for giving it to us. Thank you for watering the earth. How many people throughout history have had to pray in a time of drought for the gift of even a drop of water. Thank you for watering us abundantly. Thank you for giving us your Lord. May we feast on your Word this hour, and we pray your Holy Spirit will apply the Word to our hearts. Even as the Holy Spirit, he inspired John to write this gospel. Father, we pray that all of this will come full circle in increase through us for your glory. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Our Lord, amen. 

The Farewell Discourse of Jesus is ending. And as we have to remind ourselves, this is one conversation. It's one very long conversation and it's not just conversational, in the sense that every once in a while you do see the disciple ask a question, It is didactic. It's pastoral. It's didactic, in the sense that it's teaching. This is Jesus telling them things. It's like a final briefing. It's like a general before an army goes to war. It's a final briefing. Things are about to happen that he's been trying to tell the Disciples now for what we might say is three years. You look at the gospel of John and, and you look in the very beginning until now. How many times has Jesus spoken about his hour that's coming? Now sometimes he says it negatively. My hour is not yet come. 

And so if his hour is not yet come, then his hour is coming. And of course, then what is his hour? Well, it's the culmination of his earthly ministry, but it isn't come yet. His hour has not yet come, but it's coming, it's coming. It is not at all clear that the disciples had any sense of a timetable and of any quickening of that timetable. And of any immanence of this hour that is coming. Furthermore, Jesus has told them things that will make sense in retrospect. And they only make sense to us because we've read the gospel of John and we know these things and the disciples don't. We're going into a passage right now in which the disciples at one level seem to understand what Jesus means. And yet they still don't seem to understand his timetable. 

Now he has told them that one of them will betray him. This is back in chapter 13 and, and he has spoken to those issues happening. But here in John chapter 16, where we had just seen Jesus speak the gift to the Holy Spirit last week, we were in that amazing passage earlier in this chapter where Jesus says it is better for you, that I go for I am sending the helper. So we're looking at, in salvation history, one of these great hinge moments, it's like salvation history is a symphony and, and there's a climactic movement coming, but we're right in the central movement, that is the hinge in which everything turns the incarnation of the Lord, Jesus Christ, his accomplished mission. And, and then there's another age coming, the age of the church when Jesus will ascend to the Father, he will leave the disciples, but the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send and he will send will be with us. As you look to verse 16, Jesus says a little while, and you will see me no longer and again, a little while, and you will see me. So some of his disciples said to one another, what is this? He says to us a little while, and you will not see me and again, a little while, and you will see me and because I'm going to the Father. So they were saying, what does he mean by a little while? We do not know what he is talking about. 

The joy of having children, little, little children, preschool children, children, just learning to talk and minds just soaking everything up. The joy of that is that they ask the questions they want to ask. And you say something and they don't understand it, they’ll say something like that. Grandchildren turn out to do the same. And Benjamin and Henry, Benjamin's five, Henry's two. We were FaceTiming with them while we were in Florida for my mother's funeral. They had been in Florida with us earlier in the month of January. And we're just FaceTiming. And it came up that we were in Florida and Benjamin just said, what'd you mean you were in Florida? Like, it can't be, you were just in Florida, you weren't in Florida anymore. How can you be back in Florida? This doesn't make any sense. What do you mean you're in Florida?

Well, this is like the disciple saying what'd you mean this little while? What does he mean? A little while I won't be with you and then a little while I'll be with you. What's he mean now? The amazing thing is that this has been said before in chapter 13. In chapter 13, verse 33, Jesus said to them a little while, and I will not be with you. And then in a little while you will see me and it's this little while see me, little while not see me. And the interesting again, is that the disciples asking the question is actually in the text. 

So they went on and spoke. So they were saying, what does he mean by a little while? We do not know what he's talking about. So again, very honest, the disciples don't know what he's talking about. And you want to look there at chapter 16 and say, how can you not know what he's talking about? But then again, just humbly realize we would be in the same position as they are, because we only know what Jesus is talking about because we know the rest of the story. In verse 19 we’re told Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him. So he said to them, “Is this what you were asking yourselves? What I meant by saying ‘a little while, and you will not see me and again a little while, and you will see me’ truly, truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. 

You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow. Her hour has come. But when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy, that a human being has been born into the world. So also you will, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again. And your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you. And that day you'll ask nothing of me, truly, truly I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now, you've asked nothing in my name asking, you'll receive that your joy may be full.” So Jesus knows in himself what they're asking. You see the same thing in John chapter six, Jesus knows what they're thinking. 

And so he speaks right into their thinking. He knows what they're asking. And so he even repeats himself. I know this is what you're asking about, but then he doesn't exactly answer it. Not, immediately. It's kind of like going up to a child and saying, I know this is what you're asking about. Well, let me tell you about this and Jesus uses the example of a woman in childbirth. But even as he's speaking to them, beginning in verse 19, he says, this is it. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. But even as you weep and lament, the world will rejoice. 

So when Jesus is tried and when he is crucified, he says the world's gonna rejoice. And he means by that, of course, the powers that be. The powers of evil, he means those who will seek to take his life. He means those who believe that their political and social power will be protected, if Jesus is gone, those who hate him. And as Jesus has said, hating him will hate his disciples. They will rejoice in his death. And, and we see that. This is done. We put him out of the way, but he says, even as the world will rejoice and you're filled with sorrow, you will be filled with joy. And that's just made very clear. And he refers to what is going to happen and his hour. And he even uses that expression. He, when her hour has come. Now, all of a sudden doesn't that clarify everything. 

Doesn’t that clarify everything? A baby is coming. A woman knows the baby is coming. And yet the process of labor is the hour that’s it. Her hour will come. And when it comes, there's anguish. Anguish in that process goes back to Genesis three. But the mother doesn't remember the anguish when she's holding the baby. And Jesus speaks of his own atoning sacrifice. In those very terms, it's going to be like childbirth. When his hour comes will be anguish, but as the scripture says, joy is coming in the morning. Now, again, they can understand part of this, maybe. They don't appear to understand much of it. Jesus went on also to continue something of the theme of what it will mean that he is no longer with them. And this is what you really find in the agency in prayer, that Jesus mentions in verse 23 and following. 

“In that day you'll ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give to you. Until now you've asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you'll receive, that your joy may be full.” Now, those are just two little verses, and generally they're read the wrong way and prosperity theologians  or someone saying, well, there's Jesus. Just saying, if you ask him my name, the Father's gonna give it to you. No, there's something earth shatteringly swinging like on a hinge here. Have you, you noticed that no one has invoked the name of Jesus in prayer, until now. We pray in Jesus’ name. We think nothing of it, because we're taught to do that. But how is it that we pray in Jesus' name? On what authority do we pray in Jesus' name? If you look at all the prayers in the old Testament, the prayer’s to the Father.

If you look at the prayers Jesus has prayed, they are prayers to the Father. As you think about how the Jewish people have been trained to pray, they would've considered it idolatry and the breaking of two commandments to pray to anyone other than the Father. But we pray naturally, we're authorized to pray. We pray rightly. Orthodoxly. We pray properly by praying in Jesus’ name. How, why, and on what authority?  Well, first of all, on Jesus' authority. And as we shall see,  by Jesus's authority made manifest in the practice of the apostles in the early church. But the huge question is why and how? How does that happen? Why does it matter? Why do we not just pray to the Father? Why do we pray to the Father in Jesus' name? And, and why do we not pray to Jesus in the sense of just crying out to Jesus and relegating the Father to a secondary role. It is because this is a Trinitarian theology that's being revealed to us, and it is spectacular. 

The Son, in obedience to the Father, fulfilling all that the Father commands. Obedient as the apostle Paul will say in Philippians two “even unto death.” He who the Father will raise from the dead. He whom the Father will give the name, Lord, the name that is above all names, the name to which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The trinitarian shape of Christian theology comes down to the fact that our prayer is now prayer to the Father through Jesus. This is what theologians rightly have called the session of Christ. And it is precious. He has sat down at the right hand of God, the Father almighty, and, and there he is our mediator, the sole mediator between God and man, and he mediates our prayer. So he intercedes for us before the Father. 

He ever intercedes. We don't pray to Jesus as if the Father is absent. We pray to the Father through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. That's the Trinitarian shape of Christian prayer. We pray to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit and Jesus here, astoundingly says, you've never asked anything in my name, but now you're authorized to do so. Now when Jesus is speaking now, does it mean right then that second? Well in one sense, perhaps. But what he's really speaking about is now of the age in which he will be absent from the Church, but he will not be absent. He'll be seated. That's the session, the Latin session seated at the right hand of God, the Father almighty there, he is our priest and we need desperately a priest. It's not that we don't have a priest. 

It's that we have one priest, the all sufficient priest, the priest of priests who sits at the right hand of God, the Father. Now, is he a priest? Is he a priest to try to intercede against the merciful will of the Father? No, he is here to intercede for us to make pleadings for us to, to mediate fallen, and now redeemed humanity to the Father. And this is the thing, we need a mediator, not just on the cross. We need a mediator seated at the right hand of the Father. And we have that mediator. What Jesus is saying here is not prosperity theology. You ask anything in my name and the Father will do it for you as for a, what was it, controversy, early in COVID a 17 million private? No, it was more than that, like 70 million private jet, one prosperity preacher. That is not what Jesus is talking about. Instead, what he's talking about is much more spectacular. 

One of the big questions that was always on the Jewish mind, and this is something else we sometimes don't think about, but you'll see this in some popular piety. If you're talking to people about prayer, pastors, talking to people about prayer. Just common parlance about prayer, the assumption of many people, and this was, this was just in the warp and woof of Judaism. And you can understand why the assumption was that prayer would have its variability in two things. Number one, the relative status of the one praying to pray, and then the relative disposition of God to the prayer. So you can see in conventional wisdom, why that would, you know, will my prayer be answered? Well, it depends on how righteous I am when I pray, right? I mean that just, just fallen into gross sin. Maybe that's not the best time to pray, in conventional theology. 

And then will God answer the prayer? Well, maybe it depends on whether he's inclined towards mercy or wrath or indifference or who knows. By the way, you can see why that conventional wisdom theology develops. And in every popular piety, there's this kind of conventional theology, because as you look at the Old Testament in prayer, it appears God sometimes answers prayer. Sometimes he takes a long time to answer prayer. Sometimes he says no, and yes, some of the people who are praying, the very agency of their prayer is tainted by something in their lives. That is not our primary concern in the Christian Church, we pray and the power of our prayer is guaranteed by the power of Christ. 

And  I can remember as a little boy as a very little boy, I don't know, maybe 8, 9, 10 years old, you know, just when a child on the, you know, the cusp of adolescence is beginning to think about thinking and that critical thinking begins to enter. And I began to wonder how might prayers could possibly measure up and how I could even remember to pray for all the things I need to pray for. I mean, then, and now I find that I can't keep everything that I even wanna pray about in my mind. You'll pray, and then you think, oh, I should have prayed for this person. Or I should have thought about that. I had this test coming up or dealing with this situation or that person's sick. Now, this is not an argument for laziness in prayer, or isn’t certainly indifference. It's just to say that our prayer is not our achievement. 

It's all Jesus. And it's not about God's relative disposition because God's disposition to his Son is always favored, that's it. So we don't really have to worry about his disposition to us. Like in the Old Testament, people may have worried. Because the issue now is God's disposition towards his Son in whom we are, whose mediator is that Son. So the big thing here is that you're really looking at the Lordship of Christ before that language is being used. As Jesus is speaking as the mediator, he will be seated at the right hand of the Father, but he's speaking here about what's going to happen. He's trying to tell the disciples so that they're ready. And those two verses about prayer, which are far more astounding than maybe they appear at first, are interjected here. But then Jesus goes back to the little while in verse 25, he says, I have said these things to you in figures of speech. Now that's a good translation of the Greek. And maybe it's a good time for us just to think about figures of speech. Figures of speech is not trick language it's any kind of parable, any kind of metaphor, any kind of language that is just to use the word figurative. 

You can't help using figurative language in a certain sense. And, and by the way, in every language you're learning a new language, figurative speech is the hardest speech. It just is. I can still remember reading the book, The Curious Case of the Dog at Midnight. I think it's the title. How many of you read that? It's actually a stupendously well written little novel. And the boy at the center of the story is autistic in a classic sense, but he's high, a very intelligent high operational, on the spectrum, we now call it. and, the father loves him. He has a single father who takes care of him. The father loves him. The father understands him. The father can get quite exasperated with him, but one of the points being made, and the author of the book is autistic, so he is writing from inside the experience. And he writes about the fact that figures of speech are generally lost on someone on the spectrum like that. So he says something like, you know, ‘that man's as big as a barn.’ And he would say to his father, ‘That is a lie. 

He is not as big as a barn.’ It's just that those things you go, ‘he's smart as a tack.’ What does that mean? Figures of speech require abstract thinking. It requires the ability to leave where you are and think about that and make the connection from that back to where you are. And that's a part of what is a challenge for some people, but actually is a challenge for all of us. If you don't know the inside code. So if you're among the French speaking French, if you're among the German speaking Germans, and they use a figure of speech, you're doomed, hopefully you're not ordering dinner or getting directions. Figures of speech are very difficult. So have some sympathy for the Disciples. Jesus has a strategy, and that's what he talks about. He says,I have said these things to you in figures of speech, the hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father. 

There was teaching that came after the resurrection. We have some of it in the New Testament. We have some of it. We have of course the entire apostolic testimony. The point is that after the accomplishment of Christ's earthly ministry, there will be things we can know that we can't know before. It simply can't be. And Jesus acknowledges that he's spoken to them in figures of speech. The time is coming when he will no longer do so. In that day, you will ask in my name. And I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf for the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world. And now I am leaving the world and going to the Father. Now this goes back to those two verses in the earlier paragraph about prayer. And Jesus himself says, not that the Father is reluctant. It's just that, now you ask in my name and the Father's disposition to you is his disposition to me because you believed in me and you are now in me as the New Testament will teach us. The Father himself loves you because you've loved me and have believed that I have come from God. 

But then he says, I'm leaving the world and going to the Father. Now that is not a figure speech. That is plain language. The Disciples are being told that he is going to leave them and go to the Father. His Disciples said, this is verse 29. “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech. Now we know that you know all things or do not need anyone to question you. This is why we believe that you came from God. Jesus, answer them, Do you now believe?” now on the one hand, there's just a human drama we're witnesses of here. And a part of the human drama is the disciple saying, we don't understand. And Jesus saying, you will understand. 

And then the human drama, the disciples saying, oh, now we understand. And Jesus saying, not, really, you understand more, but it's clear they don't really yet understand. And again, they can't yet understand because these events have not yet happened. But it is so sweet that the Holy Spirit knew we needed this kind of testimony. Even the give and take between Jesus and the disciples. Now we know that you know all things. Well, when we say now we know that you know all things. One of the questions that was being asked continually, evidently on their minds, and again, Jesus answered this. You go back to John chapter seven where Jesus says my hour’s not yet come. I mean, so early in the earthly ministry of Jesus, when you're talking about a messianic fulfillment, you're talking about the atonement that Christ will accomplish. 

You're talking about God's great purpose and the entire flow of biblical history. The when becomes a really huge question, when? And Jesus tells them, well, you will know more, many of these things you'll understand in retrospect, more or less Jesus in verse 31 addresses them. “Do you now believe?” It's a strange question. As a matter of fact, we need to think about this for a minute. They just said to him, we believe, we now know, you know, all things, ‘do you now believe?,” this is a scary question. If we're honest, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Very honest plea in Scripture. What does it mean that Jesus, at this point, turns to his Disciples and says, but do you believe? They just affirmed to believing him. John chapter six, you'll recall. Jesus asked them that very question. When he says, “Do you also want to go away?” 

And that's when Peter answered so beautifully “Lord to whom will we go?” You have the words of eternal life and beyond that we have come to know that you are the holy one from God. But Jesus here just as he is about to be betrayed, asks them, do you believe? And then he gives them this word of warning. And it's like, we're back in chapter 15, “behold, the hour is coming, Indeed, it has come when you'll be scattered each to his own home and will leave me alone, yet I'm not alone for the Father is with me.

Back in the prophet, Zechariah. The prophet Zechariah chapter 13, verse seven, “Awake oh, sword against my shepherd against the man who stands next to me, declare the Lord of host. Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.” It certainly appears that Jesus has that text in mind. As you strike the shepherd, the sheep will be scattered and Jesus picking up on that language with himself as the good shepherd, as he's already said, the good Shepherd's telling you sheep, I will be stricken and you will be scattered. He says each to his own home. And of course there's an immediate proximity to this. And that's after the betrayal of Jesus, as the disciples are scattered. They're no longer with him. Of course, Peter will deny him. They are scattered. And though just think about this, think of the incredible unity that is being expressed right now in this text. 

And with Jesus, with them in this farewell discourse, he is sharing with them the most intimate, urgent, revelatory truths that they will need for when he is no longer with them. And even they're going to need more urgency urgently as the days are unfolding and the hours are unfolding with his arrest, and prosecution and trial, crucifixion and burial, even the resurrection, all these things, they're gonna need everything they can get from Jesus and their unity with him is so sweet. Now we see what you're talking about. Now we believe. We know, you know, all things and Jesus says, good enough, but you're about to be scattered. You know, there's something else here, just a little footnote. That's kind of interesting. We're talking about Judean and Galilean fisherman, tax collectors, well, not now, but, common people. They were expected to know the Bible. They had been going to the synagogue where the word of God had been read and had been read and had been read and had been read. It's just really, really interesting for us to, at the fact that Jesus could mention a text like this, which we know echoes the prophet Zecharia chapter 13, verse seven. And it anticipated that they, and we would, would, would catch that reference. This is what it means. If you strike the shepherd and the sheep are scattered. But Jesus doesn't conclude there. 

“You'll be scattered each to his own home and will leave me alone. Yet, I am not alone for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you that in me, you may have peace in the world. You will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

So Jesus here is concluding this farewell discourse and he does so by saying that I have given you these words, that in me, you may have peace. And this is where Christians are left. Christians are left with knowing that we are safe in Christ. Christ has given us all that we need to know. And what we don't know is safe in Christ. We can be scattered like sheep because the shepherd has been, but the shepherd will be resurrected. We can, we, we, we can be chased off. We can be persecuted by the world, which will hate us because the world hated him first. But it's all right, because we are his. The final words here are take heart, I have overcome the world. This is what's called a prolepsis. This is the future being declared. And the reason why Jesus can do this is because he is indeed the Son of the Father. 

He is the one who will be given the title of Lord. He can say, because he is the Father's Son, that this has happened as if it has happened. It's just the same thing that you see in, in Romans chapter eight, where in the order of salutis, the order of salvation, it says we have been, and then it says, glorified. Well, we haven't been glorified yet, but the point is in Christ, it's already accomplished so that we will be glorified. There's not a question as to whether we would be glorified. We don't experience that glorification in this life, but we can already say that even as we have been predestined and we've been sanctified and justified, we can also say we have been glorified because it will happen because Christ has already accomplished all that is necessary for it. Similarly, he can say here to the Disciples, I have overcome the world. Now the world is about to arrest him. The world is about to try him. The world is about flog him and humiliate him. The world is about to kill him in the most excruciatingly, public humiliating, agonizing tortuous, form of death in crucifixion. But the world is about to discover that he has overcome the world. 

We're now at that break between the end of the farewell discourse and the beginning of the high priestly prayer. I don't want to rush into the high priestly prayer of Jesus at this point, because I just want us to rest in where we are with this farewell discourse coming to an end. We also, I think, just in terms of our opportunity to learn, need to take the break here, because we need to keep in mind that the Disciples were very much a part of the conversation in the farewell discourse. They were listening to Jesus speak to them. They did not hear Jesus pray the prayer we know as the high priestly prayer beginning in verse, one of chapter 17, the Holy Spirit gives that through John to us, but they were not a part of this. The farewell discourse marks the last word of the last teaching of Christ before his arrest and crucifixion. There will be some teaching in the time that he was with them after the resurrection, before the ascension, but this ends, most of the teaching that Christ will give the disciples and the intimacy of that remarkable period of time for about three years in his earthly ministry, when he chose them, he called them, he taught them, corrected them. And through the testimony of Scripture teaches us as well.

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