Sunday School Lesson for January 12, 2003
Background Passage: John 16:16-33
Jesus’ Declaration Concerning the Father (16:25-28)
In this passage, the Lord Jesus promises His disciples that He will bring to light more truths regarding the “Father.” While much of His teaching to this point had been veiled to a degree—“I have been speaking figuratively”—Jesus assures His men that He will now speak “plainly” about God. Such figurative sayings previously employed by Jesus would include references to raising the temple in three days, being born again, quenching thirst, eating His flesh, and existing before Abraham. Yet, from verses 25-33 we find no less than eight direct references to God the Father. It is evident, then, that Jesus did just as He promised. In light of this statement, however, one might ask why Christ had not been clear up to this point about God’s nature, specifically His love. Perhaps there is a three-fold answer. First, it seems clear enough that, at times, the disciples had great difficulty understanding spiritual things. Secondly, we must consider the unfinished nature of His redemptive purposes. There was much more to reveal and learn about the Father’s purpose for Christ’s life and death. Thirdly, we must remember that the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, and the disciples’ ability to discern deeper truths was quite limited.
Here Jesus speaks of a new era of divine revelation—that time period following the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. In that day Jesus declares that the disciples themselves will approach the very throne of God in prayer in the name of Jesus. While Christ will no longer be present with them physically, they are at no disadvantage. Access to the Father has been granted through their Savior and Lord. To pray in Christ’s “name,” then, means to pray in harmony with God’s will on the basis of Christ’s accomplished work of reconciliation. That is, Jesus’ ministry as Intercessor will enable them to have fellowship with the Father Himself (cf. 16:23-24).
In verse 27 Jesus assures the disciples that they are loved by the Father—“the Father himself loves you.” The evidence of the granting and reception of this divine love is twofold. First, the disciples “have loved” Jesus. Had God not saved them and radically changed them from the inside this would not be possible. The very fact that they have such a relationship with Jesus is indicative of God’s gracious mercy and infinite love (cf. 1 John 4:19). Secondly, the disciples have “believed” that Jesus “came from God.” Their understanding and affirmation of Jesus’ true identity as the Savior of the world is proof enough that the scales of spiritual blindness have been removed from their eyes.
At this point, Jesus reminded His men of the course and nature of His ministry. The One who “came from the Father” into the hostile “world” of fallen and rebellious men to atone for humanity’s sin would soon be “leaving the world and going back to the Father.” From this statement we might glean three essential truths related to Christ’s life and work:
The Disciples’ Faith Tested (16:29-33)
It is clear from the these verses that such knowledge about Jesus as described above is possible only in light of the special working of the Holy Spirit to enlighten men and illuminate the truth. That the disciples now understood that Jesus was “speaking clearly” (v. 30) and could “see” that He knew “all things” revealed their immature, yet real, faith in Him. Thus, they could confidently exclaim, “This makes us believe that you came from God” (v. 30).
Here Jesus accepts and affirms their confession of faith in Him—“You believe at last!” However, this affirmation is clearly tempered by the warning Jesus uttered regarding “a time” of severe testing to come upon them in the near future. As Jesus looked forward to the coming agony of the cross, His moment of exaltation, He prepared His men for the wave of suffering and persecution that would surely befall each of them.
Here the Lord reveals the purpose for His disturbing disclosure in the previous verses. He desires that they experience genuine “peace” as known only in fellowship with Him—“that in me you may have peace.” The timing of this word of encouragement and consolation is interesting for it comes on the heels of Christ’s announcement of their complete failure to stand with Him in His most terrible moment. Yet, Jesus “looks beyond their collapse to their restoration, and ends the discourse with encouragement” [Carson, 549]. Christ’s word of encouragement has two distinct sides:
One: The Holy Spirit’s ministry of teaching and illumination—How does the Holy Spirit teach us today? What are the mechanisms He employs to illuminate the Word and guide us into the truth? Why do we need His help anyway?
Two: The purpose and privileges of prayer—Look at verses 24 and 26 and see if you can identify both the purpose and blessings associated with prayer. Why are we so often called to prayer in Scripture? See if you can find other references to prayer in John’s Gospel.
Three: God and Jesus—What is significant about Christ’s words in verse 25 to the effect that He will tell us about His Father? Compare and contrast this to John’s words in 1:18. How does this relate to evangelism and missions?
Four: The evidence of salvation—Based upon verse 27, what may be advanced as the proof of one’s salvation?
Five: Two of life’s certainties—Look again at verse 33. What two things can the disciple of Christ count on? Hint: One is negative, one positive. How does this affect your understanding of the word peace?