The Promise They Won’t be Alone (John 16:5-15)
Jesus points out once again that he is going, but none of the disciples has asked where he was going. At first this seems odd because earlier Thomas had said they didn’t know where Jesus was going and asked how could they know the way? (John 14:5) But notice that even in this question Thomas didn’t really ask Jesus where he was going. Thomas was more focused on the fact that they were going to be separated and he didn’t know how to join back up with his Lord. Peter too had asked more directly where Jesus was going (John 13:36). Though Jesus had answered both times it appears the answer did not stick in their minds, which is why Jesus is repeating the statement. He says he is going yet once again, but this time no one even bothers to ask where. They are too wrapped up in their grief to ask (John 16:6). Yet it is where he is going that is the key to the end of their sorrow (John 14:28). Instead, sorrow has filled their hearts.
It was to the disciples advantage for Jesus to leave because only by leaving could the Holy Spirit come to help them. And when the Spirit does come, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. These are tasks that the Spirit would accomplish through the disciples and seen in Acts 2:37-41. The world needs to be convicted of sin because they do not believe in Jesus and he is the only way out of sin (John 3:36; Mark 16:16). The world needs to be convicted of righteousness because it rejected the teachings of Christ, but God demonstrates that Jesus is righteous by Jesus going to be with Him (John 14:6). The world needs to be convicted of judgment because Satan has been judged (Colossians 2:15) and if those following Satan don’t repent, they will receive the same judgment (Acts 17:31; Ephesians 2:2; Acts 26:18).
There was more that the disciples needed to know, but they were ready to receive those things yet. But it isn’t that they won’t learn them because Jesus is leaving. When the Holy Spirit comes, he would be teaching them these things and about things that are yet to be. He won’t be teaching anything different from Jesus, but taking the teachings of Jesus and disclosing it to the disciples.
Notice that the equality of the Godhead is seen here. All that the Father has belongs to the Son. All that the Son has is taken by the Spirit to disclose to the disciples. None of this could be possible unless they were equal (Matthew 11:27; 28:18; John 14:19).
The Promise That Their Sorrow Won’t Last (John 16:16-22)
Jesus’ statement in John 16:16 was confusing to the disciples as he said that shortly they would not see him, then they would see him for a little while until he goes to the Father in Heaven. Hindsight tells us that they would not see Jesus while he was in the tomb, but afterwards, when he was resurrected they would see him for a brief period of time before he ascends into heaven. The disciples discussed it among themselves, but could not make sense of the statement.
Eventually Jesus intervenes to explain further. The disciples are about to experience a time of great sorrow; a sorrow that the world, in general, will not share. Their sorrow, however, would not be permanent; it would turn to joy. He likened it to a woman in labor. The birth of a child is painful, but once the child is born, the joy is so great that the pain is forgotten. The disciples, too, will experience sorrow, but Jesus would see them again and that sorrow will be replaced with a joy so great that it would never leave them (I Peter 1:8).
The Promise That God Will Listen (John 16:23-30)
Once again, Jesus tells them that once their sorrow is replaced with joy, they have but to ask the Father under Jesus’ authority and the Father will give them what they asked. The disciples have come to depend on Jesus for instruction and protection (Matthew 8:25; John 11:3). Though he would no longer be there with them physically, he tells them that they had only need to ask the Father and their need would be answered.
Jesus had been using a lot of figurative language with the disciples, but later he will talk to them plainly about the Father so that they would understand. Then they would be able to ask the Father in Jesus’ name directly. Jesus isn’t saying in John 16:26 that he would no longer make intercessions for the disciples, but that he would not be between the disciples and the Father. His own intercessions on their behalf would continue (Romans 8:34; I Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; I John 2:1). They will be able to approach the Father because of a better understanding of who the Father is and because they understand that the Father loves them because of their own love and faith in Jesus.
Jesus came from the Father into the world and now it was time for him to return to the Father. This is yet another statement showing the divinity of Jesus. Men do not decide when to enter or leave the world, yet Jesus did both (John 10:17-18). This statement the disciples thought they understood. They accepted that Jesus came from God and would return to the Father. What they couldn’t grasp was the means of which would leave them for the Father.
The Promise That Jesus is Never Alone (John 16:31-33)
Jesus asked, “Do you now believe?” Even though they have asserted the truth about who Jesus was in the past, it doesn’t mean that the belief was solidly there. If it has now been firmly rooted in their mind, it is a good thing because that faith will soon be put to the test. Very shortly they will be scattered and will abandon Jesus. But they should never look back on this day and think that Jesus was left completely alone. The Father is always with His Son.
But Jesus is telling them these things in advance so they can have peace later. Not a worldly peace because in this world there will always be trouble. But they can have peace of mind knowing that Jesus has overcome the world. Knowing that Jesus has done so, gives us hope as well. Nothing can stop the will of God from being done.