This passage contains the final instructions to his disciples. John 17 records Jesus’ prayer to the Father and after this prayer Jesus is betrayed and arrested. Jesus has revealed that he is leaving his disciples, predicting his upcoming death, but more importantly, predicting his return to the Father. In Jesus’ final instruction, Jesus teaches how his disciples can have joy and peace that cannot be take away from them. Notice these declarations, first in John 16:22 and then in John 16:33. “No one will take your joy from you” (16:22). “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace” (16:33). Do you want peace and joy that cannot be taken away from you? Jesus is going to tell his apostles in his final teaching before his death how they could receive that joy and peace.
You Will See Me Again (16:16-19)
Jesus begins by telling them that though he is leaving he will see them again. Now the disciples certainly do not understand how they are not going to see Jesus. But then they are going to see Jesus while the world will not see Jesus (16:17; 14:19). Jesus is speaking about his death and resurrection. Jesus knows the concerns of his disciples (16:19). I take encouragement from these words. Jesus knows what is on our hearts. Jesus knows our difficulties, lack of understanding, and struggles. Jesus seems to remind them of his divinity by knowing what they are asking themselves as they think about what Jesus is saying.
Sorrow To Joy (16:20-24)
Verse 20 is an amazing declaration about how these next three days are going to go. Jesus is going to die. He says that his disciples will weep and lament when this occurs. But notice what the world is going to do. “But the world will rejoice” (John 16:20). The world hates Jesus. We want to think that people would be sad over the death of Jesus. But they are not. Why would the world find joy in the crucifixion of Jesus? Listen to Jesus’ own words: “It hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil” (John 7:7 ESV). The world rejoiced because they were tired of hearing that what they were doing was evil. This is why Christians are maligned by the world today. The world is trying to get rid of every remembrance and vestige of Christ because he reveals the truth that the works of the world are evil. So we have to see Jesus for what he stands for in the world. This is why the world hates Jesus and we cannot be surprised by it. The world rejoiced over his death and Jesus knew this would happen. This speaks to the amazing grace and love of our Lord to still sacrifice himself even though he knew their hatred would be so great that they would rejoice over his death.
But this would not be the end of the story. The death of Jesus would not be the end. Sorrow would be turned to joy. “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” The resurrection turns the sorrow of the cross into our joy. Verse 21 is so beautiful. The result is so great that it makes the anguish worth it. The cross is horrific and shameful. But three days later the pain and sorrow of the cross is going to be radically changed. Joy is going to found in the cross.
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14 ESV)
The cross would no longer be the place of sorrow but the place of our hope and joy. Our boast and our rejoicing is not to be in anything else but the cross. Doesn’t that sound strange? Yet this is exactly what Paul teaches. The glorious work of Jesus will turn the sorrow of the cross into joy. Look at verse 22. Friends, this is the joy that cannot be taken from any disciple. The cross goes from representing something as repulsive as the electric chair and becomes God’s display of love and mercy, the hope of the world. We need joy that cannot be taken away. That joy is found by refusing to look at the temporary circumstances of this life and fixing our eyes firmly on the cross and the hope it represents.
Then Jesus promises that the relationship will be different. At this moment these disciples have many questions and do not understand what Jesus is doing or where he is going. But after the resurrection this will change. Then they will not have all these questions (16:23). Further, Jesus will be gone and they will be praying to the Father for their support by the name of Jesus. Jesus is the mediator for our prayers so that we have access to the Father. Please notice verse 24 because this is the third time Jesus has said this to his disciples since he washed their feet in the upper room. True, lasting joy that cannot be taken away rests in the power of prayer, a full dependence on the power and sovereignty of God.
Secure In The Father’s Love (16:25-30)
Now Jesus gives another reason why his disciples can have lasting joy and peace. Jesus begins with consolation that though he is using figures of speech now, there will be a time when they will learn plainly about the Father. Jesus will speak to his disciples differently after the resurrection, when his disciples will be able to bear what he has to say. Further, Jesus said he would send the Spirit of truth who will teach the disciples clearly all they need to know.
Notice what Jesus says in verses 26-27. Jesus says he will be the mediator for his disciples. But Jesus does not want his disciples to misunderstand why that is the case. Some religious groups portray the Father as a vengeful, wrathful, and unapproachable God who gives us Jesus so that he does not barbecue us. Jesus tells us that this is not the reason why we ask and pray in the name of Jesus. Jesus did not mediate on our behalf because God is so wrathful that he needs to be appeased. It really bothers me when we place such ideas on God that are not ever sustained or taught by the scriptures. Jesus says that the Father himself loves you. The purpose of Jesus is not to get in between the Father and us before the Father punishes us or vents his wrath toward us. The idea of appeasing the Father is simply foreign to the scriptures and foreign to the character of God. God loves the world and that is why he sent Jesus for us. Jesus says here that the reason we pray through Jesus is not because the Father does not love us.
We must portray the role of Jesus properly. The Father loves us but our access to the Father is blocked because of our sins. Holiness is the issue. The issue is not distance or wrath or hatred. Holiness is the problem, in particular, our lack of holiness. God is light and cannot be in the darkness at all. Our problem is that we are walking in the darkness and love the darkness. Therefore, we have a problem. Jesus is the solution to this problem. This is how Jesus is our mediator. Jesus is the remedy to our sin problem, restoring the relationship between us and God, not appeasing God’s wrath, but removing our sins so that we can be in the light with the Father.
How we must appreciate the love of God, our sin problem, and Jesus as the remedy to our problem. Now our joy can be full. Now we can have lasting peace. Now we have something that cannot be taken away from us — the true, lasting joy of being in close proximity and relationship with the Father.
Do You Believe (16:31-33)
Now the disciples think they understand (16:29-30). The disciples profess that they believe that Jesus has come from God. But notice that Jesus does not validate this faith. John’s gospel has repeatedly challenge mere professions of faith. Jesus answers, “Do you now believe?” Jesus goes on to show that these disciples do not have the saving faith necessary because they are not going to endure all the things that are about to happen in the next couple hours. The hour has come and these disciples are all going to be scattered. Rather than focusing on who this Jesus is and believing in who he is and that all things are in his hands and no one takes his life from him, they will run for their lives showing their lack of faith. They think they believe but they are going to be put to the test and they will all fail for they will desert Jesus.
But I want you to listen carefully to what Jesus says. “But I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (16:32). The disciples are going to leave Jesus during this time of crisis. But the Father will not leave the Son. Jesus will not be alone because the Father is with him. This statement is one of many reasons why I deny the commonly taught idea that the Father had to forsake Jesus on the cross because the Father had to vent his wrath upon the Son. But this idea, which sounds powerful, is not taught by any of the apostles. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 to show that the Father has not left him at all, but the cross is the fulfillment of scriptures. Carefully read all of Psalm 22 and notice that the very message of that psalm is that it looks like God had forsaken the author, but in fact God had not (note Psalm 22:24; also note verse 21 is the turning point of that psalm). It looked to the world that the Father had forsaken the Son on that cross. The world was rejoicing over the crucifixion of the Son of God. But the Father was with him. Jesus declares it to his disciples. The Father is not venting his wrath out on the Son but is making a way through the sacrifice of his Son to draw the world back to him. The cross is the ultimate display of the love of God, not the wrath of God.
Jesus is our joy and Jesus is our peace. In the world we will have tribulation (16:33). As we have seen in our study of Job, life is going to be difficult. We are going to suffer. Life is going to hurt. But take heart because Jesus has overcome the world. Our hope is in Jesus and not in this life. Oh, that we would find our joy in the cross! Oh, that we would make our boasting in the cross! We must want to know nothing more than Jesus and his crucifixion for that is my life and my joy (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2). This is all we need for lasting joy and peace that can never be taken away. Appreciate, enjoy, and cling to the cross of Jesus our Lord.