16 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things.
(John 16:1-6 NIV)
As we begin chapter 16, Jesus loops back to yesterday’s passage and repeats the same points with an additional perspective. The two themes? 1) The world’s hatred for Jesus (and by association, His disciples), and 2) The coming and purpose of the Holy Spirit. Remember, chapters 15, 16, and 17 captured Jesus’ instructions to His disciples as they departed the Upper Room and walked across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. The end of life as they knew it was near; a new paradigm was about to begin.
In Chapter 15, Jesus had instructed His disciples “what” to do: 1) to stay united to Him, just as the branches must stay connected to the vine to survive, and 2) to remain in His love, just as He remained in His Father’s love.
In today’s passage, Jesus instructs His disciples on the “why”: so they will not fall away from Him. Jesus knows the storm that is about to hit, and He wants His disciples to be prepared to stand firm through the trials.
The disciples’ first trial will be excommunication from the synagogue and Jewish life. Remember the blind man that Jesus healed (John 9:22-34), whose parents disowned him for fear of the Jewish leaders, and the leaders kicked him out for believing in Jesus? The same would happen to Jesus’ disciples and more. Jesus says the same leaders will kill them, thinking that they are doing God a favor. In fact, the Apostle Paul (when he was still Saul, the persecutor) would be one of the main proponents of this (Acts 22:20) before the Lord reveals Himself to Saul and redeems his life.
In verses 4 – 6, Jesus says that He is telling His disciples these things in advance of their happening so that they will remember when it occurs and know how to respond. Jesus acknowledges His disciples’ state of mind – He knows their confusion, sorrow, and grief over what He is telling them. Jesus shares these truths to prepare them, and also to comfort them.
Jesus does not leave His disciples on this low note. In our next section, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to be their advocate and their reminder of all the truths He has taught them.
The Apostle Paul, James, John, Peter, and others all remind us that we will have trials in this life. And each one also reminds us that these trials are temporary, that God uses those trials to bring us closer to Him, and that He is with us during each trial.
May James’ words of empathy and encouragement ring true in our lives today:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
(James 1:2-4 NIV)