Five Minute Devotions: John 16
John 16 is a continuation of the conversation that Jesus began during the Last Supper in John 13. The disciples are now in Gethsemane and Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion are at hand. It is no wonder then, that Jesus begins this chapter by talking about the victory that will come through seeming defeat.
The future that Jesus paints for his disciples is one of suffering mixed with celebration and persecution mixed with peace. He does not hold back from telling his disciples that hard days are ahead. Jesus is clear that following him comes at a cost. But, he says, this is the pathway to victory.
Jesus has spent the last couple of chapters reassuring his disciples that his physical absence would be to their benefit. But in this chapter, he turns to the harsh realities that they will soon face.
They will ban you from the synagogues. In fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering service to God. – John 16:2
We can all to easily overlook the weightiness of this statement. Living in the pagan Roman Empire, the synagogue was the one distinctly Jewish place that Jews could go—there and the Temple. Essentially, Jesus is proclaiming that following him will get the disciples kicked out of their communities.
They will be cut off from their ethnic support system. Their allies will become their enemies. You even see a sort of prophetic statement that describes the future Saul of Tarsus. Up until this point, there has been tension with the Jewish leaders. More than once, they have tried to kill Jesus and failed. Not once are we told that they went after the disciples. Jesus seems to have protected them.
But if Jesus leaves, then what? And Jesus is clear. The Jewish leaders will come after you. They will ban you from your place of worship and seek to kill you. And this is for your benefit… How can that be? How can Jesus put them in such a predicament?
Because when he leaves, the Spirit will come and indwell them. They will be persecuted as Jesus was persecuted because Jesus now lives inside them.
As the chapter progresses, the disciples begin to get wise to the fact that Jesus is saying some important things. He has to leave so that the Spirit can come. They must go through the pain of his absence so that they can receive the joy of his presence. It is necessary to go through the valley to reach the mountaintop. The pathway to victory runs through adversity and pain and suffering and loss.
He ends the chapter with these words:
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world. – John 16:33
What a study in contrasts! He warns us of our coming suffering so that we might have peace. He tells us exactly what to expect so that we would not be surprised by it. You can have peace through suffering if you understand its place in the larger story.
Kara Tippetts had terminal cancer when she wrote her memoir The Hardest Peace. The entire book was her reconciliation of her suffering with God’s goodness. And this is essentially the answer she came to:
“But we are not the Author of our story. We are the characters.” – Kara Tippetts, The Hardest Peace
He promises persecution, but he also promises his presence. He promises a battle, but he also promises that the war is won. Whatever adversity you are going through in your life, keep it in perspective of that fact. He has conquered the world. Whatever struggle you are going through, Christ has conquered. Even as he goes to a cross, he finds victory through seeming defeat.
Father, we will be honest and tell you that we don’t like this. Our pathway to victory looks much different. We prefer an easier way. But we submit to yours. Give us your peace through the hardest of times that we may reflect you and preach your victory.
What is the role of the Holy Spirit, according to Jesus in John 16?
In this chapter, the disciples clearly aren’t understand what Jesus means by going to the Father. Do they finally get it by the end? How does Jesus change how he speaks?
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