This is our 22 and final message of Yeshua's instruction to His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse. This is a very important section of Scripture in the Book of Glory. We have one more chapter to go to complete the Upper Room Discourse, but it is not instruction to the disciples but Yeshua's Prayer to the Father. The final section that we will look at this morning is John 16:23 through 33.
In our text for this morning our Lord is going to say His last words to His disciples. The words that He gave them the night before His crucifixion started in chapter 13, and they've run all the way now to the end of chapter 16. In this text He's made them all kinds of promises, and given them many warnings. He keeps talking about dying and leaving them, and they are filled with anxiety.
He has told them earlier in chapter 16 that they're going to throw you out of the synagogue. And they're even going to kill you, and think they are serving God when they do so. He has told them and us that we should expect the world to persecute Christians because they persecuted Him—even to kill Christians, because they killed Him. They hate us because we're not of the world, and they don't know God. So the fact that He is leaving them, and that they are going to be persecuted has caused them anxiety.
We ended last time with verse 22, so let's pick it up at verse 23.
In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. John 16:23 ESV
"In that day"—the context indicates that the day in view is the time when the disciples' joy had become "full" (v. 24). That would be after Yeshua's resurrection and ascension according to Luke 24:50-53.
"You will ask nothing of me"—the disciples would ask Him no questions then, because He would be bodily absent from them. They would have to request answers to their questions from the Father in prayer.
While Yeshua was with them they had asked Him everything. They came to Him for every need, every desire. They needed explanations; they came to Him He was Yahweh in the flesh able to give them the physical help or the spiritual guidance and instruction they needed.
"Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you"—that is a stunning promise. This in not the first time we have heard this promise. Beginning in chapter 14 Yeshua told the disciples that when they keep His commandments, whatever they ask the Father will honor. In the previous two chapters, Yeshua has made this statement 4 times; now in this chapter He has repeated this promise 3 more times: 14:13, "Whatever you ask in my name this I will do…"; 14:14, If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7 ESV
15:16, … so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you; 16:23, "Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you"; 16:24, Until now you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you will receive…; 16:26, In that day you will ask in my name …
Now let me ask you, believer, Are you getting everything you ask for in prayer when you pray in Yeshua's name? Why not? Isn't that what is promised here? I see several possibilities as to why these promises are not true in our lives: Maybe we're not really praying in Yeshua's name, or maybe we're misunderstanding these promises.
We have to understand what these texts meant to the people to whom they were originally given. So who is the Lord talking to? He is talking to His disciples, His first century disciples, who in just 53 days are going to experience Pentecost. They are going to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit and supernatural gifts to minister to the new body of believers, the Church.,
So it is my opinion that these texts apply to those first century disciples and only those first century disciples. It is these disciples that our Lord will use to take the Church from infancy to maturity during the transition period. Now, I am not saying that prayer is not for today. I pray every day. What I'm saying is that I believe that these specific promises of getting whatever we ask for were for the first century saints only.
Did you notice that there is a condition here, "Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you"—does this mean that at the end of your prayer all you have to do is say, "In Yeshua's name," and Yahweh will give you whatever you asked for? No, this is not "a magic get your prayer answered formula." In the Bible, a person's name equals all that a person is; a person's name is linked to the person's character. So to pray in Yeshua's name means to come to the Father on the basis of all that Yeshua is and all that He has done for us on the cross.
When we approach the Father "in Yeshua's name," we are coming to the Father in full acknowledgment of and dependence upon Yeshua. We are not coming in our own name, depending on our own perceived righteousness to give us the right of access. We come, acknowledging that our only right of access into the Father's presence is Yeshua and His righteousness, which is credited to all who believe in Him. Those who have come to God through Christ can approach God's throne freely and boldly to make request for their needs.
We need to see this promise of answered prayer in the context of what Yeshua has already spoken. He has made great promises about the work of ministry through His disciples. They would naturally have had fears and reservations about such work, so He gives them the critical key to carrying out their God-given tasks: "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." So I see these promises as made just to the first century disciples who He is leaving. It is for their work of maturing the Church.
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24 ESV
Why does Yeshua say that until now they have not asked anything in His name? Yeshua's statement implies that at this point, the disciples have not asked anything in His name because they cannot at this time be completely united to Him, which would give them access to the Father.
This union can only take place after the "hour" of His passion, His death, burial, resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Notice what Paul writes about this union in:
But now in Christ Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 ESV
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:18 ESV
And then in 1 Peter chapter 3 Peter, no doubt building upon what he heard in the upper room says,
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 1 Peter 3:18 ESV
So the work of the Lord Yeshua is to accomplish the atoning sacrifice as High Priest in order that the people of God might be brought to the Father. The disciples will be united to the life of Christ in the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but they will also be intimately united to God the Father because the Father is one with the Son.
"Ask, and you will receive"—Yeshua urges His disciples a second time to "ask" the Father. The verb in the Greek text is a present imperative meaning, "keep on asking." Why? "So that your joy may be full." Yeshua said these things to His disciples so that their joy may be full. Remember the disciples hearts were heavy that evening, because Yeshua had told them some very distressing things, which troubled them greatly. But when we read through the Book of Acts, we find joyful believers, very often in the midst of adversity. Joy is a by-product of abiding in Christ. The more you abide the greater your joy.
So through Christ, we now have direct access to the throne of the Father. Calvin exclaims, "This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that we have the heart of the Heavenly Father as soon as we have placed before Him the name of His Son."
"I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. John 16:25 ESV
"I have said these things to you"—the "these things" here is not just the previous paragraph or even the Upper Room discourse, but all He had been saying to them in the past three years. The specific teaching that He is referring to here is, "about the Father." All Yeshua said and did was to reveal the Father.
Yeshua said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? John 14:9 ESV
The emphasis of verses 7-11 of chapter 14 is clear. Five times Yeshua says virtually the same thing, that He and the Father are so profoundly One, that His presence is the presence of God the Father:
Verse 7a: "If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also."
Verse 7b: "From now on you do know Him and have seen Him."
Verse 10a "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?"
Verse 11a: "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me."
This is what I have been saying since the beginning of this study in John, Yeshua is Yahweh. Yahweh is revealed in Christ. He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In Him is the very wisdom and truth of God personified. So, everything He ever said was to reveal the Father—to reveal Yahweh.
He tells them that He has been saying these things to them, "in figures of speech"—the Greek word here is paroimia, which refers to language where "the meaning does not lay on the surface, but must be searched for and thought about" (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 70).
The Septuagint uses this word to translate the Hebrew "mashal" which covers a wide range of figurative speech, often containing obscure or enigmatic elements.
So Yeshua acknowledged that He had not been giving direct answers to His disciples' questions. He had been speaking enigmatically or cryptically.
"The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father"—Yeshua promises that the time is coming when there will no longer be any confusion over the use of such symbolic language because God the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will reveal all that was hidden. Those mysteries that seemed veiled and hidden will be plain to believers through the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
The coming "hour" refers to the time after Yeshua had completed His atoning work and the Holy Spirit would come. We know this because in the next verse Yeshua uses the phrase, "In that day." And this phrase was used in 14:20 and 16:23 to speak of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. So, the crucifixion and resurrection of Yeshua would mean a change in the way He communicated with the disciples.
This is striking. Here Yeshua is saying, "I'm leaving you, but I'll continue to teach you. In just a few hours He will be dead, but He will continue as the world's teacher through the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the apostles. The Spirit would help the disciples understand the meaning of what He had said earlier.
"Will tell you plainly about the Father"—the word used for "plainly" is very strong. It means something that is clear, something that comes across boldly; it is the kind of speech "that conceals nothing and passes over nothing" (BAG Lexicon, 635).
The only way we can know the Father is through His Son. As Yeshua said:
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11:27 ESV
In the beginning of our study of this book we saw:
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. John 1:18 ESV
So we need the Holy Spirit to disclose the things of Christ to us (John 16:14) and we need Christ to reveal the Father to us. We are dependent on the Triune God for all spiritual understanding.
In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; John 16:26 ESV
What is Yeshua saying here? He is telling them that after Pentecost they will be able to speak to the Father themselves. Up to this point they took all their needs to Yeshua. But once the Spirit comes they can take their requests directly to the Father. This had to be shocking to these Jewish believers. Because in the Old Covenant Yahweh was distant and veiled. Yahweh was symbolically in the Holy of Holies where only a High Priest could go once a year.
Believers, we have access to Yahweh. The writer of Hebrews said:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 ESV
Because of Christ's finished work we have access to Yahweh. This is something that I don't think that the Catholics understand. They think you need somebody else to give you that access, like a priest or Mary. Ludwig Ott a Roman Catholic systematic theologian who speaks for the church states, "Mary's intercessory cooperation extends to all graces, so that no grace accrues to mankind without the intercession of Mary." So we can't go directly to Yahweh, we need Mary's intercession. Ott goes on,"The redemptive grace of Christ is conferred on nobody without the actual intercessory cooperation of Mary." So without Mary we're all in trouble. We need Mary. No, we don't Yeshua says, "We can go directly to the Father in His name."
for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. John 16:27 ESV
Yeshua encourages these men who are about to fail with the promise that they can go directly to the Father who loves them and He will hear them because of Christ's finished work on the cross.
What encourages me here is that the words for "love" used here are not agape but phileo. Agape is the kind of love of which the New Testament so often speaks, which is the love of the will directed toward an object that usually requires some self-sacrifice. Phileo is not love in the sense of a self sacrificing expression of the will toward a person, but the love of affection and also a love that expresses a common delight in the same things. Phileo means: "affection, friendship, a feeling of tender affection toward someone else." It is used to describe a man's closest and nearest and truest friends. This word is used of God's love for Yeshua in:
For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. John 5:20 ESV
The Father loves the Son, He has a feeling of tender affection toward Him. We get that, but do you get that the Father has a feeling of tender affection toward believers? This is amazing!
The affection the Father has for us is because we both love the Son, "Because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God"—the verbs used to describe the action of the disciples' love and faith are both perfect tense verbs. This means that their love for Christ was permanent. It was a settled attitude of life for them.
He is saying that we don't have to be afraid to pray to the Father, because the Father Himself loves us. The Father is not inapproachable: He loves us. Believers have a direct relationship with the Father, as well as with the Son and the Spirit:
Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2 ESV
Why does He say that the Father has a feeling of tender affection toward believers? It is because they have loved Christ. How do we love Christ?
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21 ESV
We love Christ by living in obedience to Him.
I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father." John 16:28 ESV
Do you see what this verse is saying? This is a summary of Johannine Christology and the heart of this Gospel. This statement summarizes Yeshua's entire mission, from the Incarnation to the Ascension.
"I came forth from the Father"—this speaks of Christ's eternal glory with the Father before the world began. This is how Lazarus began this Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 ESV
The Word was God, Yeshua is the eternal God, He came from heaven.
"I have come into the world"—this is the incarnation. This is John 1:14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
Yeshua came into the world to show us the Father. The eternal God took on flesh and became a man.
"I am leaving the world"—He is leaving the world by way of the cross. No one took His life, He went to the cross voluntarily. The cross was the very reason that He came into this world. He told Nicodemus:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, John 3:14 ESV
This is Yeshua's earliest recorded prediction of His death. It is an allusion to death by crucifixion.
"I am going to the Father"—this points to His resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven. Yeshua's was exalted because He finished the work the Father gave Him to do, He died for His elect. From start to finish, our salvation does not depend on anything we do, but rather on Christ's finished work.
In John 16:27-28, Yeshua once again tells the disciples of their unique bond. Yeshua reaffirms that He is one with His disciples, and one with God the Father. It is through our union with Christ that we have access to union with the Father. It is only when "His hour" is accomplished, and His return is completed that the disciples will be able in confidence to make their petitions in prayer to the Father as He has promised.
His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God." John 16:29-30 ESV
The disciples, ironically, were confident that they believed they understood what Yeshua was saying. But they really didn't because in verse 25 Yeshua had promised the plain understanding AFTER His passion and resurrection.
D.A. Carson writes, "No misunderstanding is more pathetic than that which thinks it no longer exists. Ignoring or not comprehending Jesus' insistence that the time for speech without enigma lies just ahead, His disciples think He is already speaking 'without figures of speech.'" (Carson, D. A.. The Gospel according to John [pp. 532-55). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.)
What the disciples say here sounds to me like one of Peter's well-intentioned but exaggerated statements. Earlier in the evening, Peter had declared that he was ready to lay down his life for Christ, but Yeshua had predicted that before the night was over, Peter would deny Him three times (John 13:37-38). Now, the disciples all think that they understand Yeshua clearly and believe in Him (John 16:29-30). The disciples' confident statement in verse 30 will soon be put to the test.
Yeshua answered them, "Do you now believe? John 16:31 ESV
This statement can be translated in different ways. If any of you have the New International Version you'll see that it translates this, "You believe at last!" with an exclamation point after it. The Greek expression can be rendered as a direct statement, a declarative statement like that. "You believe at last!" Or we may punctuate with a question mark and take it to be an interrogation. Either one is possible. Almost all of the versions take it as a question. The very next verse argues strongly for a question.
"Do you now believe?—the word for "now" is a word that means: "at this very moment." "Do you at this moment believe?" They don't really understand. It's just a few hours before He's hanging upon the cross. And when that happens, they all forsake Him.
This question seems to plainly indicate that the Lord did not think they had really come to the faith that they have expressed. The disciples lack of faith will be evident in their deserting Yeshua during His trials and crucifixion.
Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. John 16:32 ESV
In Mark's Gospel Yeshua says:
And Yeshua said to them, "You will all fall away, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' Mark 14:27 ESV
Yeshua's prediction is that His disciples will be offended at His suffering and death, they will run, they will turn from dependence upon Him, they will fear that what happens to Him could also happen to them, so they scatter.
If we consider that these men knew Christ thoroughly, they had witnessed Him raising the dead and calming the raging sea, they had seen Him cast out demons and heal leprosy, it seemed unlikely that they would ever deny Him or fail in standing up for Him in His time of need, but they do.
Yeshua warns them, and then He quotes from Zechariah:
"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me," declares the LORD of hosts. "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. Zechariah 13:7 ESV
Lazarus' reference to scattering suggests they also saw a reference to Zechariah 13:7.
Yeshua turned their thinking to the prophecy of Zechariah to help frame the disciples' understanding of the suffering and death of the Son of God on their behalf. Not that they would understand it at this time, but they would in "that day."
Zechariah 13:7 fits perfectly into the context here of Yeshua being removed from them, and the followers being left to their own devices. However, in the context of the overall flow of Zechariah, chapters 12 and 13, the passage referred to the removal of Israel's military leader. This is what they thought of Christ—He was going to conquer Rome and set them free. Yeshua being put to death would cause them to stumble. The entire passage, and not just the half verse which Yeshua uses, can be used to apply to the situation in which Yeshua and the disciples will find themselves.
Yahweh is going to "Strike the Shepherd." That "striking" was Him being nailed to the cross? It was God's own work, pouring out His wrath upon His Son. Yahweh says, I am the One who will do it! Christ was smitten by God, and Christ willingly endured the smiting because of His love for us. This death of Christ has fully propitiated the wrath of a great and holy God towards all His elect, so that now God has nothing against us.
How was Zechariah's prophecy fulfilled? When the guards came with swords to arrest Yeshua at Gethsemane, the disciples abandoned Yeshua and "scattered like sheep." Though the disciples are clean and chosen, they are about experience failure and be scattered.
The phrase, "leave Me alone," is actually much stronger and better translated, "forsake Me." There is a time coming, coming very soon, when you will all abandon Me and scatter, hiding out in your own homes. You will leave Me alone, but I won't really be alone because the Father is with Me. However badly He will be abandoned by His disciples, Yeshua is assured of His Father's support.
So the disciples left Him and fled. Was their faith not real? Christ had just asked them, "Are you now believing?" An hour is coming when you're going to run —in doubt and fear." Was that faith a false faith? No, but it was a weak faith.
There are times when we imagine that we are much stronger in our faith than is actually true of us. And trials help to bring us back to reality. Trials keep us dependent upon the Lord. The disciples faith was not as strong as they thought because they are about to forsake Christ at the point of His crucifixion.
"Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me"—didn't the Father abandon Yeshua on the cross?
And at the ninth hour Yeshua cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34 ESV
Here was God the Son, the Word made Flesh. He was one with God. There had never been a time in all of history, there had never been one instant, not one billionth of a second when the Father and the Son had ever been separated. From before the foundation of the world, Jesus had enjoyed perfect and unbroken communion with His Father. But now, because He had taken our place on the cross, and had borne in His body the sin of all mankind, the Father, too holy to look upon sin, had turned the countenance of His glory away from His Son. But, this was only temporary.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 ESV
"I have said these things to you"—Yeshua says: "I have told you these things (that is, chapters 14 to 16) so that in me you may have peace."
"That in me you may have peace"—real peace comes through knowing Christ and enjoying our relationship to Him. The text emphasizes that peace is "in Me," i.e., in Christ. Paul picks up this same theme in so many of his epistles where over and over he uses that phrase, "in Christ" or "in Him." It is the strength of our relationship to Yeshua that gives us peace in the midst of life's storms.
Peace is not the absence of trouble or trials or even hostility. It is the tranquility of heart and soul in the midst of these things, that is peace. Leon Morris paints a good picture of what peace is by telling of a painting which he saw.
"I have read of an artist who wanted to paint a picture of peace. He chose, of all things, a storm beating against a rocky coast and depicted the waves, mountains high, crashing against the mighty rocks. He put a shipwreck in his picture, with a great ship driven up against the rocks and in the process of breaking up. In the water nearby there is the body of a drowned sailor. He has made it obvious that there is a wild storm beating against the coast and that this storm means danger and even death to people caught up in it. But in the foreground he has a mighty rock with a crack in it, and in the crack a dove has built her nest and is sitting on it, secure. Underneath the artist has written the one word: "Peace."
Yeshua is telling His disciples that in the midst of the difficulties, and trials, and troubles, the hostility of the world, the persecution, perhaps even the loss of life, He will be give them and us peace.
"In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world"—although the world will persecute the disciples, as He said it would (15:18-25 and 16:1-4a), they can take courage in the knowledge that Yeshua has overcome the world.
"But take heart"—the Greek word translated "take courage" or "take heart," is thareso, it's a verb form, and it's in the imperative. It's a command. Every time the words, "Take heart," appear in the New Testament, they come from the lips of our Lord. (cf. Matt. 9:2, 22; 14:27; Mark 6:50; 10:49; John 16:33; Acts 23:11). No one else ever says that in the New Testament. Here in this final encouragement Yeshua goes right back to the starting point of this final teaching session with His disciples:
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1 ESV
And, here He tells the disciples, who are confused and about to forsake Him, to "take heart" because, "I have overcome the world"—the word our Lord uses is another one of those perfect tense verbs. It means that His victory is abiding or lasting. He gives us the assurance that if He has conquered the world, then united with Him, we can also conquer the world.
As Paul says in Romans 8:38 and 39:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 ESV
Yeshua's final words to the disciples that night were, "Take heart, I have overcome the world." The verb "overcome" is constructed in Greek to mean that by a single event Yeshua had conquered the world and that the victorious results would continue on through time. Yeshua's victory over the world would be accomplished through the Cross and the Resurrection. This overcoming included His victory over the lesser gods as we see in Psalm 82. The world continues its wretched attacks, but those who are in Christ share the victory He has won.
Verse 33 concludes the second major section of the Last Discourse. It also concludes, on this triumphant note, Yeshua's words to His disciples. Chapter 17 will be addressed to the Father.