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The IVP New Testament Commentary Series – Jesus Describes the Reasons for the Joy That the Disciples Are About to Experience (16:22-28)
Jesus Describes the Reasons for the Joy That the Disciples Are About to Experience (16:22-28)

While the grief is already beginning, the joy is coming, for I will see you again (v. 22). Earlier Jesus had said that they would see him (vv. 16, 19), and now he says it is also he who will see them. Such a statement makes it clear that what they see will not be the result of some sort of inner experience with no objective grounds in Jesus himself, though it is not clear whether this is the intention of Jesus' words. At the least it encourages the disciples that they will once again be of interest and concern to him. This restored relationship is the cause of their joy. Because the relationship is secure so is the joy, even in the midst of the suffering that Jesus says is awaiting them (15:18—16:4). There will be those who want to take this joy from the disciples, but they will not be able to do so.

Their joy is primarily rooted in their restored relationship with Jesus, but there will be changes in that relationship. Something of these changes will become clear in the postresurrection encounters, but already Jesus refers to a change in their patterns of asking (vv. 23-26). There are two different Greek words translated ask in verse 23. One, erotao, can be used of asking for something but often is used for asking questions. The other, aiteo, usually refers to petitions. The NIV captures this distinction nicely, though the distinction is easily missed if one is not paying attention: you will no longer ask [erotao] me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask [aiteo] in my name. By adding the words no longer (not found in the Greek) the NIV draws out the connection that exists with the context. The disciples have been asking Jesus a lot of questions in the farewell discourse, but they have not been petitioning him. Because erotao can refer to petitions it is possible that Jesus is only referring to this kind of question. But the context of the disciples' questions, combined with the solemn "amen, amen" that separates the two halves of the verse and the "and" (kai) that connects verse 23 to verse 22 (omitted in the NIV), suggests there are two types of asking in view.

Thus the first change of relationship that will be a source of joy is reflected in their no longer needing to ask Jesus questions (v. 23). This does not mean the disciples will have no questions in the future. We believers have plenty of them even now. But the things the disciples have been asking about will become clear once they see the Lord's death and resurrection and receive the help of the Paraclete to sort it all out (cf. 1 Jn 2:20). That is, the disciples will have an understanding of Jesus that gives them the heart of the truth. They may come up with interesting questions, some of which are inappropriate and thus not answered (21:21-22), but they will have all they need to live the divine life now made available.

The second change of relationship will be their sharing in Jesus' work as his friends (vv. 23-24). This is the reality behind Jesus' reference to asking the Father in his name (cf. 14:13; 15:7, 15). They have not asked in his name up to this point because they have not dwelt in him and he has not dwelt in them. This will soon change, and then they will share in the eternal life that Jesus has with the Father, which includes being taken into the work of God in the world. Such prayer is based on the love that is obedience (15:7-17; 1 Jn 3:22) and therefore is directed toward God's will being done and not toward one's own will apart from God (1 Jn 5:14-15). This work is the same as seen in Jesus and as described in regard to the Paraclete, namely, the revelation of the love of God in word and deed. This revelation will be manifest in each disciple's life and especially in the quality of life of the community as a whole. John later promotes such life in the community through sharing in the life that has been revealed, which brings fullness of joy (1 Jn 1:1-4).

These two types of asking, then, speak of the new intimacy with God that the disciples are about to experience. The communication will go both directions. The disciples will be able to hear from God with understanding, and they will be able to pray to God in accord with his own purposes (cf. Michaels 1989:287). The key to both types of communication is listening. Unless the disciple listens he or she will neither receive the insight into Jesus and his revelation nor be able to enter into God's purposes in prayer. Thus, at the center of the disciples' intimacy with God is the humility depicted throughout this Gospel. This humility is a docility and openness toward God that receives life from God and all the outworkings of that divine, eternal life.

Jesus then expounds on these aspects of the coming intimacy, returning first to the theme of future insight and knowledge. He says he has been speaking figuratively (v. 25). He is not referring merely to the image of the woman in childbirth (v. 21), but to the general cast of most of his teaching throughout the Gospel. His subject has always been the Father. Even when he has spoken of himself it has been as the Son who is revealing the Father. Jesus has said that his opponents' inability to understand him is due to their lack of faith and their alienation from God. But his own disciples have had a hard time keeping up also, as Jesus has recognized (6:60-69; 16:12). Jesus has promised to them the Paraclete, who will instruct them (14:26; 15:26; 16:13-15), but now he says that he himself will also speak to them (16:25). Because Jesus has been speaking of his resurrection, this plain speaking could refer to his teaching after his resurrection and before his ascension. But the references to prayer in his name (vv. 23-24, 26) extend beyond the resurrection period, so this further instruction probably does so as well. But if the Son himself will continue to teach the disciples, then it seems that, although the Son and the Paraclete are distinct from one another, the presence of Jesus with the disciples will be mediated by the Paraclete (see comment on 14:16, 23-28). Jesus' teaching will become clear to the disciples because the revelation will be complete, with the cross and resurrection giving the deepest insight into Jesus' identity and the significance of his ministry. But even these climactic events would not be clear without the new birth through the Spirit that enables them to share (as much as is possible for human beings) in the very life of God that Jesus shares (17:21-23). Thus, these verses speak of Jesus' resurrection and the new life there begun.

Jesus returns to the theme of asking in his name (v. 26; cf. vv. 23-24), adding a very powerful point. Asking in his name is not a matter of their asking him and then his asking the Father on their behalf. He is indeed a paraclete before the Father (1 Jn 2:1) and the one who intercedes (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25). But such texts "deal not with petitionary prayer but with the status of the Christian before God, a status which rests entirely upon the eternal consequences of the priestly work of Christ" (Barrett 1978:496). The very fact that Jesus is our mediator means we have direct access in him to the Father. So in him we can pray to the Father, and at the same time Jesus himself prays for us. He prayed for Peter (Lk 22:32), and we will hear in the next chapter his amazing prayer for the apostles, and all disciples, spoken as if he were already in heaven.

The fact that we need a mediator could imply that the Father is aloof or hateful toward us. But Jesus makes it clear that such is not the case. Jesus need not pass on our requests to the Father, "for" (gar, left out of the NIV) the Father himself loves you (v. 27)—here we have the key revelation of the whole Gospel in a bumper sticker. Everything Jesus has been about reveals this Father and this love.

The reason the Father loves the disciples is because they have loved Jesus and believed he came from God. This does not mean God's love is dependent on our initiative or that it is not universal (see comment on 14:21). "We love because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). This speaks instead of the fulfillment of that love in those who love and believe in the Son. Both the love and the belief are significant. The Son must be received as he is in truth, as the one who has come from God. John must deal later, in his first letter, with those who claim to know and love the Father and the Son but who do not receive the Son as he truly is. Neither love for a Christ of human invention nor a mere correct rational assessment of Jesus are in view here. A right relationship includes both the right understanding of who Jesus is and an attachment of love.

If the crucial revelation of the Father is his love, the key revelation of the Son is his relation to the Father, summarized in the fact that he has come from God (cf. 1 Jn 4:14, 16). Jesus unpacks this core affirmation in a four-line chiasm (v. 28; cf. Brown 1970:725):

A I came from the Father

B and entered the world

B' now I am leaving the world

A' and going back to the Father

This chiasm connects the belief the disciples already have—that Jesus came from the Father—to the point that has been causing them grief—his return to the Father. The chiasm's focus is the Son's relation to the Father and his mission to the world: his incarnation and ascension are viewed in the first and last lines in relation to the Father and in the middle lines in relation to the world (Brown 1970:725). This statement is "at once a summary of Johannine Christology and the heart of this Gospel" (Beasley-Murray 1987:287).

Thus, in verses 27 and 28 we have the fundamental grounds for the climactic salvation Jesus has been speaking about. At the heart of this salvation is the Father's love, the relation between the Father and the Son and the Son's entrance into the world. On the human side the response that brings one into intimacy with God is love and faith toward the Son as sent from God. The centrality of this view of Jesus as the one sent from God has been evident throughout the Gospel (especially 8:42-47) and is seen again in its repetition by the disciples (16:30) and its affirmation by Jesus in his concluding prayer (17:8).

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