John 16:4-16 (spring AD 30, Thursday evening of Passion Week)
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” (v.12)
Most of us don’t think of God as someone who sugarcoats things. And in once sense he doesn’t – the truth will always be conveyed as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But that does not mean that God tells you everything you need to know all at once – you couldn’t handle it if he did. He focuses in different ways to grow us at different times, and almost none of his changes are immediate.
When there’s something big for you to learn, God will often clear the decks for you so that you focus on just that one thing. For example a serious illness, injury or bereavement relegates all life’s other concerns to near irrelevance – it clears the decks for you to focus on relying on God alone. Sometimes these trials stack up on top of each other, but God’s objective is always to grow us and give us joy, not crush us, so he always gives us a way through.
Most of the “much more” that Jesus had to tell them was through the Holy Spirit, after Jesus had returned to heaven. He wanted them to understand more, and he was sometimes frustrated about how thick-headed they were (e.g. Mark 8:14-21). But his goal was always their understanding and relationship with him, never merely the transfer of information. So it is with parenting: there are thousands of things to learn, some of them many times over, but you don’t give it to your children all at once. The difference is, God’s parenting of us is perfectly paced. Whatever he’s saying is the right amount, and whenever he is teaching is the right moment for us to learn.
Thank him for that, as you also ask him – those of you who are parents/church leaders – for wisdom in treating your children/church people the same way.
A few notes about the slightly confusing v.8-11:
Jesus said that Holy Spirit would “prove the world to be in the wrong”, and he wasn’t referring merely to intellectual proof. Rather, he was saying that Holy Spirit would be personally convicting people about three things:
- SIN (people didn’t believe in Jesus)
- What does the world believe?
- That Jesus isn’t God, and that sin doesn’t exist or that we get to define it for ourselves.
- Jesus reminded us that sin isn’t sin if it’s subjective, and the only authority on objective statements on sin is God, who proved Jesus’ divinity through his miracles
- What does the world believe?
- RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jesus was going back to be with Father God, where no humans could see him)
- This refers to the world’s idea of righteousness, most particularly the idea that we can impress God with enough good works or religious activity.
- The reference to Jesus going to heaven is to impress the point that the Holy Spirit will be doing this instead of Jesus, because Jesus is about to go to heaven.
- JUDGEMENT (Satan is already condemned)
- Willful spiritual blindness (which is ALL spiritual blindness) will be punished
- The world consistently judges unjustly, according to its own changing criteria. God will judge with justice and consistency, and without bias.
(Please note that these clauses have thrown up some controversy in interpretation, but the above makes best sense of things as far as I can tell. None of the alternative interpretations are radically different – they don’t change anything fundamental.)