Principles for every disciple – John 16:16-33

Our text provides the final words in Jesus’ upper room discourse. The last supper was ending, Judas has already betrayed Jesus, instructions have been given to the disciples, and now Jesus gives them one more word of encouragement. In this passage, we see two basic principles for every disciple of Jesus: the principle of joy and the principle of promise.

The principle of joy (v. 16-22). Jesus tells His disciples that He would be leaving them and will come back again soon. Some modern commentators suggest that there is a dual reference given by John here. They say that John was referring both to the death of Christ and the second coming of Christ. However, the truth is simply that Jesus was telling His disciples that He would soon go away, a reference to His death, and that they will soon see Him again, a reference to His resurrection. Jesus already told His disciples that after His resurrection and ascension, He would send them the Holy Spirit so that they would never be alone. Jesus encourages His disciples with the fact that they would see Him again. He assures them, that though they sorrow now, they will have a joy that no man can take from them. As we think about this principle of joy, there are a couple of things to consider.

Sorrow is transformed to joy. There is a difference in replacing sorrow with joy and sorrow turning into joy. Jesus never said that He would replace sorrow with joy, rather, He would transform sorrow into joy. The disciples were saddened by the words that Jesus was speaking concerning His departure. Jesus wanted them to understand that His death and resurrection would bring much joy to the whole world. Warren Wiersbe gives a fantastic illustration, he says, “Every parent knows what it is like to have an unhappy child because a toy is broken or a playmate has gone home. The parent can do one of two things: substitute something else for the broken toy or absent friend, or transform the situation into a new experience for the unhappy child. If Mother always gets a new toy for the child each time a toy is broken, that child will grow up expecting every problem to be solved by substitution. If Mother always phones another playmate and invites him or her over, the child will grow up expecting people to come to his rescue whenever there is a crisis. The result either way is a spoiled child who will not be able to cope with reality. The way of substitution for solving problems is the way of immaturity. The way of transformation is the way of faith and maturity. We cannot mature emotionally or spiritually if somebody is always replacing our broken toys.”[1] Jesus gives the illustration of a mother in labor. It is a very painful experience. However, the thing that causes the mother such pain, is also the source of her greatest joy. Living for Jesus will cause you pain. Going against the flow and living a life that opposes the world will cause great sorrow. However, the sorrow is nothing compared to the joy that we experience in knowing Jesus. Are you taking the pain and the sorrows of life and trusting in Jesus to transform that pain into joy? Or do you find yourself looking for other things to replace the pain?

Joy cannot be taken away. True joy that is found in Jesus can never be taken away. Joy in the life of a disciple of Jesus never goes away. It is constant. You may have times of sorrow and pain, but deep down, there is still joy. It is the joy that we have in Christ that gives us the strength to endure the pain of life. The world may hurt you and inflict all manner of pain and sorrow upon you, but they can never take away the joy of the Lord.

The principle of promise (v. 23-33). The day that Jesus spoke of in verse 23 refers to the time after His ascension. Jesus is making reference to the dispensation of grace or the age of the church. When it comes to the principle of promise there are several things for us to consider.

  1. We are to pray the right way (v. 23).

It is in this age that you and I live in today that when we pray, we are to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus. The Pillar New Testament Commentary says, “In that day, after Jesus has risen and ascended and the Holy Spirit has been sent, you will no longer ask me anything. Rather, as the rest of the verse shows, his followers will ask the Father in Jesus’ name.”[2] It is important that we learn to pray the right way. If we expect God to honor our prayers and answer our prayers, then we must honor Him by praying in obedience to the Word of God. This includes being obedient to the mechanics of prayer. We should not pray to Jesus or to the Holy Spirit. We pray to the Father. Notice Hebrews 10:19-22. As believers in Christ, we have the amazing opportunity to go to the throne of God. The authority that we have to approach the throne is found in Jesus. Therefore, the power or authority behind our prayer is in the name of Jesus. All three persons of the Trinity is involved in our praying. The Holy Spirit who indwells us, is the one who compels us to pray. As we pray, we address our prayers to God the Father. It is the Father to whom we are praying. As we pray to the Father, we do so in the name of Jesus. For it is by His name that we have the authority to call upon the Father. This is the appropriate way to pray. If we want to see the promises of God fulfilled in our lives, then we must learn to pray the right way.

  1. The promises of God gives fulfillment (v. 24).

We all have things in our lives that we are not satisfied with. Having a life of fulfillment can be a struggle. We all desire to be fulfilled, to be satisfied. When Jesus said that our joy may be full, He was referring to having a life of fulfillment. Jesus wants us to have a complete and full life. This fulfillment comes as we pray and grow in Him. Jesus told His disciples that they will no longer ask Him anything. Instead, they will pray to the Father in the name of Jesus and the Father will give them what they need. Maybe you are worried. Maybe you get frustrated over your situation. Perhaps there is not enough income to pay the bills or you are overwhelmed with all the things that you must do. Let me encourage you to give those things to the Father. Pray to Him in the name of Jesus and give all of your burdens to Him. He may not take away all of your frustrations, however, He will overshadow you with peace and joy. Don’t worry about the cares of this world, trust in Him and He will satisfy you.

  1. Everything is made clear at the cross (v. 25-30).

Jesus told His disciples that He had been speaking to them in proverbs. In other words, the things that He was telling them was difficult for them to understood. However, after the cross and the resurrection, the disciples will understand more clearly. Everything that Jesus taught and everything we see in God’s Word is made clear in light of the cross. The cross is the fulfillment of everything we see in the Old Testament. The cross is the whole purpose for why Jesus came to this earth. If you are ever confused, if there are things that you do not understand; look to the cross. The answer is always found at the foot of the cross.

  1. Jesus is all we need (v. 31-22).

Jesus gives peace to all who believe on Him. There are many tribulations and troubles that we face in this world. We do not need to worry over those things. Jesus gives us peace. He is all that we need. Jesus has overcome the world for us, so we do not have to ourselves. The greatest promise of God is that He never leaves us nor forsakes us. We are not alone. When you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you have all that you will ever need.

Being a disciple of Jesus is a great honor. There is much joy that comes from following Him. There is great satisfaction in following Him. Will you follow Jesus today?

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 363–364). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[2] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 545). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.

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