John 16:16–33: The Victory of Jesus
Throughout the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus has moved between comforting the disciples in their sorrow and encouraging them in the hope of his soon-to-be finished work and the coming of the Holy Spirit. In John 14, Jesus both promises that he is going away from them to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house (John 14:2–3) and also addresses their concerns about being left as orphans (John 14:18) with troubled hearts (John 14:27). Then, John 15:1–17, Jesus beautifully described how the disciples would be his branches so that he, the vine, would produce abiding fruit in them. Afterward, Jesus abruptly transitioned to warning them that they would face the full brunt of the hatred of the world (John 15:18–25). Next, Jesus encouraged them with the hope of the coming Holy Spirit (John 15:26–27), and then he immediately returned to the subject of the hatred of the world (John 16:1–4a).
In the immediately preceding passage, Jesus encouraged the disciples through a glorious description of the ministry of the Holy Spirit as a floodlight to glorify Jesus and as the Treasurer of the Trinity (John 16:4b–15). According to the pattern, it should perhaps not surprise us that after a word of encouragement, Jesus now again forces his disciples to face the brutal facts: Jesus will go away, and they will not see him any longer in the way in which they have grown accustomed. Jesus does not shy away from the truth that this coming departure will be bitterly sorrowful for the disciples, even as the watching world rejoices to rid themselves of Jesus. Nevertheless, Jesus promises this comforting word to his disciples: Jesus brings forth joy out of the sorrow of the cross.
1. Why did the disciples believe that their sorrow at Jesus’ departure would be in vain? Would you have felt differently if you had been with them? Is there sorrow in your life that feels like you are suffering in vain? How does the illustration of the sorrow of a laboring woman bringing forth a child bring comfort in the midst of seemingly-fruitless sorrow?
2. Contrast the access to God that the Levitical priests in the old covenant enjoyed versus the access permitted to the common Israelite. Next, contrast the access to God that the Levitical priests enjoyed versus the access permitted to us through the priestly work of Jesus. What affect does our new access to the Father have on our lives—especially in terms of intercessory prayer?
3. What prompted the disciples to boast in John 16:29–30? How did Jesus respond? What confidence can we have before God in the midst of our greatest failures?
4. When Jesus promises that we will certainly have tribulation in the world (John 16:33), what is he talking about? What tribulation have you seen in your own life? Then, what kind of victory has Jesus accomplished when he promises that he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33)? How have you seen his victory in your life? What parts of his victory must you await by faith?