Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Have Overcome the World (John 16:23-33)

Icon of Christ Pantocrator (Ruler of All)

23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”

29 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! 30 Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”

31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I have already commented at length about the idea of asking for things in Jesus’ name (see my comments on 14:14 and 15:16), so I won’t belabor that point.

Up until now, Jesus has done most of his teaching in the form of parables and other types of figurative language. As Fr. Farley states “He cannot yet speak openly of the nature of the Kingdom. Until the Cross and Resurrection, they are in no position to understand the spiritual and hidden nature of the Kingdom. But soon they will be” (284). For after the Resurrection, their minds will be ready for the plain truth, and he will spend much of 40 days teaching them all they need to know about the Scriptures and the Kingdom of God.

After the Resurrection, the disciples will no longer need Jesus to pray for them, for they will be able to pray directly to the Father. Of course, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will intercede for them, and of course, will also receive their prayers. But they will also have access to the Father through the risen and glorified Son. Fr. Farley ties this asking in Jesus’ name specifically to their growth in knowledge of the truth. He says that Jesus will not intercede on their behalf “as if they could not ask God for truth themselves. This will then be unnecessary, for the Father himself loves them and will teach them truth” (284).

After hearing Jesus’ words about speaking to them plainly, the disciples come to the conclusion that the time for this clear knowledge has already come. They now think that they understand him completely. Once again, Fr. Farley sums up the situation perfectly:

“[Jesus] spoke about leaving the world and going to the Father, and they take this to mean Christ leaving the world in death, not seeing that He will triumph over death, not seeing that He will triumph over death and return to the Father in His resurrected body in the Ascension. The Lord promised a new day would come, in which figures and veiled speech would not be necessary…The disciples think that now this new day has come, since now (they think) they understand the Lord” (285).

The disciples’ assertion that they understand Jesus is followed by a profession of faith and loyalty to him: “We believe that You came forth from God!” But Jesus knew them better than they knew themselves. He knew that they meant well, but that their knowledge of him was still very limited and that their loyalty was very shaky. To help them to understand this and to teach them humility, he tells them that they will scatter and abandon him in his imminent time of tribulation. But even if Jesus is devoid of human company, he is not alone, for the Father is always with him. The Father will not abandon him as the disciples will.

This statement of Jesus clearly must have caused consternation among the disciples. Because of this, Jesus again speaks to them words of comfort: “In this world you will have tribulation” (i.e., suffering and hardship; the Greek word here is thlipsis, the same word used for the pain caused by childbearing in v. 21).

The last part of verse 33 is my favorite part of the chapter: “but be of good cheer (lit., “take courage”), I have overcome the world.” No matter what happens to us, no matter how much sorrow, heartache, or suffering we find ourselves in, we can take courage and be of good cheer. In spite of his great passion and suffering, Jesus triumphed; he overcame the world. And because he did, so can we. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 2:13).

Memorize these words and recall them when you suffer.

Next time: Jesus’ holy “High Priestly Prayer” (John 17)


charlene said...

Father James,
When Christ asks the disciples to believe in him, here and in many other places in the scriptures as well, can I substitute the word "trust"? It seems to go beyond knowing or accepting Jesus as the son of God, and beyond love of the kind that bears fruit. When we believe in (trust) Jesus we know that whatever happens in our lives, no matter how difficult the situation, good things can come from it.
This question will show my biblical ignorance: Why couldn't the disciples pray directly to God the Father before Jesus death and ressurection? Who did the Jews pray to?
Thank you Father for blessing us with your words.

Jnorm888 said...

Nice Icon!!!!


Fr. James Early said...


Please forgive my delay in responding. Yes, it is certainly true that belief is more than intellectual assent, but includes total trust. Once again, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head,

As to your second question, you are referring to my comment on verse 26: "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you."

In my comments on that verse, I relied heavily on what Fr. Farley had to say--perhaps too much (sorry, I was in a hurry). On further reflection, Jesus certainly does not say that no one ever prayed directly to the Father before his resurrection. I didn't mean to imply that. He merely says that he will not pray to the Father for them.

In my opinion, the reason Jesus says he will not pray for them is because they won't need him to. I get the impression that while he was with them, they would ask him for what they needed, and he would ask the father. But with him no longer on earth, they won't be able to do that, so they can pray directly do the Father. Jesus is only speaking of and to the 11 disicples here; he is not speaking of the Jews prior to his coming, nor to the Church today.

Does this make sense? If not, feel free to post another question. You're always welcome to do so. I'm delighted to answer them (or at least to try).

charlene said...

Father James,
This all makes perfect sense now, thanks to your careful explanations. It was as though Jesus was saying,"Look guys, I know you get frightened at even the thought of my leaving, but you really will be okay. You yourselves can ask the Father directly for what you need, and your prayers will be heard."
When I was growing up Roman Catholic, I remember somehow having the notion that I was not worthy of speaking to God directly except through formal prayers. When I became Protestant, all intercessory prayer through Blessed Mary or the saints was discouraged. Being Orthodox, I am encouraged to ask for intercessory prayer from the living, from our Blessed Mother, and all the Saints. And I am encouraged to pray directly to our Heavenly Father, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. I love being Orthodox!
Again, my gratitude.