“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear to hear them now.”-John 16:12
In the movie Dumb and Dumber (Farrelly & Farrelly, 1994), Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd Christmas was talking with his love interest. Although she was kind to him, she was happily married and completely disinterested in him. Forever slow to catch on, he wanted to know his chances with her, so he said, “Just tell it to me straight. Give it to me.”
Sometimes, we want Jesus to give us his message, full force. “Just tell it to me straight. Give it to me.” When it seems like he holding back, we may feel anxious or disappointed. We are uncomfortable with mystery, so we try to take control.
God does not withhold information from us because he is aloof or mean-spirited, but because he merciful. God is complete goodness. In those times when we feel like God is holding out, perhaps that is right where God needs us to be. Why? Because as Jesus told those first disciples, “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Larry Crabb said that we are called to “tremble and trust” when God’s ways make no sense (Crabb, 2018).
Jesus, I am often impatient and anxious. When I cannot see you working, I try to take over. Forgive my haste. Allow me to rest in your presence, your power, and your provision as I learn to tremble and trust. Amen.
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”-John 16:8-11
Jesus told his disciples that Spirit would convict people of sin. We have an internal system of checks and balances that cues us in to right or wrong. Our moral judgment may vary on many issues, but certain actions are universally reprehensible. It is the Holy Spirit that brings these things to mind, sometimes much more strongly than others.
In the next breath, Jesus spoke of righteousness, but he did not tell them “behave!” Instead, he told them “I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer.” The Spirit not only convict us of sin, but points us toward goodness. Jesus showed us the way to live, and the Spirit will be there to remind us.
Finally, he told them that sin leads to judgment. Satan, the ruler of this world, stands condemned. At the end of all things, Christ will bring all evil to an end and allow righteousness and goodness to reign.
Jesus, allow your Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin and to lead me in paths of righteousness, holding on to the hope that at the end of all things, all evil shall cease. Amen.
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”-John 16:7
After acknowledging the validity of their sorrow, Jesus kept speaking. He said, “It is to your advantage that I go away.” He was not just trying to make them feel better. He knew that leaving would actually be better, because then the Holy Spirit, the promised Helper, would come. I imagine the disciples must have needed an extra dose of trust. If I were in their shoes, I would have been thinking, “Great. You are leaving, and I am left with ‘your Helper’ whom I cannot even see.” But Jesus knew the importance and the power of the Spirit.
Many of us still live in uncertainty. We wish our friend Jesus was here, but when we don’t literally see him, we feel like we are left with our longings. But do you realize that Jesus’s words are just as true for us now, in this time and place? The Spirit of God is fully present with you right now.
Jesus, you promised your followers that your Holy Spirit would come, and you kept your promise. You say that your Holy Spirit is my ever present help, but too often, I fail to live in that truth. Help me to live in light of your empowering grace, by your Spirit. Amen.
“But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”-John 16:6
How would you feel if your best friend, your teacher, and the one upon whom you had placed all of your hopes told you he was leaving? What would you think if you’d given up everything for someone, and he was departing? Would you be afraid, confused, or perhaps angry? All of those would be valid feelings.
When Jesus looked at his brothers, he likely saw downcast eyes, crossed arms, and perhaps tears. He acknowledged their feelings. He had not told them, nor shown them, how his departure was actually good news. Their sadness was appropriate.
Too often, we minimize or negate others’ emotions. We don’t want them to feel sad, so we tell them to cheer up. When we do that, we not only communicate that their feelings are not valid, we also add shame to the mix. Rather than minimizing others experiences, acknowledge their feelings and be with them.
Jesus, thank you for making me emotional. Feelings are not evil or bad, they simply are. Help me to trust that you welcome my emotions, regardless of their color, intensity, or hue. Amen.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’”-John 16:4b-5
I am surprised that Peter didn’t ask where Jesus was going; it seems like something he would do, but Jesus said none of them asked the question. Perhaps they were still trying to process their altered expectations for the Passover meal. Jesus washed their feet, which was followed by the Judas debacle, and after that, Jesus telling them he would send a Helper. That was a lot of information to process.
Maybe they were afraid; no one wanted to ask Jesus where he was going because they were afraid of the answer. To be honest, sometimes, I won’t ask a question even if I am fairly certain of the answer because I don’t want to deal with the bad news, but avoidance leads to anxiety. It is far better for us to ask, “Where are you going?” and hear him say, “Come and see.”
Jesus, sometimes your way of life seems so confusing to me. You call me to greater things, but I am often afraid to ask. I prefer the comfortably unknown to the uncomfortable known. Help me to know that risking with you Jesus is always worthwhile. Amen.
“But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told them to you.”-John 16:4a
Christianity is a faith of the past, present, and future. Although we live our lives in the present, our remembrances of the past and our expectations about the future shape and inform how we live.
Jesus told his disciples that their futures could be painful and that they would be attacked and even killed for spreading his message. If they focused only on the possibility of pain, they might fail to love those right in front of them. Jesus told them not to forget what he had said. When we are able to see that our present circumstances are part of his unfolding plan, it allows us to move forward with boldness, courage, and love.
Jesus, you were clear about what your followers might experience. Teach me to live with the remembrance of your plan, confident that your Holy Spirit is with me in the pre-sent, and that regardless of what happens in the here and now, I have an unfailing hope of eternity with you. Amen.
“And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”-John 16:3
Christians are called to know God, through his son and by his Spirit, so that we might accurately represent him by how we love. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day dogmatically trusted in their theology. Because they were students of the Scriptures, they attempted to dictate truth to others, yet as Jesus said elsewhere, they shut the door in people’s faces (see Mt. 23:13). They operated from positions of superiority, glory seeking, and division. Jesus told his disciples that these leaders would kick people out of the church, and even kill his followers. Their willingness to exclude and attack others grew out of their false under-standing of God.
It remains true that legions of people who don’t know the real Jesus, inside and outside of the church, attack Christianity. In their pride and certainty, they marginalize the broken and sinful, barring them from the love and grace that they so desperately need.
Jesus, broken, sinful people are masters of division. I confess that I look for ways in which I believe I am better than others. Forgive me for comparing and judging. Allow me to be a reflection of the welcome of the gospel. Amen.
“They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”-John 16:2
Often, the greatest resistance to the good news comes from church people. In John 16:2, Jesus warned his disciples about the religious leaders, not the pagans. It was the Jews who would cry out for his death. Why? Because the gospel is counter-cultural. Its message confronts religious and non-religious people alike. People cannot accept the message that tells them they can do nothing for their own salvation. But the Bible is clear that salvation is entirely because of his grace.
When we proclaim Jesus’s true message—that because God is gracious, all are welcome into his kingdom—we will be unpopular with some people. That is what Jesus says. When we invite pornographers, criminals, liberal (or conservative) politicians, and alcoholics, we are also inviting criticism from those who want to keep living under a system of good people and bad people.
Jesus, I want to courageously proclaim your true message, which is a message of welcome. Embolden me, for I am afraid. Let your Spirit enliven me with your message of grace. Amen.
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”-John 16:1
Have you ever felt like you were hanging on by a thread, thinking “I don’t know if I’m going to make it?” As you have walked the road with Jesus, have you wondered how you could keep going or doubted whether he even cared?
Jesus was clear that life’s road would not be easy. He wasn’t inviting the disciples to live for themselves by pursuing material comforts. Instead he called them to live in the way of the cross, which is the way of service, sacrifice, and self-denial.
When you are hated for following Jesus, remember that he too was hated. When life is so painful that you can barely breathe, know that as Jesus hung on the cross, every breath he took was excruciating. Loving through pain is uncomfortable, but as you live in that reality, let it stir your thirst for the one who will one day restore all things to wholeness.
Jesus, one day when all is revealed in glory, all earthly pain shall cease. You call me into marvelous light, yet for now, I am left stumbling in the darkness. Help me to always see your beacon of hope. Amen.