Reflections on the Farewell Discourses in John 16
Third part of Farewell Discourses. Reminder of hostile world has particular relevance to what many Christians face today:
The time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me.
The disciples are warned against the world’s hatred, but are promised joys to come. There will be grief when Jesus goes away and is with them no longer, but this grief will turn to joy with the arrival of the Advocate—the Holy Spirit.
The main purpose of what Jesus says is to console the disciples post-Easter. The Comforter will come, who will accuse the world of wrongdoing, but act as the Disciples’ guide, when Jesus is no longer with them. For ‘them’ read ‘us.’
Now we are introduced to the Trinity, in a strong bond of relationship between Father, Son and Spirit of truth. The Spirit gives life.
What are these two time periods all about?
‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’
One is before his death. The other after. These are stressed by the use of rhetorical repetitions. Jesus knows what the disciples are discussing, and understands their confusion. ‘Verily’ or ‘Very truly’ (NRSV) marks a solemn introduction.
First, there will be a period of sorrow for the disciples, but rejoicing for the world. Second, the two are reversed, when the disciples’ pain is turned into permanent joy.
The period of a woman’s labour is used in the gospels as an image of the end of time, eschatological affliction, before we enter the joy in the Kingdom of Heaven. The time when the lost sheep allows itself to be found, which precedes a great feast.
Jesus’ prophecy will later prove a consolation to those who abandoned him. The farewell discourses end as Jesus assures the disciples of his peace, despite all the persecutions they will encounter. Their consolation, like ours, is their master’s victory over the forces of this world. That is the same consolation for all those Christians who are suffering today in various parts of the world for practising their faith.