Thursday in the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

John 16:23-33

Do You Now Understand?

Jesus is closing this long discourse to his disciples, much of it being about the Holy Spirit who will come when he departs (ascends to heaven).  He has told them to abide in him, keep his commandments, and love one another.  He has also warned them that the world will hate them just as it hated him.  Now he tells them again that he is going away, that is, going to his Father who sent him in the first place.  He is close to finishing the work his Father gave him to do, that only he could do.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, Jesus tells them that when they see him again, their joy will be such that they will ask nothing of him.  But he encourages them that when he is gone, they should ask the Father in his name – he does not say what for – but we should understand that asking “in Jesus’ name” will qualify all of our desires.  And Jesus here adds something that we need to hear, that “the Father himself loves you.”  We are so accustomed to connecting love with the Son who had to appease the wrath of a mean Father.  Yes, the wrath of God had to be appeased and sin atoned but such was the plan of the Father from all eternity.  So you must understand that the Father loves you; that is why He sent the Son.

Jesus tells his disciples that until that moment, he had spoken to them in figures of speech, presumably because they could not have understood or have borne the weight of the plain truth.  He now commends them for believing that he came from God, and that he is now leaving the world and returning to the Father.  At this point, the disciples declare that they now understand and know that Jesus came from God and knows all things.  But Jesus questions them, “Do you now believe?”  He had told them that they would have sorrow just a little before this.  Now he tells them that they will be scattered.  We are so quick to assert ourselves, that we are faithful, knowledgeable, and brave.  Paul reminds us to “never be wise in our own sight” (Romans 12:16).  The world celebrates the one who puts himself forward; the Christian is more discerning, knowing that “anyone who thinks that he stands [should] take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).  Soon the disciples will fall, forsaking their Master, just as we have time and again.  But Jesus is not surprised; “he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).  He encourages these faithless disciples ahead of time to “take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Though we fail miserably before a laughing world so many times, let us take heart.  Our Lord has conquered the world on our behalf, and he shall one day gather us unto himself.

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