I hope you’ve brought your SCUBA gear along, friends: we’re going for a swim. In 1511, a ship wrecked on the reefs of Sumatra. This particular vessel was carrying a significant load of silver and gold—valued today at a whopping $2.6 billion—and has yet to be recovered. As we continue our journey with John into the sixteenth chapter of his gospel, we find ourselves being led straight to treasure. Jesus makes immense claims about the future by promising joy, peace, fulfilled prayer, and the Holy Spirit. Unlike the loot from Flor de la Mar, this treasure is offered freely to every genuine disciple, no diving equipment necessary. Let’s strap on some fins and hop into the deep end.
Scripture writing: My favorite passage to copy out using The Message was verses 23-24:
“…This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in My name, according to My will, and He’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!”
Jesus strikes at the heart of orphan thinking with this expectation because faith requires depending greatly, regularly, and solely on the Father’s smile toward us. What’s the payoff? Not only answered prayer (which is a major enough deal on its own), but also an overflowing river of joy in encountering the Father’s smile toward us.
Studying: The best note I read was over verse 14 in The Gospel Transformation Study Bible:
The Spirit is the consummate Helper. He frees us from trying to live the Christian life in our own power. The gospel is not “do more and try harder;” rather, it is “see Jesus and surrender to the Spirit.” … The Holy Spirit constantly draws attention to Jesus—nestling the gospel into our hearts and applying the finished work of Jesus to our lives. To see and enjoy grace is the supreme work of the Spirit, as He bears witness to the truth and comfort of God’s Word in our hearts.
What a beautiful gift we’ve been granted, this always-with-us Helper. The harder I’ve tried (and thus the more epically I’ve failed) to do life on my own, the more profound the Holy Spirit’s ministry has become. I’m so grateful He’s here to apply Jesus’ accomplished work to me and continue His own ongoing work in me; no more lone ranger living for this girl! Hallelujah!
Commentaries: In verse 32, Jesus states that though the disciples will soon abandon Him, He is never really alone because of the Father’s constant presence. Matthew Henry extends some wisdom relating to Christ’s words, wisdom which I’ve personally wrestled to both comprehend and experience:
Those that converse with God in solitude are never less alone than when alone.
(Feel free to read that again if you need to.) As an introvert, it’s always been easy for me to soak up alone time like a sponge, but this habit can cause isolation. The shortest distance between loneliness and solitude is the breath of a prayer.
D.A. Carson points out that, when the Lord tells His followers in verse 7, “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,”
Jesus’ valuation of what is for His disciples’ ‘good,’ indeed, for our good, ought to temper longings of the “Oh-if-only-I-could-have-been-in-Galilee-when-Jesus-was-there!” sort. That same Jesus insists it is better to be alive now, after the coming of the Spirit.
As amazing as it would be to give Jesus a friendly nudge, knowing we’ll share fresh fish and bread for dinner, followed by our favorite songs, I have to take His word for it that this situation—His Spirit on the inside—is even more amazing. (Admittedly, it’s most amazing when I get my dang self out of the way so He can move about the cabin freely.) We’ll have to do fish and bread and singing when I get to heaven.
Sermons: A memorable observation from Mark Driscoll* was that
Time spent learning God’s Word is never wasted—it’s always invested.
Guys, this morning, I completed entry number 806 in my John study. 806 days’ worth of investing. Of course there have been times it felt dry or silly or unnecessary or inconvenient. But those 806 days would have passed anyway, and what would I have had to show for them? Biblical literacy is crucial for thriving in this moment of history. There’s such comfort in the fact that the Word never returns void, even when it’s “only” being sent out into my own heart and mind day after day after day.
In his sermon “From Sorrow to Joy,” John MacArthur remarks on how seriously Christ takes the pleasure of His people:
Seeking our comfort, peace, and joy is not just some duty to Jesus; it’s an actual passion in His divine heart.
If you’ve ever witnessed someone light up when they talk about their favorite obsession, just think: can you even imagine how potent a ‘passion in the divine heart’ of the King of the universe could be? Unlike our shifting enthusiasms, Jesus has no limits when it comes to attaining His goals. Zero lack of focus. Zero lack of resources. Zero lack of energy. Zero lack of ability. He doesn’t drag His feet or give us the bare minimum. We’re talking about the abundance of Christ here! He’s driven in the pursuit of lavishing on us the comfort, peace, and joy He’s experienced from eternity past through the end of days.
Journaling: This form of processing has grown so precious to me. An especially meaningful reflection from John 16 was that
Two things are crucial: that I consistently doubt my strength, and that I never doubt my Savior.
Any day I gain a fresh awareness of my dire need for help is a good day. But I’ve also found that the less I deeply believe Jesus is capable, the more capable I have to become to compensate. (No, I would never use those words, but how I behave provides evidence of what’s going on inside my heart—white-knuckling control, for instance, reveals that I’ve stopped functionally trusting Christ and have begun relying on myself.) As you might guess, this scenario only leads to heartache.
Meditation: As I pondered verse 33 (“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take hope; I have overcome the world”), it struck me that
Some reason, right or wrong, will always follow “take hope” in my heart. But taking hope because everything is on schedule or because I haven’t utterly blown it (yet) or because we’re not in a crisis—basically taking hope because of anything other than Jesus’ triumph at the cross—is flimsy, frail, faltering. Like Pippa climbing on top of her fabric storage bin, “Baby girl, that’s not strong enough to stand on.”
The compassion of Christ in the face of all my misplaced hopes is overwhelming. Those soft eyes, that warm whisper, the gentle hands lifting my chin to look up—once again, it’s His kindness that draws me to repentance.
Friends, if you walk away from chapter 16 clinging to one truth like a jewel, it’s that God Himself is the ultimate treasure. We can grab some towels and dry off on our way back to the bus. Hurry, though: we’re rapidly approaching the final moments of Jesus’ life, and time is short.
*In case you’re unaware, Pastor Mark has come under fire for some personal leadership issues. While I prefer to chew up the meat and spit out the bones in this particular case, you might decide to switch his sermons out for those of someone else.
**Following the study schedule right along, my binder is thickening up with doodles, prayers, and tons of background information on the text. This summary is just the condensed version, the highlights of each approach—you can find my full binder notes for John 16 here.