12 May 2010

John 16:12-15

"I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now." (v.12)


There was a limit to what Jesus could communicate to his disciples in the course of his short earthly ministry. Sometimes they were unable to understand what he had told them (eg Mark 9:32). There were also occasions when they were too overwhelmed by what Jesus had already said to take in any more (verse 12).

Jesus assures his disciples that the Holy Spirit will continue the revelation which he has begun. Now they have an incomplete understanding of the truth, but the Holy Spirit will guide them into "all the truth". Just as Jesus has declared what he has heard from the Father (John 8:26) so the Spirit "will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears".

The Spirit will also have a prophetic role, declaring "the things that are to come". This vision of the future will help to inspire the disciples as they struggle with the persecution which is to come their way.

Another role of the Spirit will be to "glorify" Christ. The word glorify is used frequently in John's Gospel and usually refers to the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross (eg 11:412:1612:23,13:31). The Holy Spirit will come after Jesus has been glorified (John 7:39) but the glorification of Jesus will continue as the Spirit reveals and declares this glory to others.

The trinitarian nature of God is clearly attested to in this passage. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are revealed as three persons in one - sharing a common message and purpose and authority which are passed on from one to another and declared to the world.

The repeated use of the word 'all' in affirming that "the Spirit will guide you into all the truth" and that "all that the Father has is mine" is a reminder that there is a completeness in the Trinity. The disciples have not yet fully experienced this but it will continue to be revealed to them.

To Ponder

When have you heard words which were hard for you to bear?

What is your vision of the future? How does it help you in the present?

What do you think is meant by "all the truth"?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Vidamour

Nicola is a Methodist minister, currently serving two churches in East Ham, London. Before taking up this appointment, Nicola spent six years as the associate pastor of Pskov United Methodist Church in Russia.