13 May 2013

“But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (v. 33)

Background: Understanding and courage

Today's passage is part of a wider dialogue with Jesus and his disciples. Previous chapters demonstrate that even though the disciples had been with Jesus for some time, and had seen him do some pretty special things, they were still on a learning curve. Jesus had gone away from them before, and had usually returned or caught up with them, but now he was talking about going away and not coming back, at least not like he had before.

In John 16, Jesus is taking the time to unpack some of the things he had said that had gone over the heads of some or all of the disciples. They were not afraid to ask 'what do you mean?', and he was clearly open to ensuring that they understood what he meant. He had been speaking of things that would happen both to him in the near future and to them later on, some of which was challenging. Jesus patiently perseveres with his explanations of both until they say: 'Aha! Now we get it'.

Understanding what is being said or taught doesn't always mean that a problem has been resolved or that a difficulty has evaporated. But it does mean that the mystery of what is going on, or ignorance of what is going to happen is replaced by awareness and readiness. That's where we pick up the conversation with Jesus and his disciples, but it doesn't end there, because awareness and readiness could lead to fear and anxiety, neither of which would prove useful for what the disciples were being prepared for.

In response to the 'aha!' of his disciples, Jesus says: "take courage; I have conquered the world". In other words, don't head for the hills or run for cover. Be strengthened and stay focused; I've prepared (you) for this.' That proved to be more than a sound bite. It was reminder that their understanding today could lead to the courage they would need in the days ahead.

To Ponder

  • What do Jesus' words "take courage" mean to you today?
  • How do you respond when you do not understand, or are not understood?
  • Whose advice has given you courage? What was it and why?

Bible notes author: The Revd Katei Kirby

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