5 "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?'
6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.
7 But 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. NAU
Jesus was giving His farewell discourse. The paragraph in John 16:5-15 has three important passages about the Holy Spirit: (1) 16:5-6; (2) 16:8-11; and (3) 16:12-15. Jesus had been talking about the coming persecution. In 16:5-6 He speaks about going away and sending the Helper to the disciples. Then, in 16:8-11 Jesus tells about the ministry of the Spirit to the world. Finally, in 16:12-15, He discusses the ministry of the Spirit to the disciples.
Jesus says that He is going to "Him who sent Me." He is going to be in the Father's presence at His right hand. Then, Jesus says, "and none of you ask Me, ‘Where are you going?'" Previously, both Peter and Thomas had expressed an interest in where Jesus was going. Peter had asked (John 13:36), "'Lord, where are you going?'" Thomas said (John 14:5), "'Lord, we do not know where you are going.'" At this point, however, the disciples did not ask.
Jesus pointed (verse 6) to the reason why the disciples did not ask. Because of the things Jesus had said, sorrow had filled their hearts. Jesus was going away for their benefit, but they could only see the pessimistic side. Jesus was not going to be with them in physical form. They did not focus on the bright side. Jesus was leaving, but He was going to the Father. His presence with the Father would bring them great blessing. His going there was in fulfillment of His mission.
This verse includes another Paraclete saying. These sayings (14:16, 26, 15:26; 16:7-8, 13) present various facets of the meaning of this title. Several times Jesus identifies the Paraclete (Helper) as the Spirit of Truth (compare 14:17, 26; 15:26, 16:13). Thus, much of the meaning of the title centers on the truth. With regard to the world, the Spirit uses truth to witness, convict, and persuade. With regard to the disciples, He teaches truth, brings truth to remembrance, and guides into all truth.
Jesus counters the sorrow of the disciples with the truth. When the disciples were troubled in hearts, Jesus had said (John 14:1): "'believe in God, believe also in Me.'" When you believe in Jesus, your heart is comforted. Now, Jesus presents the specific truth that will drive out their sorrow. The truth Jesus declares is that it is to their advantage that He goes away. It is to their advantage because the Helper will not come unless Jesus departs.
The declaration by Jesus raises a question: "Why was Jesus not able to send the Helper unless He went away?" The Holy Spirit was already at work in the hearts of men, but He would be present in a new way and with a new ministry when Jesus departed. Jesus could not send the Helper in His new ministry until Jesus completed His redemptive work. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to the salvation of man. Thus, the Helper could not apply this redemptive work or witness to it until the events took place.
According to Wescott (p. 227), "The withdrawal of His [Christ's] limited bodily Presence necessarily prepared the way for the recognition of a universal Presence. Comp. vii. 39." Similarly, Swete (p. 157) declares:
The mission of the Spirit could not begin till the mission of the Son was ended: Jesus could not come in the Spirit till He had ceased to live in the flesh. The Lord's final victory over death, and the spiritualizing of His humanity which began at the Resurrection and culminated in His return to the Father at the Ascension, were the necessary conditions of the sending of His Spirit to the Church. Furthermore, the gift of the Spirit could be claimed by Him for men only when He had taken His place as the Advocate of men in the presence of God.
Jesus is preparing the disciples for His departure. The world will persecute them, but they will not be alone. Jesus will send the Helper who will confront the world and comfort the disciples. John 16:5-7 introduces verses 8-15 which cover these important topics. Jesus calms the fears and dissipates the sorrow of the disciples by showing why it is necessary for Him to depart and send the Helper. We must be comforted and empowered by the same truths.
George M. Flattery
For Further Study
Barrett, C. K. The Gospel According to St. John. Philadelphia: TheWestminister Press, 1978.
Burge, Gary M. The Anointed Community: The Holy Spirit in the Johannine Tradition. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.
Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. London: SCM Press Ltd. 1970.
Hendriksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961.
Keener, Craig. S. The Gospel of John, Vol. 2. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003.
Lenski, R. C. H. St. John's Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1942.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1971.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Divine Comforter. Chicago: Moody Press, 1963.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Swete, Henry Barclay. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament. London: Macmillan and Company, 1910.
Wescott, B. F. The Gospel According to St. John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
© Copyright 2004. GMF.