I dare not admit how many hours, even days, I have labored over this lesson. Each small part was not a problem, but seeing how all the small parts wove themselves into a whole message alluded me and evaded my grasp. I think I am finally beginning to see how John chapters 16 and 17 fit together. Christ’s message is all about life eternal. He wants us to experience it with Him and our Father in Heaven. This lesson is meant to help us see how the Holy Ghost can and does help us come to know God and Jesus Christ, for to know them is to have eternal life.
Reading Assignment: John 16 – 17
Additional Reading: Additional reading: John 14:16–31; 15:18–27; 3 Nephi 19:19–36; Doctrine and Covenants 132:21–24; Bible Dictionary, “Comforter,” 648; “Holy Ghost,” 704.
Let’s start with chapter 16 where, amazingly enough, the story picks up where it left off in chapter 15. In chapter 15 the Savior was telling His disciples how He was the true vine, and they the branches that grew from the vine. He is talking about the root stalk of the grape vine and the canes (branches) that grow out of the root stalk. It is the cane that produces the fruit and the leaf canopy that nourishes the fruit.
Jesus makes the emphatic point that without the root stalk, the base from which the branches spring, the branches couldn’t exist. So without Jesus, the disciples cannot do or accomplish anything. They need Him every bit as much as the grape branch needs the root in order to grow and produce anything. When chapter 16 begins, He is telling the disciples that He has told them all about what would happen to them when He goes away so they won’t be offended by the hard times and leave the church. He wants them to realize that difficulties are coming and He is trying to mentally prepare them for what is to come.
In verse three Jesus tells them that when people kill them or persecute them it is only because they know neither God, nor Jesus Christ. Because they have no knowledge of God or Christ, when they kill the disciples they will actually feel like they are doing God a favor. He goes on to tell them in verse seven that it is important that He leave them or the Holy Ghost won’t come to them. He then explains that the Holy Ghost will be sent to reprove or chastise the wicked for their unbelief in Christ, correct the righteous in place of the Savior, and bring judgment to Satan, the prince of this world.
In verse thirteen we learn the purpose of the Holy Ghost, to guide us to the truth, and to show us what is to come. Both of these things refer to receiving revelation of one sort or another.
In the next verse we are told that the Holy Ghost is to glorify Christ. I had to go digging to find out what it means to glorify someone. It means to bring honor and respect to them. It is a form of exaltation or to make them “higher” by praising them through honorable behavior that brings credit to their name. We can also glorify God by acknowledging all that He does for us, and by giving thanks for our blessings at His hand.
Note that the Holy Ghost does not take credit or glorify himself, but only gives credit and glory to Christ and the Father. Jesus does not glorify Himself, but only the Father. The Father glorifies the other two. In other words, glory is given, not taken.
In John 16:20 – 22, Jesus compares what His followers will be going through in the next few days to childbirth or travail. Childbirth is very painful, and it is sometimes so painful the woman is led to wonder what she was ever thinking to actually ask for this much pain. But once the delivery is over, and she is holding her child in her arms, the pain is quickly replaced with joy. The disciples would be going through the same experience. They will wonder what they were thinking to follow Jesus. ‘Is anything worth what we are being asked to suffer for Him?’ But Jesus promises that in a few days they will see Him again, and their suffering will be turned to joy, and no one will be able to take away their joy.
In these next verses of John 16, we learn a little more about heavenly protocol. As long as Jesus was with His disciples, they asked Him whatever they wanted, and He answered them. But now that He is going to be leaving them, the whole process changes. Now when they want something they have to go directly to the Father in prayer and ask in the name of Jesus.
In verse twenty four we have a recipe for happiness. We are told to ask God for what we want. He will give it to us so our joy can be full. In other words, that is what God wants for us. He wants our joy to be full. This is why we are commanded to pray and to seek the Holy Ghost. By learning to communicate with God, by listening to the promptings the Holy Ghost gives us, we come to know the mind and the will of the Lord. We learn how He thinks, and of His great love for us. This is something that takes a lot of effort and time to learn, but it is the only way we can learn it.
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.
26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
Once Jesus left them and the Holy Ghost came to the disciples, they were able to address the Father directly in prayer. Jesus tells us the reason we are allowed to do this is because our Father loves us because we have believed in His Son. As long as we pray in His name, our Father will answer or honor our prayers.
This is difficult. In order to do the whole chapter complete justice, I would need to write a whole article, which I don’t have room for, and you probably don’t have the patience for. This chapter focuses on two things: being in the world, but not of the world, and becoming one with God and Christ.
The whole chapter can be referenced back to the following four verses in chapter 17.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
If you recall, we started this lesson talking about how the Holy Ghost helps us to come to know God. By coming to learn the nature and ways of God, by making His character traits our character traits, we come to know Him in a very personal way. Our tutor in this endeavor is the Holy Ghost. As we prepare our minds and our hearts to be receptive to God’s truths, the Holy Ghost teaches us what we need to learn. It is a slow and lengthy process, but one that always ends in joy and rejoicing, even though there is a trial involved in every lesson.
This process of learning to become like God produces glory or honor to God. It is good works and praise. We come to respect and venerate, and deeply appreciate all that God stands for, and all He is trying to accomplish in our lives. He and our Lord are completely united in their efforts to save us and bring us back home to live with our Father in Heaven once again.
Jesus showed us that we can live in the world, participate in our individual cultures and communities, but not be partakers of the sins of our cultures and communities. This is what it means to be in the world, but not of the world. By learning to be like Christ, to think like Him, to act like Him, to behave in all ways, and at all times like Him, we become united with Him and our Father in Heaven. We begin to look only for the good in others. We want only to be good, because it pleases our Father in Heaven.
This is what it means to become one with Christ, as He is one with His Father, that we and the Father can also be one, fully united in all we do and all we desire. Again, this heavenly education is the responsibility of the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost. He is the great teacher. He learns the will of God and teaches it to us in all things. He prompts us to act as Jesus would have acted in our place. He inspires us to care for others as Jesus would have cared in our place.
Life eternal is the end result we are after. Because Jesus gave us the Holy Ghost to be our teacher, we have a member of the Godhead who is available to act as our personal instructor day and night. In our sleep He can instruct us, in our waking hours He can influence our feelings. As long as we are willing to submit to that influence He can lead us on, one step at a time toward becoming more like Christ, more like our Father in Heaven.
The fewer differences we have between the decision we make and the decisions God would make in the same situation, the more unified we are with them, and the more happiness flows into our lives. We must never forget that God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our Savior, are two of the happiest people in the cosmos. As we become more like them, we stake our claim to those same blessings.