translation and commentary on John’s Gospel
JOHN 16: 25
“I have spoken of these matters to you in metaphorical language. The hour is approaching when I will no longer speak to you in metaphors but will tell you openly about the father. In that day you will make your requests in my name, and I am not saying that I will ask the father on your behalf; for the father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have trusted that I came out from God. I did come out from the father, and have come into the world; and now I am leaving the world and going to the father.”
His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking openly and not speaking in metaphors! Now we know that you know everything; and there is no need for anyone to question you. This is why we trust that you came out from God.”
Jesus replied to them, “So now you have trust! Look, the hour is approaching, in fact it has already arrived, when you will be scattered, each to his own place, and will leave me alone. But I am not alone, for the father is with me. I have said these things to you, so that you may have peace in me. In the world you will have affliction. But be confident! I have conquered the world.”
The author has Jesus recognise the metaphors he has used to describe himself and his mission, while promising a time when he will speak without metaphors. When is this time? The disciples think it has arrived, but Jesus who knows what is coming, is more cautious. I think the author wants readers to see the crucifixion as Jesus’ clear word about the father. What is this word? It is that in love the father does not protect his child from pain and death, but rather demonstrates through his child that love cannot be defeated by pain and death. In his dying Jesus will do battle with the powers of the world, and will win.
True faith in Jesus is defined as a) loving Jesus as he has shown himself in this world, and b) trusting that he ha come out from the father. Love is primary because it is the gift of the self to Jesus in response to his love. Love has “no why” according to Meister Eckhart. It has no cause or measure and cannot be imposed. But trust is also necessary, not only the disciple’s trust in Jesus but her trustful insight that Jesus has come out from God, that he is the unveiling of the one source of life. There is therefore an aspect of faith which is beyond all questions and answers, which is the love of the disciple for Jesus; and there is an aspect which engages the mind as well as the heart, the discernment that this Jesus is a revelation of ultimate reality.
Again Jesus describes his imminent torture and death as “going to the father”. This not simply an ironical understanding of his death as his way to the father, that is, to eternal life, but also the more profound and horrifying assertion that he will meet the father on the cross.
The disciples’ overconfidence is rebuked by Jesus prophecy of their desertion. From being united in the shared life of Jesus, they will be dispersed to their “own places” which are places of fear and impotence, where they no longer dwell in the “vine”. At that time they will be separated branches with no life. They will be alone, while Jesus who will seem to be alone in his dying, will be with the father.
Ultimately, as the disciples remember Jesus’ words, they will return to their faith and find peace in him – not a peace which evades the world, but one which through Jesus, learns to conquer the world. Although the gospel expresses this confidence, it remains a gospel for martyrs, “in this world you will have affliction”; it does not cater for those who want a comfortable religion.