"Come and See": A Web Commentary on the Gospel of John: Section 12 The Last Supper and Farewell Discourses

12.2 Table Talk (Jn 13.21-16.33): 12.2.8 Preparing for Departure, and Arrival (Jn 16.1-11)


This section begins with a short transitional paragraph, vv1-4a, linking this new section with what has come before. It particularly resonates with Jn 14.27-31, another transitional paragraph. The discourse then changes to speak further of Jesus' departure, now in terms of the arrival of the Advocate (vv4b-7). He reassured them by saying that his coming departure, the nearness of which has filled them with sorrow and silenced their earlier questions about his destination (eg, Jn 13.36), is actually a good thing for them. Jesus cannot send the Advocate until he has himself left, and the coming of the Advocate is of fundamental importance.

When the Advocate comes, they will succeed in turning Jesus' trial on its head (vv8-11). In that trial, which the disciples seem not to have anticipated, or at least not anticipated at this time, false -- or misleading --witnesses will be brought against Jesus, to prove the capital charges against him. But afterwards the Advocate will expose the truth of what had really happened at the end of Jesus' life.

This final section (vv8-11) is one of the most difficult, as Raymond Brown himself acknowledged in his commentary (see Brown 1970 pp 705-6, 711-14, especially p 711). These difficulties arise in the first place because these four verses are so compactly written that it is hard to understand them. In addition, the syntax is difficult to understand in two particulars.

First how should we should understand the verbal phrase 'elengchein ... peri' in v8? Most translations and commentators translate it as 'to convict (someone) concerning (something)'. I have translated it as 'to expose (one's) guilt about (something)', because I think the phrase is less clearly judicial than 'convict' implies. Elsewhere in this gospel, the Advocate usually seems to be intended to act to defend the post-Resurrection followers of Jesus. They could equally well act to prosecute the world, that is, the enemies of Jesus' followers. But if we accept 'convict' as the correct translation then it seems to me that we have segued into presenting the Advocate as a judge. If Jesus himself is reluctant to accept that role (Jn 8.15-16, 49-50), I think we should be equally reluctant to assign it to the Advocate.

Second, what is the function of the conjunction 'hoti' found in vv9-11? It can mean 'because' or 'since', that is, it can be causal (expressing a cause), or it can be translated 'in that', that is, it can be explicative (providing an explanation). Commentators and translators disagree about which meaning was intended here. Despite Brown's argument's on the topic, I have adopted 'because' as the translation, not least because it seems clearer to me than 'in that'.

Brown makes the point that it is the disciples to whom the Advocate will expose the world's guilt. They are the ones who will need that reassurance after the coming trial of Jesus, in which he is to be wrongly judged to be guilty by the use of false witness and misdirection.As time goes on, the on-going witness shared by the Advocate and the disciples (see Jn 15.26-7) will mean that, as others also come to have trust in Jesus, they will also become aware of the world's guilt in these three respects. But it is still unclear what the three causal statements in vv9-11 actually mean!

First, v9 states that the Advocate will expose the world's guilt about misdoing, because the world does not put its trust in Jesus. How does that show the world's guilt about its own misdoing? Earlier Jesus himself stated that this failure by the world to trust is neither blameless nor a simple mistake: it is a fault, because the world hated him without a reason (see, for example, ch 15, vv18-25 [[add hyperlink]]). The 'world' here is of course not the created order (which God Godself affirmed is good in Gen 1) but the realm of Satan, 'the ruler of this world'. In this way, the world's misdoing is exposed.

Next, in v10 we are told that the Advocate will expose the world's guilt about about righteousness, "because I am going to the Father and you see me no longer". It is not immediately apparent what Jesus' going to his Father has to do with the world's guilt about righteousness. However, it seems clear that the Father would not have raised Jesus nor would Jesus go to the Father if he were guilty of the world's charges (to be made at his coming trial). The outcome of the trial shows that the world, rather than Jesus, was unrighteous, both in its judgement on him and in putting him to death. Thus the Advocate will expose the world's guilt about righteousness by showing that the righteousness the world claims by trying Jesus was the opposite, unrighteousness. The execution of Jesus is the exposure of the world's guilt.

Finally the Advocate will expose the world's guilt about judgement, 'because the ruler of this world is being judged' (v11). The world will imagine that it is going to judge Jesus, that it will condemn Jesus. But what the Advocate will demonstrate is that the one being judged is not Jesus, but Satan. Satan is in charge of the world. When that world will judge Jesus and ultimately condemn him to nothing less than judicial murder, it will show its own inherent injustice. But that will also constitute a judgement on the world's ruler, for it acts under the dominion of Satan.

It is because the Advocate reveals what the world is really doing on these three grounds that it is possible to see the Advocate's role here as turning Jesus' coming trial on its head. The disciples will have the disturbing experience of seeing Jesus, their messiah and teacher, reviled, tortured, and condemned by the highest authorities in their society, the Council and a Roman court. But the Advocate will come to them when Jesus has died, and will expose the sham for what it is, and expose the guilt, not of the innocent Jesus, but the world.

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The term translated 'put out of the synagogue' is a rare one in the New Testament, though it does occur in three passages in this gospel. See the previous discussion of the term in the discussion of the healing of the man born blind in ch 9.

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In Jn 14.26 where the sending of the Advocate is also discussed, Jesus says that the Father will send the Advocate, in his (Jesus') name. Here he says that he himself will send them, and doesn't mention the Father at all. Considering the extent to which John emphasises the way in which Father and Son work together to do the Father's will, this should likely not be seen as a contradiction. Rather it simply shows two different perspectives on the same event.

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The word 'world' here and in v11 represents the negative aspect of that word, in which it refers to the created order as a realm under the authority of Satan, 'the ruler of this world'. See the comment on Jn 1.9 for a fuller discussion of "the world" in this gospel.

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