Category Archives: Johah

John 16:1-33 – The Plain Truth


Jesus has been speaking to the 11 disciples who will take the message of the gospel out into the world when the time comes. It’s the night of his arrest but his disciples don’t understand this yet. Jesus has told them that they must remain in him and that the world will treat them badly because they remain in him. Even so, they are told to go and testify about Jesus as witnesses who have been with him since the beginning of his earthly mission.

Chapter 16 are Jesus final words in this lengthy speech to the disciples. Besides being able to listen in on His prayer in chapter 17, these will be the last instructions from Jesus to his disciples before the great disaster takes place – the arrest of Jesus and the scattering of the disciples.


Being a lengthy section this week, you may want to ask your group how they would divide the text into sections – what would their structure look like? Take suggestions and discuss why they chose those breaks. Passages can be broken up in different ways. Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not. Although there are certainly wrong ways of dividing the text, there are usually options in parts. Here is how I’m dividing up the text based on themes or messages in each section:


  • 1-5a – Be strong and courageous
  • 5b-15 – I must go so that the Spirit of Truth can come to you
  • 16-24 – Your grief will turn into joy
  • 25-33 – Jesus speaking plainly

Verses 1-5a – Jesus warns the disciples that what is coming is a time of persecution. It’s important to recall two things here: 1) that Jesus is talking specifically to 11 men about their future and 2) that what Jesus teaches these 11 men is the same principal for us. That is, we do not need to see a prediction for us but we do need to listen to the same lesson of encouragement: to be strong and courageous in a world that has rejected the love of the Father.

“…so that you will not fall away.” How do they avoid falling away? By listening to Jesus words! By “remaining” in him! (John 15:7). Can Christians fall away? Yes. They fall away when they stop giving Jesus their attention. When they “walk in the way of sinners” (Ps 1). But the word of God is what prevents us from falling away. It is the power of God (Romans 1:16-17). God keeps us for eternity by his word and with his Spirit. This is the distinction between those who are truly called by God and those who enjoy the benefits of grace but do not remain in Jesus. 1 John 2:19 (the same writer of John’s gospel) says that those who depart from Jesus show that they were never really saved to begin with. Are you nervous that you might fall away? Good. Keep listening to Jesus and the word of God.

“I did not tell you this from the beginning…” Jesus has in mind the beginning of his ministry with the disciples – back when he called them from their fishing boats (some of them) to become fishers of men. Back then, Jesus had a three year education in store for them. They didn’t need to worry about the specifics of their future and Jesus’ departure back then, but Jesus now tells them everything they need to hear to prepare them for what is next. We can learn from this same idea when we teach others about Christ. Every one of us continues to grow in our knowledge and understanding of Christ. We must be patient with one another and also not be anxious if we don’t have the same depth of understanding as others.

Verses 5b to 15 focus on the Holy Spirit who will come when Jesus departs. It’s helpful to realize that the disciples are growing in their grief as Jesus says that he is departing. But it’s for their good that he goes. In this section, we learn that it is good because unless he goes, the Spirit cannot come. In the next section, 16 onward, Jesus tells them that they must grieve before they see joy.

“When he comes he will…” three things Jesus says that the Spirit will do (specifically).

  1. The Spirit will prove the world to be wrong about sin because people do not believe in Jesus. This is the conviction of the Spirit. Sin will not be reduced to small occurrences of lies, stealing and adultery (not that any of these are minor) but the guilt of sin will land on where you stand with Jesus. The Father will come and make a home with anyone who loves Jesus and obeys Jesus’ commands (Jn 14:23-24). People that very night will show their ignorance of Jesus and will nail him to a cross. This will be the world’s ultimate act of sin.
  2. The Spirit will prove the world to be wrong about righteousness because Jesus is going to the Father. Righteousness is not found in our works because nobody can please God by their own righteousness. Righteousness is not found through the Jewish laws and religion because they will turn on Jesus and crucify him. The Spirit will show their actions to be wrong when Jesus is raised from the dead and returned to the Father (Romans 8:11).
  3. The Spirit will prove the world to be wrong about judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned. Jesus had mentioned the ‘prince of this world’ back in Jn 14:30 and said that he has no hold over Jesus. The person being referred to is commonly understood as Satan – the deceiver. A great moment occurred at the cross, which the Spirit of Truth has ever since been speaking into this world: Jesus has died for our sins and we need not ever listen to the lies of Satan again. He was wrong to deceive Adam and Eve in the beginning and wrong to deceive every human ever since. He cannot, ever more, stand and tell any of his holy ones that they are guilty and must pay for their crimes. We stand with the Holy Spirit and say back, “I am with Jesus who died for me so that I do not have to listen to your lies any more!”

“The Spirit of truth…will receive from me what he will make known to you.” Verses 12-15 center on the Spirit serving the Father and Jesus to make known to the disciples the truth. This truth captures what we’ve already looked at above and everything that the Father has revealed to Jesus. Notice again the language here that has made up the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s not a man-made myth or something that the church has adopted on its own but a way of taking the words of the bible and giving that relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit a name. “All that belongs to the Father is [Jesus’]”. “…the Spirit will receive from me…” “[The Spirit] will glorify [Jesus]” “The Spirit will not speak on his own.” Add these words to the description in chapter 14 and 15 and you build a great vision of the Godhead from Jesus’ lips alone! Notice too how integral the Spirit is to the word of God. His role is focused on truth and sharing the words of the Father. The Spirit of God and the word of God cannot be separated.

Verses 16 to 24, describe a passing event which will begin with grief but then be replaced with joy. Compare verses 16, 20 and 22. The illustration of the woman in labour describes the comparison of the two moments: great pain will give way to great relief and excitement – such joy that the pain will be overlooked. Jesus is surely talking about the cross and resurrection. That is what has been on his mind over these past few chapters and he has been telling the disciples that he must go away. The pain they will face will begin at his arrest (chapter 18) and continue beyond his death right up until they hear and see that he has been raised from the dead! Then they will bring back to memory all that Jesus has said to them about this event (John 16:4).

“Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him…” (v19). Jesus and John (the narrator) draw attention to this little phrase quite a bit. Perhaps more than seems natural. The words of Jesus could have simply continued as John reflects back at this conversation without the little issue of the disciples not understanding. Why does John tell us what the disciples were thinking and then have Jesus know what they were wanting to ask? You could say that any perceptive person may have known what the disciples were wanting to ask, but even the disciples are amazed when in verse 30 they are convinced that Jesus knows what they want before they ask it! Furthermore, Jesus talks about being asked things in verse 23, 24, and 26. It’s like he takes the “unasked question” and converts it into a lesson about asking for things but no more asking Jesus, but asking the Father. What draws all of this together? Firstly, that the disciples are convinced of Jesus’ truth because he was able to know what they wanted without being asked but secondly, that he came to earth in the first place to give his disciples something that they didn’t necessarily ask for: “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” This was all the initiative of the Father and Jesus. This is grace. Not that we asked God but that he saw what we needed and came to deliver. Now that we have been given access to the Father even before we asked for it, we are invited to talk directly to the Father about anything we desire. Perhaps my words have not been clear here, but seeing how Jesus plays with the idea of “not asking” is kind of awesome and impressive – and it teaches us about grace.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” What a great way for Jesus to end his dialogue with his disciples. It’s a solemn and serious way to end his ministry with them but an important one. They are promised PEACE and TROUBLE at the same time. The first will come from God and the latter will come from the world. But take heart! Don’t be discouraged. Grasp onto this truth: that Jesus has overcome the world. He is superior. He is the boss. He is the one who has returned to the Father with a mission accomplished! If God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)!

The disciples will truly need to remember these words. Even with the conviction that they share in verse 30, they will be scattered before the night is over (verse 32). When we are confident in our faith, be careful, because there are times when we may feel very weak. But when we feel weak and failing, take heart because Jesus has been strong for us.


Jesus’ mission on earth is almost complete. He will go to the cross and see the disciples scattered before he conquers death and replaces their grief with joy. As Jesus prepares to leave, he promises that the Spirit of truth will come and bring clarity to the events that are about to take place. Sin, and righteousness and judgment are all seen at the cross as Jesus’ mission is accomplished. Sin is exposed. Righteousness revealed. And the prince of this world is stripped of all his power. The disciples declare their understanding and belief over who Jesus is as Jesus warns them to stand firm and not fall away.


  • Negative influences from the world that we live in will bring us trouble. It might be silent or audible sniggers from family or acquaintances. It might be public shame from a position that makes no sense to people outside of Christ. But Jesus says to us: don’t fall away. Don’t take your eyes off Jesus. Listen to the Spirit of truth and not the spirit of this age. The world can judge us all it likes, but God has sent his Son into the world to give us grace and peace! So take heart!
  • Thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that it was crucial that he go away, otherwise the Spirit could not come. Jesus thinks very highly of the Spirit when he puts it that way: “it’s better that I leave”, he said. The Spirit has upheld the 11 disciples to bring them clarity on all that Jesus did and said and so that they could deliver this message to the world. The role of the Spirit is to testify, or bear witness, or reveal to people everything in truth about the Father and the Son. Thank God for his gift to us! We are not alone.
  • Although Jesus spoke of this death and resurrection as the time of pain which gives way to joy – surely we can see the similarity between our lives which endure trouble and hardship while we wait for the joy of our own resurrection and of seeing God in glory! Suffering, in the bible, is seen as part of the process leading to great joy. James said, consider it all joy when you face trials of every kind. This is not because the Christian loves pain, but because we know that this pain will give way to liberty, freedom, eternal peace, joy and rest. The memory of the pain of this world will pass away as we celebrate with excitement the very real deliverance into glory.


Father God, you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, into this world in order to set us free from sin and shame. Keep us, we pray, in your love and teach us to serve you through good times and poor. Keep our hearts from despair as we live our lives listening to the Spirit of your word. Amen.

John 15:18-25 – The World Versus Jesus and His Apostles


John 13-17 contain Jesus’ personal conversation to the eleven disciples before he departs from them and goes to the cross. In chapters 13 and 14, Jesus gave his command to the disciples to love one another – that is the mark of a true disciple – it is a love that is modeled by Jesus’ love for the Father. In chapter 15, Jesus taught the disciples to feed on his words, learn from him, shape their prayers around him and find true joy through him!



  • Verses 18-19 – The disciples do not belong to the world
  • Verses 20-21 – The disciples represent Jesus
  • Verses 22-25 – Knowledge of God leads to knowledge of sin?
  • Verses 26-27 – Knowledge of God must go out.

Verses 18-19 “If the world hates you…” Jesus points out in these verses that belonging to Jesus means that you no longer belong to the world. This is not pointing to a kind of physical isolation like we are to retreat to the hills and live in a commune but that we should begin to see that belonging to Jesus makes us different. We are on a different trajectory. We have the Spirit of Truth living within us – the world is under the power of the prince of this world (John 14:17,30). To expect a unity between these two powers is foolish.

It could be good to think of a few different aspects of our interaction with the world in order to discuss the truth of this:

  • Transforming your own mind. What I mean is what goes on in your head and how you might battle from within to follow Jesus versus doing as the world does. Growing in Christian maturity includes transforming our minds: Philippians 3:15-21; Romans 12:2.
  • Relating with people around us. Family, friends and people in the marketplace will not know that you are a Christian until you show them your commitment to following Jesus – loving and living for Jesus. Once that is made known (by words and/or action) then we will experience tension in those relationships if they don’t share the love for Jesus as you do.
  • Listening to the media and public debate. TV chat shows, online media, blogs, newspapers and even billboards shout out love for everything but Jesus. What Jesus challenges us with in this passage is to aim for finding the friends of Jesus rather than making friends with the world. We can’t expect to win the world over to the way that Jesus thinks but we can expect to see people saved when we continue to reach out. Don’t be surprised that public opinion or the loudest voices appear to hate what Christians think. This is not a new thing.

Verses 20-21 “…for they do not know the one who sent me.” Here is another remarkable separation between Christians and the rest of the world: knowledge of God. I don’t just mean an awareness or thought that there is a God. I mean knowing him. Jesus said: “this is eternal life – that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

“Remember: a servant is not greater than his master…” – this is a great reflection to have in our minds. Following Jesus is not a path to fame and popularity. If you want those things, abandon Jesus. Jesus promises conflict, persecution and rejection. But what is the greater treasure? The cost of being a disciple is important to communicate with people. Matthew 6:19-33 is an excellent passage to remind us about two possible masters: loving this world, or loving Jesus.

Verses 22-25 “…they would not be guilty of sin.” (Compare this with John 9:40-41) Although it appears as though Jesus is calling ignorance bliss, the context of his words AND the rest of the bible point to this: if I had not come and spoken, you would not be asked to judge if you love Jesus or not. But I have come and so you are guilty when you choose the world over Jesus. J.C. Ryle says, “to have heard [Jesus] and not believed will increase their condemnation.”

The key is looking at all verses from 22-25 and seeing that it is sinful to reject Jesus. Who are the ‘they’? Given that it is ‘they’ whom Jesus performed miracles or works in front of, then the ‘they’ are the Jews.

Verses 26-27 – “I will send…” Rather than keeping the news about Jesus secret – as if that were a means of saving the world from sin – Jesus wants the Spirit to go out and the disciples to go out and to tell the world everything they know about Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth who testifies or bears witness about Jesus. He will go out from the Father to lead people into truth.

The disciples listening to Jesus in this chapter are commanded to go out and tell the world about Jesus especially because they have been with Jesus from the beginning. This is part of the description of the Apostles’ credentials. In Acts 1, Peter stood up and looked to replace Judas with another who had ‘been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us…” Acts 1:21-22.


The disciples are commissioned by Jesus to go out and teach the world about Jesus. They will have the Spirit with them but they must know that the world will not open up their arms to embrace them. The reality check for Christians is that choosing Jesus also means being alienated from this world. But to choose the world over Jesus is to be guilty of sin.


  • Mental check: Do you aim to be loved by both God and this world? You may like to read Luke 9:57-62 to hear Jesus’ challenge to those who wish to follow Jesus.
  • Consider Jesus’ words in verse 20 and ask yourself: do I treat Jesus like he is my servant or my master?
  • Pray for one another concerning conflict with the world in ways which are real and personal.


Almighty God, please give us strength and courage to love you more than this world. Please help us to love the world by being brave enough to talk about Jesus. Amen.

Jonah 4 – Knowing the Heart and Mind of God and Jonah

In this last post from the Jonah library, we’ll return to the COMA method and insert the narrative reading technique into the Observation section. That’s where it belongs but I wanted to focus on listening to the story unfold over the last few posts. I’ve noticed in a few Growth Groups how easy it is to imagine what it might have been like and to insert all sorts of extra bits into the story to try and understand how Jonah was so influential over Ninevah. We really need to practice and train ourselves to listen to what the bible is saying. The writers of the bible (the Spirit and the hands he used) didn’t forget to mention things. They crafted their stories so that we would get the point. It takes time and effort to uncover what the stories teach but we don’t need extra historical facts and trivia to get to the meaning.

So, let’s look at chapter 4.


Jonah has been given a second chance to take up the mission of God. He brought the message that God told him to speak into Nineveh and that message spread like wildfire! Nineveh, who knew very little about Yahweh, repented nation wide and hoped that maybe there would be a chance that God would show compassion and mercy. He did. Jonah, who knows and worships The Lord of heaven and earth, and who knows that salvation comes from him alone, preached his message of destruction or warning. What should Jonah expect will happen?


Structure of the narrative

This is not just another part of the story, this chapter makes up the closing part of the whole book. 3:10 gave us an end to the book’s overall quest – Jonah went, Nineveh repented and God showed mercy. The issue of chapter four is a reflection on how this Israelite will react to this. This chapter will draw together some of the themes of the book and address the real purpose for writing the book of Jonah.

  • 4:1-3 Jonah’s heart and mind revealed – the beginning of this mini story.
  • 4:4 God’s first reply to Jonah – the problem – will Jonah be reasonable?
  • 4:5-8 the story of the plant and Jonah’s second complaint – the quest
  • 4:9 God’s second reply to Jonah – the quest continues
  • 4:9 Jonah’s final word – the quest concluded
  • 4:10-11 God’s heart and mind revealed – the closing left open ended…

The problem seems to be plainly stated by God in verse 4: is it right for Jonah to be angry? Which leads us to wonder, will Jonah see reason? The story of the plant is like a parable used to show Jonah how selfish and unlike God his heart is.

Other Observations

Chapter four is quite special. We have heard that God has been speaking to Jonah in the past (1:1, 2:1) but in chapter 4 we hear the conversation between God and Jonah. We get to hear what’s on God’s heart and mind.

Jonah complains about God’s known traits, being gracious and compassionate and slow to anger, and these three traits are demonstrated to Jonah throughout the chapter. God’s words are gracious throughout. He shows compassion for the needs of Jonah. He waits for Jonah to see what is right, holding back his wrath from this stubborn and childish prophet.

God continues to ‘provide’. He provided the storm in chapter one as well as the relief from the storm. He provided a big fish in 1:17 and provided release from the fish at the end of chapter 2. He provided a smooth mission for Jonah when he arrived in Nineveh. Now he provides a leafy plant 4:6, a worm 4:7, a scorching east wind 4:8. God is able to provide comfort and discomfort. Mercy and judgement. Peace and wrath. God may well hope to provide Jonah with wisdom and godliness, but will Jonah receive it?

Jonah tried to make a shelter for himself but it must have been pretty useless since a plant was needed and without the plant, his head burned. Jonah’s attempts to provide for himself were hopeless.
Compare the ignorant hopes of Nineveh 3:9 with the informed arrogance of Jonah 4:2. This was seen in the sailors of chapter one – desperate for help without knowing where to turn.

Jonah knows the character of God but it is only skin deep. He seems to resent it while Nineveh were desperate to know it. Do we know it? Do we desire it? Do we embrace it? When you bring your sins to God do you ask if he might forgive you or do you thank him for his nature to forgive. Do we knock timidly on his office door, or do we enter, expecting to see his tender face? Jonah enjoyed the priviledged of knowing this for himself in chapter 2 but resents God’s grace shown to others.

‘But to Jonah this seemed very wrong…’ I hope this sounds outrageous to you! Who is Jonah to judge God? We need to tread carefully before we condemn Jonah ourselves. I want to be careful to only learn from God and not to fall in love with a god that I have fashioned. This is the key to Christian maturity – to grow in our knowledge and obedience to the one true God and not to adopt anything or anyone less. Jonah is later very happy with the plant. He isn’t thankful to God for the way God has treated him. The plant didn’t teach Jonah anything about God’s character. Jonah’s focus was on himself and how the plant made him happy! It seems that our Jonah has a very ego-centric view of the universe and God needs to fit inside his view of the world.

Jonah became angry. The very thing that God is renowned to be slow at. Anger is not the sin, but the eagerness to be angry for our own sake. Why couldn’t Jonah rejoice with God that his mission had been a success?

‘That’s why I fled to Tarshish’ we may have originally imagined that Jonah was scred of the mission. But he reveals what has always been on his mind – that he wanted to delay the grace of God being extended to others. Perhaps by fleeing, the patience of God would have run out for Nineveh. But God just extended his patience to Jonah all the more.

Jonah wanted to be dead in verses 3, 8 and 9. This is not suicidal but an extreme emotion linked with his anger. He desired to just stop being. This could create discussion of depression, anxiety and stories of great sorrow for your group. Please take care, as I know you would, to listen to anything shared and judge if there needs to be follow up afterward. Please note, however, and try to show your group, that this expression is to underscore how outraged Jonah was with this situation. He is furious and reacting irrationally like an infant temper tantrum.

Notice how Jonah’s feelings link so closely to his circumstances. When he didn’t like God’s mission and fled on he boat, he went straight to his room on the ship, even when a deadly storm was threatening his life. He may have been sulking. When he spoke to the sailors, he told them to throw him overboard and kill him. Why couldn’t he have turned to God in repentance? When he sank to the depths of the earth, he suddenly found remorse and cried out to God. When God saved Nineveh, he lost it. When he sat under the scorching sun, he was miserable. My point is that Jonah’s environment played a close connection to his emotions. I can identify with this. It does widen the difference between us humans and our maker. We may struggle to deal with emotion but God is slow to anger and abounding in love. Recognising that we are creatures subject to our surroundings should help us to lean on God’s wisdom when our emotions threaten to overcome us.

Last observation…Jonah knew the nature of God because God revealed himself to Israel. He introduced himself to Moses as ‘the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.’ Ex 34:6. Jonah had no unique insight into God that we don’t have. We know even more than Jonah because we have read the full account of God’s mercy to this world. His graciousness and mercy means that we have received grace upon grace. What a great God who has sent his son to die for us, to call us to come home, filled us with his Spirit so that we can know his mercy from within – not just facts about God but we have experienced forgiveness. Does this make you angry or glad? Should the world know about our great God too? Or should they remain like Nineveh – not knowing their right from their left?


  • Our anger is hard to manage. Thank God that he has his anger under control. If he didn’t, then we wouldn’t be here today. Our anger, however, may reveal which kingdom you are fighting for – is it the kingdom of God’s son who you are eager to defend, or is it your own kingdom which you are familiar with defending?
  • Do you yet understand the grace and compassion and mercy of God? If so, it should create a similar outlook in you and teach you to embrace grace and love. If not, you may discover that you are a very unhappy Christian – knowing facts about God, but not experiencing or trusting in him personally.
  • Are you able to change? The Christian life must be a life of reform. As we get to know our maker and Saviour better, we grow closer to him and like him. Maturity is about grasping the basic Christian message and watching it impact your whole heart, mind, soul and strength. What is God trying to teach you at the moment?
  • In chapter 3 we read that Jonah began… Now we have read that Jonah really wanted to delay this mission for as long as he could, that’s why he fled. Are there ways that we forestall the missin of God? What does it mean to be on God’s mission? Do you see yourself as part of the mission or just on the sideline? Is your thinking right on this?


Dear God, we know that your nature is always to have mercy. Teach us to be merciful like you. We know that you have a heart for the lost. Teach us to have a heart like yours. We know that you are patient with us all. Teach us to know this ourselves. Help us to rejoice in knowing you as our personal LORD and Saviour and we pray you would use us to spread your name throughout the world. Amen.