John 16

Today’s reading is John 16.
Get out your journal or Bible to mark some observations:

+ As you read, mark every instance when Jesus uses the term “these things.”
+ Mark every instance when someone talks about “figures of speech” or “figurative language.”
When our daughter was in elementary school, she took everything she heard literally. One spring some of the frogs who made our driveway their personal playground were squished when we pulled into our garage. “Oh, look,” I said to my husband when we got out of the car, “an ex-frog.” Our daughter studied the frog for a long minute before saying, “I don’t see any X on the frog.”

A few weeks later I told my husband about the success of the french braid I’d worn to work. “I got a lot of compliments on my hair,” I said, quite pleased with myself. My daughter stared at me and frowned. “I don’t see anything on your hair, Mommy.”

Twenty years later those stories make the members of our family, including our daughter, laugh. But when she was young and I tried to explain what my words meant, she responded with a puzzled look. Her vocabulary was too small, her life experiences too few, and her developing brain too immature to understand the true meaning of what was being said.

The same principle applies to the conversation Jesus has with his disciples in John 16. Over and over he refers to “these things.” Some are things he said in the past (vs. 1-4), some are what he’s telling them in the moment (vs. 5-16), and others he says will be disclosed in the future (vs. 17-24). Perhaps the disciples responded with a puzzled look. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Look guys, I’m using figurative language. You can’t understand it yet, but I promise that one day you will.”

How many times, I wonder, did the disciples replay this conversation in the coming days? Surely their understanding of Jesus’ words grew as events unfolded. His death. His resurrection. His ascension. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The birth of the church. On and on, as they walked with Jesus for the rest of their lives. As God revealed more of himself and his power to them. The result of their maturing faith, Jesus told them at the end of chapter 16, would be courage and peace even during tribulation.

The promises of Jesus hold true as we walk with him throughout our lives. What we don’t understand early in our faith journeys becomes clearer as we read and study God’s word. As we gather with other believers and talk about what he’s doing in our lives. As his Spirit at work in us gives us courage to face life’s trials. As the celebration of his birth approaches and brings hope to our weary pandemic world. As our hearts resonate with the baby we now see dimly in the mystery and majesty of the manger and will fully understand on the day we see him face to face––Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Just for today-

+ What figurative language used by Jesus is confusing to you?
+ What figurative language used by Jesus do you understand better now than when you first became a believer? How did your understanding grow?
Jolene Philo | Author 

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