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Raymond Brown on John 16:23b-30

by pastorjuhl ~ May 12th, 2009

The words of Jesus in 23b-28, which are somewhat parallel to those in 20-23a, also promise two privileges that the disciples will enjoy after the “little while”: the privilege of being so intimate with God that their requests will be granted (23b-24, 26), and, once again, the privilege of understanding Jesus as the revelation of the Father (25). The privilege of having requests granted really flows from “seeing” Jesus (16). Since the Christian will experience Jesus in the internal dwelling of the Paraclete, he will remain united to Jesus; and, as was promised in John 15:7: “If you remain in me…ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” Precisely because the Christians will have the intimate presence of Jesus in the Paraclete, they will also be close to the Father who is one with Jesus. This fact enables us to understand the peculiar stress of 16:23b-24 that not only are things to be asked for in Jesus’ name, but also they will be given in Jesus’ name. Since Jesus dwells in the Christians, their petitions are in Jesus’ name; since the Father is one with Jesus, the petitions He grants are granted in Jesus’ name. Verse 24 is more profound than appears at first glance. The statement that up to now (the Last Supper) the disciples  have not asked anything in Jesus’ name really implies that the disciples cannot be completely united to Jesus (and thus act in his name) until after the hour of passion, death, resurrection, and giving of the Spirit. Only then, as Ephesians 2:18 phrases it, will they “have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

What types of requests does John have in mind in recording these sayings about asking and receiving? We have suggested…that it is not primarily a question of the ordinary needs of life but of whatever will deepen eternal life and make fruitful the work of the Paraclete…. The fullness of Christian joy comes through the understanding of what Jesus has revealed, an understanding that leavens the Christian’s way of living.

What does the contrast between “figures of speech” and “plain words” imply? During the ministry “the Jews” challenged Jesus to speak in plain words (John 10:24), but he claimed that the real problem was that they obstinately refused to believe what he said; this answer seems to imply that he was speaking in plain words during the ministry….In the presence instance the disciples have not understood the figure of the woman in labor that Jesus uses to illustrate his departure, and so Jesus promises that the time will come when such figures will no longer be necessary. Perhaps we should go beyond the literal meaning of “figures of speech” in the immediate context and think of the expression as referring to the element of the mysterious that characterizes all the words of Jesus in the Gospel – the inevitable mystery presented by one from above when he speaks to those who are on earth (in short, the Johannine form of what the Synoptics speak of as the mystery of the kingdom hidden in parables). This mystery can be dispelled only when they have been begotten from above (John 3:3-6, 31-32). In promising to speak plainly, then, Jesus is doing more than promising an interpretation of the allegorical parables he has used at the Last Discourse; he is referring to a general enlightenment about his whole revelation.

Verses 26-27 develop the note of intimacy with the Father and apply it to the theme of asking and receiving (resumed from 23b-24)…. Perhaps then the real import of John 16:26 is not to exclude intercession but to explain that in interceding Jesus will not be a tertium quid between the Father and His children. Rather, Jesus’ necessary role in bringing men to the Fathe rand the Father to men (John 14:6-11) will set up so intimate a relationship of love in and through Jesus that Jesus cannot be considered as intervening. The Father will love the disciples with the same love with which He has loved Jesus (John 17:23-26); and the Father, Jesus, and the disciples will be one (John 17:21-23). Jesus will not have to ask the Father on behalf of the Christian, for the Christian’s prayer will be Jesus’ prayer.

— Anchor Bible Commentary, p. 733-735

4 Responses to Raymond Brown on John 16:23b-30

  1. ToddPeperkorn

    Please forgive my ignorance, but who is Raymond Brown? I am having a, uh, Wednesday moment here…

  2. knke11

    http://www.americancatholic.org/News/RayBrown/

  3. Christopher Esget

    The main thing you need to know, Todd, is that Raymond Brown was a liberal but very insightful Roman Catholic scholar. He wrote the Anchor Bible Commentary volumes on John and the Epistles of John. He also wrote two monumental exegetical works, "The Birth of the Messiah" and the 2-volume "The Death of the Messiah." They are well worth owning.

    I'm surprised that you aren't familiar with him, because when I was at sem, professors as diverse as Gregory Lockwood and David Scaer highly recommended him.

  4. pastorjuhl

    Dr. Scaer recommended Brown's commentary on the Gospel of John. It was through Pr. Esget that I first heard of Brown. I don't look at the commentary that often, but sometimes I do. There is usually something interesting when I read him.

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