John 16:5-7 The Spirit Overcomes Sorrow


Jesus was giving His farewell discourse. The paragraph in John 16:5-15 has three important passages about the Holy Spirit: (1) 16:5-7; (2) 16:8-11; and (3) 16:12-15. Jesus had been talking about the coming persecution. In 16:5-7 He speaks about going away and sending the Helper to the disciples. Then, in 16:8-11 Jesus tells about the ministry of the Spirit to the world. Finally, in 16:12-15, He discusses the ministry of the Spirit to the disciples. Our attention, today, is focused on 16:5-7.

One, when you sorrow, focus on the bright side!

Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to the Father who sent Him. At this time, the disciples did not ask where he was going. Jesus pointed (verse 6) to the reason why the disciples did not ask. Because of the things Jesus had said, sorrow had filled their hearts. Jesus was going away for their benefit, but they could only see the pessimistic side. Jesus was not going to be with them in physical form. They did not focus on the bright side. Jesus was leaving, but He was going to the Father. His presence with the Father would bring them great blessing. His going there was in fulfillment of His mission.

So often sorrow clouds our vision and our understanding. When sorrow comes upon us, we have to deal with it. Often this means enduring the sorrow until time and circumstances bring healing. But it will help us to focus on the bright side of things. As much as possible, we need to seek positive information and be encouraged by it.

Two, you can counter sorrow with truth.

The Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. The title centers on the truth. Jesus counters the sorrow of the disciples with the truth. When the disciples were troubled in hearts, Jesus had said (John 14:1): “‘believe in God, believe also in Me.'” When you believe in Jesus, your heart is comforted. Now, Jesus presents the specific truth that will drive out their sorrow. The truth Jesus declares is that it is to their advantage that He goes away. It is to their advantage because the Helper will not come unless Jesus departs.

Some things that seem so difficult are easier to bear once we know the purpose behind them. The Spirit will help us understand. He guides us into all truth. Thus, we must listen to the truth and come against sorrow armed with a better understanding. This will help us focus our minds and hearts on the future and not the past.

Three, believe in the completed work of Christ.

The declaration by Jesus raises a question: “Why was Jesus not able to send the Helper unless He went away?” The Holy Spirit was already at work in the hearts of men, but He would be present in a new way and with a new ministry when Jesus departed. Jesus could not send the Helper in His new ministry until Jesus completed His redemptive work. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are necessary to the salvation of man. Thus, the Helper could not apply this redemptive work or witness to it until the events took place.

The reason why we can overcome sorrow is that we are in the hands of Jesus. It is He who has redeemed us and who assures us of a bright and enduring future. We have eternal life! Unless He had died for our sins, we would be without hope. His darkest hour resulted in joy for believers through the ages. And our darkest hours can turn to joy as we follow His example.

“It is He who has redeemed us.”

Four, we have the Helper to assist us.

Jesus assured the disciples that, even though He was going away, He would send the Holy Spirit to help them. The Holy Spirit will comfort them, empower them, and enlighten them. Because of all this, they need not be sorrowful. On the contrary there was cause for great joy.

Moreover, the withdrawal of Christ’s physical presence led to His universal presence. When Jesus rose again, He arose with a body that was not restricted by time and space. Moreover, without being visibly present, He is present everywhere. This universal presence was accomplished through His going away.

When Jesus gave the Great Commission, He said to the disciples (Matthew 28:20), “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” As we follow the Lord and pursue His mission, He is with us. His presence empowers us to do great things.


Jesus is preparing the disciples for His departure. They were sorrowful because Jesus was going away. So Jesus calms the fears and dissipates the sorrow of the disciples by showing why it is necessary for Him to depart and send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will guide them into all truth. Because of the truth they will be victorious. All of this applies to us today!

Copyright © George M. Flattery

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