Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Sunday School Lesson #24

Posted by Jim F. on June 25, 2007

Lesson 24: John 16-17

John 16

Verses 1-3: In verse 1 Jesus tells the disciples that he taught them what he did in chapter 15 so that they would not be “offended.” A more literal translation might be “caused to stumble.” What particular things were they facing that might make them stumble? What things in our lives are like those things? How would the particular teachings of chapter 15 strengthen them against those difficulties? How long was it before some people began to think that persecuting Christians was a service to God (verse 2)? Are we ever guilty of that kind of thinking? For example, do we ever justify our mistreatment of another person because we believe him to be a sinner? Are there ways in which we do so subtly? Do we have ways of doing so as a society, even if not as individuals? What does verse 3 tell us about those who act in that way toward us? What does that suggest about us when we act that way?

Verses 4-6: Did Jesus think the disciples would understand this sermon when he gave it? Does the fact that he gave them his teachings to return to and remember later tell us anything about the way we learn? about how we should study? In verse 5 Jesus says that none of them ask where he is going. What about John 13:36 and 14:3? Did they not understand what they were asking? Do the disciples understand what is about to happen? If not, why are they sorrowing?

Verses 7-11: In verse 7 Jesus doesn’t say “I have to leave you in order to work the Atonement.” He says “I have to leave you so that you can have the Comforter.” Explain what he says. (The footnote in the LDS edition may be helpful.) Recall from the questions for lesson 23 that another translation of the Greek word translated “comforter” is “advocate” or “defender.” The idea of the Holy Ghost as our advocate is important to the metaphor that Christ uses in verse 8: though the world will judge you (verses 2-3), the Holy Ghost will defend you and convict the world. The word translated “reprove” in verse 8 could also be translated “convict” or “expose.” The King James translation, “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” is somewhat misleading for modern readers. For us, it sounds as if the Advocate will convict the world of being righteous and having judgment. The phrase might be better translated “convict the world with regard to sin, and with regard to righteousness, and with regard to judgment.” What evidence allows the Comforter to convict the world of sin? What evidence is relevant to deciding the world’s righteousness (verse 10)? Perhaps a better translation than “righteousness” would be “justice.” A better translation than “judged” in verse 11 is “condemned.” Who is the prince of this world and how is he condemned by the Comforter? What do these verses tell us about our need for the Holy Ghost?

Verses 12-15: Why couldn’t the disciples bear Jesus’ teachings at that time? Why can the Holy Ghost teach them things that he cannot? Why is “Spirit of Truth” an apt name for the Holy Ghost in this sermon? What does Jesus mean when he says that the Spirit of Truth will not speak of himself (verse 13)? What “things to come” does the Comforter reveal? What thing that is to come has Jesus announced in his ministry? How does the Holy Ghost glorify the Savior? What does it mean to say that he does? What do verses 14-15 tell us the Comforter will reveal?

Verses 16-22: The disciples ask, “What does he mean that we will not see him in a little while and then in a little while we will?” Does the story of the woman in childbirth answer the disciples’ question? If so, how? If not, what question does it answer? Notice that a woman in travail—in labor—is a common Old Testament metaphor for deep anguish.

Verses 23-27: When the disciples see Christ again, why will they have no questions? Of what are their questions a sign? Asking in Jesus’ name and receiving what we ask for has been an important theme of this sermon. (See John 14:13 and 15:7, and the repetition of the teaching in 3 Nephi 18:20.) Why is that such an important teaching? Why is it important to the disciples at this point in their spiritual development? What does it mean to us? What is the promise of verse 25?

John 17

Many Christians refer to this chapter as “The Great High Priestly Prayer.” Why do you think they do so? Latter-day Saints usually call this prayer “The Great Intercessory Prayer.” Why? Are the two names for this prayer related? Though we know that Jesus prayed often, we know the content of only a few of his prayers. Why did John believe it was important to tell us what Jesus said in this prayer? How does the form of this prayer fit the form of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4; and 3 Nephi 13:9-13)? If it doesn’t, how do you explain the difference?

Verses 1-8: Jesus has often talked about glorifying the Father. (See, for example, John 1:18; 2:11; 9:3; and 15:15.) What do you think he means by the word “glorify”? How will the Father glorify the Son? Why does Jesus say that he will give eternal life to those whom the Father has given him (verse 2)? Whom has the Father given him? How has he given them to Jesus? What does it mean to belong to him, to be his possession? Jesus defines what he means by “eternal life” in verse 3. Does that help answer the last question? What kind of knowledge is Jesus talking about in verse 3? Compare Genesis 3:22 and Mosiah 4:12. Do they suggest how we should understand the word “know”? Does Mosiah 4:12 help us understand the glorification of the Father and the Son that Jesus speaks of in verses 1 and 4-5? Does verse 6 explain how Jesus has glorified the Father? What does he mean when he says “I have manifested [or “revealed”] thy name unto the men [literally “persons”]”? How has he revealed the name of the Father? Why is the Father’s name so important? What might it stand for? What does it mean that those whom the Father gave to the Son were given “out of this world” (verse 6)? How have they kept the Father’s word? What is the Father’s word? Does the first clause of verse 7 tell us explain what it means to know the Father (verse 3)? what it means that Jesus has manifested the Father’s name (verse 6)?

Verses 9-10: If God loves the world (John 3:16), why doesn’t Jesus pray for the world? Does “world” mean the same thing in each case? If not, explain the different meanings. Why is it important that Jesus speak of the disciples as the common property of him and the Father?

Verses 11-13: Here we find the request of Jesus’ prayer. He prays “Now that I am leaving them in the world and coming to thee, keep those you’ve given me in your name so that they can be one in the same way that we are one.” Can you think of synonyms for “keep” that help you understand this better? Why is the unity of the disciples so important now that the Savior is leaving them? How were they kept up to this point (verse 12)? (The word translated “lost” could also be translated “died.”)

Verses 14-16: Why do the disciples need the Father’s protection? What protection has been promised? (See John 16:7-8 as well as 15:7 and 16.) Why isn’t the Lord asking that the disciples be taken out of the world (verse 15)? If the disciples are not of this world (verse 16), why leave them behind when he knows that the world hates them and will persecute them (John 15:18-21 and 17:14)? Does this tell us anything about our own experience?

Verses 17-19: To sanctify something is to make it holy. How does the Father make the Lord’s disciples holy? What does it mean to say that he does so “through thy truth”? Jesus sent the disciples into the world, just as the Father sent Jesus into the world. Does that suggest that each has a similar mission? If so, what might it be? How does Jesus sanctify himself? What does it mean that he does it “for their sakes”? How does his sanctification make their sanctification possible?

Verses 20-23: For whom has Jesus been praying up to this point (verse 20)? Why has he focused on praying for them? Now whom does he pray for? Does he prayer for something different now? What does the unity of believers show the world (verse 21)? Why is that important? Jesus gives a standard for the unity of the saints: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (verse 22). How are the Father and the Son one? How can we imitate that unity in the Church? Are there destructive ways in which we might merely pretend to imitate that unity? How do we know the difference between real unity and false unity? The word translated “perfect” (verse 23) can also be translated “complete.” But it means literally “to fulfill the purpose”; that which fulfills its purpose is perfect. Why is unity needed for perfection, for fulfilling our purpose?

Verses 24-26: When Jesus prays “that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am” what is he asking for? Is he asking for something that only occurs at a future time or for something that can occur now? What does verse 25 tell us about our relation to the Father? Why might Jesus use the title “Just Father” here rather than another title? Does this help explain Doctrine and Covenants 46:13-14? What promise does the Lord make when he says “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it“? What does it mean to declare the name of the Father? How does doing so put the Father’s love for the Savior in us? Why does Jesus say that his declaration of the Father’s name will cause “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them” rather than “that thy love may be in them”? What is Jesus talking about when he speaks of being in those whom the Father has given him (verse 26)?

19 Responses to “Sunday School Lesson #24”

  1. Robert C. said

    I picked up an interesting book in the library called Johannine Discipleship as a covenant Relationshop by Rekha M. Chennattu (here is a review). She basically argues for a reading of John, esp. chapters 13-17, that is firmly rooted in Old Testament covenant motifs, where the disciples essentially take up the role of Israel (or Abraham before Israel…). I’ll try to post some of her specific ideas regarding John 17 on the wiki later this week (you can find all the wiki commentary for John 17 here, though very little is there so far…).

  2. Todd Wood said

    Jim, on John 17 . . . I will print this out and hold on to it.

    Someday, when I am in this powerful chapter, I will get back with you and let you know what I discovered.

  3. Jim F. said

    Todd Wood, I’m looking forward to what you have to say.

  4. I spent most of my time Sunday during SS thinking about how the school of the prophets as organized by D&C 88 (in Kirtland first, later in Salt Lake City) should recast my thinking about John 13-17. If the washing of the feet amounts to a complete subversion of the economic order of the world, then why is that a precursor to what is taught in chapters 13-16 and what is prayed in chapter 17? There is a great deal to think about here, and I look forward to Robert’s comments on the wiki with great anticipation.

  5. JakeW said

    Jim F.

    I read your book, Scripture Study: Tools and Suggestions. I really enjoyed it, and I’ll try to start applying the suggested techniques as I begin studying the Old Testament this Summer in preparation for seminary this coming year. Also, I loved your appendices, although I’ll still have to think awhile before I can begin to grasp Hebrew thought, but I’m sure it will help me understand the Old Testament much more responsibly. Thanks!

    This post seemed like as good a place to say this as any.

  6. Jim F. said

    JakeW, I’m always glad to hear that the book was helpful to someone.

  7. Albert Pope said

    Jim, just a note to express appreciation for the effort you make to post wonderful questions on the scriptures for the gospel doctrine classes. They require more thought than most sites, and I do enjoy that. I’m not a scriptorian but do teach a gospel doctrine class in an English speaking ward.

  8. Marilyn said

    For this lesson, I will do a review of the past 4 lessons, from the condemnation of the Jewish leaders who failed in their stewardship, through the 3 parables that are really about stewardship: First get the spirit (10 virgins & D&C 45:57), then get a calling to help build the kingdom (Talents), then build the kingdom by following the 3-fold mission of the church (feed the hungry–missionary work; clothe the naked and visit the sick–perfect the saints by getting them to the temple and strengthen them with home teaching; visit those in prison–redeem the dead). Then on to “love one another” with redeeming love–the kind that saves people, which is how the Lord loved us. None of these things can be done without the spirit. Without the spirit you cannot teach. Therefore it is expedient that the Lord leaves so the Holy Ghost can come. When Joseph Smith came back from the dead to visit Brigham Young, he said: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom.” Which fruits we can present to the master when we report on our stewardship.

    If there’s time: When we all work together to build the kingdom, we are helping the Lord with his work and glory to bring to pass the eternal life of man. Then we become one in purpose with the Father and the Son.

  9. Jim F. said

    Marilyn, thanks for sharing your plan for teaching this lesson. You’ve put together a very thoughtful lesson plan, one that others may also be able to benefit from.

  10. JWL said

    Of course, another angle on these chapters is that they are very relevant to all of the current Mitt Romney inspired “are Mormons Christians?” brouhaha. The core argument as to why Mormons can not fall within historic Christendom is our rejection of the classical trinitarian concept of God. The intercessory prayer is one of the places where Jesus teaches most clearly our (correct) social trinitarian concept of the Godhead. However, the key point is not that we have biblical proof of our theology, but that this social trintarian theology leads into the core of Christ’s teachings — his unity with the Father is founded on love, and it is by loving one another that we can join in that unity and be one as Christ and the Father are one.

  11. RuthS said

    I’m curios, John 16:26 “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” Does this mean that the apostles did not pray to the Father in Jesus name until after the ascension?

    Any thoughts on this?

  12. Jim F. said

    It seems to me that Jesus is speaking of “that day,” when Jesus will reveal the Father to his disciples directly. When that day comes–presumably at the Second Coming or even afterward–we will have direct fellowship with the Father and will not need for Jesus to plead on our behalf. Before our adoption back into God’s family (Romans 8), we need a mediator. However, after that adoption, we have direct access to the Father.

  13. JimP said

    RuthS, I had a similar question myself re. the apostles not praying until after Christ’s assension and also as to why he may have waited until after his resurrection to provide the Gift of the Holy Ghost to those disciples (John 20:22). Following are two references from Elder Bruce R. McConkie that I found rather insightful and these particular topics. Elder McConkie said:

    “Their prayers in Jesus’ name are to begin after his resurrection. Then they will no longer need to rely upon him to pray to the Father for them. The Father loves them and they have direct access to him. Having the Holy Ghost they then will be able to formulate their own Spirit-guided petitions; then
    they will feel secure in coming boldly unto the throne of grace, that they may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” The Mortal Messiah, 4:103.

    And in The Doctrinal New Testament Commentary Elder McConkie shared:

    “Since the divine law in all ages called for men to pray to the Father in the came of Christ, why had Jesus awaited this hour to institute the age-old system among his disciples? Perhaps it is a situation similar to that which is involved in receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost; as long as Jesus was with the disciples they did not enjoy the full manifestations of the Holy Ghost. Perhaps as long as Jesus was personally with them many of their petitions were addressed directly to him rather than to the Father. Such was the course followed by the Nephites when the resurrected and glorified Lord ministered among them. They prayed directly to him and not to the Father.” DNTC, 1:758 – 3 Ne 19:17-25

  14. RuthS said

    Thanks, Jims F & P that is helpful.

  15. Jim, this “farewell sermon” seems to me to be written chiastically by John. I see that John begins the Last Supper with Judas’ plot being foreshadowed and ends it with Judas’ plot being carried out in chapter 18. Do you know of any studies that might have broken down these chapters in any structural sense?–nanette

  16. Jim F. said

    Nanette, I don’t know of any such studies, which–of course–doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there. I think this is a very interesting possibility. I would be interested in seeing a more detailed analysis of the verses showing the chiasmus. Why don’t you post one?

  17. Ha! I answered my own question by reading Julie Smith’s book, “Search, Ponder & Pray,” today. On pg. 343 she cites Fernando Segovia’s analysis showing a chiasums thus:

    A Love, glory (13:1-38)
    B Jesus’ departure (14:1-31)
    C joy/hate, abiding/persecution (15:1-11)
    D focal point: 15:12-17
    C’joy/hate, abiding/persecution (15:18-16:3)
    B’Jesus’ departure (16:4-33)
    A’Love, glory (17:1-26)


  18. And Wayne Brouwer’s chiasmus:

    A gathering scene (13:1-35)
    B prediction: disciple’s denial (13:36-38)
    C Jesus’ departure and the Father’s power (14:1-14)
    D promise of the Comforter (14:15-26)
    E trouble with the world (14:27-31)
    F focal point: vine and branches: mutual love (15:1-17)
    E’ trouble with the world (15:18-16:4)
    D’ promise of the Comforter (16:4-15)
    C’ Jesus’ departure and the Father’s power (16:16-28)
    B’ prediction: the disciples’ denial (16:29-33)
    A’ departing prayer (17:1-26)

    Both these analysis were in Julie’s book.


  19. Jim F. said

    Nanette, thanks very much. I think both of those should be helpful to people studying those chapters.

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