Feast upon the Word Blog

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NT Sunday School Lesson 24 (JF): John 16-17

Posted by Jim F. on June 21, 2011

Remember: though these may be useful in helping a person to prepare a Sunday School lesson, they are intended primarily to help one study and prepare for taking part in Sunday School. That’s why you’ll find questions with no answers; they are study questions.

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,”“scandalized.” In Matthew 26:31 Jesus tells the disciples that they will be offended or scandalized by him that night. What particular things were the disciples facing that might make them stumble? What things in our lives are like those things? How would the particular teachings of the previous chapter, 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 persecute us in some way? What does that suggest about us when we act that way? Early Christianity experienced persecution. Mormons experienced persecution for about the first 100 years of our existence. The early Church, though, didn’t learn from their experience, for they then persecuted Jews, Muslims, and those whom they thought to be heretical. Have we learned from our experience?

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 14:5? 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,” though that is how we would describe what he is going to do. Instead, he says “I have to leave you so that you can have the Comforter.” Explain that. (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.” Some call it “The Prayer of Consecration.” Why do you think they do use those names for it? Latter-day Saints usually call this prayer “The Great Intercessory Prayer.” Why? Are the non-LDS and the LDS names for the 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 anything about how we should understand the word “know” in scripture? 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 verse 7 help us 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)?

3 Responses to “NT Sunday School Lesson 24 (JF): John 16-17”

  1. […] respond to this post at Feast upon the Word. 0 people like this […]

  2. Kent Miles said

    A few questions I have: Why did John, writing long after the events occurred, tell the story apparently without much explanation or editorializing? Did he have to work at keeping interpretation out of his account? Was it even possible for John to fully explain what was happening in these last hours the Savior spent with His apostles? Was it important for future generations to have to seek out the meaning of these words rather than have someone tell them what they are supposed to mean? Is it possible that there are layers of meaning that are unveiled only with time and the effort to ponder and pray?

    • Jim F. said

      Excellent questions–for which I don’t have any answers. But I think they provide us much to think about and can help us understand the passages better.

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