Jesus Predicts His Desertion

“Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me” (v. 32).

- John 16:29–32

During most of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see that the disciples misunderstood the nature of our Savior’s work. Even Peter, who before Christ’s resurrection understood Jesus perhaps better than did any of the other disciples, did not grasp the necessity of the atonement (Matt. 16:13–23). This failure to accept Jesus’ declarations regarding the purpose of His work betrayed their ignorance not only about Jesus but also about the Father. After all, not to see the necessity of the atonement evidences confusion about God’s holiness and what He demands to be reconciled to His creatures.

However, this confusion did not last long, as Jesus promised that He would speak more plainly about the Father after His resurrection (John 16:25–28). And as we read the rest of the New Testament, the disciples certainly came to understand the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection with more clarity after our Savior rose from the dead. The book of Acts, for example, shows that the disciples became steadfast preachers of the cross. But it is important to note that this did not happen before Jesus was raised from the dead. In fact, it did not happen in its fullness until Pentecost (see Acts 2).

Today’s passage, on the other hand, demonstrates that the disciples thought they gained this clarity about God and Christ before they actually did. After hearing that Jesus would tell them plainly about the Father, the disciples replied immediately that He was already speaking plainly to them (John 16:29–30). Such a claim to know better than they did was certainly in keeping with what the rest of the Gospels tell us about the disciples. Indeed, a disciple such as Peter could only rebuke Jesus regarding the crucifixion because he thought he knew more about God than Jesus did (Matt. 16:21–23). No one would be so bold as to correct his master if he were not confident of his own knowledge.

Jesus saw through the disciples’ pretensions, predicting that the disciples would be scattered upon His arrest (John 16:31–32). Not all of them would flee the scene entirely, for both Peter and John would stay close by during Jesus’ ordeal (18:15–27; 19:26–27). But none of them would so clearly identify themselves with Christ as to be arrested and put on trial as well. The only One upon whom Jesus would be able to rely was the Father (16:32).

Coram Deo

It is easy to be critical of the disciples for overestimating their own knowledge of God. Truthfully, however, we all tend to think we know more about the Lord and His Word than we actually do. We cannot afford to place confidence in ourselves, so let us continually strive to know God and the Scriptures better. We always have room to grow in our understanding of the Lord and His ways.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 10:8
Proverbs 12:15
Proverbs 18:2
Proverbs 28:26
John 20:8–9
James 4:13–16

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.