Jesus was redefining everything for his followers that last, fateful night. To take on their rabbi’s mantle was going to mean loving each other sacrificially. To loose and bind with their rabbi’s authority would mean unimaginably more than it had ever meant for any other student of a great rabbi—for their teacher promised them whatever they asked in his name.
There would be no new leader, for he would remain their leader somehow. There would be no authority structure, because he had taught them none, nor had he allowed any of them to be named his successor, or to rank them in any way. Jesus, their teacher and overseer, had modeled the humblest of tender and loving service to them, instead. He would not even call them servants, as other rabbis might call their talmidim, but rather his friends, and this is what they were to be to each other, friends and family.
In order to do this, they would need to remain deeply connected with him, just as he was deeply connected with the Father. In some mysterious way, to remain in him, and he in them, would bring them life in a manner they had never experienced before, to be alive in ways no one had experienced since the creation of the world.
This organic and powerful connection would be achieved through one Jesus called the “Paraclete,” the Counselor and Advocate whom he would send as soon as he had himself gone to the Father. The Counselor was the Spirit of God, unseen but everpresent. And in the Spirit’s coming would mean change, sweeping change, as though gale winds blew from heaven.
Belief in Jesus was what God looked for. Righteousness meant being restored and transformed by the Spirit. And judgment would mean deliverance from evil.
New definitions for sin and righteousness mean a new definition of judgment.
Judgment is deciding on which side of right and wrong one stands.
The world defines judgment as a consequence, as a simple matter of cause and effect. If you or I commit some wrong, we will be judged. (In this scenario, to be found innocent of wrong, or wrongdoing, would mean to be acquitted). If you or I do righteous acts, we will escape judgement.
Often, when people talk about cosmic judgment, it is in terms of some undisclosed future. A Day of Judgment, or perhaps a judgment seat in heaven. And, indeed, there are passages in scripture that indicate such an event—in Matthew 25, for instance, Jesus described a prophetic scene during which people would be separated into two groups, sheep and goats.
But in the gospel of John, Jesus indicated judgment had already happened. The world already was under the shadow of judgment, and every person remained there until, or unless, they chose to come into the light of life. Choosing to emerge from the shadow would bring with it the surety of exposure. This would be, in fact, the work of the Holy Spirit, to expose and convict of sin.
But this exposure would bring the healthful effect of cleansing.
Like mildew of the soul, the light of God’s Son would dry up sin and shame, and brush it away. Confession would be met with compassion, for the whole point of exposure is to find the source of pain, and sin, and wrongness, in order to heal and restore.
Jesus spoke slowly, knowing he had already told them almost more than they could absorb. He began with a truth they could grasp, the exposure of those who did not believe in him. John noticed the constancy of the wind, swooshing in waves outside the windows. Jerusalem was a city of wind, at the summit of Mount Zion, the heat of the valley rising up, and the cool of the sky gently falling, so that each pushed against each other, rustling through the trees, swaying over the grasses, lifting veils and robes, refreshing faces.
The wind would sweep away coverings, disguises, dust, exposing the truth underneath. The hearts of those who seemed faithful to God had been time and again disclosed as untrue. If you do not know me, Jesus would tell such ones, then you do not know the Father, either. You claim to know God, you claim to serve God, but you reject the Father’s Son. To reject the Son of God is to reject God.
The Spirit of God would lay bare the truth and convict the world of its sin of rejecting the Son, of not having faith in Jesus.
All those who claimed righteousness, who claimed they were justified would now see that only one is righteous, only one is justified—only Jesus could return to the Father. The Spirit of God would make this plain.
Slowly, the image took shape in John’s mind of the vine Jesus had described to them. The Righteous One’s sap would flow to all the branches that took their life from the sturdy trunk. It was the only way to be alive, let alone bear the fruit of righteousness. Not a one of them could go to the Father, only Jesus. And only Jesus would be their way, now, to the Father.
It upended everything John had been taught about righteousness, about heaven, about eternity.
The Ruler of This World
And now Jesus spoke with great care, that they might hear and understand him,
And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.Jesus, John 16:11
The world, and the one who ruled it, Satan, had come to judgment. In a way that would only become clear in the weeks to come, Jesus’ death on the cross, and his resurrection, would once and for all free the cosmos from Satan’s unrighteous reign. Satan would stand defeated and condemned.
God’s mighty deliverance of the world through the cross held echoes of the ancient contest God entered into with the powerful gods of Egypt. The one true and living God against all the legions of powers in the spiritual realm. And in one night, with the death of the firstborn wrenching cries of anguish from household after household, God’s people were freed from crushing enslavement, to begin their transformation into the people of God, to begin their journey to the Promised Land.
So now, would God’s magnificent plan of deliverance come to a head at the cross, where the death of God’s own Son would free the cosmos. Imagine the cries of anguish from hell itself, as the powers of darkness watch humankind slip from even the chains of death of itself . . .