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The Most Holy Trinity

Trinity Sunday      Year C

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

St. John 16: 12  — 15.

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

 

Introduction

We have all heard critics of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity assert triumphantly that nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of it, let alone any definition. The joy in canvassing our reading — short as it is — lies not in obscure definitions and theological formula. Instead the Church chooses to highlight, in this beautiful passage from St. John, a picture of the Holy Trinity in action, presented by our Lord Himself.

This short reading is a very profound record by St. John of our Lord’s final teaching before His unjust trial and execution. For students of Biblical studies we have attached an Appendix of supplementary readings.

Click here for a printable copy of the text

 

Some Reflections on Our Text

Verse 12

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”

As the Apostles had already come to realise, spiritual knowledge is not something you just choose to accumulate and use when it suits you. It is knowledge centred on Him and it is built up over a period of time as one engages with the Lord and listens to Him. It is knowledge related to experience with Him. Thus, in our text, the Apostles are unable to take everything possible into memory. Jesus says in effect, “….. it would be too much for you to bear.”

As a good rabbi (teacher) He knows when His “students” are ready for more information, and when they need to be more gently coaxed. There are some hefty trials ahead and for now His small band of loyal companions need to be given their final preparation. But what are these  “hefty trials”. The Passion and Death of Jesus are obviously enough. But what do the words “much more” our Lord spoke convey.

The Apostles of Jesus are about to be confronted with much more than a horrific execution. They need to be prepared for what could appear to them as a reversal of all they had been taught about Israel and its culture and role to be “a light to the nations”. Our Lord’s style of preparing them ensured that once the Church was “up and going”, they would see that their Faith and religious practice were not done away with — they were to be transformed and fulfilled in Jesus Messiah. Only the old ceremonial forms and localised judicial practices would be abrogated.

Verse 13

“But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you
to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak
what he hears, and will declare to you the things that
are coming.”

Who is this “Spirit of truth”? What does it mean?

The phrase “Spirit of Truth” can be expressed in several different forms:—

  •     the Spirit who shows what is true about God;
  •     the Spirit who speaks the true words about God;
  •     the Spirit who will reveal what God truly is.

What exactly does our Lord mean, “he will guide you to all truth”? This is a very special intimation from our Lord to His closest companions. It echoes some highly descriptive language from the Psalms, which all those present knew well. Let’s look at where Jesus took this particular word from — and it will help us appreciate the depth of His comforting statement.

  •     “Guide me in your justice, because of my foes; make
         straight your way before me.” (Psalm 5: 9)
  •     “Lord show me your way; lead me on a level
         path. (Psalm 27:11)
  •     “He roared at the Red Sea and it dried up. He led them
         through the deep as through a desert.” (Psalm 106: 9)

     

  •     “Lead me in the path of your commands, for that is
         my delight.” (Psalm 119: 35)

St. John, writing later in the Book of Revelation, reflected the same power of the word:

  •     “For the Lamb who is in the centre of the throne will
         shepherd them and lead them to springs of
         life-giving water.” (Revelation 7: 17)

Our Lord’s choice of language indicates that though He is going to the Father, and they will no longer see Him (Verse 16: 10), through the Holy Spirit He will continue to guide, to lead and to shepherd. They will not be without His presence. Going even further, Jesus explains that they will be partners in His continuing work, and He will confide in them through the Holy Spirit. In fact they will share the same knowledge and understanding, as family members.

The Apostles are given the perfect model to follow. Talking of the Holy Spirit, our Lord says:

“He will not speak on his own, but will speak what he hears, and will
declare to you things that are coming.”

So the Holy Spirit Himself listens and imparts understanding; not only of present events, but concerning the whole unfolding of God’s plan of salvation for all the world.

Constantly, there is a reference to being given knowledge and understanding of the Constantly, there is a reference to being given knowledge and understanding of the Father’s will. EVERYTHING REVOLVES AROUND THIS! We will have often experienced people talking about the Holy Spirit and what they think He does for them — but it is rather less often that people link the gift of the Spirit and the obedience by which we are meant to respond!

Thus we need to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit will teach — but He will also guide, lead and shepherd. It is this combination of roles which should give us confidence. The Perfect Listener will Himself guide us into possession of the level of knowledge and understanding each of us needs. If we follow His model we too will listen to the Word Himself and grow in confidence in our understanding and thus be less inclined towards error and distortion — less likely to deviate from the path: the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Verse 14

“He will glorify me, because he will take from what is
mine and declare it to you.”

Here Jesus is emphasising that in carrying out this guiding and teaching, the Holy Spirit will, in fact, honour our Lord — He will show them Christ’s glory; He will fold back the veil and let the Apostles see the true glory of Jesus.

Our Lord is very emphatic. The Apostles will not receive some “carbon-copy” of what He wishes them to know and understand. They will receive the “real thing”; first hand! 

Verse 15

“Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason
I told you that he will take from what is mine and
declare it to you.”

Again our Lord is emphatic. The Holy Spirit will declare everything because the Apostles are to be empowered to continue the mission of Jesus Messiah until it has been completed. They are to hold the position of closest confidant — “no holds barred”. The communication from the Lord to His Apostles — and indeed even to His future disciples — is to be rendered permanently open and clear so long as they remain fully united to Him through His Body, the Church: a unity He has already alluded to minutes earlier in His discussion of the vine and branches, (Chapter 15).

 

Conclusion

The passage from St. John’s Gospel which we have just read and pondered gives us a beautiful image of the Holy Trinity “at work” — an image which included the Apostles. The Church learned very early that the Lord was speaking not just to His Apostles, but also to His disciples down through the ages.

The message is loud and clear: we are to listen, as St. Benedict said, with the ears of the heart — and to carry out God’s Holy Will enshrined in the Sacred Scriptures. When we humbly pursue this course, the Holy Spirit will accompany us and “guide us into all truth”. Our time of Scripture Reflection becomes all the more precious to us when we realise just how closely this brings us into the inner workings of the Blessed Trinity and the sense of belonging and loving union conferred upon us in thew Household, the Family of God. How can we not be bursting with zeal to teach these things to all who do not share this wonderful relationship with God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

 

Shalom!

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Trinity Sunday ― Year C

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended

 

Appendix of Supplementary Readings

 

Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature

 (Mark 16: 15)

 The real Jesus is the real answer to the real needs of the world.

  Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
  remain close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating how you
  can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going reflection.

The Most Holy Trinity

Trinity Sunday      Year C               St. John 14: 21 29

1. In the normal course of events the Holy Spirit does not use short-cuts to impart knowledge and understanding. These come as a result of assiduous study, reflection, prayer and meditation according to one’s ability and circumstances. When we get down to earnest reflection, then the Holy Spirit is right there!

2. Our Lord teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide, lead and shepherd us on His behalf. However, He insists that we should seek to know the Father’s Will, and earnestly try to carry it out, in other words, to observe all Jesus commanded (Matthew 28: 20).

3. The members of Christ’s Body, the Church, will have the opportunity to share with the Holy Trinity, in the treasures of the Divine Word: for all eternity. But that gift is not just for us to wallow in spiritually! We are called (and lets remember, empowered) to look for ways to share this with all who are distant from God, and need bringing home!

Let us pray for one another to persevere ion our prayer for and outreach to those who are distant from God.

 

Shalom!

 Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections

 

John 16: 12 — 15

Most Holy Trinity Sunday Year C

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

 

12    “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.

13    5 But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you
        to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak
        what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are
        coming.

14    He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine
        and declare it to you.

15    Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason
        I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare
        it to you.”

5 [13] Declare to you the things that are coming: not a reference to new predictions about the future, but interpretation of what has already occurred or been said.

 

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,
revised edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of
Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission of
the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the
New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without
permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

 

 

 Appendix

The Most Holy Trinity

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

St. John 16: 12 — 15

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

References for students of Scripture
(Titles available at end of Appendix)

 

Verse 12

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”

       “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” This
       implies that though He could not say them, He could say them hereafter then,
       hereafter, when they were in
a fit state to receive all, and so no difference
       must be made (as has been made)
between the things taught by Christ
       orally, and the things which He taught
afterwards by His Spirit.

       •    One of these things which they could not then bear was the Atonement by
            His Death.

     His Death as a propitiatory sacrifice could not be freely spoken of till His
     Resurrection had proved that God had accepted it, and His Ascension had
     given Him the power of applying it as our High Priest on the throne of God.
     Till the time of His Ascension, He was “straitened#” in speaking of such a
     truth. After that He so spake of it through His Spirit to the Apostles, that
     it was the first principle of their teaching.
     # “straitened” = restricted.

•    His Headship over the Church,

•    His Mystical Body, must also be reserved to the Ascension, when He was
     exalted to be the Head of that Body.

•    The equality of the Gentiles with the Jews also, was another thing which,
     long after Pentecost, the very Apostles had a difficulty in “bearing”. Sadler.

     I have yet many things. Among these many things which they were not
yet able to bear were, probably, the nature of His earthly kingdom, and the
abrogation of the Jewish Law, as far as it was judicial and ceremonial.
As Jews, who had grown up imbued with deepest reverence for the Mosaic
Law, the Apostles were naturally slow to believe that it was to be abrogated;
and immediately before St. Peter received Cor-nelius into the Church as the
first-fruits of the Gentile world, he had to be taught by a vision from heaven
that the Jewish distinction between clean and unclean meats was no longer
to exist. (Acts 10: 10 ― 16.) And as to the nature of Christ’s earthly kingdom,
the Apostles in common with the rest of their race still hoped that the
Messias would establish a mighty Jewish empire, and restore Israel to a
foremost place among the nations. Even on Ascension day they still
cherished this hope, as we learn from the Acts: “Lord, wilt Thou at this
time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1: 6).                         MacRory.

 

     We are to understand that Jesus is the nodal point of revelation, God’s
culminating self-disclosure, God’s final self-expression, God’s ‘Word’
(John 1: 1, 14). All antecedent revelation has pointed toward him, and
reaches its climax in him. That does not mean he himself provides all
the detail his followers will need; it does mean that ‘extra’ bits the Holy
Spirit provides after he is sent by Christ Jesus, consequent upon Jesus’
death / exaltation, are nothing more than the filling out of the revelation
nodally present in Jesus himself.                                                                    Carson. 

 

 

Verse 13

But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and
will declare to you the things that are coming.

 

13.  But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come. Though you are now unable
to bear these truths, you shall be taught them all by the Holy Ghost.
The Greek for will teach is “hodegein”, which means “to lead on the way,
to conduct; and the sense, therefore, is: He shall guide you into all the
truth (which I have still to tell you, but which you are now unable to bear).
We are not to suppose that the Apostles were taught all the truth on the
day of Pentecost; the revelation was vouchsafed # gradually, and at their
death the deposit of faith was complete. Since the Apostles’ time,
doctrines
and dogmas have, indeed, been more fully drawn out
and developed, but
no new doctrines have been revealed. This
follows clearly from the
words we are considering; for it was to the
Apostles, to those same men
who were now unable to bear it, that the
Holy Ghost was to teach the
whole truth.

     The promise here made to the Apostles, that they should be taught the
whole truth by the Holy Ghost, while it regarded them directly, regarded
the whole Church indirectly; for it is to them as Apostles, appointed to
teach the whole church, that Christ speaks: “I have chosen you, and have
appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit, and your
fruit should remain” (John 15 ― 16). And in the solemn prayer to the Father,
with which this discourse concludes, He prays the Father: “Sanctify them
(the Apostles) in (the) truth . . . And not for them only do I pray, but for
them also who, through their word, shall believe in me.” So that the
Apostles first, and through them the Church of Christ, received the whole
truth from the Holy Ghost.                                                          MacRory.

#   vouchsafed graciously permitted

 

     “He shall guide you into all the truth.” Not merely teach it to you,
but guide you into it, so that ye may see it from within, and not from
without. This truth is not, of course, scientific, or even political truth:
God leaves things which are within the reach of the due use of
our natural faculties
, to be attained by such use of what He has give
us, but it is all the truth — all the truth as it is in Jesus, the truth of
the Gospel and of the Church
.

     “For he shall not speak of himself.” The “for” here, signifies that He
will
guide into all the truth, because He proceeds from the Source
of all truth,
the Father.

     “He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear,
that shall he speak
.” This is not said as if the Spirit knew not the full truth:
for “The Spirit searcheth all things, even the deep things of God,” or as if
He had not power or ability to declare it, for “He divideth to every man
severally as He will;” but in order to convince the Apostles that He would
not be an independent Teacher, a Teacher apart from God or Christ, Who
would teach them different things from what Christ had taught them.

     It is a declaration by the Lord’s own lips that, as it was with Him
so would it be with the Spirit.
He, the Son of God, had not spoken of
Himself, but whatsoever He had heard or had learned of the Father, that
He spake; so the Spirit should not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He
should hear in the councils of the Trinity, that would He speak; so that
though the Person might be another, the word would be the same.

And he will show you things to come.” This seems said as adding
something to the “aIl” truth of the former clause. He shall not only teach
you the truth respecting My Person and work, but He shall be the Spirit
of Prophecy within you, revealing to you the future. This took place when
St. Paul foretold the coming of the Man of Sin, or Lawless One, and
when St. John was inspired to write the visions of the future which are
given to us in the Apocalypse, i.e. Revelation.                               Sadler.

 

     It is important to recognize that the disciples who will directly benefit
from these ministrations of the Spirit are primarily the apostles
(cf. Additional Note) #. In two of the other Paraclete passages, explicit
reference is made to reminding the disciples of what Jesus said during
the days of his flesh (14: 26) or to the fact that they had been with Jesus
from the beginning of his ministry (15: 27). Both references rule out later
disciples. Here, too, the primary focus of the Spirit’s ministry
is doubtless on those who could not, when Jesus spoke, bear more than
he was giving them (v. 12), but who would need to be guided in all the
truth of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus that they had been
privileged to witness. At least part of the consequence of that unfolding
is this Gospel of John.

     Derivatively, we may speak of the Spirit’s continued work in the
disciples of Jesus today. But that is not the primary emphasis of these
verses; and in any case it is impossible to think of such continuing
ministry of the Spirit leading men and women to stances outside the
enriching and explanatory ministry he exercised amongst the first
witnesses, which is crystallised in this book. 
                               Carson.

  The authors Book, page 542

 

     In fact, as we shall see in the rest of the verse, John thinks of the
Spirit’s guidance exactly in the same way as he thinks of the teaching
of Jesus.                                                                                    Lindars.

 

     The Spirit tells the disciples what is yet to come. This has often been
understood to refer to revelation about the later stages of the kingdom,
perhaps in apocalyptic form and exemplified in the book of Revelation
(so Schlatter, p. 314; Bernard, 2. 511; Johnston, pp. 38-39). But there nothing
in the context that demands an essentially futuristic eschatology
,
and the theme, though present in John, is scarcely central. 
            Carson.

 

 

Verse 14

He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.

 

     “He shall glorify me.” Notice how the Spirit comes to glorify the Son,
just as the Son took no glory to Himself, but ascribed all glory to the Father.
See how the Persons of the Godhead seek to do honour One to Another.
The Father commits all judgment to the Son, “that all men should honour
the Son even as they honour the Father.” (Ch. 5: 22 and 28.) The Son
seeks not His own glory, but the glory of Him that sent Him. (John 7: 18 and 
8: 50.)
The Holy Ghost comes to glorify the Son.

     “He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” What are the
things or truths of Christ which the Spirit took and showed to the
Apostles, and now takes and shows to the spirit of each believer?

Evidently:

•    His true and proper Sonship;
•    His Incarnation;
•    His submission to God;
•    The holiness of His Life;
•    The spiritual meaning of His Miracles;
•    The searching and illuminating power of His words,
•    “His Death and Passion and its sacrificial value in cleansing our
     consciences;

•    The power of His Resurrection in that it is the means whereby His
     very nature is diffused into us;

•    His Ascension that He may be our Forerunner, our Advocate, our
     Mediator, and the exalted Head of
His Mystical Body;
•    His Second Coming, at which, no matter what men say, believers
     and unbelievers alike will have to
stand before Him, to receive the
     things done in
their bodies. (2 Corinthians 5: 10.)

     Again, those mysterious things which we call Sacraments, which
He ordained on such solemn occasions, and set forth in such unique
and startling words, are things of Christ and the instruments of the
Spirit,

whereby He ‘makes us partakers of the Lord’s glorified humanity.
These, then, the Spirit must take and show to us, so that we humbly
accept His own words respecting them without gainsaying #, and humbly
hope in the right use of them to receive the promise He has made to us
in them.                                                                                                                 Sadler.
#   gainsaying contradicting

 

     The Paraclete will take what is proper to Jesus, and declare it to
the disciples, so that they may make it known to the world. Hence
(as Bultmann points out) the Paraclete does not so much bring new
knowledge as the power of Jesus’ word, which is ever new in
the process of confronting fresh ranges of hearers
.                Lindars.

 

14.  He will glorify me: The glorification which the Son has from the Father
and which is in turn the glorification of the Father (12: 23 and 28; 13: 31f.),
is continued in the Church (cf. 14: 13) through the activity of the Spirit
which continues the work of Christ.

15.  As the existence of the Church is the result of the shared life of the
Father and the Son (cf. 3: 35; 5: 20; 10: 30), so its continuance is the result
of the shared life of Son and Spirit.                               
Bruce Vawter C.M.

 

 

Verse 15

Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason
I told you that he will take from what is mine and
declare it to you.”

 

15   “All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore,&c.
What are the things which belong to the Father, as the Father, which
are also the Son’s?  

Evidently:

  •    His providential rule over all things;
  •    His pastoral care of Israel as His Flock;
  •    Above all, His authority as the Supreme Ruler to exercise
       Universal Judgment
    .

      These, which are inherently the Father’s, He has given to the Son to
execute in His stead, and so the Spirit shows the Son to be the doer of
these things.                                                                             Sadler.

 

     The whole of God’s will for mankind has been expressed in
Jesus
. The disciples cannot   expect to have such an all-inclusive

endowment as was seen in him. They will take of what is mine
(the Greek has partitive ek), according to the measure that each may
be able to receive. Whatever they achieve, it is only a part of what is
given to Jesus by right. But none the less it is his mission which they
will be empowered by the Spirit to perform. The future belongs to
Jesus as well as the past.                                                            Lindars.

 

References:

The Gospel According to St. John,
by M. F. Sadler; George Bell and Sons, Covent Garden, London 1898.

The Gospel of St. John,
by J. Macrory D. D; Brown and Nolan Ltd, Dublin 1924.

The Gospel According to John,
by Bruce Vawter C. M; Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice-Hall, London, 1968.

The Gospel of John,
by Barnabas Lindars; Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, 1972.

The Gospel According to John,
by D. A. Carson; Inter-Varsity Express, Leicester, England, 1991.

 

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