Christ's Reticence in Teaching Truth
John 16:12-15
I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.…


1. Take some of the truths to which we may suppose our Lord made immediate reference.

(1) The long separation which was about to take place between Him and His disciples. This would have been a terrible prospect, to them, with the sense they then had of entire dependence on His outward presence. There was but one thing that could enable them to bear this prospect — the descent of the Comforter. Till then it is not made clear to them.

(2) The fall of the Mosaic dispensation, accompanied with the destruction of the Jewish State, and the scattering of the nation. The whole foundation of their faith would have been convulsed by the thought of this. It was only the unfolding of Christianity in its spiritual power, and the transference of their affections to a higher fatherland, that could enable them to bear it.

(3) The admission of men of all nations upon equal terms to the privileges of the children of God. It was only the perception of Christ's relationship to man as man that could lead them to cast wide the gospel-door to every sinner.

(4) The gradual way in which lie made the true view of His own person dawn on them. Had they known, as they came afterwards to know, the full truth of His Divinity, they could not have borne it. It needed that they should have the tenderness and condescension of His character, as well as its purity and grandeur, brought out by the Spirit, before they could realize that God incarnate had entered our world.

2. Consider the manner of His revelation of truth to the world in general.

(1) The parable was Christ's favourite method in speech, and the miracle m action. In both of these a man sees little or much, according to the spirit he brings, and what he sees is always growing into something deeper and higher, as he ponders it. It is this manner of Christ's teaching which makes it suited to all the years of human life, as it is suited to every age of the world. The youngest child can understand something of it, and the most mature Christian feels that he has not reached the end of it.

(2) The Old Testament teaching was conducted in the same way. The symbols and the sacrifices were Divine parables, where the learners were made their own instructors. There is nothing more beautiful than to trace how their views of guilt, pardon, and holiness kept equal pace, growing in clearness till Christ came and satisfied all their longings when they were prepared for Him.

(3) When we come down to the ages that have followed His appearance upon earth, there is the same gradual unfolding of the principles of His kingdom. The great Reformers of the Christian Church were led on to their final views by slow degrees. If Luther had seen the whole course that lay before him when he opened the epistle to the Romans, he might have shrunk back in fear. But darkness was made light before him as he advanced, till a new dawn rose upon the Christian world. When churches and nations are brought out of Egypt, they do not see the long wanderings that are before them. Marsh and Meribah would terrify them; and yet these have all their lessons of faith and fortitude, which qualify God's people for conquering the land of their birthright.

3. In the individual life.

(1) Take, e.g., the way in which the view of human life alters as men advance in years. Were the young to discover how unsatisfactory the present world is at the core, they could not bear it. The young need the bright view of the world to develop their energies — to nurse their affections and imagination — that when the veterans droop they may come in, like a fresh reinforcement, into the failing battle of life.

(2) There is a similar experience in the Christian life. Those who enter on it have the confident feeling which would gain triumphs without thinking of trials. They have the "love of their youth, the zeal of their espousals," and they cannot conceive that it should ever be otherwise. But then comes "the check and change," chillness of feeling, temptation, the bitter cross, and long prospects of march and battle before the close. Ere this, however, they have learned to add to their faith virtue and temperance and patience — to put on the whole armour of God, and having done all to stand.

(3) The afflictive events of God's providence are measured in the same way. The days of darkness come, and they are many, but our eye takes in only the first. One wave hides another, and the effort to encounter the foremost withdraws our thought from evils which are pressing on.

(4) The great doctrines of the gospel are presented to the mind in a like manner. There are many who cannot bear at first the full view of the sovereignty of God. But grace and unconditioned freeness go forward, and with joined hands embrace at last the lofty doctrine of God's sovereignty, while they say, "Not unto us," &c.


1. In regard to Christ, we have reason to admire —

(1) His control alike over Himself and His message. He is so absorbed by it that He can say, "The zeal of Throe house hath devoured me," and yet He is not possessed by it like a frenzied instrument. There is calmness with all His depth — because of His depth. A little knowledge makes men eager to tell all they have. We read of God that it is "His glory to conceal a thing." And Christ has this same token of Divinity. He is neither the slave nor organ, but the Owner and Lord of truth. It was the saying of a philosopher, "If I had all the truth in my hand, I would let forth only a ray at a time, lest I should blind the world."(2) His tenderness. The rays of the Sun of Righteousness do not injure the most delicate tissue of the eye on which they fall. It needs the most loving heart to have such pity on ignorance as to feel that premature knowledge may hurt it, and to refrain from acting the tyrant in the possession of superior intellect — "to have a giant's strength, but not to use it like a giant."(3) His wisdom. Wisdom is displayed not so much in doing the right thing, as in doing it at the right time. No crisis has ever yet appeared when Christ's word was not ready to take the van of human movement. The truths in their particular application may have lain unmarked — or revealed themselves only to a few sentinels watching for the dawn — till some great turn in the life of humanity comes, and then the principles of freedom and right and universal charity shine out so clear and undoubted, that men wonder at their past blindness. When so it is, we need not fear any want of harmony between the Word of Christ and the progress of science. It was never Christ's intention to reveal scientific truth in His Word; but the indentations of the two revolving wheels will be found to fit, whenever they really come into contact; and the only thing broken will be the premature human harmonizings which are thrust in between them.

(4) His patience. He is not in restless commotion to have His work done on the instant; nor does He abandon it in discontent when men prove inapt and slow. He has often to say in sorrow, more than in anger, "How is it that ye do not understand?" but He patiently begins His labour again, and is long-suffering to our ignorance, as to our sins. Short-lived men must speak out all their mind before they die, but the centuries belong to Christ, and He can calmly wait.

2. Concerning our common human nature.

(1) We should take large and tolerant views of it. When we see how slowly the best of men have apprehended the clearest of all truths, we must not be provoked at what we call the stupidity and prejudice of our contemporaries. If the great Teacher had to wait, we may be content to do so. There are errors which give way only when God takes them into His own hand by the events of His Providence. It is marvellous how a turn in the road opens whole landscapes of truth to men, and lets them see what no logic could convince them of.

(2) We may cherish very hopeful views of it. There must be noble things in store for that race with which the Son of God is contented to have such patience. If the great Husbandman waits so long for the feeble, springing blade, how precious must the full harvest be! There are ages for the world to learn in, and an eternity for the individual; and when the soul is able to bear full light, how many things will the great Teacher have to disclose! It is a token of the immortality of the soul, that God has implanted in man a boundless desire of knowledge, and given him so limited a time to satisfy it — and it is ground for expecting all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge from Jesus Christ, that He came into this world, possessed of them, and yet kept silence on so much we long to know. Conclusion:

1. In regard to things which Christ does not tell us, let us be thankful to Him for His silence. The cloud that veils full knowledge "is a cloud of love."

2. Let us be chiefly concerned about knowing the one great thing which Christ has to say to us. There is a message which stands out in His Word distinct from the beginning to the close — "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." There are times in the future for learning other truths, but for this our time is always ready.

(J. Ker, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

WEB: "I have yet many things to tell you, but you can't bear them now.

Christ's Gradual Teaching in the Church
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