In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God (John 16:26-27).
Jesus reminds the disciples that the heavenly Father loves them. Usually we think of the Father’s love as preceding our love for him. I suppose we would have expected Jesus to refer to the Father’s eternal love for his people. That knowledge is a source of great comfort for believers; it gives them joy to think about his electing grace, so undeserved.
Yet Jesus does not refer to that aspect of the Father’s love. Instead he says that the reason for the Father’s love to them is that they love Jesus and believe that he is divine. The Father loves for them is not only a preceding love, it is also a responsive love because Jesus makes clear that the Father loves his disciples for their reaction to Christ and their estimation of Christ.
This description of the disciples by Jesus is a very gracious one. He knew the state of their hearts at that time, how they were unaware of his imminent sufferings and in a sense uninterested in them because they did not believe they were going to happen. Yet Jesus sees beyond the surface of their souls and his eye penetrates deeper into their attitudes. He gladly sees that they truly love him and truly believe that he is a Divine Person (he was not only sent by God, but he came out from God). And the Father delighted to see those features as well.
These words of Jesus remind us that a true believer will have a deep love for Jesus even although he or she may be undergoing a time of spiritual darkness. That darkness will not destroy either their love or their previous understanding that they had received from God. Peter, on a previous occasion, had stated that he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and he knew this because God had revealed it to him: ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’ (Matt. 16:17).
These words are also a great encouragement to us. We think our love is weak and our understanding is small. But love to Jesus is a sign of life and awareness of who Jesus is is evidence that we have been taught from above. If we love Christ and confess him as the Son of God, the Holy Spirit has been working in our hearts. And the presence of these spiritual attitudes give pleasure to our Father and he loves us in response.
This experience of divine love is not retained within the Godhead, as it were. It is also conveyed into our souls by the Spirit. Sometimes, when we are perplexed and troubled, we sense this great reality, that the heavenly Father loves us. It is a precious experience.