We continue today with the “Farewell Discourse” of Jesus with His disciples. This particular text is one of the most beloved in all of the Scriptures, full of love, hope and reassurance containing some of the most memorable phrases in the Bible, and indeed in all of literature. In the discussions that have come before it, there has been a challenge in the example Jesus set when He washed the disciples’ feet. There has been a betrayal and predictions of Jesus’ death and then of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Now, Jesus seeks to comfort the disciples and to help them begin to understand that the events which would soon follow are nothing less than God’s Eternal Plan coming to its climax.
Verse 1 is the transitional verse that takes us from the tension and distress of the latter part of chapter 13 into a new topic. Jesus is telling the disciples to take heart because He is not going to forsake them, even though He must be returning to the Father. The key phrase here is “Trust in God; trust also in me.” It is key because it is phrased not as a suggestion or as advice but as an imperative: Trust!
Then, in verses 2-4 Jesus uses the illustration of the Father’s house to tell them that His leaving is to serve the purpose of preparing their place in God’s “house”. He uses an interesting method to tell them that He will return for them in due course so that where “I am” you also will be. This is a clear play on the words “I am” and it indicates that upon His return there will be some amount of sharing His “I am-ness” with His disciples.
Having left off in verse 4 by telling them that they know the way to where He is going, He now responds to the insistence of Thomas that they don’t even know the where, much less the how…Jesus, with evident patience, tells them again what He has been telling them for a long time: He is the Way, you can only come to the Father through Jesus Himself. He is the Truth; you can know no other truth, for no other truth is genuine. He is the Life, for there is no other life that is eternal. He expands on this in verse 7 by pointing out to them that He and the Father are one. If we want to know the Father we will see Him revealed in His Son. If we want to see the Father, we will see Him in His Son.
Phillip’s reply is to innocently ask Jesus to show the Father to them in the way that a lawyer might produce a witness. All of them should know that no one has ever seen the Father (John 1:18). It was considered by the Jews impossible for a mere mortal to look directly upon the glory of God, not even Moses had looked directly at Him. Jesus explains that we see God revealed in Him through spiritual discernment. He indicates also that His miracles were revelations of God’s presence in Him. In truth, the logic is that since it isn’t possible for a mortal man to look directly at God and live to tell the story, God has been made manifest in Jesus Christ, having become a man so that direct interaction can occur, a foundational premise of Christian Theology.
Jesus mentions that those who have faith in Him will continue to do what He had been doing, and that they will do even greater things because He will grant them whatever they ask of Him in His name. This has been the source of considerable confusion and discussion in our time. Are we doing what He was doing… what was He doing anyway? The ministry of Jesus on the earth was not one designed to advance my interests, desires, wants or needs. Its purpose was to advance the redemptive plan of God. Are we living our lives to advance the redemptive plan of God? Jesus is not telling us to use the ‘magic words’ at the end of our prayers, “In Jesus’ name Amen.” He is telling His disciples, soon to become His Apostles, that He will do great works through them and in fact He did; they are recorded as answered promises in Acts including many miraculous signs that were performed for the specific purpose of confirming the Gospel message. With that said, it is possible, even requisite that we as Christians have an active and powerful prayer life; I can’t imagine how we can follow Him through life without it. However, in no way did Jesus promise anybody that He would give them a “blank check” to live selfish lives of demanding benefits from Him; this is simply inconsistent with every word of Scripture. He will give us whatever we ask for in His name to accomplish God’s purposes.
As we continue with this discussion, we now move into further elaboration of how this will all work: There will be a new Counselor. The word translated “counselor” is parakletos which in the ancient world meant “one who gives legal advice”. Today, we often refer to a lawyer as “counsel” which comes from this meaning.
In verses 15-17 Jesus teaches us three things about the Holy Spirit. 1) The Holy Spirit is our Eternal Advocate who intercedes for us before the Father (1 John 2:1). 2). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth that unveils for us our relationship with God and thus sets us free from sin, death and the traditions of men. 3) The Holy Spirit is within you. He cannot be taken, He can only be received. Thus, this world cannot take Him away and cannot even comprehend Him for He is not compatible with the world of men. Wherever there is a Christian, there is also the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus goes further still in vv. 18-21 with the concept of His being “in the Father” and being “in you” and “you in me.” By extension of course that means that we are “in the Father” through Jesus. If we have His commands and obey them, then we will be considered to love Jesus. If we love Jesus, the Father will love us. Be sure to catch the “if” here; it goes back to obey. If we obey Jesus’ commands the Father will love us in a special way, and Jesus will show Himself to us. Will He literally and bodily do so? No! It’s actually better than that: He will show Himself through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Judas in 22 ff. is the Thaddeus of Matthew and Mark. His question should sound familiar as it has already been asked by Jesus’ own brothers in 7:3-4. Jesus will not show Himself to the world because He doesn’t do things the way the world does. You will never see Jesus as a guest on television because He is not out to win the praise of men; He is doing the Father’s work of redemption. Finally, He introduces another element of the Christian life: Peace. This is not merely the absence of war; it amounts to the full renewal of fellowship between Man and God. With this peace, we need not be afraid, for no matter what the world may do, we are in a place where our future is assured. The chapter concludes with the urgency of the hour: Satan is busy at work and the time for face to face discussion is very nearly over, yet there is still time for a little more yet to come when Jesus talks about vines and branches in the next chapter.