Jesus' Final Teaching - Part 1
In our previous chapter we began the section in John's gospel where Jesus is ministering exclusively to His Apostles as His death is imminent. We studied the events that took place as the Lord shared the final Passover meal with them. We saw that although the Lord's Supper is not mentioned here, John does provide a lot of information concerning the events that took place that night.
One major event was the unmasking of Judas as the traitor. This set into motion the sequence of events that ultimately led to Jesus' arrest. With the few remaining hours left before His suffering was to begin, Jesus focuses on providing His Apostles with the teaching and encouragement they are to need in order to make it through the next few days.
We have other teachings and words of encouragement from the Lord after His resurrection and even after His ascension into heaven (i.e. Paul, Acts 18:9-10), but this section in John's gospel is the last full and lengthy teaching He provides. This body of teaching and exhortation will go on for several chapters and is only interrupted occasionally by questions from the Apostles based on what Jesus is saying.
The section we will cover here includes the teaching of Jesus, the questions of four of the Apostles and the response of the Lord to their queries (4 dialogues).
Dialogue #1 – Jesus and Peter – 13:31-38
Vs. 31-33 – Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.'
With the departure of Judas, Jesus knew that the cycle of events that would eventually bring Him to the cross was beginning. He places His suffering and death in the same category as His miracles, His prophecies, His teachings, His resurrection and ascension; all of these things glorify Him (point to Him as God the Son).
Jesus declares that even the cross is a source of glory to Him. We know now that this is true because the cross provides redemption and salvation for all men, a truly glorious thing. It is important for Him to say this because there will be a temptation to view His cross as an object of shame and defeat. Not so, Jesus says.
The cross was God's plan, the Father sent the Son to the cross and the fact that the Son is ready to go will also glorify, honor and reveal the Father, His plan and His sacrifice to save man.
The Father and the Son will both be glorified (not dishonored as some Jews might think) by the cross. Jesus prepares them to correctly view what will soon ("immediately") take place. He also reminds them that this is one place where even they will not be able to follow Him: the cross is uniquely His and cannot be carried by anyone else, even them.
Vs. 34-35 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
The commandment to love is not new, but the reason and manner is new. They are to love each other because of their faith in Jesus. They are to love each other in the way He loved them. They are to use their love for one another in the name of Christ as a witness for their faith.
For the Jews, their religious system and rituals separated them from other people. For Christians it will be their love for one another, not their worship style or religious systems that will distinguish them from others. And Jesus laying down His life on the cross for His disciples will be the standard for that love.
Vs. 36 – Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered, "Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later."
Peter is curious about Jesus' destination, thinking it to be a place (maybe out of the country to preach to the Jewish Diaspora). Jesus repeats His previous statement in reference to the cross and adds that they will also follow His way to suffering, but later on, referring to their own martyrdom because of the gospel.
Vs. 37-38 – Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times."
Peter suspects that some kind of danger might lay ahead in further ministry with the Lord; after all, they had been threatened with death by the Jewish authorities before. He makes a rash statement; he wants to continue the momentum Jesus has produced at all costs, even future danger. He loves the Lord and wants to continue their present ministry.
Jesus, knowing the immediacy of His death and knowing how not ready Peter is to face this, declares how Peter will react when faced with the real possibility of torture and death. We sometimes fault Peter for his rash behavior. However, we act in the same way when we think we are spiritually strong but cave in at a little temptation or find excuses when called upon to give or help others.
Dialogue #2 – Jesus and Thomas – 14:1-6
Vs. 1-4 – "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going."
The evening has become quite depressing. Judas has left. Peter has been told that he will deny the Lord that very night. The Lord is talking about leaving them. So Jesus shifts gears and gives them words of encouragement. He sees their troubled hearts and tells them not to be down. He points them to the future He is preparing for them in heaven.
The figurative language of dwellings and house are used to comfort the Apostles with the notion that there is a place in heaven for each one of them regardless of their talents, disposition, strength or wealth. He assures them that He Himself will guarantee their entry.
Vs. 5 – Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?"
Thomas acknowledges that they still do not grasp that He is talking about His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. If we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way to get there?
Vs. 6 – Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Jesus answers in a beautiful and perfectly concise manner: the way to heaven is Himself; the destination in heaven is Himself; the experience (life) of heaven is Himself. We see in this dialogue a challenge once again by Jesus to His disciples to believe, based on His prophecy and teaching.
Dialogue #3 – Philip – 14:7-15
Vs. 7 – If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
Jesus continues the thought brought on by Thomas' question and expands on it. There is some debate over the exact wording of this verse. Some scholars argue that it should read, "In the way you have known me, you will know the Father." Others claim that it should read as the NASB version (New American Standard) has it, "If you would have known Me, you would have known My Father." The difference is that one is a promise and one is a rebuke. Either way, Jesus finishes the verse by saying that whatever happened before, they now can look forward to knowing the Father, because they have seen Him in the flesh. This, of course, is another declaration by Jesus concerning His divine nature.
Vs. 8 – Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."
Philip only gets it in part. He thinks Jesus can show them a sign, a vision of the Father (i.e. the burning bush). Philip thinks that if Jesus can do this, it will be the "sign" that will confirm all He has said and they will be satisfied.
Vs. 9-15 – Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
Jesus' initial question in response to Philip shows how pained He is by his lack of understanding, but He convinces him further. If you need proof that I am divine (the Father in Me, Me in the Father) just examine my works (miracles). That I declare my divinity is another proof that the Father is in Me. I would not say this if this was not the case (it would be sinful and worthy of death).
In addition to these, Jesus adds other proofs for His divine identity: the Apostles will do miracles in His name; He will answer their prayers.
He finishes by imposing a condition that only God can impose and did in the past, that their faith, love and devotion be measured by obedience.
Dialogue #4 – Judas (Thaddeus) – 14:16-24
Vs. 16-21 – I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."
Jesus builds another idea upon the one He had just given in response to Philip. Philip wanted to have a clear vision, an experience of the Father, something that would "stay" with them into the troubled future Jesus was speaking of. Jesus promises that even if He leaves them, they will not be alone, they will not be without the spiritual comfort they have experienced with His presence among them.
Still referring to His association with the father, Jesus promises to ask the Father to send the Spirit not only to be among them, but be within them; not only for a little while, but forever. He has been with them through Christ, but will be in them when Christ leaves. They will recognize this Spirit because it will bring them the truth, the same truth originally given them by Jesus.
He points them to the future and once again speaks of His death, but now adds the idea of His resurrection and tells them that the sign of His resurrection will guarantee their own. This final miracle (resurrection) will be the proof Philip needs to believe in the divinity of Jesus. This proof will also confirm all He has said to them, even the prophecy concerning the sending of the Spirit and their own resurrection.
In the end He repeats again that Christian love is expressed in obedience to Christ's word and those who do will be rewarded by the "experience" that Philip searched for but could not find. This experience is "God's manifestation." God "manifests" Himself to the believer through the Holy Spirit, His Word and the loving lives of believers. All these elements were made possible through Jesus Christ.
Vs. 22 – Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?"
Jesus has focused His attention and promises on the Apostles themselves. Judas (not the traitor) brings up another point: if our task is to convert others, how come you are only revealing yourself to us? Why not the Jews? Judas (Thaddeus) wonders if there has been a change in plans.
Vs. 23-24 – Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.
Jesus answers him that the revelation of the Father for everyone is based on the acceptance of the Son. If a person accepts the Son (by loving Him through obedience to His word), both the Father and the Son will be revealed to them. There is no change in plan, it is a clarification of how these spiritual things will work. This instruction is from God Himself.
The Lord assures not only Judas, but the other Apostles as well, that the thing which they desire (assurance and comfort from God) is within reach, even standing before them in person.
Summary – vs. 25-31
Jesus has answered their questions and will summarize His response to them about these matters.
Vs. 25-27 – "These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
Jesus renews His promise of the Holy Spirit once again, but this time emphasizes the fact that the Holy Spirit will not only comfort them and speak the truth to them, He will also enable them to both remember and understand all the teachings of Christ. This will be comforting indeed.
This is the way His peace will be imparted to them. The world tries for peace with treaties or threats. Jesus gives them a knowledge and understanding of the truth, this brings peace.
When they will put together the teachings and promises of Christ with the resurrection of Christ, they will have peace concerning their lives here and their hope for eternal life; no need for fear or anxiety (trouble).
He reminds them of His prophecy:
Vs. 28-31 – You heard that I said to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe. I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here."
Jesus assesses the situation as it ought to be: if they really loved Him they would be happy that He is leaving this earthly body to be with the Father. After all, once He is with the Father not only is His suffering over, He can send the Holy Spirit. When Jesus refers to the Father as greater than Himself, He means Himself as a man, especially one condemned to die.
He repeats His prophecy of the coming events so that they will remember clearly that He called it in advance of the actual events (death and resurrection). This is yet another invitation to believe, but one that points to the future: when you see all the things I predicted would happen actually happen, let this be another reason for you to believe.
He claims that His own end is near and Satan will do his work to destroy Him. But He wants them to know that He will accept the torture and death because the Father commanded Him to do this and He will obey to demonstrate His love, another example for them to follow, obedience proving love.
He finishes with the command to rise from the table, not leave the room. While they are still in the room He will continue to teach and encourage them.