Key Verse: Jn 14:1
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me."
Do you have any sense of unease as you face the new year 2013? What do you do when you are troubled and distressed? How do you overcome and navigate the difficulties, complexities, hardships and sheer unpredictability of life? We shall consider these questions as we learn how Jesus helped and comforted his disciples who were at the end of their rope and were seemingly inconsolable. The scene is the upper room where the disciples had gathered with Jesus before he was arrested. Judas had been dismissed (Jn 13:30) and Jesus began his address to the remaining 11, explaining that he would soon leave them (Jn 13:33,36). The disciples were bewildered, troubled, confused and filled with uncertainty, anxiety and trepidation (Jn 14:1a). Their world was about to be shattered and coming apart at the seams. Anticipating their devastation, Jesus spoke to comfort them.
In Jn 13:1-38, we considered what God's love is like. We said that:
- The Manner of Love (Jn 13:1-5)...is foot washing. How Jesus showed us his love.
- The Necessity of Love (Jn 13:6-11)...is cleansing. Why Jesus has to "wash" us.
- The Imperative of Love (Jn 13:12-17)...is to do as Jesus did. What Jesus wants us to do.
- The Pain of Love (Jn 13:18-30)...is to love a betrayer. When love cuts to the heart.
- The Glory of Love (Jn 13:31-38)...is to love God. Who love is ultimately directed toward.
In Jn 14:1-31, Jesus encouraged them to believe in him (Jn 14:1b). “Believe” appears 7 times in this chapter. Jesus begins this discourse by saying to his disciples, “believe in me,” and he ends by saying, “so that....you will believe” (29). He teaches them hope in the Father’s house (Jn 14:2-4), the way to God (Jn 14:5-14), and promises them the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:15-31) to comfort them...if they believe. In Jn 14:1-31, Jesus helps his disciples (and us) to believe when they (and we) understand 3 things:
- What Jesus does (Jn 14:1-4): He goes to the Father's house to prepare a place for us.
- Who Jesus is (Jn 14:5-14): He is the way, the truth and the life.
- How Jesus helps us (Jn 14:15-31): He sends the Holy Spirit as our Advocate.
I. What Jesus does (Jn 14:1-4): He goes to the Father's house to prepare a place for us.
Jesus comforts his troubled disciples. Jesus was heading for the agony of the cross. His heart was troubled (Jn 12:27). His spirit was also troubled because of Judas who would soon betray him (Jn 13:21). Such a night was overwhelming. Jesus' disciples should have given him emotional and spiritual support. Yet Jesus was the one who gives, comforts and instructs. The disciples too were troubled (Jn 14:1a), not because they were rushing toward pain, shame and crucifixion, but because they were confused, uncertain of what Jesus meant, and threatened by references to his imminent departure. They were under substantial emotional pressure and were on the brink of catastrophic failure. Jesus would help them by unpacking the implications of his impending departure (Jn 13:33,36).
Believe in God and Jesus. Jesus spells out the solution to their troubled heart: "You believe in God; believe also in me" (Jn 14:1b). How would this comfort them? Jesus' departure, which troubled them greatly, was for their advantage. His purpose for going away, though troubling, was to prepare a place for them, and then to come and get them so that they may be where he is (Jn 14:2-3). What does this mean? What more could they ask for?
Jesus goes to prepare and will come back to take them home. "My Father’s house has many rooms" (Jn 14:2a). "My Father's house" refers to heaven, and in heaven are "many rooms," or many dwelling places. The point is not the lavishness of each apartment, but the fact that such ample provision has been made that there is more than enough space for everyone of Jesus' disciples to join him in his Father's home. In the context of Johannine theology, "I am going there to prepare a place for you" (Jn 14:2b) means that it is via the going itself--it is via the cross and resurrection--that Jesus prepares a place for his own. If Jesus takes such trouble, all to prepare a place for them it is inconceivable that the rest should not follow: "I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (Jn 14:3). There is no greater comfort to be enjoyed by believers than in the presence of God (1 Thess 4:15-18). Then Jesus said, "You know the way to the place where I am going” (Jn 14:4), not because Jesus made some terrible error in assessing his disciples, but precisely because since they do know him, they ought to know the way to the place where he has just prescribed.
A guaranteed secure eternal destiny comforts us in our present troubles. If we Christians are utterly confident that our eternal destiny is secure and well provided for, we can overcome any troubling, distressing situation being encountered at the present moment.
II. Who Jesus is (Jn 14:5-14): He is the way, the truth and the life.
How can we know the way? Jesus provided the best comfort to his troubled disciples. But Thomas responded with words of doubt, lament and apprehension. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (Jn 14:5) Thomas is a loyal, even courageous disciple (Jn 11:16; 20:24). His question sounds as though he is unsatisfied with Jesus' assurance, for he wants an unambiguous destination, since Jesus' assurance about his Father's house sounded vague, ill-defined and nebulous. Jesus in fact has just spelled out the destination (Jn 14:2-3) and said that they know the way (Jn 14:4). Thomas replies, in effect, that he (and the other disciples) have not really come to grips with what he has said about the destination. So how could Jesus' further insistence that they know the way bear coherent meaning?
Exclusivity is offensive. Jn 14:6 is an offensive verse to non-Christians. Also, Christians often have an uncanny knack to present Jn 14:6 in the most offensive, distasteful and insensitive manner. Nonetheless, this is not an ambiguous statement. It is not susceptible to multiple interpretations. One does not have to believe it, but there is no question what Jesus was claiming--he is the exclusive path to God.
Why is Jesus the way to God? Jesus is the way to God, precisely because he is the truth of God (Jn 1:14), and the life of God (Jn 1:4). Jesus is the truth, because he embodies the supreme revelation of God. Jesus himself "narrates" God (Jn 1:18); he says and does exclusively what the Father gives him to say and do (Jn 5:19; 8:29). Indeed, Jesus is properly called God (Jn 1:1-2, 18; 20:28). He is God's gracious self-disclosure, his Word made flesh (Jn 1:14). Jesus is the life (Jn 1:4), the one who has "life in himself" (Jn 5:26), "the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11:25), "the true God and eternal life" (1 Jn 5:20). Only because he is the truth and the life can Jesus be the way for others to come to God, the way for his disciples to attain the many dwelling places in the Father's house (Jn 14:2-3), and therefore the answer to Thomas' question (Jn 14:5). In context, Jesus does not blaze a trail, commanding others to take the way that he himself takes. Rather, he is the way. It is not adequate to say that Jesus is the Way in the sense that certain actions must be performed, or that life must be lived in a certain way. Jesus himself is the Savior (Jn 4:42), the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29,34), the one who so speaks that those in the graves hear his voice and come forth (Jn 5:28-29). Jesus so mediates God's truth and God's life that he is the very way to God, the one who alone can say, "No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6b).
The way, the truth, the life. Centuries ago Thomas à Kempis wrote in The Imitation of Christ: "Follow me. I am the way and the truth and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which you must follow; the truth which you must believe; the life for which you must hope. I am the inviolable way; the infallible truth; the never-ending life. I am the straightest way; the sovereign truth; life true, life blessed, life uncreated. If you remain in my way you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free, and you shall lay hold on eternal life."
Don't you know me? Jesus presupposes that all the disciples ought to know him and by knowing him, the Son, they know the Father as well (Jn 14:7); they ought to believe that Jesus is in the Father and the Father in him (Jn 14:10-11), since Jesus had already been among them for several years (Jn 14:9) during his ministry, and now through the hour of his death and resurrection. Yet, Philip asks for an immediate display of God himself (Jn 14:8). Like all men created in God's image, we yearn for a vision of God (visio Dei), no matter how much we have defaced that image. Moses had begged God to show him God's glory (Ex 33:18). But he was allowed to glimpse only the trailing edge of the back of God's glory. Yet, John, in his prologue, has made it clear that Jesus has made God known, definitively, gloriously and visibly (Jn 1:14,18; 12:45). Jesus' rhetorical questions expresses his disappointment and sadness: "Don't you know me...? How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (Jn 14:9), and "Don't you believe that I am in the Father...?" (Jn 14:10) With overwhelming personal interaction, they should have believed in Jesus, or at least believed on the evidence of the works/miracles that they had personally witnessed (Jn 14:11).
Do even greater things than Jesus. Jesus says that with faith in him, the disciples would "do even greater things than these" (Jn 14:12b). The greater things are not in power or in his miracles but in extent. How is that possible? "...because I am going to the Father" (Jn 14:12c). The only way Jesus' disciples would be able to do those greater works was through the power of the Holy Spirit whom the Father and the Son sends to the disciples after his death and resurrection (Jn 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7).
Ask for anything in Jesus' name. To ask in Jesus' name (Jn 14:13-14) is not a mere formula. It means that the believer's prayer should be:
- for God's glory alone, not ours.
- for God's purposes and kingdom and not for selfish reasons.
- on the basis of His merits and not any personal merit or worthiness.
III. How Jesus helps us (Jn 14:15-31): He sends the Holy Spirit as our Advocate.
In this part, Jesus promises believers comfort from 5 supernatural blessings that the world does not know or enjoy:
- A supernatural Helper (Jn 14:15-17).
- A supernatural life (Jn 14:18-19).
- A supernatural union (Jn 14:20-25).
- A supernatural teacher (Jn 14:26).
- A supernatural peace (Jn 14:27-31).
Love evidenced by obedience is the key to blessings. The key to all these supernatural blessings and comfort is prayer in Jesus' name (Jn 14:13-14), and love for Jesus, evidenced by obedience, which is repeated many times (Jn 14:15,21,23; 15:14; 1 Jn 5:2-3). This does not mean that we can pray and obey God as our effort and attempt to manipulate God to get the blessings we want. Rather, it simply states that true love for Jesus and obedience to his command are inseparable.
1.Who the Holy Spirit is: A Person.
2.What the Holy Spirit does: An Advocate.
3.How to receive the Holy Spirit:
- Our Advocate pleads not just on the basis of mercy, but justice.
- Realize the magnificence of divine selflessness.
- We have an Advocate in heaven and on earth.
- Why were the disciples’ hearts troubled (1a; 13:36-38)? How did Jesus help them? (1b-3)
- What was Thomas unsure of? (4-5) What does Jesus’ reply mean? (6)
- What did Philip want? (7-8) How had Jesus shown the Father to his disciples? (9-11) What great things can Jesus’ disciples do, and how? (12-14)
- Who are those who love Jesus? (15,23) How does this answer Judas’ question in verse 22?
- What does Jesus promise those who love and obey him? (16) In what ways does the Holy Spirit help them to grow in a love relationship with God? (16-21,26,27) How is this a source of comfort to them?
- According to Jesus, what is sure to happen? (28,30) How would this strengthen the disciples’ faith? (29) How will this show Jesus’ love and obedience to the Father? (31)