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John, Chapter 16, Part 1

John 16:1 – “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”

‘All these things’ is a reference to all of the teaching Jesus has given his disciples since the Passover meal (aka John chapters 14 & 15).

  • Some of his teachings were very comforting – Jesus was preparing a place for them in heaven, Holy Spirit was coming to abide with them, etc.
  • Some of the teachings were instructional – the disciples were to keep the commands of Christ in order to abide/live in him as a branch lives by connection to a vine.
  • Some of the teachings were informative – there was going to be opposition, hardship and danger involved for those who chose to follow Christ.

It’s great to see that Jesus doesn’t hold anything back.  He doesn’t ‘gloss over’ the hardships of Christianity.  He fully discloses to his disciples that the road to heaven is not an easy garden path; it often involves suffering of one kind or another.  It can be a road full of pitfalls and dangers.

One of the most imminent dangers to the twelve apostles was offense or scandal. 

The Law was the very foundation of the Jewish life, and people were extremely passionate about it.  They had their preconceived (and inaccurate) ideas of who/what the Messiah would be, and their ideas did NOT include a suffering Messiah who would die on a cross at the hands of Rome.

So the crucifixion of Christ was about to become a major offense/scandal in the Jewish religious world.  It was going to cause great division within the nation.  In fact, it will be the most divisive event ever to occur not only in Jewish life, but in the history of the world.  And in the aftermath of this great division, the apostles are supposed to begin preaching grace/salvation through Christ.  That was a tough and dangerous path to tread! 

We can see how the scandal of the cross would tempt the apostles to turn aside from the whole truth, or find some way to soften (sugar-coat) the gospel message in order to avoid further offense. 

We can also see how the violent opposition of the Jews might cause the twelve to give up and not share the gospel at all.  After all, who wants to sign up for certain persecution?      

But Jesus prepares his followers for victory.  He has forewarned them of the coming conflict/opposition and promised them supernatural assistance.  Jesus has done this so that the disciples will not stumble or fall in their Christian walk; Jesus does not want their faith to fail.     

John 16:2 – “They will put you out of the synagogues.  Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

As they preach the gospel, the apostles are going to be targeted by the current leadership.  The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, elders, etc were not going to just give up and hand over religious leadership of the nation to the twelve followers of Jesus.  They were going to fight to the death to keep Israel under the law and to retain their positions of power in the religious life of the nation. 

This put the apostles right in the ‘cross hairs’ of persecution and death.

The first attack against the apostles (and all Christians in that era) would come in the form of excommunication from the synagogue. 

What exactly was a synagogue?

First of all, let’s remind ourselves that the temple was different from a synagogue.  As you know, there was only one temple, located in Jerusalem.  The original temple was a very ornate and lavish structure built by King Solomon during the fourth year of his reign (I Kings chapters 6-7).  It was destroyed by the Babylonians when Judah was taken captive.  (It was later rebuilt under the leadership of Ezra/Nehemiah, and remodeled by Herod.)

During the time of their captivity, the Jews instituted the concept of the synagogue.  The synagogue was a meeting site used for religious services.  Typical synagogue services included prayer, the systematic reading of scripture, and the exposition of what was read (Acts 13:14-15, Luke 4:15-22).  Additionally, the synagogue was used as a public school for Jewish males.  Occasionally, it also served as a courthouse and place of judgment/punishment (Matthew 10:17, Luke 12:11, Acts 22:19).

It took a minimum of 10 Jewish males to open a synagogue.  The luxury of the building was dependent upon the wealth of the men who formed it.  The internal arrangement of the structures often varied; however, there were certain traditional or common formations.    

These included a separate women’s gallery (often behind a partition of lattice work), a desk in the center where the reader and speaker sat, a carefully closed ‘ark’ on the side of the building nearest to Jerusalem (in which the rolls or manuscripts of the law were kept), and seats all around where the men sat.  There would also have been reserved seating or ‘chief seats’ for the rulers of the synagogue.

The synagogue became one of the cultural, religious and social centers of the Jewish society.  To be banned from the synagogue was synonymous with being cut off from the community; it would have been a devastating punishment to the Jews.  Just the threat of being banned caused many Jews to conform to the orders of the Pharisees, even if they didn’t agree with their decisions (John 9:22-23).        

If that were the extent of the persecution by the religious leaders, it wouldn’t be so bad.  But excommunication was just the beginning. 

The apostles (and other believers) were also threatened (Acts 4:21 and 29), beaten (Acts 5:40, II Corinthians 11:25) and eventually martyred for the cause of Christ (Acts 12:1-3, Acts 7:56-60).  And just as Jesus predicted, there were those who believed they were doing the work of God by killing Christians (Acts 9:1).

John 16:3 – “And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”

Jesus repeats once again that ignorance of God is the cause of the world’s hatred and persecution of Christians. 

Those who think they do God a favor by killing men and women made in his image clearly know nothing of the true nature of God.  They fail to realize that God is long suffering and compassionate; he loves each sinner so much that he was willing to sacrifice his only Son for their redemption.

Jesus does not say this to make Christians feel guilty for not reaching/converting every sinner.  Rather, he makes this known to them so they may boldly continue to proclaim the gospel in the face of the blind fury of their adversaries.

It also reminds Christians that they should rise to a level of compassion and love toward their enemies which Jesus himself exemplified by forgiving those who hung him on the cross (Luke 23:34).   

All in all, this is tough news for the disciples.  They are probably beginning to finally understand that the journey they have been on with Christ is not going to end with the overthrow of the Romans and Jesus being crowned as an earthly king. 

But there is good news too – Jesus is not going to let his disciples fail; he is preparing them to stand firm when the storms of life hit them (Matthew 7:24-25).   

John 16:4 – “But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.  I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”

‘These things’ may be understood as the Jews’ ignorance of God’s plans/purposes as well as their willful rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.  Because of their ignorance, they will wind up persecuting the apostles and other Christian converts as well.

Jesus has predicted these things so that when the persecution occurs, his followers will remember his words.  It would strengthen their faith to remember that the Lord’s divine wisdom had foreseen all of this trouble/opposition.  The actions of the religious leaders were not a surprise to God!    

Furthermore, because they had prior warning of these trials/calamities, they will not be caught off guard; they will remain strong in their faith and be victorious.  Had they not been expecting this kind of opposition, they may well have given up on their commission, thinking that Jesus had either abandoned them or that he was not the Messiah.

The apostles might well have wondered why Jesus never mentioned this before.  The reason is simple – all the time Jesus had been with them, he had personally taken the brunt of the hatred of the Jews.  His followers were safe as long as he was bodily present with them.  But now that he was leaving, the religious leaders would focus their hatred on the apostles (and any other Jew who became a Christian). 

John 16:5-6 – “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”

Jesus again reminds the disciples that he will be returning to Father God almost immediately.  How are the disciples to react to this statement?

Theologically speaking, there was cause for rejoicing.  When Jesus died and rose again it meant that death was defeated, sin could be atoned for, the power of Satan was broken, the kingdom of heaven had invaded earth and Holy Spirit was soon to come.  Lots of incredibly wonderful things happened when Jesus returned to heaven!   

But as humans, we sometimes react out of emotion rather than reason. The disciples had a very close/intimate relationship with their master for the last few years.  They have traveled together, eaten together, learned together, ministered together, experienced both joy and sadness together, worshiped together, etc.  The thought of losing the companionship of Jesus was devastating to the apostles. 

Emotionally speaking, it hurts whenever death breaks the bonds of love between people.  If you have ever lost a friend or loved one, you have experienced this yourself; you know how painful it can be.  

Nevertheless, Jesus wants the twelve to encourage themselves by focusing on the comfort and victory he has provided for them in this life.  He wants them to react based on his promises to them, not on their emotions.  This was evident when he lightly rebukes them for not asking where he was going.

If they took the time to think it through, they would realize that when Jesus went back to heaven, it was for his good – having fulfilled his commission, he returned to the glory he had before.  They would also have realized it was for their good too – Holy Spirit was scheduled to come after Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father where he made (and still continues to make) intercession for us.

John 15:11 – These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Yes, there were going to be some challenges in the future, but there was no reason for the disciples to walk through life being full of sorrow.  Jesus had given them many gracious gifts and promises to make them victorious.

It was up to them to stop concentrating on their sorrow and to begin counting their reasons to rejoice.  

John 16:7 – “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you.”

The biggest advantage of Jesus returning to heaven was the gift of Holy Spirit.  This raises an interesting question.  Why was it more advantageous to have Holy Spirit on earth, rather than Jesus?

The great plan of redemption called for each member of the Trinity to perform a specific role.  It was the work of Jesus to provide atonement; it was/is the work of the Spirit to apply it to mankind.  Therefore, it was advantageous for Jesus to ascend to heaven so Holy Spirit could now come and perform his unique role in the salvation of mankind.

Holy Spirit helps believers in producing godly fruit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23).  He also brings gifts to the body of Christ in order to make the church victorious and to assist us in our mission to spread the gospel message around the world:  

1 Corinthians 12:8-11 – For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another various kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:  But in all these works that one and same Spirit, dividing to every man individually as he will.  

Furthermore, while in bodily form, Jesus could only be in one place at one time.  This limited his ministry and influence in the world.  Obviously, Holy Spirit does not have a flesh-and-blood body, so he is not controlled by space and time. 

He can move throughout the world at will, assisting Christians to share the gospel while simultaneously convicting sinners and bringing them to repentance.  He is often compared to the wind, which blows all over the earth.  

The disciples were sorrowful that Jesus was leaving, but Jesus was right – it was to their advantage for him to depart and send Holy Spirit to earth. 

John 16:8 – “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:”

To convict (your translation may say ‘reprove’) commonly means to demonstrate by argument; to persuade through reason, to demonstrate by proof or evidence.

  • Sin – As we have already mentioned, it is the role of Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin.  In other words, he will apply the truth of the gospel to men’s hearts and minds in such a way that they will be convinced they are sinners in need of the blood of Christ (Acts 2:36-37).  This was/is particularly true regarding the sin of unbelief.
  • Righteousness – Holy Spirit will convince or persuade people that their own righteousness is insufficient to save them.  In order to be justified before God, they will need the righteousness that only Christ can provide (Philippians 3:9, Romans 3:20-22).
  • Judgment – Holy Spirit will demonstrate that Jesus is Lord and that by his death/resurrection he judged, condemned and overcame Satan and his kingdom of darkness.      

The concepts of sin, righteousness and judgment are all interwoven – when men are convicted of sin, they will either turn to Christ and receive his righteousness, or reject Christ and be judged with the prince of darkness.

John 16:9 – “… concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;”

Sin is defined as any violation of the law of God, but the particular sin being discussed here is that of unbelief or rejection of Christ.  This was the main sin of the Jews who crucified Jesus. 

When the apostles preached the gospel message, it was this sin of unbelief/rejection which filled the Jews with remorse and caused them to repent (Acts 2:22-38, Acts 3:13-19, Zechariah 12:10, etc).

Taken in a broader sense, Holy Spirit will convict men/women of all sin in order to show them the necessity of a redeemer who can atone for their sin.

John 16:10 – “…concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;”

This seems to refer to the righteousness or innocence of Jesus himself.  He was rejected and persecuted by the Jews.  He was shortly to be arrested and accused of heinous crimes against God, condemned/declared guilty by the highest authority in the land, and sentenced to death.  By all accounts he was guilty, not innocent.

However, once Holy Spirit came to earth, he would convince men/women that Jesus was not guilty; he was completely righteous in the sight of his Father.  Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to God provided a clear demonstration of his innocence that would satisfy Jews and Gentiles alike.   

John 16:11 – “…concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Make no mistake – God is both holy and just; he will execute judgment upon his enemies. 

The death of Christ was a judgment against Satan.  And just as Jesus vanquished Satan, he will subdue all other adversaries in due time.  Sinners can expect to be condemned on the Day of Judgment, at the end of this age, unless they repent.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Although the disciples were called upon to tread a difficult path during the course of their Christian lives, they did not walk alone. 

As we noted in today’s post, Jesus had prepared his followers for victory.  He gave them his word/doctrine.  He warned them about what was to come.  And he promised to send them Holy Spirit to provide supernatural assistance in every situation.

We still enjoy the same benefits.  The word of God is available to us in numerous ways, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  God still speaks through modern day prophets to encourage and lead the church.  And Holy Spirit is still just as active today as he was back in the days of the disciples. 

So no matter what path you find yourself on, you too can be victorious, just as the disciples were.  

 Let me offer you some relief:

The disciples were facing a task that seemed impossible to them – they were to continue preaching the gospel after Jesus was crucified.  I am sure they felt inadequate or not fully prepared to take on that challenge.

But they needn’t have worried.  Through Holy Spirit, they received all of the wisdom, strength and boldness they needed.  What task has God given to you?  If it seems impossible, don’t worry – Holy Spirit is right here to help you too.

Let me offer you some strength:

In our lesson today, we noted that Jesus had promised many good things to his disciples, but they were so busy concentrating on future difficulties that they missed the reasons they had to rejoice. 

If we are not careful, we could end up doing the same thing. 

There is no doubt that life can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be full of joy!  Remember, joy doesn’t come from our outward circumstances; it springs from our relationship with God. 

The joy of the Lord gives you the strength you need to get through each day.  And that is the best way to live life – one day at a time (Nehemiah 8:10)!   

 

John, Chapter 15, Part 3

John 15:18 – “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

As the disciples go forth to establish the church and spread the gospel around the world, they should not expect a warm welcome from everyone.  In fact, they would be hated and opposed by many (I John 3:13, Matthew 10:25). 

However, this was not something new to them.  They had been with Jesus for years and he had encountered the same treatment.  Jesus did not allow opposition from the proud, the wealthy, the learned or those in power to deter him from his mission.  He did not allow persecution, threats or difficulties to slow him down. 

Consequently, the disciples need not be troubled when they encounter such opposition, because it proves they are on the right path – the same path that Jesus walked.  He is to be the example the disciples will follow when they too face opposition.

John 15:19 – “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you.”

Here Jesus reveals the cause or root of the hated his followers will experience:

Unbelievers have malice towards God deep within their hearts and they hate anything that reflects or resembles Him.

Jesus has ‘chosen us out’ or separated us from the world.  We are now new creations in Christ; old things have passed away and all things are new (II Corinthians 5:17). 

We now possess the nature, disposition, inclinations and desires of our Holy Father.  We display his attributes including righteousness, justice, love and mercy.  We are led by his Holy Spirit.

By contrast, unbelievers have the nature, disposition, inclinations and desires of their father, Satan.  They display his attributes including evil, tyranny, hate and judgment.  They are under the influence of the spirit of antichrist.

Since the two groups have interests, desires and goals that are diametrically opposed, it is logical that the world will despise, resist and actively combat those who follow Christ.

However, as Jesus mentioned earlier, his followers are not to act in that manner.  We must obey his commands so that we can abide in him and he can abide in us.  According to Jesus the greatest command is to love others:

Matthew 22:37-39 – Jesus said unto him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

In addition, the parable of the Good Samaritan shows us that our ‘neighbor’ is actually anyone we come into contact with (Luke 10:25-37). 

Therefore, we must have compassion for the lost.  Don’t think of the ‘lost’ as a vague, nameless, faceless group.  We must recognize them as the individual people we come across every day – people who think they are superior to us, people who take every opportunity to mock our God, people who disrespect the gospel, people who are confused and people who dislike or even hate us for no reason.      

We must show them love, when they show us hate.  We must show them mercy, when they show us judgment.  We must show them good, when they show us evil. 

Does that sound like a difficult task?  Here is something to keep in mind – at one time, each one of us was under the same satanic deception as they are:

Titus 3:3 – For we ourselves also were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.  

So when you look at them, you should be able to see/recognize the place where you came from (or the place you were headed).  Perhaps you see the sins or sinful attitudes that once controlled you too. 

If that is the case, our compassion for them should bubble up to the surface of our lives.  We need to demonstrate that compassion by standing strong in the face of opposition and lovingly sharing the gospel message, which Holy Spirit can use to open their spiritual eyes and bring them to Christ. 

John 15:20 – “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

When Jesus says ‘remember the word I said to you’ he is referring back to a lesson he gave them much earlier (Ezekiel 3:7, Matthew 10:24-25, Luke 6:40, John 13:16).

Basically the lesson teaches that since we are one with Christ, we can expect the world to treat us the same way it treated him.  

Certainly, as we just mentioned, there were many who rejected Christ.  But at the same time, there were also those who believed and trusted in him.  The disciples themselves are examples of this.  So as we sow the seeds of the gospel message into the world, we can rejoice knowing that many souls will be won to Christ.  These dear souls will then become our brothers and sisters, who will stand side-by-side with us, laboring in the kingdom.

John 15:21 – “But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

Our study brings up a puzzling question:  WHY do unbelievers have such hatred in their hearts towards God?  Why do they hate him so much that they fight against him at every turn?

According to Jesus, the answer is simple:  Because they do not know him. They are blind to spiritual truth.  They do not believe that God sent Jesus into the world.  They do not believe that Jesus was the true embodiment of the love, character and law of God. 

Consequently, based on their own blindness, they will certainly reject the gospel message. 

But God cannot be thwarted by the tricks of Satan.

God has ordained believers to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost.  His Holy Spirit is here on the earth, to tear the veil of blindness from the heart of those who hear. 

When that happens, their understanding is enlightened and they have a chance to accept the gospel and put their faith in Christ.  Because of the convicting power of Holy Spirit, they can have their sins forgiven, their bodies healed and their souls delivered from the power of darkness.  They can become children of God. 

John 16:8 – And when he [Holy Spirit] is come, he will convict the world of sin…    

The disciples now have multiple good reasons to labor for the gospel, even if that work includes persecution: 

  • Sharing the gospel/loving your neighbor is a direct command of God. 
  • We were once sinners, just like those who persecute us. 
  • Our persecutors are blind to the love and true nature of God.  As we share the gospel message, Holy Spirit will give them a chance to see the light of Christ and repent.

John 15:22 – “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”

This statement of Jesus should not be understood in the absolute sense.  In other words, whether Christ came to earth or not, the Jews were still guilty of sin because they broke the law. 

What Christ reveals here is that the Jews are now guilty of a specific/particular sin – unbelief and rejection of the gospel message.  In addition, their guilt is now greater (and utterly inexcusable) because they have been given ample information which proved that Jesus was the Messiah who was predicted by their own prophets.   

We might paraphrase the words of Jesus this way – ‘If I (Jesus) had not come down to earth in human form and personally preached the doctrine of salvation to the Jews and then confirmed that doctrine by miracles/signs/wonders, then the Jews might have a reason to hold onto their unbelief, at least to some degree. 

However, because I DID come to earth and I DID preach the gospel to them and I DID confirm the message with signs and wonders, they have no excuse for their obstinate sin of unbelief.  They knew the truth, they willfully rejected it.   

This confirms a truth found all throughout the scriptures – our guilt will be in proportion to the light we possess and the mercies we reject (see Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 12:47-48).

John 15:23 – “Whoever hates me hates my Father also.”

Jesus now confirms that the sin of the Jews was no insignificant crime.  They persisted in hating and persecuting Christ, despite the fact that he had performed (before their very eyes) numerous miracles which could only be performed by divine power. 

The Jews claimed to love God while rejecting Christ, but this is not possible.  Because Jesus and the Father are one, no one can hate one without hating the other (John 14:7-9, John 10:30).  Rejection of Jesus is the same as rejection of Father God.

John 15:24 – “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.”

The works that Jesus speaks about here are miracles.  He compares his miracles to the miracles done by others.  To the Jews this meant Moses and the prophets (Elijah, Elisha, etc). 

Jesus did a greater number of miracles in a shorter span of time than any of the prophets.  Scriptures record seven miracles done by Elijah and 14 by Elisha.  Jesus brought about more miracles in a single night then these two men did their entire lives (Matthew 4:24).

Plus, Moses and the prophets had no power within themselves to perform miracles of any kind; they called upon the name of the Lord and asked for him to perform the miracles (Exodus 8:8-13, Exodus 8:29-31, etc).  It would be far more accurate to say that God performed miracles through the prophets.  Jesus, however, performed miracles in his own power, by his own authority, using his own name. 

The miracles of Jesus were also greater in intensity.  Elisha prayed and the Shunammite’s son was brought back to life within a matter of hours (II Kings 4: 33-36).  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after he was dead four entire days!  Jesus was able to heal a man born blind, a miracle which had never been done by anyone before:

John 9:32 – Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.  

So it is easy for us to see that Jesus did miracles among the Jews that no other person (Jew or Gentile) had previously done.  This is significant, because the Jews correctly believed that only God could perform miracles.  Since Jesus performed so many miracles, it was clear proof that he was the Messiah; God had openly manifested his divinity in the Son. 

Consequently, the Jews could not claim that Jesus was a mere mortal man.  He HAD to be the Messiah and as such, they HAD to believe in him.  To hate and reject Jesus was to hate and reject Father God too.    

John 15:25 – “But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

In this case (as in other places in scripture) the term ‘Law’ is used to mean the Law, the Psalms and the prophets; it basically refers to the entire Old Testament. 

The scripture that Jesus references here is probably Psalms 69:4, which is a Messianic Psalm but the words are also found in Psalms 35:19.  These verses were penned by King David to express the truth that he was an innocent man; his enemies hated him for absolutely no reason. 

Although that was true on some level for King David, Jesus tells us that the ultimate fulfillment of that scripture was occurring in his own life, right at that time.  His enemies, the Jews, hate him for absolutely no reason.   

Jesus had not broken any laws.  He had not injured or killed any of his fellow man.  He never disrespected God or his country.  Even in the midst of all their hatred towards him, Jesus still sought the welfare of the Jews.  He still offered them mercy and invited them to turn to him for salvation, which they continued to refuse. 

Thus, Jesus has explained to the 11 remaining disciples that the Jewish rejection of himself as the Messiah was not a surprise to him or to the Father.  It had been predicted many times in the Old Testament scriptures (see especially Isaiah 53:3-9).   

John 15:26-27 – “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

Jesus once again reintroduces the promise of the gift of Holy Spirit (John 14:17).  Keep in mind that the context of this promise is the adversarial role of the unbelieving Jews. 

In every generation, there will be those who mock and rage against the truth of the gospel.  They not only reject the truth themselves, they will attempt to shake the faith of those who do believe, just as the Jews did during the incarnation of Christ. 

But we do not need to fear them.  Jesus has given us the gift of Holy Spirit, who bears witness within our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God.  He will crush the attempts of Satan to nullify the truth of God in our lives.  The end result is that we know that we know, we are saved by the blood of Christ.  

Romans 8:16 – The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

Nothing can shake us from this truth; by the power of Holy Spirit we will boldly witness about Christ in the midst of all opposition.

Meanwhile, the unbelief of the Jews is completely inexcusable.  They have rejected the doctrine of Christ, even though his mission was confirmed with signs and wonders.  By rejecting the Son, they also reject God the Father.  They are in an extremely dangerous spiritual position.  In a further attempt to save them, Jesus sends his Spirit to convict them of sin (John 16:8) – particularly the sin of unbelief. 

Holy Spirit will accomplish this conviction by working through the preaching and miracles of the apostles to influence the hearts of the lost.  If they further reject/resist the wooing of the Spirit, there is no option left to them; they will eventually experience the wrath of God. 

Obviously, the same is true today.  Sinners routinely reject the gospel, but Holy Spirit will continue to convict them in an effort to reunite them with God.  We know this is true, because we have experienced it ourselves. 

This highlights the extreme importance of sharing the gospel message.  God has given us the privilege of partnering with Holy Spirit to bring the lost into God’s kingdom.  We do the talking, he does the convicting and souls are saved.

This explains how ‘faith comes by hearing’ (Romans 10:17) – Christians share the truth of the gospel message and Holy Spirit infuses life into the words and gives the hearer faith to believe in Christ.    

It is God’s will that the whole earth hear his message.  If we say nothing, God will use someone else to witness for him and we will miss the chance of a lifetime – a chance to help Holy Spirit bring another soul to repentance.   

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Holy Spirit is not a ‘force’ or a ‘power’ or an ‘it’. 

Our text (verses 26-27) clearly speaks of him as a person (see also John 16:7-8, 13-15); he has a gender (male), he exhibits emotions and possesses intelligence.  He is a member of the Godhead/Trinity; he is divine as are the Father and Son.

Holy Spirit is living in the heart of every believer.  As we will discover later in our study of the gospel of John, Jesus has sent him to comfort, lead/guide, teach and empower you in your Christian walk.

How well do you know the Spirit?  Can you hear when he speaks to you?  Are you walking with him daily?  If not, I encourage you to cultivate a closer relationship with Him.  

Let me offer you some relief:

You may have noticed that people do not necessarily ‘get saved’ when you share the gospel message.  In fact, you may have shared the gospel with the same person multiple times and they still have not surrendered their life to Christ. 

If this is the case with your friend or loved one, let me give you some relief – it isn’t your responsibility to save them.  Your job is to love people and share the message.  It is Holy Spirit’s job to ignite faith within the hearer so that he/she becomes convicted of sin and accepts Christ as savior.  

So if you are struggling in your witness for Christ, make sure you stick to doing your part and allow Holy Spirit to do his!

Let me offer you some strength:

We noted in our study that there will be opposition to the gospel and its messengers; Christians are hated and opposed by many. 

Frankly, the possibility of persecution can be frightening.  In our own strength and ability, we would not have the power to stand against it.  But here is the good news – you don’t need to trust in your own strength. 

Acts 4:31 – And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.   

One of the functions of Holy Spirit is to empower the saints, giving us the boldness to share our faith and stand firm in the face of trouble.  If you are lacking boldness in your witness for Christ, ask Holy Spirit to fill you with his power. 

 

John, Chapter 15, Part 2

John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.”

As Jesus continues this heartfelt discourse with his disciples just before his death, he touches on the subject of love between the Father, Son and mankind.

This is a topic that even the best of writers, teachers and pastors could not ever hope to fully communicate.  The love of God towards us is so profound, so deep and so past understanding that it seems almost futile to try and write about it.  If you dwell on it too long, it almost blows your mind!

How can we understand (much less explain) a love so intense that the God of the universe was willing to give his own Son to die that our debt could be paid?  How can we explain a love so profound that the Son of God was willing to lay aside his glory, come to earth in a human body and subject himself to pain and humiliation to atone for sin that WE committed?  What kind of love allows Jesus to die at the hands of his own creation?

1 John 4:10 -In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

How can we account for a love that transcends all our faults and reinstates us as God’s children and heirs, instead of his slaves (or worse)? How fervent must God’s love for us be, if he guarantees each believer a place in his eternal kingdom?   How can we hope to grasp a love so ardent that it allows for mercy to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9)?

We can’t explain the love of God, but that is okay… I am just glad it exists!  It is always a reason to rejoice in the Lord and praise his name.   

Jesus begins by telling us that the Father loves him; he was/is God’s beloved Son (Mark 11:1).  Yet God also loved us – so much so, that he gave up his Son to deliver us from sin (John 3:16).  Even in his humiliation as he bore the curse of our sin, Father God continually loved Jesus, and Jesus continually loved the Father. 

John 15:10 – “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

This steadfast and unchanging love was due (at least in part) to the fact that Jesus kept every single one of his Father’s commands.  Jesus’ love of his Father was displayed in his obedience to all that the Father asked of him. The Father’s love and presence were always with Jesus because Jesus always did what was pleasing to Him.

Jesus goes on to reveal that he loves us the same way Father God loves him.  Therefore, the love and presence of Jesus the Son (in the form of Holy Spirit) is always with us whenever we endeavor to be obedient to all he has commanded us. 

Obviously, we will fall short in this regard, but as long as we are diligent and sincere in our service to Christ we don’t need to fear, because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us through his sacrifice on the cross (Romans 4:21-24).  Because of this, we are just as righteous as Jesus in the sight of God. 

So, by keeping his commands we please Jesus and continue to abide in his love.

As we just mentioned, Jesus loves us with an eternal and constant love.  We continue to abide/live in his love by keeping his commands.  This is true because obedience is the way we demonstrate our true love for him (see the commentary on John 14:21).

However, we want to make an important distinction:  We do not earn Christ’s love through works; works can never save us.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The keeping of Christ’s commands is an outward proof of the love we already have in our hearts because we have placed our faith in him as our Redeemer.  It was his shed blood that redeemed us, not any works of obedience we might complete.

How do you feel about the concept of obedience?

  • Does it conjure up memories of doing things you hated, like being forced to clean up your room as a child? 
  • Or do you think of obedience as an obstruction that prevented you from doing certain things you wanted to do? 
  • Does it remind you of a time when you had to comply with worthless or inane tasks assigned to you by an employer?    

To be honest, obedience isn’t always fun.  The act of obedience implies that you have submitted to the authority of someone else, and most people don’t like to do that.  Most of us prefer to be our own ‘boss’ and do as we please.

In the spiritual realm, we are always under the authority and command of God (Father, Son and Spirit).  But God has something that our earthly parents/bosses don’t have… perfection!

Because God loves us with a perfect and unfailing love, we can be confident that placing ourselves under his authority/command will result in our good. 

Furthermore, scripture reveals that God places a very high value on obedience:

1 Samuel 15:22 – And Samuel said, has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

Jesus is our ultimate example of obedience to God.  He exhibited a perfect, sinless and willing submission to all of the requirements of his Father, including:

  • Setting aside his glory and coming to earth. 
  • Taking on a human body of flesh. 
  • Subjecting himself to the authority of his parents, Mary and Joseph. 
  • Fulfilling the law. 
  • Allowing himself to be rejected by the Jews. 
  • Gathering and training his disciples. 
  • Being tempted by Satan. 
  • Bearing the burden of our sin, which caused him to be cut off from the Father. 
  • Allowing mortal men to crucify him, etc.

The obedience of Jesus is based upon his love for his Father.  That love allows him to keep the Father’s commands, which in turn causes him to abide in his Father’s love.

In the same way, our obedience to Jesus is based upon our love for him.  Because we love Jesus, we keep his commands and as a result we continuously abide in his love.

John 15:11 – “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

‘These things I have spoken to you’ – Because of the way our study is designed, we have broken chapters 14&15 up into several sections.  But we must keep in mind chapters 14-17 were a single session between Jesus and the disciples.  So when Jesus says ‘these things’ he is referring to all that he had spoken to them in chapters 14 and 15.

These would include the promises of fruitfulness in the kingdom, the blessings of obedience, the victory of abiding in Christ as a branch, the gift of Holy Spirit and the boundless love of God.

‘That my joy may be in you’ – This statement is interpreted in different ways. 

It may refer to a joy that Jesus experiences.  In other words, the disciples’ obedience to their Christian duty is a continuous source of joy to Christ.  He rejoices/delights in the faith, holiness and obedience of his people.  His joy in us causes us to experience joy as well. 

Alternatively, it may refer to a joy that Christians experience as a result of being obedient to the commands of Jesus.  In this case, ‘my joy’ or the joy of Christ refers to a divine joy that Christ gives to the believer once he is redeemed from sin.  Once we are saved, Holy Spirit drives dread and anxiety away from our hearts and replaces it with divine joy.

‘Your joy may be full’ – In either case, we can rest assured that when the joy of the Lord abides in us, it will be a full, overflowing joy.  This kind of joy is not fleeting or temporary.  It is not based on our outward circumstances.  Since it is derived from a divine source, it never fails or passes away.  It can be yours no matter what your circumstances look like, or what trial you may be experiencing.

John 15:12 – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Love to God and our fellow man is fundamental to true religion; it is an integral part of both Old Testament Law and New Testament grace.  In fact, Jesus declared that all the Law and prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34). 

Paul gives us an amazing discourse on love in I Corinthians 13.  He teaches us that love is the greatest of all the Christian graces.  It is greater than speaking with tongues, the gift of prophesy and even supernatural faith.  It is even greater than all wisdom and knowledge.  Paul goes on to say that even though all of these gifts/graces are desirable and useful, they are as nothing without love:

1 Corinthians 13:2 – And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. 

As love is the highest expression of God to mankind, it must also be the highest expression of man to his Creator and to his fellow man.

Can we be honest for a minute?  Loving our fellow man may be the most difficult command Jesus gave us!  Our fellow human beings are often selfish, disgusting, idiotic, lazy, irritating, cruel, evil or just plain mean.  Sometimes they make bad decisions, do the wrong thing, or ‘throw us under the bus’.         

But once again, our example must be Christ.  We must show others the love which he exhibited towards us.

Jesus loved us before we loved him.  While we were still separated from God, wallowing in the filth of our sin, Jesus loved us.  His great love was evident when he agreed to die for us, so that we could be reunited to the Father.  His love was evident when he took a severe beating/lashing so that we could be healed in every regard – physical, mental and emotional (Isaiah 53:5, I Peter 2:24).

Likewise, we should love others, even when they don’t love us.

Jesus loves us unconditionally.  Regardless of what we have done in our past or what we will do in the future, he still loves us.  As long as we sincerely repent of our sin, he will forgive us. 

In light of what Christ has done for us, can we do any less for our fellow man?  If Jesus has forgiven us, can’t we forgive others, and in so doing reflect the love that God has for them?

John 15:13-14 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Life is the most valuable thing we possess.  We will do anything to preserve it (Job 2:4).  Therefore, the highest expression of love is to lay down your life for another person.

We have people in our society that take this risk every day, such as policemen and women, firefighters and soldiers to name a few.  Thankfully, they are always prepared to protect and serve us. 

But what we don’t ordinarily see are people of great rank and power prepared to die for others.  For instance, the president does not routinely put himself in harm’s way for a fellow citizen.  In fact, the opposite is true – he has secret service people ready to die in order to protect him.

When viewed from this perspective, the love and sacrifice of Christ is all the more astonishing. 

  • He is a part of the living Godhead, incarnated in human form (Matthew 1:18-23). 
  • He was the co-creator of the world along with the Father and the Spirit (John 1:1-3). 
  • He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). 
  • He is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22). 
  • He has a name above every other name, and a time will come when every knee shall bow before him (Romans 14:11). 

Even though Christ is infinitely greater than we are in every way, he was still willing to sacrifice himself for us.  There is no greater love than this (John 3:16)!

With the love of Christ as an example, the disciples must be willing to put their lives in jeopardy in order to spread the gospel message to the uttermost parts of the world.  History tells us that all but one of the disciples (John) was martyred for his faith in Christ.

But the mandate to show the love of God by laying down our lives did not end with the disciples.  It continues even today.  According to the group Open Doors USA, roughly 5600 Christians were murdered, more than 6000 were detained and another 4000 were kidnapped for their faith in 2021.  That is an average of about 15 martyrs each day, worldwide. 

When we love others as God commanded us (and Jesus demonstrated for us), God considers us his friend.    

John 15:15 – “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

Up to this point, Jesus had referred to his followers as servants (John 12:26, Matthew 10:24-25).    

Servants are people who labor under the command of another.  Because they are not of equal rank with their master they are not normally acquainted with the plans, wishes, councils or desires of their commander.  They are not taken into his confidence.   

Friends, however, are different.  Friends are intimately acquainted with each other.  Friends will often take other friends into their confidence and reveal their plans, goals and desires.

Jesus has treated his disciples as friends.  He has shown them the plans of the Father concerning his Messianic office (his death, resurrection, ascension, etc).  He explained to them that Holy Spirit would shortly come to comfort and guide them.  He has assured them that he will go to prepare a place for them and subsequently bring them to heaven.  He has revealed to them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:11).

Furthermore, the life of Jesus was a full disclosure of the Father; Jesus told his disciples that anyone who knew him also knew the Father (John 14:9). 

Having treated the disciples as friends, it only makes sense to give them the title as well.  We might say that all Christ’s disciples are his servants and all his servants are his friends.   

Interestingly, after his resurrection, Jesus further elevates his friends to the position of brothers/sisters:

John 20:17 – Jesus said unto her [Mary], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

See also Hebrews 2:9-13.

John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you’ – Jesus reminds the apostles that they had not chosen him to be their teacher; he had chosen them to be his disciples.  He set them apart to preach the gospel and help usher in a new dispensation of grace to the world.  This honor was not due to their own merit, but to his grace and mercy.   

This knowledge should spur the disciples on to execute their Christian duties faithfully and diligently.

Jesus has also chosen you and me to accomplish specific tasks and perform good works for his kingdom.  We too were chosen by the grace of God, not because of any merit or skill on our part.  In fact, God sometimes chooses us for certain tasks specifically because we are NOT as qualified as someone else.  This allows his glory to shine through us in an even greater measure. 

This knowledge should encourage us to do our best in performing our Christian duties, no matter what they may be.  

‘That you should bear fruit and that your fruit should abide’ – Jesus has already set up his followers to be successful in his kingdom.  They will not fail.  They will preach the gospel, God will confirm the message with signs and wonders, and Holy Spirit will bring conviction which results in salvation.  Thousands will accept Christ as savior and become ‘branches’ grafted into the ‘vine’ of Christ.  Eventually they will also bear fruit. 

The work of the disciples will not wither and die – it will be everlasting fruit.  

‘So that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you’ – In order for us to be successful/fruitful in the kingdom of God, we are going to need assistance and resources.  We have direct access to everything we need through Jesus.  All we need to do is ask the Father in Jesus name (see the commentary on John 14:13-14), and the Father will provide it.  

John 15:17 – “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

Jesus has been very clear on this point – mutual love among Christians is demanded above all other things.  Love is the essential characteristic of the new kingdom. 

John 13:35 – By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.

The hidden love of the Father was manifested towards us in the love of Christ.  Now we must pour that love out upon our Christian brothers and sisters.  This witness of the love of God will draw others into the kingdom.

Love for one another will also ensure the unity of believers.  Division is a lethal weapon in the hand of Satan – if we are at odds with each other, then the house of Christ is divided and it will not stand (Mark 3:25).

Sometimes love does not come easily – it must be a choice.  Through the strength of Holy Spirit, we can choose to love the family of God, and please our Lord.        

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Today’s post centers on the theme of God’s love.  His love for us is absolutely unexplainable and incomprehensible.  It is far deeper and more intense than we can imagine on this side of eternity.  I suspect we will only know the fullness of it when we stand in his presence. 

The idea of his boundless love should encourage our faith while bringing us peace and joy.  Why not let his love be the basis of your praise and worship this week? 

Let me offer you some relief:

Satan would love for you to believe that God does not love you, or that he loves others more than you.  He would also like you to believe that God’s love for you is conditional – that it is somehow tied to your performance in life.  These concepts are absolute lies!

God loves you completely, totally and perfectly.  We should never, ever, ever doubt the love of God for us.  And since God never changes, neither does his love for us, even when we fail.  When those times of failure do come, let’s run to his love and forgiveness knowing that he wants to restore us. 

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus says that the greatest demonstration of love is to lay down your life for someone else.  We generally take this to mean dying as a martyr for your faith, and all of us should be willing to pay that price, if asked.  Through the strength of Holy Spirit, I believe we could.

However, there are other interpretations of ‘laying down your life’. 

Think of it this way:  What is the most precious commodity in this world? 

Answer:  Time. 

Each of us has a certain preordained amount of time to live upon this earth.  No matter how rich we become, we can’t buy more.  Neither can we beg, borrow or steal it.  Furthermore, we can only spend our time once.  There are no refunds, exchanges or ‘do-overs’. 

Therefore, to spend time in prayer interceding for the salvation of another person (or nation) is essentially laying down your life for them.  You are sacrificing your time for them, which you can never receive back. 

You and I may never be asked to die as martyrs, but we still have the opportunity to lay down our lives for our friends – through prayer, fasting and other intercessory activities.

  

 

  

John, Chapter 15, Part 1

John 15:1 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”

As we know, Jesus often used the natural things of this world to explain spiritual principles to his listeners.  In this case, he made use of a grape vine.  This may have been prompted by the wine they just drank at the Passover meal, especially if this conversation took place in the same room as the Passover celebration.

Alternatively, if this conversation took place as the group walked to the Mount of Olives, it may have been sparked by the numerous grape vines growing along the road. 

In either case, vineyards were very common in this region.  Throughout the scriptures, God often compares his people, the nation of Israel, to a vine which he planted (Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalms 80:8-16, Jeremiah 2:21, Ezekiel 19:10, etc). 

Isaiah 5:7 – For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant…

Psalm 80:8 – You have brought a vine out of Egypt: you have cast out the nations, and planted it.

The only way Israel (the vine) could have a relationship with God was through the Law.  But as we know, the law could not give life.  It could convict you for sin and sentence you to death, but it had no power to redeem.  Therefore, any branch (individual Israelite) who depended upon the vine of the Law had no hope of redemption or spiritual life.  Any/all of the fruit his life produced resulted in death:

Romans 7:5 –For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. 

This brings up an interesting question – What about Jesus? 

Because Jesus was born a Jew, he was also considered a branch of Israel, who was subject to the Law:

Isaiah 11:1 – And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

(For a fuller description, see Isaiah 11:1-9).  But Jesus was no ordinary male Israelite!  Because he was the Messiah, the sinless Son of God, he broke the curse of the Law by perfectly fulfilling it (Matthew 5:17).

In his role as the Messiah/Redeemer, he replaced the old, dead vine of the Law.  He became the new or true, living vine.  As the true vine, Jesus is the source and support of all spiritual life and blessing. 

Through the gospel, Jews as well as Gentiles can be grafted into the living vine of Christ (Romans 11:1-25).  These believers (branches) are now firmly secured in Christ; they have access to all the ‘nourishment’ they will need to be a true disciple of Christ including teaching, guidance, grace, strength and supernatural gifts.  Any/all of the fruit they bear produces life and holiness:

Romans 6:22 – But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

In essence, Jesus is telling the disciples that the law is about to pass away and be replaced by the age of grace, which he ushered in by his own blood.  His also further explains the relationship between himself, the Father and each believer.

It was God who appointed his Son to be the source of all life and blessings to mankind. Consequently, grace and mercy flow to mankind exclusively through the Son.  There is no other source of spiritual life (John 14:6).

Furthermore, Father God is said to be the one who exercises the care and maintenance of the vineyard.  It is his job to nurture, trim/prune, water, fertilize and protect the branches.  In other words, God takes care of all those who are united to Jesus by faith.

In the natural realm, the vine dresser would be interested in the growth and welfare of the branches because he is looking for them to produce an abundant harvest. Likewise, God is very interested in the growth and welfare of each individual believer (and the church collectively) because he desires for us to produce much fruit in his kingdom.  As we will shortly discover, he has promised to answer our prayers and grant our requests in order to make that happen. 

John 15:2 – “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

The vine dresser is described as having two chief duties in regards to the branches:

To remove all fruitless branches – In the natural realm, any good gardener will remove dead shoots, stems or branches from the vine.  This strengthens the plant and promotes more growth. 

Remember, in the spiritual realm, ‘branches’ refer to individual people.  In every generation there are people who claim to be members of the family of God.  They do so by outward profession, good works or acts of moral discipline.  But these things can (and are) often done without any true root in Christ.  Although we may be fooled by these false fruits, God is not.  He knows the heart of every person and at the proper time he will cut off those that are not true believers in Christ.

God often accomplishes this by revealing the true root of what is deep inside the person’s heart.  He will bring that to the forefront and call upon the individual to make a choice – repent or fall away. 

The most obvious example of this was when God revealed the greed at the core of Judas Iscariot’s soul.  Judas had multiple chances to repent of this, but he chose not to.  Eventually, because of his own choice, God removed him from the fellowship of disciples because he was a rotten fruitless branch. 

To prune or cleanse branches that bear fruit – In the natural realm, branches that are fully attached to the vine will bear fruit.  But they can bear even more fruit if pruned correctly.

This is what God does in the supernatural realm.  He cleanses/prunes away things that hinder the Christian in his or her sincere walk with Christ.

Some of the things that hinder us are evil, such as pride, lust, unforgiveness, etc.  Obviously, we will be more fruitful in our spiritual walk when we are purged of these things.

But good things can also hinder our Christian life/growth, if they become too important in our lives, or if they get in the way of a fuller, closer walk with Christ. 

For instance, there is nothing wrong with a Christian having earthly possessions or wealth.  There is nothing wrong with a Christian who enjoys entertainment or hobbies.  But if these things come between us and a closer walk with Jesus, God may intervene in our lives by allowing some kind of affliction/trial to touch us. 

We all hate trials and afflictions, but they frequently serve a very important purpose in our lives.  They have the power to realign our priorities, reminding us what is really important – our eternal spiritual lives.  Thus, a trial or affliction is one way God can ‘prune’ away anything that hinders us from bearing more fruit in the kingdom. 

As the master vine dresser, God prunes each of us individually in whatever manner is appropriate for us at the time.  He uses a combination of our consciences, Holy Spirit fire and/or water, the Word, afflictions, trials and even blessings.

John 15:3 – “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.”

‘Clean’ does not mean perfect.  Nor is ‘clean’ the result of any legal or ceremonial rite/purification under the law. 

Rather, spiritual cleansing/purification comes from believing and obeying the word/doctrines/truth of Jesus.

1 Peter 1:22 – Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit …

(See also John 17:17).  The word of Christ, which the disciples received by faith, purified their hearts (Acts 15:9).  For the last three years the disciples had been under a constant process of purification while they were following Jesus.  Sometimes they made great strides, sometimes they stumbled, but overall they were true disciples who had made great progress. 

In fact, Jesus had trained them so well that immediately after his death, with the aid of Holy Spirit, they would be ready to go and bear fruit for the kingdom by preaching the word, demonstrating the supernatural, baptizing believers and organizing the church.  And as they did so, God continued to prune them, which continued to increase their fruitfulness.

We should expect nothing less.  As we immerse ourselves in the word of God, Holy Spirit will invigorate that word in our lives, activating its cleansing virtue.  It will root sin and corruption from our lives, just as fire burns away impurities from gold (Malachi 3:1-3).

With the aid of Holy Spirit, we too can boldly proclaim the gospel message, allow the supernatural to work through us, baptize/disciple new believers and expand the kingdom of heaven here on earth. 

The evidence that we are cleansed by the word is the spiritual fruit we bear.  We can rest assured that God will continue to prune us, so that our fruit will be even more abundant than before.

John 15:4 – “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.”

Here Jesus reiterates a concept he has already presented.  Since he is repeating himself, we need to sharpen this truth to a point and drive it into our hearts, so that it changes us forever.

We would never expect a branch to break off of a vine or tree and yet still be able to bear fruit, because the branch depends upon the trunk of the plant/tree to provide all of the nourishment required not only for fruit, but for life itself.

We intrinsically understand that if a branch breaks off from a vine or tree, it is dead at that very moment.  It may take a short time to wither and dry, but nevertheless death is certain.  The only way for the branch to live is to maintain an attachment to the tree/vine.

This illustrates our relationship with Christ; our spiritual life is completely dependent upon communion with him. 

But what does it really mean for us to abide in Christ and for him/his word to abide in us?  Perhaps we can best explain it by outlining what it is NOT: 

  • Abiding in Christ is NOT mere intellectual acceptance of his doctrines.  Even the demons believe, but they are certainly not abiding in Jesus (James 2:19).It’s true that the seeds of the gospel are first planted in our minds/intellects, but Holy Spirit must make them sprout and take root deep within our hearts in order for them to effectively anchor us in Christ.  We can only abide in him (and he in us) when his word becomes a part of our very being. 
  • Abiding in Christ is NOT hearing a biblical truth on Sunday morning and then living in the world for the remainder of the week.  While Sunday sermons are certainly beneficial in many ways, simply attending church is not enough to abide in Christ.  We must search the scriptures for ourselves; we must meditate on the words of truth until they transform our words and actions.  When we think like Christ, act/live like Christ, and love like Christ, then we know that we abide in him and he abides in us.
  • Abiding in Christ is NOT adhering to a set of rules and regulations through your own strength.  The burden of obeying a bunch of rules without a relationship is called slavery, and it is a miserable existence.  When we commune with Christ, we are changed in our inner man (our soul) and that change is eventually reflected in our outward actions and obedience (John 14:21-23).  This kind of obedience is not a burden.  It is natural and easy because we desire to do what is righteous and good in his sight.  We know we abide in him (and he in us) when we desire to please him.

John 15:5 – “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

The more we abide/commune with Christ, the more spiritual ‘sap’ will run through our lives and consequently, the more fruit we will be able to produce. 

To commune is defined as ‘to think, reflect or meditate; to converse with another in sympathy and confidence, to take council.’  It implies an intimate, close relationship between the people enjoying the communion.  To be in communion means to spend time in each other’s company, exchanging thoughts, ideas, confidences/secrets and council.  It is a place of safety and acceptance.

To commune with Christ is to spend time in his presence, reflecting and meditating on his word.  This is where you learn to hear/recognize his voice.  It is the place where Jesus reveals his plans and goals for the world and for our own lives.  It is the place of intimacy and safety where we can admit our lives don’t measure up to the standards of holiness we find in the word.  It is the place where we can seek his wisdom for matters both great and small.  It is a place where we recognize our need to let go of our own sinful desires and goals. 

The more we commune with Christ, the more we become like him.   As we spend time in his presence, our thinking is changed to be consistent with his; his desires and goals become ours.  The more we commune with Christ the more anxious we are to rid ourselves of sin and become holy, like he is.  The more we are connected with him, the more fruit we will bear for the kingdom.

By contrast, it would be impossible for a person to bear fruit if they have separated themselves from Christ.

John 15:6 – “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

This statement confirms the necessity of continuously and steadfastly abiding in Christ. 

Those who are firmly anchored in Christ will produce both internal and external fruits of holiness.  They are unshaken during times turmoil:

Luke 6:48 –He [the one who hears the sayings of Christ and obeys them] is like a man who built a house, and dug deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

By contrast, people who separate themselves from Christ are dead and useless, tossed about by every storm that hits. 

Those who refuse to abide in Christ deprive themselves of the spiritual nourishment that flows from him.  They forfeit the influence and guidance of the Spirit, the direction of the word, the protection and provision of the Father, the pardon of sin and the enjoyment of heaven. 

They fail in the one true purpose of the branch – to bear fruit for the vine. 

As a result of their choice, God will punish them as apostates.  They will be cast out of the presence of God, gathered up as useless withered branches and burned in the fires of hell at the end of the age.

Matthew 13:49-50 – So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

John 15:7 – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Let me begin by saying there have been numerous times in my life when I asked God for something but did not get what I asked for.  My guess is that at one time or another, this has been your experience as well.  Where did we go wrong?

Well first off, we see that this promise is not unlimited – it has stipulations:

Jesus/the Word must abide in you:  The commands and doctrines of Jesus must continually be in our hearts and minds.  Again, this far surpasses mere intellectual knowledge; his word must be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).  It must influence what we think, feel, speak and believe.  As we grow in grace and become more like Christ, our selfish sinful desires are supplanted or superseded by his perfect holy will. 

We must abide in Jesus:  For our part, we must place our faith in Jesus and be steadfastly committed to him which results in obedience to his commands.  We must allow his word and his Spirit to transform us into his image (II Corinthians 3:18).

We must ask:  We ask for things through prayer.  We must pray in faith, in the name of Jesus Christ, with the intent of bringing glory to God.   

1 John 5:14-15 – And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us: and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we desired of him.

Whatever we ask will be done:  When we abide in Jesus and he/his word abides in us, our requests will be in line with the divine will of God.  These requirements keep us from making improper petitions/requests.  Whenever we ask according to his will, we are assured of receiving what we have asked from God.

John 15:8 – “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

By this:  This refers to the words Jesus spoke in the prior verse – if we abide in him and his words abide in us, we can ask for anything and it will be done.  The true meaning would be something like this: ‘In doing whatever you ask, the Father is glorified because your requests are instrumental in bearing much fruit and becoming disciples of Christ. “

As indicated, bearing fruit does two things:

It glorifies God:  When a vine produces strong, vigorous branches which are fully laden with mature fruit, it is an honor to the master gardener.  It reflects all of his planning, work and care. 

In the same way, God is honored when his children are fully anchored in the Son, bearing the fruits of righteousness, holiness and obedience (Romans 6:22).  He is further glorified when we demonstrate his love to the lost by allowing his mighty miracle working power to manifest through us, just as Jesus did when he was on the earth.

It is true proof of our discipleship in Christ:  We know we are disciples when we have a living union with Christ – when his words abide in us, and we abide in him.  Our union with him allows our prayers (which are in Jesus’ name) to be heard of the Father, who is ready to grant all of our requests.  The results of this are that we bear fruit and glorify his name.  These are the marks of a true disciple. 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Once Judas had been removed, Jesus tells the rest of the disciples they are ‘clean’ through the word he had spoken to them.  As we noted earlier, this did not make them perfect.

But it did make them justified in the sight of God, despite all of their faults, sins and imperfections. 

You and I have the same assurance as well.  As long as we continue to be firmly rooted in Christ we will be justified by our faith in him.  As long as we continue to depend upon Holy Spirit to lead/guide us and God to prune us, we will continue to grow spiritually and increase in fruitfulness.

Let me offer you some relief:

When you abide in Christ and he abides in you, you have been grafted into the true, living vine of Christ and you are expected to bear fruit in the kingdom of heaven.  But let me give you some relief – you don’t do that in your own strength. 

Because you abide in Christ, you have access to all the teaching, grace, strength and gifts you will need for every season of your life. 

What season of life are you in right now?  What gifts do you need to do the work God has called you to do?  Would you like to operate in supernatural healing, or words of wisdom and knowledge?  Are you in a position where you could really us the gift of discernment of spirits or supernatural faith? 

The gifts of Holy Spirit are still operating in the earth today.  If you need one, I urge you to go straight to the throne room of God and make your request.  You can ask with confidence knowing that God will grant your request. 

Let me offer you some strength:

Here is something fun to consider.  Scripture tells us the following things:

God has ordained good works for each believer to accomplish on earth (Ephesians 2:10). God grants all the requests that we make to him that are in accordance with his will, which aid us in bearing fruit (John 15:7, I John 5:14-15).  God intends to reward us for the fruit that we bear on earth (I Corinthians 3:8-14)

This means that God set up good works for us, provided us with all we need to accomplish them, and then rewards us for doing them!  How awesome is that – our Father has set us up to win; there is no way we can lose!

With that in mind, let’s joyfully get to work in the kingdom!

John, Chapter 14, Part 4

John 14:21 – “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.  And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Jesus is in the midst of speaking some final words of wisdom to his disciples before his crucifixion.  He has already made the profound point that those who love him will demonstrate that love by obeying his commands (John 14:15, John 21:15-17, etc).

This infers that a person must have knowledge of his commands in order to practice them.  If you have been a Christian for a long time, or if you were raised in church, this seems like an obvious principle.  But our nation now has entire generations of people who have no religious background at all.  They never attended Sunday school or church; they have no systematic biblical teaching.   

If you are a Christian who fits this category, be sure you are making an effort to read and study the bible, both Old and New Testaments so that you become familiar with the commands of God.  And all of us (regardless of your level of bible knowledge), must be diligent and faithful in our obedience to the commands we know.  

Jesus goes on to say that those who love him are loved by Father God.  This makes perfect sense, as we have already noted that Jesus and the Father are one in essence and purpose (John 10:30).  Therefore, God loves those who love his Son, the one he appointed as Mediator and Redeemer for mankind.

Furthermore, the one who loves Jesus is not only loved by Father God, Jesus loves him/her too and promises to manifest himself to that person.

To manifest means to make something clear, apparent or evident; to make it obvious to the understanding; to make it evident to the senses, especially sight.

So Jesus is promising to make himself clear, apparent and obvious to those that love him.  The manner in which he does this will be discussed in verses 23-24.

John 14:22 – Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Judah was one of the twelve sons of the Jewish patriarch Jacob.  Eventually, each son became a tribe of Israel and the Jews often named their sons after one of these early forefathers.  Hence, Judah or Judas was a very common name among the Jews. 

There were two men named Judas among Christ’s 12 disciples.  Obviously, we are familiar with the traitor, Judas Iscariot.  But the man who asks this question of Jesus is the other Judas – the son of Alpheus and brother of James (Luke 6:16), also called Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3).  He is the writer of the New Testament book of Jude.

How should we interpret the question of Judas?  There are two scenarios to choose from.   

  • On theory is that Judas still expected Jesus to overthrow the Romans, set up a temporal kingdom on earth and bring Israel into a new golden age of prosperity and power.  By default, this kingdom would be conspicuous to the entire world.  For this reason, he can’t comprehend how Jesus could manifest himself to them, but not the world.
  • A second theory is that Judas understood Jesus was referring to a spiritual manifestation and he was humbled and awed by it.  He cannot understand why the twelve should receive a special manifestation of God’s love, which the rest of the world will not enjoy.  He appears to have a desire for everyone to be a partaker of the same grace as they are receiving.

John 14:23 – Jesus answered 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 home with him.”

In response to this question, Jesus goes on to say yet again that anyone who loves him will demonstrate it by obedience to his commands.  [FYI, this is the third time he said this.  I think it is important.]

‘Anyone’ is defined as, well, anyone – the disciples, plus all those who believe on Christ through their word, or the word of their successors.  Obviously, this includes you and me.    

Jesus also reiterates yet again that those who love him will also be loved by Father God; consequently, every Christian (including you) can continuously expect favor, grace, comfort and fresh additional gifts from the Father.  As children of God, they will be supported, defended and preserved by their Father. 

Jesus further promises that he and the Father will make their home within each Christian.  They take up residence in the believer’s heart, making them a temple – a fit dwelling place for God:

1 Corinthians – 3:16 Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?    

‘Home’ (your translation may say ‘abode’) is a key word in this verse.  It is a figurative expression which shows that the presence of the Father, Son and Spirit is not temporary but permanent.  They are not just visiting the believer, they have moved in and plan to eternally dwell within him/her.  This means the followers of Christ have the privilege of enjoying the Trinity’s presence continually.

Thus, Jesus will manifest himself to those that believe in him.   

John 14:24 – “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.  And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

However, there will be those who reject the offer of salvation made by Jesus.  Regardless of what these unbelievers claim, their actions prove that they do not love him.

He who does not love Jesus and does not keep his commands has rejected the love of God which is revealed in the Son.  He has rejected Christ as his mediator, which is the only way he can reach Father God (John 14:6). 

Thus, he himself has closed the channel of communion with God.  God cannot dwell with him because there is nothing in him that can receive the Divine Presence.  It then follows that this person will have no relationship with the Father, Son or Spirit and thus Jesus cannot manifest himself to them.

That is how Jesus will manifest himself to his followers, but not to the world.  

We can’t help but notice that the decision to accept or reject Jesus (and consequently the Father and Spirit) is made by each individual person.  It has not been predetermined by God.  Holy Spirit constantly calls the lost to salvation, but they can choose to reject or accept that offer.

John 14:25-26 – “These things I have spoken to you while I am still 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 have said to you.”  

Jesus has given the disciples a tremendous amount of information in a very short span of time, and some of the concepts he discussed are spiritually deep/complex.  Even on a good day, there is no way that the disciples could understand and remember it all.  Due to the turmoil of Jesus’ impending humiliation and death, they probably retained even less than they normally would. 

But that’s okay, because unbeknownst to them, Jesus was actually planting seeds of comfort and truth within their hearts.

When a farmer plants a seed in the natural realm, it takes some time, some warmth and some water for that seed to sprout, grow and eventually produce a harvest.  The seeds of comfort and knowledge that Jesus planted in the disciples that day would remain mostly dormant until Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost to water that word and cause it to germinate in the understanding of the disciples.

As mentioned in this passage, Holy Spirit is specifically responsible for doing two things:

Holy Spirit brings to remembrance all that Jesus said to the disciples.  Even though they don’t realize it yet, it is the task of the disciples (apostles) to organize the church and compose about half of the New Testament scriptures.  They have a real need to remember what Jesus said to them!    

Over the course of three years together, Jesus imparted a lot of knowledge and doctrine to the disciples.  It is only natural that they would forget some of the things he said.  We forget things all the time, especially as we get older!  

But Holy Spirit will step in and remind the disciples of what Jesus said.  The Spirit did this by making use of their memories; he assisted them in recalling what they had forgotten, so that these concepts became firm, distinct, factual memories.  Because of the assistance of Holy Spirit, the disciples had all they needed to perform their task of laying the foundations of the church.

Holy Spirit teaches the disciples the true meaning of the things Jesus spoke to them.  Hearing was only one-half of the equation for the disciples.  They also needed to understand what they heard.  Scripture shows that they had an incomplete revelation of many doctrines, until Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and explained/interpreted the truth to them.    

For instance, Jesus (and the Old Testament scriptures) had told the disciples many times that Messiah must suffer and die, yet they were surprised and upset when that happened (Luke 24:21-27). 

However, Holy Spirit revealed the true purpose of Christ’s death to the disciples.  At that point, everything made sense to them (see Acts 2:22-33), and they preached Christ crucified from that point forward.    

Another example concerns Gentiles coming to faith in Christ.  Jesus (and the Old Testament scriptures) made numerous references to the Gentiles being accepted into the family of God (Matthew 12:19-21, John 10:16, Isaiah 42:6, etc).  However, the Jews could not wrap their minds around that concept until Holy Spirit enlightened their understanding (Acts chapter 2).

Acts 10:34-35 – Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:  But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.  

So, even though Jesus is departing from the disciples, they are not alone. As promised, Father God is sending them another teacher who will review the lessons they already heard and teach them things which they could not formerly understand.

Here is some good news – We are not alone either.  Holy Spirit is still in the world today and he is still assisting Christians in remembering, interpreting and understanding the words of Christ. 

For our part, we should be diligent to read and study the scriptures.  This will put something into our hearts and memory banks for Holy Spirit to work with.  Remember, Holy Spirit did not magically impart unknown truths to the disciples, and he won’t for us either.  You have to do your part by reading the word.

John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

‘Peace I leave with you’ was an invocation of blessing that the Jews commonly spoke to each other when parting ways.  It can be understood as a desire for prosperity in body and soul; to enjoy earthly and heavenly good.  While it was a nice thought, the vast majority of times it was nothing more than an empty ritual salutation. 

But when spoken by the Son of God, it takes on true meaning.  Jesus actually had the power to make peace and confer it upon people (Ephesians 2:15). 

Isaiah 9:6 – For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

In this case, it particularly refers to the comfort/consolation he gave to his disciples in view of his upcoming death.  He exhorted them not to be troubled (John 14:1), and then he went on to give them many reasons why:

  • He was preparing a place for them. 
  • He was going to return and gather them to himself. 
  • In the meantime, Holy Ghost was coming to comfort, teach and guide them. 
  • They were going to do greater works than he did. 
  • He would do whatever they asked in his name, etc.

But this peace was not just for the disciples.  It is given to all believers in Christ, including you and me.

This type of peace can only be imparted by the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, Romans 8:6, Philippians 4:7, Colossians 3:15, etc). 

  • It meets all the desires of the soul and silences the alarm of our guilty conscience. 
  • It remains fixed and unchanged in a world of ever evolving standards. 
  • It abides with us forever, silencing all anxiety and care. 
  • It even stays with us in the hour of our death. 
  • This kind of peace is priceless gift only available through Christ Jesus our Lord.

The ‘peace’ of this world has nothing in common with the peace of Jesus.  At best, it is merely a temporary exemption from outward trouble, which can end at any time.

The people of this world may wish you peace, but the words are empty and meaningless, because they have no true peace to give.  They cannot reconcile you to God; they cannot deliver relief to a sinful, guilty heart.   

The world tries to find peace in pleasure, fame or wealth but pursuit of these things can actually leave you even more anxious and remorseful.  If you ever attain them, you must constantly worry about losing them. 

Romans 8:31 – What shall we then say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

In short, believers do not need to live in fear of pain, persecution or trials.  We have a faithful friend and Savior who will never leave nor forsake us.  His peace is with us at all times.  If he is for us, who can be against us?

John 14:28 – “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’  If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

‘Going away’ clearly refers to Jesus’ imminent death on the cross and ‘I will come to you’ makes reference to his resurrection on the third day. 

If the disciples had a proper love for Jesus and truly understood what was happening, they would have been excited about the completion/fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan which required Jesus to return to heaven after his atonement and take up his rightful position as our mediator/intercessor.  Only then could Father God shower them with greater blessings brought by Holy Spirit. 

Also, because true love seeks another’s good and not its own, they should rejoice that Jesus was returning to the glory that was his before the world began.  

But obviously they were not rejoicing, which indicates they did not fully understand the plan.  They loved Jesus but that love was influenced by their carnal natures and the Jewish beliefs/prejudices they still held.  The ‘if you loved me’ statement of Jesus is a mild reproof towards the disciples, who were slow to believe the clear/plain declarations of Jesus.  

Jesus also declares that the disciples should rejoice because he goes to the Father, who is greater than he is.  This raises a difficult question:  If Jesus and the Father are one in essence and power, how can the Father be greater than Jesus?

Many understand it this way: 

When Jesus says the Father is greater, he speaks of his human state:    

The Father sent Jesus into the world as the mediator/redeemer of mankind (I John 4:14, John 5:23, John 5:30 & 36, etc).  Because the one who sends someone (the master) is always greater than the one who was sent (the servant), the Father is said to be greater than Jesus. 

In order to redeem us, Jesus had to lay aside his heavenly glory and come to earth in a body of human flesh, which was created by God like all other human bodies.  Since a created creature is always inferior to the Being that made him, the Father is greater than Jesus as long as he was incarnated in the flesh (also referred to as his humiliation).

When Jesus says he and the Father are one, he speaks of his divine nature:

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal, unified members of the Trinity, who have accepted/agreed to take on certain roles in the redemption of mankind.  They are still equal in essence and power, regardless of what role they assume.

 John 14:29 – “And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”

As we mentioned, the disciples were hearing a vast amount of information which they did not fully comprehend at the time.  So Jesus gives them sure and certain sign which they can place their faith in.

He has divinely predicted/foretold what was about to happen, so that his death would not be a stumbling block to their faith.  When these events (his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to heaven) came to pass, it would confirm his message.  It proved that he was the Messiah he claimed to be.  

It also proved that the disciples were indeed going to receive Holy Spirit who would stand with them forever, assisting them in their Christian journey.  They could also confidently believe everything Jesus had said to them over the last three years.

John 14:30-31 – “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.  He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me so that the world may know that I love the Father.  Rise, let us go from here.”

Jesus’ time with the disciples was indeed coming to a very fast close; he was going to be crucified the very next day.  At that very moment, the ruler of this world (Satan) was inciting/provoking/spurring on his emissaries (Judas Iscariot, Pilate, the Jews) to kill Jesus, which they successfully did. 

However, Jesus does not undergo the punishment of death because he deserves it; he has no guilt, sin or inward corruption.  His arrest and death are entirely voluntary.  He accepts the sin of the world and takes it to the cross for many reasons, one of which is to demonstrate how much he loves the Father.  

Notice that Jesus shows his love of the Father by being obedient to his commands, just as he expects us to demonstrate our love through obedience to him. 

And in obedience to that command, Jesus says ‘Rise, let us go from here’.  In other words, Jesus is saying ‘let us conform to the divine will and go to the place where I will be betrayed, so that I can complete my mission’.   

It is possible that they immediately ended the Passover celebration by singing a hymn (Matthew 26:30) and then left for the Mount of Olives.  If so, that would indicate the discourses in chapters 15-16 and the prayer of chapter 17 took place while on the road.

However, it is also possible that they remained in the same room until the events of chapter 18.  Either way, Jesus has many more final words to speak to his disciples, which we will examine in the weeks to come.  

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In today’s study we noted that Jesus gave the disciples an enormous amount of teaching/information in a very short time.  There is no way they could understand and retain all of it.  Their brains were probably on overload!  But there was no need for them to worry.  Holy Spirit was about to enter their lives and one of his functions was to teach them the true meaning of the words of Jesus.

I don’t know about you, but there are passages in the bible that I still do not understand, even after years of studying the scriptures.  The good news is that Holy Spirit is still actively revealing truth to Christians today.  He alone is uniquely equipped to understand the mind of God (I Corinthians 2:10-12).  We can seek him in prayer and receive revelation about the things we do not understand.

Let me offer you some relief:

It sometimes seems as if the world is going crazy!  We find more and more instances where evil is called good, and good is classified as evil.  This can be very troubling and upsetting. 

But let me offer you some relief – Jesus gives us peace that passes all understanding:

Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Satan would like nothing more than for us to live our lives in constant anxiety and fear.  But we don’t have to accept that from him.  Jesus has the power to confer peace upon those who trust in him. 

When the enemy attacks, fight back by quoting scriptures and praising Jesus.  The enemy will flee from you, taking his anxiety and fear with him!

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus promised to manifest (make himself seen/known) to those who love him.  He further promised that he and the Father would intimately commune with every believer and the Father would pour out blessings including favor, grace, comfort, provision, etc. 

So if/when you get weary walking the path of this life, stop and spend some time with Father God.  Ask him to pour out his blessings on your life and give you the strength to live the victorious Christian life that he has already planned for you to have!

 

John, Chapter 14,Part 3

John 14:13 – “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

Welcome back, readers! I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas holiday.

In last week’s post we examined the statement of Jesus that his followers would perform ‘greater works’ then he did.  As we studied this verse, we concluded that he was referring to expanding the kingdom of heaven by bringing lost souls to Christ.

That particular promise was given to the apostles to help comfort them because their hearts were heavy with thoughts of losing the bodily presence of Jesus. 

Here in verse 13, Jesus provides yet another statement/guarantee of victory and comfort to the eleven – whatever help they previously obtained by the fleshly presence of Jesus on earth, they will now obtain by their prayers. 

Specifically, Jesus says that he will do whatever we ask in his name.  How are we to understand this statement?  Is it a ‘blank check’ that we can use for the things of this world, like a new car, a luxury boat or a mansion?

I suspect that over the years there have been Christians and Christian leaders who interpreted the verse in this manner.  While it is true that Jesus wants his children to be blessed, he has not guaranteed any of us unlimited access to the things of this world for our own pleasure.

As always, we must interpret the statement of Jesus in the context of the larger passage, which again, is speaking of expanding the kingdom of heaven and bringing lost sinners to repentance/salvation.  Let’s take a closer look at the promise.

First of all, we can’t help but notice that the promise contains a qualification: we must pray in Christ’s name.  In other words, we must pray in obedience to God’s commands, for things in accordance with his will and with the intent to glorify him before men.  This was the exact way that Jesus lived his life, and we can be sure that all of his prayers were answered!

When we pray in the name of Jesus, it isn’t simply ending the prayer with the words, ‘in Jesus’ name, amen’. 

It means that we pray with the understanding/acknowledgement that with his own blood Jesus has purchased our right (privilege is probably a better word) to approach the throne of God with our requests.  This idea is supported by the writer of Hebrews:

Hebrews 4:14, 16 – Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Without Jesus as our high priest, making atonement for our sin, we would instantly die if we ever came into the presence of God.  So praying in his name is a way of humbling ourselves while honoring/acknowledging him for reconnecting us with the Father.

Secondly, praying in the name of Jesus implies that we pray in his strength, with his authority and by the assistance of Holy Spirit.  Just before Jesus sends his disciples out to spread the gospel message, he assures them that all power in heaven and earth has been given to him:

Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  

This means that whatever we ask for on earth, Jesus obtains for us in heaven.  Notice that Jesus does not say ‘the Father will do’ what we ask, but that he himself, by his own power and authority, through his Spirit, will honor/answer the requests we make of him.

Finally, praying in Jesus’ name is actually asking that our prayers NOT be answered unless they are in accordance with the divine will.  Jesus gives us a good example of this when he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Matthew 26:39 – And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.

Jesus is praying/asking that he be spared from having the sin of the world heaped upon him.  But he is also praying for his Father’s will to be done.  And as we know, he accepted the burden of that sin.  As we pray in Jesus’ name, we are doing the same thing – asking that our petitions be rejected if they are not in accordance with God’s will.

We can conclude that praying in the name of Jesus gives all his followers (the disciples, you and I, and the church collectively) the assurance that when we pray, he hears us and provides whatever is in accordance with his will especially regarding the salvation of people. 

One additional comment should be made here.  While it is not specifically emphasized in this text, faith also plays a significant role in answered prayer (Matthew 21:21).  We won’t study this specifically because it is not in the text, but readers are invited to look at past posts on the gospel of Matthew, chapters 17 and 21.

John 14:14 – “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Jesus repeats the promise once again, to emphasize his point.  If Jesus says something once, we can rely on it; if he repeats himself we had better take note of the truth of his statement!

Essentially, anything that is needed by individual believers or the church collectively in the fight to expand the kingdom of heaven and bring the lost to Christ will be granted by Jesus.

John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

There can be no doubt that the disciples love Jesus and they are greatly troubled at the prospect of being without him in bodily form.  I am sure they expressed this sorrow verbally, just as we would have.   

Jesus responds to their words with some amazing wisdom.  He says that love should be demonstrated by action, not by mere words alone, because mere profession is not proof of love.

Our love for Christ should be demonstrated by taking up our cross and following him, by loving one another, by denying our flesh and by obeying his commands.  This is true evidence that we love him.

In fact, love and obedience go hand-in-hand.  If we obey without love for God, then our service is nothing more than drudgery and slavery.  On the other hand, if we claim to love without obeying, then we are merely pretending; our love is nothing more than empty lip service. 

We recognize this to be true in our everyday lives.  For example, if a person constantly states that they want to lose weight, but they never change their eating habits, or increase their level of activity, we would conclude that they don’t really want to lose weight.  They like the idea of it, but they are not committed to making it happen. 

Or, we might find a person who says they don’t care about money, but they hoard the money they have and sacrifice time with family in order to work/earn even more.  Essentially in these cases the words that are spoken are meaningless because the actions of the person don’t back them up.

The old adage holds true: Actions speak louder than words. 

So the best and surest evidence we can have of our love for our Lord Jesus is a humble, cheerful and persistent obedience to all that he commands us through his word and by his Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 5:8-10).  This is confirmed by the statement of Jesus after he rose from the dead and appeared to the apostles: 

John 21:16 – He [Jesus] said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He said unto him, Feed my sheep. 

Notice that in this passage Jesus again equates obedience to his commands (go into all the world and spread the gospel) with love for him. 

This should give each one of us pause.  What has God called us to do?  Are we actively and purposefully involved in doing it to the best of our ability?  Do we seek the council of Holy Spirit in how to accomplish the tasks set before us? 

If obedience is the measure of our love for Christ, can we prove that we love him?

John 14:16 – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”

The promise of another Helper/Comforter is the greatest promise in the New Testament, just as the Messiah was the greatest promise under the Old Testament.  The Helper – Holy Spirit – was given to aid every single New Testament believer in his/her walk of faith.

‘I will ask the Father’ – This reflects the intercessory role of Jesus in our lives.  We know that he went back to the Father and that from that position he intercedes for us constantly (Romans 8:34).  When Jesus declares that he will ‘ask the Father’ (pray), it does NOT – I repeat, it does NOT – indicate that Father God is unwilling to send the gift of the Spirit upon us, or that he must be convinced to do it contrary to his will. 

Let me say it one more time:  Jesus prays for the Father to give us the Spirit, but NOT because the Father is unwilling to do so.  This situation merely reflects that the gift of the Spirit is a benefit obtained by the mediation of Christ; it was purchased by his blood and it is given through his intercession.  It is God’s will for you to have this gift.  If you ask for it in Jesus’ name, you can be certain of receiving it.

Luke 11:13 – If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

‘He will give you another helper’ – Ever since Jesus called the twelve to himself, he has been their counselor, friend, teacher and guide.  He has comforted and upheld them in difficult times.  But it was never the plan for him to remain on earth forever.  If Jesus remained in bodily form on earth, it would be physically impossible for him to fulfill this role for every believer around the globe.  Obviously, God already knew this, so he planned to send another helper to assist his followers.  

This helper is none other than Holy Spirit, the most precious gift God has given us next to our salvation.  The first point we want to make here is that Holy Spirit is a divine person, not a divine ‘quality’ or ‘power’.  He is a member of the Godhead, equal to the Father and Son in every way. 

Because he is a person, we can personally know him, just as we know Jesus.  He lives within our hearts and seals us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30, II Corinthians 1:22).  He is here on earth to empower, assist, lead and guide every single Christian in their earthly walk.  He comforts us, teaches us, gives us boldness and sustains us until we leave this planet.  Because he is a Spirit, he is available to assist and dwell in every single believer around the globe.

And truthfully, unless God sent a divine agent into the world to help us, the message and work of salvation would have perished long ago because the work cannot be completed in our own strength. 

In this we also see the unity (yet distinctness) in the Trinity:  Father God commissioned and sent the Son, the Son made atonement for sin and continues in the role of intercession while the Spirit applies the work/message of salvation to the hearts and minds of mankind.   

‘To be with you forever’ – The blessing of Holy Spirit is stable and permanent.  He is our constant companion and guide.  Whether we walk through temptation, victory, affliction or blessing he is right there offering us comfort and guidance until death releases us from this life. 

John 14:17 – “…even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

‘The Spirit of truth’ – Why is Holy Spirit referred to as the Spirit of truth? 

First of all, he is indeed a spirit, not flesh and blood like Jesus was during his incarnation.  Holy Spirit will do his work in a spiritual way/manner working on men’s hearts, minds and spirits in an inward and invisible way.

Holy Spirit is the one who will enlighten the minds of believers with knowledge of the truth.  The understanding of the Gentiles was darkened by their idolatries.  The understanding of the Jews was darkened by their traditions.  In both cases, Holy Spirit is present to reveal the truth and depth of the gospel to all those who trust in Christ.

In addition, Holy Spirit was the one who would keep the apostles from teaching erroneous doctrines regarding the gospel message.  He would call the teachings of Jesus to their remembrance, and give them a clear understanding of what those doctrines meant and how they should be interpreted.  Thus, the message the apostles communicated to others was always true, whether it was delivered by teaching, preaching or writing.  This is one of the reasons we can have confidence in the written word of God (II Peter 1:21).

‘Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him’ – The disciples (all believers) are members of the kingdom/family of God.  As such, they can receive Holy Spirit into their hearts/lives, because, as we have already noted, the gift of Holy Spirit was purchased by the blood of Christ and it is given to us by his intercession.

On the other hand, ‘world’ refers to all those who are not Christians.  They are members of the kingdom of darkness and Satan is their father.  He is the father of lies:

John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Unbelievers literally cannot receive Holy Spirit because the spirit of this world and the Spirit of God are contrary to one another.  

1 Corinthians 2:12 – Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.   

Because they are members of the kingdom of this world, they can only understand and perceive the things of this world, which are known to them through the senses of the flesh (seeing, hearing, etc).  They lack spiritual perception (seeing/hearing).  Since spiritual things are foolishness to them, they cannot understand or receive them (I Corinthians 2:14) and the devil works hard to keep it that way.  He wants to keep them blinded to the truth of the gospel.

The good news is that those who are willing to listen to the words of life (the gospel) can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, where they too can receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, just like you and I.  In fact, it is through the influence/conviction of Holy Spirit that sinners turn to Christ for forgiveness.  

We ‘know him for he dwells with you/in you’ – Holy Spirit dwells in the life of every believer; he is the seal of our redemption (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30).  We value him and welcome him into our lives; we are involved in an intimate relationship with him, which will never end.  He is a true gift that consoles, sustains and empowers us while we are absent from Christ our Redeemer.

John 14:18 – “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

At the beginning of his discourse with the eleven, Jesus referred to them as his children (John 13:33).  In the natural realm, children who have lost their father are known as orphans.  They lose all of the support a father normally gives – financial support, physical provision and protection, emotional support, guidance in growing up, etc.  They lose the comfort and stability of knowing that their dad is always there to help and guide them through life.  They are exposed to dangers such as injustice and fraud; many will look to mistreat and abuse them.

Spiritually speaking, the disciples were going to be orphans in a matter of hours and they were worried about it. 

But Jesus reassures his followers that although they would be without him for a very short time, it was a temporary situation.  He will come to them again on the day of Pentecost in the person of Holy Spirit (Acts chapter 1).

John 14:19 – “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live.”

Jesus tells the disciples that once he has disappeared from the view of the world, they would still see him. 

This was true in a literal sense.  Jesus never appeared to the Jewish nation as a whole after his resurrection.  To them, the grave was the closing argument in the case for Christ.  Because they saw him no more, they considered him dead.

However, his own followers saw him many times.  Mary Magdalene saw him first (Mark 16:9), and subsequently he appeared to the disciples and others on various occasions before his ascension to heaven (Mark 16:14, John 20:25-28, etc). 

More importantly, the statement of Jesus was also true in a spiritual sense.  The next time the world will see Jesus is on the coming Day of Judgment at the end of this age.  Until then, they know nothing of him because they are spiritually blind.

However, Christians of all times/ages will continue to ‘see’ Christ with their eyes of faith until the very day they die.  Each of us can continue to experience his power, might, guidance, etc through the working of Holy Spirit. 

Jesus now repeats a message he demonstrated earlier, at the time of the resurrection of Lazarus:  Because he lives, we also will live. 

Jesus is the first fruits of those who will rise from the dead.  His own resurrection is proof/surety that we too will one day rise from the grave and ascend to heaven to spend eternity with the Father, just as Jesus did. 

Romans 8:11 – But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also bring to life your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.

But his promise includes much more than just physical resurrection.  It is an assurance of eternal life.  The God-head (Trinity) is the source of all divine spiritual life.  The true, divine life of Jesus was completely unaffected by the physical death he experienced.  Death can kill the body, but not the spirit.  In the same way, those who believe in Jesus will be spiritually unchanged by undergoing physical death.  We will pass directly from physical death to the presence of God.    

John 14:20 – “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

What does ‘that day’ refers to? 

Some scholars believe Jesus speaks of the day of his resurrection.  Certainly, some of the questions the disciples had were answered on that day, but there is no clear evidence to suggest that they fully understood the spiritual relationship between Father God and his Son, or the Son and themselves.  The disciples remained essentially unchanged after the resurrection – they were weak, afraid and unsure of themselves (John 20:19).     

Others feel ‘that day’ refers to the Day of Pentecost, the time when the disciples would receive the gift of Holy Spirit.  After Holy Spirit came upon them they were transformed.  They became bold, fearless and unstoppable. 

Holy Spirit illuminated their minds (John 14:26), allowing them to fully understand the Old Testament scriptures which told of the death, resurrection and mission of the Messiah.  The gospel doctrines which they had heard from Jesus became crystal clear to them; they were able to preach with boldness and thousands came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

The Spirit continued to move and work in their lives, assisting them in writing the entire New Testament, which will use today (II Peter 1:21).

It seems clear that the Spirit assisted the disciples in understanding/realizing two things:   

First, they fully understood that Jesus is in the Father.  In other words, Jesus and the Father are completely united (John 10:30).  They are one in essence and one in purpose; they are in complete agreement with each other. 

Second, the disciples understood that Christ has not forsaken them.  He proved it by his resurrection, by appearing to them over a span of 40 days, by going to heaven to prepare and place for them and by giving them the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, who empowered them for successful ministry.

They knew beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus was present with them, cooperating with them and empowering them through his Spirit.  They must have possessed the clearest conviction that Christ had not abandoned them, but that he was dwelling in them, just as they were dwelling in him.

Not long ago the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father, but soon (on that day) that would not be necessary.  Holy Spirit would quicken their hearts and they would understand that they were in Christ, who was in the Father; therefore they were communing with (and seeing) Father God through Christ.  Holy Spirit would bear witness with their own spirits that they were the children of God (Romans 8:16).

Let me offer you some encouragement:

As we noted in today’s post, Jesus promises to do anything we ask in his name.  Some Christians have misinterpreted this promise to mean that they can ask for everything this world has to offer, and Jesus must give it to them.  But that is not what Jesus meant. 

While it is true that God is well known for generously blessing his children, he prefers gives us something far better than the temporary riches of this world, which tend to corrupt us.

Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:    

The blessings that are guaranteed to us are eternal/lasting and perfect.  They draw us closer to God, rather than separating us from him.  These blessings include true riches such as pardon, peace, adoption by God (and thus all the riches of his kingdom), joy, eternal life, gifts of the Spirit, treasure in heaven and much, much more.

Having said that, it is also true that in order to further the kingdom of God on earth Christians are going to need access to earthly money – and lots of it.  So if you need earthly finances to accomplish the heavenly tasks God has assigned to you, I strongly encourage you to ask for them.  I encourage you to seek Jesus first, before begging the public for money.  You can be assured he will direct you in the best manner to receive what you need.   

Let me offer you some relief:

You may have been taught that Holy Spirit no longer gives supernatural gifts to believers in this age.  (What a frightening thought!)  If so, let me give you some relief – despite what some denominations may teach, Holy Spirit is still very active in the lives of believers today! 

Look around and you will see people operating in these gifts, using them to expand the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  I assure you, Holy Spirit wants to give you supernatural gifts as well.  Why not ask him for one? Why not receive all the assistance God has provided for you in this life?  Wouldn’t it be a relief to know that you can depend on Holy Spirit to assist you in spreading the gospel?

Let me offer you some strength:

Holy Spirit is the one who convicts the heart of a sinner who hears the message of the gospel.  Without his work on the sinner’s inward heart/mind, they will remain in darkness never perceiving the freedom from sin they can have in Christ.  His work is needed in the world now, more than ever.

But he can’t do his part until you and I open our mouths and share the gospel. 

Sharing the gospel in a violent, mixed up world can seem like a daunting task.  But let me offer you some strength – you are not alone!  Holy Spirit is ready to work with you, giving you supernatural boldness and making you fearless just as he did for the twelve.  He has never stopped partnering with believers since he came to earth on the Day of Pentecost.  He is standing by right now, full of gifts and resources, ready to work with you. 

Why not partner with Holy Spirit in the coming new year?

 

John, Chapter 14, Part 2

John 14:7 – “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus is in the middle of a discourse with his disciples about where he is going (heaven) and how they can eventually be where he is.  He has plainly told them that he is the way, the truth and the life; the way to Father God is through faith/belief in him.

If you had known me:  They key word in this phrase is ‘know’.  It means to have a full and accurate knowledge of something. 

While the disciples believed that Jesus was the Messiah, they were still clinging to the traditional Jewish notions of who the Messiah was, what he was going to do, and when he was going to do it.  Most unfortunately, Jewish tradition did not contain a fully accurate depiction of the Messiah and his work.

But if they could look past their own traditions, they would see the true character and designs of Jesus.  He exhibited goodness, justice, mercy and wisdom through his doctrine and miracles.  He lived a holy, sinless life.  He came to fulfill the law, which required a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people. 

You would have known the Father also:  These attributes of Jesus are not unique to him; he is an exact representation of Father God (John 10:30).  This means that God can also accurately be described as good, merciful, wise, holy and full of justice.  Although God is invisible to the human eye, the disciples can know (have an accurate knowledge of) him because they know Jesus. 

Part of a full and accurate understanding of Jesus and the Father included the knowledge that only blood can atone for sin:

Leviticus 17:11 – For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul.   

Jesus had told the eleven numerous times that he was going to die.  This was his ultimate plan and purpose; it was the reason God sent him into the world.  If the disciples had an accurate understanding of God, they would have seen that this was the best and wisest course of action because there was no other way for man to be reconciled to God.

From now on you do know him and have seen him:  The hour had come for the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Only then would the disciples have a full understanding of the plans and counsels of God, because they would see them manifested in the life of Jesus. 

John 14:8 – Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Philip hears the word ‘seen’ and immediately thinks of some visible revelation of the glory of God.  Perhaps he was thinking of the events that transpired on the Mount of Transfiguration witnessed by Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1-6).  Or he may have been thinking of the time when God partially revealed his glory to Moses (Exodus 33:18-23). 

In any case, Philip seems to think that if some such manifestation would be made to the disciples, it would be sufficient to remove all of their doubts and satisfy their minds.

But Philip is still overlooking the fact that the Son is a perfect manifestation/revelation of the Father.  Since he is the Messiah, his word ought to be enough to convince them on this point.  Any remaining doubts should have been banished long ago by the miracles and teaching of Jesus. 

John 14:9 – Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

Jesus rebukes Philip for not having eyes of faith.

At this point, Jesus has been with the disciples more than three years.  During their time together he healed the sick, cast out devils, confounded the logic of his enemies, supernaturally multiplied food, walked on water and even raised the dead.  No one could have done these great works if they had not come from God. 

During these years the disciples had ample opportunity to see his character and understand his mission from God.  After so many proofs of his divine mission, it was completely unnecessary for God to visibly manifest himself to them.  They could easily know the Father (have a full and accurate knowledge of his plans, purposes and character) because they had seen the works of Christ (Colossians 1:12-15).

John 14:10 – 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 authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”

Notice the way Jesus describes his relationship with the Father:  He is in the Father and the Father is in him.   

This is not the kind of union that could exist between a mere man and God.  If Jesus had been nothing more than an ordinary prophet, he would have said ‘the Father who sent or commissioned me’ does these works.  Instead, he describes God as dwelling/abiding within him. This denotes an intimate union and agreement; the Son and the Father are essentially one.  Therefore, the works which Jesus did might be said to have been done by the Father (John 5:17-27). 

Because the Father and Son are in complete agreement, the Son does not speak on his own authority.  He speaks only what the Father tells him (John 8:38).  All the words of Christ, uttered throughout his entire time on earth, were a collective revelation of the Father, who Philip was asking to see. 

John 14:11 – “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”

 It is imperative that the disciples believe in the unity between Jesus and the Father.  There are two grounds or foundations on which the disciples may believe. 

First, they could believe because of the testimony of Jesus.  This is the preferred foundation for belief.  Remember, Jesus is the fountain head of truth.  When he tells us something, we should believe it simply because he said it.  (This applies not only to this particular circumstance, but to ALL the words of Jesus.)  Therefore, if Jesus says he and the Father are one, then by faith we should believe they are. 

Secondly, the disciples could believe based on the works Jesus performed. Let’s ask ourselves a question about the works/miracles of Jesus:  How are they different from miracles performed through ordinary men? 

For example, in II Kings 4:18-37 the prophet Elijah raised the Shunammite woman’s son from the dead.  Was that different than Jesus raising the widow of Nain’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-15)?  If so, how was it different?

The difference is that ordinary men like Elijah could not raise the dead in their own name or by their own power.  When Elijah raised the child to life, he did it by praying to God; it was the power of God that responded and granted his request (II Kings 4:33).  Elijah was nothing more than a tool that God used to perform the miraculous.  We might say that he was a conduit for the power and blessing of God.  Likewise, the myriad of miracles performed by the apostles after the day of Pentecost ALWAYS occurred in the name of Jesus Christ, and by his power:

Acts 4:10 – Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole.

The disciples readily admitted that they had no power within themselves.  Like Elijah, they were simply tools or conduits for the mercy and power of God:

Acts 3:12, 16 – And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, You men of Israel, why marvel you at this?  Or why look you so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?  … faith in his name [Jesus] has made this man strong… and given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

But Jesus was different.  He is not just a conduit for God’s power; he and the Father are one (John 10:30).  Therefore, when Jesus works a miracle it is not just by the power of God but by his own power and virtue as well.  Scripture confirms that the fullness and power of the Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit) dwelt in the body of Jesus:

Colossians 2:9 – For in him [Jesus] dwells all the fullness of the Deity bodily.

So, the miracles themselves were clear evidence that Jesus and the Father were one.   This includes the greatest miracle of all time – the redemption of mankind. 

John 14:12 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

Hmmm… what do you make of this verse? 

Is this a promise that we should take at face value?  If so, is it true in our own lives?  If not, why not? 

If this is not a verse that we should take at face value, then how should we interpret it? 

The first step is to clarify what Jesus meant by ‘works’.  Scholars offer two possible answers.  One, ‘works’ refers to miracles.  Two, ‘works’ refers to achievements related to establishing the kingdom of God and bringing souls to repentance/salvation.

The second step is to clarify what Jesus meant by ‘greater’.  Does ‘greater’ refer to the quantity of the works, or the scope/power/quality of the works?

The third step is to clarify what Jesus meant by ‘whoever’.  Is he speaking only of the disciples, or is he also referring to you and me?  Or is he referring to the church, as opposed to an individual believer?   

 All of a sudden, this verse is looking rather complicated, isn’t it?

Let’s consider the first interpretation – works refers to miracles.  We know at least some of the miracles that Jesus performed. He healed the lame, restored sight to the blind, cured diseases, cast out demons, multiplied food, made nature (the wind and sea) obey him, confounded his enemies and raised the dead.

If we assume this is the correct interpretation of the verse then we should be able to show that someone (either the disciples or us or the church collectively) have done greater miracles.  Is that what we find?

John tells us that if the miracles of Jesus were all written down in books, they would fill the whole earth (John 21:25)!  So we can’t be sure that the disciples performed a greater quantity of miracles than Jesus did.  Neither can we say that they performed miracles greater in scope/quality/power than Christ.  The greatest miracle is to raise a person from the dead.  Since Jesus and the disciples both did this, their miracles are equal in scope and power.    

If we believe that Jesus is speaking to you and me, the answer to the question (for most of us) is easily answered – NO.  We have not done more miracles than Jesus did; in fact most of us have never had God use us to perform even one miracle, much less raise the dead. 

If we believe that Jesus is speaking of the church as a whole, we find that we don’t have enough information to verify the statement of Christ.  Just as we don’t have a complete listing of the miracles of Jesus, neither do we have a complete listing of the miracles done by the church.

Let’s switch gears and look at the second interpretation – works refer to achievements related to establishing the kingdom of God and bringing souls to repentance/salvation.  Obviously, Jesus is the foundation upon which the church is built:

1 Corinthians 3:11 – For no other foundation can a man lay than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

 In addition, he is also the head of the church he established:

Colossians 1:18 – And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

So Jesus is both the foundation and head of the church.  However, he ordained that his followers would be the ones to spread the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 16:15).   He sent his disciples out to preach the gospel and gave them authority to do the miraculous in order to confirm the gospel message and lead people to salvation:

Matthew 10:7-8 – And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons: freely you have received, freely give.

Furthermore, he gave all of us the keys to unlock his kingdom.  He has given us authority to bind and lose things on the earth (Matthew 16:19) and he promised that the gates of hell would not stand against his church (Matthew 16:18).

If this is the correct interpretation of ‘works’, then we should be able to show that someone (either the disciples or us or the church collectively) have added more souls to the kingdom of God than Jesus did when he walked the earth.  Is that what we find?

Yes, it is!  The preaching of Jesus was confined to the small geographic area of Judea. While he preached to many, it was a very, very small percentage of the world’s population.  And remember, Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  In other words, it was not his priority to bring the Gentiles to salvation (Matthew 15:24, Matthew 10:6). 

But once Jesus empowered his disciples with Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the church exploded.  On the very day they received this gift, Peter preached a spontaneous sermon and 3,000 people were saved!

Acts 2:41 – Then they [the Jews] that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Not long after, Jesus opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles again through the preaching of Peter (Acts chapter 10).  Even in relatively modern times there have been individual men and women who have preached to more people and seen more souls added to the church than Jesus did.  What names can you think of?  How about Billy Graham, Charles Finney, Mario Murillo or Charles Spurgeon? 

And obviously, it is also true that the church as a whole has shepherded more souls into the kingdom of heaven than Jesus did.  The church has sent the gospel message into nearly every nation on earth.  Today, the good news is sent around the globe by missionaries, radio, TV, internet, podcasts, bibles in every language and potentially even this blog!

So what conclusions can we reach about this verse?

  • Because Jesus left earth and went to the Father, he was able to pour out the gift of Holy Spirit upon all those who believe in him (John 16:7). 
  • Through the power of Holy Spirit, we (the disciples, the church and you &me) are able to boldly share the life changing message of the gospel with those who are lost. 
  • Many times Holy Spirit will confirm this message with signs and wonders, which convinces sinners to turn to Christ.

As previously mentioned, Jesus has also given us authority over demons and sickness.  He paid the price for these victories through the cross.  He has given us the authority (keys) to manifest and expand his kingdom here on earth.   

And as we will look at in our next post, he has promised to answer our prayers so that the Father will be glorified!

Let me offer you some encouragement and relief and strength:

 It is likely that Jesus is referring to the salvation of lost souls when he says we will do ‘greater works’ than he did. 

This should bring relief to anyone who is worried about not performing miracles like Christ did. 

But at the same time, it should light a burning fire and hunger down in your soul.  Jesus has set us up to do great and awesome things in his kingdom. 

  • He has given us the living word of God. 
  • He has empowered us with Holy Spirit, who in turn blesses us with spiritual gifts to assist us in our mission. 
  • He has given us spiritual armor to fend off the attacks of the enemy. 
  • He has given us 24-hour access to his throne. 
  • God listens to every prayer we ever pray, and Jesus sits at his right hand making constant intercession for us. 
  • He has given us every tool we need to succeed in expanding his kingdom. 
  • He desires to set us on fire with his passion for the lost.       

In light of all this, what is our response to his call/commission?  Are we ignoring it because we are focused on the things of this world?  Or worse yet, are we lukewarm in our response to his call (Revelation 3:15-16)?

Might I suggest that we spend time in his presence this week, asking him to sharpen our focus for revival?  Dare we ask him to begin working through us to confirm his message with signs/wonders/miracles?  My guess is that we will need to make some changes in our lives in order for that to happen.  Are you willing to make the sacrifice and be one of those who does greater works?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

This is the season of the year when we rejoice in God’s most precious gift to mankind – his only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ!  I hope your holiday is safe and joyous; be blessed this Christmas Day!  

John, Chapter 14, Part 1

John 14:1 –“Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.”

It’s been a very trying day for the disciples of Christ. They came to the Passover expecting a time of celebration, but things took an unexpected turn.  First, Jesus washed their feet and gave them a strong lesson in serving others.  Then Jesus revealed that one of them would betray him.  He once again asserts that the time of his death is very near; he is going away and they cannot follow him. 

In response, Peter rashly declares that he will follow Jesus until death.  But Jesus tells him it would not be so – Peter would deny him three times before sunrise.

It’s no wonder that at the end of chapter 13 we find the disciples very troubled in heart. 

In chapters 14-16 we find Jesus having a heart-to-heart talk with his disciples before his suffering and death.  These chapters are often referred to as the ‘farewell discourse’ to the disciples; they are also sometimes called the ‘heart’ of the gospel of John.  Some of the most tender words Jesus ever spoke are found in these passages.  They have been comforting and encouraging believers ever since they were spoken.  I am sure you will find them comforting too.

However, there are also passages in these chapters that are difficult to understand and hard to explain.  We will look at these on a case-by-case basis as they arise within the text.  In the meantime, let’s check in on the eleven. 

In general, there appear to be three main things bothering the disciples:

  • They were troubled at the prospect of losing the bodily presence and leadership of Jesus.  The disciples, who had left all to follow Christ, were shortly to see him heaped with reproaches, beaten beyond belief and crucified as a criminal.  All of the hopes/dreams they had about the kingdom of the Messiah were going to be destroyed. 
  • They feared that with the loss of Jesus they would also lose the spiritual influence he had been upon their lives.  If his light departed from the world, how would they cope with the darkness?
  • They were facing the prospect of troubles and persecutions which were likely to fall upon them after Jesus’ departure; they could not help feeling deserted and exposed. 

So Jesus begins to comfort his disciples by instructing them not to be troubled in heart.  He does not want them to feel unsettled or cast down.  They should not be anxious or perplexed.  Jesus wants them to be brave and courageous and not give in to fear.  They don’t know it yet, but they are victorious through Christ!

The basis for their courage is faith or belief in both Jesus and his Father.  The disciples are to place their confidence in Father God and in Jesus as the mediator between God and man.  They could expect the utmost support from God, which would come through Jesus Christ.  Jesus was able to take care of all their concerns, both physical and spiritual.  For this reason, they could confidently commit themselves to Jesus.

John 14:2 – “In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

One of the main causes of anxiety for the disciples was the loss of the bodily presence of Jesus.  So he comforts them by explaining that he will not be permanently separated from them.  He is going to return to the glory that was his before the world began but that place has room for all of Christ’s followers.  If this was not the case, Jesus would have told them.  He would never have allowed them to trust in a vain hope concerning their spiritual/eternal lives.

So how did Jesus ‘prepare’ a place for us?  The book of Hebrews points out that Jesus is our high priest.

Hebrews 3:1 –Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Under the old covenant, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat (located on the Ark of the Covenant).  This blood made atonement for the sins of the Israelites for one year.  It had to be repeated over and over, because the blood of animals cannot fully cleanse from sin.

Under the terms of the new covenant Jesus is our high priest.  He was about to shed his own blood, providing the only truly perfect, lasting atonement for sin.  Once he did that, he went into heaven and presented his own blood before the Father on our account.

By so doing, he ‘prepared’ a place/room for us by removing all the obstacles that prevented us from entering heaven.  This was exemplified when the temple veil (which prevented anyone from entering the presence of God) between the Holy place and the Holy of Holies was torn in two, from the top to the bottom.  Now, Jesus continuously sits at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us at all times.

We could also think of it this way: Jesus was a forerunner – a messenger sent to give notice of the approach of others.  He went before us into the presence of the Father, to make atonement for us, that we might be able to enter the presence of God.

Interestingly, this concept was introduced back in the wilderness wandering:

Numbers 10:33 –And they departed from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them in the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them.

The Ark of the Covenant was synonymous with the presence of God.  In the book of Numbers we find that the presence of God went before Israel, to search out or provide a place of rest for them. 

In the same way, Jesus has gone before us into the presence of God to atone for our sin and prepare an eternal resting place for us.  The writer of Hebrews confirms this for us:

Hebrews 6:20 –Where the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. 

So the disciples should not fret at being deprived of the bodily presence of Christ; he is not abandoning them, he is going to do what is necessary for them to join him in heaven.

John 14:3 – “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

‘If’ is an unfortunate translation in our English Bible because it seems to indicate uncertainty.  It infers that Jesus may or may not go to prepare a place for his followers.  In reality, that is the exact opposite of the assurance that Jesus wants to convey.

It is 100% certain that Jesus is going to go away, 100% certain that he will prepare a place for his followers and 100% certain that he will come again to gather them to himself.  Therefore, a better translation would be ‘after I have gone to prepare a place for you’ or ‘when I have gone to prepare a place for you’. 

This verse contains another difficulty as well.  When Jesus ‘takes us to himself’, does that occur at the same time as he ‘comes again’, or is there a span of time between those two events? 

The way you answer that question will in part be determined by your interpretation of the phrase ‘I will come again’.  Scholars disagree on what Jesus meant by that phrase.  Here are some of the various interpretations:

  • He was referring to his resurrection. 
  • He was referring to the death of each individual believer. 
  • He was referring to the presence of the Lord’s Spirit in the church. 
  • He was referring to his second coming at the end of the age. 

Although each interpretation has its interesting points, the most common understanding is that Jesus is making a reference to his second coming, as detailed in I Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 – For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.

So regardless of whether we die before he returns or whether we are alive when he comes, we can take comfort knowing that Jesus will be returning to gather us to himself, and we will remain with him forever!

John 14:4 – “And you know the way to where I am going.”

Jesus has just reassured the disciples that his death is not destruction or annihilation, but simply a passage back to the Father.  In fact, he told them time after time that he was going to die, rise again and ascend to heaven (Matthew 16:21, Luke 9:22, Luke 18:31-33, etc).  There could be no doubt that they knew where he was going.

Likewise, they knew the way to heaven – having faith in Jesus, obeying his commands, imitating his example and following him in general (Mark 8:34).  This was their assignment for the time between the resurrection of Christ and his return to gather them to himself. 

Our assignment in this life is the same – we are to glorify God, spread the gospel message and disciple people.  This road is marked with both joy and suffering.  But in the end, disciples of every generation will wind up in the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

John 14:5 – Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”

And now we hear from Thomas – the pessimist; the disciple dominated by ‘common sense’.  He seems incapable of understanding anything outside the realm of his current experience.  His mind was sluggish and dim regarding these matters and he openly admits that he does not understand what Jesus is telling him.

But as we have already noted, Jesus had indeed told them numerous times what was shortly going to transpire.  So what is the problem?

The eleven heard Jesus speak of his death, and this fact registered in a dark seldom used part of their brain, but the thought never made it to the forefront of their thinking/understanding and it certainly had not yet reached their hearts. 

What kept this truth from taking real root in their understanding?  It was probably their preconceived ideas about the Messiah.  For example, they believed the Messiah was going to come to earth, immediately establish his kingdom, and bring Israel into a golden age of power and wealth.  That thought was so ingrained in their thinking, they interpreted everything else in light of that fact.  So when thoughts of a suffering savior came into their minds, they rejected/dismissed them as impossible.

Thomas still believed Jesus was speaking of going to some earthly place which is why he insisted he did not know where Jesus was going or how to get there.  

But if Thomas (or any of the others) had laid aside their own opinions and simply been willing to receive the truth in faith just as Jesus spoke it, they would have had no difficulty at all believing that Jesus was going to die a humiliating, painful death and then be resurrected on the third day.

Jesus goes on to tell them that the way into the eternal kingdom of heaven is through himself:

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the way – This means that people can only obtain access to God by obeying the instructions/commands of Jesus (Hebrews 5:9), imitating his example (I Peter 2:21-22) and depending on the merits of his shed blood (I John 1:7).  Jesus is not just A way to God, he is the ONLY way.  He is the highway spoken of by the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 35:8 -And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for others: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

(Notice that anyone who desires to follow the highway of holiness in Christ will be able to do so; they will not ‘err’ in the way.)   

Jesus is the truth – Truth is the opposite of all falsehood and error; Jesus is the source or fountainhead of all truth.  While other false religions are full of deceit and lies, the doctrines of Jesus are true.  They alone will lead mankind into heaven and the presence of Father God.

Jesus is also the true fulfillment of all the shadows and pictures of God presented in the Old Testament.  Those pictures pointed to the truth that was now revealed in Christ.

Jesus is the life – Jesus himself is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).  Only through his shed blood can we die to sin and be alive in the presence of God (Romans 6:11).  

No one comes to the Father except through me – God has appointed Jesus as the Messiah and mediator of the new covenant (I Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 9:15).  God has ordained that all blessings shall descend into this world through him.   There is NO other conduit for man to reach out to God, except through Jesus Christ.

Father God has appointed Jesus to dispense whatever we may need for our peace, pardon and salvation. 

Acts 5:31 –Him [Jesus] has God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

It is only through faith in Christ that we can stand in the presence of God, have our prayers answered and eventually enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Faith in Christ will lead us to the Father’s house, where Jesus is going.    

Let me offer you some encouragement:

The disciples were very troubled when they considered the imminent death of Jesus.  One of the things that troubled them was the prospect of facing a life of trouble and persecution without the presence of the Savior.

We too walk through times of hardship, trouble and persecution.  We all experience difficult times in life when it seems like we walk alone.  But that is not the case!  Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  He has blessed us with his indwelling Holy Spirit who has come to comfort, teach, guide and sustain us through every trial of life. 

So even when things are rough, be encouraged.  Holy Spirit is right there with you, to help you navigate through the storms of life.

Let me offer you some relief:

Are you worried about making it through the pearly gates and into heaven?  Are you concerned that you might not be good enough to get there?  Well let me set the record straight – you are NOT (nor will you ever be) good enough to enter heaven on your own merits!

Only Jesus can prepare the way for you to get into heaven.  And that preparation is determined by his mercy and grace, not your works.  So don’t worry.  Fully commit to Christ today and earnestly follow him.  If you do, you can be sure you will be with him in eternity.

Let me offer you some strength:

There was a point when the disciples had difficulty accepting Jesus as the suffering Savior.  This was due to their preconceived notions, which had been taught to them since birth.  These ideas hindered them from accepting the truth by faith.  It caused them to be troubled because their expectations did not match up with what was happening.

Are there concepts which you and I have been taught from an early age that are hindering us from a fuller Christian walk?  For instance, were you taught that God does not heal people today, or that communion can only be administered by a priest, or that Jesus no longer baptizes people with Holy Spirit and fire? 

As we continue looking through the gospel of John, we are likely to find things that Jesus says should be happening in our lives, but we don’t see them in action.  In these cases, can we be strong enough to admit that the problem is ours, not God’s?  Can we lay aside things we have been taught, if they are different than the truth of the word of God?  You might want to spend some time this week considering this scenario, so you can be ready when we examine these passages.

 

John, Chapter 13, Part 4

John 13:30 – So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out.  And it was night.

At the end of our prior post, we saw Judas accepting the morsel of bread from Jesus, which essentially sealed his choice to betray Christ.  At that point, he willingly gave himself up fully to Satan and hardened his heart against God. 

Scripture tells us that once the line of no return had been crossed, he immediately left the group.  Why the rush?

For one thing, Jesus had instructed him to do what he was going to do ‘quickly’ or without delay (John 13:27).  Judas may have placed his allegiance behind Satan, but neither one of them had the power to refuse a direct command of God.  Thus, we see Judas actually obeying the command of Christ.

In addition, Judas was probably anxious to leave before the other 11 finally figured out what was going on.  Remember, the remaining disciples were confused about who was going to betray Jesus, and at the time Judas left the group, they were under the mistaken impression that Jesus had set him out to buy supplies for the feast.  Who knew how they would react when they discovered the truth?  Judas may have been fearful of what they might do, so he wanted to leave before any kind of a confrontation could occur.  Perhaps he was fearful that they would try to talk him out of his decision.

Thirdly, evil no doubt compelled him to leave this holy group without delay.  Darkness has no fellowship with light; they are enemies of one another.    

As we know, in any contest between light and darkness, light will always win:

John 1:5 – And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness overcame it not.

In the natural realm, even a single small point of light can be seen for great distances through the darkness because the darkness must flee when the light shines.  The same is true in the spiritual realm.  Judas chose to align himself with the kingdom of evil and darkness.  But God and his love/mercy cut through the worst darkness Satan can produce; when God is present, darkness must flee.  Therefore, we should not be surprised that Judas couldn’t stand to stay in a room full of the love and light of God.   He probably couldn’t wait to get out of there!

It was night when he left.  John records this as a simple fact; the darkness of the coming night had already begun when Judas left the room.  There is nothing to indicate that the author of this gospel meant anything other than what was stated.  Yet, our spiritual minds cannot help but see the significance in the spiritual realm.

John 11:9-10 – Jesus answered, …If any man walks in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world.  But if a man walks in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him.     

Not only did Judas step into physical darkness that night, he also stepped from the light of the gospel into the darkness of sin.  He chose the prince of darkness over the Light of the World, dooming himself to stumble through whatever short life he had left to live on earth.  

His first task was to find the religious leaders.  Although night time during a big festival was a very unlikely time to pursue business, it didn’t matter to Judas.  He used the cover of night to slip away and make his bargain of blood with the religious leaders. 

This brings up a good question – why try to keep his agenda hidden?  Why not pursue his business in the light of day?  Why not proclaim from the temple grounds that he was turning Jesus in, as the religious leaders requested?  Why not look for accolades and fame?  

Of course, we know the answer.  Judas knew he was doing evil, so he tried to keep his activities hidden in the darkness of night.  Evil hates to be exposed by the light, so it will always avoid it at all costs.  When the final judgment comes, Judas won’t need anyone to condemn his actions; his own behavior shows that he knew he was sinning. 

John 13:31 – When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”

As we have mentioned in the past, God’s ways are not our ways – his ways (and his thoughts) are always higher and better than ours (Isaiah 55:5-9).

In fact, the kingdom of heaven often operates in a manner exactly opposite of what we would expect.  For example, in our society, how do you get rich?  The answer is that you keep all you have for yourself.  But in the kingdom of heaven, the opposite is true.  If you want to gain possessions, you give away what you have (Luke 6:38). 

What about life itself?  If you want to save your own life in this world, you do anything and everything that benefits you, without regard for anyone else.  But in the kingdom of heaven, you save your life by losing it in service to others (Matthew 16:25). 

The present case is exactly the same.  Jesus is saying that his glorification is about to take place, but it won’t happen in the manner the disciples think it will.  It will manifest through his betrayal, suffering, humiliation and death.

How is that possible?

Because in the economy of heaven, Jesus is glorified by glorifying the Father, which means he will accomplish God’s will (specifically the giving of his life on the cross).  His suffering on the cross displays the inestimable goodness of God for all to see.  It is an everlasting, irrefutable, astonishing display of the love of God for mankind.  What can compare to the mercy, love and compassion of God as he gave the life of his only begotten Son on that slab of wood? 

The sacrifice of Christ satisfied the wrath/justice of God, blotting out death and providing for the salvation of all things.  Where death once reigned, life now springs forth, to the glory of God!  

In addition, the humiliating and disgraceful death of Jesus is the means by which he obtained the victory over Satan and all the powers of darkness. 

Colossians 2:14-15 – Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, [Jesus] took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Satan is now a defeated foe.  Hallelujah!  Jesus is the fearless, all powerful head of the church.  And he guarantees that through his blood, we will have the power to stand against the very gates of hell itself (Matthew 16:18) and come out victorious. 

The real question is how could the death of Jesus not glorify the Father?

John 13:32 – “If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”

Furthermore, because Jesus glorifies the Father, the Father will immediately glorify Jesus as well.

God glorifies Jesus by showing great signs and wonders at the crucifixion:

  • The sun was darkened; there was darkness over the entire land for three hours (Matthew 27:45).
  • There was a major earthquake (Matthew 27:51-54).
  • Some of the dead rose from their graves (Matthew 27:52-53).
  • The veil of the temple which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mark 15:38, Matthew 27:51). 

God glorifies Jesus by giving him a position of honor at his right hand:

Hebrews 10:12-14 – But this man [Jesus], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God;  From then on waiting till his enemies be made his footstool.  For by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified.

God glorifies Jesus by exalting his name and giving him authority over everything in, on and below heaven and earth:

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God glorifies Jesus by making him the head of the church:

Ephesians 1:20-22 – Which he performed in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come: And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church…

God glorifies Jesus by keeping the promises he made to him hundreds of years before his death:

Isaiah 53:12 –Therefore will I [God the Father] divide him [Jesus] a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he has poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

As horrific as the cross is, there can be no doubt that through it Jesus glorified his Father, and that the Father in turn glorified his Son.

John 13:33 – “Little children, yet a little while I am with you.  You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’”

Jesus knows that his time with the disciples is very short.  He also knows that they will be devastated by his death.  He now seeks to lessen the agony of their parting by offering words of comfort and hope.

Although they will not be able to follow him into the eternal realm just yet, they should not think that he doesn’t love them.  On the contrary, he considers them his ‘little children’.

This is an expression of great tenderness.  It denotes the love and concern that Jesus had for the welfare of his disciples.  God himself exercises great care over every aspect of our lives, as any good parent would do for their offspring.

As ‘little children’ of God, we can rest assured that nothing can change our relationship with the Father.  He is pleased to have us call him Abba.  He is excited to make us joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17).  Paul was so right when he said, ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us’ as the children of God (Romans 8:18)!

Just as children in the natural realm need to be taught and guided into maturity, we can expect God to be actively present in our spiritual growth.  He provides shepherds to assist Holy Spirit in our spiritual development and growth.

John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

As Jesus prepares the disciples for his departure, he gives them a command or a badge of discipleship which will characterize them in such a way that outsiders will recognize them as followers of Christ.  In other words, it distinguishes them from other groups of people. 

The ‘badge’ or characteristic is Christian love.  Christians should/will/must love one another.

At first, this does not appear to be a ‘new’ command; the law had long ordained that the Jews should love their neighbors as themselves (Leviticus 19:18).   But it is new in the sense that love had never been the distinguishing characteristic of any group of people before.  Think about it – the Jews were known for their external rites and covenant, the Romans were known for their cruelty, the Greeks were known for their desire to learn, etc. 

And truly, unless Christ made it possible, Christians wouldn’t be known for love either. But through the Spirit, we can love as Christ commands. 

The neat thing is that the ability to love (and be loved) is available to everyone, regardless of how much or little education you have, how much or little money you earn, what kind of clothes you wear, how famous you are, the color of your skin, your marital status or anything else.  Since no one is excluded or ineligible to be in the family of God, no one is excluded from brotherly love.  Only God could come up with a program in which everyone around the world is eligible to participate!

As brothers and sisters in the kingdom, we are all redeemed by the same blood.  We are all going to the same heaven.  We have the same trials and tribulations as others, and we experience similar wants and needs.  For this reason, we are to pull together as a family and assist each other in running our earthly race victoriously.  (I Peter 1:18-23).

This badge of love is also new in regards to the extent to which we are to carry out our love for each other.  We are now held to the highest standard possible – we must love each other as fully and completely as Christ has loved us. 

Since Jesus’ love for us is strong, complete and unending so must our love be for other believers (Philippians 2:1-11). 

John 13:35 –“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love for each other will certainly set the Christian apart from the world.  In the world the prevailing standard is ‘every man for himself’. 

But God reveals to us that no amount of human accomplishment is worth a hill of beans, if it comes without love for others (I Corinthians 13).  Love is the one thing that all people need/desire.  It is fitting that we should display the love of Christ in such a way that sinners will desire to turn toward him and experience the same love that we know. 

The world-wide church of Jesus certainly needs to work on brotherly love.  Denominations seem far more eager to focus on differences rather than on love.  Let’s commit to being part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Let’s make sure that within our own spheres of life we love other Christians – even those in other denominations. 

John 13:36 – Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”

Here we find Peter acting somewhat inappropriately (shocker). 

Jesus has just given his followers loads of practical instructions.  He washed their feet and told them to do so for others.  He just revealed the depths of his love for them and instructed them to let that kind of love be the defining characteristic in their lives.  There’s a lot to think about and consider. 

But Peter’s mind is wandering.  Instead of focusing on those instructions, he demands to know about the things that Jesus has chosen to keep silent about.  He is all about satisfying his own idle curiosity. 

I think there is a lesson buried in here for us.  We would do well to keep our hearts and minds focused on things that edify and build us up spiritually, rather than always allowing our minds to jump to idle questions that cannot be answered. 

There are some things that Jesus is keeping secret for the time being, so stop trying to guess what’s on his mind and concentrate on the commands he has given us!

John 13:37-38 – Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you 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, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”

Peter was very sincere in his love and affection for Christ, as evidenced by his willingness to lay down his life.  However, he did not yet understand that he was not spiritually mature enough to accept the suffering that was required to give his own life for the gospel message.  Of course, this became abundantly clear to him on the night when he denied Jesus three times.

Jesus does not discourage Peter from making a commitment to lay his life down for the gospel.  Instead, he endeavors to show Peter that it will take the empowerment of Jesus’ own Holy Spirit to make that commitment possible.  And the good news is that Holy Spirit is still at work in believers today, bringing us to spiritual maturity just as he did the eleven apostles. 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

I work in an environment that could be considered under the control of darkness rather than light. Perhaps that is true of your work place as well.  It can sometimes be discouraging to shine your light into the darkness day in and day out, without seeing any significant change.

But today I want to encourage you (and myself) not to give up!  We need to keep letting our lights shine for Christ (even if we don’t see big results right now) because it is impossible for us to know who is being affected by the light of Christ that we offer.  We must trust that in due time we will reap a harvest of souls in our work places and see these institutions completely changed for Christ!  

Let me offer you some relief:

Peter denied Christ three times after adamantly declaring that he would die for him.  At the time, it must have seemed like an epic failure (which it actually was). 

But a very short time later, Peter’s hope was restored.  God had not given up on him.  Instead, God filled Peter with power and wisdom on the day of Pentecost when he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps you have failed God in the past.  If so, let me offer you some relief – God does not show partiality among his children (Acts 10:34).  If he forgave, restored and empowered Peter, he will do the same thing for you.  Humble yourself and repent – then watch the Lord work great wonders in your life!

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus glorified his Father by obeying his commands and faithfully carrying out his will.  We can glorify God in the same manner.  Let’s stop and ask ourselves this question:  Are we obeying his commands?  What is our level of personal holiness?  Are we willing to crucify the lusts of our flesh in order to glorify our Father? 

This is not an easy task.  But it can be done.  According to a much older and wiser apostle Peter,  when we were sinners we had plenty of time to indulge in our flesh.  Now that we have been bought with the blood of Christ, it’s time to be sober minded, live according to the Spirit and give ourselves to prayer.    

Interestingly, Peter also instructs us that above all else we should love each other, for love covers a multitude of sin (I Peter 4:1-11).  

John, Chapter 13, part 3

John 13:20 – “Truly truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

In our last post, Jesus was revealing to his disciples that one of them would be his betrayer.  Jesus told them about this betrayal before it happened, so that his true followers would not be caught off guard.  Because they knew in advance what to expect, their faith was actually strengthened when events unfolded exactly as Jesus predicted.

Nevertheless, Judas did an enormous disservice to the gospel message.  He opened the door for scandal; he gave unbelievers reason to dismiss the gospel message.  After all, if one of Jesus’ apostles (who presumably knew him better than anyone) didn’t believe in him, why should anyone else?  What did Judas know that the public had not discovered?  Was Jesus really a fake like the religious leaders had been proclaiming?  Would the world now hold the other 11 apostles in contempt because of the actions of Judas?

In order to reassure his true followers, Jesus gives them a truth to hold onto in the days and years to come.  A servant/messenger/ambassador is never greater than his master.  Because he and the master are in unity, he will be treated the same way the master is treated.  This is why Jesus says when someone receives the messenger he sends, it is the same thing as receiving Jesus himself.  And receiving Jesus is the same as receiving Father God, for he was sent by the Father.

The opposite is true too.  There will be unbelievers who reject those that share the gospel message with them.  When this occurs, we are not to be distraught; this is actually a rejection of Jesus and the one who sent him – Father God.

Furthermore, we would expect there to be some who bring treachery into the circle of believers, just as Judas did.  They will try to discredit the gospel message.  And sure enough, we have seen it in our day.  You can probably recall some of these public scandals yourself.      

But when that occurs, true Christians can rest assured that they are operating under divine orders to share the gospel message, and they will be successful at it.  Despite the influence of scoffers, betrayers and traitors, unbelievers will still hear and receive the life changing gospel message.  They will be sealed by Holy Spirit until the final day; they are safe within the fold of the kingdom of heaven.  

Although we will definitely experience profound sorrow and hurt, true believers are not to lose hope over this kind of behavior.  Satan was not able to destroy the gospel through Judas, and he will not be able to destroy it today, even if he finds traitors to the gospel cause.     

John 13:21 – After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

From the disciples’ point of view, things are going from bad to worse. 

Passover should have been a joyous celebration of the nation’s freedom from slavery.  They should have been enjoying this time with their master.  But things are not going as planned.  Jesus has just made them very uncomfortable by washing their feet and giving them some somber instruction regarding humble service. 

The atmosphere in the room is anything but joyous.  Their master is troubled.  Something isn’t right.  Things get worse when Jesus reveals that he will be betrayed.  And as if that were not bad enough, now the disciples are stunned to find out that his betrayer will be one of their own circle!  

From Jesus’ point of view, things are swiftly progressing towards ultimate victory.

Jesus knew that Passover was not simply a celebration of the freedom from Egyptian slavery.  It was symbolic of spiritual freedom from the slavery of sin, purchased by his  own blood.   

Jesus was troubled in his spirit, but not because of being betrayed.  His whole reason for coming to earth was to offer himself up as the fulfillment of the Passover sacrifice.  He was going to wind up on the cross, no matter what.  What difference would it make if he surrendered himself to the Jews or if Judas betrayed him?  The end result will be the same for Jesus, but not for Judas.

Much of the profound sorrow/pain that Jesus felt was for his beloved disciple. Judas had walked with Jesus for years.  He was a witness of his life and miracles. He had heard the words of truth from Jesus himself.  He had seen example after example of God’s love.  He had multiple chances to repent of his sin. 

But Judas chose Satan over God.  He threw his salvation away for the false riches of this temporary world.  Jesus was grieved/troubled in his spirit for this lost lamb that stubbornly refused to be rescued and led into the fold of eternal peace and safety.

John 13:22 – The disciples looked at one another uncertain of whom he spoke.

The word ‘uncertain’ denotes the kind of anxiety that you feel when you are perplexed –  confronted with something complicated and difficult to understand; not knowing what to say or do.  This perfectly describes the reaction of the eleven. 

On one hand, it was utterly inconceivable that one of their own number would betray the master they loved.  But on the other hand, if Jesus said something, it was undoubtedly true.  What was going on? 

The other gospel writers help give us a more complete picture of this scene.  Try to picture the depth of emotion and confusion in the room at this time:   

  • Matthew tells us the disciples were ‘exceedingly sorrowful’; they were deeply hurt, shocked and troubled by the news that there was a traitor in their midst (Matthew 26:22).
  • Luke tells us that the disciples began to ‘inquire among themselves who had done this thing’.  Each one wondered if they had missed some obvious signs among their fellow apostles, which the others had picked up on.  In other words, they started questioning each other to try and find out who the culprit was (Luke 22:3).  
  • Mark tells us that one by one they began to ask Jesus if they were the guilty party (Mark 14:19).   The eleven knew they were innocent as of that moment, but they were terrified at the possibility that at some point they could fall away from Jesus and betray him.  Naturally, each man’s main concern is himself – could ‘I’ be the one to betray my master?   

Matthew also tells us that at this time, Jesus added:

Matthew 26:24 – “The Son of man goes as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

At that point, the eleven were probably sick with worry.  But what about Judas?  He was probably worried too – worried that his plans and intentions would be discovered by the others.  In order to keep suspicion from resting on himself, he too asked Jesus if he was the traitor (Matthew 26:25), which added further confusion to the situation. 

John 13:23-24 – One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at the table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.

The description ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ always refers to the apostle John, the writer of this gospel.  It is important to note that none of the other gospel writers mention that John enjoyed any special treatment from Jesus.  Nevertheless, John was particularly dear to the Savior.

Now, let’s briefly review the concept of ‘reclining at the table’.  Despite what Leonardo Da Vinci represented in his famous painting, we can be sure that at the last supper Jesus and the disciples did not eat sitting upright at the table.  In fact, none of the Jews did.  At the time of Christ, the custom was to recline on cushions or couches while eating.  In his commentary “Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible”, Mr. Barnes gives us the following information:

The table was made by three tables, raised like ours, and placed so as to form a square, with a clear space in the midst, and one end quite open.  On the sides; of them were placed cushions, capable of containing three or-more persons.   On these the guests reclined, leaning on their left side with their feet extended from the table, and so lying that the head of one naturally reclined on the bosom of another.  To recline near to one in this manner denoted intimacy, and was what was meant by lying in the bosom of another. 

As the feet were extended from the table, and as they reclined instead of sitting, it was easy to approach the feet behind, even unperceived.  Thus in Luke 7:37-38  while Jesus reclined in this manner, a woman that had been a sinner came to his feet behind him, and washed them with her tears, and wiped with the hairs of her head.    

So our Savior washed the feet of his disciples as they reclined on a couch in this manner. Whenever we read in the New Testament of sitting at meals, it always means reclining in this manner, and never sitting as we do.  The chief seat, or the uppermost one, was the middle couch at the upper end of the table.  This the Pharisees loved, as a post of honor or distinction.

It appears that John was reclining next to Jesus at the table, as he normally did.  If he leaned back to speak to Jesus, his head would have been close to the chest of Jesus.  Since he was in that position, Peter signaled to him to ask Jesus the name of the one who was going to betray him.

While Peter certainly wanted to make sure it was not him, he was also the most likely one to single out the traitor and ‘circle the wagons’ around Jesus to try and protect him.      

John 13:25-26 – So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”  Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.”  So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

It appears that John leaned back and quietly asked Jesus the identity of the traitor.  Likewise, Jesus quietly answered John without the others (including Judas) knowing what was said.

Interestingly, Jesus does not directly name Judas.  Instead he identifies the traitor as the one who eats the tasty morsel of bread that Jesus will serve him. 

Romans 12:20-21 – Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Not only does this action fulfill the prophesy of Psalms 41:9, it shows that Jesus exhibited nothing but kindness and love to those who made themselves his enemy.  

John 13:27 – Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him.  Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

At first glance, this verse makes it seem like Satan had no influence or power over Judas until this moment, however that is not the case.

Think of it this way: when you first believed the gospel message, you received it by faith.  But ever since that day, you have been increasing in faith, because you are filled with Holy Spirit, who continuously leads you into greater depths of understanding/belief/faith.   

In the same way, Judas had decided at some point in the past to listen to the voice of Satan.  Ever since that day, he has been increasing in wickedness and evil.  Because he has rejected the truth of God, the lies of Satan are all he has left.  Eventually, as he takes the morsel from Jesus, he reaches a point where he is filled with or fully committed to Satan.  We would describe him as having a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28).

It is important to understand that as Jesus gave the morsel to Judas, he was not giving Satan an opportunity to have Judas.  It was Judas who, having received the morsel, willingly gave himself up entirely to Satan and hardened his heart against God.

Although Jesus has given Judas numerous opportunities to repent, he has rejected them all.  Now that Judas has made his final choice and wholly sold himself to Satan, Jesus will no longer try to dissuade him from his course.  Therefore, Jesus admonishes him to immediately move forward with his plans; there is now no reason to delay.

John 13:28-29 – Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.  Some thought that because Judas had the money bag Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”, or that he should give something to the poor.

This statement confirms that Jesus had revealed the traitor only to John, not the entire company. 

The eleven were still unaware of what was transpiring.  They mistakenly thought that Jesus had instructed Judas to take the money bag and buy supplies for the rest of the feast, which would have lasted seven days.  But obviously, if they knew Jesus had called Judas out as a traitor, he would have no reason to then assign him a task which concerned the group (like buying supplies).

Let me offer you some encouragement:

In today’s post, we found that the disciples experienced a brief time of uncertainty; they were anxious when confronted with a situation that was difficult to understand.  During this time, they did not know what to say or do.

At that time, John leaned back and asked Jesus who was going to betray him – and Jesus answered.

All of us experience times in our Christian walk where we are uncertain.  Perhaps we don’t know how to properly react to a situation, or perhaps we are confronted with a decision with no obvious answer.  Regardless of the circumstances, we can follow the example of John.  We can just lean into Jesus through prayer, and ask him to reveal the unknown.  We can rely on him to give us the answer we need, or to lead us to the correct choices. 

If you are facing such a dilemma today, I strongly encourage you to seek the advice of Holy Spirit, not your friends and family.  Only he knows the future and heavenly plan for your life.

Let me offer your some relief:

Let’s talk about betrayal for a moment.  One of the definitions of betrayal is to prove faithless or treacherous to someone.  Judas certainly fit that description when he betrayed Christ. 

The question is, are we any different?  All Christians at one time or another have been faithless to the commands of our Lord and Savior, even after he forgave us of our sin.  So in a sense, we have all committed spiritual betrayal.

Satan would love to keep you bound in guilt and shame.  He wants you to think that you are unworthy or unqualified to do anything for the kingdom of heaven, because of your past sins.  

But don’t believe that lie!  If you have sinned, let Jesus wash your feet (that is really all you need) and restore you.  Cast those satanic thoughts of unworthiness away and ‘get back in the game’ of Christian service.    

Let me offer you some strength:

I am sure there were times when the disciples felt like evil was winning in the world.  This was especially true when they discovered their Master would not only be betrayed, but betrayed by one of their fellow apostles.

There are also times in our generation when it looks like evil will overcome good.  It sometimes looks like Satan is winning the battle for planet earth and the souls of men. 

But during those times, you can take strength knowing that no matter how thick the darkness is and no matter how impenetrable it seems, Jesus is the light of the world –  and the darkness cannot cover up or put out the light of the gospel message (John 1:1-5). 

God has called/commissioned us to spread the gospel to every nation.  Because of that, he will also give us the strength, opportunity, wealth and intelligence to make it happen.  In short, he will not allow us to fail in our mission, as long as we are faithful to him.