John 13:36—14:30


1. Peter, 13:36—14:4

Peter was a kind of spokesman for The Twelve, now really The Eleven since Judas’ departure. Considering the events of this evening, it is understandable that the disciples would be filled with questions, and it was Peter who, true to his impulsive nature, stepped up with the question—

Lord, where are you going? (John 13:36)

Peter was greatly disturbed by Jesus’ comment—

My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. (verse 33)

Of all the disciples, Peter never wanted Jesus to leave; he wanted to do everything he could to keep His Lord alive and with him on Earth. It is difficult to translate Peter’s bewilderment and confusion into English. Jesus had spoken before about leaving, which caused the Jews to wonder if He was contemplating suicide. This evening, with nobody else around, Jesus mentioned His departure again, and this time Peter needed to know what He was talking about.

Jesus’ answer carried a dual meaning—

Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later. (verse 36b)

First, the obvious meaning is that Jesus was on His way to die and that later on Peter would suffer for Jesus’ sake (see John 21:8). Second, there is a much deeper meaning linked to an understanding of the word “cannot” or “can.” In the original Greek, the verb is dynamai, which means “I can” or “I am able.” The noun version of dynamai is dynamis, which means “power,” “might,” “strength” or “force.”

This verb, dynamai, “can,” along with its negative form, “cannot,” implies man’s total inability and powerlessness to follow Jesus anywhere. This adds a new dimension to Peter’s question: how could Peter (or any believer) possibly follow Jesus without help from Jesus? Jesus deals with this issue when He talks about “another advocate” in a few verses, but also in chapter 15, where He says—

Apart from me you are unable to one thing. (John 15:5, literal)

But Peter, with gusto and determination, seemed willing to try following Jesus in his own way—

Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you. (verse 37)

Peter, like us all, was blissfully ignorant of his own weaknesses. Peter’s statement to Jesus reveals three aspects of his character:

  • He was totally devoted and loyal to Jesus; he really wanted to stay with Jesus no matter where He was going;
  • He was impatient; he wanted to follow Jesus “right now”;
  • He was completely self-reliant: he thought he was ready to follow Jesus, even if it meant his own death.

Jesus, however, knew Peter, He knew Peter’s heart, and he knew Peter’s weaknesses. When Jesus gently pointed this out to Peter, the disciple must have been baffled. He was so sure he would die for Jesus; he would never disown his Lord!

Jesus’ comment to Peter must have been overheard by the rest of the disciples, and Jesus offered them a word of encouragement—

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. My Father’s house has plenty of room; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (14:1—4)

Addressing the whole group, Jesus, knowing their hearts were troubled, wanted them to trust in Him and His words as they had trusted in God. How does Jesus encourage His friends? By reminding them of what would be awaiting them in Heaven. The TNIV’s translation, “my Father’s house has plenty of room,” is a bit of a departure from how other translations have handled Jesus’ analogy of a home with many rooms, although it does make a lot of sense, especially given the circumstances this night and the men addressed. In spite of the threatening and uncertain future, the disciples could rest assured that He was not leaving them in the lurch; He was temporarily going away to make ready a place for them. Not only that, there was no reason for His disciples to clamor for first place in Heaven; there is, in fact, plenty of room for everybody there.

As sure as Jesus would leave, He would return for His friends. With the stress of not knowing all the details of their immediate future, the disciples could bank on Jesus’ not forgetting them or leaving alone for long.

2. Thomas, 14:5—7

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus’ answer to Peter only served to raise even more questions in the minds of the other disciples. This time, Thomas, the doubter, spoke up for the rest of the group. Thomas was the kind of person who needed evidence; tangible proof for everything. He was also completely honest, yet pessimistic, and had no problem displaying his inner feelings. He was undeniably loyal to Jesus, willing to die for Him or with Him if necessary. Thanks to Thomas’ question, Jesus uttered one of the most profound statements about himself—

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus did not just claim to have the answers to life’s questions; He claimed He WAS the answer—the ONLY answer human beings need. Jesus does not just show the way, He IS the only way to God. Thomas was the skeptic of the group, and Jesus responded with clear, unambiguous authority. There is an exclusiveness about Jesus Christ and there is an exclusiveness about following Him. There are NOT many paths to God. No person may approach God subjectively, making up their own rules. Jesus Christ made it clear; without Him and without His teachings, human beings have no hope.

There are those today who are offended by such dogmatism. They claim such teaching is too narrow-minded for today’s progressive thinkers. However, truth to be effective must be dogmatic. You’re not going to ask directions from somebody who isn’t sure about the way you need to go!

The phrase “I am” is important and overlooked. Ego eimi—I am—harkens back to Yahweh in the Old Testament, who responded to Moses’ question with the famous self-declaration, “I am.” We serve a God who is personal and knowable. He is the great “I am,” the One who always was, is and will be. And He was the very Man speaking to the disciples this night.

In his famous work, The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis wrote:

Without the Way, there is no going; without the Truth, there is no knowing; without the Life, there is no living.

The doubtful skeptic needed this kind of assurance because as much as Thomas and the rest of the disciples loved Jesus, they still did not really know Him. This led Jesus to gently chide them—

If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Paul wrote a parallel statement to the Colossians—

He is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15)

The word “know” in Jesus’ answer is a word that implies “experience” rather than simply knowledge. One can learn all about Jesus; they may know the facts about Him, but unless they have a personal experience with Him, they don’t really know Him.

3. Philip, 14:8—21

Thomas may have been the doubter, but Philip was most definitely the realist. He wanted some “personal revelation” of God’s Person; seeing Jesus was not quite enough for Philip.

“Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” (verse 8)

We may chastise Philip for his attitude—he seemed to completely miss what Jesus had just said—but the disciple’s heart was right; his desire was sound. Here was a man who simply wanted to experience God in His fullest. Maybe he was wanting to see “the angel of the Lord” or some other manifestation of God; regardless, Philip wanted to see Yahweh.

Some have interpreted Jesus’ response to Philip as a rebuke, although I doubt that was the case.

How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (verse 9b)

Philip failed to listen to Jesus’ answer to Thomas; if he had, he would have understood all that Jesus had just taught. The phrase, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” has much significance. No icon, no painting, no statue can represent God; a personal God must be represented by another Person, and that Person is Jesus Christ. The way Jesus made known the reality, nature, and character of God was by His words (His teachings) and works (the miracles). Jesus’ words were filled with God’s truth and His works were the result of God’s power.

As if to stress the importance of remaining together, Jesus added this—

Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (verses 12—14)

Jesus was not abandoning them in any way. His group still had a job to do on earth and as part of their work, they would perform the same works He had performed and sometimes even greater things. What did Jesus mean by that cryptic statement?

While on the Earth, Jesus performed many miracles. That same ability is in each of His followers; each follower of Jesus has the potential to do the exact same kind of work He did. The “greater things” is really just simple multiplication. Imagine if all believers took seriously what Jesus had just told His disciples!

How are all these “greater things” possible? They are possible because Jesus went back to the Father, making it possible for Him to work through every single believer. This led Jesus into a teaching about the Holy Spirit.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (verses 16—18)

The Greek word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit was parakletos, which may be translated “counselor” or “advocate.” The TNIV’s use of “advocate” makes more sense to modern man because parakletos means literally, “a person summoned to one’s aid.” It refers to a legal advisor, a mediator, or an intercessor. This is why believers are capable of doing “greater things” than even their Lord; because He is in them in the form of the Holy Spirit, working through them to do the Father’s work. Not only that, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit guarantees answered prayer because, ideally, every prayer prayed will be prayed with full knowledge of God’s will. This stunning ability—to perform miracles and have prayers answered—is available ONLY to Christians. The world at large does not recognize or understand the Holy Spirit in any way.

Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. (verses 19, 20)

What is Jesus referring to here? Some think the Resurrection, but Pentecost is more likely on Jesus’ mind. On the day Jesus comes back to dwell in them, all of His teachings will make complete sense to the disciples.

4. Judas (Thaddaeus), 14:22—30

The final question of the evening came from a man who had the unfortunate distinction of having the same name as the one who betrayed Jesus. Most scholars identify this Judas with Thaddaeus, and this disciples could not understand how Jesus could appear to the disciples but to nobody else. A person is either visible or he isn’t.

In response, Jesus simply reiterated what He had just been teaching: Love and obedience cannot be separated. Had Jesus ignored the question? No, in fact, He was answering it: those who love Christ will obey His word and to those alone will He come.

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (verses 23, 24)

Clearly, following the Lord in obedience has its reward—God will love them and live with them forever. This is why the world can never see or experience Christ or the Holy Spirit or have a prayer answered (except the prayer for salvation, of course).

How do Christians experience God’s abiding presence? We can feel Him working in our lives; the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, leads us to daily repentance, He imparts assurance of salvation, gives us the peace of God that passes all understanding, He admonishes and comforts us, all in connection with the Word.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (verse 25)

Jesus made it clear that when the Holy Spirit would come to them (in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost), they would finally understand all that He had taught them, not only this night but over His three years with them, and would remind them of those teachings as they fulfilled their mission in the world.

Today’s Christian can stand squarely on the same great Word! The same Spirit that indwelled those early Christians indwells us and carries on the same great work in us as Jesus promised.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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