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The Upper Room Ministry (John 13-17) (4)

J Gibson, Derby

John 14

Nearing the point of His own tremendous sufferings, the Lord Jesus selflessly comforted the disciples’ troubled hearts. This He did in several ways. For example, He reassured them that although they were soon to be separated it would only be for a season: "I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (v.3). He promised them that, despite His physical absence, they would continue to experience God’s power (v.12), and enjoy answered prayers (vv.13,14). By explaining the Holy Spirit’s ministry, Christ further encouraged His disciples with the prospect of "another Comforter" abiding with them, not now for a limited period only, but "for ever" (v.16). He also, at this time of great crisis, granted them supernatural peace (v.27).

The Rapture (vv.1-11)

The expression "ye believe in God, believe also in me" (v.1) not only reminds us that confidence in God is a great solace for troubled hearts – "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Is 26.3) – but also that the Lord Jesus, as a divine person, is as worthy of our trust as God Himself. Christ’s words are of equal authority to Old Testament Scripture. This phrase also prepared the disciples for the Lord’s departure. Just as they had believed in an "invisible God" (Col 1.15), "whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim 6.16), they were to continue to believe in a Saviour soon to be removed from their sight (1 Pet 1.8).

"I will come again, and receive you unto myself" (v.3) does not refer to physical death, but rather introduces the important subject of the rapture; this is further developed in the New Testament epistles (1 Cor 15; 1 Thess 4). Although the word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible, it conveys well the Biblical concept of a future coming of Christ for His church. The Christian’s bright hope of the Lord’s imminent return is meant, among other things, to comfort the mourning (1 Thess 4.18), stimulate service (1 Cor 15.58), and promote holiness (Rom 13.11-14; 1 Jn 3.1-3). When "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess 4.16,17). We will then be transported to specially prepared abiding places in the Father’s house that where He is, there we shall be also (vv.2,3). "And so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4.17).

With typical dullness, the disciples misunderstood the Lord’s words. "We know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (v.5), was their response to "whither I go [the Father’s house] ye know, and the way [Christ Himself] ye know" (v.4). Since the Lord Jesus is exclusively the only way to the Father it was appropriate for the early disciples to be labelled as people "of this way" (Acts 9.2).

God the Father and God the Son are so united as to mutually indwell each other: "I am in the Father, and the Father in me" (vv.10,11). Knowing, seeing and hearing the Son equate to knowing, seeing and hearing the Father (vv.7,9,10). The Lord’s miracles bore witness to this unity (v.11). They cannot be separated from His powerful words, through which they were mostly accomplished, and were always performed in full partnership with and utter dependence upon the Father: "the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works" (v.10). The disciples fell short in their knowledge of God. This is obvious from the Lord’s words: "If ye had known me"; "hast thou not known me" (vv.7,9). However, the Lord Jesus assured them that "(they were) beginning to know the Father from now on"1 (v.7), so starting a life-long journey into the knowledge of God. As the truth, Christ alone fully manifests the Father (Jn 1.18; 14.9; Col 1.15; Heb 1.3).

He is also the sole source of all physical and spiritual life. "Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living."2

Power (vv.12-15)

Apostolic miracles were of a similar nature to the Messiah’s. Just as His miracles had acted as Messianic credentials, so the apostle’s miracles substantiated their message (Heb 2.4). The Lord Jesus not only confirmed that following His departure such signs would continue – "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" (v.12; Mk 16.17,18) – but also that they were to be surpassed: "greater works than these shall he do" (v.12). These "greater works" (the conversion of sinners) were more numerous (e.g. 3,000 saved at Pentecost, Acts 2.41) and extensive (e.g. Paul’s widespread missionary journeys) than Christ’s own miracles, which were mostly confined to His immediate vicinity.

Because spiritual power demands effectual prayer, vital instruction concerning prayer is linked to this prediction of "greater works". As implied by the words "whatsoever" and "any thing," it has a limitless potential, for "there is nothing too hard for (the Lord)" (Jer 32.17). The proviso, "in my name" (vv.13,14) cannot be trivialised to a mere attachment at the end of prayers that guarantees answers. Instead, it acts as a narrow restriction to prayers. They should firstly be made by those who believe in (v.12), and lovingly obey (v.15), Christ, and secondly be entirely consistent with the Saviour’s character and will. Up until this time, the disciples had directly asked Christ for everything. In His absence, their prayers were to be addressed to the Father. The ultimate aim of all prayer is "that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (v.13).

The Holy Spirit (vv.16-26)

Just as the Father had sent the Son (Jn 8.16), so also He sent the Holy Spirit in answer to the Son’s prayer (vv.16,26). It can equally be said that the Son sent the Spirit (16.7). Three main aspects of the Spirit’s coming with reference to believers are taught. In the first place, He strengthens them. "Comforter" translates the Greek word parakletos meaning "one called alongside to help".3 It "was used for a legal assistant, pleader, advocate, one who pleads another’s cause",4 and is also translated "helper" (NKJV) or "advocate" (1 Jn 2.1). The Holy Spirit now continues the supportive ministry that Christ carried out on behalf of His disciples. Interestingly, "the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom 8.26) on earth, while Christ in heaven "ever liveth to make intercession for (us)" (Heb 7.25).

Secondly, in contrast to His Old Testament activities of temporarily equipping saints for specific tasks (e.g. Judg 15.14), being withdrawn from them because of personal sin (Ps 51.11), and even the Lord’s own physical presence of a few years, the Holy Spirit now permanently indwells Christians (vv.16,17). In so doing He is actually accompanied by Father and Son (vv.18,23). Incredibly, believers are therefore indwelt by the triune God. This enduring intimacy with the Spirit so enjoyed by believers is entirely foreign to the world, "because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him" (v.17). Serious moral implications now exist for believers whose bodies have been transformed into temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6.18-20).

Finally, He comprehensively teaches the saints "all things" relating to God’s truth (v.26), including an understanding, in measure, of the relations within the Godhead (v.20). The apostles specifically were to be reminded of Christ’s own words (v.26), so empowering them to collate authoritatively an accurate historical account of Christ’s earthly ministry.

Christ guaranteed His "little children" (13.33), "I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you" (14.18, JND). This may apply to His post-resurrection appearances, the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, Christ’s personal indwelling of believers (v.23), and even the rapture. Let us never forget that our enjoyment of Christ is in the measure to which we obey Him (v.21).

Peace (vv.27-31)

In a world that is full of turmoil, spiritual dangers (17.15), and intense persecution (16.2), the child of God can enjoy supernatural peace (v.27). That their Master was returning to the Father, so ending His period of humiliation, should have delighted those who loved Him (v.28). The Father’s greatness in relation to the Son refers to official status – He sent the Son; the Son obeyed Him – and circumstances – the Son "came down from heaven" (6.38). This prediction of His departure was meant to nurture the disciples’ faith (v.29). Confident of victory, the Lord Jesus explained that these were His last words prior to "the prince of this world" (v.30) coming and fully venting his fury at the cross. Satan had "nothing in (Christ)" (v.30) by way of accusation or appeal. Loving obedience to the Father caused Him to go forth to meet the adversary, for obedience signals true love.

To be continued.

1 Robertson’s Word Pictures cited by e-Sword.
2 Thomas a Kempis cited in Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, 4 vols. (Hendrickson Publishers), 3:241.
3 The MacArthur Study Bible; (Word Publishing, 1997), p. 1614.
4 Robertson’s Word Pictures cited by e-Sword.

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