During the Last Supper, Jesus teaches his disciples, preparing them for the immediate future but also in the light of eternity.
During the Last Supper, Jesus teaches his disciples, preparing them for the immediate future but also in the light of eternity.
Hello, welcome to Series 12 and Episode 13, and it's entitled ‘Jesus Comforts His Disciples’. We're going to be reading from John 14: 1 - 14.The passage is set half way through the events of the Last Supper.
Introduction and Recap
Before we get onto that, let's remind ourselves that we're actually halfway through the final week of Jesus's life, on Thursday evening. Jesus is with his disciples - twelve initially, now eleven at this particular point in the story - and preparing for dramatic events that are going to take place in the next few hours. Hopefully, you've been following the narrative by following previous episodes in Series 12 and perhaps in Series 11.
In Series 11, we started the story of this last week, when Jesus came to Jerusalem for the last time in order to bring about a conclusion to the conflict that had been going on in his ministry, almost from the beginning with the religious authorities in Jerusalem, led by the council called the Sanhedrin, who had the final authority over the religious life of the Jewish people. They had determined to get rid of him because they considered him to be a false messiah and a threat to the religious establishment. Jesus came to Jerusalem in dramatic style, coming in on the Sunday of this week, which we call Palm Sunday, with a great Triumphal Entry through the gates, with crowds - thousands of people thronging round - proclaiming him as the new Messiah coming to Israel. Then there was a period of real tension on Monday and Tuesday - he went into the Temple on Monday, cleansed the Temple market trading area, controlled by the priests, and challenged their trading activities. Also on Tuesday, he entered into lots of debates and questioning between himself and various different groups of religious leaders, before leaving the Temple, telling his disciples that the Jewish nation was shortly going to come under judgement for rejecting his Messiahship, and telling them a bit about his return in glory and his second coming in the longer term future. We looked at that teaching in detail from Matthew 24 and 25 at the beginning of Series 12.
Then we looked at an event which probably took place on Wednesday, in the nearby village of Bethany where Jesus tended to stay, where he was anointed with oil by one of his followers - Mary, the sister of Martha - in the house of a man called Simon the Leper. That's where the sinister moment came where one of his followers, Judas Iscariot, who'd for a long time been quite discontented, made the fateful decision that he would leave the disciples there in Bethany, go back into the city privately and secretly talk to the religious leaders and offer to betray Jesus, to lead them to where he was in a private location so he could be arrested away from the glare of publicity, and away from the huge crowds that were gathered in the city because it was a time of religious festival activity, the festival of the Passover. Lots of drama has gone on in the story so far in this week.
On the Thursday evening, comes the gathering together of Jesus with his twelve disciples for a final meal together, which becomes known as the Last Supper . It took place in an upper room somewhere in the city of Jerusalem, prepared for Jesus by someone who knew him in the city, who's anonymous to us. Peter and John prepare the meal and Jesus sits down with them, and for the last few episodes we've been going through the story - very interesting story. This is a Passover meal. We described that a few episodes ago - a symbolic family meal that Jewish families held on that particular night with a lamb that had recently been sacrificed, probably in the Temple and cooked, roasted and eaten as their main food, with some other symbolic elements of food on the table.
The Last Supper produced some dramatic events. First of all, Jesus washed his disciples' feet as a sign of servanthood towards them, which was really quite shocking to them. Then he described this as the very last meal he was going to share with them and made it very significant by instituting what we call the Lord's Supper. We had a whole episode just looking at that when he took the wine and the bread, made them symbolically significant of his death - his atoning, substitutionary sacrificial death - and he called this meal that he asked them to repeat again, the Lord's Supper. We've called it the Lord's Supper on the basis of his command that this should be carried out on a regular basis.
In the last episode, we looked at the fateful moment when Judas, having rejoined the group, disappeared again, and headed off straight to the authorities to betray Jesus. Jesus knew what was happening. None of the other disciples knew; they just noticed that Jesus spoke rather darkly about Judas, and then suddenly Judas left and there was that uncertainty as to exactly what was going on in that situation. Why did he suddenly leave? Was he going to betray Jesus? Had he gone off to do some practical things because he looked after the finances of the disciples? It was really unclear. That's the situation that we found ourselves in, in the last episode.
We're now turning to John's Gospel for the next few episodes because John, who's the fourth Gospel writer, adds in a lot of the detail of the discussion that took place in the Last Supper and particularly the things that Jesus said in the form of teaching and encouragement. These sayings of Jesus, known as the ‘upper room discourse’, are recorded in John 14 - 17. We are going to be looking at that section now. We have to bear in mind that John, as we saw in the last episode, was very close to Jesus. He was one of the inner circle - Peter, James and John - who are often referenced as having special access to Jesus. Peter being the leader of the group but Peter, James and John being an inner circle. We saw in the last chapter, in John 13: 23, that somebody is described there as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ and that's an anonymous description. As I stated in the last episode, I think this is a reference to John himself and that's a reference to particular friendship and warmth of mutual understanding between Jesus and John. John therefore takes very great attention to what takes place in the upper room and because he's the last writer, he's very selective about which material he puts into his Gospel. He's almost certainly seen Matthew, Mark and Luke, got them before him, and he adds in things that he thinks are important. One of the main things he adds into the Gospel to help us, is a very extensive description of the things that Jesus said privately to those disciples in the upper room. It's very important material.
There are now eleven left in the room. Judas has gone and he won't be coming back. He's just on the way to betray Jesus. He's turned over to the other side. There's a sense of unease and shock. Jesus has also just said, as we saw in the last episode, as recorded in Luke 22, that Satan is going to try and sift, or purify, or challenge the other disciples. There's a spiritual dimension going on here. Their faith in Jesus is going to be shaken as well. Are they going to be able to stand the test when Jesus is arrested, tried, crucified, humiliated, and ends up in the tomb? What's going to happen to the disciples? All these things have been going on in the immediate moments before this particular statement is made by Jesus.
Let's read John 14: 1 - 4.
‘“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I'm 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 so that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I'm going.”’John 14:1-4, NIV
These are very famous words. In many countries and traditions they are often used in association with funerals but let's forget that context and go back to the original context. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ - their hearts are troubled because it's a very tense and uncertain situation they found themselves in. They've got Jesus' persistent warnings that he is going to be arrested, tried and executed. He's told them that numerous times. They'd felt the tension in the city every single day they'd been there. Opposition is right there. People are questioning, challenging. The authorities are looking for an opportunity to undermine Jesus. Judas has suddenly, mysteriously departed amidst dark words from Jesus. Jesus has warned them that Satan wants to sift them like wheat. They're troubled; they're worried. Things are changing fast and so Jesus is now trying to settle them down and make them secure in the things that really matter. We'll see quite a lot of that in the subsequent chapters in John's Gospel, chapters 14 to 17.
A Future Home in Heaven
‘You believe in God; believe also in me’. In other words, put your trust in me wholeheartedly, as if you are putting your trust in the God of Israel, Yahweh. Let your trust be wholehearted in me, says Jesus. He points to the fact that what's going on now is part of a much bigger picture. There's an eternal dimension to the story. This isn't just about whether Jesus will be arrested or not, whether he'll die or not, what will happen in the next few days or months. No, Jesus is pointing out that there's an eternal world. There's a greater and more profound reality even than the world that we live in.
He goes on to say ‘my father's house has many rooms’. What's ‘Father's house’ a reference to? It's a reference to the eternal world which we call heaven. ‘My Father's house has many rooms, if that were not so, would I have told you that I'm going there to prepare a place for you’. Jesus is saying a number of things. There's a great eternal world which he calls the Father's house. He says he's going there and he's going there ahead of them. He's going to die before they are going to die. He's going to die prematurely. He's going to die imminently and he's going to the eternal world he describes as his father's house, which has many rooms. We know from the book of Revelation, in much more detail, what the eternal world is going to look like. Revelation 21 and 22 tell us the full story. It explains that the home of the redeemed in eternity is going to be like a great magnificent city, called the New Jerusalem; the Jerusalem that comes from above. That image of the city is really helpful because the city is full of dwellings and houses and houses are full of rooms. Here we have Jesus talking about rooms. He's describing the fact that for every believer there is a place in eternity, a literal physical place. He describes it as his Father's house. He's basically saying I'm going ahead of you and you're going to be following me one day, into that eternal world and when you come into that eternal world, you're going to come into the Father's house. You're going to come into the eternal dwelling with me and my Father. It's a very graphic description of eternal life. Jesus is pointing them away from the immediate circumstances, giving them a different perspective.
Jesus is going to heaven after he dies, and not only that, he's going to come back - verse 3.‘I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may also be where I am’ His death isn't the end; there's going to be a resurrection. This is probably a reference to the Second Coming which we discussed in considerable detail in earlier episodes in Series 12, when we looked at Matthew 24, which I'll encourage you to refer to, to understand Jesus' perspective on the Second Coming. He believes he's going to come back in glory to this world in years to come at an unknown time, and predicts that, and will take all believers to the eternal world at that time. The disciples will be with Jesus, in his Father's house.
The Way, The Truth And The Life
He ends this statement with the comment, ‘you know the way to the place where I'm going.’ You know how to get there. In other words, you know the path of salvation; you know the Gospel message; you know about the Kingdom of God that I've been preaching about. This final statement provokes one of the disciples, Thomas, to ask a searching question. He was not entirely clear. He might have been really very troubled by the circumstances. His mind had lost his focus; he forgot some things that Jesus had taught them. This is a very tense situation, so let's read the second half of our passage which is John 14: 5 - 14.
‘Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you'll know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered, “Don't you know me, Philip, even after I've been among you such a long time? Anyone who's seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father living in me who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I'm in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I've been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I'm 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.“‘John 14:5-14, NIV
Thomas's question provokes Jesus to make this magnificent statement in John 14: 6, which is one of the best-known statements in the whole Bible.
‘I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.’John 14:6, NIV
This is one of those statements that John often records, in which Jesus makes a wide proclamation about who he is. There are quite a number of others which we'll comment on later. Seven major ones in the Gospel. What does he mean by the way, the truth and the life? This is something worth thinking about. ‘The way’ refers to the way of salvation. He literally is opening up a way for humanity to come into relationship with God; something that only the Jews really understood beforehand and they had a limited understanding of that pathway and often got it wrong. Jesus has formed a New Covenant, as we saw in an earlier episode, in looking at Luke's account. We saw him saying that he was creating a New Covenant through his death. His death and his resurrection is critical. Here there is a substitutionary, sacrificial, atoning death by which he's taking upon himself the sins of humanity, so that we can be free of sin if we believe in him and repent, and follow him and find life in him. There's a way that Jesus is creating - a pathway, a way of salvation that you and I can follow. We can find that salvation, we can find that freedom, we can find that new life. It's called eternal life. The Holy Spirit comes and lives within us and suddenly we feel a different person when we find that way.
‘I am the way I am the truth.’ Jesus claims that he brings truth accurately. This is reflected in a number of places in his teaching. Here is an example; John 4: 22 - 24, when he's talking to the Samaritan woman. Samaritans had their own temple on their own hill in Samaria, which was just a pale reflection of the Jewish Temple, and Jesus is explaining to the Jewish people have the keys to salvation and he describes it, as follows - John 4:22 to 24;
‘You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, that salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth”’John 4:22-24, NIV
The Holy Spirit gives us power to know and to worship God, and Jesus brings the true way of salvation. He's authentic, his message is true.
He brings spiritual life and that life is often described by Jesus in the form of water. Also speaking to the Samaritan woman in John 4:13, Jesus said of the water in the well where they were standing,
‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I will give them will never thirst into the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’.John 4:13-14, NIV
A spring of water welling up to eternal life, isn't that amazing? Jesus promises to bring real spiritual life. This isn't about rules and regulations - yet another religious system which burdens mankind and never really resolves the inner feelings of shame, guilt, uncertainty, and doubt. No, Christianity is a very simple straightforward path of faith that's focused entirely on the unique and wonderful person of Jesus, who turns out to be the Son of God, the Messiah - wholly man, wholly God - who comes to create a pathway between men and God through his death on the cross, his substitutionary, sacrificial, atoning death on the cross. It's a pathway to life. Those people who really believe in Jesus, experience this sense of having life within them, feeling reborn, feeling energised, feeling free of the past, free of the shame, free of the guilt, free of the sin and all the things that held them down. That's the miracle of the Christian faith, and that's what's being described here in verse 6.
‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’. This is a very bold claim. Christianity claims that it's a unique religion in all the world. Christians acknowledge there's truth in every religion and respect different religious pathways but in terms of the path of salvation, our belief is in the uniqueness of Christ and in the uniqueness of what he did for us on the cross, which we're going to discuss in some detail in the episodes coming up in Series 13, when we look at his actual death on the cross. Christianity is a unique religion.
Philip then, thinking about Jesus talking about the Father says, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ The claim here that Jesus is revealing God the Father and showing him, is put to the test and Jesus' answer, in verse 9, is very emphatic. ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’ In other words, Jesus represents the truth and the character and the power of God the Father because he is actually divine himself. He is the divine Son of God. If you want to know about God the Father, the only way to do that is through Jesus Christ. It's interesting here, there's emphasis on God as Father. This is a very difficult concept for some people. If we are brought up in a religion where God is very remote, the last thing we would think of doing is calling him a father in any relational sense. If we're secular people, this concept may not mean much to us. If we come from a religion where there are many different gods, or from a Buddhist background where there isn't any belief in a personal God, all these statements about God as Father seem rather remote and unreal. However, Christianity boldly proclaims that God is revealed as one God in three persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, each of whom are fully God but each of whom are identifiable persons - are absolutely one in their deity and in their wills. They work together as one. Jesus comes to us in human form. We can understand that but the Father is revealed to us by Jesus. In other words, we are intended and created to be in a relationship with God as a spiritual father.
If your concept of fatherhood is broken by human experience, that can be quite difficult. If your religious background has no concept of God as Father, that can be difficult. The revelation of Christianity is clear, and Jesus teaches us for example when we pray, to pray, ‘Our Father in heaven’. (Matt 6: 9) We're talking about a living relationship, rather like the relationship between a father and a son, or a child in human experience. God the Father is the originator of life, the provider, someone who cares for you and sent his Son to this world for us. This is an amazing revelation and even the disciples were trying to work out how to relate to the Father. Jesus gave a clue. ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’ He goes on to say in the second passage that if you believe in Jesus, you believe in the Father, and if you believe in the Father, you should believe in Jesus.
He goes on to conclude by saying that the disciples are going to be given power to do miracles like Jesus because another evidence of Jesus' authority are the miracles that he did which are recorded for us in the Gospels.
It's a wonderful passage, well-known, but not always well understood. Here we have one of the seven sayings of Jesus known as the ‘I am sayings’ in John's Gospel. We've encountered several already - ‘I am the bread of life’ - John 6 the feeding of the 5000; ‘I am the light of the world’ - John 9, during the healing of the blind man; ‘I am the gate’ and ‘I am the good Shepherd’ in John 10; in John 11, at the raising of Lazarus, ‘I am the resurrection and the life’; and now here in John 14, ‘I am the way the truth and the life’ and in John 15 there'll be one more similar saying added, which we'll look at very shortly in this series.
The disciples had a weak understanding of the eternal world, and Jesus wanted to make that very clear to them at this critical point. They needed to see that all the events they were about to happen were connected with greater, eternal realities: the Father's house, the many rooms, the spiritual and physical world of eternity, described as the new heaven and the new earth ultimately in the Bible later on in Revelation 21 - 22. Ultimately, only Jesus can be trusted to reveal to us what God is like. Therefore, paying close attention to everything that Jesus teaches in the Gospels is the most important thing that we can do to find out about God; to find out about eternal reality; to find out about ourselves; what our situation really is; and what can be done to remedy the situation, where we have guilt and shame and confusion and uncertainty and doubt in our lives. This passage points us very clearly to Jesus ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’. If you haven't yet taken up that invitation to personal faith in Christ, then I would encourage you to do so on the basis of this amazing passage and all the other wonderful things that we're learning about through studying the life of Jesus. Thanks for joining me.