For newer readers interested in reading more about Maundy Thursday, please see these posts:
Today’s post considers another aspect of the Last Supper, taken from John 14:
It was the best and most comforting sermon that the Lord Christ delivered on earth, a treasure and a jewel, not to be purchased with the world’s goods. — Martin Luther on John 14
The apostle John discusses the Last Supper from chapters 13 through 16 in his gospel. Judas leaves in John 13. (The Byzantine depiction, courtesy of Paradoxplace.com, shows him at the Last Supper earlier on. John is the apostle leaning against Jesus.)
Jesus has much to say and one could write a book on John’s treatment of the Last Supper alone. Every time I read these chapters I find something new. Every verse is worth a page of analysis.
In John 14, Jesus talks to the remaining 11 apostles after their momentous Passover meal together. He has much to tell them. When this chapter finishes, they will go elsewhere to hear more from Jesus before walking to the garden of Gethsemane where He spends His final hours prior to His arrest.
Here are the first seven verses of John 14 (link in previous paragraph):
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In 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? 3And 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. 4And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Did you note two favourite, often-cited verses (2 and 6)?
By this stage, the apostles are apprehensive. At the end of John 13, Jesus has told them that He has now been glorified (after Judas’s departure — which must have been a shock) and that He must leave them. Imagine what they must have been thinking. What do they do now? Who will lead them? Will the authorities be after them?
Jesus knows their anxiety so, instead of being worried for Himself in his final hours, does his best to comfort them. He opens by gently telling them not to be worried any longer. In the second sentence of verse 1, He asks them to trust in His presence. Essentially: ‘You have believed in God from the start, now, believe equally in Me.’
Jesus adds that He has prepared places for them in His Father’s house, where there will be room for all who are invited. Because He has already told them their rooms were being prepared, they can be assured that the invitation and the heavenly lodging stand waiting to be filled. Jesus promises that He will personally come to take them to their new home.
This is a difficult concept for them to grasp, especially when Jesus says that they know the way to where He is going! He tells them that they have known Him for the past three years and they know His teachings. They also have faith in Him, albeit an imperfect one. Therefore, they know the way to Heaven because He is that Way.
Thomas responds by saying that the apostles couldn’t possibly know the way. Jesus makes it clear:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
In verse 7, if they had ‘known’ Him, implying more faith and understanding, they would really know God the Father because they knew Jesus. He adds that they really will know Him in this way going forward — via His death and resurrection. As we know, this will prove problematic for Thomas.
Yet, despite all the times the apostles were in the presence of Jesus’s conversations with the Pharisees in which He said the same thing, they still don’t really understand. Here is the next part of the chapter:
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9Jesus 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’? 10Do 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. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
Philip seems to say, ‘That’s all right, Lord — just let us see God and that will suffice’. One feels sorry for Jesus, after all this time — day and night — spent with His apostles. Indeed, some of Jesus’s frustration appears in verse 9. He asks about Philip’s faith: ‘Do you not believe …?’ Can Philip still not make the correlation between Jesus and God?
There are those today who do not believe in the Holy Trinity — the divine mystery of the Hypostatic Union — yet, here is Jesus saying clearly that God is in Him and He is in God. Jesus speaks on His Father’s authority, and it is God the Father’s presence which works through Jesus. He tells Philip, ‘If you can’t fully believe that My Father and I share each other’s presence, then at least as a minimum believe on the works you have seen as evidence.’
Philip asked for sight; Jesus gave him faith.
Note the next set of verses and what they say about faith (emphases mine):
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. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Note that Jesus fulfilled His promise to the apostles: they worked miracles in His name and gave the Church a sound foundation which endures and increases to this day.
(However, just a word of caution here: for some people, the experiential takes over, a possible counterfeit from the ruler of the world, Satan. Then we’re really confused. The signs and wonders cloud our minds and distort our faith, making us seem more capable than we are. May we be discerning.)
Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus helps us to be His ambassadors and to be obedient to His will. This brings us to our next set of verses, where He made this promise initially to His apostles:
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even 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.
Let’s imagine this now from the apostles’ perspective. The man they have left their jobs and, in some cases, families only for Him to announce that in the heat of battle that He is going, leaving them. They had some skills for coping but not the whole set. The apostles were no doubt thinking about their survival in a world where Jesus had lived. He had caused controversy, angered the Pharisees and the Romans would surely follow: ‘So where does that leave us?’
Jesus promises a Helper. We know that to be the Holy Spirit, but what would they have thought, particularly in light of what Thomas and Philip said above? Yet, Jesus tells them that they know this Helper already. How can that be?
At this point, they had some knowledge, some courage and a lot of love for Jesus. That said, Peter would go on to deny Him three times. Thomas would doubt Jesus’s post-Resurrection presence until it came time to place his hands in His wounds. Unimaginable things would happen within a very short space of time. Today, the apostles would have been offered counselling.
Back to our selection of verses, however. Note how Jesus says (verse 17) that the world cannot see or know the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit — the Comforter, the Paraclete — was meant for them and other believers only. Children of the world — followers of Satan — just won’t understand and, therefore, not receive it. That’s still true today.
Since that first Pentecost, Jesus Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to every single true Christian — past, present and future. Countless numbers of people around the world throughout history have received the Holy Spirit and have used His gifts wisely. They did so because, like the apostles, they truly loved — and trusted — Jesus. And because of this, they kept His commandments. Thereby did the Holy Spirit enrich their faith and strengthen their lives in Christ. Observe that Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as ‘the spirit of truth’; this Spirit works in each and every bona fide believer.
Trust inspires love. Love inspires obedience. If you have a good spouse, a wise manager or a valued advisor who says, ‘You know, I really wouldn’t do that’ — whatever it is — if you hold them in high esteem, you won’t do it. And it is the same with Jesus.
You say ‑ Well, what are Christ’s commandments? Well, the whole revelation of His will in the New Testament … And most of all summed up in the words “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind and strength and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Study the gospels, they reveal His commands. But mostly, He told men to believe on Him, didn’t He? And that’s where it all begins. The initiation of obedience begins when you believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Savior, then all the rest are not burdensome, they are not even legalistic. We fulfill the commands in a non‑legalistic way by love, read it in Romans 13. But the starting point is believing in Jesus Christ.
Now for the following verses:
18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 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. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23Jesus 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. 24Whoever 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.
Some will be puzzled by verse 18, because if Jesus is leaving the apostles soon, then how can He not leave them completely? This verse also refers to the Holy Spirit and, indirectly, to the Hypostatic Union of the Holy Trinity — a divine mystery, one which we barely understand, let alone the apostles at that time.
Then there is the following verse — ‘the world will see me no more, but you will see me’. John MacArthur says that it means the world will not have the Holy Spirit for guidance, however, all believers will. Furthermore, those who have received the Holy Spirit have also received the spirit of Jesus Christ. He lives in them and they in Him. It is the deepest, most personal relationship imaginable. It is truly outside the collective.
John’s style is to repeat by rephrasing, layering another theme or providing more information each time. (As another John with whom I once worked told me, ‘Tell them once, repeat it then tell them again’.) Once more (verse 21), John has Jesus reword what He said in verse 15: those who love Him will obey His commandments. Furthermore, Jesus loves those who love Him — as does God the Father.
Jude Thaddeus — subsequently canonised by the Catholic Church and author of the Book of Jude — asks how it will be possible for Jesus not to manifest Himself to everyone. Jesus repeats His message about faith, love for Him and obeying His commandments. Jesus could probably see the apostles would not be able to understand much more at this point.
Now for the final seven verses of John 14:
25“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26But 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. 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. 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. 29And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31but 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 emphasises that He wanted to tell His disciples personally what would happen and that the Holy Spirit would come to them. He reassures them that the Holy Spirit — the Comforter — will put everything into perspective for them to be able to go forth and preach as well as enabling them to remember details of His ministry — what He did and why.
It would be helpful if more of verse 27 were included in our services. The first sentence is part of the liturgy in many churches, but the next two sentences are just as important. What Jesus leaves us is not the false peace which we receive from our fair-weather friends and neighbours. He leaves us with a lasting, inner peace. Therefore, no matter what goes on around us — unemployment, high taxes, exhorbitant fuel and food costs, terrible schools, questionable theology — we are to focus on Him and, in so doing, to cast aside our fear. Some of you will say, ‘That’s easier said than done, Churchmouse,’ but, as I have said many times before, true peace comes through enhanced faith by studying the Bible and praying often throughout the day. Prayer might consist of a simple plea, ‘Lord, please help me get through this difficult day’ or ‘Thank you, Lord, for your many blessings’. A recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is invaluable.
Jesus tells the apostles that if they truly loved — really understood — Him they would realise that He would have to return to His Father in order for them to spread the Gospel with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 29 is an extension of verse 25 and the second half of verse 7. The circuitry serves the apostles — and us — well. We can understand why Luther said what he did of this chapter.
In the final verses, Jesus alerts the apostles to His final earthly battle with Satan — ‘the ruler of the world’. Yet, as Jesus says, the death to come from Satan’s influence will have no dominion — no power — over Him. Jesus is blameless. He is innocent. He is perfect. Satan finds a foot in the door only where there is sin, which is where fallen Man comes into the picture. We have a difficult time dealing with temptation because we are prone to sin. Jesus was not.
From His incarnation, not so long ago on Christmas Day, Jesus was about His Father’s work and carried it out until the end, as God commanded.
There is so much more in John’s gospel to examine. Until next year, when we will return to more of Jesus’s messages to the apostles after the Last Supper.
John MacArthur’s sermons on John 14 —
‘Who Goes When Jesus Comes?’ – John 14:1-6 (1971)
‘Jesus is God’ – John 14:7-14 (1971)
‘The Comforter Is Coming, Part 1’ – John 14:15-19 (1971)
‘The Comforter Is Coming, Part 2’ – John 14:20-24 (1971)
‘The Comforter Is Coming, Part 3’ – John 14:25-26 (1971)