Studies in the Gospel of John
Lesson 40: “Why Do You Have to Go?”
John 14:5 -31
One thing that most people find very hard to deal with is “change.” Oh, everybody likes a change of pace or a change of view once in a while, but it is very difficult to deal with those “big” changes that come about in life. The death of a loved one, a move to another part of the country, the loss of a job, when the last child leaves home, and on and on we could go. And that is exactly where we find the disciples of Jesus as we come to chapter 14 of John’s gospel. In verses 1 through 4, at which we looked in our last study, He had made “the announcement of His departure, and there are many lessons to learn from that.
After the gracious way in which Jesus made “the announcement of His departure,” we would think that the disciples would have been calm and peaceful. But as usual, that was not the case. Verses 5 through 11 tell about the agitation of the disciples over the departure. First they said, in so many words, “we don’t know where you are going” in verses 5 through 7. The objection that Thomas raises is in verse 5:
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?
This question probably came partly because the disciples really didn’t want to understand Jesus leaving them. Thomas, who always represented the confused and doubting element among the disciples, voiced the question, but it was probably on all of their minds. In so many words, it was, “Lord, we’re still not exactly clear on where you are going, so how can we possibly know the way? And so, in verses 6 and 7 we find Jesus’ explanation:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, 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; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “I have taught you the way, the truth and the life, “ or “I know about the way and the truth and the life.” In fact, He goes on to say, “No one can come to God except through me!” “In fact,” He says, “If you don’t know me, you don’t know God at all.” Jesus unequivocally says, “all roads to not lead to God, I am the only way.” Not only that, but, He is “the life” – the power by which we are enabled to come to God. With these words Jesus turned the disciples’ thinking from a system or method of religion to His own person. This must have been a rebuke to Thomas, (and to a certain extent all of the disciples) because, if He meant what He said, after all this time he didn’t understand who Jesus was, and therefore couldn’t understand the concept of God the Father or heaven either. So if Thomas was just dawdling around with his own confusion over Jesus going away, he certainly got things put in perspective for him.
Instead settling the issue, however, Jesus’ explanation just led to another question. In verses 5 through 7 Philip says, in so many words “we don’t know to whom you are going.” The objection itself is in verse 8:
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
Philip was asking to have a physical sight of . Maybe he was thinking about the time that Moses asked God to show Him His glory in Exodus 33:12 through 33. Even though God did let Moses see His glory, he did not see His face. But maybe Philip thought that since Jesus knew God as His Father, so intimately He might let them see Him.
But Jesus’ explanation is in verses 9 through 11:
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father?” (10) Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (11)Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
This answer of Jesus is kind of sad. It is as though He is saying, “Philip, do you still not truly believe after all of the miracles you have seen, after all I have said about my equality with God?” Do you still not understood that to see me is to see God Himself? If this emphatic statement is startling to us, imagine how it must have sounded to a monotheistic Jew who had believed in “One God” all of his life?” And yet, that is exactly what Jesus was saying: “I am that God!” This is the strongest claim to deity that Jesus ever made. It is elaborated on in Colossians 1:15 through 17:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation (16) For by Him all things were created that are created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones of dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him (17) And He is before all things and in Him all things consist.
Also, Hebrews 1:3
Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when he had by Himself purtde our sins, sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high.
In verses 10 ant 11, carrying it a step further, Jesus gives a double proof of His deity:
First there is the evidence of His words:
(10) Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.? The words that I speak to you on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does the works.
His teaching, His claims to deity, and the authority with which He spoke all shouted His unique deity. All of his miracles proved His unique divine power. And on the basis of that He makes a challenge to them: If you can’t believe the heavy theological concept of “I am in the Father and the Father in me,” at least you can believe me because of the physical miracles you have seen me do.” And this brings us back again to the purpose of the miracles in the first place: to validate His claims of deity. A good example of the way this works is in the story in Mark chapter 2 of the man who was let down through the roof for healing by Jesus. The first thing Jesus said to him was. “your sins are forgiven.” When the scribes heard that they accused Him of blasphemy, saying, “who can forgive sins but God? But Jesus said, “it is easy to say “your sins are forgiven – anybody can say it because you can’t see whether they are or not. But I will do something you can see, so that will know that I can do things that you can’t see. And with that, He said to the man, “rise, take up your bed and walk.” – and he did.
With all that as background , the disciples must have been astonished to hear that there would be some advantages to the departure of Jesus. But that is exactly what we find in verses 12 through 26. The first advantage, Jesus says, is that they will have greater power. Look at verses 12 through 15
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do because I go to my Father (13)And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) “if you ask anything in my name I will do it. (15) If you love mem, keep my commandments
At first glance we might think, “How could that possibly be true?” Well, the first part of the answer is in the last line of verse 12 – “because I go to my Father.” Then verse 13 gives a new truth that they had never heard before (and reinforces it in verse 14) – whatever you ask in my name I will do.” Notice carefully – this promise is for those things that are asked “in His name.” But an age old question has been, “how do we know if what we are asking is “in His name?” Well, a clue to that is in verse 15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” A person who is diligently trying to follow the teachings of Jesus is going to (a) understand what is in line with “in His name,” and (b) only ask for things that fall into that category.
Now think about it this way: When Jesus was on earth He was limited to human abilities. He could only deal with the requests of whatever number could crowd around Him. But when He is in heaven in His glorified body He can hear the requests everyone at the same time. – and He has promised to respond. So just from the standpoint of sheer numbers of people asking Him for things, He is able to “do” more than He could possibly “do” on earth.
But not only that, another reason that believers can do more than Jesus did while He was on earth is the greater provision that He is going to make for them. This is described in verses 16 and 17
And I will pray the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever. (17) “the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you.
Here is the first promise of the Holy Spirit recorded in the New Testament. And notice some characteristics: First, He will be “another Helper.” There is no question that Jesus had been “a “helper to the disciples while He was on earth. Now as He is going away, He comforts them by saying that He is going to send them “another “helper (and notice how He lovingly includes the fact that “he will abide with you forever.”) In fact, the Greek word used here expounds on that even more fully – it means another “of exactly the same kind.” So this new helper will be able to do all the things that Jesus could do. Peter is a perfect example of how this promise worked out. When he was with Jesus he had supernatural boldness. (walking on the water) He had supernatural insight (“you are the Christ” the Son of God”) He had supernatural courage (cutting off the High Priest’s ear) But when he was outside the physical presence of Jesus he denied that he had ever known Him. But after the coming of the Holy Spirit (“the other helper”) he exhibited all of the same characteristics he had when he was in the presence of Jesus on earth. He had supernatural boldness – in his sermon on the day of Pentecost he said to the leaders of the Pharisees, “This man Jesus, you have taken and with wicked hands have crucified and slain. . . .” And the record of the book of Acts and the secular history books is of that same kind of boldness and wisdom and insight and courage on the part of all of the disciples throughout their lives. And the same can be true of any believer.
Another characteristic of this new helper is that He will be a “spirit.” (“the spirit of truth”) Jesus had just said in verse 6 that He was “the way, the truth and the life.” So this new helper will be the very essence of all of that Jesus is. Jesus is going to say down in verse 26 that the Holy Spirit will guide believers (even in this dispensation) into all truth.
These truths about the Holy Spirit explain why Jesus could say in verse 12 that the disciples would do greater works than He had done. Obviously, no single disciple can do greater works than Jesus did, but taken together, they can do much more. But notice carefully: it is only by the power that comes from the “helper” who is within us!
Jesus is talking about the “advantages” of His departure. He said that there would be the advantage” of “greater power” and the advantage of “greater provision,” but in verses 18 through 26 he carries it a step further and says that there will also be the advantage of greater perception” – and there are 4 reasons for it: The first reason is because of His return in verses 18 through 20
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you (19) A little while longer and the world will see me no more. But you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also (20) At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in me and I in you.
Jesus knew that as the disciples thought about His departure they probably felt like orphans. So He promises them in verse 18 that He will not leave them in that state forever, but will return for them. (He had already told them this in verse 3, remember) Although after His departure the unsaved would never see Him again, His promise in verse 19 is that the disciples will. There are several ways in which this promise can be understood. It could be a reference to the rapture as described in First Thessalonians 4:13-18. Or it could refer to His coming for them at the time of their death as He said in verse 3 of this chapter. Or He could have been speaking of His coming to them in the person of the Holy Spirit in the past few verses. In fact it could be all three of these.
Certainly at the cross the disciples were “orphaned” – several of them decided to go back to their “pre-Jesus” lives. But then at the resurrection He appeared to them and about five hundred other witnesses for forty days before His ascension (Acts 1:3; First Corinthians 15:6) At the resurrection verses nineteen and twenty certainly came true for them. They knew beyond all doubt that He was in the Father and the Father in Him.” And they realized that “because He lived they would live also.” But these truths became even more real to them a few weeks later when they received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
Verse 21 brings out a second reason that they would have greater perception after His departure. And that is because of His reaction to them.
He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Here is a beautiful promise for all believers: Do you want to really “feel” the presence of the Lord and sense His love for you? Jesus says that that comes from deliberately, out of love for Him, keeping His commandments. This is not a legalistic drudgery of obedience so that He will love you (or fear that He won’t) But a loving response to the fact that He already does love you.
A third reason that Jesus’ departure brings greater perception is because of His residence according to verses 22 through 24
Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us and not to the world?” (23) Jesus answered and said to 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. (24) He who does not love Me does not keep my words; and the which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent me.”
Not only will an obedient believer sense the presence of Jesus with him, verse 23 goes further to say that the trinity will be “at home” within him. And just the opposite is true with unbelievers and Christians out of fellowship – they don’t know Him or sense His presence because they don’t keep His word. Incidentally, this whole section underscores the need for taking in the Word on a daily basis. How can we obey His commandments if we don’t even know what they are? And they are so interwoven throughout the scripture that it will take regular, consistent reading to get the whole picture. As I have often said, God only holds you responsible for the time that you do have – He does not hold you responsible for what you do not have. But He does hold you responsible for that. And to some extent this is a matter of time management and priorities.
Finally, verses 25 and 26 bring out the fourth reason that His departure would bring greater perception to the disciples and that is because of His remembrance.
These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. (26) But the Helper, who is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
So many times we feel like we will never learn all that the Bible has to say, or never be able to remember it all if we do learn it. But that is where the Holy Spirit comes in! If we will be faithful to take in the Word of God He will be faithful to remind us of it as He sees our need for it. But notice carefully what this function is: To “teach us” the scripture as we study it. And then to remind us of it when we need it. But you can’t learn without taking the material in. And you can’t remember what you haven’t learned. So the Holy spirit is indispensable to obeying the Word of God. But to come back to the point of this whole chapter, all of this “perception” is greater for believers today than it was for those who were alive when He was on earth. And so this is another of the “advantages” of His departure.”
The chapter closes with two beautiful admonitions about the departure in verses 27 through 31
First he says “Don’t be troubled in verses 27 and 28
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid (28) You have heard me say to you “I am going away, and coming back to you, “if you loved Me you would rejoice because I said, I am going to the Father, for my Father is greater than I”
Then He says, “Don’t be traumatized in verses 29 through 31:
And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you you may believe (30) I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in Me (31) But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.
Jesus knew that the days ahead would be tough for the disciples because “the ruler of this world” was about to swing into action. But He had told them in advance what to expect so that they wouldn’t fall apart. And He has done exactly the same thing for us!