Are there times when we are troubled by the circumstances or situations we are in? Do such events in our lives cause us to doubt and distance ourselves from God? Who should we turn to for encouragement and reassurance in a secular and materialistic world where relativism is becoming the predominant belief?
I personally find Jesus’ farewell discourse with his disciples most comforting and reassuring. He begins in John 14:1 a long discourse that continues through Chapter 17 and ends with His prayer for them. Jesus had repeatedly talked about His coming death and departure and He brings into a sharp focus the comments He had made. At this time the disciples did not seem to accept or understand, but obviously now this truth was beginning to sink in. In John 16:6 Jesus in the middle of this discourse mentions they were sorrowful because He had told them He would leave. His leaving was puzzling to them because they believed He was the Messiah. Their understanding was that He would be soon setting up His kingdom and ruling from Jerusalem as Israel’s Deliverer. (cf. John 16:17-18) The obvious question was if He is about to become the King of Israel, why was he saying He was going to be betrayed, that He would die, and leave them? How could this happen to the promised Messiah? His great power in performing miracles demonstrated that He was the Messiah and they believed was the Son of God. (cf. Matt. 16:16, Luke 22:70; John. 3:18, 5:25, 6:69, 11:14) Jesus now begins to help them to understand and to prepare them for the coming events.
In spite of how dismal His leaving appeared, He comforts them telling them not to let their hearts be troubled. He emphasizes that they believed and trusted God the Father, and therefore they should also believe in Him. The trouble of the hearts of the disciples arose from a want of a true belief in God; and the command is to exercise a true belief, and to realise the presence of the Father, as manifested in the person of the Son. There was a sense in which every Jew believed in God. That belief lay at the very foundation of the theocracy; but like all the axioms of creeds, it was accepted as a matter of course, and too often had no real power on the life. What our Lord here teaches the disciples is the reality of the Fatherhood of God as a living power, ever present with them and in them; and He teaches them that the love of God is revealed in the person of the Word made flesh. This faith is the simplest article of the Christian’s creed. We teach children to say, we ourselves constantly say, “I believe in God the Father.” Did we but fully grasp the meaning of what we say, the troubles of our hearts would be hushed to silence; and our religion would be a real power over the whole life, and would be also, in a fullness in which it never has been, a real power over the life of the world.
The sure hope of heaven is the source of great strength and comfort to the child of God. It was clear that Jesus was explaining that He would soon return to heaven which is the house or abode of God the Father. He was assuring them that in returning to heaven He would be preparing a place for them there where they could be with Him again. He explained several things to them. One, their belief in Him assured them of a place in heaven. He was the means whereby they would enter heaven. He had explained in John 11:25-26 that He was the resurrection and the life and those that believed in him would live. As He continued this discourse He stated in John 14:6 “. . . I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Second, Jesus told them there were ample dwelling places (mansions) in heaven for them all. Third, He told them His leaving was to go ahead and prepare a place in heaven for them. He promised that their separation would not be permanent and that He would return for them. And lastly, Jesus said they knew the way. Jesus, by the Spirit, takes His own along with Him through life, and then takes them to His side at death. He himself conducts them to Himself.
Jesus addresses Peter’s question in John 13:36 when he asked where the Lord was going. Jesus responds saying “You know where I am going and the way to get there.” Christ had throughout His ministry spoken many times explaining the way of eternal life and also that we would die and return to heaven. John records that Jesus spoke of belief in Him as the way of salvation at least twenty-six times prior to this discourse. Jesus was God, the greatest and most effective preacher that ever existed, yet it seems they had heard His words, but had missed His message. He had just spoken of going to heaven, preparing a place there for them and returning to take with Him to heaven. Yet, Thomas, labeled as the doubter, responds countering the Lord’s statement, saying we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way. (cf. John 20:25) All this shows the difficulty of believing when the mind is full of prejudice and of contrary opinions. Had Thomas laid aside his previous opinions–had he been willing to receive the truth as Jesus plainly spoke it, there would have been no difficulty. Are there certain points in our lives when we behaved like Thomas? How do we get back on track?
In John 14:7 Jesus says: “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” The general word for “known” (ginosko) means “to become acquainted with.” However, Jesus used the word “ginwkeite” (known), the more precise word, three times in this verse. It means to personally and intimately know Him which is a deeper relationship. The implication is that if they knew Him on this level of knowledge, they should know God the Father. To know Jesus spiritually is to know the Father. Jesus further says that “From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” or from this moment the disciples would begin to know Him more profoundly. They did love Jesus as a man, teacher and companion, but now they would know Him as their Saviour and God. He then, to preclude any misunderstanding says “you have seen Him.” When they saw Jesus, they were seeing Almighty God incarnate in man. Jesus proclaimed He was God. (cf. John 1:1)
It is amazing that some men cannot seem to understand what they hear and see. Prior beliefs, prejudices and biases cloud the understanding. Jesus had just stated in absolute clarity that salvation was only through Him. He told them that when they saw Him they were looking at God in corporal form. Yet, Philip’s response showed the degree of his understanding. He wanted Jesus to confirm His statement with a sign or some visible form of God. He plainly had not been impressed with the great number of incredible miracles Jesus has done, nor in Jesus’ repeated statements as to His deity. The Jews understood God revealed Himself through His prophets, signs, and through the Shekinah glory of God. Philip seemed not able to comprehend Jesus’ deity, though He had repeatedly revealed Himself as God to them.
Jesus’ response was one of disappointment, but it must be understood that after Jesus’ resurrection Philip and the disciples would understand. Philip had been a disciple longer than most of the other disciples and had seen innumerable signs. However, he had not believed. This seems to be the key to understanding his response. After the resurrection, even when the other disciples said they had seen the resurrected Lord, Thomas did not believe them. He wanted to touch the Lord’s hands and side in order to believe. His nature was to doubt. What a lesson is here for the doubters. Jesus is to be accepted and believed because of who He is and upon His credibility as our God and Creator (cf. John 1:1-4). How hard it seems to be for some, to simply believe God. The pastor and teacher who proclaim God’s word can also feel the same disappointment and sadness as did the Lord. It is painful for the man of God to Sunday after Sunday proclaimed God’s word, to love, care and sacrifice for his congregation, and yet stand at the back door as they leave the services, knowing that most go away unchanged, ignoring the principles that would bring such blessings to their lives. Jesus appeals to them to believe Him because of the marvelous works He had done. They had seen Him heal every disease, even lepers, the dumb, blind, lame, and even raised the dead. That should have been proof enough of who He was, but it was not.
He now reveals to them that those who believe in Him and His works would do greater works when He returned to the Father. The greater works they would do would not be in magnitude, but in number. His ministry on earth would last only three years, but there would be many of them and they would have many more years to serve Him. Jesus explained that what they asked in His name, He would do, in that He the Son would glorify the Father. Those who loved and obeyed Him, as His servants, in His will, and at His direction He would answer. Jesus in Matthew 6:5-15 explained to His disciples how they were to pray. He said they were to address their prayers to God the Father who would answer them. Always through His ministry Jesus proclaimed that what He did was the will of the Father. He qualifies His proclamation of answered prayer further by subjective words, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” As He did the Father’s will, so those who were His true disciples would keep His commandments.
In John’s First Epistle he repeats the Lord’s words, reminding that those who say they love Him to keep His commandments. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1 John 2:3) The personal test of the validity of our love for Christ is in that we keep His commandments. If a person truly believes in Jesus Christ, He knows who Jesus is and knows of His great love for us. In this foundational belief he accepts Jesus as his Lord. This is the motivation that makes him live as his Saviour directs. Obedience is the proof of true saving faith and allows the Lord to bless us. In 1 John 3:22, 4:2, 5-2-3 the Apostle repeats Jesus’ words. Without question, a true faith will produce a true and visible result in the lives of the born again child of God. We will at times fail, as John states in 1 John 1:8-10, but a Christian will never be happy in disobedience. We can always say that we love God, but do our lives attest to that?
Let us praise God with the song “I Will Serve You”: