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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Lessons in the Upper Room

John 14

Christ now begins a series of lessons, recorded primarily in John’s Gospel, which are designed to be his farewell series to his disciples. The first of these is given in that upper room in which the Last Supper was eaten. We begin with his encouragement:

Do not let your hearts be troubled

(John 14:1-6 NIV) "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. {2} In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. {3} And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. {4} You know the way to the place where I am going." {5} Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" {6} Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Word for Word

It is easiest to see the import of Christ’s words, I suspect, if we take it slowly.

·         “Let” – did you ever see it that you let your heart be troubled? You don’t trouble it, but you allow it to happen. So many of us think there is nothing we can do about our circumstances (often true) so there is nothing we can do about our attitude (false!) I don’t like the travel schedule I have – but I view it as something the Lord has given me, a chance to honor him in this very mild form of suffering, at the least. Perhaps it is a chance to bring glory to his name. Is it rain, or God’s challenge to you to honor him? You allow the trouble, or not, as you choose.

·         “Your” – so many of us take our cue in life from others. If everyone else thinks this is a bad time, why, it must be, right? Not so for the Christian. The world listens to “everybody” when everybody thinks things are bad. The Christian listens to Somebody!

·         “Heart” – this is not just intellect, or emotions, but the will of man that we are dealing with. This is a decision, not acid indigestion.

·         “Troubled” – the Greek word here means to stir, agitate or roil. How often we have a confusion of thoughts and emotions (really what is meant here) when we should rest calmly in the assurance of God! We let our minds rattle on when we should bring our thoughts to the throne of grace, there to be set at ease.

·         “Believe” – the word is often translated “trust – and this is the core of things. The argument is simple. You trust in God; Jesus knows that. But God seems so distant; how could he care for one so little as me? Ah, but you also know the man Jesus. If you trust God, you should trust Jesus also – and He is the one who knows your troubles! Do not forget that God’s strength is shown in our weakness. Trust Him, and see.

Ah, but that is so difficult. Why should I trust? There are two reasons given here: the ultimate plan and the ultimate man.

The Ultimate Plan

Think of it this way: could you live like Indiana Jones, in danger every minute? Of course not; you’d be worried half to death. Why then is Jones so cool? Maybe it’s because he read the script, and he knows who wins in the last reel!

I’ve read the script too – the world’s script – and I know who wins in the last reel. Christ lays it out for us:

·         There are many “mansions” (dwelling places) being made ready for us. Indeed, the glories of the New Jerusalem can only be hinted at symbolically.

·         Christ Himself announces that He is going there – for the explicit purpose of preparing those mansions. So the one who has all power and authority is doing this work.

·         Since he is going – and we know he loves us – then it follows quite logically that he must return. So it is written!

·         And, he tells us, we know the place to which he is going, to wit, the same place where his Father God is. And that is the place we shall be when he returns for us.

The Ultimate Man

The plan is of no use unless the one who plans it has the ability and will to carry it out. But who makes this plan but Jesus, the Christ!

·         “I AM” – the Greek literally, in verse 6, means “I exist.” Jesus is telling you that he is one in the same with the God of Moses who announced his name as “I AM.” The one who is omnipotent, omniscient and never changes.

·         “The way” – the Greek means “the journey” or “the highway.” Think of it in the first sense. Christianity is not so much a destination as it is a journey, the journey in the life of Christ. As we imitate him, as we become more like him, we go further and further along the way. He is our journey, the way in which we should go – and grow. Indeed, as we see in Acts, “The Way” became a synonym for the church.

·         “The truth” – the Greek literally means “that which is not hidden.” It is plain, in sight. (Greek alethia, a=not, lethia=hidden). This is the one who is now in plain view. Not some ingenious and subtle theory, but the truth which is easily understood by the simple and yet is deeper than the most profound thoughts of man. The simple, elegant truth.

·         “The life” – the word is zoe, which means biological life. We are not destined to become some disembodied ghosts, but rather the dead shall rise and be clothed with a new body, the true body of what man is ultimately meant to be.

The Trinity

Christ now continues this lesson. For the sake of clarity, we will see here the remainder of the discussion at one time. However, we will look at it in two lights: first, as a discourse on the Trinity and then in terms of our relationship to the Trinity.

(John 14:7-31 NIV) If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." {8} Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." {9} Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? {10} Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. {11} Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. {12} I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. {13} And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. {14} You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. {15} "If you love me, you will obey what I command. {16} And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- {17} the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. {18} I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. {19} Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. {20} On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. {21} Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." {22} Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?" {23} Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. {24} He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. {25} "All this I have spoken while still with you. {26} But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. {27} Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. {28} "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. {29} I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. {30} I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, {31} but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. "Come now; let us leave.

It is “confessedly a great mystery,” as Dr. Schofield once put it. The word “trinity” occurs nowhere in the Bible; it is our shorthand way of describing God in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. There are here, however, some clues to the relationship. We cannot understand it entirely, but we can describe some parts of it.

The Equality of the Son

This passage proclaims at once the equality of the Son and the superiority of the Father. We examine the equality first:

·         No one comes to the Father except through the Son. This, incidentally, solves all the pygmy in Africa problems (“what about the pygmy in Africa who never heard of Jesus?”) – it’s not what, it’s who you know. If you will, the Father has confided to the Son the privilege of determining who is saved.

·         He says that if we have seen him, we have seen the Father. Now, this is a rather tough one, for God is a spirit – and eyeballs are not the right instrument for seeing such. Yet we use the word “see” in many figurative ways, and I think the meaning clear enough. Such as we can perceive God in our limitations, Christ is “the exact representation of the Father.” The New International has such trouble with the word that it translates “see” as “know.” But this is weak; the entire passage transcends human sight or knowledge.

·         Christ tells us that he is “in” the Father, but also that the Father is “in” him. Geometrically, this can only be true if they are identical. I think the point is more clearly seen that this "“in-ness” is reciprocal. To the extent that God is in Jesus, Jesus is in God.

·         Finally, there is the triumph of Jesus over Satan. Each of us does not have the intrinsic ability to triumph over Satan because we are sinners – which gives Satan a handle on us. No such handle exists for Jesus; he is sinless. But who but God could be perfect and sinless? Only God could be superior to Satan, for we know that Satan was created as a tremendously powerful being, a cherubim. No higher being exists – except the Creator.

The Superiority of the Father

So, then, in some aspects – dare we call them the “Godly” aspects – Christ and the Father are equal. But there are other aspects – “as touching his manhood” as the Athanasian creed has it – in which Christ is inferior to the Father:

·         The Father is glorified in the Son – but not the other way around.

·         Christ does not speak his own words, but the words the Father has commanded him to speak. He does not do anything on his own initiative, but in his Father’s will.

·         Indeed, Christ does “exactly” what his Father “commanded” him. This is the relationship of one who obeys his superior.

·         In verse 28, Christ explicitly tells us that the Father is greater than he, Jesus, is. Indeed, the disciples were to be glad that Jesus went away because the greater power of the Father would then hold forth.

·         And, if proof were needed, we are to love Jesus and obey him – because the Father said so.

The Holy Spirit

To this confusion is now added (but not for the first time; the Spirit is found even in the Old Testament) the Holy Spirit. What do we learn about the Spirit?

·         The Spirit is called the Counselor – literally, one called alongside. It is clear that this is the function of the Spirit for those who believe; to be along side of us for counsel and help.

·         Note that the Father gives the Spirit – and hence we may conclude that in some aspect the Father is superior to the Spirit, for the giver is superior to the gift.

·         This is the spirit of truth (again, the “not hidden-ness”). As such, the Spirit is to teach us “all things” and (specifically for those who would be writing down the Gospels and Letters) to remind the Apostles of everything Jesus had taught them. He is the inspiration of the Scripture.

There are many illustrations of the Trinity. This passage reminds us that the Trinity is beyond our understanding – but not beyond our experience. We must now examine our relationship.

Our Relationship to the Trinity

We do not need to understand to be able to experience. I understand General Relativity when I’m drunk; quantum mechanics when I’m sober and women at no time at all. But where do you think I have experience?

We need now to look at how we experience Christ.

·         First, we are to ask in his name, expecting with confidence that he will do as we ask. We are not to ask “in his name” like a magic formula. Rather, we are to plead with God on the basis of His merit, not our own. We are to go to the throne of grace via the intercession of the Son, who speaks for us.

·         If we love Him, we are then going to keep his commandments. This is not an imperative as much as it is a descriptive. If you love Him, you can’t help but keep his commandments. You cannot love what you do not know; if you know Him you know he is worthy to be obeyed; if you love him greatly the obedience becomes so easy.

·         Indeed, he tells us that we will do greater things than he did! This is said to be as a result of his going to the Father, for this (somehow) unleashes the power of the Father within us – and we should be glad of it. Indeed, Christ never spoke in tongues. It is recorded that Peter’s shadow[1] healed the sick. Others were healed when a cloth that Peter touched, touched them. Greater indeed.

·         We are told that we will live in his “peace.” I think the people of the Middle Ages had a clearer conception of this than we do. They held that each man had his “peace;” the greater the man, the greater the crime to “break the peace.” We still use that phrase today. Children understand this quite well. Have you ever seen two small children arguing, and then suddenly cease when the teacher walks in? We are in the presence of the Mighty One; we live in his peace. Indeed, not a grumbling peace of superior power but the sweet peace of infinite love.

·         Finally there is the matter of abiding. It means to live, in the sense that I live in Fullerton. We are told that the Spirit abides in us; also that Christ abides in us. But Christ also abides in the Father – and we abide in Christ. I cannot understand it geometrically, but I can experience it.

Day by day, step by step, the communion between God and this poor sinner grows. No doubt it is not growing as fast as He would want. No doubt I have much more growing to do. But I need not let my heart be troubled; the ultimate man with the ultimate plan cares for me. Father, Son and Spirit – these I ask and receive from. I love Him; therefore I keep His commandments and in all things abide in Him.

I cannot understand it; my mind is too small for such things. The only instrument capable of perceiving such things is the entire human being; I must experience Him – for He is the Way.


[1] Acts 5:15

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