Warnings and Comfort: The Gospel Accounts: A Chronological Harmony

Warnings and Comfort

Jesus is going without the disciples (John 13:31-35)

            After Judas Iscariot left, Jesus he is now glorified and the Father is glorified through him. But this he is saying that events are now in place that will lead to his crucifixion, but also ultimately to his glorification (Philippians 2:8-11).

            But for this to happen, in a little while he must leave and his disciples cannot come with him. It will be just as he told the Jews earlier (John 7:34; 8:21).

            Yet in his departure he leaves them a new commandment, to love one another. It is an important command for the disciples had been quarreling over who would be greatest, soon they would be scattered. What will hold them together is love for each other. It will become the badge of distinction by which people will recognize Jesus’ disciples (Ephesians 5:2; I Thessalonians 4:9; II Thessalonians 1:3; I Peter 1:22; II Peter 1:7; I John 3:11-14, 23; 4:21). In some ways Jesus’ words are puzzling because God has commanded love between His people in Leviticus 19:18, but Jesus calls this command “new.” It is new in its extent because the love to be shown is same as that Jesus demonstrated (John 15:13).

The disciples will fall away for a while (Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38)

            What Jesus said, however, did not make sense to the disciples. Peter asked Jesus where he was going. Jesus repeats that where he is going, Peter and the other disciples cannot come, but they would follow him later. This is different from what Jesus told the Jews. To that group he stated that they could not come at all (John 8:21). Peter did come to that point and mentions it in II Peter 1:14. But at this point Peter does not want to be separated from his beloved Lord. He demands to know why it must be later, he wanted to follow Jesus now. He was willing to lay down his life, if necessary, to remain with Jesus.

            Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked permission of God to try him (Job 1:7-12). Jesus uses a plural “you” in this statement (Luke 22:31), so though he is directly speaking to Peter, he including the other disciples as well. Matthew and Mark’s account make this clear. The shepherd, Jesus, would be struck and the sheep, his disciples, would be scattered in fulfillment of prophecy (Zechariah 13:7). This would happen that very night. It was Jesus’ desire that Peter’s faith not fail, but he knew Peter would waver for a time and would need to repent. Showing his confidence in Peter, Jesus told him that when he does return, he must strengthen the brethren. Thus Jesus is answering Peter’s question. Peter cannot come with Jesus now because he isn’t strong enough yet and he has work to do later when his faith is strengthened. Jesus tells them that after his is raised from the dead, he would meet them in Galilee.

            Perhaps grasping Jesus’ implication of what is about to happen to him. Peter declares that even if everyone else is forced to stumble, he would not. Peter also declared he is ready to go to prison and to death with Jesus. But Jesus sadly tells him that before the next dawn he will have denied knowing Jesus three times. Peter again denies that he would do any such thing. Even if he would have to die with Jesus, he would remain faithful The other disciples join him in their own protests that they would ever deny the Lord.

Jesus has shown the disciples the way (John 14:1-12)

            The idea that Jesus would die and do so without them disturbed the disciples greatly, but Jesus attempts to calm their fears. He tells them to have faith in both God and him. In heaven there is plenty of room for everyone. There is no limit on the number who can enter. Jesus had mentioned this before (Luke 14:22). And while Jesus is gone, he would prepare places to welcome each of them when they come to join him (I Thessalonians 4:17). Though the King James Version uses the word “mansion” here, the Greek word is a place where a person lives either temporarily or permanently. Though the splendor of heaven will certainly seem as if we are living in mansions, the wording in this passage doesn’t demand such an implication.

            Jesus assures them that if he goes he will certainly return to get them (Philippians 1:23). Thus, he affirms that he will be returning (Acts 1:11). And besides, the disciples, though they cannot come with him now, do know where Jesus is going and how to get there. This deeply confuses the disciples; they have no idea at the moment where Jesus is going, let alone knowing how to get there themselves, and Thomas was bold enough to point this out to Jesus.

            Jesus had declared several times that he was from heaven (John 7:28-29) and he has stated that he would be returning there (John 8:14; 13:3). But Jesus answers Thomas’ question by stating that he is the one and only way to the father. Therefore, Jesus answered Thomas’ question as to where he is going: he is going to the Father; and he answered the question about how to get there: the only way is by following Jesus (John 10:9; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:18; Hebrews 7:25; I Peter 2:21; 3:18).

            Jesus’ declaration that he is the way leads to the movement he established as being known as “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22; Romans 3:17; Hebrews 10:19-20; II Peter 2:2, 21). This is as had been prophesied (Isaiah 35:8-9; 42:16).

            Jesus’ statement that he is the truth is interesting when combined with his later statement in John 17:17 that God’s word is truth. This is not a contradiction, but a continuing of the theme laid out from the beginning of John. Jesus is the Word (John 1:1-3, 14). The text that we know as the Bible is Jesus revealed to us.

            If we know Jesus, then we know the Father because their unity is complete. To know one is to know the other (Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:2-3). In many ways the disciples had seen hints of this (Matthew 16:18) but had not fully appreciated what Jesus had shown them. However, Jesus indicates that would change soon. Yet Philip demonstrates that the disciples still are not grasping fully what Jesus is saying. Philip asks if they could physically see the Father; if they could, it would be enough for them. In the years they had spent with Jesus, they still did not fully grasp that God was with them (Matthew 1:23). Jesus told them that if they had truly seen him, then they had seen the Father (Colossians 1:15).

            The disciples did not realize that Jesus and the Father were together this whole time. And that when Jesus taught he was telling them the words of the Father who authorized all that Jesus did among them. When Jesus did miracles, it was a demonstration of the power of the Father working through him (John 5:19; 7:16; 8:28; 10:38; 12:49). If they cannot believe that Jesus and the Father dwell intimately together, then they should at least accept this because of the works Jesus has done among them (John 5:36).

            The works that he has done among them are works that they as his apostles will also do. In a sense they would be greater works because when they begin their work, Jesus would be in heaven, thus opening the door to salvation. The apostles will reach more people in Jesus’ name because of the foundation that Jesus has laid (I Corinthians 15:1-4, 14).

Jesus will continue to help the disciples through the Holy Spirit (John 14:13-27)

            Though absent physically from them, Jesus promises continued aid to the disciples. They have to ask and Jesus would do it. This is not a blank check as some would desire to be because Jesus qualifies the offer by saying he would answer whatever they ask in his name. In other words, what they ask must be something that Jesus’ approves and authorizes. There will be times that God says “no.” Paul asked for a problem to be removed and the answer was “no” (II Corinthians 12:7-10). What Paul asked for wasn’t wrong, but God didn’t approve because there was a greater need. This promise of Jesus is yet further evidence of his deity because no man could rightly offer what Jesus gave to his disciples. Jesus answering his disciples’ prayers would bring further glory to the Father.

            On the disciples’ part, Jesus told them that if they loved him they would keep his commandments (I John 5:2-3). He in turn would send them another helper. By saying, “another” Jesus is stating that he has been a helper to them and that he would be sending another helper as well. The Holy Spirit would be that helper. Jesus was only able to stay a short while on earth, but the Spirit would remain with the disciples forever through the words he would bring (Matthew 28:20).

            The word for “helper” in the Greek is parkletos. It is difficult to translate into English because the word has a broader application than any one English word can convey. It means “one who is called or sent for to strengthen or assist.” Used in a legal setting, it would be applied to an attorney who assists an defendant with the charges brought against him. But there is a subtle shade of meaning in that this word is not typically used for a professional attorney, but someone who offers aid because of friendship. It was used in classical Greek to refer to someone who encouraged a soldier before battle. It can also refer to a teacher, a mentor, or an advisor.

            Jesus also calls him the Spirit of Truth because that would be his role, to reveal the Truth to the disciples (John 16:13). The world, that is the ungodly of the world, cannot accept his existence or understand him, but the disciples would accept and understand him because they will dwell with him.

            Jesus again assures the disciples that they would not be abandoned like orphans. He again reassures them that he will come back for them. Shortly he would no longer be in the world, but the disciples would continue to see him – not physically, but through their faith. And because Jesus would continue to live, he would be able to offer life eternal to them as well. Though they and the world will not be able to physically see him, the disciples would know that Jesus is with the Father in heaven. They would continue their intimate relationship with Christ and he with them. That relationship is founded on their love for each other and their obedience to Christ because of their love for him (I John 2:5).

            Judas, who also went by the name Thaddaeus, could not figure out how they could be aware of Jesus while the rest of the world could not see him. Recall that they have fixed in their minds that Jesus would be establishing a earthly kingdom. How Jesus do this public feat, being seen by a few and not by the majority, was something he couldn’t fathom.

            Jesus emphasizes that the intimate relationship between the Father, himself, and the disciples is founded on the obedient love. Thus the answer to Judas’ question is that this is a spiritual relationship, not a physical one. The world through its sins had abandoned a relationship with God (Psalm 58:3; Isaiah 1:4; Ephesians 2:12; 4:18; Colossians 1:21). The idea of God making His abode with man alludes back to the Old Testament where the Tabernacle and later the Temple were seen as the house of God, though everyone knew that a physical building could not contain God. Yet it is in the Temple where God’s presence was known to exist. And when Israel strayed, God show His displeasure by withdrawing His presence. Now that the Temple would no longer be the center of worship, Jesus is telling his disciples that God’s presence would not be withdrawn. It would be found in each lovingly obedient disciple (I Corinthians 3:16; II Corinthians 6:16).

            It seems almost too simple, but what drives real obedience is love for the law giver. A person who does not obey God’s laws does not love God – whatever their protests to the contrary might be. Jesus manifests God, thus all that he taught is God’s words, something he has told them often (John 5:19; 7:16; 8:28; 12:49).

            Jesus told them, but when the Spirit comes, he will teach them all things. There were many things that Jesus said which the disciples were unable to grasp. But when the Spirit came, He would further instruct them so that they would understand and He would given them an accurate memory of what Jesus said allowing them to both learn and teach others (I Corinthians 2:7-16; II Peter 1:16-21).

            Jesus would leave them peace. It isn’t a worldly view of peace. There people only believe peace exists when it is imposed around them. The peace Jesus leaves comes from within and exists regardless of outside forces. It is a peace built upon the solid foundation of an intimate relationship with God (Romans 5:1; 8:6; Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15). Soon times would be trying, but Jesus tells them not to let their hearts be troubled or to allow themselves to be afraid.

It is necessary for Jesus to depart (Luke 22:35-38; John 14:28-31)

            Rather than being sad that Jesus was leaving them, Jesus urges them to rejoice because he was returning to the Father, who is greater than himself. Recall that Jesus gave up his position to come to earth (Philippians 2:5-8). The Father, who has remained in the glory of Heaven, is prepared to welcome His Son back and in doing so will bestow great glory on him (Philippians 2:9-11). There is a mild rebuke in Jesus’s words, if they loved Jesus they would rejoice in his elevation. Jesus is hinting that the reason they are sad is in part from a selfish desire to keep him for themselves. He is telling them all these things in advance so that when it does happen they can and will believe. Jesus understands they are having difficulty accepting what he is saying, but once hard evidence is received, the difficulty will dissipate.

            Jesus warns them that he has little time left to talk with them. He can’t spend it all trying to convince them that he is going to leave. The ruler of this world, Satan, is preparing to make his move (John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12; I John 4:4; 5:19; Revelation 12:9). Satan will find no foothold in Christ to rule over him, and thus will move to destroy what he cannot control.

            But Jesus is going through with this to prove to the world the depth of his love for the Father. Just as Jesus told his disciples that if they love him, they would obey him, so Jesus will prove to all that he loves the Father by doing what the Father has commanded (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:8).

            Jesus reminded the disciples that they were sent out with nothing, yet they never lack anything (Matthew 10:10-15; Mark 6:8-9). It was a reminder that God would watch over them. But now conditions have changed. They need to be prepared to take care of themselves. Not that God won’t continue to watch over them, but they will be on their own in dangerous regions and hostile regions. Saying that they should sell their clothing if necessary to buy a sword is a way of saying the danger is very real and cannot be ignored. They need funds because the people around them won’t always be willing to support them. They will need protection because areas they will be traveling won’t be safe. But until that time, things must come to a completion and he must be arrested (Isaiah 53:12).

            Though Jesus is speaking about the future, the disciples once again misunderstood and took his words to mean the present. They pointed out that they had two swords with them. Even Jerusalem can be dangerous at times and they had some protection. Rather than extend the conversation, Jesus told them it was enough for now – perhaps knowing that by mentioning the swords it would prepare the scene when he is arrested. Obviously two swords is not typically enough to defend twelve men. But Jesus doesn’t need their defense at this time.

            With these words, Jesus told his disciples it was time to leave the feast and the building they had been in. Both Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 mentions that they sung a hymn before they left. At exactly what point this occurred is not possible to tell. The rest of the discourse will be delivered as they are walking out to Gethsemane.