A Confident Life

 

Sunday School Lesson for December 8, 2002

 

Background Passage: John 14:1-14, 18-24, 27-31

 

Focal Teaching Passage: John 14:1-14

 

 

Comfort for the Disciples: Assurances Regarding Heaven and the Second Advent (14:1-7)

 

Verse 1

Following the experience of the last supper and the prediction of Peter’s betrayal, Jesus brought comfort to His disciples with His words regarding the reality of heaven and the certainty of His return. His command, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” suggests that the disciples were deeply perplexed and frightened in light of His previous discourse concerning His departure. Carson comments that Christ’s words certainly evidence the fact that the disciples were “under substantial emotional pressure” and “were on the brink of catastrophic failure” [487]. Indeed, the word translated “troubled” means to be agitated or put in a state of great confusion.  In the midst of such inner turmoil, however, the disciples were enjoined by Christ to “Trust in God” and to trust also in me.” That is, their faith should rest in the one who is God in the flesh—the same one they had been personally called to follow.

 

 

Verse 2

Further comfort is provided to the disciples with the promise that “In my Father’s house,” or heaven, the place where Christ was going, there are “many rooms.” The departure of Jesus from the earth following His crucifixion and resurrection would afford Him with the opportunity to return to the Father’s side where He would “prepare a place” for them. Here, then, the Lord promises His men that He will certainly see them again in heaven. His going away, therefore, would not usher in a time permanent separation from His beloved disciples but only a temporary period of waiting in hopeful anticipation of the final consummation. The interesting use of the word “rooms” indicates a place of permanent residence, much like a beautifully furnished apartment or other comparable dwelling for each person. In such a location there would be no crowding, for there are “many rooms” inside the one house. Kostenberger suggests that this image of ample rooms may have also “conjured up notions of luxurious Greco-Roman villas, replete with numerous terraces and buildings and situated among shady gardens with an abundance of trees and flowing water” [137].

 

 

Verses 3-4

Here Jesus connects the reality of His departure from the earth—“And if I go and prepare a place for you”—with the certainty of His glorious return—“I will come back and take you to be with me” (v. 3).   The second guarantee, the promise of His return to earth, naturally depends upon the fact of His departure to His Father’s right hand. Simply put, if He does not leave, He could not return to “take” them back to His Father’s house where they will eternally “be where I am.”

 

That the disciples do, in fact, “know the way and the place” where Christ was going (v.4) means that in knowing Him as they do they have all the information they need concerning His route and destination.  To know Christ, then, is to know both the pathway (childlike trust and faith) and the destination (eternal life with the Father in heaven).

 

 

Verses 5-6

At this point, “Thomas” raised the obvious objection—“we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (v. 5).  This question provided Jesus with the platform from which to make another explicit (and perhaps His most famous) declaration regarding His identity—“I am the way and the truth and the life.” This is another one of the seven “I am” sayings uttered by Jesus.  Interestingly, each of the three words, way, truth, and life, are preceded by the definite article in the original language.

 

 

 

·        Jesus is “the life” – He is also the sole source and giver of real spiritual life (as opposed to death and separation from the grace and mercy of God).

 

To summarize, we might say that since Jesus is the author of truth and the giver of life, He is able to serve as the only avenue of access to the Father and to the “many rooms” in the Father’s house [Carson, 491].

 

 

 

Jesus Teaches the Disciples About God the Father (14:7-11)

 

Verse 7

Having just explained that access to the Father comes only through the Son, Jesus calls upon the disciples to consider the magnitude of His claim to divinity.  If the disciples “really knew” Jesus they would, therefore, have knowledge of the Farther as well. In other words, since the disciples did, in fact, know and understand (to some degree at least) the identity of Jesus as the Messiah and divine Son of God they also knew God the Father—“From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

 

 

 

 

Verses 8-11

 

In response to Jesus’ statement, Phillip asked Jesus to “show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  This request betrayed the fact that the disciples at that time did not fully appreciate all that Jesus was claiming concerning His relationship with God. Jesus’ reply to Phillip—“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”—fully clarifies this relationship.  That Christ reminds them in verse 9 that they had enjoyed His presence “among” them for “such a long time” reveals that they should have come to a deeper understanding of this truth.  Yet, for the sake of the men whom He deeply loved, Jesus provided them with additional evidence of His divine sonship.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Speaks of Greater Works and the Holy Spirit (14:12-14)

 

Verse 12

Here the Lord provides yet another comforting promise for those who believe or have “faith in” Him.  After Christ has returned to the Father the disciples can be assured that they will do “even greater things” than those accomplished by Jesus during the course of His earthly ministry. These greater works of which Christ spoke have been the subject of wide debate and conjecture.  While the exact identity of such works is not stated explicitly, we may be on safe ground to assume that these certainly include the preaching of the Word of God, the establishment of the church, and the worldwide dissemination of the gospel leading ultimately to the conversion of the Gentiles.  Such “greater things” could be accomplished only after Christ’s passion, bodily resurrection, and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Note also that the greater works are not limited to the original Twelve, but will be experienced by “anyone who has faith in me.”

 

Yet, the question remains as to how and in what sense will the works of the apostles and subsequent disciples be “greater” than those of Christ. D. A. Carson provides one explanation:

 

The signs and works Jesus performed during his ministry could not fully accomplish their true end until after Jesus had risen from the dead and been exalted.  Only at that point could they be seen for what they were. By contrast, the works believers are given to do through the power of the eschatological Spirit, after Jesus’ glorification, will be set in the framework of Jesus’ death and triumph, and will therefore more immediately and truly reveal the Son [496].

 

 

Verses 13-14

These verses reveal that the context or setting for the performance of the “greater things” is prayer. However, it is not simply prayer alone, but prayers that are faithfully offered in the “name” of Jesus.  Here Jesus pointedly declares that “whatever you ask” will be done in order that “the Son may bring glory to the Father.” Therefore, the ultimate aim of such praying is the exaltation of the God who not only hears our prayers, but also answers them in grace and power.

 

The prayers to which Christ is referring are not selfish, but are in the interest of God’s Kingdom.  This is seen in the restriction “whatever you ask in my name.”  Prayer that is offered to God in the name of Jesus does not “involve magical incantations but rather expresses alignment of one’s desires and purposes with God” [Kostenberger, 139]. Furthermore, they are prayed in faith and in full submission to God’s will accompanied by the recognition that access to the Father comes only through Christ.  As such, they will always be answered—“You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it” (v. 14).

 

 

Major Themes for Reflection and Application

 

 

One:  The sure cure for a troubled heart—Disciples are certainly not immune from inner turmoil, perplexing questions, and even doubt regarding salvation and the things of God.  Yet, according to verses 1-4 there is an effective cure available for every child of God. What is it?

 

 

 

 

Two:  The exclusive and narrow truth about salvation—A popular maxim declares that in the end, all religions ultimately lead to God. Another way this is expressed is found in the claim that God is not so narrow-minded and egotistical to demand that all people must come to Him through Jesus. However, in light of verse 6 how do these popular beliefs measure up?  Are Christ’s words to be interpreted in such a restrictive fashion?  To what other passages can you appeal to defend your answer?

 

 

 

 

Three:  The place and purpose of evidence—In verse 11 Jesus calls upon Philip to believe in Him based upon the “evidence of the miracles.” In presenting and defending the faith, what evidence may we appeal to? What are some of the inherent strengths and weaknesses of an evidential approach to evangelism?

 

 

 

 

Four:  The privilege and power of prayer—Based upon verses 13-14, what are some lessons or truths about prayer that we must be mindful of?  Why is prayer such a hard discipline to engage in?  Why do we so frequently struggle with really believing that God will hear and answer our prayers?