Jesus, the Way the Truth the Life (John 14)

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Today we will be looking at John 14, which is one of five chapters that cover the last few hours that Jesus spends with his disciples before being arrested. John 13, which we covered last week, sets the scene with the group sharing the passover meal on Thursday evening in Jerusalem, just a few days after Jesus rode into town in triumph. Jesus begins the night with establishing the New Covenant and giving the disciples an object lesson on how they were to love each other and what greatness looks like in His kingdom. He also sends Judas on his way to go betray Him and predicts that Peter, his most vocally loyal follower, would actually be denying he knew Christ before the night was over.
Then he spends the next few hours with his disciples, and the next few chapters/weeks for us, telling them things that they had no hope of understanding in the moment, but He was laying the ground work for the major paradigm shift they were about to experience in the coming months. And I believe He is and has been doing the same for us as a church body – the details of which I will be sharing with you in a couple weeks.
But for now, let’s pray and take a look at part of that last-hour teaching in John 14.
A paradigm is defined as “a framework containing the base assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a community”
It’s commonly used in speaking of scientific communities, but it applies really to all people. Your paradigm is the way you see the world – could also be called a “world view” but it’s much deeper than that. You and I cannot really see our own paradigms because they are the very eyes through which we see and understand the world around us. Your paradigm will define how it is you perceive something.
Perhaps an example from our language would help.
Try to picture this in your mind..
I like to eat chips when I’m watching football.
As Americans, we no doubt pictured something like this.
But if we were British, we would instead picture something like this.
Same words, different meanings because of different paradigms.
Another example comes from the 1999 Mars Rover crash that happened because one department was programing in English units while another was programming in Metric units. Same numbers, different meanings because of different paradigms.
Another example comes with certain kinds of optical illusions like this one. Is it a rabbit or a duck? Which did you see first? Can you see both now?
Anyway, I could go on about this but I hope you are getting the picture.
As we are reading what Jesus is saying in these chapters, it is helpful if we can remember from what paradigm the disciples were listening. It’s easy to forget since we know the end of the story.
Up until this point, they are still expecting a conquering king messiah. They are expecting Jesus at some point to conquer the Romans and bring Israel back to prominence and set up a golden age. Even though they’ve been walking with Him for three years and all the things he has said, their deep down fundamental understanding of Messiah had not changed, and in fact it would not change until the day of Pentecost. Because even after Jesus came back to life, the disciples are recorded as asking him whether he was now going to set up the kingdom.
Now let’s look at the text.
Remember that chapter 14 is a continuation of the scene in chapter 13. They are at the last supper. Jesus has established the New Covenant. He has washed their feet and given them a lesson on love. He announced that one of them would betray him and then sent Judas to do just that. And he has issued the new command to love each other as he has loved them.
But just before he gave that new command, Jesus said something that really troubled them….especially Peter.
John 13
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
Remember Peter was the only one who tried to walk to Jesus on the water. He’s the one that wanted to stay on the mountain with Him during the transfiguration.
36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
The other gospel accounts are more descriptive of that scene, but I won’t get into that today. The point is that Jesus was turning what they thought was a pre-victory-over-the-Romans celebration meal into a farewell dinner, and they weren’t understanding or liking it one bit, especially Peter. No doubt, Jesus’ prediction that the fiercely devoted Peter would actually be the one to deny Him when it came down to it that very night hurt Peter deeply and further made the others even more confused and troubled.
And so, Jesus proceeds to try to comfort them…
John 14
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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.
A beautiful encouragement from our Lord that has been quoted for centuries now. He’s promising that He won’t be gone forever and that they will indeed get to follow him and be with him…just not yet. And as I explained in the Revelation series a year ago, this was also Jesus describing the Rapture in terms of the Jewish wedding practices of the day. I’ll let you listen to that one on your own. I actually put the whole series on its own podcast…
Anyway, the disciples are still confused and probably getting sadder by the minute. Their hopes and dreams are being crushed and the one they have invested so much time and passion in is saying he’s now going to abandon them (or so they probably think.)
Jesus ends these remarks with a statement that perplexed them all the more…
4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
The Greek does not include “place”  – Jesus really says, “You know the way to where I am going.”
Thomas speaks up for all of them.
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
The disciples’ paradigm is that Jesus is going to a place, a place that exists on a map and there is a way, or path, or directions to get there. But their paradigm is wrong.
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The way is not a path, it’s a person – Jesus himself. Even the where is not a place, but a person – The Father himself.
Then Jesus tells them they should have already understood this.
The ESV translates this better than the NIV…
7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
This is a bold claim. Another clear claim to be equal with God the Father. To be the, as Hebrews puts it, “the image of the invisible God.” But this is way over their heads (and really ours too). So, Philip speaks up.
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
His statement reveals his paradigm. They may have believed that Jesus was the Son of God and equal with God, as they at times professed, but they did not understand the whole picture. How could seeing the man Jesus be the same as seeing God the Father? All the Old Testament times when God appeared to man it was in blazing light and such that men had to fall on their face before Him. But Jesus was a man who you could look in the eye and touch. Sure, they believed he was special, and, probably like a prophet, super connected to God and able to speak for him and such…even the Messiah, the chosen and Anointed One, but to actually BE God…did not compute.
Philip’s statement seems to have actually hurt Jesus.
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 I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
If you think this is a hard concept for us to grasp, just imagine before Jesus had risen from the dead and given them the Holy Spirit. In fact it was impossible for them to grasp this at the time. But Jesus continues anyway, I believe both for their future benefit and ours. Since He knows they cannot understand it based only on His words, He now appeals to something a bit more concrete – at least in our human paradigm.
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 works themselves.
He’s saying, “Look, I know this is hard to grasp, and probably sounds crazy, but the proof of all of this is in the things you have seen me doing. Healing the sick, the blind, the deaf, the lame, the demon possessed, raising the dead, feeding the multitude, walking on water, and so on…I am not a normal human being. I am God in the flesh.”
Then He gives them/us a profound promise.
12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
It’s hard to imagine that this can be true. But it is. THE TRUTH spoke it. And we know from history that the disciples and many after them lived it and are living it today. We can too.
He continues..
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
This is another amazing promise. And sadly, this is a concept that has been used and abused through the years and likely lead to many walking away from the faith because of it.
Asking in His name is not just saying “In Jesus’ name” before you say “Amen”, and it’s not a blank check that we can cash in on anything and everything our little hearts desire.
It’s based on our relationship with Him. Asking in His name means asking for something you know He would say “yes” to. And what motivates Jesus to say “yes” is that it glorifies His Father. And in order to know what that is, you have to know the Father by knowing Jesus, and understand who He is and what He is about. And the more you and I do that, the closer we get to Him and know Him intimately, then we will know what to ask that is truly “in His name” and He will do it.
It’s like something I’ve recently been trying to teach my oldest son. Some day he’s going to know I use him as sermon illustrations and I’ll have to move to the younger kids…
Anyway, a little back story for context. As you know, Halloween was a few weeks ago and the result of a simple walk around the block with four kids in costumes is a whole lot of candy. Well, we are mean and hateful parents and won’t let our kids eat all of that sugar in one sitting before going to bed…or really ever…so we generally let them have a few – like three – pieces that night, then we let them pick a handful of candy to save for future days, then we take our mommy and daddy taxes and throw the rest away while we are still on the sugar high before the withdrawals kick in.
Anyway, fast forward a few weeks with other things like church, AWANAS, and grandparents adding to their stockpiles, and they still have candy left – of which we will allow them to have one piece each day.
And Dylan likes to ask for a piece first thing in the morning, before breakfast. And when I say no to that, he’ll ask after breakfast, and then again before lunch, and so on.
It’s not that I don’t want him to have the piece of candy…it’s that, at least in my parenting mind, there is a more appropriate time to have a chunk of sugar in the day, and it’s usually sometime after lunch, but not right before dinner. And so, his asking at any other time usually gets a no.
And so finally, this past week I explained to him that if he wants a “yes”, he should ask at a time when he has learned I am more likely to say “yes” – rather than asking the moment he thinks of it and wants it. In fact, his asking in such a way is dishonoring to me. It shows he has no concern for my perspective on the matter in wanting to raise him right and keep him healthy – he’s only concerned about what he wants in the moment and so he thinks to ask his vending machine. His asking is not based on our relationship. It’s based on his own selfish desires.
And how many of us treat God the same way? We ask and we ask for the things that we want, tacking “In jesus name” on the end, without a thought or concern about what God actually thinks or wants in the matter. And then we get upset when the answer is repeatedly “no.”
But Jesus is telling His disciples and us, that when we ask truly in HIS name (as in His desires, His timing, His will) then He will do what we ask, because we’ve asked with the right motives. We’ve asked out of our love for Him, rather than for ourselves.
And He will know that we love Him, not by our words, but by our actions. A point he repeats multiple times in the rest of this chapter. Starting with the first thing he says immediately following the “ask in his name” promise…
15 “If you love me, keep my commands.
God spells love “O B E Y”.
I said this last week.
It’s possible to obey God without loving Him. But it’s not possible to love God without obeying Him.
Jesus continues…
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth.
Another beautiful and wonderful promise. This whole chapter is Jesus telling his disciples/us some great things He is going to do for us, mixed with what exactly He expects from us.  And here He is promising to send the Holy Spirit, or Advocate, 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.
Up until the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was WITH the people. He was around and interacted with specific individuals at different times. But what Jesus just said is that soon, the Holy Spirit would be IN His people.  Pretty amazing, and totally beyond what they could comprehend at the time.
Jesus continues…
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.
Again some wonderful promises meant to encourage his disciples who are no doubt all kinds of confused and depressed right now.
 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
This is a mystery. All these “IN’s” He’s saying that on a certain day – Pentecost rather than resurrection day – they would understand this mystery.
Then He once again points out the qualifier for all these promises.
 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
But it is once again lost on the disciples…
22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
So, He repeats himself even clearer.
23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone 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.
That may not seem like an answer to Philip’s question, but it is.
This is such a vitally important concept to get that Jesus has repeated it multiple times, and he has reminded us that these words are not even His, but come directly from the Father.
Philip asked why Jesus wasn’t going to show himself to the world. He was thinking in terms of showing himself as the conquering King. Philip is still thinking Jesus is going to lead Israel to conquer the Romans and rule the world, and is confuses as to how he’s going to do that without showing himself to the rest of the world. Once again his paradigm is wrong. He’s still thinking of earthly physical things. Jesus is peaking of heavenly spiritual terms.
He’s saying He will only reveal his true self to those who love Him. And the ones who love Him are the ones who obey Him.
Now, it’s important that we get the cause and effect in the right order.
The first cause is not listed in this dialogue. The first cause of all of this is that God loved us. That is the first cause of all creation. And God made the first move in demonstrating that love by sending His son to die for us. And here Jesus is inviting us into that love, to love Him in return.
And how we love Him in return is with our obedience.
We do not obey BECAUSE we love Him. Our obedience IS our love for Him.
Because love – AGAPE love – God’s love – is not primarily a feeling, but an action – a result of the true condition of your heart.
This is another paradigm shift. For the world, love is a feeling that motivates us to do things. If the feeling is not there, it’s hard to do certain things, but if it is there, it’s easy to do certain things. But that is not the love Jesus is talking about.
God demonstrated His love for us, and thus He expects a demonstrated love in return.
Demonstrated in obedience.
This is why He is picky with who He shows himself fully to.
Again I’ll use an illustration from parenting because our relationship with God is very much like the relationship between parents and children.
 My son Dylan is now 8 years old and wanting to expand his world some. He wants more freedom. It’s a natural desire. But I, as his father, must limit His world for his own protection. For example, I don’t let him just go anywhere he wants. They are limited to playing in a certain area of our street – pretty much our block – both sides of the street.
And the reason I don’t let him go further than that yet is because beyond that would be beyond my call and ability to see him easily. Which also means it would be beyond his ability to call to me and see me in case he encountered a situation he was not prepared to handle at his age and experience.
And so we have rules to keep him safe. And he shows his love and trust in us when he follows those rules. Now, the more he follows those rules and shows me that I can trust HIM to obey my word even when I can’t see him when he’s close – then I eventually I will be able to trust him to do the same in expanded boundaries.
Unfortunately, lately it seems that every time he is out of my site he stops doing whatever I told him to do, or starts doing something he knows he’s not supposed to do. And thus my trust is actually shrinking and so are the limits to the world I allow him freedom to run in.
Do you see the connection?
In order for Jesus to reveal more of himself to you, He needs to trust you. He needs to trust that you will do what is right with what He gives you. He needs to know that you truly love Him for who He is, not just for what He can do. And hence, you build that trust through obedience to what He’s already shown you.
And one thing that he’s already shown each and every one of us is His written word. You don’t have to wait for some voice from heaven to start obeying Jesus – He’s already given you a thorough list of instructions right here. You shouldn’t expect further instructions until you’ve actually attempted to know and do what is already revealed.
And if this again seems like an impossible task…it’s because it is. Hence why God has given us a Helper.
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, 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.
This life of love demonstrated through obedience is only possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is something we each receive the moment we make Jesus our Lord. And that Spirit will teach us all things – He will make the truth of Scripture come alive. He will show you how it applies to your life. He will even remind you of what it says throughout your day to help you make right choices.
But I’ll tell you this. He can’t do that very well if you’ve never put it into your head in the first place.
Jesus continues with more wonderful promises, encouraging them.
 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.
Then He closes out this lesson
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.
He’s basically saying that if they had the right paradigm they would actually be glad for Jesus rather than sorry for themselves. But he knows they are incapable of getting all of this right now, but he’s telling them anyway for an important reason.
29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
Jesus is telling them all of this now, before they are capable of understanding, and probably not even capable of remembering all of this, so that when his words are fulfilled and they have the Holy Spirit and the Spirit reminds them of all these words after the death and resurrection and pentecost have happened – that they will believe. And indeed that happened – hence why John was able to remember all these words decades later to write them down.
30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.
At this point they likely leave the room and start heading for the mount of olives…
Jesus ends this teaching with another reminder about the love/obedience connection as demonstrated in his own example, lest we think the obedience factor is only for us.
Jesus himself exemplified exactly what He is calling us to do.
Here he’s pointing out that what is about to happen is still under his complete control. That he is allowing it to happen. That Satan, the prince of this world, is not winning or even gaining ground, but rather walking into a trap. And why Jesus is doing this is so that the world will see what kind of love God desires from His people. The kind of love he had just spoken to them about. The kind of love that is spelled O B E Y.
And that is the WAY.
That is the TRUTH.
And that is true LIFE.
Let’s pray…
John 14 is a difficult chapter to put an end cap on. It’s because it’s only part of a longer conversation Jesus has with his disciples. We like to break it up into sound bites, but it was really all connected. A continuous stream of thought. So, I encourage all of you to take the time this week to read John 13 through 17 in one sitting. Just read through it slowly, concentrating on what Jesus is saying. What are the themes he repeats and such. And I’ll tell you now that this theme of obedience is repeated throughout.
And it’s not because God or Jesus is some big bully boss that just gets a kick out of everyone doing what he says. Rather he is a good Father, a good Shepherd, who cares more for us than we care for ourselves. And he sets up rules and guidelines for our own protection, so that we can have a fulfilling life, and so that we can demonstrate our love for him, to which he promises to then show us more, and give us more, and answer our prayers, and do miracles through us, and indwell us with his spirit, and eventually come get us and bring us to be with him where he is in heaven.
Those are wonderful promises that are available only to those who truly love Him. Not a heartfelt feeling love for him, but a love in response to the love He showed us. A love that says I trust you God and will therefore do what you say, even if I don’t like it or understand it.
And he’s inviting you right now to enter into that kind of relationship with him. If you’ve never had that, you can. If you already have that, you can have it deeper. Just surrender your heart to him. Surrender your will to him. Trust the God of the Universe to know better than you and believe Him when He says He loves you and cares for you and wants what is best for you.
I’m going to let the music play for a bit longer. If you would like me or Pastor Sandy to pray with you, we will be in the lounge. Josh will close us out with a song when it’s time. Don’t rush it. Picture yourself sitting across from Jesus and he’s just said all these things to you with eyes of love and compassion. What is your response?