Preparing His Disciples for His Departure
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
Judas received the sop from Jesus and was possessed by Satan. From that moment, there is a countdown, headed for the Cross. Jesus only had a few hours left with His disciples, and He had to accomplish several things:
- Jesus had to prepare the remaining eleven disciples for His departure. He assured them of His return, so they knew that they had not simply been abandoned.
- He had to teach His prime commandment, which covered all the others.
- He had to prepare them for His death, to prevent despair when he seemed to be defeated.
- Jesus had to teach them what to expect, regarding the Holy Spirit who would soon indwell them (Who is He? What will His ministry be? How could they know His influence as opposed to that of other spirits?)
- He had to make sure they understood that His commands could not be carried out in their own strength, but that He would have to work through them.
- Jesus had to pass through Gethsemane and betrayal by Judas, to face the trial and the Cross.
- He knew his disciples would flee, and abandon Him in that event, and He had to prepare them to know that their failure was not a surprise, but only proof that they could not function without Him.
The Prime Commandment
John 13:34, 35 teaches the undergirding strength of the whole Church. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to continually relate to one another in the Agapé Love. He had already taught that the Agapé love (being committed to the well-being of those around us) is the single most important evidence of the Truth of the Gospel, and its reality in the lives of Believers.
Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto You, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Do you suppose they truly understood Him at that point? It is possible, but, I rather doubt it, because they had not yet been indwelt by the Spirit of God. They heard the words, and they understood the meaning, but probably could not imagine how the command could be carried out.
Preparing to Leave
Peter caught on immediately that Jesus was getting ready to depart, but he did not understand what was happening. He asked, “Lord, whither goest thou?” Jesus understood that Peter genuinely desired to go with Him, and He gently replied, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards.”
Of course, Peter was confident of his strength and abilities. He assured Jesus that he would gladly lay down his life for Him. But, Jesus knew the truth: He knew the limitations of His human followers. He said, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou has denied me thrice.”
Preparing them all for His departure
Jesus did not belabor the doubts Peter had, but told the whole group they should not be disturbed by His departure: He assured them that He was going away to prepare an eternal dwelling place for them all. He promised that he would return and take them to Himself; so that, wherever He was, they would also be. He also said they did know where He was going, and how to get there.
Thomas was thoroughly confused: he said, “No, we do not know where You are going, so how could we know the way?!” Jesus replied with the famous statement, “I AM the way, the truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (Did they understand His meaning? Possibly so, but I suspect they simply accepted it by faith, and they waited to learn the meaning.)
Assuring Them of His Deity
Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus replied by saying, “Philip, you have known me all this time! How are you now asking me to show you the Father? If you have seen ME, you HAVE seen the Father!” I’m sure that rattled their brains! It certainly rattled my brain for a few years, as I tried to grasp the Deity of Christ.
I can accept the fact that Jesus truly is “God in the Flesh.” I hear His words, saying “the Father is greater than I.” But when I see the prophecy saying that “the Son shall be called the Everlasting Father,” I find that it is beyond my comprehension. I expect that it was a struggle for the eleven disciples, as well.
The Promise of the Spirit
We will not spend much time on the Holy Spirit, in this message: He is the subject of many messages. Next week, we will concentrate on all that Jesus said about the Indwelling Holy Spirit. For now, take a look at John 14:16; “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.”
The Holy Spirit will be with you forever. In this passage, He is also called the Comforter…the Greek word is “paracletos,” meaning “One called alongside to help.” He is our Comforter and our Guide, who helps us through all of the tough, hard, painful times in Life.
If you remember the story of Abraham’s Servant, in Genesis 24, bringing home the Bride to Isaac, you can rest assured, that in the same way, the Holy Spirit is “Bringing home the Bride,” to Jesus: He will not leave you, and He will not lose you!
A New Relationship
Jesus said, in John 16:15-17 that He would no longer address the disciples as His servants, but rather, as His friends. He said that servants do not know the plan of the Master. But Jesus was revealing the plans of the Father to His disciples, as friends, and partners in the work.
He reminded them that they did not choose Him, but that He had chosen them, personally, and by name. They were intrigued by Him but, until He revealed it, they had no idea what He was going to do in their world. He chose them for a purpose. Verse 16 says that He chose them and ordained them to go and bring forth fruit…and that their fruit should remain. (Notice that this is not about the Fruit of the Spirit, which has lasting value, but it can easily be set aside by our sin.)
Jesus wanted the disciples to “bear fruit” in the sense of reproducing among the peoples of the World. He reminded them that they were to Love one another, and then He warned them that the World would not respond favorably.
He said, “If the World hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” He said they were no longer “of the World,” so it was impossible for them to “fit in,” now. Because we are “no longer of the World,” we can expect that world will reject everything we teach, and all that we stand for: it will reject us because it rejects Jesus Christ.
He warned that His disciples would be persecuted for the sake of their relationship with Him. He said whoever hates Jesus, hates the Father, too. In John 5:23 we saw that the reverse is true as well: Jesus said, “He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father who sent Him.”
A Dangerous, but Priceless Association
Because the Disciples were now “in Him” (as we will see in John 17:21-23) and He was to be “in them,” the World would reject them in the same manner as they rejected Him. He warned them that the time would come when anyone who killed a disciple of Jesus would imagine that he was doing service to God.
This was fulfilled in the person of “Saul of Tarsus” (who eventually became the Apostle Paul”) and in the lives of other unbelieving Jews who violently attacked the believers, and who assumed that, in doing so, they were “fighting the good fight,” and honoring God. God eventually took hold of Saul, and He used him (as Paul) to lay the foundation of the Church throughout the Mediterranean world.
But all down through history, the false churches and world religions have frequently taught that “torturing and murdering Christians is a good way to serve God.” Thousands of persons whose only offense was to confess that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was their Savior, were tortured to death, burned at the stake, and fed to savage animals for the entertainment of the World.
And such treatment is on the rise again, worldwide. This was not some “passing fancy” that only the first-century believers might endure. It is the “conflict of the ages,” and it will culminate in the Great Tribulation. Yes, we know who “wins,” but in the meantime, we need to be prepared to “suffer the consequences of Faith.”
The Legacy of Peace
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My Peace I give unto you: not as the World giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
This legacy of Peace that Jesus gave is a two-part package: We gain Peace with God, as we place our trust in Jesus, and are declared righteous by God. (Romans 5:1) The Disciples already had this peace: God declared them righteous by Grace, through faith. So, they are eternally at peace with God. But they still suffered doubt and fear, and Jesus moved to heal that fear.
We are called to experience The Peace of God, on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. That is what Jesus was bequeathing to His disciples. They would not fully experience it until the Holy Spirit came, in Acts 2. They feared for their lives and were hiding, until that time. But that was before the Holy Spirit was given. The new relationship blossomed on the day of Pentecost.
Before the Spirit was given, the eleven disciples fled when Jesus was arrested, and they were in grief: hiding, fearing that they would be the next victims of the evil leaders in Jerusalem.
But afterward, they boldly preached the News of Jesus: When they were arrested, beaten, and imprisoned, they counted it a privilege. They were not at all discouraged by such mistreatment. The result of their collective, courageous testimony was that thousands of other people received Christ as their Savior, and the ancient World was “turned upside down” by the change.
Since that time, everyone who believes is immediately indwelt by the Spirit of God, and that Legacy of Peace is immediately available to all who will lay hold of it by faith.
They Were Prepared, though they did not “Feel” Prepared
Jesus had given them the information and the encouragement that they needed. However, until the Spirit was given they were not able to put the teaching to use.
That is the case in our lives as well. Most of us know a good deal more of the Word of God and the promises therein than we can put into practical use. We find ourselves powerless to apply it in practice. But we were told in advance that apart from the Holy Spirit using us to reach into the lives of those around us, it simply cannot be done.
When Jesus said, (John 15:5) “apart from me ye can do nothing,” He was not exaggerating. He was speaking the simple truth.
We have been Prepared too: Now we are called to Walk!
We who have placed our trust in Jesus as our Savior, are already indwelt by His Spirit. But, as believers, we are commanded to “walk”in the Spirit. Day by day, and moment by moment, we are to ask Him to lead, and then follow His leading. It means, moment by moment, confessing when we sin, receiving His promised forgiveness, and then walking with Him again.
Next week we will spend more specific time reading about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, both in the World and in the Church. In the meantime, let’s try to apply what we already know. Step out by faith to live in obedience to your Savior.
Lord Jesus, teach our hearts to receive Your gift of Peace on a daily basis and to trust Your Holy Spirit to work through us to reach the World around us. Raise us up to serve You in the Newness of Life.