The Fiftieth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel
The disciples are about to participate in a series of events which will change the course of human history in ways they cannot yet comprehend. Jesus has gathered his disciples together in an upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate their final Passover together. After redefining the meaning of the Jewish Passover (he is the true Passover Lamb to which the Passover pointed), Jesus must now prepare his disciples for the great turning point in redemptive history (his death and resurrection). Jesus has but a few remaining moments to teach his disciples about his imminent death and resurrection; events which will usher in a whole new era in redemptive history, in addition to changing the lives of his disciples forever. Little do they know that they are about to become witnesses, to and proclaimers of, the saving work of Jesus Christ (the gospel), first in Jerusalem, and then on to the ends of the earth. Soon, he says, they will not see him, and then soon they will see him again. What does Jesus mean by this? Jesus will explain to them that he is about to die, and then will be raised from the dead, and then ascend into heaven.
As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, we are working our way through the Upper Room Discourse (which extends from John chapters 13-17), given during Jesus’ last Passover celebration with his disciples. Jesus has given them the difficult news that he was departing from them, and then going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house (heaven) where (for the time being) they cannot come. Jesus has also told them that it is good for him to depart because he will send them the Helper (the Holy Spirit) from the Father who, as the third person of the Holy Trinity, will ensure that the disciples are not left on their own despite our Lord’s return to the presence of the Father.
As the Upper Room Discourse unfolds, Jesus tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit will do a number of things for them after his departure (his ascension into heaven). First, The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment, because the world does not believe in Jesus. Second, the Holy Spirit will bear witness to the truth of all of the things Jesus has said and done in their presence. Third, the Spirit will enable the disciples to bear witness to the things that Jesus has told them–we see this play out in the Book of Acts when the disciples began preaching the Gospel to Israel on the Day of Pentecost. Fourth, when the Helper comes, he will bring to remembrance all of the things which Jesus taught the disciples–especially the words of Jesus, words which the Holy Spirit ensures are written down through the process of the inspiration of Scripture.
As we have seen, the disciples are struggling to understand all of the things Jesus is telling them. There is a great deal of new information being given them–much of it troubling to them (the news of Jesus’ imminent departure, for one thing). From a theological perspective, the things Jesus was telling them were very difficult to fully understand. For one thing, they were having a hard time understanding how three divine persons were the one true God. They were also struggling with their expectations about the messianic kingdom–Jesus was clearly teaching something very different about the future of Israel than they anticipated. And then, the disciples were deeply saddened by the fact that their Messiah, Lord, and close friend, was leaving them. Given the way Jesus is speaking throughout the course of the evening, the disciples are beginning to realize that they would never see him again. As Jesus has told them, his hour has come. Everything is about to change. Jesus must prepare them for what is now to come.
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