The Forty-Ninth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Jesus is leaving his disciples. He is going to a place that they cannot come. After his death and resurrection, Jesus will ascend into heaven to prepare a place for them (and for us), and he will send them the Holy Spirit (the Helper) from the Father. Although Jesus will be physically separated from his disciples by a distance we cannot fully comprehend (the distance between heaven and earth), through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will be closer to all of his disciples than ever before. This is why it is good (indeed better) that Jesus leave them. When Jesus leaves, the Helper will come, and through the Spirit’s person and work, Jesus will be ever present with his people until the end of the age. And when the Spirit comes, “he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
As we continue our series on the Gospel of John, we are now in chapter 16, which includes the second half of the Upper Room Discourse, which was given by Jesus on his last together evening with the disciples. This is shortly before our Lord’s arrest, trial, and crucifixion, which occur later the same evening, and throughout course of the next morning and afternoon (Friday). There is so much yet to come for which Jesus must prepare them. Jesus has told the disciples that he is leaving them, and where he is going they cannot come–disturbing news indeed. Jesus has told them that one of their own, Judas, will betray him, and that Peter (their leader) will abandon Jesus when Jesus needs him most. The disciples are having a hard time making sense of this information, and they still have no idea of the suffering Jesus is about to endure. They are saddened by this news, as we will see, but their sadness must not interfere with the urgency of the situation. They must understand what Jesus is telling them.
As I mentioned back in John 13, when we first began to work our way through this lengthy passage, the Upper Room Discourse is a hard text to preach, because it is quite long, although punctuated by several important questions from the disciples. There is a brief interval at the end of chapter 14, when the Passover celebrations ends, and Jesus gets up to leave to go to Gethsemane, where he will be arrested. But the disciples still have so many questions about what Jesus has been telling them, that the conversation continues on until the end of chapter seventeen–even though it is time to break it off. Ideally, we should cover the Upper Room Discourse in one sermon, but time does not permit, and there is so much here of importance to us that I have broken the discourse down into a number of smaller sections so that we can carefully consider the material here. Unfortunately, we lose something when we do this. We certainly risk losing the sense of urgency–Jesus’ hour has come and he still has much to teach his disciples.
As we saw last time, when we wrapped up chapter 15, as the new and greater Moses, Jesus instituted a new commandment–that his disciples love one another. This has been a major theme of their final evening together. Jesus goes on to tell them that the love his disciples are to have for each other, will stand in stark contrast to the hatred they will soon receive the from world–which does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, or that Jesus even matters. There is a deep and fundamental divide (an antithesis) between the way Christians and non-Christians think about the human condition and the need for God’s grace. The disciples must understand this and be prepared to deal with it before Jesus departs.
Jesus tells them that the hatred from the world will be so great that the disciples will face death at the hands of the false shepherds of Israel. In the first few verses of chapter 16, Jesus tells the disciples bluntly, “they will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” According to Jesus, to reject him, is to reject YHWH who sent him. To hate Jesus, is to hate God. The reason why the leaders of Israel hate Jesus so much, is they do not know the Father, despite their claim to be the defenders of Israelite religion and that their outward “righteousness” is genuine. The irony is intentional as well as tragic. These men are self-righteous hypocrites who are blind to the fact that their own Messiah has come to save his people from their sins.
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