John 14

In John 14 Jesus and his disciples are still in the upper room, Judas has left to seek out the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus, to deliver him for trial and execution. Jesus has announced again that he will be leaving them to return to the Father and He has also told Peter that Peter will deny that he knows Jesus three times before morning. The disciples are upset and confused, they have been told one of them will betray Jesus, and then Judas leaves, they are told that Peter will deny Jesus, what in the world is going on? After the disturbing news, Jesus comforts his disciples. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” Their hearts are noticeably troubled, Jesus says trust me and trust God!

Jesus returns to the topic of his impending departure, He tells them they cannot go with him but He will return and take them with him sometime in the future. He is going to the Father’s house where he is preparing a place for them. We can sense the disciples increasing confusion, Jesus the Messiah is speaking of another “coming”, a return of the Messiah. Jesus concludes these statements with, “You know the way to the place I am going”.

At this point honest Thomas speaks up, “Lord we don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?” For all of Peter’s bold speaking, John’s insight and close relationship – it is Thomas who speaks up with their honest confusion.

Jesus responds clearly, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus clearly states the absolute truth; He is not one way among many ways, but the only way. This concept is offensive to our current culture; but understand and know that these are the very words of Jesus who is the absolute truth.

Obviously still confused, Philip speaks up and says, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” This has been the repeated request of so many, the crowd and the Pharisees; just show us in some dramatic way and we will be convinced. What a temptation for Jesus to despair, three and a half years and still they don’t get it. But Jesus responds in love, “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.”

Jesus reveals a deep theological truth, “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 miracles themselves”. Jesus stresses the deep intimate connection between the Father and himself, it is the Father residing in Jesus that performs His miraculous deeds. All through John Jesus has spoken the words of God to men then confirmed the clear message with miraculous deeds and signs.

They have seen the Son and experienced the Father at work now Jesus promises his disciples the Holy Spirit. “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” That same connection and power that the Father has with Jesus will be available between the disciples and Jesus; “You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

In my name” is NOT some magical incantation to get whatever you want if you simply conclude with Jesus’ name. Jesus’ name means continuing with the work of Jesus, in the plan of the Father with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we pray in this way, Jesus himself will answer our hearts desire; the same power that worked through Jesus from the Father is available to us through Jesus. Jesus says, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”

Sadly the disciples are still confused, this time Judas asks why Jesus won’t show himself to the world, by this he means in the manner of a dramatic Messianic expectation. Jesus is speaking of loving and obeying inner heart work, but the disciples are stuck on an outward sign. Jesus cuts through the confusion with a clear statement, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him”. Jesus repeats this concept that love and obedience is linked three times in this chapter alone, we need to get it! He also repeats the close relationship He has with the Father, and that we will have that same close relationship with Jesus and the Father by way of the Holy Spirit who will remind us of Jesus’ teachings, empower us to do God’s will and convict our hearts when we go astray.

Jesus concludes his evening in the upper room by blessing the disciples saying, “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.” The best the world can offer us is the absence of trouble temporarily; we know that more trouble will soon arrive because we live in a troubled world. God promises us the ultimate peace, peace between God and my soul. I can persevere through a troubled world because of Christ in me, because He fills me with His spirit, He draws me to Him and reveals Himself to me. Praise God for this amazing gift!

Finally, Jesus wraps it all up with, “I am going away and I am coming back to you; I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe”. Then he says, “Come now; let us leave”.

Memory Verse:
“I AM the True Vine…I AM the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, He will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”
John 15:1a,5

John 13

Chapter 13 begins the “Book of Glory”; Jesus has up to this point postponed all efforts to preempt God’s timing and plans. In 12:23 Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”. Remember all the attempts to subvert God’s plan while Jesus is revealing glimpses of his glory. Many saw the miraculous signs and believed: Jesus turned water into wine, healed the official’s son from a distance, healed the invalid beside the pool in Jerusalem after which “the Jews tried all the harder to kill him”. After feeding the 5,000 in Galilee, Jesus slipped away because he knew “they intended to make him king by force”. Then Jesus’s own brothers taunted him to “show yourself to the world”, Jesus told them, “the right time for me has not yet come” then while at the temple the Jews tried to seize Jesus, to kill him but they could not lay a hand on him. The Pharisees continued to challenge Jesus at every opportunity, accusing him of blasphemy even picking up stones to stone him but Jesus slipped away again. After Jesus heals the man born blind, the Pharisees step up their persecution to include any who support or believe in Jesus and attempt to stone Jesus again, but Jesus leaves the city and escapes their plots. Jesus willingly returns to Bethany, knowing his life is at risk, to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead; at this point the Pharisees join forces with their adversaries the chief priests to capture and kill Jesus at a time of their own choosing. Jesus purposely stays away from Jerusalem, returning six days before the Passover, he is anointed by Mary and proclaimed King and Savior by the crowds of pilgrims. Just when his disciples thought everything was turning in their direction, Jesus announces, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” but instead of seizing command he speaks of his coming death and about being “lifted up”. Jesus removes himself from the crowds to the upper room, where he continues to teach his disciples.

In the middle of their dinner, Jesus teaches the disciples with words and actions, he is preparing them for his departure. Jesus dresses himself as a slave and begins to wash the feet on the twelve, including Judas. Jesus’ purposeful humility is evident and obviously goes contrary to all their views of King, Savior and Messiah. Peter objects and tells Jesus “You will never wash my feet!” and Jesus answers him that “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me”. Jesus is teaching that this washing, this humility, is required of Jesus’ disciples, so naturally Peter asks for a complete bath, head to toe. Jesus answers that if you have already bathed, you are clean and only need a foot wash to be completely clean – this is more than instruction on hygiene, we know this because Jesus reveals at this point that not all of the disciples are clean from sin.

After the lesson in foot washing, Jesus continues with the teaching; “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash on another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you”. Jesus is re-teaching lessons we know so well that go counter to culture and to our human nature: the last will be first and the first last, whoever wants to save his life will lose it, the one called a free person is Christ’s slave, living is Christ and dying is gain and for Christ to be glorified he must first be lifted up.

Jesus then tells them that he will be betrayed by one of them, his closest disciples. He wants them and us to know, that He knew, He always knew and that it is all in God’s control. Jesus takes and piece of bread, dips it in the dish and personally feeds Judas; Jesus lovingly appeals to Judas, he washes his feet, sits him close and feeds him. Yet, Judas makes his choice and Satan enters him, Jesus says, “Do it quickly” and Judas leaves to betray Jesus. Now alone with the eleven, we sense the disciples’ confusion, what is Judas going to do? Who is going to betray Jesus? Where is Jesus going? Jesus gives them a new command; this is emphatic, “Love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another”. It is almost like Peter doesn’t hear Jesus; he is right back to questions, “Where are you going without me? I will lay down my life for you” Jesus answers Peter with the truth, “before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” Jesus knows what is going to happen, with all his instructions about loving each other, his love for Judas and Peter shines through, he is grieving their betrayals before they even happen. His love for us shines through as well, Jesus’ willing obedience to God’s plan, enduring betrayal, pain, humiliation and death so that we can stand before the throne of God washed free of sin.

Memory Verse:
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.”
John 14:27

John 12

Chapter 12 completes the “Book of Signs” others refer to this section of John as the account Jesus’ public or earthly ministry. Towards the end of the chapter John records Jesus’ final words to the crowd, after this he will speak only to his disciples, very little to those accusing him and a few final words from the cross. Time slows down in the following chapters, chapters 1-12 occurred over three years, the last 9 chapters covers the last week of Jesus’ life.

As John 11 ends the Chief Priests and the Pharisees have issued an order to be on the lookout for Jesus, if anyone finds him they should report to them immediately so they can arrest him. The Passover is about to begin, the city is swarming with pilgrims from all over the world; they come to cleanse themselves at the Temple and prepare for the Passover Feast. Jesus and his disciples arrive in Bethany, where they celebrate Sabbath dinner with their friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Lazarus is now famous; people keep coming to see him, he is the man who was dead in the grave for four days before Jesus brought him back to life. Lazarus is living proof of all that Jesus has taught for the past three years; we learn that the chief priests have also made plans to kill Lazarus.

As Jesus and the disciples recline at the table, Mary arrives with her offering, a pint of expensive perfume, most likely from her dowry, worth an entire year’s wages. Mary unbinds her hair and proceeds to anoint Jesus’ feet and clean them with her hair. John adds the detail that the entire house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Judas objects to the extravagant honor and self-righteously claims that the perfume should have been sold and given to him to distribute to the poor. John wants us to completely understand, that Judas didn’t really care for the poor, he was all about himself, funneling the money for the poor through his own pockets. In a room full of self-righteous people who think they know best how Jesus should be honored Mary has humbled herself, given a gift that cost her personally with humility. Jesus defends Mary and her gift, saying that she has saved this perfume for his burial. Mary will be remembered forever for her unselfish gift, her humility and great faith.

The next morning after the Sabbath (Sunday) Jesus and his disciples make their way into Jerusalem to the Temple. They are followed and preceded by great crowds of pilgrims; many of them were there when Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb and continue to spread the word about Jesus. The crowd began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and rode him into the city, while the children and people shouted and waived palm branches. The Pharisees were expecting Jesus to slip into the city, trying to avoid arrest; instead Jesus arrives like a king, with the shouts of the people proclaiming him their savior, sent by God, the King of Israel!

At some point in the triumphant day a group of Greeks approach Philip and ask to speak with Jesus. This is an interesting encounter, the Greeks are clearly outsiders in this Jewish festival, but John uses their seeking Jesus as a prompt to Jesus’ final teachings. Jesus responds to the inquiry by announcing that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”. He speaks of his death using the illustration of a kernel of wheat, in order for a bountiful harvest of many grains of wheat, the seed of wheat must die first. Jesus repeats previous teachings, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serve me.” Jesus proclaims that his heart is troubled, “it is for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Then God speaks from heaven saying, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd hears, some describe it as thunder and others as an angel speaking to Jesus. Jesus declares that the voice was for the crowd’s benefit and again speaks of his coming death, when he will “be lifted up and draw all men to myself”, and the prince of this world will be driven out. Jesus makes his last impassioned plea to the crowd, “Believe in me and believe that God sent me, when you look at me you see the one who sent me, I did not come to judge the world but to save it, the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; those very words that I spoke will condemn him at the last day, I did not speak my own words but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it, whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Even with these impassioned pleas from Jesus, John records that “they still would not believe in him”. At the same time there were many even among the Pharisees who believed but kept their faith quiet because of their fear of the power of the Pharisees and being put out of the synagogue.

Memory Verse:
“I AM HE” I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts ME; and whoever accepts ME accepts the ONE who sent me. John 13:19-20

John 11

Chapters 1-12 of the Gospel of John is sometimes called the “book of signs” because records seven signs or miracles of Jesus. Chapter 11 is the account of the seventh and most powerful sign, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This sign prompts deep worship and belief in Jesus as the Messiah but also pushes the conspiracy of the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus to the forefront of leaders in Jerusalem.

The account begins with Jesus and his disciples across the Jordan River in the area where John the Baptist ministered; back where Jesus began his ministry after his baptism. Meanwhile back in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem, Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha is deathly sick; Mary, Martha and Lazarus are very close friends and disciples of Jesus. The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick, to come quick; Jesus responds that this illness will not end in death. Remember Jesus has healed from a distance previously, I am sure the disciples thought Jesus knew that this illness was not as serious as the sisters claimed. John assures us that Jesus loved the siblings, yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick he stayed where he was an additional two more days.

What we can decipher from John careful account of their travel was that at the time the message arrived with Jesus, Lazarus was already dead. After two days Jesus says to his disciples “Let us go back to Judea”. The disciples immediately remind Jesus that the Jews have tried to stone him twice in Jerusalem, going there is certain to cause another confrontation this time it could be deadly. Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus has fallen asleep; they assume that means that Lazarus is on the mend; he will awaken and recover from his illness. Jesus tells them plainly that Lazarus is dead, “and for your sake I am glad I was not there so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Thomas bravely says to the others, “Let us also go that we may die with him (Jesus)”, they all sensed the danger and the growing confrontation that will soon come to a conclusion one way or another.

When Jesus and disciples arrive in Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days; in Jewish custom and thinking he was beyond all hope, his soul was no longer near, he had begun to decay, all hope was gone. There were a great many people at Mary and Martha’s home, providing comfort and mourning for Lazarus, enter Jesus to give hope to the hopeless. When Martha heard that Jesus was on his way, she goes out to meet him, even in her grief she displays great faith and action. She says, “If you had been here my brother would not have died”, many over the years have interpreted this as an angry accusation, but I think we should understand it as complete faith that Jesus could have and would have healed Lazarus. Jesus comforts Martha, by saying, “Your brother will rise again”. Like the disciples misunderstanding that Lazarus was just sleeping, Martha thinks Jesus is speaking of the resurrection of the dead at the end of days.

Jesus lovingly declares directly to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha responds with a clear statement of faith, and then heads back into the house to tell Mary to go greet Jesus. Mary gets up quickly and is followed by a large crowd; they assume that she was going to the tomb to wail and mourn. Mary falls at Jesus feet and repeats what Martha said, “If you had been here my brother would not have died”, Jesus was deeply moved by her grief, and he weeps with them. The crowds comments on how much Jesus loves Lazarus, but begins to speculate and level accusations, because Jesus had not kept Lazarus from dying.

Jesus arrives at the tomb and tells them to remove the stone, Martha objects because his body has already begun to decay and the smell will be overwhelming. A second time Jesus speaks directly to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

They remove the stone and Jesus begins to pray, He thanks God for listening to him, but John helps us to understand that all this was done for the benefit of those watching. What do you think the crowd was doing? (Covering their noses, watching Jesus, remember that coming in contact with a dead body would make you unclean) Jesus then says in a loud voice, “Lazarus come out!” and out of the tomb walks Lazarus, still wrapped up in the burial cloth with a cloth over his face. (Remember in a few months Jesus will rise again leaving his burial cloths in the grave intact) The crowd is stunned, Jesus has to tell them to help Lazarus remove the cloths and help him.

John concludes this chapter with the crowds’ response, many put their faith in Jesus but some went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done. The Chief Priests and the Pharisees call an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin. These are two groups who never agree on theology or how to respond to Rome, but they will conspire together to kill Jesus. John records that the High Priest Caiaphas prophesied, “that it is better that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (remember there are at least two believers among the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) Jesus and his disciples slip out of Jerusalem again, this time they go north to a town called Ephraim until the Passover. John reminds us that each of us will respond to Jesus one way or another, will we believe and have faith that what God says he will do, will happen? Or like the Pharisees and the crowd will we reject Christ and choose to believe the lies of our own making?

Memory Verse:
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”     John 12:25