Scripture: John 14:22-29
Let’s begin by looking at the context of our reading. We are privy to events & teachings that occurred on the final night of Jesus’ earthly life. We are in the upper room with the disciples.
And to fully understand what is said in chapter 14 of John, it is extremely helpful to read chapter 13, because the climate of the narrative has its basis there. The actions & teachings of J in chapter 13 set the tone for the final sermon that begins at chapter 14. The foot washing, the announcement of Jesus’ impending death, the presence of his betrayer, & prediction of Peter’s denial all created an atmosphere of perplexity among the disciples. We can clearly see their confusion in Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ attempt to wash his feet. First, he said: Lord, are you going to wash my feet? Then he adds: You will never wash my feet (13:7-8).
Jesus was not following the customs that Jewish & cultural categories granted him. He was a rabbi & his position granted him certain privileges. However, he put them all aside & demonstrated a new relationship to servitude. If I, your Lord & Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you (13:14-15). Then, he gave even more meaning to his actions by telling them: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (13:34).
In addition to confusion, the events of chapter 13 also created a farewell climate between Jesus & his disciples. Their separation was inevitable. Jesus’ words were clear: Little children, I am with you only a little longer (13:33). That announcement was very disturbing for the disciples because they were accustomed to Jesus handling situations whenever the Jewish authorities threatened them. Jesus always had answers that confused & quieted the authorities in tense situations. For instance, the way he had handled the case of the woman caught in adultery turned what promised to be a stoning & blood into peace & a pardon (8:1-11).
So, at the beginning of chapter 14, the disciples were confused, frightened, anxious, & sad. Their beloved rabbi had just called them to love one another in the same way that he loved them, but he had also told them that one of them would betray him, one of them would deny him, & that his death was certain. Their attention was fixed on him as he began the long sermon that would turn out to be his final instructions.
So, now to this morning’s text. The coming of Jesus into the world & his ministry in the world both demand commitment. Judas asks, in essence, “Lord, it is wonderful that we have experienced these things, but what about the rest of the world?” Judas must have been the first missionary! Jesus’ answer is the rest of our reading.
In chapter 14, the commitment is: If you love me, you will keep my commandments (v. 15). The way the world is going to find out about J & God’s love is through us, & obedience is imperative. A profession of faith transforms the one professing, but not the world. Church membership, if it is only having your name on a roll, is not really worth anything. The issue is our love for Jesus as evidenced by our obedience. How about your love for him? Does it guide you? Is he real to you? These are the things that are important.
The answer to those who obey in love is clear: I will ask the Father, & he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever (16). This promise of sending the Holy Spirit will be repeated in chapter 15 & further developed in chapter 16. Today, I invite us to review the promises that accompany the coming of the Holy Spirit to those who love the Lord.
First, the presence of the Holy Spirit brings a certainty of the presence of God with us. We are not alone. It is not a feeling or seeing but having faith in Jesus’ promise that he will always be with us. And more. Because he abides with you, & he will be in you (17). This means that Jesus’ mission will continue through the Holy Spirit working in & through us.
Next, the presence of the Holy Spirit helps us discern the truth. One of our great difficulties today is knowing when people are being true or false. Which of the options that we are offered daily correspond to God’s truth & reflect the will of God for human life? Jesus gives us the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, & he will be in you (17). If we allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts & minds, he will guide us to the whole truth. How necessary it is that we make use of that promise because it is the Holy Spirit who will make us remember everything that Jesus taught (26).
And the presence of the Holy Spirit affirms that Jesus will return. This message of the Messiah was an encouragement for the disciples, & even more for the persecuted members of the churches in Asia Minor. We need to affirm constantly our faith in Jesus’ words: I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, & you in me, & I in you (18, 20). This means that there is a future, & God has control of it. This gives us hope, faith & fearless courage to share Christ with others.
Next, the presence of the Holy Spirit assures us of eternal life. Facing the near certainty of prison & death, Jesus knew the nearness of death, but saw beyond it to the promised life. Because I live, you also will live (19). The message of the gospel is that Jesus came to bring life, as opposed to the thief, who comes only to steal & kill & destroy (10:10). This is our hope, our faith & our message: life in the present, life in the future, life for eternity. And it is an abundant life! It is not mere existence, the taking of breaths, or of barely getting by. In Christ, we have life & have it abundantly. The Greek word literally translates to “a superabundance of a thing.” So, to follow Jesus, to know who he is & what he means, is to have a superabundance of life. When we walk with Jesus, we walk in a way that becomes really worth living & we begin to truly understand the word ‘life.’ In a world marked by violence & death, our testimony about abundant life - a world where life wins over death - is a powerful one.
Finally, the presence of the Holy Spirit brings peace. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, & do not let them be afraid (27). What a comforting & stimulating promise! Jesus offers us peace, the Shalom of God, the peace that is synonymous with happiness.
Peace is a theme that permeates much of John’s Gospel. It is part of the mission of the Lamb of God to bring peace & reconciliation with God. 1:29: The next day [John the Baptizer] saw Jesus coming toward him & declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus acts as a promoter of peace & his peace is not simply a denial of conflict, but victory over it. For example, in the story of the Samaritan woman, there was conflict in her relationship with her family & with her village. But Jesus reconciled her with herself, helped her to like herself, & helped her discover that she had value. With this peace, she discovered that she could be useful in mission & many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony (4:39).
When we read about the Samaritan woman in chapter 4 or about the adulterous woman in chapter 8 or about the man born blind in chapter 9, we understand that Jesus’ mission - & ours – is to help people be at peace with themselves & liberated from the guilt of sin. (And all of us have sinned.) This can only be done by helping people to know Jesus & accept him as Lord & Savior - &, thereby, know true peace.
Jesus’ mission is always in favor of peace, never endorsing violence & war, because violence & war are synonymous with sin in human life. Where there is violence & war, it is certain that God cannot be happy, for God is love & God’s desire for all of his creation is health & wholeness. No Christian can be happy with violence & death.
This is why Jesus gave us the greatest commandment: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (13:34). For when we love others, we are announcing the commandments of God & sowing the peace that only Jesus can give.