Farewell Discourse

The Normal Christian Life

John 14-16

Teaching t22037


Jn.14-17 is known as Jesus’ farewell discourse or teaching.  These are the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before his arrest and trial and crucifixion.  It’s not simply a teaching because there’s a lot of interaction between him and them, and Jesus winds up praying aloud in front of them for quite a while.  But it’s not simply a conversation because Jesus is very purposeful, intent on getting specific content across to them.

What is this content?  It is a description of what we will call the normal Christian life.  This life is a paradox—a life of supernatural provisions in the midst of extraordinary difficulties.

If you are not a Christian, this passage will let you know what you can expect if you entrust yourself to Jesus as your Savior and Lord.  If you do, your life will become more difficult in some respects—so don’t listen to those always-smiling Christians who tell you that faith in Jesus will make your life healthy, wealthy and trouble-free.  But neither you should you listen to those grim-faced, joyless Christians whose lives seem to be a perpetual sigh or complaint, because if you entrust yourself to Jesus he will give you everything you need, including his peace and joy.  Let Jesus describe it for you, and then decide whether or not you will follow him.

If you are a Christian, live in this passage (read it, re-read it, meditate on it, pray through it) until you can navigate even in the dark.  Many Christians live unfruitful and unfulfilling lives because they don’t live in what Jesus describes here.  Sometimes it is because we forget the difficulties Jesus warns us of, so they take us off guard and devastate us.  Sometimes it is because we forget the provisions he promises, so the difficulties discourage us and overwhelm us.

This morning, I want to provide you with an overview of these difficulties and provisions as Jesus describes them in Jn.14-16.  The next four weeks will look at the provisions in more detail.  Then we will spend a week focusing on how to appropriate these provisions (Jn. 15).  Finally, we will spend three weeks of this series looking at Jesus’ prayer in Jn. 17.

The difficulties

First, the difficulties.  In essence, Jesus says: “I am leaving you without my physical presence, in a hostile world, to accomplish a humanly impossible mission.”

“I am leaving youwithout my physical presence ...”  The setting for this passage was Jesus’ insistence on his imminent death in 13:33 (read).  Peter immediately protested, and as the realization of this came home to his disciples, sorrow filled their hearts (read 16:5,6).  The prospect of his physical absence broke both their faith and their hearts.  It broke their faith because they believed that if Jesus was the Messiah, he could not die.  And it broke their hearts because being with him gave their lives a security and significance they had never known before.  How could any of this survive his death and departure?

You and I have never been in Jesus’ physical presence, so we can’t fully relate to this difficulty.  But it is there, isn’t it?  Paul says that “while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord” (2Cor.5:6).  As you go on with Jesus, you realize that you will be “home” only when you are with Jesus physically, and there is a certain homesickness that is incurable in this world.  Jesus provides a wonderful consolation, as we will see, but this is a difficulty that we face and feel—sometimes very acutely.

“... in a hostile world...”  It’s not just that Jesus’ disciples grieved his physical absence—it’s also that he was leaving them in a hostile world.  Jesus says in 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation.”  “Tribulation” here means more than just the trouble of living in a world that is broken.  It also means that this world is dangerous to his followers because it is ruled by “the ruler of this world” (14:30)—Satan—who uses unbelieving people to persecute his disciples (read 15:18-25; 16:2-4).  It is a historical fact that these men experienced persecution for the rest of their lives, and that all of them (except possibly John) died as martyrs.

This difficulty did not end with the disciples’ deaths.  Paul said “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Tim.3:12).  Our situation, in which freedom of religion is legally safeguarded, is very abnormal for Christians over the past 20 centuries.  More Christians died as martyrs in the 20th century than in all of the previous 19 centuries combined.  Christians are being physically persecuted all over the world, especially in those places where Christianity is growing most rapidly (Asia, Africa, and the Mideast).  Even here, committed Christians face not only spiritual attack, but sometimes also rejection and mockery and mistreatment by family-members, work associates, friends, etc.  Jesus loves us enough to let us know about this before we experience it (16:1), so we won’t be shocked and dismayed.

 “... to accomplish a humanly impossible mission.”  It’s not just that Jesus was departing physically and leaving them in a hostile world; it’s also that he commanded them to testify (martureo) to him (read 15:27).  They were to go right into the midst of this hostile world and proclaim that Jesus the Roman crucifixion victim (not Caesar) was Lord, and summon people to bow to and follow Jesus.  They were to do this not just with people like them in culture, race, etc.—but with people very distant and different from them (Acts1:8).  And they were to do this without any political power, without using any kind of military force, without exceptional financial backing, etc.  Can you imagine how utterly intimidating this must have been?

This mission is still in effect for all Christians.  Jesus charges us to testify to others that he is the Messiah.  Jesus commands us to go and make disciples (of him).  Jesus calls on us to do this with people who are very sociologically different from us—both near to us and far from us.  This is to be the primary focus of our Christian lives; we are to live missionally, even though we feel (and are) totally unqualified and inadequate to do this (2Cor.2:16b; 3:5a)!

Do you feel the weight of these difficulties?  If your answer is “No,” this is not a good sign!  It may mean that you have diluted your Christian life to insulated, humanly doable niceness.  Jesus wants us to face these difficulties, to embrace them as his followers—but not to focus on them, but to focus on his more-than-adequate provisions.

The provisions

Jesus promised that he would not leave us as orphans (14:18) to fend for ourselves in this hostile world.  He left this earth, not to desert us, but in order to go to the Cross to pay for our sins, so that we could be adopted into God’s family (Gal.4:5)—so that he could provide us with everything we need to fulfill the mission he has given us.  In this passage, Jesus speaks of four specific provisions: hope, access, help, and authority.

HOPE: Read 14:2,3.  Why is Jesus leaving?  To prepare a place for us in his Father’s “house.”  This is a metaphor for God’s eternal kingdom.  Because of our sin, we are all disqualified from God’s kingdom.  But because Jesus was willing to pay for our sin through his sacrifice, our place in God’s eternal kingdom is guaranteed if we entrust ourselves to him and his death for our sins.  Because Jesus conquered death, he will come again at the end of this age to bring us into this kingdom.  We will look more closely at what this kingdom is like NEXT WEEK, but it is so glorious that our sufferings in this present age are not worthy to be compared with it (Rom.8:18)!

ACCESS: Read 16:23,24.  Why is Jesus leaving?  To provide prayer access for us to his Father.  As orphans, we had no access to God.  But Jesus’ death makes us children of God—and God’s children have access to him, not only for personal communion, but also to request and receive what they need to serve him.  Six times in Jn. 14-16, Jesus says that if we ask the Father for anything, he will give it to us.  He keeps emphasizing this, both because this provision is important, and because we are so disinclined to believe it.  The only condition is that we ask “in Jesus’ name.”  This is like being sent on a dangerous military mission, and being told that you can requisition anything you need to fulfill the mission.  This is a tremendous provision, one that is usually either selfishly abused or grossly under-utilized.  (In our church, I think it’s more the latter.)  If you’re like me, you have probably spent a lot more time figuring out what this does not mean than learning through practice what it does mean.  We’re going to spend WEEK 3 exploring this incredible provision.

HELP:  Read 14:16,17a.  Why is Jesus leaving?  To provide another Helper, the Spirit of truth, or the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ death for our sins makes it possible for God’s Spirit to permanently indwell the center of our personalities.  He will help us in the same ways Jesus helped the disciples, but he will help us even more than the disciples were helped by Jesus’ physical presence!  This is why Jesus said that it was to our advantage that he went away (16:7).  When Jesus was with them, he personally mediated God’s love to them (14:21,23), he taught them God’s Word and enabled them to grasp his truth (14:26), he testified about Jesus to people who don’t believe in him (15:26), and he convicted the consciences of non-believers that they were lost and needed God’s forgiveness (16:8).  All this the Holy Spirit will do for Jesus’ followers.  We will spend WEEK 4 unpacking this help the Holy Spirit provides.

AUTHORITY: Read 16:33.  Why is Jesus leaving?  To overcome the world.  This means something more than that his death and resurrection earn him the right to one day rule the earth.  It does mean this, but it also is a provision for us in this life.  It means that Jesus’ death and resurrection broke the authority of Satan to hold this world in darkness.  Now Jesus has the authority to advance the spread of the gospel through any and all circumstances (Matt.28:18,19).  It means that as servants of Jesus, we have access to his authority.  So we are no longer victims of our circumstances, because he will overrule or work through all opposition to advance his own cause.  This is what we see in Acts—sometimes this means protection and deliverance (Paul in Acts 16); sometimes this means advance through our suffering (Paul in Acts 28)—but always it means that he is Lord over our circumstances.  We will spend WEEK 5 looking at this provision more closely.

Do you regularly experience the reality of these provisions?  Jesus died so that you could.  If your answer is “No,” it may be because you have opted out of his mission and are living for yourself and by your own resources.  Or it may be because you are omitting your one responsibility...

Our one responsibility: trust Jesus

How do we lay hold of these provisions so that they become a normal part of our Christian experience (along with the difficulties)?  The answer is simple, but not easy—read 14:1. 

It is simple because we need do only one thing—entrust ourselves to God and Jesus (implication of deity).  We don’t need to have a seminary degree, or be a Christian for decades, or master many skills.  We just need to cast ourselves on to the living Jesus—to give ourselves to his mission for our lives, and to depend upon his provisions for us in this mission.

It is difficult because we are so deeply disinclined to entrust ourselves to Jesus.  We are inclined to live like orphans—on our own, for our own agendas, and by our own resources.  So it always takes a conscious decision to turn away from trusting ourselves to entrust ourselves to him.  This is why the Bible speaks of entrusting ourselves to Jesus in two ways:

There must be an initial step to entrust ourselves to Jesus as our Savior—to admit our sinfulness and ask him to forgive us, and to admit our orphanhood and ask him to make us God’s child (Jn. 1:12).  Have you ever taken this step?  If not, will you take this step today?

Then there must be an ongoing, day-by-day, situation-by-situation choice to entrust ourselves to him as our Leader and Provider—to submit to his will and to depend upon him for the resources to fulfill his will (Jn.15:4,5).  We will talk more about this in the coming weeks (especially WEEK 6).

Will you read Jn. 14-16 recurrently over the next several weeks, asking God to open your eyes to both these difficulties and his provisions?  Will you commit to coming to this series, asking God to speak to you in a life-changing way?  Let’s learn together to live the normal Christian life!