Caring for Them Until the End
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” ( John 14:1).
In his final days on earth, Jesus spent precious time with his disciples. He prepared them for the difficult experiences to come and comforted them with words they would later recall. In John 13, he not only emphasized the importance of humility, but also demonstrated the lifestyle of a true servant. The greatest man to ever walk the earth washed the feet of his disciples. It was a powerful reminder of the heart condition sought by God. Jesus said, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:15‑17).
When Peter resisted having his feet washed, Jesus said that he would some day understand. He was right. Peter came to personally experience what it meant to wash the feet of his brethren. His sacrificial life served and spiritually refreshed the early church. His example continues to bless others to this day.
After Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray him, he turned to Judas and said, “What you are going to do, do quickly” (verse 27 ESV). The others did not understand what Jesus meant, but apparently, Judas did. After receiving a morsel of bread from Jesus, he left the group. Jesus then shared an important principle that set a new standard for his disciples down through the age.
A New Commandment
“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:33‑35 ESV).
One of the precepts of the Mosaic law said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself ” (Leviticus 19:18). How then was loving one another a new commandment? Jesus explained the difference when he added the simple words, “as I have loved you.” Jesus willingly sacrificed his life for the good of others. He freely gave himself, not only for those close to him, but for all humanity, even for those who hated and abused him. Nothing in the Law called for such self‑sacrifice. This new command established a higher moral standard, the highest possible. Such purity of heart motivated Jesus and is set before every believer as an essential goal to strive after. It is the outworking of “agape love.”
Jesus not only gave the command to love, he also lived it. Those endeavoring to live by this principle become a reflection of their Master. He is worthy of such emulation. Attaining this love is desirable, not only out of obedience to the Lord, but also for the peace of heart it provides. They find great joy in blessing others. However, those devoid of this type of love usually find their lives filled with turmoil. But it would be an identifying characteristic in the Lord’s people. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (verse 35).
The Way, the Truth, and the Life
As Jesus continued his comforting sermon, he spoke of preparing a place for his disciples. “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3 ESV). Thomas said they did not know where he was going, so how could they know the way? Jesus responded, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (verse 6 ESV). Jesus was going to the Father and they would follow him one day. The disciples were still confused. But soon they would know that Jesus was speaking of faith, that faith in Jesus’ sacrifice was the way to the Father. Their journey would be a long road filled with character developing experiences. Their faithful, sacrificial lives would be rewarded with immortality and the privilege of dwelling in the presence of God. This hope would inspire their zeal and devotion in the dark days to come.
Show Us the Father
In a remarkable statement, Jesus said “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (verse 7 ESV). Philip responded saying, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Philip’s request reveals that Jesus’ words were still not understood. The Lord’s meaningful reply described an unwavering unity of heart and mind between himself and the Father. When observing his actions and hearing Jesus’ words, the disciples were seeing the character, and hearing the words, of God Himself. Jesus said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works” (verse 10 ESV). This is a powerful lesson for every believer to have their words and conduct reflect the character of the one they worship, by having Him dwell in their hearts.
Jesus told his disciples that someday they would share the power he had so often demonstrated. “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (verse 12 ESV). Jesus had healed the sick, opened blind eyes, and raised the dead. What greater works could the disciples do? The answer is two‑fold. When the kingdom is fully established, the scale of that work will be universal. Rather than raising only a few, or healing one here and one there, the Lord’s faithful disciples will have a share in raising humanity’s billions from the dark tomb of death.
Doing greater works will also mean more permanent results. The miracles Jesus performed were short‑lived. The ones brought back to life eventually died again. But the kingdom will usher in eternal life. Jesus laid before his disciples an inspiring hope in the few simple words, “greater works than these.”
Watching the tender manner of Jesus as he interacted with the poor must have been a comforting experience for the disciples. It was a practical lesson on seeing the value of people despite their status in this world. But Jesus was about to go away, leaving his followers bewildered and lost for a time. He reassured them, saying that he would ask the Father to send “another comforter.” He called it “the spirit of truth” (verse 17). Comfort is not often understood in terms of truth. But Jesus meant specific truth about God and His plan. Greater understanding along these lines does bring comfort. Today, we have the privilege of understanding God’s plan in greater detail, and it offers hope that death is not the end of our existence. It points to a future filled with joy, knowing that God’s kingdom will bring peace to a war‑torn and weary world. God’s truth helps us better understand the deep love He has for all His creation.
Such knowledge should also strengthen our trust in Him so that we cannot be moved by outside influences. Believing in the providential workings of God brings a peace of heart that the world cannot understand, or experience. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (verse 27). As true mature disciples, the effect of God’s Spirit makes them more Christ-like.
The True Vine
After leaving the upper room with the disciples, Jesus continued speaking as they walked slowly to Gethsemane. He described himself as the true vine, and they as the branches. Spiritual growth required that they “abide in the vine.” A helpful reflection for every believer is to ask, “Am I abiding in him? Am I allowing Jesus’ life and teachings to permeate my life? Am I spending time with other branches of the vine so we strengthen one another?” These practical questions help to evaluate our growth in Christ and encourage a more consecrated lifestyle.
Jesus assured his followers that their efforts to follow him would bring blessings. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). He then repeated the great commandment, “That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (verses 12, 13). The powerful lesson Jesus expressed was that the branches thrive when they stay connected to the vine and serve the vine and branches with zeal and love.
I Must Go Away
The thought of Jesus’ departure filled the disciples with sorrow (John 16:6). Jesus compared their sorrow to a woman in childbirth. At birth the labor pains ended and were replaced by the joy of new life. Their sorrow would become a memory when their new spiritual lives began. Leaving would be to their advantage as he presented his ransom merit on their behalf, allowing them to receive the holy Spirit. The benefits would be invisible, but real, changing their lives and the lives of all who were accepted as sons and daughters of God.
Jesus’ Closing Prayer
After his personal remarks to the disciples, Jesus gazed toward heaven and prayed. Up to this point he had accomplished the work he was sent to do and had glorified the Father. In humility, he asked to be reunited with his Father and given the glory he once had. He prayed for his disciples, that their joy might be full and they prove faithful. He then reached down through the age to touch all those who would one day believe in him. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee” (John 17:20, 21).
Knowing that there would be strife, persecution, and divisions in the future, Jesus expressed a deep desire for the saints to be united and devoted to one another. “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (verse 26).
When Jesus ended his prayer, the little group of men walked together, crossed the brook Kidron, and entered the Garden of Gethsemane. The final scenes of our Lord’s life would begin in this quiet garden. But the Lord’s message to his disciples would be treasured in their hearts, and in all those who would one day follow in his footsteps Now, some 2,000 years later, his words continue to fill our hearts with comfort and hope.