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Having just informed His disciples that He was going to leave them and that they could not come with Him, Jesus begins to comfort them and teach them what was most important.
John 14:1 begins,
1 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
“Troubled” is from tarasso, “to be agitated, stirred up, to cause inward commotion.” Jesus had been troubled in John 11:33 when He saw people weeping at the tomb of Lazarus. He had been troubled in His soul when He began to speak of His impending death to His disciples in John 12:27. He was troubled in His spirit when He talked about His impending betrayal in John 13:21. Finally, in John 14:1 and 27 Jesus comforts His disciples in their commotion, as the reality of His leaving them took effect.
When Jesus died on the cross, His soul was “poured out unto death.” The fleshly (carnal) soul is in the blood, says Leviticus 17:11, and for this reason the blood of sacrifice was to be poured out upon the ground. The essence of sacrifice is to substitute the soul of the animal for the soul of the one offering sacrifice. Hence, they were not to drink blood, because God said, its purpose was “to make atonement for your souls.” The death of the body, in itself, was not the essence of atoning sacrifice. It was the death of the sacrificed soul that atoned for the soul of others.
So Jesus’ soul was troubled when He spoke of His Sacrifice on the cross, for that is the part of Him that was to be sacrificed to cover (atone for) the sin of the world.
But when Jesus spoke of His betrayal, it was His spirit that was troubled. This was a different kind of agitation, coming from a different part of Jesus’ being. His innermost being was troubled by the thought of being betrayed, as David had said, by “my close friend in whom I trusted” (Psalm 41:9). As a result, David tells us, “My heart is in anguish within me” (Psalm 55:4). This prophesied of Jesus’ own state of mind at the thought of Judas’ betrayal. David’s “heart” was in anguish, and Jesus’ “spirit” was troubled.
David’s lament about Ahithophel, who betrayed him, also prophesied of Judas, saying in Psalm 55:12-14,
12 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him. 13 But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. 14 We who had sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng.
Those who have experienced betrayal know the anguish in spirit that it causes. God often allows us to experience such betrayal in order that we may understand how Jesus felt in His spirit. He is looking for those with a common experience, those who understand what He went through.
In John 14:1 Jesus saw that His disciples were also troubled. Jesus had been with them for three years. They thought this would never end. Then, just as they thought He would be crowned king of Judah and receive the throne of His father, David, He spoke of leaving them. Would He run away and escape in the end? Would He admit defeat? Would He really betray them like that? Would He really leave them behind to hide from the chief priests and hope they would not seek to put them to death for following a false messiah?
Words of Comfort
Jesus recognized their inner turmoil and spoke words of comfort to them. He reminded them of their belief in God and that He had been sent by God. That had not changed. The only change was in their level of understanding.
In John 14:2-4 Jesus says,
2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places [mone]; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.”
In the culture of that time, when a man was betrothed to a woman, he went away to prepare a house for his bride-to-be. When all was prepared, he returned to receive her to Himself so that they might be married and live together. So Jesus uses this metaphor with His disciples, comforting them with the promise of returning to be reunited.
This promise was to have a short-term fulfillment as well as a long-term fulfillment. Some Bible teachers emphasize one or the other, but the fact is that both are valid yet incomplete without taking into account both levels of fulfillment.
The long-term fulfillment comes at the end of the interim Age of Pentecost. After the Passover Age from Moses to Christ, the long-term divine plan was not to bring us immediately into the Kingdom but to bring us into a Pentecostal Age, which would see the rule of “Saul.” Only after the reign of the house of “Saul” were we to see the reign of “David.” These are two different kingdoms, the first being of Pentecost, the other being of Tabernacles.
So in the long-term view, Christ has ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us, so that when all is prepared, He may return and be reunited with His disciples.
However, as we will see, Christ has not orphaned us. We are not left alone. He has sent His Agent, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in His place to be with us during the interim. It is not the same as Christ’s actual return, but because the Holy Spirit is one with Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit is as if Christ Himself returned on the day of Pentecost.
Thus, Christ came in a Pentecostal manner to indwell us, making us His dwelling place (mone). We abide (meno) in Him and He in us (John 15:4). The verb meno means “to abide, remain, to be continually present.” The noun, mone, is the place of abiding.
Christ was leaving His disciples, but not really. This is the essence of Jesus’ message of comfort to His disciples in the next few chapters of John’s gospel.
In verse 4 above, Jesus said, “you know the way where I am going.” He had already told them that He would be returning to His Father. It is not likely that they knew the manner of His return to the Father. They could not picture the ascension itself, for they had never seen anything like it. The nearest equivalent would have been seen in the story of Enoch or Elijah.
But at least some of the disciples still thought Jesus was talking about going on a journey to some other part of the earth.
The Way, the Truth, the Life
John 14:5, 6 says,
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
The path by which the disciples might follow was not a highway or a dusty trail. It was a very different path, a spiritual highway. “I am the way,” Jesus said. This answer included more than just following His example as a way of life. The journey was intimately connected to His Person and possible only by abiding in Him.
This “journey” was depicted in Israel’s wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. Thus, it is also linked to the three main feast days wherein all were to appear before God’s “face” three times during the year.
“I am the way” is in the Passover feast, which began Israel’s journey, being led by the Spirit in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire that led them from Succoth on the first day. The way is set forth by the Spirit. Wherever He leads is the way.
“I am the truth” is in the feast of Pentecost, for the Holy Spirit is called to “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Pentecost is the celebration of the giving of Law, and so the law is written in our hearts by hearing His word. This is the process by which we become like Christ, who is Himself the Truth.
“I am the life” is in the feast of Tabernacles, the feast where we obtain immortality. It correlates to entering the Promised Land and seeing the fulfillment of the promises of God.
Jesus is all three, and each step of the journey brings us closer to being one with Him. Further, no one can come to the Father except through Christ. He is the way, the only way to true union with God. This union is an intimate relationship with the Creator and Father of all things.
As we will see, this brief introduction is a summary of Christ’s table-talk after the Last Supper. These would be the most important things for the disciples to understand, if they were to survive the shock of His crucifixion and ultimately to abide in Him as if He had returned.