Chapter 14: John’s Gospel — Jesus’ Parting Conversation

In This Chapter

Scripture
A Quick Dip
Reflecting
Diving Deeper
Four Themes
Put Your Trust In
Knowing Intimately
Living Permanently
Love
Prayer

Scripture

Do not let your hearts be troubled; put your trust in God, and put your trust in me.
–John 14:1

Put your trust in this truth for me: that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; however, if you cannot just put your trust in this truth as an outright act of faith, then trust in it because of the miracles you have witnessed. For you see, your trust in this truth is very important to me.
–John 14:11

On that day you will know in your heart that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.
–John 14:20

Just as the Father has loved me, so also I have loved you: live permanently in my love.
–John 15:9

A greater love than this no one has, that one should lay down his life for his friends.
–John 15:13

A Quick Dip1

Troubled: This is the same Greek word used in John 12:27 (see Chapter 9) and means to be stirred up, agitated, or confused.

Put your trust in: Used fourteen times in John 14-17, many scholars translate this Greek verb as believe. The noun from this same root is usually translated as faith. In our culture, when we say that we believe in something (“I believe in Santa Claus”), we are acknowledging our acceptance of that person or being as real. But here in John, believing is more than just acknowledging God’s existence. To believe is to have faith in God; it means to put our trust in God’s wisdom, God’s power, and God’s ability to help us. Furthermore, to trust in God means to accept — without reservation — God’s message as revealed in Jesus Christ. Note that here put your trust in is written in the form of a commandment.

For me: In the original language, this grammatical construction acts like a signal flag for John’s readers. This particular “flag” calls attention to Jesus’ personal interest in this subject. Here Jesus is saying, “Do this [trust in this truth] for me because I have a personal interest in this matter. I want you to understand that your trusting is very important to me.”

For you see, your trust in this truth is very important to me: Here we have a second “flag” for John’s readers. As in the phrase discussed above, this construction also underscores Jesus’ personal interest in this matter.

Know in your heart: This verb is used seventeen times in John 14-17. In John, to know someone (especially God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) not only means that we understand that person or being; it also means that we have an intimate, lasting, life-changing relationship with that person. This heart knowledge does not grow out of something that we understand in our heads; it grows out of something that we can only experience deep within the core of our being.

Live permanently: This verb and its noun form are used seventeen times in John 14-17. Both the verb and noun mean to remain or abide with someone. Taken literally, the verb means to permanently dwell or lodge with someone, but we must understand that this word describes more than just close physical contact. It points to the maintenance of a continuous personal relationship with another.

Love: This verb is used twenty-two times in John 14-17. You may have heard teachers and preachers refer to the Greek noun agape, which is often called “Christian love” or “God’s perfect love.” Agape is a love that is unconditional, unending, and indestructible. In John, agape is best defined by God’s act of sending the gift of his only Son for the salvation of the world. Our love for God is our response to this gift, and our response must be more than just a feeling. Our love must be demonstrated by our actions. To love God is to serve God, to live for God, and to value our relationship with God above everything else — even our love for ourselves. Agape is a self-sacrificing, trusting, obedient love which places God as the highest priority in our lives.

Reflecting

  1. If you knew that you were about to leave this world and you had one last opportunity to speak with those you loved the most, what would you say?
  2. Why is our trusting so important to Jesus?
  3. What is the difference between trusting, knowing, and loving God?
  4. According to the definition above, can you honestly say that you love God?

Diving Deeper

Four Themes

We discovered in “A Quick Dip” that there are several key words in his final conversation that Jesus uses again and again: trusting in, knowing intimately, living permanently, and loving unconditionally. Just from the number of repetitions, we can see how important these themes are to Jesus. Understanding these themes is critical, because each plays a vital role in the development of intimate relationships with our Father, his Son, his Holy Spirit, and our fellow believers. In this study, the tapestry of John 14-17 will begin to take shape.

Put Your Trust In

At the very beginning of this farewell conversation, Jesus tells his disciples, “Put your trust in God, and put your trust in me.” This commandment to trust serves as the primary color — the background — for the entire tapestry of 14-17. All other themes are woven onto this background, this commandment to trust.

As we stated in “A Quick Dip,” many scholars translate the Greek word in this verse as believe. But we also noted that when Jesus commands us to believe, he expects us to do more than just stand up, affirm that God is real, then return to our normal activities. Jesus expects us to do much more than just acknowledge God’s existence; Jesus wants us to have faith in God. He wants us to put our complete trust in God as our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

Last Thanksgiving, I received a call from a friend who was in tears. Her adolescent niece, Sarrah, had been suffering from terrible headaches and had just visited a neurologist. The doctor looked at an MRI and immediately called in the family. Sarrah had a brain tumor and needed emergency surgery. The family was in shock, and they had to make a decision. Sarrah’s mother looked at the doctor. She believed that he was a surgeon. She believed that what he had told her about Sarrah’s condition was true. But did she have faith in him? Did she trust him enough to put her child’s life into his hands? Like Sarrah’s mother, we have a decision to make. Will we believe, not only that God is the God of the universe, not only that Jesus Christ is his Son, but will we also put our trust and our lives into his hands?

Our trusting is of the utmost importance to Jesus. In John 14:11, the full weight of Jesus’ concern for this trusting presses most heavily upon us. Jesus says, “Put your trust in this truth for me: that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” We already discussed how the Greek construction for me serves as a flag that signals the intensity of Jesus’ desire for us to trust him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Indeed, here Jesus seems to be begging his beloved disciples: “Do this — put your trust in my relationship with my Daddy — for me. But if you cannot put your trust in this relationship because of the faith you have in me, then put your trust in it because of the miracles you have seen me perform.” For Jesus, it doesn’t matter what triggers our ability to trust in him — a faithful heart, a desire to please him, or an encounter with the miraculous — Jesus just wants us to trust. He begs us to take this first step toward a closer relationship with God.

Knowing Intimately

If trusting is the primary color in this tapestry about relationships, then knowing is the secondary color, the cross-threads interwoven throughout the entire background. In John 14:11, Jesus says, “Trust that I am in the Father,” but later in 14:20 he says, “You shall know in your heart that I am in the Father.” Clearly, trusting and knowing are linked, interwoven as the basic threads in this last conversation.

Again — for Jesus — if trusting is more than just accepting God as real, then knowing is more than just possessing some cold, hard facts about God. Think about the people you know best. I know my family really well; I can tell you about my husband’s favorite hobby, which foods my son will not eat, and what school subjects my daughter most enjoys. Yet my knowledge of my family runs much deeper. I know how compassionate my husband is; when he comes in from his job at the hospital with a story about an ambulance delivering the body of a six-month-old who was killed in a car accident, I can feel the depth of his sorrow pulsing within my own heart. Likewise, I know my son’s love of the game; when he scores the winning basket at the buzzer, his ecstatic joy spurs me to jump up and down as well. And when my daughter, the animal lover, presents to me a report of animal cruelty in our community, her passion causes my own blood to run hot with anger.

Jesus wants us to know both him and his Daddy with the same depth that we know our loved ones. Jesus wants us to develop an understanding of  his innermost thoughts, feelings, and heartfelt desires. And he wants us to know his Daddy just as intimately. Ask yourself: What brings Jesus great pleasure? What causes God sorrow and pain? What does Jesus desire most for God’s creation? What is God’s greatest hope for the life that he has given to you? Do you know in your heart the answers to these questions?

In Jesus’ tapestry, these are his cross-threads: trust and intimacy. Only upon these threads can a permanent relationship with God be woven.

Living Permanently

Jesus speaks about other important elements in our relationships. One key theme found in John 14-15 is living permanently, which is often translated as to abide, to dwell, or to remain. Of course, living permanently with someone is the best way to get to know that person. Jesus speaks in John 14:10 of the Father who “lives permanently in me.” One of Jesus’ greatest desires is for us to have this same type of permanent indwelling with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.2

One of the reasons I love using the master-apprentice image to define my own relationship with God is because it contains this idea of permanently abiding together. We can find few such relationships in our culture today. We may live with others under the same roof, but all of our relationships — even our most intimate relationships — are compartmentalized: we leave our family in the morning to go to work or school, we leave our coworkers or classmates to go spend time with our friends, on weekends we worship with fellow believers at church. Few of us have one single relationship which carries through every aspect of our lives. Compare this to the ancient master-apprentice relationship. Both the master and apprentice lived together, ate together, studied together, worked together, played together, and worshiped together. This is the type of permanent relationship to which Jesus refers when he commands, “Live permanently in me, and I will live permanently in you” (John 15:4a).

The best-known illustration Jesus himself gives of such a permanent relationship is found in John 15: “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who lives permanently in me and I in him bears much fruit” (15:5a). A branch draws its life and nourishment from the vine. Cut off, the branch can only wither. For our own spiritual survival, Jesus must be more than just an acquaintance to us. He must have a permanent place in our daily lives. Jesus longs to abide with us, to be permanently connected with us, to be the one who supplies us with the strength and nourishment we need every day. The last thing that Jesus wants is to be placed into a compartment which is opened only on Sundays.

Love

Love is the most frequently repeated theme in Jesus’ farewell conversation. He speaks of love twenty-two times in these four chapters. Here it is essential to understand that, for Jesus, love is not a feeling, a warm fuzzy, or an inactive verb. Instead, love is an action word: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but will have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s love is active — creating the world, saving the world by sacrificing his Son, sustaining believers by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we believe in and accept this gift of God’s love, then surely we will respond by choosing to love God in return. And like God’s love, our love should also be active. But for us, what is this active love supposed to look like?

Jesus teaches us. If we carefully study this tapestry, we discover that active love includes:

  • Obedience: “If you love me then you will keep my commandments” (14:15). “In order that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father commanded me, thus I do” (14:31a).
  • A permanent relationship: “If you keep my commandments then you will live permanently in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and live permanently in his love” (15:10).
  • A willingness to serve others: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. A greater love than this no one has, that one should lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12-13).

Yes, love includes obedience, a permanent relationship, and a willingness to serve others even at the cost of our own lives. But Jesus does more than just weave beautiful words about love onto a magnificent tapestry. When we watch Jesus drag his cross up the hill, we realize that obedience to God and service to others are Jesus’ active expressions of his own love for both his Daddy and for us.

Prayer

Trust, know, live permanently, and love: it is within this context that Jesus speaks about prayer. Certainly prayer is another essential element in building a lasting relationship with Jesus’ Daddy. So now in these final chapters, we turn to ponder Jesus’ final prayers.

>> Chapter 15: Jesus’ Promised Prayer — Ask Anything


Chapter 14 Footnotes

1 The original Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic words referred to in this section are listed in the Appendix, found in the free PDF download.
2  “If anyone loves me then he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and to him we will come and make a permanent dwelling with him” (John 14:23b).”But you know [the Spirit], for he lives permanently with you and shall be in you” (John 14:17b).

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