Preparing the Apostles for His Departure
THE memorial meal is over, but Jesus and his apostles are still in the upstairs room. Although Jesus will soon be gone, he has many things yet to say. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he comforts them. “Exercise faith in God.” But he adds: “Exercise faith also in me.”
“In the house of my Father there are many abodes,” Jesus continues. “I am going my way to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am you also may be. And where I am going you know the way.” The apostles do not comprehend that Jesus is talking about going away to heaven, so Thomas asks: “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?”
“I am the way and the truth and the life,” Jesus answers. Yes, only by accepting him and imitating his life course can anyone enter the heavenly house of the Father because, as Jesus says: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“Lord, show us the Father,” Philip requests, “and it is enough for us.” Philip apparently wants Jesus to provide a visible manifestation of God, such as was granted in ancient times in visions to Moses, Elijah, and Isaiah. But, really, the apostles have something much better than visions of that type, as Jesus observes: “Have I been with you men so long a time, and yet, Philip, you have not come to know me? He that has seen me has seen the Father also.”
Jesus so perfectly reflects the personality of his Father that living with and observing him is, in effect, like actually seeing the Father. Yet, the Father is superior to the Son, as Jesus acknowledges: “The things I say to you men I do not speak of my own originality.” Jesus properly gives all credit for his teachings to his heavenly Father.
How encouraging it must be for the apostles to hear Jesus now tell them: “He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these”! Jesus does not mean that his followers will exercise greater miraculous powers than he did. No, but he means that they will carry on the ministry for a much longer time, over a much greater area, and to far more people.
Jesus will not abandon his disciples after his departure. “Whatever it is that you ask in my name,” he promises, “I will do this.” Further, he says: “I will request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth.” Later, after he ascends to heaven, Jesus pours out on his disciples the holy spirit, this other helper.
Jesus’ departure is near, as he says: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more.” Jesus will be a spirit creature that no human can see. But again Jesus promises his faithful apostles: “You will behold me, because I live and you will live.” Yes, not only will Jesus appear to them in human form after his resurrection but in due time he will resurrect them to life with him in heaven as spirit creatures.
Jesus now states the simple rule: “He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will plainly show myself to him.”
At this the apostle Judas, the one who is also called Thaddaeus, interrupts: “Lord, what has happened that you intend to show yourself plainly to us and not to the world?”
“If anyone loves me,” Jesus replies, “he will observe my word, and my Father will love him . . . He that does not love me does not observe my words.” Unlike his obedient followers, the world ignores Christ’s teachings. So he does not reveal himself to them.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus has taught his apostles many things. How will they remember them all, especially since, even up to this moment, they fail to grasp so much? Happily, Jesus promises: “The helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.”
Again comforting them, Jesus says: “I leave you peace, I give you my peace. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled.” True, Jesus is departing, but he explains: “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.”
Jesus’ remaining time with them is short. “I shall not speak much with you anymore,” he says, “for the ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me.” Satan the Devil, the one who was able to enter Judas and get a hold on him, is the ruler of the world. But there is no sinful weakness in Jesus that Satan can play on to turn him away from serving God.
Enjoying an Intimate Relationship
Following the memorial meal, Jesus has been encouraging his apostles with an informal heart-to-heart talk. It may be past midnight. So Jesus urges: “Get up, let us go from here.” However, before they leave, Jesus, moved by his love for them, continues speaking, providing a motivating illustration.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator,” he begins. The Great Cultivator, Jehovah God, planted this symbolic vine when he anointed Jesus with holy spirit at his baptism in the fall of 29 C.E. But Jesus goes on to show that the vine symbolizes more than just him, observing: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. . . . Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine, you are the branches.”
At Pentecost, 51 days later, the apostles and others become branches of the vine when holy spirit is poured out on them. Eventually, 144,000 persons become branches of the figurative grapevine. Along with the vine stem, Jesus Christ, these make up a symbolic vine that produces the fruits of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus explains the key to producing fruit: “He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit; because apart from me you can do nothing at all.” If, however, a person fails to produce fruit, Jesus says, “he is cast out as a branch and is dried up; and men gather those branches up and pitch them into the fire and they are burned.” On the other hand, Jesus promises: “If you remain in union with me and my sayings remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will take place for you.”
Further, Jesus says to his apostles: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” The fruit God desires from the branches is their manifestation of Christlike qualities, particularly love. Moreover, since Christ was a proclaimer of God’s Kingdom, the desired fruit also includes their activity of making disciples as he did.
“Remain in my love,” Jesus now urges. Yet, how can his apostles do so? “If you observe my commandments,” he says, “you will remain in my love.” Continuing, Jesus explains: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”
In a few hours, Jesus will demonstrate this surpassing love by giving his life in behalf of his apostles, as well as all others who will exercise faith in him. His example should move his followers to have the same self-sacrificing love for one another. This love will identify them, as Jesus stated earlier: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”
Identifying his friends, Jesus says: “You are my friends if you do what I am commanding you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
What a precious relationship to have—to be intimate friends of Jesus! But to continue to enjoy this relationship, his followers must “keep bearing fruit.” If they do, Jesus says, “no matter what you ask the Father in my name he [will] give it to you.” Surely, that is a grand reward for bearing Kingdom fruit! After again urging the apostles to “love one another,” Jesus explains that the world will hate them. Yet, he comforts them: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.” Jesus next reveals why the world hates his followers, saying: “Because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”
Explaining further the reason for the world’s hatred, Jesus continues: “They will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him [Jehovah God] that sent me.” Jesus’ miraculous works, in effect, convict those who hate him, as he notes: “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have both seen and hated me as well as my Father.” Thus, as Jesus says, the scripture is fulfilled: “They hated me without cause.”
As he did earlier, Jesus again comforts them by promising to send the helper, the holy spirit, which is God’s powerful active force. “That one will bear witness about me; and you, in turn, are to bear witness.”
Further Departing Admonition
Jesus and the apostles are poised to leave the upper room. “I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled,” he continues. Then he gives the solemn warning: “Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.”
The apostles are evidently deeply disturbed by this warning. Although Jesus had earlier said that the world would hate them, he had not revealed so directly that they would be killed. “I did not tell you [this] at first,” Jesus explains, “because I was with you.” Yet, how fine it is to forearm them with this information before he departs!
“But now,” Jesus continues, “I am going to him that sent me, and yet not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” Earlier in the evening, they had inquired about where he was going, but now they are so shaken by what he has told them that they fail to ask further about this. As Jesus says: “Because I have spoken these things to you grief has filled your hearts.” The apostles are grieved not only because they have learned that they will suffer terrible persecution and be killed but because their Master is leaving them.
So Jesus explains: “It is for your benefit I am going away. For if I do not go away, the helper will by no means come to you; but if I do go my way, I will send him to you.” As a human, Jesus can only be in one place at a time, but when he is in heaven, he can send the helper, God’s holy spirit, to his followers wherever they may be on earth. So Jesus’ leaving will be beneficial.
The holy spirit, Jesus says, “will give the world convincing evidence concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment.” The world’s sin, its failure to exercise faith in God’s Son, will be exposed. In addition, convincing evidence of the righteousness of Jesus will be demonstrated by his ascension to the Father. And the failure of Satan and his wicked world to break Jesus’ integrity is convincing evidence that the ruler of the world has been adversely judged.
“I have many things yet to say to you,” Jesus continues, “but you are not able to bear them at present.” Therefore Jesus promises that when he pours out the holy spirit, which is God’s active force, it will guide them into an understanding of these things in accordance with their ability to grasp them.
The apostles fail particularly to understand that Jesus will die and then appear to them after he is resurrected. So they ask one another: “What does this mean that he says to us, ‘In a little while you will not behold me, and, again, in a little while you will see me,’ and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?”
Jesus realizes that they want to question him, so he explains: “Most truly I say to you, You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice; you will be grieved, but your grief will be turned into joy.” Later that day, in the afternoon, when Jesus is killed, the worldly religious leaders rejoice, but the disciples grieve. Their grief is changed to joy, however, when Jesus is resurrected! And their joy continues when he empowers them at Pentecost to be his witnesses by pouring out upon them God’s holy spirit!
Comparing the apostles’ situation to that of a woman during her birth pangs, Jesus says: “A woman, when she is giving birth, has grief, because her hour has arrived.” But Jesus observes that she no longer remembers her tribulation once her child is born, and he encourages his apostles, saying: “You also, therefore, are now, indeed, having grief; but I shall see you again [when I am resurrected] and your hearts will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”
Up to this time, the apostles have never made requests in Jesus’ name. But he now says: “If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name. . . . For the Father himself has affection for you, because you have had affection for me and have believed that I came out as the Father’s representative. I came out from the Father and have come into the world. Further, I am leaving the world and am going my way to the Father.”
Jesus’ words are a great encouragement to the apostles. “By this we believe that you came out from God,” they say. “Do you believe at present?” Jesus asks. “Look! The hour is coming, indeed, it has come, when you will be scattered each one to his own house and you will leave me alone.” Unbelievable as it may seem, this occurs before the night is finished!
“I have said these things to you that by means of me you may have peace.” Jesus concludes: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” Jesus conquered the world by faithfully accomplishing God’s will despite everything that Satan and his world tried to do to break Jesus’ integrity.
Concluding Prayer in the Upper Room
Moved by deep love for his apostles, Jesus has been preparing them for his imminent departure. Now, after admonishing and comforting them at length, he raises his eyes to heaven and petitions his Father: “Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, according as you have given him authority over all flesh, that, as regards the whole number whom you have given him, he may give them everlasting life.”
What a stirring theme Jesus introduces—everlasting life! Having been given “authority over all flesh,” Jesus can impart the benefits of his ransom sacrifice to all dying humankind. Yet, he grants “everlasting life” only to those whom the Father approves. Building on this theme of everlasting life, Jesus continues his prayer:
“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Yes, salvation is dependent upon our taking in knowledge of both God and his Son. But more is needed than just head knowledge.
A person must come to know them intimately, developing an understanding friendship with them. One must feel as they do about matters and see things through their eyes. And above all, a person must strive to imitate their matchless qualities in dealing with others.
Jesus next prays: “I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do.” Having thus fulfilled his assignment up to this point and being confident of his future success, he petitions: “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.” Yes, he now asks to be restored to his previous heavenly glory by means of a resurrection.
Summarizing his principal work on earth, Jesus says: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have observed your word.” Jesus used God’s name, Jehovah, in his ministry and demonstrated a correct pronunciation of it, but he did more than that to make God’s name manifest to his apostles. He also expanded their knowledge and appreciation of Jehovah, of his personality, and of his purposes.
Crediting Jehovah as his Superior, the One under whom he serves, Jesus humbly acknowledges: “The sayings that you gave me I have given to them, and they have received them and have certainly come to know that I came out as your representative, and they have believed that you sent me.”
Making a distinction between his followers and the rest of mankind, Jesus next prays: “I make request, not concerning the world, but concerning those you have given me . . . When I was with them I used to watch over them . . . , and I have kept them, and not one of them is destroyed except the son of destruction,” namely, Judas Iscariot. At this very moment, Judas is on his despicable mission to betray Jesus. Thus, Judas is unknowingly fulfilling the Scriptures.
“The world has hated them,” Jesus continues to pray. “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” Jesus’ followers are in the world, this organized human society ruled by Satan, but they are and must always remain separate from it and its wickedness.
“Sanctify them by means of the truth,” Jesus continues, “your word is truth.” Here Jesus calls the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, from which he continually quoted, “the truth.” But what he taught his disciples and what they later wrote under inspiration as the Christian Greek Scriptures is likewise “the truth.” This truth can sanctify a person, change his life completely, and make him a person separate from the world.
Jesus now prays “not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in [him] through their word.” So Jesus prays for those who will be his anointed followers and other future disciples who yet will be gathered into “one flock.” What does he request for all of these?
“That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, . . . that they may be one just as we are one.” Jesus and his Father are not literally one person, but they are in agreement on all things. Jesus prays that his followers enjoy this same oneness so that “the world may have the knowledge that you sent me forth and that you loved them just as you loved me.”
In behalf of those who would be his anointed followers, Jesus now makes a request of his heavenly Father. For what? “That, where I am, they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the founding of the world,” that is, before Adam and Eve conceived offspring. Long before that, God loved his only-begotten Son, who became Jesus Christ.
Concluding his prayer, Jesus again emphasizes: “I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.” For the apostles, learning the name of God has involved personally coming to know the love of God. John 14:1–17:26; 13:27, 35, 36; 10:16; Luke 22:3, 4; Exodus 24:10; 1 Kings 19:9-13; Isaiah 6:1-5; Galatians 6:16; Psalm 35:19; 69:4; Proverbs 8:22, 30.
▪ Where is Jesus going, and what answer does Thomas receive regarding the way there?
▪ By his request, what does Philip apparently want Jesus to provide?
▪ Why has one who has seen Jesus also seen the Father?
▪ How will Jesus’ followers do greater works than he did?
▪ In what sense does Satan have no hold on Jesus?
▪ When did Jehovah plant the symbolic vine, and when and how do others become part of the vine?
▪ Eventually, how many branches does the symbolic vine have?
▪ What fruit does God desire from the branches?
▪ How can we be friends of Jesus?
▪ Why does the world hate Jesus’ followers?
▪ What warning by Jesus disturbs his apostles?
▪ Why do the apostles fail to question Jesus about where he is going?
▪ What do the apostles particularly fail to understand?
▪ How does Jesus illustrate that the situation of the apostles will change from grief to joy?
▪ What does Jesus say the apostles will soon do?
▪ How does Jesus conquer the world?
▪ In what sense is Jesus given “authority over all flesh”?
▪ What does it mean to take in knowledge of God and his Son?
▪ In what ways does Jesus make God’s name manifest?
▪ What is “the truth,” and how does it “sanctify” a Christian?
▪ How are God, his Son, and all true worshipers one?
▪ When was “the founding of the world”?