Jesus shared the first Communion with His disciples at the Passover Feast. He knew that the time had come for Him to give up His life as a sacrifice, and so He gave them a ritual the symbolized His great offering. It was a command that would be followed by every generation of His Church up to today. Did the disciples understand the significance of that moment? Did they have any idea of its power?
Then Jesus began to share with them the mysteries of what was coming in the days ahead. He had to prepare them for His coming death. What He was about to say was His farewell to His dearest friends. There was much to tell these men that He had spent the last three years with. Yet in truth, this wasn’t really an ending, it was just a different type of beginning. His life with His followers was going to come in a far more powerful, intimate way, and it was going to carry them right into eternity. Jesus would no longer walk beside His disciples in His earthly body, but His Spirit would live inside them. And one day, after they finished their service for Christ on earth, they would go to be with Him for all eternity.
How could He explain all of these things to His men with the eve of His death looming so large upon them? How would they ever comprehend the glory on the other side? How could He explain the wonder and life of the coming of the Spirit before they experienced it for themselves?
This is what Jesus said:
“‘Do not be let you hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me, that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.’”
Jesus was speaking of Heaven, of course. He knew He was going to die, but the much bigger picture was that He was going to be raised up. He was heading back to Heaven where He would sit on the royal throne at the right hand of His Father! They could have absolute confidence that even though the next few days were going to look like a desperate tragedy, in truth, they were the ultimate, cataclysmically greatest victory in the history of victories! Jesus was completely able, absolutely competent, and unrelentingly sure.
The amazing, quieting thing about it was that as Jesus moved forward to do the work that would transform the entire universe, He looked at these twelve simple, confused men with love and said, “I am doing this for you. You matter infinitely to me. You are a valuable part of this epic rescue mission because you are valuable to me. As I work to destroy death and sin itself, you are on my mind. And we will be together again.” They were the words of a Greater Love than the world had ever imagined.
But the disciples didn’t get it. His plans were too great and their vision was too small. Thomas asked Him, “‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’”
Jesus said, “‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.’”
The disciples still didn’t understand. Philip asked, “‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’”
Philip wanted assurance. He wanted something more concrete to believe in than the Words of this Man sitting before Him. He wanted proof. But Jesus was the proof. Philip had seen the miracles, he saw the bold confidence of Christ as He confronted the lies of the corrupt leaders, and He heard the powerful lessons of gleaming wisdom. For three years, He had watched day after day as the Truth of Christ untwisted and fixed what was broken. Philip wanted a moment of glory to convince him by what he could see. But true life comes through faith in believing in what is not seen. He had to trust the Words of His Master.
At the same time, there was good reason for Jesus’ disciples to be confused. The disciples understood that when Jesus spoke of His Father, He was talking about the Living God who created the universe. In the Jewish faith, the idea that there is only One True God was very, very important. One of the most treasured verses of the Old Testament read, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5). They also knew that Jesus described himself as the Son of God, which meant he was declaring himself to be equal with God. But He also called himself the Son of Man. How did it all work together? It was a mystery, and in many ways, Jesus Himself seemed to keep His identity shrouded.
The disciples believed Jesus was the Messiah. They knew He was a prophet, and they looked forward to Him becoming a King. All of these were honorable titles, but there was a far greater, more awesome truth that they had yet to understand. Jesus was God. And Jesus is God. The Oneness of God is the Oneness of the Father and the Son in perfect unity. The time had come for Jesus to make it absolutely clear:
“‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you are not just My own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.’”
The veil was being lifted. Jesus was explaining to His disciples the great mystery of the inner workings of God Himself.
But that wasn’t all. The Lord of all had come to make a way. He left Heaven and entered the world as a human being so that He could give humanity back the relationship that they had with God in the Garden. He came to reverse the separation from God that sin had brought human race. Through His own death, He would pay the price for their sin and purchase their lives back for God. The Great Separation was over. All who put their faith in Christ would be transformed into New Creatures. They would be transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of Light. And His life as a human was the perfect model for all of those He rescued. Now their lives could be lived in the power of God, and they would continue the work that Jesus began. Jesus said:
“‘I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’”
Wow, those are some pretty amazing promises. Then Jesus said:
“‘If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him for He lives with you and will be with you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Now Jesus was telling his disciples about a third mystery. Jesus is the Son, and He is One with the Father. But there is a third Person in this perfect unity of God. He is the Holy Spirit, and together with the Father and the Son they make the Holy Trinity. As Jesus prepared to leave earth and return back to Heaven, His Father was preparing to send out His Spirit. The Spirit would come into the hearts of all who put their faith in Jesus. He would give them power and guidance and comfort from the Father.
Jesus wanted His disciples to know that He was not leaving them alone. He had a plan for how He would be near them even as He sat on the Throne of God. Jesus and the Spirit are One, and anyone who has the Spirit is One with Christ. But only those who have faith in Christ will have the Spirit or know that He is real. Christians should not be surprised when those who don’t believe cannot understand what it means to have the Spirit. He is the special treasure of the children of God. Jesus went on:
Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in the Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him.’”
Wow! Imagine how intimately the followers of Jesus are going to be bound up in Christ and the love of the Trinity! Because He lives, we live. He is in the Father, and we are in Him, so we are in the Father! Christ was going to resurrect, ascend into Heaven, and live in everlasting victory. All who follow Him and obey Him will join Him there for all eternity! It is such a breathtaking, magnificent hope that it is difficult to see or understanding. It is greater than anything the human mind can grasp.
No wonder the disciples were confused. Their hope was still set on what might happen on earth. Why was Jesus going to keep Himself a secret from the nation of Israel? Didn’t He plan to bring the Kingdom of God soon? Wouldn’t everyone on earth know about it? One of the disciples asked, “‘Lord, why do You intend to show us to Yourself but not the world?’” Jesus answered:
“‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not My own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Once again, Jesus did not give his disciples a direct answer. They kept asking the wrong questions. They weren’t listening. Their own hopes and ambitions were clogging their ears. They wanted Jesus to tell them about how He would overcome the Jewish leadership, defeat the Roman Empire, and establish a mighty Kingdom in their own lifetime. They wanted Him to start laying out His grand master plan, and they wanted to know what their positions of honor would be in His Kingdom once He had taken His throne.
The disciples had good reason to believe Jesus was going to reign as King in Jerusalem. Their hopes came from reading the Bible. One day, all of their hopes are going to come true, but not in the time and way they expected. We are still waiting for God to bring that time when Christ will reign in fullness of power over all the earth. (See Isaiah 60-66).
Jesus kept coming back to the disciples with their mistaken questions by telling them their true hope in this life. It was not to be found in earthly power or wealth or prestige. Their life was to be found in the hope of the spiritual realm: Nearness to an invisible God in this life, and eternal life for the next. Jesus said:
“‘All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’”
Even though Jesus was leaving His men, God the Father and God the Son would continue to reveal themselves through the Spirit. As followers of Christ cooperate with His Spirit and depend on Him, we bring the victories of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of Darkness will not be happy about those victories, and there will be many battles and trials for God’s children. In the end, it will all be worth it. Even the best things of this world are shabby next to the radiance of what we will receive in Heaven. But Jesus knew that severe challenges still lay ahead for His disciples. The greatest of these would be His own death, so He said:
“‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give it as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’”
“‘You have heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved Me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on Me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.’”
Wow. Jesus knew that Satan was on the move, and that His hour of sacrifice was on the way. The Father had orchestrated history so that even Satan was helping to bring about the Great Victory. Jesus was not submitting to God’s enemy by going to the cross, He was suffering because of His responsive, obedient love for His Father. When the world of rebellion, the followers of Satan, saw the absolute obedience of the Son of God, they would not be able to deny the power of His love. Where every other human had failed, where Satan and his evil demonic forces failed, Jesus was going to succeed, and He was going to bring everyone who had faith in Him along with Him in His victory!