With disturbing events in the world such as the invasion of Ukraine and the shooting at the school in Uvalde, Texas, we feel the pain of the suffering and wonder where we can find help.
At the beginning of John chapter 14 a dark cloud was hanging over Jesus’ disciples. For three years they had been with him and had come to believe he is God’s Son. All their hopes were focused on what they felt would be his victory over the powers of evil and injustice in the world. But now he was telling them that within a matter of hours he was going away. ‘Where are you going?’ they asked. ‘Can’t we come too?’
And Philip, one of the disciples said, ‘Lord show us the Father. That’s all we need’ (John 14:8). He wanted some tangible experience of God to sweep away his doubts and provide hope for the future.
God with Us. We would not have been surprised if Jesus had said, ‘Don’t be so silly, Philip. You’re asking the impossible: everyone knows God is invisible’. But consider Jesus’ response: ‘Don’t you know me Philip, even after I’ve been among you for such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9).
To know Jesus is to know the living God.
We can only imagine how Philip and the others would have reacted. They believed there is only one God who created and controls the entire universe. Yet Jesus is saying that knowing him is the same as knowing the Creator.
‘Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves’, Jesus continues (14:11). ‘You’ve seen me turn water into first-class wine, cure a twelve-year old boy at a distance, enable a man paralyzed for thirty-eight years to walk, provide food for thousands at a word, heal a man blind from birth, and even bring another man back to life.’
Jesus’ life is the picture that tells a thousand words about God.
Greater Works. ‘Very truly, I tell you,’ Jesus says, ‘the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ (John 14:12).
No-one today is performing miracles in the same way Jesus did two millennia ago. If they were, the media would let us know in nanoseconds. The greater works of which Jesus speaks are something more than the healing of physical and mental ailments.
John’s Gospel records times when Jesus lifted people’s understanding of life beyond their felt needs. Initiating a conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria, he spoke of the living water he offers, springing up into eternal life (4:7-15). And in an ensuing conversation with a man born blind whom he had healed, he introduced himself as the Son of God, to which the man responded, ‘Lord, I believe’ (9:35-39).
John’s Gospel begins by introducing the Word who is with God and is God. He is the source of light and life (John 1:1-4). John testifies to the reality that the Word became flesh, living amongst us as one of us (John 1:14). He goes on to record seven signs which point to Jesus’ divine nature. Furthermore, the Word, the Son of God, the man Jesus, spoke of the day when he would be lifted up – that is, his crucifixion (John 3:14f, 12:31-33). Everyone who turns to him will find forgiveness and new life.
Significantly, John draws together the essential purpose of Jesus’ life amongst us: These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).
Given the movement of John’s Gospel, the greater works of which Jesus spoke is the ministry of the disciples and subsequent generations in taking God’s good news to the world and the changes that would ensue – lives being transformed and consequently, compassion and care for the needy, education and higher standards of justice.
The Helper and Hope. ‘If you love me you will keep my commandments,’ Jesus continues, ‘and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…’ (14:15-17).
From John 14:15 through John 16, Jesus promises he would not leave his disciples, or his people through the ages, without divine help.
For many people, Christianity is little more than a moral code they must struggle to observe, or a creed they must mindlessly recite. For them, Christianity is legalistic and dull. But Jesus is saying, ‘I want you to understand that the faith of which I speak, in its deepest essence, is about a relationship, a relationship with the triune God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When you know me, you will know the Father, and have our Spirit living within you’.
Furthermore, Jesus explains, ‘the Spirit will enable you (the disciples) to remember and explain all I taught and did’ (14:25). These words have a secondary application for all God’s people – enabling us to understand God’s Word and, because the Spirit is present within us, to apply it to the decisions we make and the words we utter.
‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth,’ Jesus says. When we know Jesus, the Holy Spirit provides us with the help and strength, the wisdom, the words, and the hope we need in a world where bad things happen.
A prayer. Almighty God, who taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit: enable us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things and always to rejoice in his holy comfort; through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
You may want to listen to Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God from Keith and Kristyn Getty.
© John G. Mason