Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Upper Room Discourse

This is the sixth and last post in a series that explores the Upper Room Discourse recorded in John 13 - 17. To start from the beginning, click here.

Our Resources

As noted yesterday, we have enemies and we will suffer at their hands while the Church advances against the gates of hell. However, such fortitude is requires inner resources. From the Upper Room Discourse, we can identify several of these.

Faith, Peace, and Truth

When trouble comes, it is natural to sink into distress and worry. Jesus told His disciples that faith could stay the heart and move it to confidence.

Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. (John 14:1)

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:10-14)

Faith is a mystery thing. Verses like this suggest that it goes beyond an intellectual affirmation of some thesis. The head can rarely control the distressed heart. More often it is the heart that controls the head. Jesus here, talked of trust and dependence. We must come to understand, as Job did, that the apprehension of God's sovereignty and control of all life's circumstances is a source of courage to rise up and move on. (Side note: For those who like to say that Jesus never claimed to be God, Jesus here equates belief in Himself with belief in God.)

Faith coupled with prayer also offers hope for works of power to change the situation. This is especially true as we do our Father's work here on earth. Jesus has promised that His people would do works greater than He did. There is no time constraint on this promise, but rather it is to "the person who believes in me." (Note again the bold implicit claim to being one with God. What mere mortal can promise that you can do miraculous works by believing in him.)

The effect of faith coupled with prayer is the ability to have peace in any situation:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. (John 14:27)

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but have courage—I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

The first century Christians experienced this peace, as have believers through the centuries. Here are several more verses:

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be seen by all. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way. For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession. (Hebrews 10:32-34)

My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, (James 1:2)

And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

I have been especially challenged by the Hebrews passage above. It is one thing to suffer martyrdom, on the other side of which is the home Jesus promised. The confiscation of home and property puts you on the street with nothing but mouths to feed. Before I read the "accepted ... with joy," I would have counted on patience, endurance, and hope. But joy? Could I really stand in the street and sing? Many have done so. This is the external evidence of the peace that "surpasses all understanding."

One key component of Faith and Peace is Truth:

Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart. (John 17:17-19)

The Father will set us apart "in the truth." This Truth includes doctrine, but goes way beyond that to being able to apprehend a knowledge of the Father and His love. This is Truth that changes our lives and is part of bringing peace.

The Holy Spirit

But beyond faith, peace, and truth, Jesus' return to the Father has provided the Holy Spirit by whom He manifests His presence and continues His work on the earth.

Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. (John 16:7-11)

Jesus told His disciples, "it is to your advantage that I am going away." Clearly, Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit was superior to His presence on the earth. There are several reasons for this. 

First, Jesus' ministry was constrained geographically. The Holy Spirit within us expands the scope of Jesus' work to all places whereat a believer serves. As Acts 1:1 begins, "I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach" (Acts 1:1) The presence of the Holy Spirit continues the work of Jesus on earth.

Second, the Holy Spirit provides an access to the Father unknown to the Old Testament saints. In the Old Covenant, the High Priest, once a year, could enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the nation. According to Hebrews the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle was "a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself" (Hebrews 10:1) But all believers now have direct access to the real thing:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings, because we have had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. (Hebrews 10:19-23)


Jesus spoke of many things on this night before His betrayal and arrest. Great trials lay ahead for Himself and His disciples. The disciples, who still argued over who was greatest, would scatter to the hills in despair and defeat. The next days would be dark, lonely, and frightening.

But they did not leave Jerusalem! That might have been the safe thing to do. Jesus arrested and crucified should have marked the end of this small band. Jesus words had some early effect on them. They stayed and waited to see what would happen.

Jesus soon rose from the dead and eventually returned to the Father. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in power and the gospel began spreading across the globe. Through the centuries, many have tried to stop it, but all efforts failed and will continue to fail. 

Jesus taught us about our destiny to be with Him in eternity. He gave us the command to love one another. He warned us about the world system. He promised and sent the Holy Spirit. This night represented the bottom of Jesus' descent from His heavenly home. He came down, saved us, gave us everything we need to serve Him here, and promises to return and take us with Him. I have nothing but praise and thanksgiving over this.

Wednesday: Judas Iscariot

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home