Tuesday – Jesus’ Last Teaching
Heavenly Father, we thank you for Jesus Christ. We thank you that Jesus the Living Word is revealed in your Written Word, the Bible. Thank you that we have the very words of the Son of God for us to understand, enact and live. We thank you for His teaching ministry and as we come tonight to look at the final teaching before going to the Cross, we would listen with attentive ears and hearts to what you would teach us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
We continue to look at different aspects of Jesus’ final week. According to the plan I revealed last night, we were going to hear about Jesus’ last prayers. However, that will now be tomorrow night. Instead, we are going to look at Jesus’ last teaching before He goes to the cross to die.
“But now I am going back to the Father who sent me, and none of you asks me where I am going. You are very sad from hearing all of this. But I tell you that I am going to do what is best for you. That is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you.” (John 16v5-7)
In these last few chapters before He is crucified, Jesus is saying goodbye to His disciples and giving them some final teaching before He departs. Several times He has told them He is going away (John 13v33; John 14v3-4, 19, 28). Today we are going to go quickly through John 15-16 and reflect upon this section of his final teaching sessions before He is arrested, betrayed, condemned and crucified. Of course, everything Jesus did in his earthly ministry was a lesson to be learnt and there are other events such as Peter’s denials and subsequent repentance, where we can also learn lessons. But this chapter is Jesus’ final active session of teaching His disciples. So what does he teach them?
- Disciples must bear fruit for the kingdom! (John 15v1-16)
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15v1-2)
As usual Jesus uses Old Testament language, for in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is often seen as a vine (Jeremiah 2v21; Psalm 80). However as a vine, Israel had not produced fruit that God had expected as explained in Isaiah 5v1-2 “I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.”
With Jesus describing Himself as the true Vine, the implication is clear that the nation of Israel was but an imperfect precursor to His perfect self. With Jesus as the vine, all believers are the branches, and all believers draw spiritual nourishment from Him. As part of this nourishment, sometimes pruning is required (John 15v2). Cleansing is also required in order that fruit be borne from the Christian Disciple. This cleansing is through regular confession of sin and partaking of Holy Communion as explained in the foot-washing scene of John 13. To prove to others they are His followers and His disciples, Jesus tells them they are to continue loving Him and also to sacrificially love others joyfully (John 15v12-14). By doing these things, which is now their mission statement, they will bear much good fruit for God’s greater glory (John 15v8). The same is true of us today, if we are Christian Disciples.
- Disciples will suffer for the kingdom (John 15v18-27)
John 15v18: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
Having spoken of love and bearing fruit, Jesus now declares a warning and the context into which He is sending them. We learn from this passage that opposition to Jesus’ message is unavoidable. The first opposition is that of the old nature attacking the new nature. Christian Disciples, Jesus said, were called out from the world (John 15v19). Christian Disciples upon conversion belong to a different place and are heading for a different place . Secondly, opposition is to be expected simply because of who Jesus is (John 15v21). Christian Disciples share in the life of Jesus and the way the world treats Jesus is the way the world treats all His disciples (John 15v20-21). Thirdly, opposition comes through revealing evil. Jesus, as the Light of the World, exposed evil and sin through His words (John 15v22) and works (John 15v24). At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus commanded all those who follow Him, to also be “lights of the world” (Matthew 5v14-16). This is done by consistently ensuring that our works and words match our lifestyle and that no hypocrisy will be found. Opposition brings persecution, and regularly throughout history, Christian believers have been persecuted for their faith in Jesus. In our own time, perhaps the most persecuted century of all. Being a Christian is not an easy decision, but it is worth it. It is also endurable because of three things: God still remains Lord God despite all; .we share in Jesus’ own sufferings and therefore have fellowship with Him (Philippians 3v10) and by being persecuted, it shows we belong to Him (John 15v19).
The main reason all opposition can be endured is because the Christian Disciple is not alone. God the Holy Spirit witnesses with the Christian Disciple (John 15v26). Not as a supplementary person filling a perfunctory role, but rather as the pioneer going out to testify about Jesus ahead (John 15v26) of the Christian Disciple (John 15v27).
- Disciples will have resources in the Kingdom (John 16)
a. The first resource that Christian Disciples have is, as we have already seen, the Holy Spirit. After all, He is the real evangelist. In conjunction with Him, the Christian Disciple has three resources to use: proclaiming, counselling and discipling.
Proclaiming (John 16v1-7): this is the proclaiming and elucidating work about Jesus that the Spirit performs. The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection (John 16v14). If Jesus did not go back to glory, and the Holy Spirit was not sent, then the pioneering work of the Holy Spirit would be missing from evangelism and mission. Not only does the Holy Spirit direct people to Jesus, but take them to Him.
Counselling (John 16v8-11): As well as proclaiming about Jesus, the Holy Spirit speaks to people’s hearts personally – one to one. This signifies the intimacy between the holy God and the believer. The Holy Spirit, convinces people hearing of God’s Word of three things: their own sin (John 16v8); their separation from a holy & righteous God (John 16v10) and also in regards to the judgement of Satan and all who follow him (John 16v11). In these three things, a person is led to the Cross of Christ, in order to confess their sin and their need of Jesus Christ and the salvation only He can and is able to provide.
Discipling (John 16v12-16): Once bought to faith, the Holy Spirit performs several tasks for the Twelve Disciples: He will guide them into all truth and develop what is coming in the future (John 16v13). The New Testament is the product of this work and that through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For the Christian Disciple today, the Holy Spirit helps them to apply the Bible to their life in order that Jesus Christ be glorified (John 16v14).
b. The second resource available to the Christian Disciple is Jesus Himself! Jesus presence, provision and position.
Presence (John 16v16-33):Yes, His very presence! The twelve disciples will experience sorrow and loss when Jesus is crucified and dead. But after the resurrection, their sorrow will turn to great joy – similar to the exceeding joy after the pains of childbirth! Christian Disciples today also have Jesus’ presence with them, particularly when engaged in doing the work of an evangelist!
Provision: Not only His presence, but also His provision! Through answered prayer, joy abounds (John 16v24)! Prayer is going to be of prime importance for the twelve disciples as it is a way to ensure unabated joy – joy even amidst suffering and trouble!
Position: Finally, not only His presence, His provision but also look at His position! Jesus has overcome the world (John 16v33) and nothing can prevail against Him! If you are with Jesus, nothing will prevail against Him and He will protect you, provide for you and be with you in all you do, as you submit yourself to Him. Whether in the bad times or the good times, Jesus will be with you – but you need to ask Him to be with you and rely on Him fully. If you are going through bad times now, and don’t know this Jesus yet, then ask Him to be with you – what have you got to lose?