14. Jesus’ Last Teaching
“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 16:5-7)
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 13:33; John 14:3-4, 19, 28). Today we are going to go quickly through John 15-16
Disciples must bear fruit for the kingdom! (John 15:1-16)
"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 15:1-2)
As usual Jesus uses Old Testament language, for in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is often seen as a vine (Jeremiah 2:21; Psalm 80). However as a vine, Israel had not produced fruit that God had expected as explained in Isaiah 5:1-2 “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 15:2). 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 15:12-14). By doing these things, which is now their mission statement, they will bear much good fruit for God’s greater glory (John 15:8). The same is true of us today, if we are Christian Disciples.
Disciples will suffer for the kingdom (John 15:18-27)
John 15:18: "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 15:19). 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 15:21). 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 15:20-21). Thirdly, opposition comes through revealing evil. Jesus, as the Light of the World, exposed evil and sin through His words (John 15:22) and works (John 15:24). At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus commanded all those who follow Him, to also be “lights of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16). 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 3:10) and by being persecuted, it shows we belong to him (John 15:19).
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 15:26). Not as a supplementary person filling a perfunctory role, but rather as the pioneer going out to testify about Jesus ahead (John 15:26) of the Christian Disciple (John 15:27).
Disciples will have resources in the Kingdom (John 16)
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 16:1-7): 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 16:14). 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 he takes them to him.
Counselling (John 16:8-11): As well as proclaiming about Jesus, the Holy Spirit speaks to people’s hearts, personally – one to one. He convinces people hearing God’s Word of three things: their own sin (John 16:8); their separation from a righteous God (John 16:10) and also in regards to the judgement of Satan and all who follow him (John 16:11). In these three things, a person is led to the Cross in order to confess their sin and need of Jesus Christ and the salvation only He can give.
Discipling (John 16:12-16): Once brought 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 16:13). 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 16:14).
The second resource available to the Christian Disciple is Jesus himself! (John 16:16-33)
His presence! The twelve disciples will experience sorrow and loss when Jesus is crucified. 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!
His provision! Through answered prayer, joy abounds (John 16:24)! Prayer is gong to be of prime importance for the twelve disciples as it is a way to ensure unabated joy!
His position! Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33) and nothing can prevail against him!
For more to think about please do read John 15-16 and ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. As a Christian Disciple, what fruit am I producing?
Q2. Why do I suffer and endure persecution for being a Christian Disciple?
Q3. How does knowing that the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus before me, help me in my evangelism?
Q4. When was the last time I showed exceeding joy for the reasons Jesus gives in John 16?