VI. The Farewell Discourse (John 13:1–17:26)

13:1-2 Jesus’s hour had finally come; it was time for him to be glorified and depart from this world to the Father (13:1; see 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 16:32; 17:1). John tells us that Jesus loved his own—his disciples—to the end (13:1). He had spent three years with the Twelve—teaching them, leading them, praying for them, loving them. He had done everything for them that he had come to do. Yet one of the men, Judas Iscariot, was going to betray him. In intending to do this, he had opened the door for the devil to put a specific idea into [his] heart (13:2).

15:9-10 Jesus told his disciples, Remain in my love (15:9). How do we do that? Jesus said, If you keep my commands you will remain in my love. Love for Jesus results in obedience. And obedience produces a deeper relationship with him. The Son wants us to enjoy the intimate kind of loving relationship that he enjoys with the Father (15:10).

15:11 Jesus’s goal in teaching his disciples things was that their joy would be complete. Joy is internal stability in spite of external circumstances because of the knowledge that God is in control. It is a settled assurance and quiet confidence in God’s sovereignty that results in the decision to praise him. Notice that Jesus offered them his own joy. So, if your joy container is empty, Jesus will let you borrow some of his.

15:12-14 Jesus repeated the command he gave them earlier (see 13:34): Love one another as I have loved you (15:12). Biblical love involves more than mere emotions and personal preferences. Love is the decision to compassionately, righteously, responsibly, and sacrificially seek the well-being of another. You can love people whom you may not necessarily like because love is not dependent on your feelings. That’s why Jesus can command you to “love your enemies” (Matt 5:44). It’s true that love may include feelings of affection, and such feelings may develop over time. But it’s not driven by them. Love is driven by sacrifice for the welfare of others. And the greatest expression of love is to lay down one’s life for . . . friends (15:13). That’s the kind of love Jesus modeled for us.

15:15 Jesus told his disciples that they were not mere servants to him. They were his friends. A master doesn’t reveal things to a servant, but friends do. Jesus had made known to his disciples everything he had heard from his Father.

15:16-17 When the Bible refers to God’s choice (or election) of people, it’s a choosing for service, not salvation. Jesus chose his disciples so that they would produce fruit that would be useful to his kingdom and reflect God’s character. He didn’t simply save them for heaven only; he appointed them to a mission on earth that would involve winning people to Christ and growing them in the faith (15:16)—a mission that involves keeping his commands, loving him, and loving one another (15:9-15). When that happens, the Father answers prayer (15:16).

15:18-21 The world system headed by Satan (see commentary on 12:31; 14:30-31) hates Jesus. Therefore, followers of Jesus who identify with his person and character will face hatred and opposition from the world (15:18-19). As servants of Christ, we should not expect to be treated better than he was. If they persecuted [him], they will also persecute you. But, similarly, if they kept [his] word, they will also keep the word spoken by his disciples (15:20). When you faithfully represent Jesus, the world will relate to you as it related to him.

15:22-25 The Son of God came personally into the world to reveal the Father, so those who rejected him have no excuse for their sin (15:22). The one who hates me, he told them, also hates my Father (15:23). That’s strong language, but there’s no way around it. People can’t talk about their love for God while simultaneously rejecting his Son. In spite of all Jesus’s words and works, many refused to believe in him, thus demonstrating their hatred for the Father and the Son (15:24). They fulfilled the Scripture spoken by David in Psalm 69:4: They hated me for no reason (15:25). As the wicked showed their disdain for King David, so they showed disdain for the Son of David.

15:26-27 Again Jesus told his disciples about the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth (15:26; see 14:16-17, 26). Jesus said that when the Spirit comes, he will testify about Jesus (15:26). Since the role of the Holy Spirit is to testify about the Son of God, the Spirit has a Christocentric ministry. He does not merely draw attention to himself; he draws attention to Jesus. Therefore, we should be wary of those who claim the Spirit’s involvement in a ministry that ignores Jesus. If the Spirit makes much of Jesus, then his disciples should too (15:27).

16:1-4 Jesus had told his disciples these things to keep [them] from stumbling (16:1)—that is, to keep them from abandoning the faith due to persecution. In the days to come, followers of Jesus would face being banned from the synagogues and put to death—often by those who would think they were serving God by doing so (16:2). However, such people haven’t known the Father or [Jesus] (16:3).

Jesus wanted them—and us—to be prepared. We should not be shocked when we experience some form of rejection or censure for our Christian beliefs and standards. This could come from family, friends, employers, customers, coworkers, the government—and the list goes on. As Paul told Timothy, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). But the Holy Spirit is available to empower us in our time of need.

16:5-7 Jesus told them he was going away and sorrow had filled his disciples’ hearts (16:5-6). They had been with him for three years of ministry. They wanted to see him reign as King; they wanted to be with him. But he assured them that his departure was for their benefit. How could that be possible? Well, unless he left, the Counselor [would] not come (16:6-7)—that is, the Holy Spirit (see 14:16-17, 26; 15:26). The Father sent the Son into the world (see 3:17), and the Son would send the Spirit into the world (16:7). Thus, the Trinitarian God is at work, each Person carrying out the next phase of his kingdom program.

The coming of the Holy Spirit would benefit the disciples because his presence would not be physically limited (as Jesus’s was). He would dwell within each of them (14:17) and go with them wherever they traveled (see Eph 1:22, 23). If you have trusted Jesus Christ and received the Holy Spirit, you are never alone.

16:8-11 The role of the Holy Spirit would be to convict (that is, convince concerning the truth) the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment (16:8). People would be convicted about sin because of their failure to believe in Jesus for forgiveness and the gift of eternal life (16:9). They would be convicted about righteousness because Jesus would no longer be physically present (16:10). The resurrection and ascension are proof of the righteousness of Christ because he was crucified as one who was unrighteous. With Jesus gone, people would think that his righteous standard no longer applied, but the Spirit would demonstrate otherwise. Finally, the world would be convicted about judgment, because the ruler of this world—Satan—has been judged (16:11). Therefore, his followers (see 8:44) will also be judged. The death of Christ condemned and defeated Satan (see Col 2:15), and—like a condemned criminal—he is waiting for his coming execution (see Rev 20:2, 7-10).

16:12-13 Though Jesus yet had many things to tell his disciples, he knew they were unable to bear them (16:12). But when the Spirit of truth came, he would help them and guide [them] into all the truth. He would declare to them things that were yet to come (such as the prophecies in Revelation) (16:13). The Spirit would ensure that the apostles’ writings were true, guaranteeing that they wrote Scripture, the very words of God.

16:14-15 The Holy Spirit’s role is to glorify the Son, receiving the Son’s words and disclosing them to his followers (16:14). Once again we see the Trinity in action in that the Son took revelation from the Father and would declare it to his disciples through the Holy Spirit (16:15).

Though the Spirit provided the apostles with perfect revelation in order that they might write Scripture, this does not mean that we are excluded from his ministry. This text applies to us in two ways. First, we are recipients of the Scriptural revelation that the apostles received. Second, the Holy Spirit provides us with personal illumination, enabling us to understand Scripture and to see how it applies in the details of our lives. This work of the Spirit in the life of the believer is called “the anointing” (see 1 John 2:20, 27).

16:16-19 The time of Jesus’s crucifixion was drawing near. In a little while, the disciples would no longer see him because he would be dead and buried. But in another little while, they would see him again when he rose from the grave (16:16). However, the disciples weren’t getting it (16:17). They said quietly to one another, We don’t know what he’s talking about (16:18). Yet Jesus knew they were confused (16:19). They couldn’t hide anything from him. He knows your private conversations and thoughts, too.

Don’t be upset when you don’t understand what Jesus is doing in your life. After all, Jesus’s first disciples were confused, and they had Jesus right there with them! Choose to pursue him in the midst of your confusion.

16:20-22 Jesus foretold the great sorrow that they would soon experience at his crucifixion (while the world rejoiced), but he also foretold that their grief would turn to joy at his resurrection (16:20). To explain how they could go from mourning to elation in such a brief span of time, he gave them an illustration. A woman experiencing labor goes through great pain. But when her child is born, her suffering is forgotten and replaced by rejoicing (16:21). In the same way, the disciples’ pain would lead to joy. And, Jesus told them, No one will take away your joy from you (16:22). Why? Because it is rooted in the presence and work of Christ on the inside—not on the ever-changing circumstances of life (i.e., happiness).

16:23-24 Once again, Jesus told them, Anything you ask the Father in my name, he will give you (16:23; see 14:13-14; 15:16). No matter what sorrow you experience, remain in Jesus because God is still in the prayer-answering business when we love and seek to honor the Son. In fact, Jesus encouraged his disciples to take advantage of the opportunity to ask of him so that they might experience joy (16:24). There’s nothing like the joy that comes when the Creator of the universe answers your personal prayer. This joy does not depend on what happens; rather, it can be chosen based on our confidence in and commitment to God.

16:25 Jesus had been using figures of speech with them (e.g., the vine, 15:1-8; the woman in labor, 16:21). But in time, he would tell [them] plainly about the Father. There is a principle at work here for believers in Christ: God only explains what you are ready and able to handle. You may not understand the circumstances that you’re experiencing, but God loves you and is taking you through a growth process. He calls for your trust and obedience now. Further understanding will come later, when you’re prepared to receive it.

16:26-28 On that day when the disciples would ask the Father in Jesus’s name, they would not need Jesus to ask on their behalf. Why? Because the Father himself loved them due to their relationship to his Son (16:26-27).

16:29-32 After this, the disciples affirmed their belief in Jesus. He had known and answered their private questions (see 16:16-19). They were certain that he was the Messiah who had come from God (16:30). However, Jesus knew them better than they knew themselves. He said, Do you now believe? Indeed, an hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered . . . and you will leave me alone (16:31-32). Translation: “You don’t believe as strongly as you think you do. Now, while all is quiet and safe, this is easy for you to say. But very soon you’re going to forget your fragile faith and run for your lives.”

Have you ever made a vow to God during a church service only to back away from it later—perhaps as quickly as when you left the church parking lot? It’s easy to boast about our faith; it’s harder to live it, as Peter would soon discover (18:15-18, 25-27). This is one of the reasons why God causes us to experience challenges. Through them, we come to see how brittle our faith is and how mighty our Savior is, and thus our faith is made a little stronger.

Though the disciples would abandon him, Jesus was not alone. His Father was with him (16:32). He was “sent” from the Father (3:17), is “in the Father” (14:11), and would return “to the Father” (14:28). The Son and the Father “are one” (10:30).

16:33 Jesus revealed all of these things to his disciples, not to fill them with fear, but so that they might have peace in him. Peace is not mere serenity and the absence of crisis. The peace that Jesus was talking about is something that only he can give, and it’s something that believers can experience in a crisis (see commentary on 14:27). In reality, you can’t know if you truly have peace until conflict strikes. A Christian’s peace is found in his or her connection to Jesus Christ based on his Word.

No matter what suffering you endure in this life, Jesus exhorts you to be courageous. How can we have courage to pursue God’s agenda in the midst of tribulation? Jesus gave us the answer: I have conquered the world. Regardless of how the world beats you down, you have reason to live with bold faith because Jesus is the sovereign King over the world. He has defeated sin, Satan, and death. If you’re a believer, your eternity is secure. And Jesus has the power to overrule your earthly circumstances. Knowing this truth and maintaining an intimate relationship with the Lord (in me) will radically change your perspective as you face whatever obstacles come your way. His peace gives you peace in the midst of life’s crises.

17:1 In chapters 13–16, John presents Jesus’s “Farewell Discourse,” the final teachings and exhortations he gave to his disciples in the upper room after the Passover supper. In chapter 17, John records the prayer Jesus spoke at the conclusion of their time together—just before his betrayal.

Jesus recognized that the hour had come for the Son and the Father to glorify each other (see 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1). The Father and Son love one another and desire to make much of one another before a watching world. Those who come to God through Jesus Christ are called to participate in this intra-Trinitarian love, bringing glory to God through our faith in and obedience to the Son.

17:2 As John has already made clear, everyone who believes in Jesus receives eternal life (see 3:16). The Father loves the Son so much that he desired to give this redeemed humanity to him as a gift. The Father gave the Son authority over all flesh and then gave us to him so that the King would have a people to rule.

17:3 In his prayer, Jesus gave a definition of eternal life. This is important because it does not merely refer to an existence that lasts forever. After all, everyone will live eternally, either in heaven or in hell. Eternal life, then, is not merely the continuation of life but the experience of God’s reality. This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ. To receive eternal life is to enter into the divine realm with the goal of experiencing an intimate relationship with God through Jesus, a relationship that will grow throughout eternity. It is the uninterrupted, deepening knowledge and experience of God. This is the purpose for which we were created.

17:4 Jesus glorified the Father on the earth by completing the work he gave him to accomplish. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (4:34). We bring glory to God in the same way—by pursuing his will for our lives. Do you consider doing the will of God to be as desirous and life-sustaining as eating?

17:5 Jesus prayed the Father would glorify him in [his] presence with that glory he had with the Father before the world existed. Notice that Jesus clearly affirmed his pre-existence. Before the incarnation, before Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, before the creation week even began, God the Son eternally existed in the glorious presence of God the Father. And to this glory he would soon return.

17:6-8 Jesus confessed that he had faithfully revealed the Father to his disciples, those who had kept [his] word (17:6). As a result, they believed that Jesus had been sent by God (17:7-8). He really was the Messiah, just as he claimed.

17:9-11 Next Jesus prayed, not . . . for the world, but for his disciples whom the Father had given him (17:9; see 17:2). Jesus was glorified in them because they had received everything he revealed to them (17:10). As Jesus prepared to leave the world, he prayed that the Father would protect his disciples by his name (17:11)—that is, by the Father’s name. In Scripture, names do not merely identify people but speak of their character. Therefore, Jesus was asking that God would protect them by keeping them connected to their holy and righteous Father. Specifically, he asked that God would grant that Jesus’s followers might be one, as the Father and Son are. In other words, he prayed for the unity of his disciples—that they’d be unified in love in the same way that the persons of the Godhead are unified in love.

17:12 While Jesus was with his disciples, he protected them. None of them was lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture could be fulfilled. God knew far in advance that Judas would betray the Messiah (see commentary on 13:18-19). Nevertheless, Judas’s rebellion could not thwart the divine plan. On the contrary, it facilitated it. Understand that even wickedness falls under the sovereignty of God—not because God prescribes it, but because he uses it. How much better would it be for you to fulfill God’s purposes through your obedience than through your rebellion?

17:13-16 Jesus spoke these things to his disciples so that they would have his joy completed in them (17:13). Notice that it’s his joy. To experience peace in the midst of suffering is for Jesus to share his joy with you, and this comes by means of confidence in his word (17:14). But when one receives God’s word through Jesus, one also receives the hatred of the world. The world hates the followers of Jesus because they are not of the world, just as [Jesus] is not (17:16). Yet Jesus does not pray that the Father would take them out of the world but that he would protect them from the evil one (17:15).

Christians must function in this world—in our families, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, marketplaces, and civic arenas. Yet, we are not to adopt the world’s perspective or let it dictate our values. We must operate on earth from a heavenly perspective, God’s perspective. God’s Word is to determine our understanding of right and wrong. Though we are in the world, we must not be of it.

17:17 Then Jesus prayed, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. To be sanctified is to be set apart for God’s purposes. This process happens through internalizing the eternal truth of God’s Word. Think of the Word like food. You can chew it all day, but unless you swallow it, you receive no health benefits from it. You internalize God’s Word, not by merely hearing or reading it, but by trusting and obeying it. Then its work of spiritual transformation is activated in your life (see 2 Cor 3:17-18).

17:18-19 Jesus was sending his disciples into the world (17:18)—that is, sending them on a mission. They would not be cloistered in a monastery but making their God-glorifying presence known in the culture. He said, I sanctify myself for them, so that they also may be sanctified by the truth (17:19). In other words, Jesus had set himself apart to God’s will so that he might enable his followers to do the same.

17:20 Not only did Jesus pray for the eleven disciples in front of him, but also for those who believe in [him] through their word. The disciples / apostles with him that night would proclaim the gospel through their preaching and through their Holy-Spirit-inspired writings, which would become the New Testament. Therefore, “those who believe in [him] through their word” includes all those who have trusted in Christ down through the ages. This means that Jesus was praying here for you and me.

17:21 He prayed that all believers would all be one—that is, experience unity. Legitimate unity is not uniformity or sameness. Rather, Jesus was talking about being unified in God and his purposes. That’s why he prayed, May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me.

A football team consists of different players filling different positions with different roles. But the entire team has one purpose: reaching the goal line. Their unity consists of pursuing that one goal according to the rules of the game. The church of Jesus Christ is composed of people from every race, ethnicity, gender, and walk of life. But we have the common purpose of proclaiming the gospel and pursuing God’s kingdom agenda. Our effectiveness is determined by our unity. That’s why Satan works so hard at causing division among Christians and within churches. Unity in truth is critical to experiencing the presence and power of God (see Acts 2:1-2, 43-44; 4:24-31). Illegitimate disunity disconnects us from God and causes us to be ineffective in our lives and in our prayers (see 1 Pet 3:7).

17:22-23 When legitimate unity is present, God’s glory is manifested (17:22)—that is, he advertises himself to the world through us, so that even more people might come to know, love, and serve him. Our unity makes it possible for the world to know that God the Father loved and sent Jesus (17:23). Our involvement in the church is not trivial, then. We are caught up in something much bigger than us. We are called to serve the Lord in unity so that the love and glory of our Trinitarian God is visibly and powerfully manifested to a watching world.

17:24-26 Jesus concluded his prayer, acknowledging that the world had not known God. That’s why the Father sent the Son (17:25), and that’s why the Son came. Jesus Christ made the name of God known so that God’s intra-Trinitarian love might be known and experienced by the world (17:26).

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