Peter's question to Jesus in 13:36, "where are you going?", prompts Jesus' discourse in chapter 14. The section of this discourse that is our passage for study can be divided into four parts: i] Jesus is leaving to prepare a home for his disciples, v1-4; ii] Jesus is the way to the Father, v5-7; iii] Jesus and the Father are one, v8-11; iv] Jesus' mission is the disciples' mission, v12-14. The notable feature of the discourse is its sense of reassurance.
v1. The disciples are distressed. Jesus has just told them he is about to leave them. Peter certainly gets the message, claiming he is willing to defend Jesus, even give his life to that end. Yet, Peter's faith is fragile, and Jesus knows it. So, Jesus calls on his disciples to redouble their faith, redouble their reliance on God and the inevitable worth of his plan facilitated through Jesus.
v2. Jesus now explains why he must go. Jesus' departing will benefit the disciples because he is going to prepare an eternal home for them.
v3. Having prepared a place for his disciples, Jesus promises that he will return and take them to be with him in that special place.
v4. This verse is an example of short talk, just a little too compacted to make sense. Jesus is saying something like: "You know the place where I am going, and you know how to get to that place."
v5. Thomas, probably speaking for all the disciples, admits that he is not quite sure of Jesus' destination, so he has no idea of how to get there.
v6. Here again we have another example of short talk. The destination is heaven and Jesus is the roadway there, the roadway to God, the roadway to the Father, in that he reveals the truth about God in the gospel, and in that he gives life to those who believe through his death, resurrection and eternal reign.
v7. The simple fact is the disciples know Jesus, and because they know Jesus, through their new-birth in the Spirit, they will know God intimately, know him as if they had met him personally.
v8-9. The desire of any religious person is to see God and so Philip jumps at the possibility. Jesus' response is touched with sadness. Jesus has been with his disciples for nearly three years and yet Philip has still not realized that Jesus' whole ministry has been a revelation of the Father.
v10-11. What the disciples need to understand is that there is a unique union between the Father and the Son, such that the teachings of Jesus, as well as the miraculous signs that Jesus has performed, are the Father's words and deeds, just as much as they are Jesus' words and deeds. If they can't get their head around of the words and be convinced by them, then at least they need to focus on the miraculous signs that Jesus has performed and learn from their significance. The lesson, of course, is simple, to know Jesus is to know the Father.
v12. As for the works that Jesus does, which in his case were the messianic signs, Jesus tells his disciples that they will do even greater works for the Father. Of course, Jesus is the one who has made this possible through his death and resurrection. With the sending of the Spirit the disciples will bring life, as well as judgment, to a dying world.
v13-14. And as for getting the Father's works done, the disciple needs only ask. Under the powerful authority of Jesus ("in my name"), Jesus himself will supply all the resources necessary to complete the task assigned to his disciples.
"I am interested in Heaven, interested in that land because I have held a clear title to a bit of property there for many years. I did not buy it. It was given to me without any money or price, although the Donor purchased it for me at a tremendous sacrifice. I am not holding it for speculation since the title is not transferable. It is not a vacant lot. For more than half a century the greatest architect and builder of the universe has been building a home for me on the site. This home will never need to be remodelled or repaired because it will suit me perfectly, individually, and will never grow old.
Termites cannot undermine its foundations for it has been built upon the 'Rock of Ages.' Fire cannot destroy or floods wash it away. No locks or bolts will ever be placed on its doors, for no vicious person can ever enter that land where my dwelling stands. It is now almost completed and ready for me to enter in and abide in peace eternally without fear of being ejected.
There is this valley of deep shadows between the place where I live here and that to which I shall journey in a very short time. I cannot reach my house in the City of God without passing through this valley of shadows. But, I am not afraid because my best friend, my Saviour, went through the same valley long ago and drove away its gloom. He has been patient with me through all my wonderings since I first realized his saving kindness. I have little fear, for I hold his promise to me. He alone will be with me as I walk through the valley of shadows and I shall not lose my way when he is with me. As with the disciples in the storm, he will see me safely to the other side."
The believer who wrote these words went long ago to claim their piece of real estate, that place prepared for them by Jesus, that little piece of heaven. Faced with the absent Christ we find security in the dream of that other place.
1. Verses 1-6 are often read at funeral services. Are they appropriate for a funeral?
2. How do we know what God is like?
3. In what sense are the Father's "works" greater today than they were in Jesus' ministry.
4. Why can't we just ask "anything" of God and expect to receive it?