The Love between Christ and His Disciples
Topic: English Passage: John 14:15-31
If you were to look back on your calendar for an entire year, how many times do you think you would find that you attended some kind of event in which gifts were given? That would include a wedding, or a wedding shower, or a bridal shower, or a baby shower, or a birthday party, or a graduation party, or a housewarming party, or a retirement party, or a Christmas party, and whatever else you can think of. How many times each year were gifts given or exchanged?
I think it’s probably more than we might guess. And guys, if my marriage is any indication, our wives probably attended more than we did.
Being a man, and being somewhat of a cynic, sometimes I struggle with the idea of gifts. I mean, if a person isn’t in some kind of desperate need, what’s the point of giving them a present? Is there even a point?
The answer to my cynicism is: Yes, there is a point. Gifts can serve a purpose. The purpose of gifts, simply stated, is to express love. There doesn’t need to be a more complicated answer than that. Gifts are an expression of love.
As a dad, I experience this to some extent. It’s a joy to buy something for my kids and see them enjoy it. Those of you who are grandparents, know it even more. Rightly given, gifts are a meaningful expression of love.
That is true in human relationships, and it’s also true in the relationships within God Himself. We serve a God that is three Persons in one essence. There is unity, and there are also distinctions. And the great story of the Bible is not ultimately about mankind; it’s about the relationship between the Father and the Son.
The Father promised the Son a redeemed Bride. And He promised the Son a kingdom. So a world is created, and sinners are saved, and a redeemed Bride, and a redeemed world is given to the Son.
Titus 1:2 says that God promised eternal life before the ages began, or literally, before times eternal. I think that’s a reference to an eternal promise from the Father to the Son.
Also, throughout John’s gospel, Jesus refers to those who believe in Him as those “whom the Father has given Me”—which means that we believers are part of a great gift exchange between the Father and the Son.
John 3:35 says that the Father has given all things into the Son’s hand. John 5 says He gave all judgment to the Son.
And if we fast forward to the end of this age, we have the flip side. First Corinthians 15:24 says that at the end, Christ will hand over the kingdom to the Father. So it’s just a wonderful exchange of gifts of love between the Father and the Son, so that they would glorify each other. That’s the story of our universe. God is glorifying Himself. The Father and the Son are glorifying each other.
Now, in addition to that, there is also a relationship of love between Jesus Christ and those of us who trust in Him. That is a loving relationship, and so it also includes gifts. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today as we study the second half of John chapter 14.
This is Jesus talking to His 11 faithful disciples on the night when He would be betrayed and arrested, and ultimately condemned to crucifixion. He knew that the response of His disciples would be sorrow and confusion and fear. And so, the teachings of this night are aimed at preparing them for that and helping them through that.
And part of helping them through the difficult time to come would be reminding them about the love that exists between Jesus Christ and His faithful disciples.
If you’re taking notes today, you might want to make a little chart with two columns. And in the column on the left we’ll keep a list of the ways that you and I, as faithful disciples, can express our love to Jesus. These are our gifts to Him. And in the column on the right, you can list the gifts that Jesus has for us. Very simple diagram. And as we work through the passage, we’ll just sort of fill in that chart.
Let’s go ahead and begin with verse 15. Let’s read it one more time—If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
This is not a complicated statement from Jesus. “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.”
So, how do we, as faithful disciples of Jesus, express our love to Him? By obeying His commands. You can write that on the left side of your chart: obeying His commands. You and I show our love for Jesus by giving Him our obedience.
Parents, you understand this, right? Your kids show you love, not just when they hand you some stuff glued to construction paper, and not just when they give you a big hug, though those are great. Your kids show that they love you when they obey you. In the same way, we show Jesus our love simply by doing what He tells us to do.
It’s that simple. It’s not always easy. We don’t always want to do what Jesus says, but it’s not a complicated teaching.
This is a principle that is clearly taught in the Bible. Jesus repeated it. In John 15:10, He says, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love.”
In First John 2:5, it says, “whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.”
And later in chapter 5, it says: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.”
Love, we know, brings along some emotions, doesn’t’ it? And unfortunately, the world prefers to define love simply by the emotions. That is severely inadequate. True love, biblical love, is never just an emotion. It’s about a commitment.
Saying you love Jesus, doesn’t just mean that thinking about Him gives you warm, fuzzy feelings, or that you write a letter to Him every morning in your journal. Loving Jesus means you are committed to Him. You trust Him. And so, you obey Him.
Loving Jesus, then, is not a one-time deal. You don’t get to say: “I love Jesus” and then that holds forever. It’s supposed to be a continuous affirmation and practice. When you and I disobey Jesus, when we turn away from what He has told us in the Word, we’re saying: “Jesus, I don’t love you right now. Right now, I love myself more.”
And I hope the Holy Spirit brings specific things to your mind right now about obedience. Maybe there’s an area that you’re unwilling to address. Maybe a sin you don’t want to confess, or a relationship you don’t want to fix, or a difficult decision you’re putting off, whatever it is. If you know what Jesus wants you to do, because He’s told you in His word, then you will demonstrate love to Jesus by doing what He says.
The answer to the question, “Do I love Jesus?” doesn’t just come with our words, it comes with our lives. That’s what 1 John 3 says—we don’t show love simply by word or talk but in deed and in truth.
The answer to the question, “How can I love Jesus more?” is: Obey Him more. Read the word, think about what the implications in your life, and then do it. Obey Him externally, with your actions, and internally with your thoughts and heart. That’s how we show our love to Jesus. That’s how we please the Lord who saved us, whom we cannot physically see right now. It’s how we show our love.
Jesus didn’t intend this to be some kind of indictment or burden. Remember, He wants to give them peace and joy. And once Jesus is gone, they’re going to be left thinking: “What do I do? I love Jesus, but how do I show it?” And so, Jesus tells them. “Here’s how you show Me your love: keep My commandments.”
Well, what about Jesus? How does Jesus show His love to His disciples? This is what Jesus transitions to in verse 16—And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
If you go over to the other column in your chart, you can put the words “Holy Spirit” at the top. This will be like a main heading, and we’re going to fill in the specifics. Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit. As an expression of love, we give Jesus our obedience and He gives us the Spirit.
Well, what is that? What good is that? Well, for starters, it’s not a what, it’s a who. The Spirit is a person. And according to verse 16, it’s a person sent by the Father at the request of the Son. Jesus is saying: “I’m going to send you something. There’s a gift coming from the Father. I’ll make sure of it.”
And this particular person is referred to in verse 16 as a Helper. The word used here in the original language doesn’t have a very good equivalent in our language. Various translations use words like Helper, Counselor, Advocate, Comforter, Defender, Intercessor, or even Strengthener.
Generally speaking, this is talking about some kind of helping presence. Sometimes, it was used in legal contexts, that why it can be translated as Advocate. But the idea isn’t just like someone who works for you like a servant. This is someone who powerfully encourages or equips and enables. Sometimes, commentators just call Him the Paraclete, which is taken from the Greek word.
John is the only biblical author to use this word, and the best way to understand it (and this would go for practically all words in the Bible) is to see how it’s defined by the context.
The best way to understand what the Holy Spirit does is to think about what Jesus did for His disciples. For the past three years, Jesus was with the disciples—leading them, protecting them, teaching them, providing for them, and correcting them. But now, Jesus is leaving, so they need someone else to be with them—someone else to walk with them. And Jesus is promising another Helper, another powerful One walking by their side.
And so, more important than choosing the best English translation for this word is to see what He actually does. What does this Helper do? Why does Jesus, motivated by love, send another Helper? What is the role of the Spirit?
The first thing this Helper provides is faithful companionship. You can start writing these as the numbered points underneath the Holy Spirit. This is what the Spirit gives the believer. Faithful companionship.
Verse 16 says: “He will be with you forever,” or literally, “into eternity. The Holy Spirit is not someone who comes and goes like a street cat. It’s nice when he’s around, but he’s not always around. That’s not the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that Jesus provides His disciples is one who gives faithful companionship. He will always be with them.
Secondly, we have verse 17, which tells us that the Spirit also provides true guidance. Notice, Jesus calls Him the Spirit of truth. He’s a teacher. And He teaches the truth.
Those of us who have repented of sin and trusted in Christ, have something that this world does not have. We have a private tutor—not in math, not in English, not in history, but in God’s eternal truth.
First John 2 refers to the Spirit as an anointing, and He teaches us about everything God wants us to know. And it says, “He is true, and is no lie.”
Jesus says, here in verse 17, that the world cannot receive this Spirit. No unbeliever has the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Christ within Him. Because they reject the truth. But those who receive the truth have Him.
Now, as New Testament believers, on this side of the Resurrection and the indwelling of the Spirit, I think it’s very easy for us to take the Holy Spirit for granted, especially if you’ve been a Christian for a while.
We forget what it was like to think like a non-Christian. We forget what it was like to experience the miracle of regeneration, when the Holy Spirit turned the lights on in our hearts and we, by the power of God, began to see the glory of God in the gospel Jesus Christ. That wasn’t something we did on our own. That was a miracle of God.
In the Old Testament, even the people God uniquely and specially used to accomplish His purposes didn’t have the Spirit of God within them. The language used says that the Spirit came upon them.
But in the plan of God, once Jesus leaves and sends the Holy Spirit, the people of God will know Him in a much more intimate way, in a way that the people couldn’t beforehand.
Look at the end of verse 17 one more time. Look at what Jesus says to His disciples, “You know Him, for He dwells with you, and He will be in you.” That’s new for them. That’s unique to the New Covenant.
Those of you who are taking the eschatology class have looked at this. The New Covenant was something God promised in the Old Testament, and it promised that the Spirit of God would dwell within His people and would enable them to love God and walk in His ways.
So, think about this. Jesus says, “If you love Me, you’ll obey My commandments.” And the disciples, might have thought: “Well, that’s good, but it’s not always easy to obey Him.”
But then Jesus says, “And out of my love for you, I’ll give you My Spirit to empower you to love Me.” Again, don’t you think that would have been an encouragement for them? “I’ll help you love Me.”
I’ll give you faithful companionship, and I’ll give you true guidance. I’ll lead you externally with My word, and I’ll lead you internally by My Spirit. In other words, “You’re not going to be left alone!"
And that’s exactly the heart of Jesus behind verse 18—I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Such reassuring words to these young disciples. They will not be left alone.
Jesus will die on Friday, but by Sunday morning, they’ll see Him again. And then, about forty days later, He’s going to leave again. He’s going back to the Father in heaven.
But not long after the Spirit will come—the Spirit of Jesus. And again, that is a unique gift for His faithful disciples. Look at verse 19—Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
A third subpoint you can add in your chart under the Holy Spirit is eternal life. That’s what the Spirit gives—eternal life.
What does it mean that the Spirit gives life? What kind of life does Jesus give His disciples? What’s included in Jesus’ statement: “Because I live, you also will live”?
I’ll give you three kinds of life. First, there is a future, resurrected life, after death. That’s something Jesus promises to all His disciples. Death is not the end. Second, life in Christ includes a present, obedient life. Romans 6:4 connects the power that raised Christ from the dead with the power we have to walk in newness of life.
Third, and this is the emphasis I think Jesus is making, giving life to His disciples means they will know God more intimately. That’s how Jesus defines eternal life in John 17:3—to know the only true God. Because Jesus lives, His disciples will live as well.
If you want, you can add another phrase to the list as well. This would be number 4. The Holy Spirit provides intimate knowledge. Intimate knowledge.
Eternal life is talking about an intimate, personal knowledge of the Almighty, eternal Creator of the Universe. Whether you recognize it or not, God is the most satisfying reality in all creation. Whatever else you think makes your life worthwhile, is only a flickering shadow of the God who made it. And that God calls you to come to Him.
Psalm 34:8 says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! … Those who fear him have no lack… Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
The disciples had tasted God, they had tasted Christ. And now Jesus comforts them by telling them that they will, in a more intimate way, know God. They will know and experience the unity and love between the Father and the Son.
Verse 20—In that day [referring to when the Spirit comes] you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
What a gift to them! They will have the complete assurance that Jesus is who He said He was, and that they are united to Him and to the Father. That’s part of what it means to have eternal life. It’s an intimate knowledge of, and relationship with, and assurance concerning the Father and the Son. Again, what a gift!
By now, you might have noticed that those two columns you made are a little lopsided, right? We cannot out-give Jesus.
However, in verse 21, Jesus jumps back to the other column: the ways His disciples can show Him love. What does it say?
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.
Sound familiar? We don’t get to add anything new to that first column. Jesus is just repeating the first thing on the list. We demonstrate love for Jesus by obeying His commands.
And what Jesus goes on to emphasize is the blessing of that obedience. Look at the rest of verse 21— And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
What’s the promise here? What will Jesus give to those who love Him? He gives them a personal manifestation. You can add that again to the second column. This is number five on that list. Jesus gives His faithful disciples a personal manifestation.
Now, for the disciples, they would get a personal meeting with the resurrected Lord. Judas Iscariot, didn't get it because he didn't love Jesus, but the rest did. And there was even an occasion when He appeared to a group of over 500 people. They loved Jesus, and so they got to see Him.
But beyond a physical meeting with the resurrected Savior, I think it’s appropriate to extend this even to today. We don’t get to see Jesus physically in this life. But, if we walk in loving obedience to Him, He shows us more of Himself. We see Him working in providence. We see His heart more clearly in the Scriptures. And we even go through experiences that connect us to Him more. And those are sanctifying experiences.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 it says that as we Christians behold the glory of our Lord, we are being transformed into that image. We’re becoming more like Him, and as a result, we know Him better.
Just to give you a human example, I know my own father better, now that I’m a father myself. I can look back on my experiences with him when I was a kid, and now I can feel what he was feeling. I know him more.
That’s exactly what Paul says in Philippians 3 concerning Jesus. He says: “I want to know Him. I want to know the power of His resurrection.” How can he know that? He says by sharing in His sufferings, and becoming like Him in his death. The more Paul walked in obedience to Christ, the more he knew Him.
Haven’t you ever thought, “You know, I wish I knew Jesus better. I wish my relationship with Him was a lot more personal. I wish He would just show up in my life more.”
Well, right here, Jesus is telling you how it happens. “Keep my commandments, and I will manifest Myself to you.”
You know, a lot of times we get that backwards. We think that if Jesus was to appear more in our life, our faith would be strengthened, and we’d obey Him more. We think that manifestation will bring obedience. But Jesus says: “No, it’s the other way around. Obedience brings manifestation. Obedience brings self-disclosure.”
But notice, this is a kind of self-disclosure that is only for His faithful, obedient disciples. And one of Jesus’ disciples picks up on that. Verse 22—Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
This is a different Judas than the one who was going to betray Him. And it’s not Judas, Jesus’ half-brother, who wrote the epistle of Jude. This Judas is the disciple who is also known as Thaddeus, and we get that name by comparing the lists of the Twelve Disciples in the other gospels.
Thaddeus Judas (or Judas Thaddeus) wants to know why Jesus is going to show His glory to the whole world. Why just for the small group of believers?
And, as it not uncommon to Jesus, He doesn’t answer the question directly. It’s like He responds with, “You just make sure you’re part of that group Judas. You keep my word.”
There’s the same message about obedience. Loving Christ means being obedient to Him. And if you do that, blessing will come. The Father and the Son will come, in love, and live within you.
Again, this is another reference to the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus.
Real Christians are those who, as Ephesians 6:24 puts it, “love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible.” And that love for Christ is demonstrated by obedience. If you don’t love Christ, then you don’t really love the Father. And if you don’t love the Father, why would He come and develop an intimacy with you? It’s not going to happen.
Even as Christians, we forfeit the nearness and the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we disobey. Ephesians 4 says we grieve the Spirit. And until we confess and repent of sin, we’re not going to come back into the fullness of life that Jesus wants to give us. Jesus wants, for His disciples, an intimate relationship with Himself and with the Father, and it’s all connected to our obedience to His word which is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
And going back to the gift of the Spirit, Jesus presses the idea of His teaching a little bit further.
Verse 25—These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
This is basically an expansion of what we already said earlier. The Spirit gives true guidance. He is the Spirit of truth.
Maybe you’ve had times when the right Bible verse at the right time comes to mind. How does that happen? I think it happens because that verse was placed in your mind at some point, and then the Holy Spirit brings it to the front of your mind at that very moment.
But beyond the way the Spirit might do this in our lives today, Jesus’ words to His disciples in verse 26 have a very special significance. Why was it so important that they remember what Jesus said? Because they Apostles were the ones who were going to teach and even write the word of God.
Matthew and John were Apostles. The gospel of Mark, as historical evidence tells us, was written under the supervision of Peter. So these guys needed to remember the words of Jesus.
And thank God that He worked through the Holy Spirit to preserve and record the message of Jesus Christ.
Second Peter 1 says the Bible was written by men, but they were speaking from God as they were being carried along (or moved along) by the Holy Spirit. He oversaw the entire process.
Again, what a relief and what an encouragement to the disciples! They weren’t going to have to be racking their brains over what Jesus said in a particular sermon. The Spirit would teach them. The Spirit would remind them. They don’t need to fret. they don’t need to worry.
And this brings us to another loving gift from Christ, also mediated by the Spirit. Christ gives to His disciples abiding peace. Abiding peace. That’s number 6.
Verse 27—Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
The peace this world offers is based on lies. It’s temporary. Only Jesus can give true lasting peace, because He transcends this world. He is eternally before and after this world. Jesus gives an unearthly peace, because He is not of this world.
Even in the worst of circumstances, which the Apostles will eventually face, they have, as Paul puts it in Philippians 4:7, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. It guards their hearts and their minds in Christ Jesus.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the giving of the Holy Spirit are reminders that there’s a life after this one. And if we have that eternal perspective, we won’t respond to difficulty the way the world does. We have a hope that is in us. We have Christ in us, the hope of glory. And so we have an abiding peace.
The New Testament says that the Holy Spirit placed within believers as a gift from Christ is like a down payment. It’s just an initial deposit that guarantees there’s much more to come.
And so, rather than be sad that Jesus is gone, Jesus wants His disciples to rejoice in God’s plan. That’s what verses 28 and 29 are saying.
Verse 28—You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
There’s one more thing you can add to the list of ways we show love to Jesus. We show love to Jesus by desiring His glory. By obeying His commands, and by desiring His glory.
Caught up in the disciples sadness is a little bit of selfishness. We may not always connect those ideas, but I think Jesus is doing it right here. The disciples are going to be sad because they don’t have Jesus with them anymore. But Jesus tells them they should be joyful for Him.
Jesus is going back to the glory of the Father. To the glory of the One who sent Him. That’s what He means by saying the Father is greater than Him. The Son isn’t inferior to the Father, but in His earthly humiliation, by taking upon Himself humanity, Jesus veiled His glory. And so the Father’s glory manifested in heaven is greater than the Son’s manifested on earth.
But once Jesus goes back, He goes back to His eternal glory. In the prayer of John 17, Jesus is going to talk about the glory He had with the Father before the world existed. And he wants His disciples to see that glory.
Jesus wants His disciples to pursue and desire, and ultimately see His glory. If you don’t desire, more than anything else, Christ to be glorified, then you forfeit the peace Jesus offers.
We won’t fully see Jesus’ glory in this life, but we can walk in accordance with it by faith. That’s what verse 29 is pointing to.
And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
Believe in the glory of Jesus Christ. Believe in the truth that His resurrection and His Spirit point us to. He is the Son of God. And He will guide His people, and rescue them out of this world.
We’ve got to wrap things up. And I’ve just got one final gift from Christ to us. This will be number 7. Jesus Christ, give to His disciples a decisive victory. A decisive victory.
Verses 30 and 31—I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. [That’s talking about Satan who is instrumental in Jesus’ death] He has no claim on me, 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
It’s going to look like Satan wins, because Jesus is going to die. But Satan won’t win. Satan can’t win. Jesus wins.
And so, He reminds His disciples that He isn’t dying because of Satan. He’s dying because of the Father. It was the Father who was pleased to crush Him. Why? So that Jesus would bear our griefs and pay the price of our iniquities. By His wounds we are healed.
This is God’s eternal plan to provide a sacrifice for the sins of His people. The Good Shepherd is laying down His life for the sheep. He’s laying down His life for the glory of the Father. And He’s laying down His life for the victory over Satan.
You and I have a decisive victory over sin and Satan and death. Because Jesus died and rose again. And He went back to the Father and He sent us His Holy Spirit.
Look at that list we made. Look at all the things these verses remind us that we’ve been given by Jesus Christ—Faithful companionship, True guidance, Eternal life, Intimate knowledge, Personal manifestation, Abiding peace, Decisive victory.
And look over at the other side of the column. In light of all that Jesus gives to us, by His love and by His Spirit, what does He call us to give to Him?
He calls us to desire His glory, and to demonstrate it by obeying His commands. Serve Him. Love Him. Obey Him. And Jesus will continue to lavish these gifts upon us.
Let me just close with one verse. And this will be familiar to many of you. Romans chapter 12, verse 1.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God [that includes that list we made of Christ’s gifts to us]. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Let's pray together.