Jesus answered, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret” (John 18:20).
When on trial before the chief priests, Jesus could have called Peter and John, two of His most faithful disciples, to testify on His behalf. They watched His trial from the courtyard. But Jesus had prayed and promised them that the Father and He would protect them so none of His disciples would be arrested or harmed. Jesus kept His promise, so He testified in His own defense. He testified that He had always spoken openly to the world. In the most prominent places, Jesus had given everyone the opportunity to hear everything He taught. John did not repeat everything the other gospel writers recorded, so in Mark 14:56, we learn, “Many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree.” Perhaps most importantly for people today, we learn from John that Jesus spoke openly to the world. Everything Jesus taught would benefit everyone in the world, if people believed and lived based on what Jesus taught. Perhaps more importantly, Jesus said that He taught nothing in secret. No ancient secret book or ancient secret society exists that truly tells what Jesus taught in secret, for Jesus never taught anything in secret. Jesus did explain His parables to His disciples, for they had “ears to hear” (an open mind and heart to learn the truth). As Jesus told Pilate in John 18:37, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Jesus’ disciples still listen to His voice as recorded in the Bible, for His first disciples wrote everything the Holy Spirit inspired them to remember.
When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they stepped back and fell to the ground (John 18:6).
The religious authorities tried to arrest Jesus at various times during His ministry. In John 5:18, we learn they wanted to kill Jesus because “he was calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.” Using the divine name “I Am” to refer to himself, in John 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” In John 7:30, we learn they failed to arrest Jesus because His hour (or time) had not yet come. In John 7:45-46, when the chief priests and Pharisees asked the temple police why they had not arrested Jesus, they replied, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” In John 10:38-39, after Jesus said, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father,” they tried to arrest Him again, but they failed. In John 11:27, the religious authorities ordered that anyone knowing where Jesus was should tell them so they could arrest Jesus. Because His time had finally come, Judas betrayed Jesus and led Roman soldiers and temple police to the garden where Jesus could be found. On the one hand it was easy to arrest Jesus, for Jesus stepped forward to tell them who He was. On the other hand it was difficult, for when they asked for Jesus of Nazareth Jesus told them that He was Jesus of Nazareth, but He again referred to himself using the divine name “I Am.” Then, they experienced so much of His glory they stepped back and fell to the ground. [Note: some translations of John 18:6, add “he” in italics or in a footnote indicating “he” was added to the verse.]
I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26)
Jesus’ last words in His last prayer for all who would become His disciples through His first disciples’ teachings carry great weight for us. Jesus prayed that we might be His disciples and be in the Father and the Son as the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul wrote that the disciple’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which includes the Father and the Son for they cannot be separated from the Spirit. In His prayer, Jesus revealed that the Father loves Jesus’ disciples even as He loves Jesus. Envision the Father loving repentant sinners who believe in Jesus even as He loves His sinless Son! Even more, Jesus prayed that the love with which the Father loved Him would be in His disciples along with His presence within them. Humbly envision Jesus making you so morally and spiritually clean inside that you are fit for God to love you and live in you even as the Father and the Son love and live in one another! From Jesus’ prayer, we learn that Jesus has given all His disciples work to do, and one of their primary purposes is to love and live in such a way so that “the world may believe that the Father sent Jesus.” To make His point, Jesus said this twice in John 17:21 and John 17: 23! From Jesus’ prayer, we know why God made us: The Father wants to love and live in and through Jesus’ disciples as He does Jesus.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).
God inspired the prophet Isaiah to compare people to sheep. Sheep are prone to wander away from their shepherd and flock. They eventually get lost, get into trouble, and sometimes get eaten by predators. People often act worse than sheep. God gave us minds, laws, and abilities to make good choices, but invariably at various times all of us have deliberately gone astray. Instead of following our Shepherd, we have chosen to go our own way. We have chosen the selfish and self-centered way instead of God’s way. Everyone has meditated on sinful desires and thoughts, and sometimes we have acted on those thoughts in ways that have brought harm to others and us. Because God loves everyone, God sent someone like a sheep to save us from our iniquity, our habitual practice of sin, and the eternal consequences of our disobedience. Isaiah wrote of him, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” when He was oppressed and afflicted (Isaiah 53:7). Isaiah was, of course, writing about the Messiah that God planned to send, and when the Messiah came He died as a sacrificial lamb when He died on the cross. When John went to heaven and saw Jesus, he saw “a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” (Revelation 5:6). He explained why God sent Jesus, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:19).
Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:11).
Before Jesus was born, He and the Father agreed that in order for Jesus to save believers He would need to suffer as our scapegoat. Furthermore, Jesus would need to endure the anguish of the Suffering Servant predicted by Isaiah. According to Isaiah’s prophecy, the Lord “laid on him the iniquity of us all;” similar to the priest in the Old Testament, who laid the sins of the people on the scapegoat and drove it into the wilderness (see Leviticus 16 and Isaiah 53:6). While dying, Jesus suffered anguish, because He bore our iniquities (our wickedness). When tempted, Jesus never sinned; therefore, He became “the righteous one,” who served as the scapegoat to remove the sins of all who repent and trust in Him. When the Father raised Jesus from the dead, He saw light as predicted. Jesus removes the believer’s sins “to make many righteous;” however, we need more than our sins removed. Therefore, the Lord also promises, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). In addition, the Holy Spirit lives within Jesus’ people to empower them to live rightly according to the Scriptures. While in this world, Jesus’ followers will always be tempted to sin; therefore, “with the testing he will also provide the way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Because Jesus knew how much people would benefit from His sacrificial death, He experienced “satisfaction through his knowledge.” Moreover, “for the sake of the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame” (Hebrews 12:2).
And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth (John 17:19)
Prior to His arrest, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for all who would become His disciples. When Jesus prayed, His Father answered Jesus’ prayers through Him. Jesus prayed; then, He worked, taught, and sacrificed for His disciples. In John 17:17, Jesus prayed: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Jesus prayed that His Father would use the truth to sanctify His disciples by setting them apart or consecrating them for holy use in God’s service. The Father still sanctifies Jesus’ disciples through Jesus. In John 1:14, John taught, “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the Father’s Word made human. Jesus prayed the Father would use Him to sanctify His disciples. In John 14:6, Jesus taught His disciples that He is the truth. Jesus prayed that the Father would use the truth to make disciples who would do His will and show the world that the Father had sent Him into the world so believers in Him might not perish but have eternal life. Jesus prayed and then consecrated himself to answering His prayers in truth according to His Father’s will. With Jesus as their example, Jesus’ disciples consecrate themselves to God, for God to do His will through them. Consequently, Jesus’ disciples grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. They experience the joy of Jesus being made complete within them as Jesus prayed in John 17:13. Eventually, as Jesus prayed in John 17:23, some will see that the Father loves all Jesus’ disciples even as He loves Jesus.
I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do (John 17:4).
When Jesus prayed aloud to His Father, His disciples learned that Jesus glorified His Father by finishing everything His Father sent Him to do. His Father had sent Him “so that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). In John 17:3, Jesus defined eternal life saying, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” By Jesus’ loving and caring ways, by His power to meet every human need, and by His teaching the word of God, His disciples came to know the Father and the Son. By describing His disciples’ responses to Him, Jesus’ prayer teaches people how they can know whether they know the Father and Jesus or not. First, the same as Jesus’ first disciples, today Jesus’ disciples know that everything Jesus had, including His disciples, were given to Him by His Father. Second, they know that the very words Jesus spoke were His Father’s word [message or teaching]. Third, the same as Jesus’ first disciples, today Jesus’ disciples receive Jesus’ words. They know and believe “in truth” that His Father sent Jesus into the world. Fourth, Jesus’ first disciples and today’s disciples keep [obey] the word of God, the words the Father gave Jesus to give to His disciples (see John 17:1-8). In John 14:15, Jesus taught, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In 1 John 2:3, John explained, “Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments.” Today, Jesus’ disciples still glorify God by finishing the work He gives them.
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world! (John 16:33).
Because Jesus Christ conquered the world, His disciples believe He came from God and they love Him. When they remember that Jesus Christ conquered the world, they maintain their joy and peace in a dangerous and uncertain world. The world did its worst to Jesus, but Jesus conquered the world when He rose from the dead. After Jesus conquered the world, He ascended into heaven, and through the indwelling Holy Spirit Jesus lives within every disciple throughout the world. From their study of the Bible and daily experiences, Jesus’ disciples know that no one can take away the joy, love, and peace that the indwelling Holy Spirit gives them. Furthermore, in and through His disciples, Jesus Christ lives and reigns throughout the world; therefore, when persecuted and killed His disciples “take courage” as He commanded. Just as Jesus prophesied, many remain amazed that the world still hates Jesus and His disciples instead of forgetting about Jesus and ignoring His followers! Yet, because Jesus conquered the world, many people around the world still come to believe that Jesus came from God and they love Jesus too. They experience the complete joy and love of God the Father, the most loving, powerful, and wealthy person to exist. They understand that nothing can separate them from the love of God. If they are “killed all day long,” Paul’s words in Romans 8:36-37, encourage them: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us;” therefore, they courageously remain, “strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power” (Ephesians 6:10).
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13—NRSV).
How can we tell the true disciples of Jesus from His many followers in the crowds? Jesus’ disciples believed His signs and what He said. They wanted to learn everything He taught. They wanted to be with Him all the time, so they followed Him wherever He went. They loved Jesus and wanted the best for Him. They did what He told them. They took risks with Him and suffered for Him. Perhaps you can think of more characteristics, for Jesus’ true disciples think and act like Jesus’ first disciples. We know how Jesus treats His disciples by the way He treated His first disciples. Jesus does not give His disciples more than they can bear or cope with at the time. Before His arrest, Jesus did not tell His disciples all the details about His trial and suffering on the cross, for He knew they could not bear it then. Jesus’ disciples have the Spirit of Truth with them and in them to guide them into all the truth they need to know. The Spirit teaches Jesus’ disciples what He hears from the Father and the Son, and Jesus’ disciples can pray to the Father and the Son. The Spirit declares what Jesus’ disciples need to know about the future. When Jesus’ disciples weep, mourn, and suffer pain, they know their pain will turn to joy. Because they know Jesus, their hearts rejoice in all circumstances and no one can take the joy of Jesus from them.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7)
The Holy Spirit bestows many gifts on believers, and of major importance the Holy Spirit serves as their Advocate. He works as an indwelling Defense Attorney. When those of this world attack Christians, their Defense Attorney can give them the words to speak. When spiritually attacked, their Defense Attorney can remind them of Jesus’ words, so they do not lose confidence in their Savior and Lord. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit could only come after He went away. Jesus went away when He died on the cross and later ascended into heaven, which He and the Father planned because they wanted to forgive repentant sinners and uphold the just laws and kingdom of God at the same time. Together, they planned for Jesus to shed His blood so repentant sinners could be cleansed from all unrighteousness and become spiritually prepared to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would guide them to live for God in a hostile world. In addition, the Holy Spirit works as a Prosecuting Attorney in the lives of believers and in the Church. Through the church, He proves the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. He convinces some that sin has consequences, living right is important to God, God has condemned the ruler of this world, and God will execute judgment. In the world, the Holy Spirit works through believers to help those He has proved wrong to repent and by grace receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.