Learning from John 17-21
17:1-26 - Jesus prays for you. Jesus prays for me. We have come to faith in Him through the written Word of His apostles (20). The story of the Cross (1-5), the story of the first disciples (6-19) is an ongoing story. It continues in us. The saving effects of Christ’s death are still being felt today. The written Word of His apostles is still exerting its powerful influence on today’s world. Jesus is still praying for us (Hebrews 7:25). He prayed for His first disciples – ‘that they may be one’ (11). He prays the same prayer for us (20-23). Among His first disciples, there was Judas Iscariot, ‘the one who chose to be lost’ (12). If we are to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit’, we must take account of ‘the Judas factor’ – ‘take notice of those who create dissensions… avoid them’ (Ephesians 4:3; Jude 4; 1 John 2:18-19; Romans 16:17-18).
18:1-27 - The story continues. Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is arrested (1-11). He stands before the Jewish authorities (12-14,19-24). Jesus is ‘drinking from the cup which the Father has given Him’ – He drinks from the cup of our condemnation that we might drink from the cup of His salvation (11; Matthew 26:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus’ death was not only ‘expedient’. It was ‘necessary’ – for our salvation (14; Luke 24:26). Alongside the story of Jesus was the story of Peter (15-18,25-27). Jesus’ death was not the end of His story – He rose from the dead (Luke 24:5-6; Acts 2:23-24). Peter denied the Lord three times. This was not the end of his story. For each denial, there was a new commitment (21:15-17). For each denial, there were, on the Day of Pentecost, 1,000 people brought to Christ (Acts 2:38,41).
18:28-19:16 – ‘Barabbas was a robber’. He was released (39-40). There was ‘no crime’ in Jesus. He was ‘crucified’ (38,4,6,16). Was Jesus no more than the innocent victim of a shameful and tragic miscarriage of justice? No! Jesus, the King of kings, chose to die. Looking ahead to the Cross, He said, ‘For this I was born…’ (36-37). In love, He chose death on the Cross. As truly as Barabbas, each of us can say, ‘He took my place and died for me’. In His death, Jesus did not only take the place of one sinner, Barabbas – ‘He took the place of many sinners’. He did not simply bear the punishment deserved by one sinner, Barabbas – ‘The Lord made the punishment fall on Him, the punishment all of us deserved’ (Isaiah 53:12,6).
19:17-20:10 - ‘It is finished’ (30). These are not words of despair. They are words of triumph. At an early stage in His public ministry, Jesus said, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me to finish His work’ (4:34). Even then, He was looking ahead to the Cross, to the completion of the work of redemption. In one sense, ‘it is finished’ – on the Cross. In another sense, there is more to be done – by the Father. The Cross is followed by the resurrection – ‘God raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 2:24; Romans 10:9). To come to the words, ‘It is finished’ is not to reach the end of the story. Jesus was laid in the tomb (42). Still, this was not the end of the story. Something else had to happen – ‘Jesus had to rise from the dead’ (9). For our salvation, Jesus died ‘and was raised to life’ (Romans 4:25).
20:11-31 - Christ is ‘the Lord’ (2,18,20,25). Christ is ‘my Lord’ (13,28). Faith becomes real when Jesus comes to us. Here, we see Jesus coming to Mary, the disciples and Thomas. Here, we see Mary, the disciples and Thomas – changed by the power of the risen Christ. In love, He comes to them, and they are changed. (a) Mary was ‘weeping’ (13,15). Jesus came to her, and she became a confident believer – ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (18). (b) The disciples were filled with ‘fear’. Jesus came to them. He gave them His ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ (19-20). (c) Thomas found faith hard to come by (25). Jesus came to him, and he believed – ‘My Lord and my God!’ (28). Through the Gospel, we find faith: ‘These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name’ (31).
21:1-25 - ‘Fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19) – Set your goals lower than this, and you will take others with you. Together, you will discover the emptiness of life without Christ at its centre – ‘they caught nothing’ (3). Note the contrast between the self-centered life (5) and the Christ-centered life (6,8,11). Loving, serving and following Jesus – These are the most important things in life (15-17,22). Don’t look over your shoulder at someone else – ‘Lord, what about this man?’ (21). Let it be personal – Jesus says, ‘Do you love Me?’ (15-17). He asked Peter, ‘Do you love me more than these?’ (15) – more than you love these other disciples, more than these other disciples love Me, more than your boats, nets and fishes? Look back and ask yourself, ‘Do I love Jesus more than I did a year ago?’