In the introductory article on time periods, we considered the idea that much of the Gospels are actually applicable for the church. While some would agree, others (mostly dispensationalists) might find that statement shocking. There are dispensationalists that focus almost entirely on the Epistles, saying that the other parts of the Bible are “for our learning.” In this article, I hope to give many examples of where Jesus Christ directly prepared his disciples for life after his death, resurrection, and ascension.
Let’s set the stage a little bit. Jesus Christ had a short period of time to minister on this earth. During that period of time, he called disciples, and some of those disciples became apostles. Jesus Christ was about to revolutionize the world with his sacrificial death. He knew that God was going to make many new things available to people at some point in the near future. His apostles and disciples would be the ones responsible to help invite others to this new reality, this new way of walking with God and having a relationship with Him. It makes sense to me that Jesus Christ would spend valuable time preparing his disciples for the radical change coming. It also makes sense that God would have the men who penned the Gospels record some of this material for our benefit since these teachings would be relevant to Christians today.
Thankfully, we don’t have to guess. We just have to read the last part of the Gospel of John. I highly recommend reading John 13-17 in light of this. We will jump around a little bit, but the whole section is incredibly relevant to this topic.
John 13:1-5, 12-17. Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus taught his disciples about servant leadership. While the world displays leaders’ controlling people with their power, Jesus shows that true leaders serve those in their care. This would be incredibly important for his disciples and apostles to remember in the years to follow. (See 1 Peter 5:1-4.)
John 13:34-35. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
How did Jesus show his love to his disciples? He listened to them, healed them, taught them, rebuked them. He always had their best interest in mind. He gave them power and ability to do what he taught them. And perhaps most importantly, he was about to give his life so that they could have a full relationship with God. This self-sacrificial love is available to Christians today.
John 14:5-11. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
Jesus told his disciples that he was the way to the Father. In one way, this is a reference to salvation (Romans 10:9-10), but there could be a practical aspect to consider here as well. When do we have communion or fellowship with God? We have fellowship with God when we are doing His will. Who did the will of God better than anyone? Jesus always did what the Father wanted him to do (John 8:29). So we are in fellowship with God when we follow the example of Jesus Christ. Christ is the way to the Father. Because of this, Jesus wanted his example lived out after he was gone. He wanted the disciples to have a vibrant relationship with God.
John 14:12-14. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Jesus also taught his disciples that the power that he evidenced during his ministry would be available to them. And not only that, but his disciples would be able to do greater works!
John 14:15-20. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even 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. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
Jesus comforted his disciples with the knowledge that they would receive a helper, a comforter—the holy spirit. Jesus would not leave his disciples without a way of communicating with God. This spirit would be a way for them to know for sure that Jesus and God were united and that Jesus was united with them, uniting them with God. This, indeed, is true life—life in fellowship with the Creator of life, God.
John 14:21. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
For the second time in the passage, Jesus emphasized that the ones who love him will be the ones who keep his commandments. We show our love to God and our appreciation to Jesus Christ by our obedience to the Word.
John 15:1-11. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Jesus instructed his disciples to abide in him—to stay connected with him. Jesus is the vine connecting us to the love and attention of the Father. If we abide in him, we will bear much fruit, which is what God intended. God wants to be glorified by our walk in Christ Jesus. If we follow the commandments of Jesus, we will abide in Jesus’ love. When we abide in his love, our joy is full.
John 15:12-14. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another as he loved them. He wanted them to lay down their lives in service to one another and to those God would place in their care. We can do the same today.
John 15:18-21. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Jesus warned his disciples that persecution and hate would follow them as they obeyed his words. The world and the systems of this world are anti-God. Thus, just as the Pharisees and other groups persecuted Jesus, they were going to persecute the apostles. These prophecies came to pass, especially in Acts 4, 5, and 7, and throughout the ministry of Paul. Christians in modern days face persecution from many sides, especially those in foreign countries, like Nigeria. (See this article for more information: http://www.bpnews.net/48583/200-killed-in-christian-areas-of-nasarawa-nigeria.)
John 16:1-4. “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
Jesus continued teaching them about the persecution that they would face. Specifically, he referenced being cast out of synagogues (facing religious pressure) and being killed. Unfortunately, both religious and political pressure face disciples of Christ in modern times.
John 16:12-13. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
There were other aspects of the future that Jesus wanted to share with his disciples, but they were not ready yet. Jesus comforted his disciples with the knowledge that the spirit would guide them. They would be completely taken care of.
John 16:32-33. Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Right before the great prayer in John 17, Jesus made this enormous declaration. He guaranteed that his disciples would face tribulation. However, despite the attacks, despite the mental pressure, despite the physical abuse, despite the religious leaders slandering them and attacking them at every turn, despite the men and women that would be killed for Christ’s name, one thing remains true. Jesus has overcome the world. Our final victory is assured in Christ.
Certainly, the Last Supper is a great example of Jesus instructing and preparing his disciples for life after his death. But, there are other examples throughout the Gospels where Jesus clearly taught aspects of what was going to be available soon (after the day of Pentecost). Here are only a few of the many examples:
Luke 12:11-12. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
The apostles encountered this difficulty early in their ministry after Pentecost. (See Acts 4 and 5.) Jesus comforted his disciples with the understanding that the spirit would guide them when they faced attacks.
John 3:1-6. Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jesus taught Nicodemus about the new birth well before his death! Jesus gave the example of physical birth (born of water) to help Nicodemus understand the reality of the new birth, which would be made available after the day of Pentecost. Once someone is born again, the spirit is poured out, and he has the ability to communicate with the True God. (See Acts 2:33, 38; Ephesians 2:18.) Jesus was teaching about the new birth early in his ministry. He knew what was going to be available, and he actively prepared his disciples for it.
John 4:7-24. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Jesus taught the woman at the well about the transformation coming in worship. At that time, worshipping God centered around temples and buildings. Jesus informed her that spiritual worship was going to be available soon. Instead of an economy of worship based on sacrifices, trips to a temple, and public offerings, there was going to be an economy of worship based on a spiritual connection with God. This was a revolutionary idea!
It is clear that much of Jesus’ ministry was about preparing his disciples for life after his death, resurrection, and ascension. In just the records we looked at in this article, we saw Jesus preparing his disciples by:
• Teaching them about servant leadership
• Giving them an example of how to love one another
• Exhorting them to follow his example in all things
• Explaining that the power that he exercised during his ministry would be available to them and that they would be able to do greater works
• Comforting his disciples with the knowledge that God would send them a Comforter, the holy spirit
• Exhorting his disciples to obey his words
• Teaching them to abide in him so that they would bear much fruit in their lives
• Commanding his disciples to lay down their lives for each other
• Warning his disciples about the persecution that they were going to face and assuring them that they would have the help they needed in that persecution to be triumphant
• Reassuring his disciples that they would have the words they needed when taken in front of councils
• Teaching them about the new birth
• Informing them of how worship was to be revolutionized.
All of these things have relevance for the time after Pentecost more than they did when Jesus said them. It is clear that Jesus knew much of God’s plan for after Pentecost and actively prepared his disciples for enacting and fulfilling that plan. As such, there is much for the modern Christian to learn about Christian behavior and service from the Gospels.