Summary: God left some of himself in the very words of John’s gospel. Looking closely we see Him there, loving us, calling us, filling us, and blessing us.
Have you ever been on a spiral staircase? When we lived in Lancaster we would often visit Prospect Mountain where there was a stone tower about 45-50 feet high. You could go in a door at the bottom of the tower and climb up a spiral stair to the top and look out on a panoramic view of the mountains. It was spectacular. The climb up was interesting too. You would go around and around but at every circle you are higher even though everything looked the same. Each circle would take you to a new level.
John’s gospel is written like that too. Jesus says things over and over that sound alike, but each statement brings you to a new level of understanding as the words take you deeper into the mind of Christ.
In chapters 13-16 of John certain themes reoccur: Love, obedience, the Holy Spirit, Jesus relationship to the disciples and to the Father. Each time we meet these themes we are at a deeper level.
John 14 ends where Jesus and his disciples have finished the Passover feast and are leaving to go to the Mount of Olives where Jesus will pray and be betrayed by Judas. John shares what Jesus told them on the way in chapters 15-16. Lets sum up this section that began in chapter 13. Back in 13, Jesus washed their feet and invited them to imitate his example by serving each other. Jesus gives them a new command and tells them that loving one another will be the benchmark of their discipleship. Then Jesus tells them that one of them is a betrayer. Judas is indicated as the betrayer when Jesus gives him a piece of bread. He leaves and goes out to betray Jesus. Jesus knows the time is short.
Jesus tells them he will go away and they can’t follow him. Peter objects. He declares his loyalty and willingness to die for Jesus. Jesus replies, “Peter, you will deny that you know me three times before morning.”
Chapter 14: Jesus immediately offers comforting words. He is going to prepare a place for his disciples in the house of God, the Father. Here Jesus makes 2 outstanding claims:
1. I am the way the truth and the life, the only way to God, and
2. If you have seen me you have seen the Father.
Then he makes 2 promises:
1. Jesus promises not to leave them as orphans.
2. He promises to send the Holy Spirit.
In Chapter 14 Jesus instructions involve responses to 3 disciples, Thomas, Philip, and Judas, (not Iscariot). Who is this Judas? Luke 6:16 calls him Judas son of James. Matthew and Mark call him Thaddaeus.
Anyone who reads the gospel accounts sees the similarity between Matthew, Mark and Luke. Then comes John with a totally different style. He tells brand new things about Jesus. Even the wording when Jesus speaks is different. John seems less concerned about exact words and more concerned with the impact of the message.
This reveals something about inspiration of scripture. Even the style of scripture is inspired by God.
I remember going to an art museum with a friend in Memphis, TN in 1977. I’m not an artist, but this guy was incredible with oil and canvas. We were walking through looking at the art works there and Ken would walk up and stick his face so close to the paintings it looked like his nose would almost touch it. I asked him if he had eye problems and he laughed and invited me to look closer at the paint. He said, when you look closely you will see the way the artist applied the paint. I just thought you got a brush and a few colored paints and went at it. Ken noticed that sometimes for effect the artist would do all kinds of things. Scrape with a stylus, scratch with a knife, sometimes twisting the brush or jabbing it straight on… Some even take the handle of their brush and make marks with it. Ken said, “This is not just a picture, it’s a work of art where the artist leaves some of himself in the work.”