Again, we have to miss some important intervening verses. In John 13:18-38, Jesus predicts his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, announces the time for his glorification has come and that he is departing. This initiates the farewell discourse, which he starts by giving the new commandment to love one another (13:34-35). We come now to this famous section containing Jesus’ great claim: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6).
We could well imagine a room of concerned disciples and so Jesus is quick to console them: “let not your hearts be troubled” (14:1). Jesus’ own spirit had recently been troubled when he revealed that one of the disciples would betray him (13:21); but, here, he courageously consoles them. By going away, Jesus is going to prepare a place for the disciples in heaven. He is like the hotel manager of heaven, where there are “many abodes” (14:2). Heaven is not a one-night stopover, but a fixed resting place: a home. These verses offer so much hope in our grief today.
The disciples haven’t understood though: Thomas asks: “how can we know the way?” (14:5) Jesus makes his great declaration: “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6). We might not have spent time with the incarnate Jesus like the disciples, but we can still know, see, and believe in Him. Sometimes like Philip, we might be tempted to ask God to show Himself literally (v.8). While we can glimpse elements of His kingdom on earth, full sight of Him would be too much for us; but we can still believe. Jesus’ commands to Philip in v.11 apply to us: we can believe that Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Him. This is true, but it is abstract, so Jesus points to “the works themselves”. What does this mean? For Philip, it meant the miraculous signs of Jesus throughout his earthly ministry, which are also preserved for us in Scripture. Yet, I wonder when we last experienced something miraculous of God? Often in the West, we can ask too little of God: when did we last step out in faith? Very often, when we step out in faith, miraculous and wonderful works take place.
Jesus continues to console the disciples by saying that his going away is not all bad: “greater things” (v.12) are to come, which will be done by believers. We might wonder why Jesus did not deal with everything on the cross the first time – why does he need to come back a second time, at the end of all things? One reason is that Jesus desires relationship with us: for us to ask Him for things, which He will do through us, his successors (vv.13-14). Another reason is that Jesus goes away so that God, by the Holy Spirit, might come to inspire, teach, and remind us about Jesus and his love (vv.15-16). The same “Spirit of truth” (v.17), which came at Pentecost (Acts 2), who brings life and light to the world, is here with us until Jesus returns. The Holy Spirit even inspired this passage of Scripture!