Lesson 2 - The Private Ministry of Jesus Christ

Lesson Two: The Private Ministry of Jesus Christ

(Chapters 13-17)

The first twelve chapters are devoted to the public ministry of the Savior.  The next five chapters give us important insight into the private ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This section divides nicely into two parts: (1) The Upper Room Discourse (Chapters 13-16), and (2) The High Priestly Prayer (Chapter 17).


The Upper Room Discourse

Two of Jesus' major teaching sessions are found in Matthew's gospel.  They have been called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, 25).  The Upper Room Discourse, His third major discourse, is recorded here in the gospel of John.

The time of this discourse is significant.  It was just "before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father...."  John 13:1.  Jesus Christ was God's Passover Lamb, and He was about to bear the sins of the world on Calvary's cruel cross.  The Upper Room Discourse is Jesus' final teaching to His disciples before He was crucified.

Four truths are emphasized in this discourse: (1) humility and service, (2) love and obedience, (3) the Spirit and truth, and (4) going and coming.  In teaching we usually like to outline everything from this verse to that verse, but in this section we find that our themes overlap.



John wrote, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God..." did what?  Jesus knew that He had all authority to do whatever He wanted.  What did He do?  Did He heal the sick, raise the dead, or perform some other mighty miracle?  No.  He washed His disciples' feet.  John 13:3-5.

There are four lessons for us to learn from John 13:1-17.  First, we must be washed by Jesus.  When He came to wash the feet of Peter, the big fisherman objected, "You shall never wash my feet!"  Jesus answered, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."  Today some religious people go through all kinds of motions in their feeble attempts to be right with God, but all to no avail.  Elisha A. Hoffman understood what Jesus was talking about when he wrote the great, old hymn, Are You Washed In The Blood?

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

In Revelation 1:5 John wrote about "Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood."  Only those who have been washed by Him have a part with Him.

Second, those washed need only to wash their feet.  Jesus made this clear, when He said, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean."  John 13:10.  Believers are completely clean at their conversion.  When born again they experience "the washing of regeneration."  Titus 3:5.  Christians are not born again and again and again and again.  When Jesus makes us clean, we need not bathe again.  In our walk with God we need to keep our feet clean.  When they get dirty, we confess our sins and God, who is faithful and just, cleanses us from all sin.  1 John 1:9.

Parenthetically, the question is often asked, "Was Judas saved?"  The answer is no.  Read John 13:10, where Jesus indicated that Judas had no part with Him.

Third, we should follow Jesus' example.  He said as much in John 13:15, "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."

Most churches practice the Lord's Supper (Communion), and baptism.  A few add feet washing as a third church ordinance.  God bless them.  But the example to be followed is that of humility and service.  Jesus acknowledged that He was Teacher and Lord to the disciples.  Nevertheless, He humbled Himself and washed His disciples' feet.  Those who serve Him in positions of leadership (or otherwise) should be servant of all.  On another occasion Jesus said, "But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  Matthew 23:11, 12.

Fourth, those who follow Jesus' example of humility and service are blessed.  "Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater that he who sent him.  If you know these things, happy are you if you do them."  John 13:16, 17.  There is joy is serving Jesus and others.



Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."  John 13:34.

The Lord linked love and obedience.  "If you love Me, keep My commandments."  John 14:15.  Jesus continued, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."  John 14:23.  He went on to say, "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."  John 15:10.

Our love for others is evidence of Christian discipleship.  "By this (love) all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:35.

Love for others in obedience to Christ is not always well received by the world.  Don't kid yourself.  Jesus warned, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you."  John 16:18.  He added, "If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you."  John 16:20.  In Psalm 69:4 we read, "They hated Me without a cause."  Jesus said that verse was fulfilled in Him.  He was hated and persecuted and crucified even though He loved the world and died for its sins.

We need to love one another.  This love is produced in us by God's Spirit.  See Romans 5:5.



More has been written about the Holy Spirit in John 14:15-16:33 than anyplace else in the Bible.  Volumes have been written, expounding these enlightening verses.  In our study we wish only to highlight what we believe to be the most important truths: (1) two titles, and (2) five ministries.

First, the Holy Spirit is identified as "another Helper."  See John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7.  The King James Version of the Bible used the word Comforter instead of Helper.  The original Greek word literally means "one called alongside to help," so "Helper" seems like a better word to use.

The word "another" is quite meaningful in that Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit was like Him.  In other words, the Holy Spirit was not another kind of helper, but another of the same kind.  The Holy Spirit is God, the Third Person of the Trinity.

Second, the Spirit of God is also called "the Spirit of truth."  See John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13.  He is the Author of the holy Scriptures.  2 Peter 1:21.  This is especially significant when we look at the various ministries of the Spirit.

Let's briefly look at five ministries of the Holy Spirit that are mentioned in John's gospel.

  • The Indweller.  "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."  John 14:16, 17.  See also John 14:23.
    The Spirit of truth who dwelt with the disciples was promised to be in them.  This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.  Since then all believers have been blessed and empowered by the indwelling presence of God's Spirit.  This is the dynamic of the Christian life!
  • The Teacher.  "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you."  John 14:26.  Be sure to see John 16:13, 14.
    The Holy Spirit deals in truth.  As mentioned above, He is the Author of the Bible.  In your study of the Scriptures depend upon Him to lead you into all truth.  He is an excellent Teacher.  1 John 2:27.
  • The Testifier.  "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning."  John 15:26, 27.
    Believers "also will bear witness."  Christians should testify of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Read Acts 1:8.  The Spirit filled believers speak of Jesus, the Savior.
  • The Convictor.  "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."  John 16:8-11.
    The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment.  He shows the sinner his need of faith in the Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  He reveals that the only righteousness that is satisfying to the Father is the righteousness of the Son.  He declares that Jesus is Victor, the mighty One who conquered sin, death, and the devil.  No one can come to Christ apart from the convicting ministry of the Spirit.
  • The Glorifier.  "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you."  John 16:14.  Jesus came and glorified the Father.  John 17:4.  The Holy Spirit has come and He glorifies the Son.



Jesus' disciples had troubled hearts when He said, "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer.  You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going you cannot come,' so now I say to you."  John 13:33.

Obstinate Peter insisted that he would follow Jesus anywhere, even if it cost him his life.  Little did he realize that he would deny the Lord three times.  He was indeed troubled at the thought of Jesus' departure.

The cure for a troubled heart is a trusting heart.  What wonderful words we find in John 14:1-3!  "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." 

The apostle Thomas was also troubled.  He asked, "Lord, we know not where You are going, and how can we know the way?"  John 14:5.

In the following verse we find the answer to Thomas' question.  "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me."  The Lord Jesus is the only way to the Father.  This is not a popular teaching in the world today.  Manmade religion would have us think otherwise. 

In John 16:16 the Lord again mentions His going and coming, causing a controversy among His disciples as to the meaning of His words.  He predicted that the apostles would weep and lament His departure, that is, His death, but the world would be glad.  He assured them, "Your sorrow will be turned to joy."  John 16:20.  We know that His words were fulfilled when the disciples saw their risen Savior.  John 16:22.

This Jesus who ascended into heaven to sit at the Father's right hand will come again.  You can believe that the One who said, "I will come again," will indeed come again, and receive us to Himself.  Jesus concluded His teaching in the upper room, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  John 16:33.


The High Priestly Prayer

The entire seventeenth chapter of John is devoted to this prayer.



In the first five verses Jesus prays for Himself.  While He spoke to the Father, He "lifted up His eyes to heaven."  Usually we close our eyes when we pray, avoiding distraction.  But it's all right to pray with your eyes open.  In fact it's recommended if you pray while driving your car.  The important thing is to be focused upon God.  Our prayers are addressed to Him.

Jesus wanted the Father to glorify Him.  He prayed, "Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You," and again, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."

In the Old Testament we read, "I am the Lord (Jehovah), that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor my praise to carved images."  Isaiah 42:8.  This is Jehovah speaking.  He will not give His glory to anyone else.  It is worthy to note that the Lord Jesus shared that glory before the creation of the world.  How could that be?  Christians believe in a triune God, and Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity.

Jesus glorified the Father.  He prayed, "I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work which You have given Me to do."  Jesus spoke these words in anticipation of His death on the cross, when He cried, "It is finished."  John 19:30.  There was no end to Old Testament sacrifices, which could not take away sins, "but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God."  Hebrews 10:12.  The Lord Jesus sat down because the work was finished.  The Father was glorified in the Son.



In John 17:6-19 Jesus prays for His disciples.  Throughout the remainder of this chapter we see Christ making intercession as our great High Priest.  Intercessory prayer is prayer made on behalf of others.  In this case the Lord said, "I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours."  Here He prayed for His own.  Some Christians ask, "Since Jesus didn't pray for the world, should we pray for those who are unsaved?  Paul answers that question.  "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men."  1 Timothy 2:1.  Before we talk to men about God, we should talk to God about men.

His intercession for His disciples assured their safety in a hostile world.  "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name."  We read in Hebrews 7:25, "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."  Believers are kept by the power of God through faith, and the prayers of our High Priest.

Besides the safety of His disciples, we find Him praying for their sanctification through the truth of the Word of God.  Read John 17:14-19.  How easy it is to get dirty in a filthy world!  The world is not a friend of grace to help us in our walk with God.  But Jesus is committed to our sanctification.  He said, "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth."



Finally, in the last seven verses of John 17 we find Jesus praying "for those who will believe in Me."  He made two requests on behalf of today's believers.

First, He prayed "that they all may be one."  The psalmist wrote, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."  Psalm 133:1.  How bad and unpleasant is disunity!  Paul besought the Christians at Ephesus to endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."  Ephesians 4:3.  Believers are indeed one in the Spirit, having been baptized into the body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:12, 13.  That unity is to be maintained "with all lowliness and gentleness with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love."  Ephesians 4:2.  One thing that the Lord hates is "one who sows discord among the brethren."  Proverbs 6:19.

Jesus prayed for Christian unity "that the world may believe that You sent Me."  On the day of Pentecost the believers "were all with one accord in one place...and that day about three thousand souls were added to them."  See Acts 2:1, 14.  Our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should make us one.  A healthy fellowship of believers, where Jesus Christ is loved and exalted, results in others coming to Him for salvation.  On the other hand, our petty differences and carnal divisions are an abomination to God.

The Lord's second petition for those who would believe in Him was "that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."  When we are indwelt by Jesus Christ, God's love is in us.  Do you want to see the world believe?  Share the good news of salvation and love one another.  Love begets love.  People surrender their best where there is love.

Peter wrote that believers are "a holy priesthood."  1 Peter 2:5.  Priests offer sacrifices acceptable to God, and represent others before Him.  We should follow the example of our great High Priest, and make intercession for others.


Lesson 3 - The Passion Ministry of Jesus Christ



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