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The Life of Christ: Jesus and the Holy Spirit

John 13-17

The Gospel of John does not detail the Last Supper as do Matthew, Mark and Luke. Rather, John focuses on details the other three do not include, such as the washing of the disciples feet and the long conversation that happened during and after the Passover meal. Luke’s version of the preparation for the Passover meal and the meal itself, including a short conversation with the disciples, is the longest among the synoptic gospels. But even it does not compare to the full five chapters that Jesus gives to this night.

I want to strongly encourage you to read John 13-17 this week. John’s account and detail make these chapters some of the most beautiful and intimate in all of the New Testament.

John also includes clues about a different orientation and timing to his account of the Last Supper than the other gospels. John 13 begins with “now before the feast of the Passover…” Then verse two says, “During supper…” This could mean that the meal we see in John 13 happened before everyone else celebrated the Passover meal on the prescribed day, the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. On the other hand, verse one could simply mean that Jesus knew this and was committed to finishing well long before the hour had arrived. When it did come, He understood what was happening and willingly laid down His life, and intentionally taught His disciples, and purposefully washed their feet. Truly “He loved them to the end.”

The Jewish feast of Passover has been faithfully celebrated since the Exodus. And while the meal and its organization has undoubtedly grown and changed, the heart of the components and biblical focus clearly remains the same. Four indispensable ingredients comprised the meal, as attested in Exodus: bitter herbs, roasted lamb, unleavened bread, wine.

The order of the evening Passover might have looked something like this:
1. Preparation of the room and home - removing all leaven: Bedikat Hametz
2. Blessing of the Candles - the light of a candle is a critical symbol for the meal
3. Kiddush - the sanctification of the meal by prayer and reading Exodus 6:6-7
4. The First Cup of Wine is poured - The cup of Sanctification
5. Urchatz - ceremonial washing of the hands for ceremonial cleanliness
6. Karpas - eating of the bitter herbs, sometimes dipped in salty water
7. Yachatz - breaking of the middle piece of matzah bread in the unity pouch of three pieces
8. Maggid - the official recounting of the biblical story of the Exodus
9. The Second Cup of Wine is poured - The cup of Deliverance
10. Rachtzah - symbolically wash hands again for ceremonial cleanliness
11. The full meal is enjoyed - Shulchan Orech
12. Tzaphun - the middle broken matzah (the afikomen) is retrieved and redeemed
13. Barech - the blessing after the meal
14. The Third Cup of Wine is poured - The cup of Redemption
15. Hallel - Songs and psalms of praise are sung
16. The Fourth Cup of Wine is poured - The cup of Praise
17. Nirtzah - the meal is officially concluded

It seems in this order that Jesus, “got up from supper” to wash the disciples feet during either Urchatz or Rachtzah - both washing ceremonies. Both would have been before the full meal but “during” the Passover celebration. After He did so, He “reclined again” at the table and continued the meal and conversation.

At some point, perhaps during the full meal, Jesus begins to discuss His betrayal. Judas Iscariot, who seems to be seated in the place of honor on Jesus’ right. John seems to be positioned on Jesus’ left, with the ability to lean his head on Jesus’ chest. Peter seems to be across the table from John. Jesus “dips the morsel” and “gave it to Judas” to identify his betrayer. The identity of this specific morsel is unclear but likely one of the featured elements of the meal. After this, or after the conclusion of the meal, Judas leaves the company.

It is at this point, according to John, the Jesus begins to speak openly and plainly with the remaining eleven male disciples. Several of the women disciples were almost assuredly present as well. This is why John 14-17 is called the “Upper Room Discourse.” Jesus speaks these words in the Upper Room of the Passover. At least the first part of them, that is. At the end of John 14, this enigmatic phrase is included without expansion; “Get up, let us go from here.”

It’s possible and likely that at this point, the Upper Room Discourse becomes a mobile discourse, continuing as the company walks through the streets of Jerusalem from their location, through the temple complex through to the Kidron Valley. John 18:1 says, “When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden.” The conclusion of this conversation, including the prayer of John 17, places them on the way to Gethsemane.

Jesus’ words and topics in the discourse vary widely, with some topics repeated. Here is my assessment of Jesus’ topics beginning in 13:31 and concluding at the end of chapter 17:
- Glory of Father found in the Glory of the Son
- Love one another - a new commandment
- Peter’s denial
- I go to prepare a place for you (language from a Jewish wedding ceremony)
- Seeing, knowing and believing the Father in the Son
- The Helper - the Spirit of truth
- Love
- The Helper - the Holy Spirit
- Peace
- Abide in Me, the vine, in order to bear much fruit
- Love
- The world will hate you as it hated Me
- The Helper - the Spirit of truth
- Do not stumble over trials
- The Helper - the Spirit of truth
- Jesus’ death and resurrection
- How to pray boldly
- I am leaving you soon
- You will be scattered - but take courage
- Jesus prays for the Father to be glorified
- Jesus prays for His disciples
- Jesus prays for the entire history of the church
- Jesus prays for unity

Notice the subjects most often repeated. According to my assessment, Jesus returns to the topic of love and the Holy Spirit more than anything else. I find this to be important and instructive. Today we are going to focus in on the Helper, the Holy Spirit of God, as Jesus reveals and discusses Him in the Upper Room Discourse.

What Jesus reveals about the Holy Spirit is beautiful. Examining the four passages for details would be an incredible personal study. Look specifically at 14:16-18; 14:25-27; 15:26-27; 16:5-15.

But I would like to focus on a more subtle and applicable feature of Jesus’ words. Each time He speaks of the Spirit, whom He repeatedly called the Helper, He does so in the context of support, care and concern for the disciples. He is not so much teaching them about the Holy Spirit as He is presenting to them the Holy Spirit as the critical gift that will carry them through His death and departure. The Helper is Jesus’ chief consolation.

In all of the New Testament, only John uses the term “paraclete” or “Helper” in these four passages and in 1 John 2:1. It always refers to the Holy Spirit. The Greek word “paraclete” means “one who is called to someone’s aid,” and thus “advocate” is a good translation, as in 1 John 2. This image is related to the Roman law “patronus,” whom was the protector of his client, providing legal counsel and aid. Outside of the bible, the word is used to describe one who appears on another’s behalf, a mediator, intercessor or helper.

He says “I will not leave you as orphans” and He does so in the context of the gift of the Spirit. He says “My peace I leave with you” and He does so in the context of the Spirit. He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” in the context of the Spirit. He says “sorrow has filled your heart…but if I go away, I will send Him - the Helper - to you.” There is a constant and resounding connection to the painful plight of the disciples. Jesus’ answer is the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit of God is personal. Jesus left His disciples with a Somebody, not a Something. The Spirit would be/has been given permanently inside of us. He will remain forever. The Spirit would continue Jesus’ work to completion. These and many more specific blessings of the Spirit can be seen in these amazing passages from the Upper Room Discourse.

Family Discussion Questions:
1. What’s your favorite meal? Who are your favorite people to eat with? Why?
2. What makes the Passover meal different from all other meals? What does it remember?
3. What was Jesus teaching his disciples when he washed their feet?
4. If you were one of Jesus’ disciples, what would be the hardest thing about not being able to walk and talk with Him anymore?
5. What are two things about the Holy Spirit that are difficult for you to understand?
6. Why do you think Jesus talks so much about the Holy Spirit in this conversation?
7. How does the Holy Spirit comfort our hearts during difficult times?

Small Group Discussion Questions:
1. How is John’s account of the Last Supper different than the other gospels?
2. What seems to be John’s focus when he describes the supper?
3. When does Judas leave exactly? What is significant about what Jesus says before Judas’ departure and what He says after?
4. Discuss among your group the foot washing moment. Why does Peter say what he says and why does Jesus respond so?
5. Take some time to read the entire conversation from 13:31 through the end of chapter 17. Take note of the subjects and themes. What sticks out to you? Discuss.
6. Focusing on the subject of the Holy Spirit, what does Jesus reveal about the Spirit?
7. Where else in the Gospels does Jesus have a concentrated time of teaching or revealing about the Holy Spirit?
8. How does Jesus apply the truth of the Spirit to the upcoming sorrow and fear of the disciples (when Jesus will be taken away and killed)?

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