This morning, we finish the Gospel According to John. Without a doubt the resurrection of Jesus is the climax of the gospel. But John keeps writing and tells us about Jesus’ interactions with the disciples after his resurrection. And so in a way, the Gospel of John can feel anti-climatic. But John ends with something very meaningful. He ends with Peter’s redemption. Indeed, these finals verses are very beautiful and precious to those who love Jesus but are oh so painfully aware of our shortcomings and many failures. The gospel of John ends with hope for every single imperfect disciple of Jesus.
John provides us with a succinct yet powerful purpose statement for his gospel as he continued to urge his readers to believe in Jesus. Jesus continued to graciously reveal himself to his disciples and welcome them into fellowship.
Some of the strongest evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the transformation in the disciples themselves. As John records, not all the disciples believed Jesus had resurrected even after they saw and heard the tomb was empty. But this doubt was crucified when Jesus unexpectedly joined them as they fearfully huddled locked in a room. Jesus showed the disciples his hands and side and they believed. Then Jesus commissioned them and sent them to declare the reality and truth of his resurrection, making disciples in His Name and He equipped them to do this by giving them the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament plays a vital role in our understanding of the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lamb of God. John uses the OT as a interpretative tool, a lens through which to understand what is taking place at Calvary. John demonstrates Jesus is our Passover Lamb. There is no other way to be reconciled to God except through the death of Jesus Christ as our substitute. Only by Christ bearing the penalty of sin in the place of believing sinners, is there any hope for any of us. Jesus has satisfied the demands of justice in our place.
The Apostle John wants us to see is that Jesus is subjected to the world's rejection. This is what John has been telling us from the very beginning, from the opening prologue of the gospel, that Jesus came to His own and His own did not receive him. Nevertheless, John wants us to understand that even now, even in the midst of Jesus’ betrayal and trial, all things are going according to God’s plan. John wants us to understand that everything that happens to Jesus and everything Jesus does before Pilate, He does in fulfillment of Scripture.
In these verses John presents us with two very portraits: One of Jesus moving resolutely towards the cross to give his life a sacrifice for sinners and another of Peter, a faithful follower of Christ at an all time spiritual low. These verses stand to serve as a source of great hope and encouragement for imperfect followers of Christ as we are reminded not only of the magnitude of what Christ did for each of but also the kind of people he did it for.
Jesus continues his “High Priestly” prayer by turning his attention to those who will believe from the disciples’ witness: the church. Jesus prayed this prayer for us! The pattern of Jesus’ prayer shows the trinitarian foundations of the Church’s unity. Through participation with Christ we don’t just have nice promises for the future, but amazing—identity shaping—realities for today.
If you have ever wondered what Jesus' prayer life was like, our text this morning informs us. In John 17, we get to eavesdrop of Jesus' prayer just before his betrayal, arrest and crucifixion. Jesus prays for God to be glorified in him, for the needs of his disciples and for the church.
The disciple's great fear is that if Jesus goes away, they will know and experience Him less. Jesus explains to them that in fact, the opposite is true. The disciples will know more of Christ because He will send His Spirit and the Spirit of Christ will dwell with them and in them. And Christ assures them that despite the trials and tribulations they will experience, Christ will give them his joy and his peace to be in them.
Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure. The world has largely rejected his revelation of the Father and his Word. As a result, the hatred of the world for Christ will lead them to crucify him. Before He is arrested, Jesus shares with his disciples that as they bear witness to him and bear his Name, the world will also hate them. Persecution is coming. The disciples will be hated for Christ's sake. Jesus shares this prophetic word with his disciples so that they will not fall away when the persecution comes. But rather remember Jesus has told them what is to come and have their faith in him strengthened, not weakened through persecution. And as we reflect over the course of church history, we realize this prophetic word from Jesus was true not just for the Apostles, but for the church at large.