Sometimes we can be told something, but whether it is due to circumstances involving busyness, emotional distress, hardship or health problems we can easily forget things. In the midst of such circumstances we can struggle to understand things that were once clear. It is as if the troubling circumstances blur the clarity of what was once plain and understandable. In addition to this, we might even think we have things worked out in our minds, but when difficulty comes, this apparent knowledge can be exposed as something rather limited.
This brings me to John 14:5-14. Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. Jesus made it known to them that He was going to be betrayed and that He is going to depart. This news troubled the disciples. So much was going to change from the perspective of the disciples after Jesus left. Knowing that their hearts were troubled, Jesus provides them with comfort. After discussing what awaits His people in Heaven, Jesus is now going to instruct them concerning how they are to live now.
In this passage, the disciples raise a number of questions and comments. Peter actually asked the first one in the previous chapter (13:36-37), but in the passage under our consideration, we will think upon the exchange between Thomas and Jesus and Philip and Jesus. This section becomes somewhat of a Q & A session between the disciples and Jesus.
What is interesting with these questions is that they display a level of ignorance, forgetfulness and faithlessness. However, before we would be too hard on the disciples, we should be glad that they asked these questions, because the answers Jesus gives are profound and helpful for us, as we desire to live in the world in the midst of troubling times. As Jesus replies to both Thomas and Phillip, it is important to understand His responses as foundational truths for living faithfully in an unbelieving world.
One important lesson from this passage is that if we don’t understand things as we go through troubling times; go to the One where we can find the answers. Don’t act prideful but humble yourself before the Lord and cast your cares on Him.
Sermon Summary: In this passage, Jesus provides two foundational truths that enable His people to be effective in their witness.
1. JESUS IS THE EXCLUSIVE WAY TO GOD (14:5-6)
After Jesus had just said that He is going, Thomas asked the following question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (14:5). This question seems to have completely missed everything Jesus had just said. But before we are too hard on Thomas, we need to be reminded that this question is asked in the midst of the disciples experiencing troubled hearts. He (and likely the other disciples) is unable to grasp with firmness what Jesus has just said. It has been said that,
“believers in the frame of Thomas are like people who hunt for their keys and purses when they have them in their pocket.”
Notice how Jesus responds. He says,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (14:6-7).
Here Jesus tells Thomas that He is the exclusive way to the Father. In other words, Jesus reminds Thomas that if we are going to go to Heaven, there is only one way. His statement “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” is the sixth of the seven “I am” statements in the Gospel of John. This is a clear-cut statement concerning the identity of Jesus. Jesus alone is the only way to Heaven. This is the case because He is “the truth and the life”.
In a world in which there are so many different religions, the claim that Jesus made is narrow and exclusive. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, and this means that every other way is wrong. This foundational truth provided by Jesus ought to fill the believer with such confidence as we live in this world. Because we trust in Christ alone for salvation, this means that we are on the pathway to Heaven. As we trust Christ we should be reminded that He is the truth and He is the life.
Jesus is our all in all. If we have Christ, we have all we need to get to Heaven, to know about the Lord and to experience eternal life.
“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” 14:7
2. JESUS IS THE EXACT IMAGE OF GOD (14:8-11)
The second foundational truth that enables us to be effective in our witness comes as a result of Philip’s request. Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (14:8). In making this request, Philip revealed somewhat of an ignorance concerning the full identity of Jesus. Prior to this particular event, the disciples had no hesitation in their minds concerning who Jesus was. After being told about the way to the Father and the intimate union between the Father and the Son (14:7), Philip wanted a revelation of the Father and he felt that such a thing would all he needed for his life.
All too often as Christians we seek to live by sight and not faith. What I mean by that is that when it comes to the Christian life we are looking for things to verify our belief. Whether it is special feelings, dreams, visions, hidden meanings or an audible message. Instead of pursuing such things, we are to look to Jesus Christ and trust Him. Why? Jesus is the exact image of God. Jesus responds to Philip’s request with a gentle rebuke. He said,
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves” (14:11-12).
Here Jesus is making it clear that when you see Him, you see the Father. Though there are three distinct Persons in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – they are all equally God. When you see Jesus, you see the fullness of God:
“He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15)
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9)
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3)
In essence, Philip was told to look and trust in Jesus and then he will see the Father. What about us? The same is true but in a different way. Though the Lord Jesus is with us right now, we cannot actually see Him. But, He has left us with His Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit. So instead of looking for some special manifestation of Jesus or some dream or vision, by the Spirit’s help look intently at the Word of Christ. When we do that, we will see the glory of God. Our sufficiency is in Jesus Christ and when we draw upon Him, we have the resources to be faithful witnesses in a corrupt and changing world.
So what does all this mean for the disciples? Because Jesus is the exclusive way to God and the exact image of God, He is the One who helps them in their witness. Our passage concludes by saying,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (14:12-14)
As we close, I want to point out two amazing outcomes of trusting in Christ. First, Jesus says, “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (14:12). This is a startling promise. In what way can our works be greater than those of Jesus? Obviously not in their value or quality. They will be greater in the sense that we will do works with a capacity outside of ourselves (the Holy Spirit) in a way that will bring about global effects (outside of Israel). This is seen clearly in the book of Acts.
The second amazing outcome is that “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (14:13-14). This is a powerful promise. Many have misunderstood this verse as somewhat of a blank check to prayer. It is twisted to mean that you can name and claim anything in this world in Jesus’ name. But that is not what these verses say. Jesus did say He would give us anything, but asking for it in Jesus’ name regulates that request. To ask in Jesus’ name means to ask in accordance with His character and will. The process of knowing Christ in a deeper way so as to shape the way we pray will bring rewarding results to the life of every Christian.
Jesus looks at His troubled disciples and tells them that they can be effective witnesses by doing great things with the confidence of answered prayer. But the foundation of all this is confident trust and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you trust Him today?
 John Trapp, cited by JC Ryle Expository Thoughts on the Gospels.