Remember Jesus Christ

By Charles R Erdman

Chapter 10 - The Master's Farewell


No parting words have ever been spoken which are more tender, more full of meaning than those which our Lord spoke when, with His disciples, He had observed the Passover Supper for the last time. The disciples were in need of cheer. They had been told before that their Master was to be crucified. Now, while at the table, they learned that one of them would betray Him, that Peter would deny Him, and that the time of His own suffering had come. Most distressing of all, He was about to go whither they could not follow.

The first note of comfort, therefore, is one which often has given relief to hearts torn by the pain of approaching separation, namely: there surely will be a reunion. Few words of Scripture are more familiar and more precious than these:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Thus, Jesus was saying to His disciples that He was about to return to His Father's house; He was going home. There He would prepare a welcome for them as His guests, and some day He would return to meet them. Their union and fellowship would then be complete.

With this assurance the followers of Christ, through all the ages, have been comforted. Belief in God, as revealed in Christ, has been the specific remedy for troubled hearts. The disciples, however, were perplexed. Our Lord was expecting to return to the Father by the way of death and resurrection. This should have been understood. “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know,” but they did not understand. They thought He was to go away to some place on earth. Not in rude contradiction, but with a cry for light, Thomas exclaims, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” The mysterious reply of Jesus indicates that He is going to the Father, and that in reality He is Himself the way to the Father. He is declaring the marvelous truth, that, if anyone now wishes to find God, or at last to enter the Father's house, Christ is the Way: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

The disciple Philip desires some visible, material appearance of the Father: “Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us”; but he is assured that the words and works of Christ are sufficient proof that the Son is one with the Father. “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” The disciples were not to suppose that God was to be found only in a distant heaven. He had been with them in the Person of the Son. “He that hath seen me,” Christ declares, “hath seen the Father.”

Now that the Son was to return to the Father's home, His works were to be continued through His followers by the coming of the Comforter. This Spirit of Christ, this “Counselor,” this “Advocate,” this “Paraclete” was to abide with the disciples. He is called “another Comforter” because Christ had been their Comforter, and all that Christ had been doing for His followers, the divine Counselor would continue to do in and for them. There was only one condition: love for Christ. With those who showed such love for Him by keeping His commandments, both Father and Son would be present, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.”

By the promise of such divine fellowship the disciples should be comforted. Moreover, while they were to be deprived of His physical presence, He was to leave them a blessed legacy. This was to be a peace of heart which passes all understanding, a peace which would be independent of all earthly conditions:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.

Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Comfort lay also in the fact that the approaching separation was absolutely necessary. Only after the death and resurrection of Christ could the manifestation of the Holy Spirit be complete and the saving work of Christ be accomplished. The issue of His going away was thus so glorious that instead of sorrowing the disciples should rejoice. He was about to return to the Father, in obedience to whom, and in voluntary humiliation, He had come into the world. The very prediction of His death by which they were made sad would afterwards be remembered and be a means of strengthening their faith. Now the hour had come. The Adversary was about to strike his final blow, but he would suffer defeat. The death of Christ would demonstrate His love for the Father, and would show that all He was to endure would be in obedience to the Father's will.

Our Savior had been encouraging His disciples by promising that, although He was going away, His work was to be continued through them — another source of comfort. He now illustrates this truth by His parable of the True Vine. The word “true" is used, not in contrast with “false," but to express the complete embodiment of the idea or the ideal of a vine.

The relation of a vine and its branches is the same as that of Christ and His followers.

(1) The fruit is produced by the branches; yet the life and vigor are supplied by the vine.

(2) Fruitless branches must be discarded, and even the fruitful branches need to be pruned. God does discipline His children for their spiritual growth; yet in this parable the pruning-hook is not divine providence, but the “word" which Christ had proclaimed. By obedience to His commands the disciples had been “cleansed," “pruned," prepared to produce fruit; so by the application of His word to their lives, the followers of Christ continually are made more fruitful.

(3) The condition of fruit-bearing is to abide in Christ; that is, to be united with Him by a living faith. “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

(4) One immediate result of abiding in Christ is power in prayer: “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”

(5) The abiding in Christ is also expressed as abiding in His love, and by keeping His commandments. Indeed, all His commandments are summarized in the one word, “that ye love one another; as I have loved you.”

(6) By such love and obedience, believers become “friends” of Christ, and find fellowship with Him, and fullness of joy.

(7) The very purpose of Christ in calling men to be His disciples is that they should bear abiding fruit, in life and character and in souls won as followers of the Master.

In contrast with their love for one another, and regardless of their virtues and their unselfish service, His disciples must expect to meet the enmity of the world. Their experience was to be like that of their Lord. He was the most lovable of men, yet He was the most hated by men. As He had told them: “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Indeed, the time was coming when whosoever killed them would think he was offering service to God. All this hatred and cruelty would be due to men's ignorance of the rea 1 nature and will of God. Yet this ignorance was not innocent. By His words and His works Christ had so clearly revealed His Father that to reject Him was also to reject His Father; and His enemies were without excuse, or to repeat the words quoted by our Lord: “They hated me without a cause.”

Nevertheless, the Comforter, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth would bear witness to Christ, would vindicate Him, and would enable the disciples to be triumphant witnesses to their Master.

The supreme ministry of the Counselor depended upon the finished, redeeming work of Christ. Only after His death and resurrection and ascension would Christ manifest His Spirit in Pentecostal power. His going away, therefore, was so necessary that He wished that the disciples would ask Him more about it. They were occupied, however, with their own sorrow at the coming separation. They did not realize the issue of His departure, or the glorious result of His going away. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth,** the Master declares; “it is expedient for you [to your advantage] that I go away: for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.'* We are not to forget that the Holy Spirit always had been in the world, accomplishing the divine purpose and dwelling with the people of God; but the manifestation of His Spirit, by the ascended Christ, was to be so unique, so marvelous that it could be called a “coming,** a “gift,** an “outpouring,** the beginning of a new work. So today when Christians speak of the “coming of the Holy Spirit” they do not mean to indicate a change of location in space, but a special manifestation in time.

The Spirit was to use a new instrument, namely, the truth concerning a crucified, risen, ascended Christ. He would thus begin a unique ministry in relation both to the “world,” and to the disciples. “When he is come he will convince [convict] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” “Of sin,” in view of unbelief, or “because they believe not in me,” as the Lord declares. The rejection and cruel death of the only perfect Man was a demonstration or proof of the sin of the world. Christ is ever the Touchstone of character. To refuse His fellowship and His salvation, is to convict oneself of being opposed to goodness and holiness and purity and truth.

So, too, the Holy Spirit is to convict or “convince” the world of “righteousness”; this would be by presenting the truth concerning the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. By this resurrection Christ's claims were shown to be true, and He was proved to be the really Righteous One.

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is to “convince” the world of the reality of judgment, “because the prince of this world is judged.” Christ speaks as though His death and resurrection were already accomplished. Satan would mass all his forces at the cross, but there he would suffer his decisive defeat. His doom would be determined and his sentence pronounced. Every soul saved by the power of the cross would be a new proof of his “judgment” and of the ultimate defeat of all the enemies of Christ.

Such was the teaching of our Lord relative to the conviction which the Spirit would give as to the sin of the world, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgment of Satan.

There follows the teaching in regard to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life and experience of believers.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:13,14, R.S.V.).

Thus it is the office of the Spirit to reveal to all believers the divine riches and grace that are in Christ Jesus, and to make the truth real and vital.

Possibly the supreme message is this, “He will glorify me.” Therefore a Christian desires to be “filled with the Spirit, that is, to be brought under His dominance and control. Let a Christian yield himself completely to Christ, seeking only His honor and glory, and he will be working in harmony with the very office of the Spirit, and surely he will be used as His agent and messenger and granted His gifts and power.

Now the final words of farewell are spoken. The hour has arrived. The Master is going forth to betrayal and death. Naturally He reverts to the subject of His departure, but His last message of comfort is the same in substance as that which He has already expressed. He is going away, but in the person of His Spirit He will be with the disciples as an abiding Presence. His comforting assurances are these:

(1) The manifestation of His spiritual presence will follow speedily upon His death: “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me,” not only following the resurrection, but with enlarged spiritual vision at Pentecost and ever after. (2) Their anguish at the temporary separation will be forgotten in the joy of the abiding spiritual reunion: “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one taketh from you.” (3) The Spirit will so enlighten the minds of the disciples that they will not need to ask for such explanation as they have desired. “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing.” (4) They will pray, however, and it will be to the Father in the name of the Son. “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” The name of Christ signifies all that He has been shown to be as the Son of God, the divine Lord and Savior. (5) Finally, Jesus lays aside all figures of speech and declares plainly His divine preexistence, His incarnation, His death and His resurrection: “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” This, at last, the disciples seem to understand, and they assert their faith, “By this we believe that thou earnest forth from God.” Jesus replies (6) that for a time they will be tried, and their courage will fail them, and they will be scattered and will leave Him alone. However, (7) He would not be alone, for His Father would be with Him. He has overcome the world; and although they may suffer tribulation, His followers will share His victory and His peace. In spite of all the sorrow and the mystery, He can bid them to “be of good cheer.”