We are one

Jesus’ final prayer for his disciples included a petition for his Father to keep them intimately connected to each other. He said, “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). Jesus’ spiritual connection with his Father while he was on Earth made it possible for them to operate as if they were a single person. There was essentially no differentiation between the thoughts of the Father and the thoughts of the Son. Jesus’ request that his followers be one just as he and his Father were one meant that the totality of Christian believers would be acting as if they were a single entity, what is sometimes referred to today as the “body of Christ” or “the church.”

The primary reason Jesus wanted his disciples to experience the same kind of unity he had with his Father may have been so that they would work together to build God’s kingdom rather than through individual efforts. In order to understand the oneness that Jesus was praying for his disciples to receive, you would have to look at the result of the Holy Spirit’s coming on the day of Pentecost. It says in Acts 2:1-8:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord and in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

The supernatural filling of the Holy Spirit resulted in a type of communication that was much more effective than what is possible today through language translation. In essence, what was happening was that the words were being spoken and heard without any translation being necessary. The meaning was understood perfectly as if there was no language barrier, even though the people came from different countries and spoke different languages.

Jesus explained that the reason he was asking his Father for the unification of all believers was so that they would be a testimony to everyone that he had indeed been sent by God to save the world (John 17:21). Jesus went on to say that unity would lead to the completion of his ministry and be a sign of God’s love for all who have accepted him as their savior (John 17:23). Jesus concluded his prayer with a petition for his disciples to be with him in heaven. He said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This particular request was probably motivated by Jesus’ close connection with his apostles. Rather than making them wait until he returned to Earth, Jesus wanted his disciples to be reunited with him as soon as they were deceased. The apostle Paul suggested this would be the case when he said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Trading places

Jesus’ departure from Earth must have caused his disciples to wonder how they could continue their work without him. Jesus talked about a person that would take his place whom he referred to as the “Helper” or “Comforter” (John 15:26, 16:7). He told his disciples, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27, ESV). Jesus went on to explain that it was necessary for him to leave in order for the Helper to take his place. He said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7, ESV).

Jesus’ declaration that the Holy Spirit would come from the Father in his name (John 14:26) was meant to explain why there was a need for a third person to be involved in the execution of God’s plan of salvation. Even though Jesus substitutionary death on the cross was sufficient enough to pay the penalty for every person’s sins that would accept him as their savior, there was still a need for individual repentance and personal acceptance of God’s free gift of salvation. Therefore, Jesus told his disciples that the Helper a.k.a. Holy Spirit would “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) and went on to say, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all 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” (John 16:13, ESV).

Jesus indicated the Holy Spirit would be with believers forever and said, “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17, ESV). The intimacy Jesus shared with his followers was expected to be enhanced by the indwelling capability of the Spirit that would come into the world after his departure. Jesus said, “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 that I have said to you” (John 14:26, ESV). In other words, the Holy Spirit would act somewhat like a memory bank of the words Jesus spoke while he was on Earth. Whenever there was a question about Jesus’ directions concerning the work that needed to be done, the Holy Spirit would remind his disciples of the instructions they had received from him. In the same way that Jesus had lived among and communicated with his disciples, so the Holy Spirit would be directly involved in the work that they were doing.

Jesus’ description of the process whereby the Holy Spirit would enter into the world that he was departing was that of a woman giving birth to a child. He said, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21, ESV). From that standpoint, Jesus made it sound like the Holy Spirit was his Son, in the same or similar way that he was the Son of God. Although the Bible makes it clear that all three persons of God were present at the creation of the world, we know that Jesus was not in the form of a physical man when Earth came into existence. Therefore, it seems likely that the Holy Spirit was also in a different form in the beginning. The Holy Spirit had to enter into the world just as Jesus did through some type of material process, but instead of a human birth, Jesus indicated the Holy Spirit would be born through his human death.

Holy Spirit

The triune nature of God made it possible for Jesus to leave Earth and yet remain present with his followers. Jesus described his connection with his followers this way:

Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (John 14:19-21, ESV)

The Greek word translated manifest in John 14:21, emphanizo (em-fan-id´-zo) means “to exihibit (in person) or disclose (by words)” (G1718). Emphanizo is also translated as appear and show. The root word of emphanizo is emphanes (em-fan-ace´) which means to be “apparent in self” (G1717). What Jesus likely meant when he said he would manifest himself was that he would be seen in the behavior of the believer that is living according to his commandments. In other words, believers that act like him are making it seem as if Jesus is still living with us in this world.

Jesus told his disciples that his absence would not prevent them from continuing his work. In fact, Jesus promised them they would be able to do even more than they had before. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12). The work Jesus was referring to was probably the spreading of the gospel. During his three-year ministry, Jesus visited much of the territory that was promised to Abraham and his descendants, but the goal of his ministry was to spread the gospel throughout the entire world (Matthew 28:19). Even today, some 2000 years later, there are still people that do not have the Bible available to them in their native language.

Jesus indicated another person was going to come and help his disciples achieve their mission. He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:15-17). The indwelling of the Holy Spirit was a completely new and different way of connecting with God. Before Jesus died, the Holy Spirit was not living in the world. The possibility that God could live inside a person was a phenomenal breakthrough that Jesus’ disciples were most likely unable to comprehend.

Jesus briefly explained to his disciples how this new relationship was going to work. He told them, “These things I have spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:25-26). In a nut shell, what Jesus was telling his disciples was that they didn’t have to worry about forgetting the things he had taught them. Jesus’ identification of the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) meant that he was the essence of God’s word being brought to life within the born again believer. With the exception of John, this fantastic revelation likely went over the heads of all of Jesus’ apostles. It probably wasn’t until after the day of Pentacost, when the Holy Spirit arrived on the scene (Acts 2:1-4), that the reality of Jesus’ promise actually set in.

An opportunity

The unfolding of the plot to kill Jesus was similar to any situation in which one person decides to betray another. Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve apostles selected by Jesus to be a part of his inner circle. These twelve men spent the majority of their time with Jesus during his three year ministry on Earth. The thing that set the apostles apart from the rest of Jesus’ followers was their intimate access to Jesus’ personal life. The apostles could ask Jesus any questions they wanted to and there were no secrets he kept from them. It was Judas’ intimate knowledge of Jesus’ pattern of behavior that enabled him to betray the man that had been his teacher from the winter of 28 A.D. when Jesus chose his twelve disciples to the spring of 30 A.D. when Jesus was crucified.

Luke’s gospel describes the situation this way:

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. (Luke 22:1-6, ESV)

Luke’s account of what happened suggested that Judas disassociated himself from Jesus and joined in with the chief priests and officers that wanted to kill him. The Greek word that is translated consented or communed with, sullaleo (sool-lol-eh´-o) is derived from a combination of the two words sun (soon) and laleo (lal-eh´-o). The Greek word sun denotes union; with or together, i.e. by association, companionship, or process (G4862). The Greek word laleo means “to talk” (G2980). The combination of these two words suggests that Judas agreed with everything the chief priests and officers were saying and perhaps even mimicked their sentiments about having Jesus put to death.

It was possible for Judas to promise to provide the chief priests and officers with an opportunity to arrest Jesus when no one was around because he knew where Jesus went when he wanted to be alone. Although the specific location was probably not designated at the time of Judas agreement, it is likely a date and timeframe were specified at the time Judas entered into his covenant with the chief priests and officers (Luke 22:5). Luke’s final statement, “And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude” (Luke 22:6), may have meant that Judas was expected to go back to Jesus and find out where he planned to be at the appointed date and time. Satan’s involvement in the situation suggests that he was unaware of Jesus’ whereabouts.

Judas

Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus was motivated by at least three factors: greed, jealousy, and satanic influence. The Apostle John’s account of the last days of Jesus life indicated that he was at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus when Judas became upset about Mary’s waste of a precious ointment that was used to anoint the feet of Jesus (John 12:3). John recorded, “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare that was put therein” (John 12:4-6). Matthew indicated Judas was given thirty pieces of silver for cooperating with the religious leaders that wanted to kill Jesus. He said, “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16).

Jesus’ recognition of Mary for her sacrifice was probably a significant factor in Judas’ decision to betray him. When Judas suggested that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor, Jesus responded, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:10-11). Jesus’ public criticism of Judas would have been like a slap in the face. It’s possible that Judas perceived Jesus’ comment to be a sign of his disregard for his service in the ministry. Judas may have thought Jesus was trying to humiliate him by placing Mary above him in the eyes of those that were present. The one thing that seems to be obvious is that Judas was in need of money and was willing to betray his own master in order to get it.

Luke’s account of Jesus’ betrayal is somewhat different than what is found in the other three gospels. Luke attributed Judas’ actions to demon possession. He stated:

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd. (Luke 22:1-6 ESV)

Luke’s remark that Satan entered into Judas seems to suggest that Judas was not responsible for his actions when he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Although it could be true that Judas had no control over what he was doing, there might have been an intent on Judas’ part to betray Jesus and Satan merely helped him to carry it out. John’s record indicated Satan didn’t enter Judas until the Last Supper (John 13:27), so it seems likely that Jesus’ betrayal was a joint effort between Judas and Satan.

Trickery

The Jewish religious leaders that were intent on having Jesus put to death tried to trick him into saying something that they could use against him in a court of law. Matthew described this situation by saying the Pharisees “took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15). The Greek word translated entangle, pagideauo (pag-id-yoo´-o) means to ensnare (G3802). Pagideauo is derived from the word pagis which means “a trap (as fastened by a noose or notch); figuratively a trick or stratagem (temptation)” (G3803). It seems likely that what was going on during the last few days of Jesus life was an intense spiritual battle that may have involved numerous agents of Satan. The Apostle Paul’s description of spiritual warfare indicated there are many levels and sources of spiritual attack (Ephesians 6:12). He instructed believers to “put on the whole armour of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

The Greek word translated wiles in Ephesians 6:11, methodeia is a compound of two words that means “traveling over that is travesty (trickery)” (G3180). The root words refer to travel (G3593) and accompaniment (G3326), suggesting that Satan is aware of the course of our lives and plans his attacks so that we won’t make any spiritual progress. Jesus’ determination to die on the cross was both helped and hindered by Satan. The most critical aspect of what was going on at the time of Jesus’ death was the requirement for him to have lived a sinless life in order to be qualified as the savior of the world. If Satan could somehow cause Jesus to sin before he was crucified, then Jesus would have died for his own sin, not the substitutionary death of everyone else. The Pharisees strategy when they approached Jesus with the question “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17), was to make him an enemy of the state. If Jesus said it was unlawful for Caesar to collect taxes from the Jews, then Jesus could have been arrested and put to death for rebellion against Rome.

Jesus was aware of what the Pharisees were trying to do (Matthew 22:18) and overcame their trickery with his brilliant response to their question about paying taxes. He said, “Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:19-21). Jesus diffused the situation by identifying the origin of the coins that were being used for commerce in Jerusalem. Although its laws and culture had been imposed on the Jews, many people were getting rich as a result of Roman occupation and it’s likely that the Jews’ overall quality of life had been greatly improved. Therefore, it made sense for the Jews to pay their share of taxes. Matthew indicated that the Pharisees were impressed with Jesus’ response. He said of their reaction “When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way” (Matthew 22:22).

Unbelief

 

At the close of Jesus’ ministry, the Apostle John summarized his accomplishments by saying, “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him” (John 12:37). The primary cause of the Jews unbelief appeared to be their concern for other things that they thought were more important. John said, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43). Jesus’ parable of the sower revealed a deeper problem that was evident during his ministry. Using the analogy of seeds being sown on different types of soil, Jesus showed that the words he spoke about God’s eternal kingdom were not received because “the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22, ESV).

Jesus identified some extenuating circumstances that may have been preventing the Jews from recognizing him as their Messiah. He said, “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15). The primary issue that Jesus was pointing out was that the Jews were content with their situation. They didn’t want their lives to be disrupted by his radical teaching.

The central point of Jesus’ ministry was his death and resurrection. Just before he raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told his sister Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” and then he asked her, “Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). Martha’s response showed that she had a limited understanding of what Jesus was talking about. She said to him, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:27). Martha’s acknowledgement of Jesus’ identity, but avoidance of the topic of his resurrection probably meant that she wasn’t convinced at that point that life after death was possible.

Jesus warned his twelve apostles repeatedly that he was going to be put to death, and yet, after he was crucified, they didn’t expect him to come back to life as he had promised. Mark reported that after Jesus “appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:12-14). In other words, in spite of eye witness accounts, Jesus’ apostles actually refused to believe that he was alive until they saw him themselves.

Jesus said of himself, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). The Greek phrase Jesus used that is translated “abide in darkness” meno en skotia could mean to live in obscurity (G3306/G1722/G4653). What Jesus may have been trying to say was that belief in him would bring meaning or purpose to life, an understanding of what life was really all about. With that in mind, it seems likely that the reason the majority of the Jews’ were trapped in a state of unbelief was because they had already established a relationship with God and already knew about his plan for the world. In their case it wasn’t a matter of knowing too little, but of knowing too much.