- First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi - https://www.fpcjackson.org -

Words for Disciples: Believe, Do, Ask

Before we continue with the upper room discourse, beginning with John 14, the first fourteen verses, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

Father, thank You. This is Your Word and we long to hear from You. Soften our hearts. Help our minds be dull and numb to all else so that we may give our attention to You and to what You’ve told us here. Feed our souls. Let us see Jesus. And we pray in His name. Amen.

From John chapter 14, beginning in verse 1, Jesus says to His disciples:

“‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘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.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 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.

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.’”

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.

What an intense time for these disciples. Think of the things they are seeing and hearing. Jesus has interrupted the Passover meal, dropped His clothing, wrapped Himself in a towel, and washed the feet of these twelve men. And if that’s not disconcerting enough, He then turns and says to them, talks to them about a new commandment that He gives to them – “to love one another as I have loved you.” And they’ve got this bright example of His self-forgetful love right in the last few moments as He has done what they wouldn’t do, done for them what they wouldn’t do for one another. “Love one another as I have loved you. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” He’s instituted the Lord’s Supper as a perpetual ordinance coming right out of the Passover meal. They’ve got to be having questions themselves about, “What does that mean? How do we do that and when do we do that?”

Then worst of all, He’s told them He’s soon to leave. And that’s not the first time they’ve heard that by any means, but there is a finality in this moment. It’s coming. He’s been talking about this a lot. I think we may be there. I think this may be the time. There’s a finality about this moment and He’s added now that where He is going, they can’t follow. They’ve watched Peter respond with his characteristic bluster, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I’ll lay down my life for You!” In the Matthew and Mark versions he looks aside to everyone around him at the table and says, “The rest of these may fall away because of You, but I will never fall away!” And then they listen as Jesus tells Peter that before the rooster crows next, Peter, the big talker, will deny Him three times. Maybe even worse, they’ve heard now in the last few moments that one of their own number will betray Jesus to His enemies causing lots of consternation around the table. “Is it I? Is it I? Lord, is it I? Lord, who is it?” And yet they miss the moment of that betrayal’s initiation as Judas left, Jesus telling him, “What you do, do quickly.”


And so it is, a group of men now one shy of where they started, with heavy, burdened, troubled hearts. They’re grieving and they’re uncertain and they don’t know what’s about to happen next but it can’t be good. And Jesus addresses their hearts directly, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” And the word that John uses for “trouble” is a word that means “stirred up” and “shaken.” And in the next eleven verses, five times Jesus tells His disciples, “Believe.” That’s our first point in our simple three-point outline – believe, do and ask. The words for disciples – believe, do and ask. Five times in the next eleven verses Jesus tells His disciples to believe. He calls them, “Believe in God. Believe also in Me.” He’s not talking here about a general belief in God or a general belief in Himself. He’s referring to the issue of His departure. He’s referring to the issue that’s breaking their hearts right now. And He’s reminding them, “God has sent Me on a mission. That mission is about to be completed and I am returning to the Father.”

The mission, planned by the Father and accomplished by the Son, opens heaven. It opens heaven for them and for all who believe as they do. They can’t quite see that yet. They just know He’s leaving and we won’t have Him anymore. In their response to grief, Jesus is calling them to continue to trust in God and to continue to trust in Him in spite of their sadness, in spite of their grief at the prospect of losing His daily physical presence, their coming and going with Him, their sense of personal fellowship with Him. That’s a loss. And they’re moaning that, they’re beginning to grieve that. And He’s telling them, “Keep on believing. There’s purpose here. There’s reason here, there’s fulfillment here. Keep on believing.”

He reminds them what they already know and He provides a focus for their faith when He says to them, “In My Father’s house are many rooms.” Again, we pay attention to the Greek. The word “rooms,” it really means, “permanent abiding places.” That’s why some of our translations refer to “mansions.” “In My Father’s house are many mansions” – permanent abiding places. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 that we live in a tent and our world is a tent, a temporary dwelling. All we see around us is temporary. Our bodies are temporary and we feel the decay that comes with advancing age. We long to put on something that’s permanent. We long to be somewhere that abides. We long to be somewhere lasting. It’s the longing in our heart of hearts. So that as Paul said, “What is mortal, what is perishable, what is crumbling can be swallowed up by life.” What a fantastic image – to be swallowed up by life! That what is fading away can be swallowed up by what never fades. Jesus is comforting His disciples with just this very truth – that the heaven that He has won is home. “In My Father’s house.” He’s pulling forward the language of home. That’s where home is – “In My Father’s house. My Father welcomes you home.”

Don’t fail to catch that reference to God as Father, waiting for us there; the Father, as believers, you are His children. He has adopted you. What is home? Home is the place where we’re loved for our own sakes. Isn’t it? We’re not loved for what we can provide or what we can do, what our gifts and our abilities and our possessions are. Home is where we’re loved to the very end. We’re not forgotten; we’re always welcome. As believers, we are here in a strange land. We are aliens and strangers in this world. We are away at school in this life. In the life to come, Jesus is telling us we will be home. We will be home.

Then He tells them this – again, speaking to their disappointment and their grief – “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself because where I am, you may be also.” The whole point of Jesus preparing a place for them and for us is that, “Where I am,” where He is, “we may be also.” Reunion. Glorious. Eternal. What about this business of Jesus preparing a place for us? Listen to what Jesus says. He doesn’t wait for us to come find Him. He comes to us. “I’ll come again and take you to Myself.” We look forward to His return. We look forward to the day He raises the saints and brings them to where He is. But what is this business about His preparing a place? Listen to this quote from J.C. Ryle:

“Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people, a place which we shall find Christ Himself has made ready for true believers. He has prepared it by procuring a right for every sinner who believes to enter in. None can stop us and say we have no business there. He has prepared it by going before us as our head and representative, taking possession of it for all the members of His mystical body. As our forerunner, He has marched in, leading captivity captive, has planted His banner in the land of glory. He has prepared it by carrying our names with Him as our High Priest into His Father’s very presence, in making angels ready to receive us. They that enter heaven will find that they are neither unknown nor unexpected.”

And Jesus says, “You know the way to where I am going.” It’s Thomas who answers, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Let’s just make a promise right now, that when we get to heaven we’re going to find Thomas and say, “Thank you for saying that!” Because when he says it, he draws a response from Jesus that sparkles in its beauty and its clarity. We hang on what Jesus says in response to Thomas. We need to find him and say, “Thank you for saying that. Because of what Jesus said to you in response.” Thomas is a little bit like the man who ransacks his house looking for his keys that had been in his pocket the whole time. He’s a little bit like that guy who’s looking all over for his glasses which, anybody can see, are riding on top of his head! You see, Thomas wants information. That’s why he says what he says. He’s looking for information. Jesus’ answer gives him something different. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus says to him and to all of us, “You don’t need information. You need Me. You don’t need information. You need Me.”

And again, the language is important – “I Myself.” It’s emphatic, what the disciples heard Jesus say – “I Myself am the way. To be where I am, you’ve got to trust in Me. Faith unites you to Me and I bring you to the Father’s house on the basis of faith. Faith unites you to Me. I Myself am the truth.” John says at the beginning of his gospel, “The law came through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only God who is at the Father’s side has made Him known.” Jesus has shown us and told us the truth about who the Father is and who the Father says we are and what it takes for us to be reconciled to Him, made right to Him, the person and work of His Son. “I Myself am the life.” As the Scriptures tell us, “He that believes on Christ has everlasting life. He who abides in Christ as the branch abides in the vine shall bring forth much fruit. He that believes on Him, though He were dead, yet shall He live.” The root of life, all life – the life of the soul and the life of the body, is Christ and Christ alone. “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Note that Jesus, again, is reminding Thomas and all of us that it is the Father that is his destination. The Father and the home that He has made for all who trust His Son. Opening the way to Him has been the mission that He has planned and the Son is soon to finish. Take away Jesus and you lose the way, the truth and the life. They’re gone. All hope of God in heaven, outside of Jesus, is vanity and emptiness. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.”

Jesus says something next as He’s continuing this conversation with Thomas. He says, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” That’s a hard thing to say. That’s a hard thing for Thomas to hear. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” But then He goes on to say, “From now on you do know Him and you have seen Him.” Jesus told them earlier, right before Thomas made his observation and asked his indirect question, He says, “You know the way to where I am going.” And He was able to say that because the way had been clearly revealed, had been clearly talked about. He had been talking to them about Himself as the way in one form or one set of language, one set of words or another for the extent of His earthly ministry. It’s not the first time they’ve heard something like this. But in one sense, it’s true that Thomas and the rest of the disciples did not know what Jesus was talking about here because they have not paid sufficient attention to what Jesus has been saying all this time. They did not know Him as fully as they might have known Him had they paid closer attention to what He taught them. Had they done so, they would have had a fuller and richer perception of Jesus and His relationship to the Father and this business of union with the Father because this will directly impact this whole notion that will be soon to come of their union with Christ, which the New Testament will fill out in greater detail. They had failed, to some extent, to see in Him the only Son of God who, because He is the Son, reveals the Father. That’s what Thomas’ remark shows us.

Doesn’t that sound like us? It sounds like me. Does it sound like you? Here we have Jesus speaking to us in His Word. Maybe you’re in a hurry. I’m in a hurry. My phone’s ringing. My computer is dinging. Everything’s happening all around me and I’m trying to carve out a few minutes to read God’s Word and it’s just lickety-split – I’ve got one foot in the Word and I’ve got one foot in the car heading down the road, talking on the phone. Is your life like that? I’ll bet so. How much time, how much time have we really given to think through the kinds of things we hear Jesus saying in His Word about Himself about us and about who we are in Him? How many times do we take the time to make the connections and to contemplate, to reflect, to ask ourselves, “What does this mean? How do these pieces fit together? How much time do we just think about God’s Word and think about the truths we find there?” We are always in a hurry, always ready to get something done. And as much as we don’t do those things, we, like Thomas, begin to find a faltering faith. Like Thomas, we begin to not be able to make the richer, deeper connections that fortify us. Thomas needs fortifying right now. He’s got everything he needs, he just doesn’t know it yet. Why doesn’t he know it yet? Because he hasn’t taken the time with the rest of his brothers, and all the disciples it seems who followed him, he has not taken the time to sit down and think through the connections that Jesus is trying to make for him. He hasn’t made the step between knowing – and Thomas has got a lot of information – knowing and understanding.

And that’s exactly what Jesus is talking about right here. Jesus is saying, “If by daily listening to Me and thinking over My words and My works you had learned to know Me, you would have known My Father also.” Maybe Jesus would tell us the same thing. “If you had taken the time to think through what I am saying and think through the works that I am doing, you would have known Me.” Our faith suffers because of it. The strength of our faith, the health of our faith, suffers because of it. And I have to say I’m as guilty as anybody in this room of the same things. We have to find a way to slow ourselves down. We have to find a way to make ourselves think more deeply and more clearly about what God is telling us in His Word about all the things that matter to us, mostly Him.

But I want you to notice that Jesus closes that with Thomas saying, “From now on, you have seen Him. You do know Him and you have seen Him.” Jesus knows, as they do not but they will discover quickly, a new period begins even with the events of the night that they are in, extending to all that’s about – there’s a lot of things that are about to start happening and Jesus knows that. He knows that they will see the Father give His Son over to His enemies and to death. He knows that they will see the Father raise Him from the dead and seat Him at His right hand. They will see Jesus send His Spirit to indwell His people beginning with this very group of men, this very group of disciples, and they will know the Father as never before. In all that is to come, these disciples will be able to say, “We have seen the Father.” A wealth of comfort is soon to come their way, though much more grief and much more heartache. But Jesus bounds that for them by saying, “From now on, you do know Him and you have seen Him.” They’ll think about those words in the days to come more deeply and more profoundly.

It’s at this point that Philip turns to Him and says, “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.” Now remember Philip, he was among the first of Jesus’ disciples. He was from Bethsaida in Galilee, the same hometown as Andrew and Peter. It was Philip who brought Nathaniel to Jesus. Philip is asking for a visible manifestation of his Father’s glory. Moses experienced seeing the glory of the Father. Is that what Philip has in mind? Not sure, but he’s asking to see something, asking to see the Father. See what a great thing Philip’s faith considers Jesus able to do. “Jesus, You can actually show us the Father! That’s all we need. That’s enough for us. You can do that. You can rip the clouds open and the sky apart and we can see Him! And the glory that is waiting for You in the palace that we will be with You, we can see all of that!”

But on the other hand, see how slow Philip is to grasp what Jesus means when He speaks about knowing and seeing the Father. Philip lacks comprehension of Jesus’ whole mission. As described really in Hebrews chapter 1 that, “In these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son, His Son who is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature.” Philip’s just missed that altogether. That’s not even on Philip’s radar. He wants to see something. He wants a visible, visual souvenir. “That’s enough, Jesus. Just give us this visual souvenir.” Jesus responds not very happily, “Have I been with you so long and you still don’t know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Jesus has shown Philip the Father in a far greater way than he could ever hope to see with his physical eyes. What Jesus has shown Philip and all of us is the way of full communion with the Father. Philip won’t have that by what he’s asking for here. He wants a sight that he thinks will sustain him and the rest of them until such time as they join Jesus in glory. Philip, bless his sweet heart, is asking for much less than Jesus has actually given him. Let me say that again because I think that’s important. Philip is asking for much less than Jesus has actually given him.

Does that sound like us? I’m afraid it sounds like me. I’m afraid I’m happy with less, when God would give me more. I’m afraid I’m happy with less and I think less and I dream less and I aspire less. God would have me, would give me, show me more, and has indeed done so. Philip has asked for a great sight. Jesus has said, “Believe in My union with the Father, a union so close that you have seen and have heard Him every day you’ve seen and heard Me. A union so powerful that the works that you’ve seen Me do” – and as Philip was sent away on mission, he did works of that type – “the works that you’ve done and the works that you’ve seen Me do are His very works.” I think about what E.M. Bounds said about Philip asking Jesus for less. E.M. Bounds said something very interesting about prayer. He said, “We pray like we’re raising tomatoes when we could be raising Lazarus.” How many times do our prayers, are we asking for less because we conceive of less? Jesus is calling Philip in a similar way that He’s calling Thomas to, “Make connections and to think higher and to think better and to think deeper about the things I have shown to you and have given to you already. You’ve not exhausted them.” That helps us indeed to pray prayers that would raise Lazarus rather than prayers like we are raising tomatoes.

In his failure to make this crucial connection, Jesus says, “Believe.” He says, “Believe in the words I have spoken as the Father’s words.” He tells us the same thing. “Believe in the works I have done as the Father’s works.” He goes on to say, “If nothing else, Philip, believe on account of the works themselves.” And that’s what the works are there for, after all, to verify both the message and the messenger. Well, in all this section we’ve been talking through, Jesus is preparing to leave His disciples and as He’s doing so, He’s seeking to comfort them in their grief by first telling them to believe, believe that He’s going to prepare a place for them that they can be with Him where He is, that to believe that He is indeed the way to the Father and that their way is secure in Him. To believe that in hearing Him all the days of the last three years they were hearing from the Father that the works they witnessed and performed themselves, they were seeing and doing the Father’s own works.


It’s not the first time they’ve heard any of this, but Jesus is challenging them to ponder, consider, meditate upon, trust, confidently rely upon, to absorb what they have heard from Him. And while they are engaged in that process and waiting to be taken to the place Jesus is preparing for them in the Father’s house, they do. Catch that in verse 12. “Truly, truly,” again, Jesus emphasizing the importance of what He’s about to say with that repetition, that “Amen, amen.” “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.” That’s what Jesus’ departure brings to all those who are left behind. Did Jesus’ works astound His disciples? Of course they did. In days to come, they will do the same works. We have the record in the book of Acts. He’s soon to tell them about the coming Holy Spirit, and before His ascension He’ll promise power from God to be His witnesses, both in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth. That will be the work of His Spirit within them, accomplishing the same wonders that punctuated Jesus’ earthly ministry. They’ll do. They’ll do.

And then He promises greater works. But what works could be greater? Well, let’s think about conversion of sinners by God’s grace, conversion of God’s elect among the Gentiles and the church destroying the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile creating one new man in Christ carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The great works as we see in Jesus’ ministry, the great works deal with the material – the healing of the body, the deliverance of demon possession, the raising from the dead. Those are bodies that are being healed or raised up and minds that are freed from – and bodies too – from demonic oppression and possession. The greater works deal with the spiritual. For these greater works Jesus leaves His disciples and His Church, us, in the world. The great works have ceased. God still heals – yes, but not because you or I lay hands on anybody. Does God still perform, give demonic deliverance? I think where there is demonic oppression and possession, yes, God still does that, but not because you and I have some power. It’s not a regular part of what we do every day. That’s not a regular feature of our ministry. Those works have ceased. Why? For us because in our language, in our part of the world, the canon is complete. What were the great works to do? They were to verify the message and the messenger. The verification is now complete. The message and the messenger are verified both – oh my gracious – both by what God says in His Word. And we know that the message is true because it agrees with what God has said. We know the messenger is right because He agrees with what God has said in His Word.

The greater works continue. And we have great assurance as we pursue the greater works that Jesus is calling us to because He says, “I am going to the Father.” What happens because Jesus goes to the Father? He sends His Spirit who will convict the world. He says later in the upper room discourse, convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. He sends His Spirit who will indwell the Church and bring power from on high. He becomes our intercessor. He prays for us as we live and work, as we undertake the greater work of introducing our family, our neighbors, our coworkers, as well as people on the other side of the world to Jesus as Savior and Lord. He prays for us.


And so as we pursue the greater works, here is our third word – we ask. Jesus says in verses 13 and 14, “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.” Jesus is calling His disciples to pray. It’s one of the last things He tells them – pray. And He’s also saying to them that He remains connected to them. Remember, they’re grieving because He is leaving. He is saying to them that He remains connected to them, though away from them, He is still attentive to them and He is still doing for them. He tells them that in the context of a wonderful promise – “Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it.”

That promise He is making has direct impact on the business of doing the works He has called us to do. We can’t change someone’s heart. We can’t make someone want to hear the Gospel. Even if they want to hear, we can’t give someone saving faith. That comes from God. Prayer becomes the great muscle behind the greater works that Jesus has left the Church to do. But the promise He makes is wider, isn’t it, than the business of taking the Gospel across the street and around the world. Hear what Jesus says. “Whatever you ask in My name, if you ask Me anything in My name.” Jesus is talking about the whole of life. In any place in our life, in our world, as we recognize our need, another’s need of Him, He tells us to call on Him and He will answer. How badly does our nation need God’s people to pray in these days? How badly does our society need God to work and move? How badly do we need to pray for the world we live in? Everything we see, we have need all around us that Jesus is making a promise about – “Whatever you ask in My name, if you ask Me anything in My name.” The qualifier is important – “in My name.” We’ll finish up with that in just a moment. But don’t miss the vast generosity of the promise. Don’t miss the vastness of the promise. “Whatever you ask in My name. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Well let’s talk about the qualifier as we wrap up. “In My name” – what does that mean? Well, along the lines of My will, according to My purposes. All the Father’s purposes we don’t know. All the Father’s will we don’t know. He’s’ not told us. But we know the Son’s will is to do the will of the Father. We know that the Son’s will and purposes match the Father’s will and purposes. We do know what God indeed has told us about what His will is and what His purposes are. He’s told us some of those things and what He’s told us gives shape to our prayers and our desires. What the Father has made known, what the Father has promised, the Son is anxious to do because it brings glory to the Father. And so He calls us to ask, to pray, and to pray like we’re raising Lazarus and not just raising tomatoes.

Words for believers – believe, do and ask. Let’s not be weary with them. Let’s keep moving forward in them. Let’s pray.

Father, be near us. Help us as we think about these things. Help us to become thinkers about what it is that You have spoken to us all across Your Word. Father, help us see connections in Genesis and Matthew and Psalms and Revelation. Help us be people who are thoughtful about what You have said. Would our reflecting, would our meditating strengthen our grip on You, our grasp on You, indeed our love for You, our handle on believing You. Go with us now. Go with us into the week. Thank You, Lord Jesus, that You are the great intercessor. And even as we leave here You’re praying for us. We start the work day tomorrow; You’re praying for us. And You pray with us. Your prayers guide and follow us all the days. Father, we thank You for Your Son and we love You. Hear our prayer and receive our praise. And we make our prayer in Jesus’ name.

And all God’s people said, “Amen.”