(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
The Farewell Discourse
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
John devoted 30-40% of his story to the crucifixion week, starting at John 12:1 (“six days before Passover”). Mary, Lazarus’ sister, anointed Jesus before his death. Jesus rode into Jerusalem, praised by a crowd (including some who saw him raise Lazarus). John wrote that “some Greeks” sought Jesus. That moved Jesus to say “The time has come”—the time he’d waited for (cf. John 7:6) to move to the climax of his public career. He added that when he was “lifted up,” he would draw all people to him.
John returned to the sad question of why many did not accept Jesus (cf. John 1:10-11). He echoed Isaiah 6:10, using the quotation to mean, not that God kept people from believing, but that their response to God’s light in Jesus hardened rather than softened their hearts. Jesus preached a final “summary” sermon. Then, to the disciples, he proclaimed his saving servant message in action as he did a slave’s job and washed their feet.
John showed that Jesus didn’t stumble into his saving death, but chose that course (cf. John 10:17-18), by stressing that Jesus knew who would betray him. The spiritual message was clear: when Judas left to betray Jesus, “it was night” (verse 30). But as night fell, Jesus gave his followers a new commandment filled with heaven’s light: “As I have loved you, so you must love each other. This is how everyone will know you are my disciples.”
Jesus’ talk of going away puzzled the disciples, who did not yet “get” that he was going to the cross, rising again and returning to God’s side. But he promised to return so his followers could be with him. He said that in him, they’d seen the Father. In a further glimpse into the mysteries of God, he promised not to leave them orphans, but to send the “paraclete” (a Greek word that meant companion, helper, advocate and comforter)—the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus’ day, Israelites often pictured themselves as vines in a vineyard God tended (cf. Psalm 80:8-18, Isaiah 5:1-7). Jesus adapted and expanded that image. When his followers stayed united to him like branches to a vine, Jesus said, they would love each other as he loved them. “The world” (those who rejected Jesus) would hate them, but that was not cause for concern. They were citizens of God’s eternal kingdom.
Jesus had only hours left to live, and he knew it. He had told his disciples that he would give his life for them and the whole world. He loved them, and tried to prepare them before he had to leave them. He knew they were about to be tested and devastated by what they couldn’t understand. He said, “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the comfort of your presence within us when the world hands us strife. Thank you for the strength and courage the Companion and Comforter brings us. We offer ourselves to your service, with whatever gifts you have given us. We are your disciples. Cleanse us from the dirt of this world and may we loyally draw others to your banquet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
Philosophers have often described, using various terms, humans as made up of three components: body, mind and soul (or spirit). What kinds of “food” are necessary to sustain the body? The mind? The soul?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read John 12:1-36. Even though Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled…” he chose to endure his suffering and death for the ultimate good–that is, the salvation of many. Can you remember things you determined to endure, knowing that good would come from your suffering? Was your courage worth the ultimate results? How was your faith and moral courage affected? Are Christians better off if they are rigidly fixed in their beliefs, or more flexible and willing to learn new lessons?
Read John 12:37-13:11. Why is it that some people hear the message of Jesus and believe, while others hear the same message and don’t believe? Do they harden their own hearts to the message of Christ, or does God prevent them from believing? How do you continue to believe? Do you see how, even though Christ has washed you clean, your “feet” need to be constantly washed from walking in this world? How do you continually open yourself to Christ’s refreshment?
Read John 13:12-38. In what ways do we all need to help each other (“wash each other’s feet”) as we trudge through this life? Do some people today turn around and betray the message of Christ in much the same way as Judas Iscariot? Peter denied Christ. Did that end Peter’s spiritual life? Was he forgiven? How does Peter’s story of denial and renewal give you hope in your spiritual life? Does Christ have a caring, sympathetic heart about our difficulties avoiding sin and maintaining our faith? How can you, in your group, your family, and in other settings, treat others who fail as Jesus does?
Read John 14:1-31. Do some of us believe in God, but have trouble embracing the concept that Jesus himself is fully God? What is your mental image of the place Jesus has prepared for us in heaven? What do you make of Jesus’ challenging statement, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”? What does it mean to you to pray “in Jesus’ name”? Jesus said he gave us peace. When and how has the peace of Christ been evident in your life?
Read John 15:1-27. Jesus said, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you.” How do we remain in Christ? Jesus said, “I chose you”. Was he speaking only of the apostles, or was he speaking of all believers? Do you believe that Jesus personally chose you? Jesus said the world hates us. How do you understand this statement? Jesus also said, “And you also must testify” (about me). In what ways are we called to “testify”?
Read John 16:1-33. Jesus said that, after he was gone, the Holy Spirit would come and teach us even more. How has that come to pass? Why did Jesus need to tell the disciples that he was leaving them? Jesus said they would suffer, but that it would not last forever. Did that happen? Has this been your experience in life? Jesus said an “Advocate” would come after him. Did he? Who was Jesus referring to?
From last week: Did you focus on this season of Lent? During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Did you do this? Share with the group how these practices affected your week.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Hamilton’s sermon, March 17, 2013:
In John 13-17, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death. Though they did not understand it, Jesus knew that following the supper he would be arrested, and the next day he would be crucified. There is an urgency on this night—these are the last things that Jesus will tell his disciples before his death. Imagine if you were speaking to your closest friends, or your children, knowing you would be arrested and killed shortly, both the urgency you would feel and the kinds of things you would say.
Open your Bible with me to John 13. John’s account of the Farewell Discourse begins with Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. In the first-century world people wore sandals all day on dusty roads. Their feet were tired and dirty when they came in for supper, which is why water was set by the door with a towel and basin so that people could wash their feet before sitting down for supper. IF one had servants, it would be the job of the lowest of servants to wash the feet of the master of the house and the guests.
In John’s gospel, after Jesus takes the role of the lowest servant and, to the shock and horror of his disciples, washes their feet, he says to them, “I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you…If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Jesus tells his disciples that blessings (the Greek word is makarios, which means happiness or a sense of well being) come from serving others, not waiting to be served. This is fundamental principle of the Christian faith.
This week saw the election of a new Roman Catholic pope. Many agreed that they admired the Pope’s humility, his concern for the poor. What stood out to me were reports from the poor villages near Buenos Aries where many would not go, considering it too dangerous. Each year Catholics remember the footwashing during a service commemorating the Last Supper—the priest washes the feet of some of the church members. Cristian Marcelo Reynoso is a garbage collector in one of these poor villages. He described how then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio came to his village for mass one year. He said, “Four years ago, I was at my worst and I needed help. When the Mass started he knelt down and washed my feet. It hit me hard. It was such a beautiful experience.” He also washed the feet of AIDS patients, drug addicts and the poor as he sought to demonstrate the love of Christ.
Jesus wanted to make sure his disciples got it. So this story in John 13 is meant to lead us to ask this question: Are you—am I—worried about which one of us appears to be the greatest, or are we focused on humbly serving others?…
Repeatedly in these chapters Jesus promises that, after his death, God will send the Holy Spirit….John alone records Jesus calling the Holy Spirit the paraclete. It was a term for a defense attorney in trials—someone who was on your side, advocating for you, helping. It can be translated as Advocate, Counselor, Comforter, Helper or Encourager. The word has all these connotations.
The important thing here is to recognize that God is still at work in us. We experience his indwelling presence. It is the Spirit that draws us to God, that changes us as we put our trust in Christ, that nudges us in the right direction when we’re paying attention, and that comforts us when we feel God’s presence holding and keeping us. So here’s my question: Are you paying attention to the Spirit? Are you open and inviting the Spirit to work through you?…
That leads me to John chapter 15. We find the last of Jesus’ “I Am” statements in chapter 15:1-5 where Jesus says: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.…Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.” In the Old Testament Israel is the vineyard or the vine, and God is the vinedresser. God tends her and prunes her so that she might bear fruit. Here Jesus changes the metaphor. He says that he is the vine, and his followers are the branches. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It needs to stay firmly attached to the vine.…
How do we abide in Christ? We talk to him. We worship. We pray. We read scripture. We do his work. We invite the Spirit to abide in us. We abide in Christ as the Spirit abides in us. In the synoptic Gospels Jesus says to remember him as often as they break bread and wine. Bread and wine were a part of nearly every meal. Jesus might not have originally intended a special meal, or Holy Communion, but that every time we break bread we remember to abide with him. Pausing to say your mealtime blessing is a moment to abide in him….
Okay, so what is the fruit that we are meant to bear? It is keeping his commandments. Jesus mentions this over and over in chapters 13-17. This is what he requires of his disciples. So what are his commandments that constitute the fruit we’re meant to bear? There are many things, but they all seem to come down to one thing. Look at 15:12-13: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Christian ethics come down to this question, “What is the most loving thing to do?” In every situation we ask this. It is not always easy to tell, which takes us right back to Jesus washing of feet. To love is to serve, to seek to bless, to seek to give life. It is to desire the best for the other. Paul tells us that love is the more excellent way. Jesus tells us the entire Old Testament comes down to loving God and loving neighbor. James calls this the “royal law of love.” This is the essence of our faith. I don’t care how much you know, how correct your theology, how much money you give, if you don’t practice love you’ve missed the mark!…
Most of us will not have the opportunity to lay down our lives for another, but we can live, daily, selflessly, sacrificially, consider the needs of others before our own. And as we do that, we fulfill Christ’s command to love and we bear much fruit. But we find the strength to do that as we abide in Christ and pay attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
And that is what Christ teaches us in the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John.
The Last Supper
The Last Supper is the final meal that, according to Christian belief, Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is commemorated by Christians especially on Maundy Thursday. Moreover, the Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as “Holy Communion” or “The Lord’s Supper.”
The First Epistle to the Corinthians is the earliest known mention of the Last Supper. It emphasizes the theological basis rather than giving a detailed description of the event or its background. The four canonical Gospels all say that the Last Supper took place toward the end of the week…and that Jesus and his Apostles shared a meal shortly before Jesus was crucified at the end of that week (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-39 and John 13:1-17:26). During the meal Jesus predicts his betrayal by one of the Apostles, and foretells that, before next morning, Peter will deny knowing him.
The three Synoptic Gospels and the First Epistle to the Corinthians include the account of the institution of the Eucharist in which Jesus takes bread, breaks it and gives it to the Apostles, saying: “This is my body which is given for you”. The Gospel of John does not include this episode, but tells of Jesus washing the feet of the Apostles, giving the new commandment “to love one another as I have loved you”, and has a detailed farewell discourse by Jesus, calling the Apostles who follow his teachings “friends and not servants”, as he prepares them for his departure…..
The term “Last Supper” does not appear in the New Testament, but traditionally many Christians refer to the New Testament accounts of the last meal Jesus shared with his Apostles as the Last Supper.
Anglicans and Presbyterians use the term “Lord’s Supper”, stating that the term “last” suggests this was one of several meals and not the meal. The term “Lord’s Supper” refers both to the biblical event and the act of Eucharistic celebration within liturgy. Many Protestants also use the term Lord’s Supper. The Eastern Orthodox use the term “Mystical Supper.” This refers both to the biblical event and the act of Eucharistic celebration within liturgy.
Again this week focus on this season of Lent. During Lent, many Christians prepare for Easter through fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ, his life, suffering, and sacrifice, his death, burial and resurrection. Do this and next week share with the group how these practices affected your week.