The night before Jesus went to the cross, He spent time with His disciples. This was the climax and culmination of three years of discipleship, and what Jesus taught in that upper room was supremely important.
Jesus knew that His disciples were troubled in their hearts and in need of encouragement. Jesus had made it clear that He was going away to die, and that distressed them. The encouragement they needed came in the form of four promises intended to infuse them with hope and confidence.
First, Jesus made a promise about their future with Him: heaven. He was going away (to Golgotha, to the grave, and ultimately up to glory), but He would come back for His disciples. He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house (heaven). That was too abstract for Thomas (v.5). He wanted a road map to get to God, as if God resided in a geographical location. Jesus was quick to answer: the way to the Father in heaven is not found on a road, but in a relationship. Jesus is the way — the only way — to the Father. To know Jesus is to know God; to be with Jesus is to be with God (v.8-11).
Second, Jesus promised His disciples “greater works” than He Himself had done (v.12). The eleven men in the room with Jesus would be the planters of the first churches, the first preachers of the gospel of the risen Christ, and the senders of the first missionaries. They would do ministry and evangelism on a greater scale and with a greater scope than the Lord Jesus did during His earthly ministry. Jesus would still be working, but He would work through His followers. Up to this time Jesus had displayed His power in front of them; now He would do it inside of them.
The means by which He would accomplish these things through His disciples was the third promise: the Holy Spirit. This was welcomed news to the distressed disciples. God the Son who had been with them was going away, but God the Holy Spirit was coming to be with them and in them. The Holy Spirit would comfort them and teach them as Jesus had. They would not be left alone.
The fourth encouraging promise of Jesus was peace (v.27). The one who had so often brought peace to the demonized and who had spoken peace to the stormy sea would give peace to His disciples for the trials they were sure to face.
These promises ought to give us confidence as we live for Jesus today, but we may only claim them if we meet Christ’s requirements. Three requirements are emphasized by repetition:
Believing in Him (mentioned 7 times in this chapter) — to believe in Jesus is to trust in Him completely and to cling to Him in total reliance. Do you believe in Jesus?
Loving Him (mentioned 5 times in this chapter). Do you love Jesus?
Keeping (obeying) His spoken instructions (mentioned 4 times in this chapter). Are you living in obedience to Jesus?