The Farewell discourse (13:1–17:26) - Introduction

A. Introduction: the love of Jesus (13:1–30)
1. Jesus and the washing of his disciples’ feet (13:1–20);
2. Jesus announces his betrayal (13:21–30).

B. The Farewell discourse (13:31–16:33)
1. Prologue: glory, departure, and love (13:31–38);
2. I am the way and the Truth and the life (14:1–14) - reminds of I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.
3. The promise of the Paraclete (14:15–31);
4. I am the true vine (15:1–17);
5. I have also experienced the hate of the world (15:18–27);
6. I will empower you by the Paraclete (16:1–15);
7. I will turn your grief into joy (16:16–24);
8. Epilogue: speaking plainly, departure and peace (16:25–33).

C. Conclusion: the prayer of Jesus (17:1–26)

What is the farewell discourse? In one sense, it is another monologue (speech) of Jesus (cf. 5:19–47; 10:1–21; 12:20–50). But farewell discourse is not a typical monologue. It uses various literary forms and it has a pattern of a testament.

In the OT we have similar farewell speeches (Gen 47:29–49:33 - Jacob’s blessing to his children; Joshua 22–24 - Joshua’s farewell to Israel; 1 Chron 28–29 - David’s farewell speech). Even more, the entire book of Deuteronomy can be described as Moses’s farewell speeches to Israel.

The common situation is that of a great man who gathers together his followers (his children, his disciples, or the people) on the eve of his death to give them instructions that will help them after his departure. And that is what the Farewell Discourse is to same extent. But, it is more than that.

In the usual testaments, after finishing his speech, the speaker waits for death to come to them on a deathbed (cf. Gen 49:33). But, in the Gospel, the speech is entered around two dynamic exits, that of Judas at 13:30 and that of Jesus, announced at 14:31 and executed at 18:1.

The exit of Judas marks the beginning of the Farewell discourse and the exit of Jesus its end.

Another aspect present in John’s farewell discourse and the traditional testament is the presence of “consolation”.

The consolation is offered in three ways:

  1. A replacement is offered by which the departed figure remains present. In John it is “another Paraclete” (14:16), who ‘mediates’ the presence of Jesus for his disciples (14:18–21).
  2. Those remaining are being prepared for what is to come - thus they have time to prepare for it. In John the departure of Jesus as the trials to follow are articulated and explained (15:18–16:4).
  3. The grief of those remaining should not make them neglect their duties. In John the disciples of Jesus are exhorted to remain and bear fruit (15:1–16).

Moreover, the entire farewell section of the Gospel (13:1–17:26) also contains the opening context of a symbolic meal (13:1–30) and a closing “prayer of departure” (17:1–26). It was also part of ancient ‘consolatory testament’.

Outline of the Farewell Discourse ‘proper’.

Prologue (13:31–38)
Statement 1: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:1–14);
Statement 2: The promise of the Paraclete (14:15–31);
Statement 3: “I am the true vine” (15:1–17);
Statement 4: I have also experienced the hate of the world (15:18–27);
Statement 5: I will empower you by the Paraclete (16:1–15);
Statement 6: I will turn your grief into joy (16:16–24);
Statement 7: Epilogue: speaking plainly, departure and peace (16:25–33).

Statements 1–3 focus on the disciples’ relationship to Jesus; statements 4–6 focus in the disciples’ engagement with the world.

What is the function of the farewell discourse?

Jesus’ public ministry has come to an end, so Jesus gathers his intimate disciples around a symbolic meal and instructs them for the last time concerning his person and work and their corporate identity and work as his disciples.

Jesus addresses their questions and fears, but he also exhorts them to stay the course, which involves remaining in him by the Spirit.

As Jesus’ ministry turns toward the cross-resurrection-ascension, Jesus uses the farewell discourse to explain what is to come and where he must go.

Jesus also explains his departure, his “presence-in-absence”, in two significant ways. First, Jesus is the way to the Father so that his departure is intended to prepare the place where they too will go and the provision of the route that they will take (14:3–6). Thus, his absence is actually for the purpose of his presence, so that the disciples may be present with God eternally.

Second, the departure of Jesus actually allows him to be more fully present with his disciples (14:18; 16:7). Only after his departure will he and the Father come and make their home with them (14:23), enabling the disciples to do greater works (14:12), to pray effectively by the use of his name (14:13–14; 16:23–24), and to be intimately united with him (15:1–11), having his peace (14:27), and sharing in his suffering (15:18–21) and ultimately in his victory (16:33).

In both ways, the things to come are good things, even necessary. It is a part of the purposeful plan of God and his continuing mission to the world. On the eve of the new covenant, the farewell discourse, speaking in “covenant-form [testament form]”, functions as the explanation of this transition and a guide to the new dispensation of God and his people.

Home | Previous | Next