What is the Upper Room Discourse?

The Upper Room Discourse is a term that refers to Jesus' teachings in John 14—17. These teachings begin in the upper room after Jesus and His disciples had completed the Passover Seder meal the night before His crucifixion (Mark 14:15; Luke 22:12–13). The teachings continue as the group walks to the garden of Gethsemane (John 13:4; 14:31; 18:1). The phrase "Upper Room Discourse" does not appear in the text of Scripture itself, but it can be a helpful term when studying Jesus' teachings leading up to His arrest, trial, and death as recorded by His beloved disciple John.

The teachings begin with the phrase "Let not your hearts be troubled" (John 14:1) which is then repeated with the additional words "neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27). Jesus was about to share information about the events the disciples would face, and He knew they would feel fear and worry. He explained why He was sharing this disheartening information. He said it was "so that when it does take place you may believe" (John 14:29) and "to you to keep you from falling away" (John 16:1) because "when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you" (John 16:4). He explained, "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace" (John 16:33). He also said, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11). Jesus wanted His disciples to be prepared for what was to come so that their faith, peace, and joy would remain even during the dark hours of suffering.

Knowing when, where, and why the Upper Room Discourse was delivered is important, but readers also need to know what topics Jesus taught during this discourse. He taught about His relationship to the Father (John 14:2–14; 14:28—15:2; 16:28), the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16–20, 26; 15:26; 16:7–15), the need to abide in Him (John 15:1–11), the importance of obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23–24; 15:10, 14), the command to love one another (John 15:12–13, 17), God's love (John 14:21, 23; 15:9–10; 16:27), and the non-believing world (John 15:18–16:11).

Many of Jesus' more well-known words occur in this passage. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). "Ask, and you will receive" (John 16:24). "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). These phrases were the words Jesus wanted His disciples to understand and remember before He faced death on the cross and His disciples were scattered (John 16:32); they have been remembered down through the ages and remain a source of comfort and encouragement to His followers even today.

The Upper Room Discourse ends with Jesus praying what is often called the "High Priestly Prayer." It is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in any of the Gospels. He begins by praying for Himself, then for His disciples, and ends by praying for all future believers. He starts the prayer saying, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you… I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed" (John 17:1, 4–5). He then turns His attention to the disciples who are present with Him saying, "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… I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one… And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth" (John 17:11, 15, 19). Finally, He prays, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me… 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… I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:20–21, 24, 26). This prayer shows Jesus' desire was to glorify God the Father by making His love known to His people. Even though it was a prayer directed to God, the words acted as encouragement to the disciples who heard it, and John recorded this prayer in his gospel to be an encouragement to future believers.

Thus, the Upper Room Discourse is an important passage of Scripture helping readers understand Jesus' mission on earth, His heart for His followers, and the Father's love for His people.

Related Truth:

In John 14:1, what does it mean to "let not your hearts be troubled"?

What did Jesus mean when He said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you" (John 14:27)?

What is Jesus' High Priestly Prayer?

What is the Last Supper and why is it significant?

What is the role of the Holy Spirit? How is the Holy Spirit active in our lives today?

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