In December of 2008, ABC aired a story about Mother who is raising her son with his Father's wisdom. Charles King went to Iraq before his son Jordon was born and was killed six weeks after meeting his son for the first time. Charles had been preparing for something like this so he had written a journal for his son to give him guidance in his life. Although Jordan will never remember meeting him, his mother has raised him to know his father through the wisdom of this journal. In the introduction, she writes,
Before he kissed my swollen stomach and left for the war in December 2005, your father, U.S. Army First Sergeant Charles Monroe King, had been preparing for the promise of your new life and for the possible end of his own. Even before he boarded that plane headed for danger, I worried that he would be killed. So I gave him a journal. I hoped he would write a few messages, perhaps some words of encouragement to you, though you were not yet born, in case he died before you knew each other.
In the journal, he gives some sound advice like:
Be humble about your accomplishments, work harder than the man next to you, it is all right for boys to cry. Sometimes crying can release a lot of pain and stress. Never be ashamed to cry. It has nothing to do with your manhood. (Article found at: http://i.abcnews.com/WN/WoodruffReports/Story?id=6524894&page=1)
In the Gospel of John, the gospel writer seems to have done a similar thing. When reading through the gospel, when one gets to chapter 13 of John, Jesus finishes washing the disciple's feet and eating with his disciples, they left at night. After they had left, Jesus begins preparing them for his departure. Begging at verse 31 in chapter 13 Jesus delivers what is know as "The Farewell Discourses."
These discourses in John's gospel seem to be presented in the style of a Greco-Roman banquet, in which there would be a meal followed by a speech. 'The Farewell Discourses" are presented as if it was one speech, but it may have actually been a number of speeches compiled together. Ben Witherington presents the idea that these may have been speeches given each night of the Passover Festival. (Ben Witherington, John's Wisdom: A Commentary on the Fourth Gospel, Westminster John Knox Press pg. 244) We will never know for sure if he is correct, but the idea is intriguing.
It is also possible that the original author of John had one Farewell Discourse in chapters 13-14 and a later editor added a second discourse, which included 15-17. This would make sense of John 14:31 saying "Rise, let us be on our way." This works nicely with 18:1 which says, "After Jesus has said these words, he went out with his disciples."
Whatever the case may be, these discourses Jesus is giving were done in order to prepare his disciples for his eventual death. In John 13:35, Jesus gives tells them right away that he will not be with them much longer. In a sense, Jesus is giving them his last words of wisdom to prepare them for his departure.
As I was reading through these passages in John's gospel, I found several lines of wisdom from Jesus such as,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life" John 14:6
"The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and in fact, will even do greater works than these because I go to the Father." John 14:12
"I am the vine, you are the branches, those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5
"No one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for one's friend." John 15:13
"You will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy." John 16:20
"If you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you." John 16:23
In going through these and other passages, I have narrowed Jesus' last words of wisdom into five themes.
"Don't just talk the talk, but walk the walk."
"It is better to be pruned than Burned."
"When you get knocked down, get up again."
"Hold hands with the Spirit"
"Ask for permission and forgiveness."