Jesus’ Parting Words to His Disciples
14:1 “Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me.
Our Lord brings comfort to troubled hearts
“Do not let your hearts be troubled” – ‘Here is a precious remedy against an old disease. That disease is trouble of heart. That remedy is faith.’ (Ryle)
‘We should not be misled by the chapter division. These words are to be taken in close connection with the preceding. Peter has been thrown into consternation at the prediction of the threefold denial, and we cannot doubt that this had its effect on the others also…Moreover Jesus had spoken of his impending departure, a departure to a place where they could not follow…They are all very disturbed.’ (Leon Morris)
When the noted preacher R.W. Dale lay dying, a dark despair came over him, and he found his faith failing him. ‘The house was quiet. Soon after midnight I awoke in great pain, and a terrible distress came over me. I was full of fear. I did not wish to disturb my wife and daughters; they were worn out with anxious watching. So I lay silently, struggling against the indescribable terror of an unknown dread. When the conflict reached its worst, it seemed as tho’ Christ himself came, and standing close beside me said, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe God, believe me also,” etc. That steadied me, and I felt safe and strong in the arms of Christ.’ (Quoted in J. Oswald Sanders, Heaven – Better By Far, 57f.)
Jesus shows himself to be full of unselfish love. He knew what is was to be troubled in his own spirit, Jn 11:33; 12:27. He was troubled at this very moment, Jn 13:21. He is staring in the face the agony and desolation of the cross. Yet he comforts others.
Many offer an empty reassurance: ‘Don’t worry, everything will be alright.’ But Jesus brings real comfort. He understands their grief. Moreover, he knew that their present pain would lead to immeasurable gain, Jn 16:6-7, 20 ff.
“Trust in God; trust also in me”
The answer to a troubled heart is to have faith in God
See Psa 42:5; 77:1f; Isa 26:3.
To trust in God is to trust in Christ also
See Jn 11:26; 12:44; Eph 3:14ff; 1 Jn 5:11.
Notice how Jesus ranks himself with God, as an object of faith. Faith sees Jesus not only in the frailty of his human flesh, but glimpses his glory as God’s equal. Note how Father and Son are inseparable in the work of redemption, 2 Cor 5:19.
14:2 There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you.
Jesus speaks of our heavenly home as ‘my Father’s house’
It is true that God dwells everywhere, even in Sheol, Psa 139:8. And certainly he is to be found with his own people, Gen 28:16. But the place where God peculiarly and especially dwells, and most gloriously manifests his presence, is in heaven itself, Psa 33:13f.
“My Father’s house” – this expression – used in Jn 2:16 of the physical temple in Jerusalem, might here mean (a) a heavenly temple, the eternal dwelling place of God’s people; (b) the family, or household, of God; (c) ‘the heavenly abode of God and therefore to the promised abode of the children of God’ (Kluck, who says that this third option is to be preferred).
Cf. Lk 16:9. Of course, God dwells everywhere, even in Sheol, Ps 139:8. He dwells especially with his own people, Gen 28:16. But the place where God peculiarly dwells and makes his home is heaven, Ps 33:13-14.
The door to paradise was slammed shut on account of Adam’s sin. It is now opened because of the Second Adam’s redeeming blood. According to Heb 6:19-20, Jesus is our ‘forerunner’ (Gk ‘prodromos’). This word would have been used of reconnaissance troops in the Roman army, who would blaze a trail for the others who were following. The word would also have been used for a pilot boat which would guide the great corn ships into the difficult harbour at Alexandria. See also Heb 9:24,27-28.
“Rooms” – The meaning of this underlying word (monē) is disputed. It was translated as ‘mansiones‘ in the Vulgate, (and then into ‘mansions’ in the AV). Because the word ‘mansiones‘ can carry the idea of temporary lodgings, or places along the way, a theology of post-mortem progress and development has been built on it (from Origen onwards). But there is nothing in the original word, or in the present context, to support this idea.
‘It seems better understood as “permanent residences” than as “steps along the way of development.” The idea of continuing development in the next world, though attractive and possibly true, is not taught in Scripture. The bliss and permanence of heaven, however, are taught, and it seems that it is this to which Jesus is now referring.’ (Leon Morris) ‘Most scholars agree that what is intended is that the Father will provide room and to spare in the eternal abode.’ (NBD)
The only other place in the NT where the same word is used is Jn 14:23, where the believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, becomes the dwelling place of the Triune God.
The rooms spoken of are abiding-places, in contrast to our temporary earthly habitations. Heb 11 tells us that by faith Abraham ‘was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.’ This speaks of permanence, in contrast to the tents in which Abraham dwelt. This city is referred to as ‘the heavenly Jerusalem’, Heb 12:22; ‘the city that is to come’, Heb 13:14, and ‘the new Jerusalem’, Rev 21. Paul speaks of the permanence of our heavenly home in 2 Cor 5:1.
Here is ample compensation for all our troubles and griefs in this life. Put all your pain, and all the sadnesses of a life-time onto the scales, and on the other side place one day with your God in heaven. And you will prove the truth of Rom 8:18 and 2 Cor 4:16f.
‘It may sweeten the hope of glory unto saints when they consider that heaven is the house of God, wherein he will familiarly converse with his domestics; wherein they will get a clear and full sight of him, shall enjoy full glory, as being in the King’s palace, shall get a secure and quiet habitation, beyond the reach of enemies, enjoying the treasures which they laid up there before, and wherein all the children shall at last be gathered together; therefore it is here described as the “Father’s house”‘ (Hutcheson).
There is ample room in heaven. ‘Many rooms’ indicates that there is ample room for all the redeemed in heaven (cf. Rev 7:9). The idea is possibly derived from the vast oriental palaces, in which there was room not only for the sovereign and his heir, but for all members of the royal family, however numerous.
“I am going there to prepare a place for you” – ‘Place’ = ‘abode’.
‘His going there will be by a specific route, through death and resurrection (Jn 10:17–18; 12:31–32). Thus his going to the Father is an act of power which will win eternal life for all who believe in him.’ (Milne)
Jesus has prepared a place for his people. He has prepared a place in heaven by his atoning death. The door to paradise was slammed shut because of Adam’s sin, but now is flung wide open on account of the Second Adam’s redeeming blood, Heb 6:19f. According to that passage, Jesus is our ‘forerunner’ (Gk prodromos). This is a word which would have been used of reconnaissance troops in the Roman army, who would blaze a trail for the others; it would also have been used for pilot boats which would guide the great corn ships into the difficult harbour at Alexandria. See Heb 9:24,27f.
‘Whatever be Christ’s condition, it is still for the believer’s good, and wherever he be, he is about their affairs; for as he descended from heaven, when our affairs required it, so also he ascended again on our affairs.’ (Hutcheson)
‘To take possession of heaven in your names. The forerunner has respect to others that were to come to heaven after him, in their several generations; for whom he has taken up mansions, which are kept for them against their coming.’ (Flavel, The Fountain of Life)
‘Never any entered into heaven before him, but such as entered in his name, and through the virtue of his name. He was the first that ever entered into heaven directly, immediately, in his own name, and upon his own account. But all the fathers who died before him entered in his name. To the holiest of them all, God would have said as Elisha to Jehoram, 2 Kings 3:14 Were it not that I had respect to the person of my Son, in whose name and right you come, I would not look upon you . You must go back again, heaven were no place for you. No, not for you, Abraham, nor for you, Moses.’ (Flavel)
14:3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too. 14:4 And you know the way where I am going.”
Jesus will come back and take his own to be with him. It is a common thing for people, when elevated to some new position in life, to forget their family and friends. Not so Jesus.
“I will come back” – Does this refer to:-
- His return to them following his death and resurrection (cf. Jn 20:19-29)?
- The coming of the Spirit (Cf. Jn 14:15-23)? So Gundry. But, Carson says, this turns on an unlikely understanding of the word translated ‘rooms’.
- A coming of the Lord for the individual saint at his or her death, Php 1:23? So Lightfoot, Bultmann. But the present verse is addressed to the plurality of the disciples: Jesus says that he will return for all of them, not each of them. And, as Carson remarks, there is no hint in the present passage of believers’ deaths, but only of Jesus’.
- The Lord’s second advent, when he returns to take his people to be with him for ever (Jn 5:25ff; 14:28; 21:22–23; cf. 1 Jn 2:28), following their own resurrection (Jn 6:39–40, 44, 54)? This is the view taken by Hendriksen, NBC, Milne, Kruse, Carson, Michaels, and many others.
Kruse: ‘Jesus’ going in this context is his return to the Father’s presence in heaven (via his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension), and it is to heaven he will take his disciples when he returns for them. This did not occur when he came to them following the resurrection, nor with the coming of the Holy Spirit, but will occur at his second coming.’
It is not uncommon for expositors to see elements of all these ‘comings’ in Jesus’ promise. So Westcott, Barrett, and others. Old Matthew Henry says: ‘He sends for them privately at death, and gathers them one by one; but they are to make their public entry in solemn state all together at the last day, and then Christ himself will come to receive them, to conduct them in the abundance of his grace, and to welcome them in the abundance of his love.’
See how belief in Christ’s return is viewed as a cure for trouble of heart, Phil 4:5f. ‘The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything…’
‘The quintessence of heaven’s happiness is being with Christ there’ (Henry). Jn 14:24; Phil 1:23; 1 Thess 4:17f.
“Take you to be with me” – See also Jn 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory.” Php 1:23, ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.’ 1 Thess 4:17-18. ‘And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.’ So, Jesus does not merely say, “I will take you to heaven.” He says, “I will take you to be with me” or, “face to face with me” – cf Jn 1:1. ‘He must needs take them into his own embrace’ (Hendriksen). ‘The quintessence of heaven’s happiness is being with Christ there’ (Henry).
‘Albeit Christ removed his bodily presence from his followers, yet his love to them and their fellowship did not cease; nor will he rest satisfied till he and they meet to enjoy his company; for he who delighted among the sons of men before the world was, (Pr 8:31) who delighted to converse with his people in human shape before his incarnation, and who took pleasure to spend his time busily among them, while he was with them in the days of his flesh, (Jn 9:4-5) even he is so tender in his love that he hath mind of returning before he go away, and before he want of their company; he will yet leave heaven for their sakes, and “come again (saith he) and receive you to myself, (and that for this end,) that where I am, there ye may be also”‘ (Hutcheson).
“That you also may be where I am” – ‘We shall be as close to God, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and effectively, as his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.’ (McLeod)
Poole says, beautifully, ‘It is pleasant to notice how Christ continueth His discourse to the disciples, like a mother speaking to a little child crying after her when she prepares to go abroad [i.e. to leave the house]. The child cries; the mother bids it be still, for she is only going to a friend’s house. It still cries; she tells it she is only going to prepare a place for it there, where it will be much happier than at home. It is not yet satisfied; she tells it again, that though she goes, she will come again, and then it shall go with her, and she will part from it no more. The child is yet impatient; she endeavoreth to still it, telling it that it knoweth whither she goeth, and it knows the way by which, if need be, it may come to her.’
“You know the way to the place where I am going” – Imagine a mother speaking to her child as she prepares to go out. The child cries; the mother says, ‘I am only going to a friend’s house.’ It still cries; she says, ‘I am going to get it ready for you, and you will be much happier there than here.’ Still the child cries. She explains, ‘Though I am going away, I will come back for you, and then we will go together, and never be parted again.’ Still the child is upset. The mother says, ‘But you know where I am going, and you know the way there.’ (Selected and adapted)
14:5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 14:6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Thomas’ doubt is not that of the heartless, indifferent sinner, but of the gracious soul which longs to believe, but cannot make its way through the clouds to an object on which his heart is set. John Trapp comments that people like Thomas are like those who hunt for their keys and purses, when they have got them in their pockets.
‘This wonderful saying is a brilliant example of a foolish remark calling out a great truth from our Lord’s lips. To the ill natured remark of the Pharisees we owe the parable of the Prodigal Son (See Luke chapter 15); to the fretful complaint of Thomas we owe one of the grandest texts in Scripture. It is one of those deep utterances which no exposition can thoroughly unfold and exhaust.’ (Ryle)
Many commentators, following Brown, regard ‘the way’ as the main predicate. Michaels agrees, though he regards translations such as “I am the true and living way” as going ‘too far’ in that direction.
“I am the way” – See also Jn 10:9; Rom 5:1-2; Eph 2:18; Heb 7:25; 10:19-20. Jesus is saying, in effect, “Do you want to know the way? You know me. I am the way.” The context demands that the destination in mind is ‘the Father’.
Think of the things that would bar the way to God: his own perfect holiness and justice bar the way; the sinner’s alienation and enmity of heart show him to be utterly unfit to enter the presence of God.
To show people the way – that is revelation. To actually be the way – that is redemption.
‘The Way’ is a term which became a title for Christianity, Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 24:14, and has a double significance:- (a) An avenue leading to some new sphere (as Christ’s reference to himself as the Door, Jn 10:9; cf. Heb 9:8; 10:20 – Christ the way into the sanctuary; cf. Eph 2:18; 3:12; Rom 5:2 – access to the Father through Christ. (b) A way of life, cf NT terms such as ‘walk’, etc.
‘A man may go to hell in his own way, but only go to heaven God’s way – through the door.’
‘A cripple on the right way may beat a racer on the wrong one. Nay, the fleeter and better the racer is, who hath once missed his way, the further he leaveth it behind.’ (Francis Bacon)
‘All three concepts are active and dynamic. The way brings to God; the truth makes men free; the life produces fellowship’ (Hendriksen).
‘We should not overlook the faith involved both in the utterance and in the acceptance of those words, spoken as they were on the eve of the crucifixion. “I am the Way,” says one who would shortly hang impotent on a cross. “I am the Truth,” when the lies of evil men were about to enjoy a spectacular triumph. “I am the Life,” when within a few hours his corpse would be placed in a tomb’ (Leon Morris).
‘Scarcely two persons run the same road to destruction; but there is but one way to happiness. “I am the way,” saith Christ.’ (Richard Hill)
See also Jn 1:4,14,17; 5:21; 6:33,47-48,51; 8:32; 10:10,28; 11:25; 17:2-3.
Barrett: ‘If John, here and elsewhere, used some of the notions and terminology of the religions of his day, and there are many indications that he was not unfamiliar with them, he was quite sure that those religions were ineffective and that there was no religious or mystical approach to God which could achieve its goal. No one has ascended into heaven but the Son of man who came down from heaven (3:13); he alone is the link between God and men (cf. 1:51), and there is no access to God independent of him.’
‘I am the way’
A Christian minister was approached by a young man who was concerned about his soul. “Sir,” he asked, “Can you tell me the way to Christ?” “No,” was the deliberate reply, “I cannot.” The young man answered, “Pardon me, I thought you were a minister of the gospel.” “So I am,” came the reply. “Then how is it that you cannot tell me the way to Christ?” “There is no way to Christ. He himself is the way. Christ is here.” (Spurgeon, adapted)
Many people have taken it upon themselves to teach people the way to God. But Jesus doesn’t just point the way; he is the way. An elderly man was out walking with his grandson. “How far are we from home?” he asked his grandson. The boy answer, “Grandad, I don’t know.” Then the grandfather asked, “Well do you know where you are?” Again,l the boy replied, “I don’t know.” So the grandfather said, “It sound to me as if you’re lost.” “No,” responded the lad. “I’m not lost. I’m with you.” So it is with the Christian. he may be ignorant of many things. But he is never lost. ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for though art with me.’
‘Many times in my life I have been in a strange town and did not know how to get to my destination. When I stopped for directions people would often say something like, “Go two blocks, turn left at the stop sign then go until you come to the fourth traffic light and turn right. You can’t miss it.” But I often did miss it. However, once when I asked directions the man did not give me a list of directions but got in his car and said, “Follow me, I’ll take you right to it.” In a sense that man became the way to my destination. In the same manner, Jesus is our way to heaven. We do not get to heaven by following a list of directions but by following Jesus Christ.’ (Bill Gordon)
‘A traveler engaged a guide to take him across a desert area. When the two men arrived at the edge of the desert, the traveler, looking ahead, saw before him trackless sands without a single footprint, path, or marker of any kind. Turning to his guide, he asked in a tone of surprise, “Where is the road?” With a reproving glance, the guide replied, “I am the road.”‘ In the same way, Jesus is our way through unfamiliar territory.’ (Illustrations for Bibical Preaching, 421)
‘A Fox was boasting to a Cat of its clever devices for escaping its enemies. “I have a whole bag of tricks,” he said, “which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies.” “I have only one,” said the Cat; “but I can generally manage with that.” Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the Cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs. “This is my plan,” said the Cat. “What are you going to do?” The Fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the Fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen. Miss Puss, who had been looking on, said: “Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.” The world brags about a hundred ways of reaching heaven. But the sure way of faith in Jesus Christ is better than ten thousand ways that don’t work!’
‘Billy Graham was visiting an American town and needed to ask a young lad the way to the post office. Dr Graham thanked the boy for his directions and added, “If you come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.” “I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy replied. “You don’t even know the way to the post office.”‘ The context determines that the destination in mind is ‘the Father’, Jn 13:3 16:5,10,17. Think about the things that bar the way to God, which Jesus must clear away: God’s own perfect holiness bars the way; the sinner’s alienation of enmity of heart bar the way. To show the way: that is revelation. To actually be the way – that is redemption. He is the only way, Acts 4:12 1 Cor 3:11 1 Tim 2:5. ‘When I was a teenager, the students in our high school were called together and each given a sugar cube with pink syrup on it. It was serum that had been developed by Dr. Jonas Salk to keep us from getting polio in a time of a polio epidemic all across our country. Now, did we turn up our noses and say, “I don’t really think I want to avoid polio this way. I’m going to wait until another means is made possible?” That would be crazy. That’s the sense in which we have to see what God has done for us in Christ. Suppose I were to offer you a wonderful new home, fully furnished with everything you could ever want-on one condition. You must use this key to get in the front door. In a sense, that’s what God has done for us in Christ. He has provided for all people. If we are faithful to the Great Commission to carry the message of Christ to the world, he has provided to all people the opportunity to come to know him, to live with him now and in heaven for ever and ever.’ (John Yates, “Is Christ the Only Way?”)
“I am the truth” – Cf. Jn 1:14,17; 8:32; 2 Cor 1:19; Col 2:17.
In general terms, he is absolutely dependable. More specifically, he embodies the saving truth of the gospel. He is truth, as opposed to that which is partial – the types and shadows of the old dispensation, Col 2:17 Heb 9:24. He is truth, as opposed to all error and falsehood.
- Thou art the way, the truth and the life.
- Without the way, there is no going.
- Without the truth, there is no knowing.
- Without the life, there is no living.
(Thomas a Kempis)
“I am the life” – See Jn 1:4; 5:21; 6:33,47f,51; 10:10,28; 11:25; 17:2f.
“No one comes to the Father except through me” – See Acts 4:12; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 2:5.
Jesus is not only a true and living way; he is also a narrow way. ‘The usual smokescreen is to say, “What about those who have never heard of Jesus?” The response to this is twofold: (1) there is a missionary imperative in the New Testament to minimize this problem (that is why, for example, Paul dedicates his life to preaching Jesus where he has not yet been preached) and (2) how God may choose to reveal himself or deal with those who have no human messenger is his business. If we know God’s character, we can trust him to do his business well.’ (HSB)
‘Fallen man must come to God as a Judge, but cannot come to him as a Father, otherwise than by Christ as Mediator.’ (MHC)
‘Can we really believe that all those who have never even heard of Jesus are lost? This is a question to which orthodox Christians have given several different answers throughout history. However, this verse does not directly answer it. At the very least John affirmed that, if God forgives anyone, it will be because of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. As for whether people have to have heard of Jesus for God to apply the benefits of Christ’s death to them, that will have to be decided on the basis of other texts and themes.’ (Apologetics Study Bible)
‘Franz Rosenweig (1886-1929), feeling the attractiveness of Christianity, prepared for baptism, only withdrawing at the last moment. Profoundly disturbed by this experience, he pondered how Christians might be dissuaded from missionary activity. His ingenious solution was a reinterpretation of Jesus’ words, ‘no man comes to the Father but by me.’ (John 14.6). He held that Christ was indeed the only way for those who need to return to God, but the Jewish people ‘already repose in the house of life.’ They could not be considered as lost, therefore proclamation to them of a saviour is both incongruous and irrelevant.’ (John S. Ross, Christian Zionism)
What lengths some people go to in order to keep death at bay! I heard once of a woman in the US who wanted to have her body deep-frozen after her death. Finding that she couldn’t afford that, she planned to have just her head preserved, so that it can be attached to some other body when the technology becomes available in a few hundred years’ time. Such attempts at staving off the inevitability of death are not only absurd but unnecessary. Jesus brought ‘eternal life’ as a free gift.
14:7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”
“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well” – This ‘suggests that the disciples did not know Jesus. It is better to take the words to mean ‘You know me; you will know my Father also’.’ (NBC)
‘We should not miss the advance on Old Testament teaching. Throughout the Old Testament, as Dodd has pointed out, the knowledge of God is not normally claimed. It is looked for as a future blessing, or man may be urged to know God. (as Ps 36:10) John sees this whole situation as changed in Christ. As a result of what he has done (“from henceforth”) his followers really know God.’ (Leon Morris)
14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.” 14:9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
“Show us the Father” – ‘John may wish his readers, most of whom were more immersed in the Bible than most modern readers, to think of Ex 33:18, where Moses asked to see God’s glory.’ (NT Background Commentary)
“I have been among you such a long time?” – It was over three years since Jesus began his public ministry.
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” – Cf. Jn 10:30; 12:45; 13:20. Jesus has not only made the Father known, 1:18; in a profound sense they are actually one.
Jesus Christ is himself the most important witness to the existence of God. God has revealed himself in his Son, 2 Cor 4:6; Christ has made known the Father, Col 1:15-17; the visible glory of Christ on earth was such as belongs to God alone, Jn 1:14; through him we may know the Father, 1 Jn 1:1-3; Jn 14:7; his miracles testify to his own divinity, Jn 20:30-31; to have seen him was to have seen the Father, Jn 14:9.
14:10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds.
14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves.
14:12 I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father
“I tell you the solemn truth” – lit. ‘Amen, amen’. This may signal the beginning of a new section, in which, although the subject-matter is similar, Jesus turns from his reply to Philip in order to address the group as a whole (so Michaels).
In the verses that now follow, the gift of the Holy Spirit is shown to include no less than six more particular gifts (Milne):-
- The Spirit imparts power for the service of Jesus, vv12-14.
- The Spirit will unite the disciples to Jesus in a new intimacy of communion, vv17-21.
- The Spirit will unit believers with the Father, who will make his home with them, v23.
- The Spirit will support believers in the loving obedience to the teaching of Jesus, vv21-24.
- The Spirit will teach them, v26.
- The Spirit will impart Jesus’ own gift of peace, v27.
“The person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing” – lit. ‘the works’. ‘This expression is used repeatedly in connection with Jesus’ ministry, and denotes (1) evangelizing the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:34); (2) healing the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda (5:20; 7:21); (3) healing the man born blind (Jn 9:3, 4); (4) Jesus’ miracles generally (Jn 7:3; 10:25, 32, 33, 37, 38; 14:11, 12; 15:24); (5) Jesus’ teaching (10); and (6) Jesus’ entire ministry generally (Jn 5:36; 17:4).’ (Kruse)
MHC comments: ‘This does not weaken the argument Christ had taken from his works, to prove himself one with the Father (that others should do as great works), but rather strengthens it; for the miracles which the apostles wrought were wrought in his name, and by faith in him; and this magnifies his power more than any thing, that he not only wrought miracles himself, but gave power to others to do so too…Did Christ heal the sick, cleanse the leper, raise the dead? So should they. Did he convince and convert sinners, and draw multitudes to him? So should they. Though he should depart, the work should not cease, nor fall to the ground, but should be carried on as vigorously and successfully as ever; and it is still in the doing.’
Not all commentators think that Jesus is speaking of miracles here. ‘Jesus is not speaking of the doing of miracles, but of service of a more general kind.’ (Morris). The reason given is that Jesus is ‘going to the Father’: a reference to his saving work and to the consequent coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will not come until the Son goes, 16:7. The outworking of the present promise can be found in Acts: there, we do find miracles of various kinds, but especially mighty works of conversion. On the day of Pentecost alone more believers were added to the little band of believers than throughout Christ’s entire earthly life.’ (Morris) During his lifetime, Christ’s influence was limited to a small part of Palestine. After his departure, his followers were able to move into ‘the ends of the earth’, Acts 1:8. And this on the basis of his return to his Father.
“Greater deeds than these” – cf. Jn 1:50; 5:20. Also Mt 21:21; Mk 11:22f.
“Because I am going to the Father” – ‘These greater works are the works of the new age that Jesus inaugurates by his death and resurrection. Ascended to the Father, Jesus will send the Spirit, 14:16, so that the absent Christ will be present by the Spirit as his disciples proclaim his word. Indeed the greater works done by the disciples are in reality done by the Risen Christ, who promises that I will do it in response to prayer.’ (Chester, 176)
‘The wonderful works which they did in Christ’s name were part of the glories of his exalted state, when he ascended on high, Eph 4:8.’ (MHC)
‘Certain texts are quoted in favour of there being a possibility, and more, of miraculous healing mediated by Christians at the present day. (cf. Jn 14:12) However, there must be considerable caution in equating personal commands by Christ to the apostles with those which are generally binding upon Christians today. Such views are out of keeping with the general view of miracles as instruments and accompaniments of revelation. Great care must be exercised in avoiding the magical in a search for the miraculous. The ecclesiastical miracles of patristic times, often posthumously attributed, sometimes became absurd. It has also been shown that the frequently quoted passages in Irenaeus, Tertullian and Justin Martyr, which purport to show that miracles of healing continued well into the 3rd century, will not in fact bear that interpretation. Post-apostolic claims should therefore be treated with extreme care.’ (NBD)
14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
“I will do whatever you ask in my name” – According to Michaels, Jesus may well have prayer for the forgiveness of sins in mind here.
It is noticeable that Jesus presents himself (rather than his Father) as the one who answers prayer (cf. Jn 15:16; 16:23). ‘He who carries out the Father’s works in his ministry on earth will continue to perform “greater” works from heaven in response to the prayers of the disciples he left behind.’ (Michaels)
Just as the disciples are promised great power on earth in Jesus’ name, v12, so they are here promised great power in heaven.
To ‘ask in my name’ is, according to Michaels, to ask as if Jesus were asking. ‘It is not a matter of an individual’s personal whims or desires, but of bringing to realization all that Jesus wants to accomplish in the world.’
‘When dear friends are to be removed to a distance from each other, they provide for the settling of a correspondence; thus, when Christ was going to his Father, he tells his disciples how they might write to him upon every occasion, and send their epistles by a safe and ready way of conveyance, without danger of miscarrying, or lying by the way: “Let me hear from you by prayer, the prayer of faith, and you shall hear from me by the Spirit.” This was the old way of intercourse with Heaven, ever since men began to call upon the name of the Lord; but Christ by his death has laid it more open, and it is still open to us.’ (MHC)
‘There is the hearing of prayer, often spoken of in Scripture; and many vex themselves about it, alleging that they know nothing of it experimentally. I grant there is a favorable hearing of prayer; but we must remember it is twofold. Either,
(1). It is such as a man is simply to believe by way of argument on scriptural grounds; as if I had fled unto Christ; and approached unto God in him, praying according to his will, not regarding iniquity in my heart, exercising faith about the thing I pray for absolutely or conditionally, according to the nature of the thing and promises concerning it; I am obliged to believe that God heareth my prayer, and will give what is good, according to these scriptures-‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.’ (Jn 14:13) ‘This is our confidence, that whatsoever we ask according to his will he heareth us.’ (1Jo 5:14) ‘Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.’ (Mk 11:24) ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.’ (Ps 66:18) Then, if I regard not iniquity, I may believe that he doth hear me. Or,
(2). A man doth sensibly perceive that God heareth his prayer; it is made out to his heart, without any syllogistical deduction. Such a hearing of prayer Hannah obtained- ‘Her countenance was no more sad.’ (1 Sam 1:18) Surely the Lord did breathe upon her faith, and made her believe she was heard: she could not make it out by any argument; for she had not grounds whereupon to build the premises of the argument, according to Scripture, in that particular: God did stamp it some way upon her heart sensibly, and so made her believe it. This is but rarely granted, especially in cases clearly deducible in Scripture; therefore people ought to be much occupied in exercising their faith about the other, and ought to leave it to God to give of this latter what he pleaseth. A man’s gracious state should not be brought into debate upon the account of such hearing of prayer.’ (Guthrie)
‘Here is, (1.) Humility prescribed: you shall ask. Though they had quitted all for Christ, they could demand nothing of him as a debt, but must be humble supplicants, beg or starve, beg or perish. (2.) Liberty allowed: “Ask any thing, any thing that is good and proper for you; any thing, provided you know what you ask, you may ask; you may ask for assistance in your work, for a mouth and wisdom, for preservation out of the hands of your enemies, for power to work miracles when there is occasion, for the success of the ministry in the conversion of souls; ask to be informed, directed, vindicated.” Occasions vary, but they shall be welcome to the throne of grace upon every occasion.’ (MHC)
“In my name” – ‘To ask in Christ’s name is, (1.) To plead his merit and intercession, and to depend upon that plea…(2.) It is to aim at his glory and to seek this as our highest end in all our prayers.’ (MHC)
Excluded here is any thought of using prayer as a means of manipulating God for our own ends. This would involve a superstitious, even magical, understanding of prayer. Yet this is precisely the approach of some today who try to ‘prove’ (or ‘disprove’) the power of prayer experimentally.
“So that the Father may be glorified in the Son” – According to Kruse, ‘in this Gospel the things that bring glory to God include (1) the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:4); (2) Jesus’ obedience in going to the cross (Jn 12:28; 13:31–32); (3) fruit-bearing in the life of Jesus’ disciples (Jn 15:8); (4) Jesus’ completing the work the Father gave him to do on earth (Jn 17:4); and (5) Peter’s martyrdom (Jn 21:19). All this suggests that what brings glory to the Father is our obedience in carrying out the Father’s will, i.e. playing the part assigned to us in God’s redemptive plan. If this is the case, we can understand better the sort of prayer for which answers are guaranteed. It is certainly not wrong to pray for other things (e.g. our own needs), but the promise of answered prayer attaches primarily to our part in God’s plans.’ See Acts 4:29-31 for an example of such praying.
Teaching on the Holy Spirit
14:15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.
The instructions given to the disciples during the farewell discourse are ‘few and simple”]’ (DJG). ‘They are to keep the commandments or words of Jesus; (Jn 14:15,21,23; 15:14) believe in the mutual indwelling of Father and Son; (Jn 14:11) remain in the vine; (Jn 15:1-7,9) bear fruit (Jn 15:8) and love one another.’ (Jn 13:34-35; 15:12,17)
“If you love me you will obey what I command” – At first, the connection between this and the preceding teaching is not clear. Bear in mind, however, the fact that Jesus had not more than an hour or two before issued the ‘new commandment’, Jn 13:34. Further commands were added in Jn 14:1 and Jn 14:11. Jesus has spoken of his love for them, 13:1ff, and commanded them to love one another, Jn 13:34-35. Now, for the first time in this Gospel, he speaks of their love for him.
‘The linkage approaches the level of definition’ (Carson, referring to 1 Jn 5:3).
The disciples were tending to express their love for the soon-to-depart Jesus as sorrow and regret. But their Master here says, in effect, ‘Do not manifest your love by your sadness, but by your obedience.’ (So Brown)
‘To John there is only one test of love and that is obedience. It was by his obedience that Jesus showed his love of God; and it is by our obedience that we must show our love of Jesus. C. K. Barrett says: “John never allowed love to devolve into a sentiment or emotion. Its expression is always moral and is revealed in obedience.” We might add, however, that these are not John’s words, but Jesus’. We know all too well how there are those who protest their love in words but who, at the same time, bring pain and heartbreak to those whom they claim to love. There are children and young people who say that they love their parents, and who yet cause them grief and anxiety. There are husbands who say they love their wives and wives who say they love their husbands, and who yet, by their inconsiderateness and their irritability and their thoughtless unkindness bring pain the one to the other. To Jesus real love is not an easy thing. It is shown only in true obedience.’ (DSB)
‘I cannot but think that in this verse our Lord had in view the disposition of his disciples to give way to grief and distress at his leaving them; and to forget that the true test of love was not useless and barren lamentation, but practical obedience to their Master’s commands.’ (Ryle)
‘Let us notice how our Lord speaks of “my commandments.” We never read of Moses or any other servant of God using such an expression. It is the language of one who was one with God the Father, and had power to lay down laws and make statutes for his church.’ (Ryle)
‘To escape the error of salvation by works we have fallen into the opposite error of salvation without obedience.’ (A.W. Tozer)
‘Here Jesus cites another Old Testament idea. (e.g., Ex 20:6; Deut 5:10,29; 6:5; 11:1,13,22; 13:3-4; 19:9; 30:6,14) In Eze 36:27, the gift of the Spirit enables one to keep the commandments.’ (Jn 14:16) (NT Background Commentary)
‘This is the only proper evidence of love to Jesus, for mere profession is no proof of love; but that love for him which leads us to do all his will, to love each other, to deny ourselves, to take up our cross, and to follow him through evil report and through good report, is true attachment.’ (Barnes)
‘It is possible to be so active in the service of Christ as to forget to love him. Many a man preaches Christ but gets in front of him by the multiplicity of his own works. … Christ can do without your works; what he wants is you. Yet if he really has you, he will have all your works.’ (P.T. Forsyth)
This verse puts us in remembrance of Peter. He, of all the disciples, most vehemently professed to be a faithful follower of Jesus, Jn 6:66-69; Mt 16:15-16; 26:33; Lk 22:33; Jn 13:37. He was no hypocrite, yet he failed in the hour of temptation. The three-times-repeated question, then, “Simon, do you love me?” was, accordingly, not so much a test of affection but of obedience.
Parting is always difficult, especially if the person leaving has had a big impact on our lives. Jesus is here continuing to prepare his disciples for his departure. In v15 he says, in effect, “Don’t remember me by your sadness, but by your obedience.” He puzzles them by saying that although he would be going away he would come to them again. He explained this by saying that the Holy Spirit would remain with them as their constant companion. Although he would no longer be bodily present with them, by his Spirit he would be present in them.
‘If we want to convince Jesus Christ that we love him, there is only one way to do so. It is neither to make protestations of our devotion, nor to work up feelings of affection toward him, nor to sing hymns of personal piety, nor even to give ourselves to the service of humanity. It is to obey his commandments. Jesus demonstrated his love for the Father by his obedience (“I do as the Father has commanded me”, Jn 14:31); we must demonstrate our love for Christ by our obedience.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity)
14:16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever—14:17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.
There are five ‘Paraklete’ passages – Jn 14:16f, 26; 15:26f; 16:7-11, 12-15. But also see 1 Jn 2:1, where Jesus is referred to as our Paraclete. ‘Jesus is the one called to the Father’s side to help us, according to the Epistle. The Spirit is the one called from the Father’s side to help us, according to the Gospel.’ (Green, I believe in the Holy Spirit, 49).
But although our love must manifest itself in obedience, we are not left to struggle on alone. With the commandments come certain promises. ‘First is the promise that Jesus will return. (Jn 14:2-3 16:16-17,19-20,22) Jesus’ departure is not the final word. The disciples will share a future with him in the mansions of the Father (Jn 14:2-4) and enjoy the presence of the love and glory of the Father (Jn 17:22, 24-25). In the meantime the disciples are promised that they will do the works of Jesus and even greater works than his (Jn 14:12). They can do these works because they are promised that the Father will hear and answer the prayers of the disciples (Jn 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23-24) and will dwell in them through the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16-17, 21, 23, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15).’ (DJG)
“I will ask the Father” – A different verb from that used for the disciples’ asking, v13f. They must implore; he has a right to ask on equal terms.
When? On Christ’s heavenly intercession, see Rom 8:34; Heb 4:14-15; 7:25. ‘When Christ saith, I will pray the Father, it does not suppose that the Father is unwilling, or must be importuned to it, but only that the gift of the Spirit is a fruit of Christ’s mediation, purchased by his merit, and taken out by his intercession.’ (MHC)
‘He was the first and principal mercy that Christ received for you at his first entrance into heaven. It was the first thing he asked of God when he came to heaven…No sooner had he set foot upon the place, but the first thing, the great thing that was upon his heart to ask the Father for us was, that the Spirit might forthwith be dispatched, and sent down to his people. So that the Spirit is the first-born of mercies; and deserves the first place in our hearts and esteem.’ (Flavel)
“He will give you” – When? ‘The Spirit’s full Paraclete ministry began on Pentecost morning, following Jesus’ ascension. (Ac 2:1-4) John the Baptist had foretold that Jesus would baptize in the Spirit, (Mk 1:8 Jn 1:33) according to the Old Testament promise of an outpouring of God’s Spirit in the last days (Joe 2:28-32; cf. Jer 31:31-34), and Jesus had repeated the promise. (Ac 1:4-5) The significance of Pentecost morning was twofold: it marked the opening of the final era of world history before Christ’s return, and, as compared with the Old Testament era, it marked a tremendous enhancing of the Spirit’s ministry and of the experience of being alive to God.’ (Concise Theology)
“He will give you another Counselor”
‘This is the great New-Testament promise, (Ac 1:4) as that of the Messiah was of the Old Testament.’ (MHC)
- The gift – “Another Counsellor”
- The giver – “The Father”
- The procurement of the gift – “I will ask the Father”
- The continuance of the gift – “To be with you for ever”
The love of the disciples for Jesus should not be seen as the price paid for this gift. ‘Jesus is describing a set of essential relations, not a set of titillating conditions.’ (Carson)
Notice the co-operative work of the Trinity in what follows.
“Another Counselor” – Before his passion, Jesus promised another Counsellor, Jn 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7. Gk ‘parakletos‘ means ‘one who gives support’, and the Holy Spirit is thus a helper, adviser, strengthener, encourager, ally, and advocate. Another indicates that Jesus was the first Paraclete and is now promising a replacement who will carry on his teaching and testimony, Jn 16:6-7. The Spirit will fulfil a role parallel to that which Christ himself had fulfilled up till this point. He is, to use Luther’s striking phrase, alter Christus, ‘another Christ’.
Parakletos ‘really means someone who is called in; but it is the reason why the person is called in which gives the word its distinctive associations. The Greeks used the word in a wide variety of ways. A parakletos might be a person called in to give witness in a law court in someone’s favour; he might be an advocate called in to plead the cause of someone under a charge which would issue in serious penalty; he might be an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation; he might be a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Always a parakletos is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need. Comforter was once a perfectly good translation. It actually goes back to Wicliffe, the first person to use it. But in his day it meant much more than it means now. The word comes from the Latin fortis which means brave; and a comforter was someone who enabled some dispirited creature to be brave. Nowadays comfort has to do almost solely with sorrow; and a comforter is someone who sympathizes with us when we are sad. Beyond a doubt the Holy Spirit does that, but to limit his work to that function is sadly to belittle him. We often talk of being able to cope with things. That is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit. He takes away our inadequacies and enables us to cope with life. The Holy Spirit substitutes victorious for defeated living. So what Jesus is saying is: “I am setting you a hard task, and I am sending you out on a very difficult engagement. But I am going to send you someone, the parakletos, who will guide you as to what to do and enable you to do it.”‘ (DSB)
The word parakletos (Counselor) has been described as ‘untranslatable’ (DSB). A variety of alternative translations have been proposed: ‘Comforter’ (AV), ‘Helper’ (Moffat, NASV, GNB, Hendriksen), ‘Advocate’ (NEB), one ‘to befriend you’ (Knox). ‘The thoughts of encouragement, support, assistance, care, the shouldering of responsibility for another’s welfare, are all conveyed by this word. Another Comforter-yes, because Jesus was their original Comforter, and the newcomer’s task was to continue this side of his ministry. It follows, therefore, that we can only appreciate all that our Lord meant when he spoke of “another Comforter” as we look back over all that he himself had done in the way of love, and care, and patient instruction, and provision for the disciples’ well-being, during his own three years of personal ministry to them. “He will care for you,” Christ was saying in effect, “in the way that I have cared for you.” Truly a remarkable person!’ (Packer, Knowing God)
‘The Counselor or Paraclete, from the Greek word parakletos (meaning one who gives support), is a helper, adviser, strengthener, encourager, ally, and advocate.’ (Concise Theology)
‘A parakletos might be a person called in to give witness in a law court in someone’s favour; he might be an advocate called in to plead the cause of someone under a charge which would issue in serious penalty; he might be an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation; he might be a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Always a parakletos is someone called in to help in time of trouble or need.’ (DSB)
‘To determine the meaning we need to consider the word’s etymology, its usage outside the New Testament, and its context in the New Testament passages. By derivation the word means “one called alongside,” but the Gospel emphasizes that the Holy Spirit, as Parakletos, is “sent” from the Father. In earlier Greek the word signified one called in to a person’s defense, a helper in court. In two Greek translations of Job (16:2) it is used for Job’s “comforters.” Clearly the work of the Holy Spirit is more than either of these: the Spirit is more than a “Counselor” and stronger than a “Comforter” (in our modern sense of the word). The Gospel passages certainly mean that the Holy Spirit is Helper, “another” Parakletos, (Jn 14:16) because Jesus had truly been that. The Spirit was promised to remain with Jesus’ disciples always (14:16), to “teach” (14:26), to “testify” about Christ and to enable them to testify (15:26), and to “convict the world of guilt” (16:7).’ (EDBT)
‘The word Comforter as applied to the Holy Spirit needs to be translated by some vigorous term. Literally, it means “with strength.” Jesus promised his followers that “The Strengthener” would be with them. This promise is no lullaby for the fainthearted. It is a blood transfusion for courageous living.’ (E. Paul Hovey)
‘The term emphasizes the personality of the Holy Spirit as distinct from the Father and the Son, and also his unity with them in the work of redemption.’ (New Geneva)
‘In the book Healing the Masculine Soul, Gordon Dalbey says that when Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper, he uses a Greek word, paraclete, that was an ancient warrior’s term. “Greek soldiers went into battle in pairs,” says Dalbey, “so when the enemy attacked, they could draw together back-to-back, covering each other’s blind side. One’s battle partner was the paraclete.” Our Lord does not send us to fight the good fight alone. The Holy Spirit is our battle partner who covers our blind side and fights for our well being.’ (Tom Tripp)
Another – allon – ‘points to the fact that Jesus was the first Paraclete and is promising a replacement who, after he is gone, will carry on the teaching and testimony that he started’ (Jn 16:6-7) (Concise Theology). Carson says that the idea of allon meaning ‘another of the same type’ should not be pressed too far, given John’s usage of the term. Nevertheless, 1 Jn 2:1 refers to Jesus as our parakletos in the sense of being ‘one who speaks in our defence’, which is pretty much how the term is used here with reference to the Holy Spirit.
‘The Spirit acts for, and in, and against men in precisely the same way as Jesus had done when on earth:-
Just as Jesus had come forth from the Father into the world as the Father’s gift to mankind, so it is with the Paraclete, Jn 5:43; 16:28; 3:16f.
Just as the Father sent the Son into the world as his representative, so the Paraclete will be sent in Jesus’ name, Jn 5:43; 14:26.
Just as Jesus remained with and guided the disciples, so will the Paraclete, Jn 14:16-18.
Just as Jesus taught them the truth because he was the Truth, so the Spirit of Truth would lead them into all the truth about Jesus, Jn 14:6,17; 15:26; 16:13.
Just as Jesus did not draw attention to himself but set out to glorify his Father by passing on the Father’s message to men, Jn 8:28; 12:28; 17:4, so the Paraclete “will not speak on his own authority…but will take what is mine and declare it to you,” Jn 16:14.’ (Green, I believe in the Holy Spirit, 50, numbering added)
“To be with you forever” – Cf. the promise of Jesus, Mt 28:20.
‘The Holy Spirit works in every part of our life. The following chapters teach these truths about the Holy Spirit: he will be with us forever; (Jn 14:16) the world at large cannot accept him (14:17); he lives with us and in us (14:17); he teaches us (14:26); he reminds us of Jesus’ words (14:26; 15:26); he convicts us of sin, shows us God’s righteousness, and announces God’s judgment on evil (16:8); he guides into truth and gives insight into future events (16:13); he brings glory to Christ (16:14). The Holy Spirit has been active among people from the beginning of time, but after Pentecost (Acts 2) he came to live in all believers. Many people are unaware of the Holy Spirit’s activities, but to those who hear Christ’s words and understand the Spirit’s power, the Spirit gives a whole new way to look at life.’ (Life Application)
‘The sense of Jn 14:16 is…this: instead of becoming poorer, the disciples are actually going to become richer. To be sure, one Helper is leaving, but he leaves with the purpose of sending another. Moreover, the first Helper, though physically absent, will remain a Helper. He will be their Helper in heaven. The other will be their Helper on earth. The first pleads their case with God. The second pleads God’s case with them. This second Helper, moreover, having once arrived (at Pentecost), will never depart from the church in any sense whatever. Hence, Pentecost is never repeated.’ (Hendriksen)
‘The Holy Spirit being in us, after he that prepared us for a house for himself to dwell in and to take up his rest and delight in, he doth also become unto us a counselor in all our doubts, a comforter in all our distresses, a solicitor to all duty, a guide in the whole course of life, until we dwell with him forever in heaven, unto which his dwelling here in us doth tend.’ (Sibbes)
“The Spirit of truth” – See Jn 15:26; 16:13. This probably means ‘the Spirit who communicates truth.’ (Barrett)
‘Coming so soon after Jn 14:6, where Jesus claims to be the truth, “the Spirit of truth” may in part define the Paraclete as the Spirit who bears witness to the truth, i.e. to the truth that Jesus is.’ (Carson)
‘As “the Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit is related to Jesus, the Truth, and the Word of God, which of itself is the truth. (Jn 14:6; 17:17) The Spirit inspired the Word and also illumines the Word so we may understand it. Later on in this message, Jesus will explain the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. Since he is the “Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit cannot lie or be associated with lies. He never leads us to do anything contrary to the Word of God, for again God’s Word is truth.’ (Wiersbe)
‘One of the clearest evidences of the Spirit-filled Christian is his hunger for Scripture and his humble submissiveness to the authority of Scripture as God’s written Word. But show me a person who claims to be a Christian yet is not devoting himself to the apostles’ teaching, who rather neglects and even disregards it, and you give me cause to question whether he has received the Holy Spirit at all. For the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (as Jesus called him). He is given us t be ou teacher, and those who are filled with him have a keen appetite for his instruction.’ (Stott, Authentic Christianity, 82)
The Spirit never loosens where the Word binds; the Spirit never justifies where the Word condemns; the Spirit never approves where the Word disapproves; the Spirit never blesses where the Word curses. (Thomas Brooks)
“The world cannot accept him” – ‘The world’ is ‘the moral order in rebellion against God.’ (Carson)
‘The term world is often used to denote all who are entirely under the influence of the things of this world-pride, ambition, and pleasure; all who are not Christians, and especially all who are addicted to gross vices and pursuits, 1 Cor 1:21; 11:32; Jn 12:31; 2 Cor 4:4.’ (Barnes) The use of the world to denote sinful humanity is quite frequent in John’s writings, Jn 15:18,19; 17:9; 1 Jn 2:15-17; 4:5; 5:4,5,19.
‘It is the misery of those that are invincibly devoted to the world that they cannot receive the Spirit of truth. The spirit of the world and of God are spoken of as directly contrary the one to the other; (1 Cor 2:12) for where the spirit of the world has the ascendant, the Spirit of God is excluded. Even the princes of this world, though, as princes, they had advantages of knowledge, yet, as princes of this world, they laboured under invincible prejudices, so that they knew not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor 2:8.’ (MHC)
In contradiction of the view that the Spirit of God is at the heart of all religions, Jesus himself asserted that the Holy Spirit is present with his followers, not with the world at large, Jn 14:16-17. The comparable assertion that religion is a manifestation of a divine spark in the heart of every person, is a denial of the biblical doctrine, Eph 4:18.
‘The point of Jesus’ saying is: we can see only what we are fitted to see. An astronomer will see far more in the sky than an ordinary man. A botanist will see far more in a hedgerow than someone who knows no botany. Someone who knows about art will see far more in a picture than someone who is quite ignorant of art. Someone who understands a little about music will get far more out of a symphony than someone who understands nothing. Always what we see and experience depends on what we bring to the sight and the experience. A person who has eliminated God never listens for him; and we cannot receive the Holy Spirit unless we wait in expectation and in prayer for him to come to us.’ (DSB)
“It neither sees him” – ‘Profoundly materialistic, the world is suspicious of what it cannot see; but seenig in itself guarantees nothing, as the world’s response to Jesus demonstrates.’ (Carson) See 1 Cor 2:14.
‘The men of the world are under the influence of the senses. They walk by sight, and not by faith. Hence what they cannot perceive by their senses, what does not gratify their sight, or taste, or feeling, makes no impression on them. As they cannot see the operations of the Spirit, (Jn 3:8) they judge that all that is said of his influence is delusive, and hence they cannot receive him. They have an erroneous mode of judging of what is for the welfare of man.’ (Barnes)
“Nor knows him” – ‘To know, in the Scriptures, often means more than the act of the mind in simply understanding a thing. It denotes every act or emotion of the mind that is requisite in receiving the proper impression of a truth. Hence it often includes the idea of approbation, of love, of cordial feeling, Ps 1:6; Ps 37:18; 138:6; Na 1:7; 2 Tim 2:19. In this place it means the approbation of the heart; and as the people of the world do not approve of or desire the aid of the Spirit, so it is said they cannot receive him. They have no love for him, and they reject him. Men often consider his work in the conversion of sinners and in revivals as delusion. They love the world so much that they cannot understand his work or embrace him.’ (Barnes)
“But you know him, for he lives with you” – Though Jesus would depart, the Spirit would remain. ‘The disciples…know him already, better than they think they do; they will know more intinately, after Jesus has been exalted and has sent the Spirit of truth.’ (Carson)
‘He is said to dwell in us when we are made pure, peaceable, holy, humble; when we become like him, and cherish his sacred influences.’ (Barnes)
‘The best knowledge of the Spirit of truth is that which is got by experience: you know him, for he dwelleth with you. Christ had dwelt with them, and by their acquaintance with him they could not but know the Spirit of truth. They had themselves been endued with the Spirit in some measure. What enabled them to leave all to follow Christ, and to continue with him in his temptations? What enabled them to preach the gospel, and work miracles, but the Spirit dwelling in them? The experiences of the saints are the explications of the promises; paradoxes to others are axioms to them.’ (MHC)
“And will be in you” – ‘as the light in the air, as the sap in the tree, as the soul in the body. Their communion with him shall be intimate, and their union with him inseparable.’ (MHC) See 1 Cor 3:16,17 6:19 2 Cor 6:16 Eph 2:21.
Someone once said, ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.’
‘Many people ask, “How do I know the Holy Spirit is living in me?” I know in the same way that I know there is music on a cassette tape, even though I don’t see the music on the tape. I can know that in either of two ways. I can believe the label that says there is music, or I can play the tape and hear it. We can know the Holy Spirit indwells us by believing God, who tells us in his word, or by seeing his results in our lives when we are obedient to him.’ (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching)
‘The Spirit dwells in Christians by his sacred influences. There is no personal union, no physical indwelling, for God is essentially present in one place as much as in another; but he works in us repentance, peace, joy, meekness, &c. He teaches us, guides us, and comforts us.’ (Barnes)
‘The Holy Spirit abides in the believer. He is a gift from the Father in answer to the prayer of the Son. During his earthly ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught his disciples; but now he was going to leave them. The Spirit of God would come to them and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter,” and the Greek word translated “another” means “another of the same kind.” The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God, for both are God. The Spirit of God had dwelt with the disciples in the person of Jesus Christ. Now he would dwell in them.’ (Wiersbe)
14:18 “I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. 14:19 In a little while the world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too. 14:20 You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. 14:21 The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.”
“I will not leave you as orphans” – ‘Jesus here addresses them as children, Jn 13:33. He says that he would show them the kindness of a parent, and, though he was going away, he would provide for their future welfare. And even while he was absent, yet they would sustain to him still the relation of children. Though he was to die, yet he would live again; though absent in body, yet he would be present with them by his Spirit; though he was to go away to heaven, yet he would return again to them. See Jn 14:3.’ (Barnes)
“I will come to you” – This could refer to (a) the coming of Christ to his disciples after his resurrection (Morris, Carson, Burge). But this is difficult to reconcile with v20, 21 & 23; (b) the Second Coming of Christ (Ryle). this is difficult to reconcile with v19; (c) the coming of Christ by his Spirit (Ross). This last seems to fit best the immediate context: it is by Jesus’ coming by his Spirit that his disciples are ‘not left as orphans’.
Perhaps the reference is to the whole of the ‘age of the Spirit’, beginning with Pentecost and culminating in the return of our Lord and the establishment of the restored universe. Arguments in favour: (a) the reference to ‘that day’, v20, an expression which often has an eschatological meaning; (b) prophetic foreshortening often occurs in Scripture, so that future events are compressed so as to be seen at a glance; (cf. Mal 3:1f) (c) the consistent teaching of Paul is that the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was a ‘first-fruits’, first instalment, or guarantee of his presence and work in the age to come.
‘His departure from them was that which grieved them; but it was not so bad as they apprehended, for it was neither total nor final. 1. Not total. “Though I leave you without my bodily presence, yet I do not leave you without comfort.” Though children, and left little, yet they had received the adoption of sons, and his Father would be their Father, with whom those who otherwise would be fatherless find mercy. Note, The case of true believers, though sometimes it may be sorrowful, is never comfortless, because they are never orphans: for God is their Father, who is an everlasting Father. 2. Not final: I will come to you, I do come; that is, (1.)”I will come speedily to you at my resurrection, I will not be long away, but will be with you again in a little time.” He had often said, The third day I will rise again. (2.) “I will be coming daily to you in my Spirit;” in the tokens of his love, and visits of his grace, he is still coming. (3.)”I will come certainly at the end of time; surely I will come quickly to introduce you into the joy of your Lord.”‘ (MHC)
“Before long” – The next day, in fact.
“The world will not see me anymore” – Not until the day of judgement.
“But you will see me” – Not visibly, but with the eye of faith.
“Because I live, you also will live” – Though about to die, yet he would live again, and continue to live. He would not only have life in himself, but would also impart life to them. Note, eternal life depends entirely on Christ; it is only as we are united to him that we have continued life. But because he lives, we know that his power to give life is supreme. No-one can pluck us out of his hand. Christ’s life secures both the spiritual life and their resurrection life.
‘Note, The life of Christians is bound up in the life of Christ; as sure and as long as he lives, those that by faith are united to him shall live also; they shall live spiritually, a divine life in communion with God. This life is hid with Christ; if the head and root live, the members and branches live also. They shall live eternally; their bodies shall rise in the virtue of Christ’s resurrection; it will be well with them in the world to come. It cannot but be well with all that are his, Isa 26:19.’ (MHC)
“On that day” – The interpretation of this expression depends on the interpretation of the preceding two verses.
“You will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” – Explained more fully in v23ff and in ch 17. Far from being left as orphans, believers will enjoy an intinacy with Jesus that not even the beloved disciple could claim.
‘The knowledge of the believer’s intimate union with Christ was a fruit of Pentecost: Rom 6:3-11 8:1 12:5 16:2,3,7,11,12,13 1 Cor 1:30 4:10,15,17 7:39 9:1 11:11 15:31,58 16:19, etc.).’ (Hendriksen)
The mutual indwelling of Christ and believers is paralleled by the mutual indwelling of the Father and the Son.
“He who loves me will be loved by my Father” – Showing the complete unity of the Father and the Son.
“Show myself to him” – What does this mean?
14:22 “Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. 14:24 The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.
Judas (not Judas Iscariot) – one seven different men with the name of Judas (or Jude) mentioned in the NT. This Jude’s name is always mentioned next to Simon’s in the lists of the disciples, suggesting that they were brothers or close friends. This is the only incident involving this Judas recorded in the NT.
“But, Lord…” – It often happens in this Gospel that a listener takes up something that Jesus has said, and misunderstands it. See Jn 3:4; 4:11,15,33; 6:52; 8:22,57; 11:12; 13:9.
“Why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” – Judas was probably still thinking of a political triumph that would be apparent to all.
“We will come to him” – ‘This promise cannot refer to Jesus’ “Second Coming” (for then the world shall see); nor to resurrection appearances which were neither dependent on the love of the disciples, nor capable of being described as the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell with the disciple. As these affirmations are sandwiched by promises of the Spirit-Paraclete (14:14-17; 14:25-26), and as (in Judaism) the Spirit of prophecy was regarded as the presence of God in revelation, most exegetes infer that it is precisely the promised Spirit that will mediate the presence and self-revelation of Father and Son. Those who deny this (e.g., Beasley-Murray) do not tell us how Christ and the Father are supposed to “manifest themselves” to the disciple, nor explain why (if they can) John thinks the Spirit need be given at all. We conclude the Paraclete/Advocate is the Holy Spirit in a special role, namely as the personal presence of Jesus in the Christian while Jesus is with the Father (so Brown), though without agreeing that John significantly collapsed the delayed Parousia into his pneumatology.’ (DJG)
‘We will come to him with the manifestation of pardon, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It means that God will manifest himself to the soul as a Father and Friend; that Jesus will manifest himself as a Saviour; that is, that there will be shed abroad in the heart just views and proper feelings toward God and Christ. The Christian will rejoice in the perfections of God and of Christ, and will delight to contemplate the glories of a present Saviour. The condition of a sinner is represented as one who has gone astray from God, and from whom God has withdrawn, Ps 58:3 Pr 27:10 Eze 14:11. He is alienated from God, Eph 2:12 Isa 1:4 Eph 4:18 Col 1:21. Religion is represented as God returning to the soul, and manifesting himself as reconciled through Jesus Christ, 2 Cor 5:18 Col 1:21.’ (Barnes)
“Make our home with him” – ‘This is a figurative expression implying that God and Christ would manifest themselves in no temporary way, but that it would be the privilege of Christians to enjoy their presence continually. They would take up their residence in the heart as their dwelling-place, as a temple fit for their abode. See 1 Cor 3:16 “Ye are the temple of God;” Jn 14:19 “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost;” 2 Cor 6:16 “Ye are the temple of the living God.” This does not mean that there is any personal union between Christians and God-that there is any peculiar indwelling of the essence of God in us-for God is essentially present in all places in the same way; but it is a figurative mode of speaking, denoting that the Christian is under the influence of God; that he rejoices in his presence, and that he has the views, the feelings, the joys which God produces in a redeemed soul, and with which he is pleased.’ (Barnes)
14:25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.
Jesus comforts his disciples with the knowledge that they would be under the tuition of the Holy Spirit.
Vv 25f – The sense here is, “I have spoken all this for your comfort and consolation, and the Holy Spirit will bring you yet more solace by remnding you of my words.” There is perfect unity and continuity between the teaching Jesus and that of the Holy Spirit.
“All this I have spoken while still with you” – indicating that his earthly presence was nearing an end. Hendriksen adds that there is a tone of departure in these words: Jesus seems to linger with his disciples as long as possible; again and again he makes as if to bid them farewell, and then stays a little longer.
“The Counselor, the Holy Spirit” – The name, ‘Holy Spirit’ draws our attention to the character, rather than the work, of the Spirit. ‘This name denoted deity. In the Old Testament, God’s word and God’s Spirit are parallel figures. God’s word is his almighty speech; God’s Spirit is his almighty breath. Both phrases convey the thought of his power in action. The speech and the breath of God appear together in the record of creation. “The Spirit breath of God was hovering over the waters. And God said…and there was….” (Gen 1:2-3) “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath Spirit of his mouth.” (Ps 33:6) John told us in the prologue that the divine Word spoken of here is a person. Our Lord now gives parallel teaching, to the effect that the divine Spirit is also a person. And he confirms his witness to the deity of this personal Spirit by calling him the holy Spirit, as later he was to speak of the holy Father.’ (Jn 17:11) (Packer, Knowing God)
‘This age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Jesus cheers us, not by his personal presence, as he shall do by and by, but by the indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Ghost, who is evermore the Comforter of the church. It is his office to console the hearts of God’s people. He convinces of sin; he illuminates and instructs; but still the main part of his work lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. He does this by revealing Jesus to them. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation. If we may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Jesus is the medicine. He heals the wound, but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ’s name and grace. He takes not of his own things, but of the things of Christ. So if we give to the Holy Spirit the Greek name of Paraclete, as we sometimes do, then our heart confers on our blessed Lord Jesus the title of Paraclesis. If the one be the Comforter, the other is the Comfort. Now, with such rich provision for his need, why should the Christian be sad and desponding? The Holy Spirit has graciously engaged to be thy Comforter: dost thou imagine, O thou weak and trembling believer, that he will be negligent of his sacred trust? Canst thou suppose that he has undertaken what he cannot or will not perform? If it be his especial work to strengthen thee, and to comfort thee, dost thou suppose he has forgotten his business, or that he will fail in the loving office which he sustains towards thee? Nay, think not so hardly of the tender and blessed Spirit whose name is “the Comforter.” He delights to give the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Trust thou in him, and he will surely comfort thee till the house of mourning is closed for ever, and the marriage feast has begun.’ (Spurgeon)
“Whom the Father will send in my name” – Again, note the unity of the teaching of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In Jn 15:26 it is Christ who sends the Holy Spirit from the Father.
The Holy Spirit will teach them everything (they need to know) and will remind them of everything (he had said to them). The first ‘everything’ is therefore more comprehensive than the second:-
“Will teach you all things” = ‘Will teach you all things that you need to know.’ (Morris) Does this apply just to the apostles, or to all believers? It is certainly true that the Holy Spirit is the teacher of all who follow Christ in spirit and in truth; he is the one who illuminates the word of God and who shines the light of God’s truth into our hearts. But in the light of the following clause (about reminding them ‘of everything I have said to you’) it would seem that the principal reference is to the disciples.
In the light of their ignorance, confusion and misunderstanding, (e.g. Jn 2:22 12:16) it was, of course, essential that they should be taught and equipped by the Spirit for their own teaching ministry. This knowledge would be particularly applicable to the work of witnessing, Mt 10:10 1 Jn 2:27, and would include things not specifically taught by Jesus during his earthly ministry, 16:12. Still to occur were Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and coronation, and these great events would be included in the ‘all things’ here referred to.
‘The “teaching” here promised must mean, firstly, that fuller and more complete instruction which the Holy Ghost evidently gave to believers after our Lord’s ascension. No one can read “Acts” without seeing that the eleven were different men after the day of Pentecost; and saw and knew and understood things of which they were very ignorant before. But, secondly, ths “teaching” most probably includes all that teaching and enlightening which the Spirit imparts to all true believers in every age. Light is the first thing we need, and he gives it. It is his special office to “open the eyes of our understanding”.’ (Ryle)
“The Holy Spirit…will remind you of everything I have said to you” – This is often regarded as an assurance of the divine inspiration of Gospel records. Indeed, it is claimed that this saying ‘guarantees that when the Apostles quoted Jesus, they did so word for word. Bodycam style.’
A more nuanced view would be to agree that ‘this saying is important for the preservation of the tradition of the teaching of Jesus. Any view of gospel origins which does not take into account the promised aid of the Holy Spirit in preserving and bringing to the mind of the writer what he, the Spirit, willed to be recorded must be considered unsatisfactory.’ (NBC)
However, the reference probably goes beyond the inspiration of the Gospel records, since only a few of the Eleven were authors of canonical books. Oral ministry by the disciples is probably included, and possibly also the non-inspired ‘bringing to mind’ that ordinary Christians sometimes experience.
‘The dispensation of the Spirit will not be radically new in the sense of dispensing with what Jesus has taught. Rather it will emphasise that teaching.’ (Morris)
‘Many a good lesson Christ had taught them, which they had forgotten, and which would be to seek when they had occasion for it. Many things they did not retain the remembrance of, because they did not rightly understand the meaning of them. The Spirit shall not teach them a new gospel, but bring to their minds that which they had been taught, by leading them into the understanding of it. The apostles were all of them to preach, and some of them to write, the things that Jesus did and taught, to transmit them to distant nations and future ages; now, if they had been left to themselves herein, some needful things might have been forgotten, others misrepresented, through the treachery of their memories; therefore the Spirit is promised to enable them truly to relate and record what Christ said unto them. And to all the saints the Spirit of grace is given to be a remembrancer, and to him by faith and prayer we should commit the keeping of what we hear and know.’ (MHC)
‘Q. How may it be shown that the gift of Inspiration was promised to the apostles?
A. Mt 10:19; Lk 12:12; Jn 14:26; 15:26,27; 16:13; Mt 28:19,20; Jn 13:20.’ (A.A. Hodge)
‘When Christ testifies that it is the peculiar office of the Holy Spirit to teach the apostles what they had already learned from his mouth, it follows that the outward preaching will be vain and useless, if it be not accompanied by the teaching of the Spirit. God has therefore two ways of teaching; for, first, he sounds in our ears by the mouth of men; and, secondly, he addresses us inwardly by his Spirit; and he does this either at the same moment, or at different times, as he thinks fit.’ (Calvin)
To be taught by the Word and taught by the Spirit are complementary; and yet it is possible to have the first without the second:-
See: Mk 2:24 Gal 1:14.
Is the personality of the Holy Spirit taught in this verse? It is often thought that the presence of the masculine pronoun (ἐκεῖνος [ekeinos], ‘he’) in this verse (and also in Jn 15:26 and 16:13f) proves the personality of the Holy Spirit. In fact, in an earlier version of my notes on the present verse, I had written that ‘this verse contains the fullest description of the Holy Spirit to be found in this Gospel. It is no mere influence that is being spoken of here: the personality of the Holy Spirit is very evident. The masculine pronoun, ‘he’, is present in the original.’ However, Andy Naselli and Phil Gons have argued that such exegesis would be yet another instance of ‘getting the right doctrine from the wrong text’. See here for their supporting article, and a link to an anecdote about how a distinguished scholar changed his mind about how this verse should be understood.
14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 14:28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 14:29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe. 14:30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me, 14:31 but I am doing just what the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Get up, let us go from here.”
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” – ‘There is a strong possessive aspect in this context – Jesus spoke of ‘the peace that is mine’ (27). It is a peace which has been put to the test. It is fundamentally different from the peace offered by the world. Paul echoes this concept when he refers to ‘the peace of God which transcends all understanding’.’ (Php 4:7) (NBC)
‘This was a common Hebrew salutation used in greeting or farewell. Jesus gives it a new and deeper sense that reappears in the salutations of the New Testament letters. Jesus peace is true reconciliation with God, purchased with his death. (Ac 10:36; Rom 5:1; 14:17; Eph 2:14-17; Php 4:7; Col 3:15) It is the supreme remedy for all fears, (Jn 14:1) and the legacy Jesus left for his heirs.’ (New Geneva)
‘When Christ was about to leave the world he made his will. His soul he committed to his Father; his body he bequeathed to Joseph, to be decently interred; his clothes fell to the soldiers; his mother he left to the care of John: but what should he leave to his poor disciples, that had left all for him? Silver and gold he had none; but he left them that which was infinitely better, his peace. “I leave you, but I leave my peace with you. I not only give you a title to it, but put you in possession of it.” He did not part in anger, but in love; for this was his farewell, Peace I leave with you, as a dying father leaves portions to his children; and this is a worthy portion.’ (MHC)
‘Peace is put for all good, and Christ has left us all needful good, all that is really and truly good, as all the purchased promised good. Peace is put for reconciliation and love; the peace bequeathed is peace with God, peace with one another; peace in our own bosoms seems to be especially meant; a tranquillity of mind arising from a sense of our justification before God. It is the counterpart of our pardons, and the composure of our minds. This Christ calls his peace, for he is himself our peace, Eph 2:14. It is the peace he purchased for us and preached to us, and on which the angels congratulated men at his birth, Lk 2:14.’ (MHC)
Notice ‘to whom this legacy is bequeathed: “To you, my disciples and followers, that will be exposed to trouble, and have need of peace; to you that are the sons of peace, and are qualified to receive it.” This legacy was left to them as the representatives of the church, to them and their successors, to them and all true Christians in all ages.’ (MHC)
“I do not give to you as the world gives” – The world can wish peace, but it cannot give true peace, as Christ can. ‘Moreover, the peace of which he speaks is not dependent on any outward circumstances, as any peace the world can give must necessarily be. Because he gives men such a peace Jesus can enjoin them not to be troubled in heart nor cowardly. A Christ-given serenity exclused both. It is worth noting that in the Bible “peace” is given a wider and deeper meaning than in other Greek writings. For the Greeks (as for us) peace was essentially negative, the absence of war. But for the Hebrews it meant positive blessing, especially a right relationship with God.’ (Morris)
The world’s peace is sometimes a sham, often a mere formality; Christ’s peace is a real blessing. Not only can the world not give this peace, it cannot take it away: ‘the smiles of the world cannot give it, nor the frowns of the world take it away’ (MHC). The world can only give that which is material and temporal; Christ gives that which is of spiritual and eternal value. The world gives and takes away; Christ gives what will never be taken away. ‘The world’s peace begins in ignorance, consists with sin, and ends in endless troubles; Christ’s peace begins in grace, consists with no allowed sin, and ends at length in everlasting peace. As is the difference between a killing lethargy and a reviving refreshing sleep, such is the difference between Christ’s peace and the world’s.’ (MHC)
‘Shalom-peace-is a precious word to the Jewish people. It means much more than just the absence of war or distress. Shalom means wholeness, completeness, health, security, even prosperity in the best sense. When you are enjoying God’s peace, there is joy and contentment. But God’s peace is not like the “peace” that the world offers.
The world bases its peace on its resources, while God’s peace depends on relationships. To be right with God means to enjoy the peace of God. The world depends on personal ability, but the Christian depends on spiritual adequacy in Christ. In the world, peace is something you hope for or work for; but to the Christian, peace is God’s wonderful gift, received by faith. Unsaved people enjoy peace when there is an absence of trouble; Christians enjoy peace in spite of trials because of the presence of power, the Holy Spirit.’ (Wiersbe)
This distinction between the peace which Christ gives and the peace which the world gives has significance for believers who exchange words of peace during, say, a service of Holy Communion. To say to one another, “Peace be with you” is just to exchange a pleasant greeting. It is quite another thing to say to a brother or sister in Christ, “The peace of the Lord be with you.”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled” – cf. v1.
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you'” – cf. v3. This had made the disciples anxious, and now the Lord deals with their anxiety.
“If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father” – But they were not glad, but sad. ‘”If you loved me, as by your sorrow you say you do, you would rejoice instead of mourning, because, though I leave you, yet I said, I go unto the Father, not only mine, but yours, which will be my advancement and your advantage; for my Father is greater than I”‘ (MHC)
Why is Jesus’ departure a matter for joy, and not sorrow? ‘It is matter of joy to Christ’s disciples that he is gone to the Father, to take possession for orphans, and make intercession for transgressors. His departure had a bright side as well as a dark side. Therefore he sent this message after his resurrection (ch. 20:17), I ascend to my Father and your Father, as most comfortable.’ (MHC)
‘The disciples of Christ should show that they love him by their rejoicing in the glories of his exaltation, rather than by lamenting the sorrows of his humiliation, and rejoicing that he is gone to his Father, where he would be, and where we shall be shortly with him. Many that love Christ, let their love run out in a wrong channel; they think if they love him they must be continually in pain because of him; whereas those that love him should dwell at ease in him, should rejoice in Christ Jesus.’ (MHC)
‘Why rejoice because he returned to the Father? Because his return made possible his wonderful intercessory ministry on our behalf, our great High Priest in heaven.’ (Heb 2:17-18 4:14-16) (Wiersbe)
“The Father is greater than I” – This is something of a challenge to our Trinitarian faith. It has been used since the time of Arius to deny Christ’s deity. Indeed, to Jehovah’s Witnesses this is used as a proof text: ‘we take Jesus at his word when he said: “
The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) So we do not worship Jesus, as we do not believe that he is Almighty God.’ Muslims take a similar line.
However, as Carson points out, we must take full account of two strands of teaching, one that places Jesus and God on the same level (Jn 1:1, 18; 5:16–18; 10:30; 20:28) and the other which stresses Jesus obedience to and dependence upon his Father (Jn 4:34; 5:19–30; 8:29; 12:48–49). To deny one strand is the error of Arianism; to deny the other is to fall into the error of Gnosticism.
In the present context, the question to ask is, ‘Greater in what sense?’ For Carson, the context determines that what is meant is that the Father, undiminished in his glory, is greater than the Son, in his incarnate state. ‘If Jesus’ disciples truly loved him, they would be glad that he is returning to his Father, for he is returning to the sphere where he belongs, to the glory he had with the Father before the world began (Jn 17:5), to the place where the Father is undiminished in glory, unquestionably greater than the Son in his incarnate state.’
Lincoln agrees that the above interpretation is implied, citing Jn 13:16 in support of the idea that the Son in his incarnate state is subordinate to the Father in his glory. But he prefers to understand this verse as a virtual reiteration of Jn 14:12. ‘Because the Father is unlimited in a way that his revelation in the earthly life of the Son has not been, the departure of Jesus and the relation to the Father this establishes for the disciples open up greater possibilities for them and thus should be a cause of rejoicing.’
Kruse agrees that, in context, Jesus is probably not teaching trinitarian or christological doctrine. ‘It is probably better to interpret this text in the light of the general statement that a messenger is not greater than the one who sends him (Jn 13:16). It was the Father who sent the Son into the world, and the Son who willingly obeyed. It was the Son who, as the incarnate Jesus, died on the cross, and it was the Father who raised him from the dead. As the sent one, Jesus could say the Father who sent him was greater than he was, but later he would ask to be restored to the full glory he had with the Father before the world began (Jn17:5). For this he was returning to the Father, and in this he hoped his disciples might rejoice with him.’
‘The reference, however, is not to Christ’s essential Being, but rather to his incarnate state. The incarnation involved the acceptance of a certain subordination as is insisted throughout the New Testament. The saying must be understood in the light of “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30).’ (Morris)
‘True to Christ’s prediction, his disciples did indeed remember Jesus’ prophecies of death, resurrection, and ascension (cf. 14:19, 20) shortly after his resurrection (Lk 24:5-8,44-48; cf. Jn 2:22). The total testimony of Christ-his predictions, his miracles, his words of grace, and most of all his resurrection-turned his disciples into burning witnesses for the remaining decades of their earthly lives.’ (NCB)
Calvin: ‘Christ is here not drawing a comparison between the divinity of the Father and of himself, nor between his own human nature and the divine essence of the Father, but rather between his present state and his heavenly glory to which he was shortly to be received.’
‘Christ told his disciples of his death, though he knew it would both puzzle them and grieve them, because it would afterwards redound to the confirmation of their faith in two things:-1. That he who foretold these things had a divine prescience, and knew beforehand what day would bring forth. When St. Paul was going to Jerusalem, he knew not the things that did abide him there, but Christ did. 2. That the things foretold were according to the divine purpose and designation, not sudden resolves, but the counterparts of an eternal counsel. Let them therefore not be troubled at that which would be for the confirmation of their faith, and so would redound to their real benefit; for the trial of our faith is very precious, though it cost us present heaviness, through manifold temptations, 1 Pet 1:6.’ (MHC)
“You will believe” – indicating not merely credence to the words of Jesus but increasing trust in him as they see his words fulfilled.
“The prince of this world is coming” – There is a sense of impending crisis here, and Jesus will leave the upper room, v31, in order to wage conflict with the prince of this world. The conflict would seem to include the agony in Gethsemane.
‘The reason given for the cessation of Jesus’ teaching is the coming of Satan. The human agents are not forgotten, but they are given no stress. In the coming of Judas and the soldiers Jesus saw the coming of the evil one. He was especially active in the crucifixion. There the forces of good and evil were engaged.’ (Morris)
‘One reason why he would not talk much with them was because he had now other work to apply himself to: The prince of this world comes. He called the devil the prince of this world, ch. 12:31. The disciples dreamed of their Master being the prince of this world, and they worldly princes under him. But Christ tells them that the prince of this world was his enemy, and so were the princes of this world, that were actuated and ruled by him, 1 Cor 2:8.’ (MHC)
‘The devil had set upon him with his temptations (Mt. 4), had offered him the kingdoms of this world, if he would hold them as tributary to him, with an eye to which Christ calls him, in disdain, the prince of this world. Then the devil departed from him for a season; “But now,” says Christ,”I see him rallying again, preparing to make a furious onset, and so to gain by terrors that which he could not gain by allurements;” to frighten from his undertaking, when he could not entice from it.’ (MHC)
‘Satan is a great prince. Christ himself styles him the ‘prince of this world,’ Jn 14:30. Princes have their thrones where they sit in state; Satan hath his-Thou dwellest where Satan hath his throne, Rev 2:13; and that such a one, as no earthly princes may compare with. Few kings are enthroned in the hearts of their subjects; they rule their bodies and command their purses, but how oft in a day are they pulled out of their thrones by the wishes of their discontented subjects. But Satan hath the heart of all his subjects. Princes have their hom-age and peculiar honour done to them. Satan is served upon the knee of his subjects; the wicked are said to worship the devil, Rev 13:4. No prince expects such worship as he; no less than religious worship will serve him. Jeroboam is said to ordain priests for devils, 2 Chron 11:15; and therefore he Satan is called not only the prince, but the god of this world, be-cause he hath the worship of a god given him. Princes, such as are absolute, have a legislative power, nay, their own will is their law, as at this day in Turkey, where their laws are written in no other tables than in the proud sultan’s breast. Thus Satan gives law to the poor sinner, who is bound and must obey, though the law be writ with his own blood, and the creature hath nothing but damnation for fulfilling the devil’s lust. It is called a ‘law of sin,’ Rom 8:2, be-cause it comes with authority. Princes have their ministers of state, whom they employ for the safety and enlargement of their territories; so Satan his, who propagates his cursed designs, and therefore we read of ‘doctrines of devils,’ 1 Tim 4:12. Princes have their secrets of government, which none knows but a few favourites in whom they confide. Thus the devil hath his mysteries of iniquity, and depths of Satan we read of, which all his subjects know not of, Rev 2:24; these are imparted to a few favourites, such as Elymas, whom Paul calls ‘full of subtlety, and child of the devil;’ such, whose consciences are so debauched, that they scruple not the most horrid sins; these are his white boys. I have read of a people in America that love meat best when it is rotten and stinks. The devil is of their diet. The more corrupt and rotten the creature is in sin, the better he pleaseth his tooth. Some are more the children of the devil than others. Christ had his beloved disciple; and Satan those that lie in his very bosom, and know what is in his heart. In a word, princes have their tribute and custom; so Satan his. Indeed he doth not so much share with the sinner in all, but is owner of all he hath; so that the devil is the merchant, and the sinner but the broker to trade for him, who at last puts all his gains into the devil’s purse. Time, strength, parts, yea, conscience and all, is spent to keep him in his throne.’ (Gurnall)
“He has no hold on me” – Lit., ‘he has nothing in me.’ ‘There is no point at which he can take hold.’ (Morris) Christ is sure of his conflict; but he is also sure of his victory in it.
‘The prince of the world is seen as the active agent in the coming passion (although cf. Jn 12:31 for his predicted defeat). Jesus was deeply conscious of the powerful forces arrayed against him. Yet he knew the devil had no hold on him; he could not alter the Father’s plans.’ (NBC)
‘There is no point in Jesus Christ where the devil can get a foothold. Since we are “in Christ,” Satan can get no foothold in the believer’s life, unless we permit it.’ (Wiersbe)
‘(1.) There was no guilt in Christ to give authority to the prince of this world in his terrors. The devil is said to have the power of death; (Heb 2:14) the Jews called him the angel of death, as an executioner. Now Christ having done no evil, Satan had no legal power against him, and therefore, though he prevailed to crucify him, he could not prevail to terrify him; though he hurried him to death, yet not to despair. When Satan comes to disquiet us, he has something in us to perplex us with, for we have all sinned; but, when he would disturb Christ, he found no occasion against him. (2.) There was no corruption in Christ, to give advantage to the prince of this world in his temptations. He could not crush his undertaking by drawing him to sin, because there was nothing sinful in him, nothing irregular for his temptations to fasten upon, no tinder for him to strike fire into; such was the spotless purity of his nature that he was above the possibility of sinning. The more Satan’s interest in us is crushed and decays, the more comfortably may we expect sufferings and death.’ (MHC)
‘Satan is but a creature, and cannot work without tools; he can indeed make much of a little, but not anything of nothing, as we see in his assaulting of Christ, where he troubled himself to little purpose, because he came and found nothing in him, Jn 14:30.’ (Gurnall)
“I love the Father and…I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” – Christ’s submitted to suffering and death not because the devil forced him to (‘he has no hold on me’, v30), but because he loved the Father and did exactly what his Father had commanded him. Because he loved us, he died for our salvation, and because he loved the Father, he died for his glory and for the accomplishment of his purposes.
‘Note, The best evidence of our love to the Father is our doing as he hath given us commandment. As Christ loved the Father, and obeyed him, even to the death, so we must love Christ, and obey him.’ (MHC)
“Come now, let us leave” – This phrase ‘is somewhat enigmatic, for it seems to signal the end of the discourse in the upper room.
Some think that this verse is most naturally followed by Jn 18:1, and that chapters 15-17 constitute an interpolation.
Some think that John has muddled up the order of events, and that chapter 14 should follow chapter 17. But this is mere conjecture.
Some, including Milne (following Dodd), think that this phrase implies, in common usage, “Let us go to meet the advancing enemy.” It is a call to arms, and a reference to the coming prince of this world, v30. This not seem a very natural interpretation, although it would accord with the emphasis on mission in Jn 15:1-17.
Others think that Jesus’ words imply an intention that was not fulfilled until some time later. But even so it is difficult to see why John would have mentioned it at this point.
Still others think that Jesus and his disciples did leave the upper room at this point, with the remainder of the discourse taking place in the open air. Carson (cited by Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels) takes this view, adding that the group would not be able to walk together through the narrow streets of Jerusalem, a fact that sheds light on the dialogue recorded in Jn 16:17-19. Moreover, as they pass the vineyards, Jesus finds a notable metaphor, Jn 15:1. According to this view, chapters 15-17 cover the journey to the Kidron Valley, with Jn 18:1 signalling the point where the groups leaves Jerusalem and crosses the Kidron ravine en route for Gethsemane.