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COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

John 14 Jesus Continues His Final Words to His Disciples in the Upper Room (John 13-16).

Having warned Peter of what was to come in his immediate future Jesus now turns to all the disciples in order to encourage them, and this did of course include Peter. He wanted them all to have assurance for the future. In this chapter Jesus confirms their assurance about their own eternal future (14.1-3), reveals His uniqueness as the outshining of the Father (14.4-14), promises great power in the task ahead (14.15-20), draws their attention to the need for obedience (14.21-24), and guarantees the coming of the One Who will bring home to them the truth (14.25-31).

Here then Jesus makes a fuller revelation about Himself. The disciples have been growing in understanding, but now He makes clear to them that He is the One Who can provide a place for His followers in His heavenly resting place, and can bring them there because it is His Father’s house (14.1-3; compare 17.24). Indeed He stresses that He is the only One Who can do this. For He is the One Who, as the truth and the life, is the only way to the Father (14.4-6). By this He is making clear His uniqueness, and that truth is no longer to be sought in the Law of Moses, but in the living Word (1.17), and He will go on to point out that this truth will come from the work of ‘the Spirit of truth’ within them (14.17; 15.26; 16.13). This will be because Jesus is Himself the Way into God’s presence, being both the Truth and the Life (14.6). By receiving from Him the truth and the life as it is found in Him they come to the Father. Thus full truth now resides in Jesus, and will be made clear to the disciples by the Spirit of truth as He reveals Jesus to them, while true life, life which comes from the Spirit and illuminates men, must also come from Him.

And this is because Jesus is in Himself a complete revelation and manifestation of the Father (compare 1.18). That is why He can now say to His disciples, ‘If you had known Me you would have known My Father also, from now on you know Him and have seen Him’ (14.7). In other words, to know and to have seen Jesus in His fullness is to know and have seen the Father, and from now on they will recognise that they have both known and seen the Father, as the Spirit of truth gives them illumination. Note the advancement from ‘knowing the Father’ to ‘knowing and seeing’ Him.

Had it been left there we might have seen this as simply saying that through His own life and teaching they had received a glimpse of what the Father was like. But that is ruled out by what follows. For Philip seizes on Jesus’ words and cries out, ‘Lord, show us the Father and it will suffice for us.’ He wants to see God as men had in ancient times. Outwardly Philip might have appeared to be pedantic, but the conversation that follows specifically brings out that Jesus saw Philip’s cry as reasonable, and that He was in fact intending His disciples to see His words as signifying far more than that. For He stresses to Philip that if only he had truly known Him for what He is, he would have recognised that all that the Father is has been portrayed in Him, and this could only be as a result of His sharing His Father’s Being and Essence. His insistence on this fact goes far beyond the idea that somehow men could see something of God as they looked at the life of Jesus. It is rather indicating that in seeing Him in action they have ACTUALLY SEEN the Father operating on earth. He is not here, of course, speaking of His bodily form, but of His and His Father’s essential Being.

That Jesus intended Philip and the other disciples to take His words literally and not ‘spiritually’ is brought out by His next statement. He does not rebuke Philip for taking Him too literally. Rather He gently rebukes Him for not having recognised the truth about Him. ‘Have I been with you such a long time, and yet you have not known Me Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father, how then can you say show us the Father’. The final phrase ‘how can you say show us the Father’ can only signify that He considers Philip’s objection to be invalid, because he has already seen the Father in His fullness. But He could not have said that if He had not literally meant ‘seen’, for on any other interpretation of ‘seen’ Philip’s objection would have been reasonable, and have been a cry for a literal sight of the Father. In other words he was wanting himself and the other disciples to see the Father with their own eyes, in the same way as the leaders of Israel had seen Him at Sinai (Exodus 24.10). Had Jesus simply been speaking ‘spiritually’ or ‘parabolically’ He would then have explained to Philip that no man can see the Father (1.18), but that they should be satisfied that they had seen a reflection of the Father in Him. But that was not what He said or meant as His comment makes clear. What He meant was that in seeing Jesus they had actually seen the Father before their very eyes, because Jesus and the Father were one in essential being. He is saying that while His bodily form might be that of a man, they need to recognise that in His essential Being He is God. He ’as He is in Himself in His inner being’ is to be seen as a full portrayal of the Father. That this is an indication of Jesus’ own unique Godhood is certain, for no one could claim to fully reveal God in this way Who was not Himself God. And there is nothing more important than for us to see this. Jesus was now demonstrating that the time for ambiguity and slow unveiling had passed. Now His disciples needed to recognise more than ever Who He essentially was. Here we have an amplification of His earlier claim that ‘I and My Father are one’ (10.30), making clear that it did not just mean one in purpose and intention, but one in essential nature and being such that to see one was to see the other.

Note that He feels a little concerned that Philip and the other disciples have not gathered this from what He had said earlier, e.g. in 5.17-29, for He says, ‘Have I been with you so long and yet you have not known Me?’ (14.9). In other words while they had recognised Him as the Holy One of God (6.69) and as God’s Messiah (Matthew 16.16 and parallels), what they had failed to recognise was His true Godhood.

He then confirms this position by saying, ‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak from Myself, but the Father abiding in Me does His works’. Here He makes clear that He and His Father are in such close union (‘the Word was face to face with God’ - 1.2) that what His mouth speaks are not His own words but the words of His Father, and that His works are also in fact done by the Father Who is abiding in Him. Then He adds, ‘Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the very works sake.’ In other words they should recognise that He could not have performed the things that He had, unless it was the Father doing it through Him because they were in such close union.

Those who refuse to recognise the truth of what Jesus is saying here, that Jesus is truly God, seize on this verse with glee (ignoring what has just been said). They point out that elsewhere Jesus says that He and the Father dwell in true believers (14.23), and that ‘in that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you’ (14.20; compare also 17.21-23). That, they say, is what Jesus meant here. But that is simply not correct. It is to take the words out of context. For had Jesus meant that He would not have asked Philip how he could possibly have said what he did, He would rather have said to Philip that He had not intended him to take His words so literally. Had Jesus simply meant what these people say, Philip’s plea would have been justified. The only reason why it was not justified was because Jesus considered that they should have recognised that in seeing Him in action they had actually and literally seen His Father in action in all that He did. That is far from true of believers.

Jesus then goes on to promise that He will pray the Father to give them another Helper to take His place when He is gone. The word ‘another’ indicates ‘another of the same kind’. And that other is to be the Spirit of truth Whom they know because He dwells with them and will be in them (14.17). And He then immediately adds, ‘I will not leave you without help, I will come to you’ (14.18). Once again we are faced with the fact that Jesus not only aligns Himself with the Father in close union, but also with the Spirit. For the Spirit Whom ‘they know because He dwells with them’ can only refer to Jesus, something confirmed by the fact that the coming of the Spirit of truth will be the same as Jesus coming to them again. It is a reminder that all the members of the triune God (Matthew 28.19) work as One, and that where One is all are.

From this point on Jesus then moves on to deal with the relationship that the disciples (and subsequent believers - 17.20) will enjoy with Himself and the Father. In a lesser way than that between Him and His Father they will enjoy a union in the Spirit with the Father and with Him. They will even be able to do the works that Jesus had done. But their experience will not be the same as that of Jesus with the Father, for they will reveal the Father inadequately. While someone might see a hint of what the Father is like from the finest of believers, no such believer could truly and humbly say, ‘he who has seen me has adequately seen the Father’. But the important lesson from this for our theme is that the believer’s relationship with God is now defined in terms of the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all working equally together. Jesus and the Father will come to them and dwell in them (14.23). The coming of the Spirit of truth to them will be the coming of Jesus (14.16-18). This implies Jesus’ omnipresence, and equality with the Father and the Spirit (compare the same implication in Matthew 28.19). They are One.

Initially this may appear to be contradicted by 14.28 where Jesus says to His disciples, ‘if you loved Me you would rejoice because I said that I go to the Father, for my Father is greater than I’. But there is no real contradiction. Jesus’ point in these words is that while He is living on earth He has taken a subsidiary position. He has been made lower than the angels and has become man (Hebrews 2.7). At this stage, while He walks and suffers as a man, His status, and enjoyment of the glory that was intrinsically His, is below that of His Father (see 17.5). He has taken a humble place as the Servant in order to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10.45). Thus at this point in time He is of a lower status than His Father Who rules in the heavens and is subject to no such limitations. And that is the reason why the disciples should rejoice for Him at His going to the Father, because then He would be restored to His former status (see Philippians 2.5-11). He would be glorified with the glory which He had had with the Father before the world was (17.5). The Father being ‘greater than He’ was thus a temporary phenomenon.

1). Jesus Reveals Himself As Uniquely One with the Father, and as the Way to the Father (John 14.1-11).

As Jesus spoke in the Upper Room He was very much aware of the way that lay ahead both for Himself and for His disciples. The way of trial by His fellow-countrymen followed by the cross lay heavily on His mind, as Gethsemane will reveal, but what His disciples would have to face in the future was also prominent in His thinking. He was aware that His disciples, who had faithfully followed Him and trusted Him, now fully relied on Him. He was their world. Yet, partly because of what had just occurred in respect of the possibility of betrayal, He knew that they were puzzled and bewildered, and He knew that they would soon be even more puzzled and bewildered in the face of what was to come. They had just learned that one from among themselves would betray Him and that even Peter would deny Him. And He was aware that shortly they were suddenly to be left on their own in the most trying of circumstances.

We must never underestimate the trauma that they would have to face. For three or more years they had followed Jesus and had learned from Him, and they had trusted Him fully and had been confident of His success as the One Who had come from God. They had been sure that through Him God was working out His purpose. Their whole certainty lay in His presence, and in an earthly future that they saw lying before them. Thus when He was arrested and led off to what they knew was almost certain death it was inevitable that all their hopes and expectations would collapse. What had to them seemed a total impossibility would have taken place. It would seem to them that even God had been thwarted. No wonder their faith would collapse. And yet it was these very men who were soon to find themselves responsible for going out and presenting God’s truth to the world, and laying the foundation for the new Israel.

So Jesus knew at this moment that it was important that their confidence was fixed in the right place, and that they should recognise the great power that was at their disposal. Indeed that they should recognise that they would have as their helper and guide the God of all truth. Thus even while He was facing His own torment of soul (13.21) He did not think of Himself. His thoughts were for them, and He now set out to lay the foundation for their future.

Whilst certainly much of what is said here can be applied in a general sense to all Christians, we should recognise that in their essential detail what is said applied strictly to the Apostles. It was they who were to lay down the foundation of truth on which coming believers would be established. It was they alone who would be reminded of all that He had said to them and who would be led into all truth.

The Guarantee Of Their Eternal Future (14.1-3).

He commences by giving them the confidence that their eternal future is secure. Such a certainty would undergird any problems that might arise in the future, and enable them to face whatever came with equanimity. Certainty as to their destiny would go a long way to bolstering their faith in times of trouble.

At such times as this men of faith would normally turn the eyes of their followers away from themselves to God, especially if their death was imminent. They would point out to them that their lives were in the hands of God, and of God alone. It must be seen therefore as quite remarkable that Jesus, while certainly pointing them to God, laid the greatest emphasis on their looking to Himself.

14.1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have confidence (believe) in God, have confidence also in me.”

Conscious of their troubled thoughts and hearts He set out to encourage them. And He did it by pointing out what He would be doing for them in the future. Let them not be afraid. They must not waver in their confidence. They not only have to hold to their belief in God, they have to hold to their belief in Him. This indeed is to be their rock and their confidence, that, whatever happens, they continue to recognise in Him the One Who has come from the Father, the One Who reveals the Father, the One Who brings men to the Father, the Expected One. That is where their confidence must now lie.

Whether the verb is indicative (‘you believe’) or imperative (‘Have confidence!’) matters little. Either translation of the word is strictly correct, but the meaning is the same. It is an encouragement not only to maintain their confidence in God, but also to have the same confidence in Jesus. It is a claim to equality with God.

The word ‘heart’ is in the singular, ‘the heart of you all.’ It may mean ‘each of your hearts’ or ‘all your hearts’ seen as one in a collective noun.

14.2-3 “In my Father’s house are plenty of dwelling places. If it were not so I would have told you. I am going in order to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and will receive you face to face with myself, that where I am, you may be as well.”

Jesus then links Himself closely with the Father speaking of Him as ‘MY Father’ (something which, as we have already seen, John sees as indicating equality with God - 5.18), and points out that He Himself has full authority as to who enters His eternal dwelling. Consequently it is their confidence in Him that can also result in their confidence in their future, because, as He explains, He is going to His Father’s house, and there is ample room for them there too. The Greek ‘mone’ can mean a room, a dwelling place, and the latter would seem to be the emphasis here. His ‘Father’s house’ probably contains the thought more of a family estate with a number of buildings, the place where the wider ‘household’ dwells, or of a large dwelling with an abundance of living quarters, built round a courtyard like the house of the High Priest. The emphasis is on their being family and on there being plenty of room. They are coming to His Father’s house, the new Jerusalem.

What is more they can be sure of this more than anything else on earth, that He, when He goes, will Himself prepare a place for them. There, in His Father’s family home, there will always be a welcome for them. Their destiny is sure. So whatever happens now they can be confident for the future.

And He knew that this confidence would be necessary. For He knew that in the future they would be rejected, tortured, beaten, and even martyred. It was therefore necessary for them to have the assurance in their hearts that all would be well.

Nor were they to think that they were being left to look to someone else, for He stresses, “I am returning (for you)”. The emphasis here is not so much on the second coming as on the fact that He will come back for them. He will return and take them to His Father’s home, where they will share the joy of His presence, being ‘face to face’ with Him (pros with the accusative). This both refers to His welcoming arms to those of His own who die, and to His second coming when He comes for His own (see 1 Thessalonians 4.14-17). For the Christian hope is a dual hope, a certainty if death comes, and yet a longing rather for His coming. But either way they should be looking forward to His return in glory in order to finalise God’s purposes and to receive them into His presence.

He wants them not only to be sure that they have a home to go to, but also to enjoy a confidence in the successful culmination of God’s purposes, and a certainty that He will continually have their interests at heart. Thus His going will not mean that He is deserting them. Nor will it mean that He has been helplessly forced to leave them. It will rather mean that He is going in order to personally look after their interests and the eternal future for His own.

Their Certainty For The Future Lies In Their Knowing Him As The One Who Is The Way To The Father And Is The One Who Fully Reveals the Father (14.4-11).

Having made clear their final destiny Jesus now ensures that they recognise that their way of entry to the Father is through response to Him as the One Who alone truly reveals the Father in all His fullness. This is so to such an extent that to have seen Him is to have seen the Father. As John says in the Prologue, ‘No man has seen God at any time. The only true Son Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known’ (1.18). Note that this ‘seeing’ is emphasised in such a way as to take it beyond simply the idea of analogy. It is not that in Him they have had a glimpse of what the Father is like, or that they have seen something of the Father in His behaviour and teaching, but rather that to have seen Him is actually to have seen the Father revealed.

14.4 “And where I am going, you know the way there.”

He first stresses that they know the way to where He is going, an that where He is going is to His Father’s dwelling place. He has previously taught them, and revealed to them, the way into the Father’s favour and presence through ‘eating and drinking’ Him by response to His words (John 4.13-14; 6.35; 7.38). Now He stresses in an even deeper sense that He is ‘the way’. It is by personal response to Him as the Way that they will know truth and life. So when He has gone they need not fear, for the way will still be the same. He has shown them the way there, the way to eternal life, through believing fully in Him (John 3.15-16; 7.38), and that is the way that they must take.

(The above rendering is probably the correct one, but many very good authorities have ‘you know where I am going and you know the way there’, which ties in more specifically with the words of Thomas. It is this very fact however which makes it the easier reading, thus making it more suspect as such an alteration is more likely. In view of the manuscript evidence the change must have occurred very early on. Papyrus 66, a very early testimony to the text, has our reading in the text and the alteration in the margin).

14.5 ‘Thomas says to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” ’

Thomas now speaks up for all. (We note here the equality between the Apostles). While Jesus was there, there had been no problem. But that other world often appeared far away and strange, and at no time more than at this moment in their lives. Yes, there is another world, but what is it like, and what is the way there? They do not yet have confidence and assurance in that other world. Their minds up to this point have been set on an earthly Kingdom, and they are taking time to adjust. Furthermore Thomas was not alone in this. All the disciples shared his concern. How were they to find their way to this place to which Jesus was going?

We too may feel sometimes that we do not know where He has gone. Heaven may seem a strange place. But as He has just explained, what is important is that we know He is there and awaits us, and that we know Him as the Way there.

14.6 ‘Jesus says to him, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.’

Jesus then explained more fully what He meant. These words of Jesus have filled a multitude of books, and rightly so, for they make Jesus totally central as the way to the Father. Compare Peter’s words, ‘neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other Name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4.12). This fact must not be under-emphasised. It is indicating that He is ‘THE Way’. He is the Way to the Father because through His offering of Himself He has opened up access to the Father (Ephesians 2.18; 3.12), both as a result of His cleansing us and making us holy (1 Corinthians 6.11; Ephesians 5.26; Hebrews 10.14; 1 John 1.7), and as a result of Him clothing us in His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5.21; Romans 5.17-19; Isaiah 61.10)’ It is through Him alone that we can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5.18-19). But He is also the Way in that He has brought us truth and life. He is thus saying the Way, firstly as the One Who has fully revealed truth both through His being, and through His life and His teaching, and secondly as the One Who imparts eternal life through His Spirit. In other words He is the way because full response to Him, His words, His self-revelation, His offering of eternal life through Himself as the source of that life, is the way to the Father. They who thus receive Him become the children of God and are born of God (John 1.12-13). Indeed we may take it further. He is the way because once they are in Him they will be carried by Him to their new home.

We notice here Jesus’ claim to absolute uniqueness. It has been well said that He does not say, ‘I am one of many ways, I am an aspect of truth, I am a phase of life’. He tells us that He is uniquely THE way, the only way; He is uniquely THE truth, the fullness of truth; He is THE life, the source of life. All is centred in Him. He is pivotal. In the end it is He alone Who can make essentially real in us what truth is and Who can impart life to us. Others can be pointers and signposts. But they must point to Him. He is the final goal. Others can show the way, can impart truth, and can point to life outside of themselves. But He is the way to which they point, the truth imparted is summed up in Himself, He is the life to be received. All the emphasis is on Him.

That is why no one can come to the Father except through Him, for it is through what He is, and what He will do, that men are able to be forgiven, are enabled to be enlightened, and can receive eternal life. He is the complete and total solution. All other great teachers point away from themselves, aware of their own inadequacy. He points to Himself as the One Who is fully adequate. In this statement was a claim to a uniqueness that reveals true Godhood. To any but God such claims would have been both blasphemous and ridiculous.

It should be noted that ‘no one can come to the Father except by me’ applies to all ages from the beginning to the end. The Old Testament believers came to God through the way He revealed, through sacrifices. But these sacrifices looked forward to what was to come. It was because Jesus would come and offer Himself as a sacrifice that God could ‘pass over things done aforetime’ (Romans 3.25). If those who were not aware of the old revelation, yet responded to the revelation within their own consciences (Romans 2.14-16) and came to salvation, it was through Him that their salvation would come, even though they were unaware of it. If there are some relatively few who since Christ’s life on earth have responded to God in a saving way, without having heard the Good News fully, and there are probable examples of this, they too come through Him. For He is the source of all saving truth, whether revealed through nature or revealed through Scripture. And He is the source of all saving life. He is the One Who ministers it. Through Him alone comes salvation to the saved among mankind. (We can be so used to this idea that sometimes we fail to recognise just how all embracing it is).

14.7 “If you had fully known me you would have known my Father as well. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus now confirms His uniqueness. The question is, have they fully known Him? Let them now recognise Who He really is. He is the One Who has fully revealed the Father in such a way that to have known Him is to have fully known the Father. That is why John, in amazed wonder when enlightenment had fully come, could say, ‘We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only Son of the Father’ (1.14), and this is what Jesus is saying here. He is saying that as ‘the only Son of the Father’, that is as the only One of the same substance and essence as the Father, He is the only One Who reveals what God essentially is. In the words of Hebrews ‘He is the outshining of His glory and the exact representation of His substance’ (Hebrews 1.3). In consequence they not only know the Father through Him, but have actually seen the Father in Him in such a way as to describe it as having actually seen the Father. Through knowing Him they have known the Father in His essential Being.

14.8 ‘Philip says to him, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be sufficient for us”.’

As yet they were not fully enlightened and could not grasp this. Philip, for example, had not yet had time to contemplate the wonder of Christ, and he therefore did not quite appreciate what Jesus meant by their having seen the Father in Him. Like some today he thought that Jesus was simply referring to a kind of general ‘seeing of the Father’ by analogy. But he wanted something more. He wanted actually to see God. He wanted some wonderful revelation of God, some theophany, some manifestation of deity, like Abraham (Genesis 15.17), Moses (Exodus 3.2; 33.23), the elders (Exodus 24.9-10), the people of Israel (Exodus 24.17) and Isaiah of old (Isaiah 6.1-2). He wanted to truly ‘see the Father’. That, he knew, would confirm his and the disciples’ faith. He has not yet realised that he had in fact seen greater things than those men of old, for he has walked with God and had watched Him reveal Himself daily.

14.9-10 ‘Jesus says to him, “Have I been with you all (plural) so long and yet you (singular) do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How then can you say ‘show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak from myself. But the Father, dwelling in me, carries out his works”.’

Jesus corrects his false impression, and in doing so makes clear that to have seen Him is genuinely to have seen God. He points out that He is not just talking about them gaining a general impression of the Father from Him, but that they have actually seen the Father at work because the Father and Jesus are one in essence and being. That was why to have seen Him at work was to have actually seen the Father at work. It was taking the disciples a long time to recognise the truth before their eyes, and we should not be surprised. They have thought of Him as ‘Teacher and Lord’, the great prophet and teacher, the supreme man of God, even the Messiah, although in a puzzling way. But the full truth had not yet dawned, and now they were faced with it with all the covers taken off. No wonder it was taking them time to grasp it.

And yet, like us, they should have known. Philip is rightly rebuked, even though gently, as the use of the singular reveals. Jesus is disappointed. He has been speaking God’s own actual words, He has been revealing God through His life, and has been revealing the uniqueness of His relationship with the Father to such an extent that the Father is being seen at work in Him. Have they not seen His life? Have they not listened to what He has said? Who else could have done the works that He has done but God Himself? These works were clearly uniquely the work of God. (This does not just refer to the miracles, wonderful though they were, but to the whole of what He has done and been). Let them recognise that God has plainly walked on earth, revealed in a human body, ‘God openly revealed in the flesh’ (1 Timothy 3.16). For ‘in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form’ (Colossians 2.9). And Philip really ought to have seen, and known.

Of course it is true that the Father is Spirit (4.24). Thus He cannot be literally seen in any bodily way either now or in the future. He is rather manifested through activity and truth. And it His activity and truth that has been revealed through Jesus to its fullest degree, so that every act of Jesus was the act of the Father. Thus He has actually manifested Himself through His Son. Jesus is saying that He IS a full manifestation of the Father, for they are One (10.30).

Notice Jesus’ whole point here. He is answering a question in which the questioner wanted actually to literally SEE the Father, and He tells him that he has actually done so, not as a veiled reflection, but in actual fact. If Jesus had merely been saying that something of what the Father was could be seen in Him (something which can be said of many Christians) his rebuke to Philip would have been unjustified. For Philip’s point was precisely that they were not wanting just some reflection of the Father, but an actual sight of the Father. And Jesus is saying that if Philip had really come to know Him he would have recognised that that is precisely what he had had.

14.11 “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”

Jesus now repeats what He has said in 10.38. He longs that they may look at Him and consider His life and recognise His uniqueness as the One Who is the abode of the Father, recognise that He fully and actually represents the Father distinctively and completely, and that because They are in such unity that when One acts the Other is acting. But if the disciples are not quite there yet, let them rather contemplate His works and let His works speak for Him. For while that is not finally sufficient, it is a beginning. What is important is that they should step over the line from saying, ‘Master’, to saying ‘My Lord and My God’ (John 20.28).

It is quite evident that by ‘the Father in me and I in the Father’ He was here intending to indicate His own unique Oneness with the Father (compare 10.30, 38), for the whole context demands it. No one else could have said these words with this significance, nor can. It is true that later He can say that the Father is in His disciples (14.23), and that we can claim to be ‘in Him’, but it is obvious from the context that what He says here is in a different sense from that. He never suggests that when people see the disciples they actually see the Father. His disciples may become the dwelling place of the Father through the activity of Jesus and His Spirit, (and thus spiritually), and as a result reveal something of the Father, but in the case of Jesus the oneness is such a permanent and essential reality that to see Him is to see the fullness of God, something revealed by His works which only God could do.

2). The Demands that He Makes and the Provision That He Is Making For Their Fulfilment (John 14.12-26).

Jesus now stresses what He is expecting from His disciples and assures them that full provision has been made for their future. As His ambassadors they can call on His Name for anything that they will require (verses 12-14), and as those who speak on His behalf they will be given the Spirit of Truth Who will be continually with them (verses 16-17). Indeed let them recognise that in the coming of the Spirit He Himself is coming to them (verses 18, 21, 23). For where the Spirit is, there are the Father and the Son (verse 23).

Jesus Stresses That They Can Partake In The Miraculous Activity Which He Has Enjoyed. Full Provision Is Theirs (John 14.12-14).

Having made known to them Who He was in a way that He had not done before (although had they had eyes to see it they could have known it from His declarations to the Judaisers (John 5.17-29; 8.28-59; 10.30-39)) Jesus now tells them of the provision He is making as they carry out His work.

And here we must be careful in our interpretation, for in essence these words are not just general spiritual guidance for all of us, but were specific promises made to those whom He had trained and chosen out for the foundational work ahead. These are chosen men, men who have put everything aside for Him. They want nothing other than to do what He wants them to do, and their goal is the establishment of His Rule on earth at whatever cost. And that is what they have been chosen for.

They are learning not to consider their own advantage and gain, but to be single-minded in pursuit of His will. And they have a task never to be repeated, the task of laying the foundation for the belief of the early church, and in the end for the formation of the New Testament writings. It is thus to His Apostles, as such, that He makes these promises. The early church itself recognised this when it insisted that only writings which could be seen as having an Apostolic source could be included in the Scriptures.

It has often been asked why these chapters of Jesus’ words in the Upper Room did not form a part of the teaching of the early church and thus find their way into the first three Gospels. The answer would seem to lie in the very nature of the words. They were private instructions to the Apostles and Apostle specific. It is true therefore that we can gain from them general spiritual guidance, but what we cannot do is apply them all specifically and strictly to ourselves. In their strictest sense much is for the Apostles only. A recognition of this fact will prevent us from taking up foolish positions on the basis of them.

Thus it was only when the Apostles were dying out that they were written down by one who was probably the last of the Apostles to die, so that the early church would know how secure were the foundations of their faith as a result of the assurances to the Apostles. That is why in what follows we will have to seek to establish what Jesus specifically promised His Apostles, which does not refer to any others, after which we can consider the general lessons from what is said in as far as they can apply to all Christians.

14.12-14 “Emphatically I tell you, he of you who goes on believing on me, the works that I do he will do as well, and he will do greater things than these because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, that I will do.”

In the light of what was to happen that night Jesus promised that if they would have continual faith in Him, they would accomplish works like those that He had accomplished, and would indeed do greater works for they would occur worldwide. We need not doubt that this included miracles (although no such examples of ‘greater works’ have been given). However, the main part of the ‘greater works’ was probably to be found in the success of their preaching which would have great worldwide effects. This is why there is then added the assurance that in their mission they could be sure that whatever they asked in His Name He would do it, because it was His mission too. Note that it is Jesus Himself Who will respond to their prayer. As they pray it is He Himself Who will answer. It is gloriously true that in doing so He will bring glory to the Father, for He and the Father work as One, but the fact that essentially it is He Who will answer their prayers is repeated so that there might be no mistake about it. This in itself justifies prayer to Jesus Christ Himself, examples of which can be found in Acts 7.59; Revelation 22.20.

How careful we must be when we interpret these words. They are not a general promise that all Christians can demand to see fulfilled in their own lives whatever they wish for, in a multitude of ways, for that is clearly not the case. Heaven is not one huge superstore. It is rather a promise to supply all that is needed in our true service for God. But here the promise goes further than that.

“I will do anything that you ask.” What a huge promise. We could not be trusted with such a promise unconditionally, but these men had been especially prepared for a task and were wholly committed to it. They would not ask for anything for their personal benefit or gain, they would have considered it a trivialising of the words. They realised that the promise applied to the work that they had to do (see 1 John 5.14-15), and the works by which they would accomplish it.

“The works that I do, he will do.” We must undoubtedly see this as including His miracles. So the Apostles are empowered to heal all who come to them, and Peter takes advantage of this power (Acts 3.6) as do the others (Acts 5.12). Because Peter and Paul are emphasised in Acts it is often overlooked how widespread was the ministry of all the Apostles, but the same book makes clear the wide influence of their ministry, albeit in summarised form. Manifested healings through the Apostles and their delegates were an essential part of the witness of the early church.

No one who lays claim to healing powers today could make a claim like this. Rather they have to regret how comparatively few are healed (they can never say that all who came to them were healed) although the less spiritual try to blame the failure on other’s lack of faith. But Jesus and the Apostles never had to make this excuse. If men had even a little faith, the faith to come, they were healed. The fact is that apart from the Apostles and a few chosen men, gifts of healing were severely restricted, both in the early church and now.

Yet it is noteworthy how little is made by the Apostles’ of their works of healing. They had learned from their Master not to trust in signs as a method of converting people. Their healings were works of compassion and mercy.

So these “works” described here go wider than just healing. They include the totality of their ministry, both in practical ministry and in powerful words (Matthew 5.16; 16.27; John 5.20,36; 6.28; 8.39; 9.4; 10.25, 32, 37,38). They have been called to be an example to the world by the lives that they lead, and to proclaim the Good News that Jesus has taught them. The Good News is that the Kingly Rule of God has come for those who will respond, that men can now come to Him in obedience and trust and enjoy His rule, that the power of Satan is broken, and that God has walked among men, and through His death and resurrection has opened the way to forgiveness and eternal life.

“And greater works than these shall he do because I go to the Father.” How could the Apostles do greater works than Jesus? Certainly not in the field of the miraculous. Rather it was in the fact that they would reach out to many nations with the Good News, while Jesus had been restricted to Palestine and the surrounding areas. Success would accompany them on every hand. This would now be possible because He was going to His Father by way of the cross. The barriers will be broken down (Ephesians 2.11-22), and the work of the Spirit, which began in Palestine in the ministry of Jesus, will reach out to the ends of the earth through the work of His Apostles and their helpers.

“And whatever you ask in my name, that I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” This is not a blanket promise that God will give us anything we ask ‘if we go about it in the right way’. It is not a ‘key’ for obtaining whatever WE want. It was a promise to dedicated, chosen men that, as they carried out their ‘impossible’ task, all the resources of Heaven would be at their disposal. They would come and ‘ask in His name’, and Jesus Himself would do it, because they were doing His work. He would do it because what they were doing they were doing for Him, in fulfilment of His command.

Someone who works for a modern company may well be given the authority to obtain ‘whatever he needs’ as he goes about the company’s business, but he knows, and all know, that this means ‘whatever he needs to carry out his duties for the company’. Thus the disciples know that they can only ask for the kind of thing that He would ask for, for the aim of it is the Father’s glory, and that alone. This then is the promise, that they will have available to them all that they need in the fulfilling of their task. What strength this must have given them in the face of impossible odds.

Yet the promise is to ‘the one who goes on believing’. Firstly and primarily it reminded the Apostles that they could only benefit as they continued to be those who fully believed, to be those who were totally committed to Him and His work. However, in a secondary way it can be applied to all who believe and go on believing, but only on the same conditions of discipleship. It is a promise that as we seek to serve the Father in true faith we too may seek His strength and help, and will receive what we need, but only within the limits of our responsibility.

Certainly this gives us no right to claim prosperity, or an easy path, or things for our own pleasure, and we note that the Apostles sought none of those. It does not refer to personal benefits but to what is needed to do the Father’s will. The Apostles expected to be in need, to suffer, to go without the good things in life, and to have nothing (1 Corinthians 4.11-13). What they sought was heavenly things, and to this the promise applied.

“If you ask me anything in my name, that I will do”. We notice here that Jesus stresses again that it will be He Who will respond to the prayer, which is seen as made to Him. As they pray in His name they are praying to Him. But again it is in His name, as those who have been appointed by Him. Thus they are praying, ‘because I belong to Jesus and because I am doing the work He has called me to do, give me what I will need to accomplish that work.” His promise then is that He will. (The “Me” is absent in some manuscripts but has very strong support and ‘that will I do’ supports it).

Note On The Effectiveness of the Ministry of All the Apostles.

We tend to overlook the work of all the Apostles because of Luke’s emphasis on Peter and Paul, but we should note the emphasis in the early part of Acts of the ministry of all the Apostles, including Matthias. Thus:

  • They stood alongside Peter on the day of Pentecost and had their own ministry through tongues (2.14).
  • They taught the early believers (2.41).
  • Wonders and signs were done through them all (2.43).
  • They were God’s servants through whom it was prayed that God would cause His word to be spoken boldly, accompanied by signs and wonders in the name of God’s holy Servant, Jesus (4.29-30).
  • They stood and preached in Solomon’s porch when none dared join with them, and were held in high honour by the people (5.12).
  • They were arrested and imprisoned, and were released from prison by an angel during the night (5.18-19), and went back at daybreak to the Temple, boldly to continue their ministry (5.21).
  • They were set before the council and questioned (5.27), and when they were reminded that they had been charged not to preach in the name of Jesus, they replied that they had no alternative (5.28-32).
  • They were beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus, and were then let go, and subsequently rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name, and continued preaching and teaching (5.40-42).
  • They stressed that no hindrance should be put on their teaching ministry (6.2)
  • They remained in Jerusalem when persecution caused the believers to be scattered (8.1). It may well be that the persecution was at this time mainly aimed at the Hellenists (those influenced by Greek ideas).
  • They were still in Jerusalem, no doubt continuing their effective ministry, when they determined to send Peter and John to oversee the ministry among the Samaritans (8.14). (Note there how Peter is subject to the authority of all the Apostles).
  • They helped to call Peter to account for his actions in going to Cornelius (11.1-18).
  • In chapter 15 many of them would possibly be a part of the general assembly that made the decision to accept Gentiles without circumcision and not put on them the whole burden of the ceremonial Law.

A glance through these activities will reveal how assiduously all the Apostles were involved in a teaching and healing ministry after the resurrection in fulfilment of Jesus’ words here.

End of note.

They Must Keep His Commandments And He Will Respond By Giving Them The Spirit Of Truth For Their Help And Strengthening (14.15-21).

Central to what the disciples are to receive is their obedience. This is stressed here in the opening and closing verses of the passage. And we should note that it is an obedience based on love. Jesus had full confidence in their love for Him. Furthermore He stresses that that love is revealed not by gushing epitaphs, but by obedience to His requirements. In return (although not as something that has been earned but as a free gift) He will give to them the Spirit of Truth to be with them for ever as their Helper.

His point is clear for us also. Our love for Him will be revealed in the fact that we seek to do what pleases Him. If we truly love Him we will do what He says. The corollary is that if we do not seek to do in our lives what pleases Him it is evidence that we do not truly love Him. Profession is one thing, reality is another. Of course, we may sometimes fail, but if we love Him our intent will be constant. And in return, not as something to be earned but as a gift, He will impart to us the Spirit of Truth, the One Who will be with us and will be in us as our Helper and guide.

14.15 “If you love me you will constantly keep in mind and obey what I have commanded you (literally ‘my commandments’), and I will pray the Father and he will give you another ideal companion (paraclete)”.

These words connect directly with what has gone before. In verses 13-14 He has spoken with the assumption that there are ‘works’ to be done for which special enabling will be given. Now He specifically says that if they love Him they will do those works He has commanded them. (His commandments to them included preaching the Good News and healing the sick - Matthew 10.7-8; Luke 9.2). And in return His Father will give them, at His request, ‘another’ ideal companion, a ‘paraclete’, to replace His earthly presence, to assist them in their work. The word for ‘another’ indicates ‘another of the same kind’.

The word ‘paraclete’ means one called alongside to assist. It was used of a lawyer who would be called on to assist in a court of law, whether as defence or prosecutor, or of one assisting in speechmaking or teaching, or one who consoled. That is why we have translated it as ‘ideal companion’, for He is replacing Jesus Who has been their ideal companion, assisting, guiding, defending, teaching, empowering and consoling.

We do not need to try to select which meaning is in mind. The word Paraclete had an all-inclusive meaning of someone who came alongside to help. Most specifically in context He is the One Who will guide into all truth, bringing to mind what they have heard from Jesus, and interpreting it to their hearts as they carry out their ministry.

This confirms what we have said above. The test of love for Jesus is found in obedience to His demands. They can pray ‘in His name’ only because they love Him and are obeying implicitly what He has told them to do. It is because they have been given a huge responsibility that the resources of Heaven are at their disposal. They are to be used for no other purpose.

Furthermore that demand includes the fact that they must love one another (13.34-35). That is part of their ‘works’. Service is never in isolation except when unavoidable. So not only can they be sure that Jesus will respond to their prayers, providing all that they really need, but they can also know that they will be given ‘another ideal companion’ to assist them in their work.

14.16-17 “He will give you another paraclete, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive for it neither sees him in such a way as to recognise him, nor does it know him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

So when Jesus goes He will be replaced with another Who will perform the functions for the disciples that He has performed, One Who is sent by the Father. The word ‘another’ means ‘another of the same kind’. And this One will be permanently with them. He will never leave them. For He will be with them for ever. And they will know Him and recognise Him, for He will be with them as a constant companion, and He will indeed be in them. He will be the closest friend and helper anyone could ever have. And He is the Spirit of truth. This idea will be amplified later.

Note that the world cannot receive this Helper. It neither recognises Him nor knows Him. The suggestion of a general activity of the Spirit in world movements is not what Jesus teaches, nor is it the general teaching of Scripture. The Spirit works through His own. Here the world is in contrast to the people of God. The one is outside His kingdom. The other are His kingdom. The Kingly Rule of God is with them and among them, and with and among them alone.

“You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” ‘Dwells with you’ here refers to Jesus Himself in His Spirit-filled, Spirit revealing life. ‘Dwells in you’ stresses that instead of having an outward knowledge of Him, they will have a deeper inward knowledge through His indwelling Spirit. Thus do they know Him now. So will they know Him in the future.

14.18 - 20 “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world sees me no more, but you see me. Because I live, you will live as well. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you”.

For it is Jesus Himself Who will come to them. If we say (sometimes rather glibly) ‘by His Spirit’ we should recognise that in the Spirit both Jesus and the Father do really come to them. The Father is active everywhere, Jesus upholds all things by His powerful word, and by Him all things hold together. The coming of the Spirit is all-inclusive of the Godhead.

It is true that very soon He will be wrenched from them and they will be desolate. And to the world it will seem to be the end of Him. As far as the world will be concerned He will have gone for good. But it will not be so for the Apostles and for His people. He will come to them in their desolation. They will not be left unprotected and with no one to watch over them, (literally ‘as orphans’).

This means more than just the resurrection appearances, although it includes them. For through His resurrection they will receive resurrection life, life from Him. They will have even deeper life through the Spirit. Then they will fully know that He is in the Father as He has said. But even more they will know that He has come to them and is in them and that they are in Him. The closeness of His relationship with the Father will echo the relationship they will have with Him. Something of this comes out in the experience of Stephen. Even as the stones struck him and he fell to the ground he was so conscious of the presence of Jesus that he who had been all his life taught to pray to God cried, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ (Acts 7.59).

So through His resurrection and the coming of His Spirit in new measure (for they already enjoyed His Spirit in some measure), they will have their eyes fully opened to Who He is, and fully opened to the wonder of their oneness with Him, and of His indwelling within them. This wonderful promise is of new life now, as well as a promise of life in the age to come.

14.21 “He who holds closely my commandments and fully observes them, he is the one who loves me, and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will make myself known to him”.

Note the repetition of the idea in verse 15. Our paraphrase brings out the force of the words. They are spoken to those who are in earnest, who hold His words closely in their hearts and live by them and by them alone. This promise is for all who are His, but there is no room for the half-hearted here. This is the real test of whether we love Him. Do we fully do what He said?

We may sing, and dance, and shout ‘praise the Lord’, and that is good. But it means little by itself. The test of love is obedience and a desire to do what He wants. Along with that, and only along with that, the other has meaning. ‘He who says “I know Him” and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him’ (1 John 2.4).

And what will be the result? That the Father will love them. This is a very different love from that which God had for the world (John 3.16). That love was a general beneficence that among other things (e.g. the giving of sun and rain - Matthew 5.45) provided a way of salvation towards those who would respond, and great it was for it cost Him His Son. But this is a personal, individual love, as a Father to His children. His people are His children in a way that the world is not. That is why Jesus taught them to pray ‘Our Father’ (Matthew 6.9).

But they will not only enjoy the special love of the Father, for He adds “and I will love him and will make myself known to him”. They will thus also enjoy the personal love of the Son. Again we have to ask, who could say this but One Who was God? To link His own love for them as parallel with the Father’s love for them, and indeed to add it on as adding something extra, can only indicate a claim to be of equal stature with the Father. So the one who believes fully in Him and fully observes His commands will receive the Spirit of truth, will enjoy the special, personal love of the Father, and will be equally loved by Jesus, Who will make Himself known to him in the fullness of His glory. Here we see three Who are clearly of equal stature, Who come to those who fully believe.

Jesus Responds To Jude’s Question About An Earthly Kingdom By Pointing Out That The Need Is For A Personal Experience With God. The Kingly Rule Of God Is For Those Who Have That Experience (14.22-24).

We note throughout this time together in the Upper Room how all the disciples felt free to ask questions directly. We had the example of John in 13.25 (where interestingly it was Peter who backed down from asking the question), Peter in 13.36-37, Thomas in 14.5 and Philip in 14.8. All were on an equal footing. Now it is the turn of ‘Judas of James’. He cannot understand this reference to illumination of a few when what was generally expected was a great and incontrovertible revelation to the world. Jesus replies by emphasising that it is the personal revelation to the few that is all important.

14.22 ‘Judas, (not Iscariot), said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will fully reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” ’

Like all the disciples the other Judas (‘Judas of James’ not Judas Iscariot) was puzzled. It was anticipated by most that the expected Messiah would make himself known to the world in a great outward show, so that the world would follow him, and it would appear that in spite of Jesus’ clear teaching of the opposite that is what the disciples have mainly assumed up to this point. For men have always assumed that once God works He will do it spectacularly and everyone will respond. Their view is that all that is needed is a boost. But it has never been so. Such spectacular happenings may produce a temporary change of attitude, but they never change the heart. Always it has been the comparatively few who have truly responded, for the response must be a true one from the heart, not one produced by mass hysteria. The change required to be brought about is not superficial. God had made many spectacular demonstrations of His power in the past, but in no case had it resulted in a full hearted continual response from those who claimed to be His people.

This is the mystery of ‘the elect’, those who respond to God and are chosen by God. They come to God as God reveals Himself in their hearts. Jesus Himself had said that only the minority would enter the ‘narrow’, the ‘pressed in’, way (Matthew 7.14). So while man’s glory is in huge movements, and in the swaying of the masses, God works in individuals. It is, however, understandable that Judas was mystified. Who could foresee at that time what was to come?

Again it began with the resurrection appearances, but it continued as He personally revealed Himself in their hearts in their day by day lives, as the powerhouse within. As Paul could say, ‘yet no longer I but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2.20). That is why Jesus could promise them, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world (age)’ (Matthew 28.19-20).

(In Luke 6.16 this Judas is called ‘Judas of James’ i.e. probably ‘son of’. He is also called Thaddaeus (Matthew 10.3; Mark 3.18). Having two names, often a Greek and an Aramaic one, appears to have been commonplace).

14.23-24 ‘Jesus answered and said to him, “If a man loves me he will hold firmly to and obey (keep) my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. The one who does not love me, does not hold firmly to and obey my words. And the word which you hear is not mine but His who went me”.

As so often (compare Acts 1.6-7) Jesus does not directly answer the question. He did not want them to become tied up in theological disputation. Rather He points away from the question to the future experience that is to be theirs. Let them recognise that the coming of the Kingly Rule of God is not to be revealed by outward show but by inward and personal response. It is something which is among them and within them (Luke 17.21). It is revealed in the obedience of men who love Him to His word and teaching.

‘If a man loves me.’ Again this expands beyond the Apostles as the use of ‘a man’ demonstrates. The use of the singular ‘my word’ covers the whole of Jesus’ teaching, both theological and ethical. The man who loves Him will hold firmly to what he has learned from Jesus, absorbing it and letting it be fulfilled through his life. So Jesus is telling Judas, and the others, that His Messiahship is not with outward show but is a deeply personal and spiritual thing. It has been promoted through His life and teaching.

As a result those who promote it will not do so with flashing swords, but with obedient love and sound teaching. As a man responds obediently to the Jesus whom he loves, so will he enjoy the love of the Father, and the continuing presence with him of the Father and the Son. ‘We will come to him and make our home with him.’ The word ‘home’ is the same as that for ‘resting place’ in 14.2. While we live on earth His resting place will be with us who are true believers. When we rise to Heaven our resting place will be with Him. In both cases it is a permanent resting place, not a temporary residence. Note how it is made clear that the coming of the Holy Spirit involves the dwelling of Father and Son within them. One cannot come without the other.

However there are those who will not hold firmly to His words and obey them, whatever their profession might be (‘why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?’ - Luke 6.46), and this will be proof that they do not love Him. We should thus note how important our obedience is as evidence that we are truly His. We are saved by faith but it is by our fruits that we will be known. Faith that does not produce fruits is not saving faith (compare 2.23-25). Then Jesus stresses again that His word is not only His but also the Father’s word, emphasising its eternal importance, and underlining that He and His Father speak as One.

Jesus Promises That The Holy Spirit Will Enable Them To Remember Fully All That He Has Taught Them (14.25-26).

Drawing attention to what He has taught them during His earthly ministry Jesus now promises that the Holy Spirit will continue that teaching and will also enable them to remember all that He has taught them.

14.25 “I have spoken these things to you while abiding with you”.

These words signal the end of His own personal ministry to them. They will no more benefit from His earthly presence and teaching. He has shared their lives and watched over them, corrected them and guided them, but now He will do so in the flesh no more.

14.26 “But the ideal companion (paraclete), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and enable you to remember all that I have said to you”.

However, they need not fear for another will come Who will replace Him in this task. And that replacement is the Holy Spirit, Who will be sent to them from the Father (see also 14.16), and Who elsewhere is sent from the Son (‘I will send Him to you’ - 15.26; 16.7). They need not fear therefore that they will forget or misinterpret His words in the future. His words are too important for that. The coming Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, will teach them the full truth from beginning to end and will bring to their memory all His words. Thus does He ensure the preservation of His word (only possible to Hs disciples Who had heard it), and put His seal on their interpretation of His death and resurrection.

These words are vitally important as stressing, on Jesus’ authority, that His truth will be reliably and accurately preserved by Divine assistance. The Apostles, and those who wrote under their guidance, will fully preserve the truth. It is probable that some among them such as Matthew the ex-tax collector had already recorded some in writing (it would have been instinctive to Matthew to record what was spoken). Thus does Jesus lay His personal seal on the New Testament, and these words explain why the early church only accepted as divinely authoritative writings with Apostolic connections.

While we ourselves can accept that the Holy Spirit does guide us into truth and often bring Scripture to mind when we need it (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2.11 ff), these words above do not literally apply to us. We are not promised that we will be infallibly guided by the Spirit. This was only so at the beginning among those set apart for this purpose.

How often men say, ‘the Holy Spirit has shown me’, or ‘I have been guided by the Spirit’. How often such claims are made to look foolish. For if by this they are claiming that this therefore guarantees the authenticity of what they say or do they are sadly mistaken (as their disagreements with equally ‘inspired’ interpreters demonstrate quite clearly. That is why Paul said that the prophets must test out the words of each other - 1 Corinthians 14.19). For our fallible minds are not reliable channels of the Spirit’s activity. That is why Paul said of those who ‘spoke by the Spirit’ or prophesied - ‘let the others judge’ (1 Corinthians 14.29).

That was before there was a New Testament. Now of course we have an infallible guide by which to judge men’s teaching in the Scriptures. But all interpreters can so easily be fallible so that we need carefully to interpret each Scripture in the light of the whole, and compare it with the teaching of other Spirit filled men who are not fully of our own narrow persuasion, and thus come to a consensus of opinion, recognising that where there are differences on secondary matters (even though they may seem primary to us) in some of those matters it may be we who are wrong.

3). Closing Words of Comfort (John 14.27-31).

Jesus ends these words of strengthening and encouraging with further assurances. They will enjoy His peace, and are to recognise that it is good that He is going away because it means a greater and a wider work, and will also result in His once again enjoying His Father’s presence in the fullness of His Being..

14.27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. It is not as the world gives that I give to you”.

Jesus now assures them of peace in mind and heart, which He will give to them, indeed is now giving to them. His Spirit will not only teach them but will give them peace within, ‘peace that passes all understanding’ (Philippians 4.7), a part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22). It is a peace which is permanent, not dependent on the vicissitudes of the world. It is a peace that nothing can touch (except deliberate sin). The one who enjoys this peace may be troubled, as Jesus was sometimes troubled, but he will have an inner certainty beneath that makes the troubles bearable and temporary. For it His peace, a peace that they enjoy because of His presence within them, and through an awareness of the greatness of God’s love for them (Ephesians 3.17-19).

14.27b-28 “Do not allow your heart to be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You have heard how I said to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you’. If you loved me you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father. For the Father is greater than I”.

While it is true that He is leaving them, they must not let it get them down. For if they only think about it they will realise that it is both for His and their good. They may want Him to stay, but if they love Him they will rejoice at His going for they will realise that He is going to the Father, and what could be more wonderful than that? He is receiving again the glory which He had with the Father before the world was (17.5). He will once more enjoy the fullness of the Father’s ‘presence’ unalloyed by physical things Here on earth He is tried and tested, often weary, the object of enmity, scorn and ridicule, but there He will share the Father’s glory, the glory which was once also His, and will rejoice in the Father’s love, as the Father will rejoice in His love.

In His present manhood He is as One Who has stepped down from that glory. Although being Himself of the nature of Godhood from all eternity, He had emptied Himself and become in the nature of servitude, not counting equality with God as something to be grasped and held on to, but as something to be let go so that He may become ‘obedient to death’ on a cross (Philippians 2.6-8).

Thus while He is in this present position of servitude and humility His Father is greater than He, for His Father has retained His status and glory in full. The Father is not restricted by human weakness. So they should rejoice that He will now return to that glory and that untrammelled state, and take His rightful place, being exalted and given the Name above every Name (the name of YHWH, the name by which God was known in the Old Testament), and therefore being declared ‘Kurios’ (LORD) which in the Greek Old Testament is the translation of YHWH (Philippians 2.9-11).

Note on ‘My Father Is Greater Than I’.

Like all Scripture verses this should not be taken out of context. It is not the statement of an eternal truth in itself, but the acknowledgement of the present position that Jesus was in. He is speaking of His current situation as One Who had deliberately taken the lower place. He Who had once enjoyed equal glory with the Father (17.5), Who was pure divine Spirit (2 Corinthians 3.17-18), Who could claim unique Oneness with the Father (verses 6-9 above; 10.30), and Who is worthy of equal honour with the Father (5.22-23) had chosen to lower Himself and become man, yielding up the status that had been His as the great ‘I am’ (8.58), and limiting Himself to God-empowered manhood. By being ‘sent’ He had taken a lower place (13.16). In this position His Father was greater than He in status, and He was now looking forward to being restored to His former status.

As we saw with regard to 13.31-32 the whole of 13.31-17.26 has in mind the idea that Jesus was now returning to the glory which He had had with the Father before the world was (17.5), a glory which He had voluntarily relinquished. He had voluntarily become less ‘great’ than the Father, making Himself lower than the angels for the purposes of our redemption (Hebrews 2.9). This was the position that He was in as He spoke to the disciples and was why He could say ‘My Father is (at present) greater than I’. But the whole point of these words was that the disciples were to rejoice because He was now about to be restored to His former greatness and glory at which point He and His Father would be equal in glory and status.

We can compare how of all men born of women none was ‘greater’ than John the Baptist. This did not mean that he was of a superior essence to other men, but that his status as the Forerunner to Jesus singled him out. And yet we then note that the one who is least under the Kingly Rule of God is to be seen as ‘greater’ even than John the Baptist, because they have entered that to which John pointed. It is quite clear in either case that this does not mean ‘greater in essential eminence’. It rather refers to their status in God’s eyes at that particular point in time (Matthew 11.11). How was John of equal greatness with the greatest of men? Only in that he was so in status in God’s eyes as the proclaimer of His truth and as the forerunner to Jesus. This gave him unparalleled status. (The Romans would not have agreed with this argument. It was a status in God’s eyes). How are believers greater than John the Baptist? Only in that they have actually entered into that to which John looked forward. They were to be seen as of a higher status because they were actually within the Kingly Rule of God which to John had been a coming event. Both John and they were of the same essence. The greatness lay in their status at that time. John, of course, has since entered into that status. Believers are no longer greater than John. Thus the lack of greatness was of a temporary nature, as with Jesus in His earthly existence.

End of Note.

14.29 “And now I have told you before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe”.

He is telling them here that, before it happens, He is preparing them for the amazing change that will take place in His status. Then when they see Him resurrected, and ascending to the glory of the Father, they will remember what He has told them and recognise the truth for what it is.

14.30-31 “I will not speak with you much more. For the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in me, but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father commanded me, so I do. Arise, let us go from here”.

He now lets them know that He feels that He has said almost all that needs to be said for their encouragement, and that now He will prepare Himself for what He must face. He does not, He says, have much more to say. What He does have to say, however, will be important for it concerns the very purpose of His coming, and we find it in chapters 15-16. But He recognises that time is short because ‘the ruler of this world’ was on his way, already gathering his contingents so that he can arrest Jesus and put Him to death.

‘The ruler of this world’. Humanly speaking this refers to earthly authorities (in this case Jewish and Roman), who rule in this world, seen as a unity, But behind them undoubtedly lies a shadowy figure who orchestrates their actions, Satan himself (compare his stated ability to guarantee Jesus political success on a large scale if He will only honour him - Matthew 4.8-9; Luke 4.5-7). While elsewhere ‘the ruler of this world’ could be looked on as a general designation for any ‘ruling authority’ here it is far more likely that Satan himself is primarily in mind. As John says ‘the whole world lies in the arms of the Evil One’ (1 John 5.19). Judas was one who would come and we already know that Satan has entered him (13.27).

‘Has nothing in me.’ This may partly signify that the ‘Accuser’ has nothing to accuse Him of (‘nothing on Me’). And that his worldly counterparts too will challenge Him in vain. But it also speaks of all the efforts made by Satan to find a chink in His armour (he ‘has no way in’). For a while Satan and his minions probably thought that they were going to be hugely successful, and might possibly even thwart God, but their efforts would prove to be miserly and futile. They discovered that even in the few short hours of their ‘almost’ success they had nothing in Him and could do nothing to Him.

Satan had probably been confident that once he had Jesus at his mercy on the cross some chink would appear through which he could attack Him. How he must therefore have gloried when he saw Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane, and the battered broken figure at the cross. It would have appeared to him that victory was at hand. But when the final moment came he found that he had failed, and that it was he himself who was defeated. There proved to be no chink in Jesus’ armour, and so he himself, together with his minions, was bound and made captive (see Colossians 2.15. Ironically just as Jesus had been). Jesus not only proved Himself beyond their power, but also over them in power. And finally in the last analysis He has nothing to give them that they will receive, for they will not accept it. They are thus an irrelevance. The only worthwhile thing they will do is demonstrate to all that He loves the Father, for what He will go through is at the Father’s command.

“Arise, let us go from here”.

At first this may appear to be a suggestion that they now leave the Upper Room. But the Greek word agomen (let us go) implies in normal Greek usage ‘going to meet the enemy’, thus we might translate this as ‘let us march to meet him’. Compare its use in Matthew 26.46; Mark 14.42; John 11.16, where, in each case, it is used at a crisis point. Had the aim been just to leave the place another word would surely have been used.

So ‘Arise’ may well be translated ‘bestir yourselves’. This might therefore indicate that this was not necessarily the end of the conversations in the Upper Room, but a rallying cry to the disciples in the midst of His discourse, and a declaration that He is not fearful of the ruler of this world. He may well be saying, “The ruler of this world comes --- bestir yourselves, let us go to meet him.” It is an indication that Jesus will not stay in hiding or flinch from what lies ahead, but is rather ready for all that they can do. In this regard we should note that it is quite common for preachers to include such stirring words in their sermons, and then to continue with their message.

On the other hand, it may be that at this stage they did perhaps begin to rise from their reclining positions and stand up to make preparations for leaving. Jesus is, however, then shown as having continued His teaching through chapters 15 and 16 followed by His final prayer in chapter 17. There is nothing unlikely in the suggestion. People regularly say ‘time to go’, and then remain on for some time. The disciples would have been quite used to listening standing up (they were a lot tougher than we are) and it would have given them opportunity to relieve aching muscles while Jesus continued speaking. It is indeed possible that at the same time some of them cleared away the remnants of the meal, and put the room in order while Jesus continued to speak. But it seems more likely to us that it was simply a wake up call in the middle of His message.

(It is in fact quite common for someone today to say, ‘come on, it is time we were going’, only for it to be followed by delay while certain things are done and further conversation takes place, often for some time. There is thus no unlikelihood in the above, whichever interpretation we accept).

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