John 14

John 14  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Chapter 14 (and here, too, I must be brief) follows up the same spirit of contrast with all that belonged to Judaism; for if the ministration of love in cleansing the saints practically was very different from a glorious reign over the earth, so was the hope here given them of Christ just as peculiar. The Lord intimates, first of all, that He was not going to display Himself now as a Jewish Messiah, visible to the world; but as they believed’ in God, so they were to believe in Him. He was going to be unseen; quite a new thought to the Jewish mind as regards the Messiah, who, to them, always implied One manifested in power and glory in the world. “Ye believe in God,” He says, “believe also in me.” But then He connects the unseen condition He was about to assume with the character of the hope He was giving them. It was virtually saying that He was not going merely to bless them here. Nor would it be a scene for man to look on with his natural eyes in this world. He was going to bless them in an infinitely better way and place. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.” This is what the Son tells. Very different is the burden of the prophets. This was a new thing reserved most fitly for Him. Who but He should be the first to unveil to disciples on earth the heavenly scene of love and holiness and joy and glory He knew so well? “If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” This is the turning-point and secret—“where I am.” All depends on this precious privilege. The place that was due to the Son was the place that grace would give to the sons. They were to be in the same blessedness with Christ. It was not merely, therefore, Christ about to depart and be in heaven, maintaining their communion with Himself there, but—wondrous grace—in due time they, too, were to follow and be with Him; yea, if He went before them, so absolute was the grace, that He would not devolve it on any one else, so to speak, to usher them there. He would come Himself, and thus would bring them into His own place—“that where I am, there ye may be also.” This, I say, in all its parts, is the contrast of every hope, even of the brightest Jewish expectations.
Besides, He would assure them of the ground of their hope. In His own person they ought to have known how this could be. “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” They were surprised. Then, as ever, it was the overlooking of His glorious person that gave occasion to their bewilderment. In answer to Thomas, He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He was the way to the Father, and therefore they ought to have known; because no man comes to the Father but by Him. By receiving Jesus, by believing in Him, and only so, one comes to the Father, whom they had seen in Him, as Philip should have known. He was the way, and there was none other. Besides, He was the truth, the revelation of everyone and everything as they are. He was also the life, in which that truth was, by the Spirit’s power, known and enjoyed. In every way Christ was the only possible means of their entering into this blessedness. He was in the Father, and the Father in Him; and as the words were not spoken from Himself, so the Father abiding in Him did the works (vss. 1-11).
Then our Lord turns, from what they should even then have known in and from His person and words and works, to another thing which could not then be known. This divides the chapter. The first part is the Son known on earth in personal dignity as declaring the Father— imperfectly, no doubt, but still known. This ought to have been the means of their apprehending whither He was going; for He was the Son not merely of Mary but of the Father. And this they then knew, however dull in perceiving the consequences. All His manifestation in this Gospel was just the witness of this glory, as they certainly ought to have seen; and the new hope was thoroughly in accordance with that glory. But now He discloses to them that which they could only do and understand when the Holy Spirit was given. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me; and I in you.” This supposes the Holy Spirit given. First, it is the Son present, and the Father known in Him, and He in the Father. Next, the Holy Spirit is promised. When He was given, these would be the blessed results. He was going away indeed; but they might better prove their love by keeping His commandments, than in human grief over His absence. Besides, Christ would ask the Father, who would give them their ever-abiding Comforter while He Himself was away. The Holy Spirit would be not a passing visitor on the earth, even as the Son who had been with them for a season; He would abide forever. His dwelling with them is in contrast with any temporary blessing; and besides, He would be in them—the expression of an intimacy which nothing human can fully illustrate.
Observe, the Lord uses the present tense both for Himself and for the Comforter—the Holy Spirit—in this chapter, in a way that will be explained shortly. In the early part of verse 2 He says about Himself, “I go to prepare a place for you.” He does not mean that He was in the act of departure, but just about to go. He uses the present to express its certainty and nearness; He then was on the point of going. So even of coming back again, where likewise He uses the present, “I come again.” He does not precisely say, as in the English version, “I will come.” This passage of Scripture suffices to exemplify a common idiomatical usage in Greek, as in our own and other tongues, when a thing is to be regarded as sure, and to be constantly expected. It seems to me an analogous usage in connection with the Holy Spirit—“He dwelleth with you.” I apprehend that the object is simply to lay the stress on the dwelling, The Holy Spirit, when He comes, will not come and go soon after, but abide. Hence, says the Lord Jesus, “He abideth with you”—the same word so often used for abiding throughout the chapter; and next, as we saw, “He shall be in you:” a needful word to add; for otherwise it was not implied in His abiding with them.
These, then, are the two great truths of the chapter their future portion with Christ in the Father’s house; and, meanwhile, the permanent stay of the Holy Spirit with the disciples, and this, too, as indwelling on the footing of life in Christ risen (vs.19). “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (vss. 18-20). Thus, having the Holy Spirit as the power of life in Him, they would know Him nearer to them, and themselves to Him, when they should know Him in the Father, than if they had Him as Messiah with them and over them in the earth. These are the two truths which the Lord thus communicates to them.
Then we have a contrast of manifestation to the disciples, and to the world, connected with another very important point—the Holy Spirit’s power shown in their obedience, and drawing down a love according to the Father’s government of His children. It is not merely the Father’s love for His children as such, but Father and Son loving them, because of having and keeping the commandments of Jesus. This would be met by a manifestation of Jesus to the soul, such as the world knows nothing of. But the Lord explains further, that if a man loves Him, he will keep His word, and His Father will love him, “and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (vs. 23). This is not a commandment, but His word—a simple intimation of His mind or will; and, therefore, as a more thorough test, so followed by a fuller blessing. This is a beautiful difference, and of great practical value, being bound up with the measure of our attentiveness of heart. Where obedience lies comparatively on the surface, and self-will or worldliness is not judged, a commandment is always necessary to enforce it. People therefore ask, “Must I do this? Is there any harm in that?” To such the Lord’s will is solely a question of command. Now there are commandments, the expression of His authority; and they are not grievous. But, besides, where the heart loves Him deeply, His word will give enough expression of His will to him that loves Christ. Even in nature a parent’s look will do it. As we well know, an obedient child catches her mother’s desire before the mother has uttered a word. So, whatever might be the word of Jesus, it would be heeded, and thus the heart and life be formed in obedience. And what is not the joy and power where such willing subjection to Christ pervades the soul, and all is in the communion of the Father and the Son? How little can any of us speak of it as our habitual unbroken portion!
The concluding verses (25-31) bring before them the reason of the Lord’s communication, and the confidence they may repose in the Spirit, both in His own teaching them all things, and in His recalling all things, which Jesus said to them. “Peace,” He adds, “I leave [fruit of His very death; nor this only, but His own character of peace, what He Himself knew] with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” “Not as the world,” which is capricious and partial, keeping for itself even where it affects most generosity alone who was God could give as Jesus gave, at all cost, and what was most precious. And see what confidence He looks for, what affections superior to self! “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.” Little remained for Him to talk with them. Another task was before Him— not with saints, but with Satan, who coming would find nothing in Him, save, indeed, obedience up to death itself that the world might know that He loves the Father, and does just as He commands. And then He bids the disciples rise up and go hence, as in chapter 13. He rose up Himself (both being, in my opinion, significant actions, in accordance with what was opening out before Him and them).
But I need and must say no more now on this precious portion. I could only hope to convey the general scope of the contents, as well as their distinctive character. May our God and Father grant that what has been said may help His children to read His word with ever deepening intelligence and enjoyment of it, and of Him with whose grace and glory it is filled!