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Bible Commentaries

William Barclay's Daily Study Bible
John 14

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-31

Chapter 14

THE PROMISE OF GLORY (John 14:1-3)

14:1-3 "Do not let your heart be distressed. Believe in God and believe in me. There are many abiding-places in my Father's house. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And, if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will welcome you to myself, that where I am, there you too may be."

In a very short time life for the disciples was going to fall in. Their world was going to collapse in chaos around them. At such a time there was only one thing to do--stubbornly to hold on to trust in God. As the Psalmist had had it: "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalms 27:13). "But my eyes are toward thee, O Lord God; in thee I seek refuge" (Psalms 141:8). There comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove and to accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that that purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light.

Jesus adds something to that. He says not only: "Believe in God." He says also: "Believe in me." If the Psalmist could believe in the ultimate goodness of God, how much can we. For Jesus is the proof that God is willing to give us everything he has to give. As Paul put it: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?" (Romans 8:32). If we believe that in Jesus we see the picture of God, then, in face of that amazing love, it becomes, not easy, but at least possible, to accept even what we cannot understand, and in the storms of life to retain a faith that is serene.

Jesus went on to say: "There are many abiding places in my Father's house." By his Father's house he meant heaven. But what did he mean when he said there were many abiding places in heaven? The word used for abiding places is the word monai (Greek #3438) and there are three suggestions.

(i) The Jews held that in heaven there were different grades of blessedness which would be given to men according to their goodness and their fidelity on earth. In the Book of the Secrets of Enoch it is said: "In the world to come there are many mansions prepared for men; good for good; evil for evil." That picture likens heaven to a vast palace in which there are many rooms, with each assigned a room such as his life has merited.

(ii) In the Greek writer Pausanias the word monai (Greek #3438) means stages upon the way. If that is how to take it here, it means that there are many stages on the way to heaven and even in heaven there is progress and development and advance. At least some of the great early Christian thinkers had that belief. Origen was one. He said that when a man died, his soul went to some place called Paradise, which is still upon earth. There he received teaching and training and, when he was worthy and fit, his soul ascended into the air. It then passed through various monai (Greek #3438), stages, which the Greeks called spheres and which the Christians called heavens, until finally it reached the heavenly kingdom. In so doing the soul followed Jesus who, as the writer to the Hebrews said, "passed through the heavens" (Hebrews 4:14). Irenaeus speaks of a certain interpretation of the sentence which tells how the seed that is sown produces sometimes a hundredfold., sometimes sixtyfold and sometimes thirtyfold (Matthew 13:8). There was a different yield and therefore a different reward. Some men will be counted worthy to pass all their eternity in the very presence of God; others will rise to Paradise; and others will become citizens of "the city." Clement of Alexandria believed that there were degrees of glory, rewards and stages in proportion to a man's achievement in holiness in this life.

There is something very attractive here. There is a sense in which the soul shrinks from what we might call a static heaven. There is something attractive in the idea of a development which goes on even in the heavenly places. Speaking in purely human and inadequate terms, we sometimes feel that we would bedazzled with too much splendour, if we were immediately ushered into the very presence of God. We feel that even in heaven we would need to be purified and helped until we could face the greater glory.

(iii) But it may well be that the meaning is very simple and very lovely. "There are many abiding-places in my Father's house" may simply mean that in heaven there is room for all. An earthly house becomes overcrowded; an earthly inn must sometimes turn away the weary traveller because its accommodation is exhausted. It is not so with our Father's house, for heaven is as wide as the heart of God and there is room for all. Jesus is saying to his friends: "Don't be afraid. Men may shut their doors upon you. But in heaven you will never be shut out."

THE PROMISE OF GLORY (John 14:1-3 continued)

There are certain other great truths within this passage.

(i) It tells us of the honesty of Jesus. "If it were not so," asked Jesus, "would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" No one could ever claim that he had been inveigled into Christianity by specious promises or under false pretenses. Jesus told men bluntly that the Christian must bid farewell to comfort (Luke 9:57-58). He told them of the persecution, the hatred, the penalties they would have to bear (Matthew 10:16-22). He told them of the cross which they must carry (Matthew 16:24), even although he told them also of the glory of the ending of the Christian way. He frankly and honestly told men what they might expect both of glory and of pain if they followed him. He was not a leader who tried to bribe men with promises of an easy way; he tried to challenge them into greatness.

(ii) It tells us of the function of Jesus. He said, "I am going to prepare a place for you." One of the great thoughts of the New Testament is that Jesus goes on in front for us to follow. He opens up a way so that we may follow in his steps. One of the great words which is used to describe Jesus is the word prodromos (Greek #4274) (Hebrews 6:20). The King James Version and the Revised Standard translate it forerunner. There are two uses of this word which light up the picture within it. In the Roman army the prodromoi (Greek #4274) were the reconnaissance troops. They went ahead of the main body of the army to blaze the trail and to ensure that it was safe for the rest of the troops to follow. The harbour of Alexandria was very difficult to approach. When the great corn ships came into it a little pilot boat was sent out to guide them along the channel into safe waters. That pilot boat was called the prodromos (Greek #4274). It went first to make it safe for others to follow. That is what Jesus did. He blazed the way to heaven and to God that we might follow in his steps.

(iii) It tells us of the ultimate triumph of Jesus. He said: "I am coming again." The Second Coming of Jesus is a doctrine which has to a large extent dropped out of Christian thinking and preaching. The curious thing about it is that Christians seem either entirely to disregard it or to think of nothing else. It is true that we cannot tell when it will happen or what will happen, but one thing is certain--history is going somewhere. Without a climax it would be necessarily incomplete. History must have a consummation, and that consummation will be the triumph of Jesus Christ; and he promises that in the day of his triumph he will welcome his friends.

(iv) Jesus said: "Where I am, there you will also be." Here is a great truth put in the simplest way; for the Christian, heaven is where Jesus is. We do not need to speculate on what heaven will be like. It is enough to know that we will be for ever with him. When we love someone with our whole heart, we are really alive only when we are with that person. It is so with Christ. In this world our contact with him is shadowy, for we can see only through a glass darkly, and spasmodic, for we are poor creatures and cannot live always on the heights. But the best definition is to say that heaven is that state where we will always be with Jesus.

THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE (John 14:4-6)

14:4-6 "And you know the way to where I go." Thomas said to him: "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?" Jesus said to him: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Again and again Jesus had told his disciples where he was going, but somehow they had never understood. "Yet a little while I am with you," he said, "and then I go to him that sent me" (John 7:33). He had told them that he was going to the Father who had sent him, and with whom he was one, but they still did not understand what was going on. Even less did they understand the way by which Jesus was going, for that way was the Cross. At this moment the disciples were bewildered men. There was one among them who could never say that he understood what he did not understand, and that was Thomas. He was far too honest and far too much in earnest to be satisfied with any vague pious expressions. Thomas had to be sure. So he expressed his doubts and his failure to understand, and the wonderful thing is that it was the question of a doubting man which provoked one of the greatest things Jesus ever said. No one need be ashamed of his doubts; for it is amazingly and blessedly true that he who seeks will in the end find.

Jesus said to Thomas: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." That is a great saying to us, but it would be still greater to a Jew who heard it for the first time. In it Jesus took three of the great basic conceptions of Jewish religion, and made the tremendous claim that in him all three found their full realization.

The Jews talked much about the way in which men must walk and the ways of God. God said to Moses: "You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you" (Deuteronomy 5:32-33). Moses said to the people: "I know that after my death you will surely act corruptly, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you" (Deuteronomy 31:29). Isaiah had said: "Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). In the brave new world there would be a highway called the Way of Holiness, and in it the wayfaring man, even though a simple soul, would not go lost (Isaiah 35:8). It was the Psalmist's prayer: "Teach me thy way, O Lord" (Psalms 27:11). The Jews knew much about the way of God in which a man must walk. And Jesus said: "I am the Way."

What did he mean? Suppose we are in a strange town and ask for directions. Suppose the person asked says: "Take the first to the right, and the second to the left. Cross the square, go past the church, take the third on the right and the road you want is the fourth on the left." The chances are that we will be lost before we get half-way. But suppose the person we ask says: "Come. I'll take you there." In that case the person to us is the way, and we cannot miss it. That is what Jesus does for us. He does not only give advice and directions. He takes us by the hand and leads us; he strengthens us and guides us personally every day. He does not tell us about the way; he is the Way.

Jesus said: "I am the Truth." The Psalmist said: "Teach me Thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in thy truth" (Psalms 86:11). "For thy steadfast love is before my eyes," he said, "and I walk in faithfulness to thee" (Psalms 26:3). "I have chosen the way of truth," he said (Psalms 119:30). Many men have told us the truth, but no man ever embodied it. There is one all-important thing about moral truth. A man's character does not really affect his teaching of geometry or astronomy or Latin verbs. But if a man proposes to teach moral truth, his character makes all the difference in the world. An adulterer who teaches the necessity of purity, a grasping person who teaches the value of generosity, a domineering person who teaches the beauty of humility, an irascible creature who teaches the beauty of serenity, an embittered person who teaches the beauty of love, is bound to be ineffective. Moral truth cannot be conveyed solely in words; it must be conveyed in example. And that is precisely where the greatest human teacher must fall down. No teacher has ever embodied the truth he taught--except Jesus. Many a man could say: "I have taught you the truth." Only Jesus could say: "I am the Truth." The tremendous thing about Jesus is not simply that the statement of moral perfection finds its peak in him; it is that the fact of moral perfection finds its realization in him.

Jesus said: "I am the Life." The writer of the Proverbs said: "The commandment is a lamp, and the teaching a light; and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life" (Proverbs 6:23). "He who heeds instructions is on the path to life" (Proverbs 10:17). "Thou dost show me the path of life," said the Psalmist (Psalms 16:11). In the last analysis what man is always seeking for is life. His search is not for knowledge for its own sake: but what will make life worth living. A novelist makes one of his characters who has fallen in love say: "I never knew what life was until I saw it in your eyes." Love had brought life. That is what Jesus does. Life with Jesus is life indeed.

And there is one way of putting all this. "No one," said Jesus, "comes to the Father except through me." He alone is the way to God. In him alone we see what God is like; and he alone can lead men into God's presence without fear and without shame.

THE VISION OF GOD (John 14:7-11)

14:7-11 "If you had known me, you would have known my Father too. From now on you are beginning to know him, and you have seen him." Philip said to him: "Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough for us." Jesus said to him: "Have I been with you for so long, and you did not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say: 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me? I am not the source of the words that I speak to you. It is the Father who dwells in me who is doing his own work. Believe me that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me. If you cannot believe it because I say it, believe it because of the very works I do."

It may well be that to the ancient world this was the most staggering thing Jesus ever said. To the Greeks God was characteristically The Invisible, the Jews would count it as an article of faith that no man had seen God at any time. To people who thought like that Jesus said: "If you had known me, you would have known my Father too." Then Philip asked what he must have believed to be the impossible. Maybe he was thinking back to that tremendous day when God revealed his glory to Moses (Exodus 33:12-23). But even in that great day. God had said to Moses: "You shall see my back: but my face shall not be seen." In the time of Jesus men were oppressed and fascinated by what is called the transcendence of God and by thought of the difference and the distance between God and man. They would never have dared to think that they could see God. Then Jesus says with utter simplicity: "He who has seen me has seen the Father."

To see Jesus is to see what God is like. A recent writer said that Luke in his gospel "domesticated God." He meant that Luke shows us God in Jesus taking a share in the most intimate and homely things. When we see Jesus we can say: "This is God living our life." That being so, we can say the most precious things about God.

(i) God entered into an ordinary home and into an ordinary family. As Francis Thompson wrote so beautifully in Ex Ore Infantum:

Little Jesus, wast thou shy

Once, and just so small as I?

And what did it feel to be

Out of Heaven and just like me?

Anyone in the ancient world would have thought that if God did come into this world, he would come as a king into some royal palace with all the might and majesty which the world calls greatness. As George Macdonald wrote:

They all were looking for a king

To slay their foes and lift them high;

Thou cam'st, a little baby thing,

That made a woman cry.

As the child's verse says:

"There was a knight of Bethlehem

Whose wealth was tears and sorrows;

His men at arms were little lambs,

His trumpeters were sparrows."

In Jesus, God once and for all sanctified human birth, sanctified the humble home of ordinary folk and sanctified all childhood.

(ii) God was not ashamed to do a man's work. It was as a working man that he entered into the world; Jesus was the carpenter of Nazareth. We can never sufficiently realize the wonder of the fact that God understands our day's work. He knows the difficulty of making ends meet; he knows the difficulty of the ill-mannered customer and the client who will not pay his bills. He knew all the difficulty of living in an ordinary home and in a big family, and he knew every problem which besets us in the work of every day. According to the Old Testament work is a curse; according to the old story, the curse on man for the sin of Eden was: "In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread" (Genesis 3:19). But according to the New Testament, common work is tinged with glory for it has been touched by the hand of God.

(iii) God knows what it is to be tempted. The life of Jesus shows us, not the serenity, but the struggle of God. Anyone might conceive of a God who lived in a serenity and peace which were beyond the tensions of this world; but Jesus shows us a God who goes through the struggle that we must undergo. God is not like a commander who leads from behind the lines; he too knows the firing-line of life.

(iv) In Jesus we see God loving. The moment love enters into life pain enters in. If we could be absolutely detached, if we could so arrange life that nothing and nobody mattered to us, then there would be no such thing as sorrow and pain and anxiety. But in Jesus we see God caring intensely, yearning over men, feeling poignantly for them and with them, loving them until he bore the wounds of love upon his heart.

(v) In Jesus we see God upon a Cross. There is nothing so incredible as this in all the world. It is easy to imagine a god who condemns men; it is still easier to imagine a God who, if men oppose him, wipes them out. No one would ever have dreamed of a God who chose the Cross to obtain our salvation.

"He who has seen me has seen the Father." Jesus is the revelation of God and that revelation leaves the mind of man staggered and amazed.

THE VISION OF GOD (John 14:7-11 continued)

Jesus goes on to say something else. One thing no Jew would ever lose was the grip of sheer loneliness of God. The Jews were unswerving monotheists. The danger of the Christian faith is that we may set up Jesus as a kind of secondary God. But Jesus himself insists that the things he said and the things he did did not come from his own initiative or his own power or his own knowledge but from God. His words were God's voice speaking to men; His deeds were God's power flowing through him to men. He was the channel by which God came to men.

Let us take two simple and imperfect analogies, from the relationship between student and teacher. Dr Lewis Muirhead said of that great Christian and expositor, A. B. Bruce, that men "came to see in the man the glory of God." Every teacher has the responsibility of transmitting something of the glory of his subject to those who listen to him; and he who teaches about Jesus Christ can, if he is saint enough, transmit the vision and the presence of God to his students. That is what A. B. Bruce did, and in an infinitely greater way that is what Jesus did. He transmitted the glory and the love of God to men.

Here is the other analogy. A great teacher stamps his students with something of himself. W. M. Macgregor was a student of A. B. Bruce. A. J. Gossip tells in his memoir of W. M. Macgregor that, "when it was rumoured that Macgregor thought of deserting the pulpit for a chair, men, in astonishment, asked, Why? He replied, with modesty, that he had learned some things from Bruce that he would fain pass on." Principal John Cairns wrote to his teacher Sir William Hamilton: "I do not know what life, or lives, may lie before me. But I know this, that, to the end of the last of them, I shall bear your mark upon me." Sometimes if a divinity student has been trained by a great preacher whom he loves, we will see in the student something of the teacher and hear something of his voice. Jesus did something like that only immeasurably more so. He brought God's accent, God's message, God's mind, God's heart to men.

We must every now and then remember, that all is of God. it was not a self-chosen expedition to the world which Jesus made. He did not do it to soften a hard heart in God. He came because God sent him, because God so loved the world. At the back of Jesus, and in him, there is God.

Jesus went on to make a claim and to offer a test, based on two things; his words and his works.

(i) He claimed to be tested by what he said. It is as if Jesus said: "When you listen to me, can you not realize at once that what I am saying is God's own truth?" The words of any genius are always self-evidencing. When we read great poetry we cannot for the most part say why it is great and grips our heart. We may analyse the vowel sounds and so on, but in the end there is something which defies analysis, but nevertheless easily and immediately recognizable. It is so with the words of Jesus. When we hear them we cannot help saying; "If only the world would live on these principles, how different it would be! If only I would live on these principles, how different I would be!"

(ii) He claimed to be tested by his deeds. He said to Philip: "If you cannot believe in me because of what I say, surely you will allow what I can do to convince you." That was the same answer as Jesus sent back to John when he sent his messengers to ask whether Jesus was the Messiah, or if they must look for another. "Go back," he said, "and tell John what is happening--and that will convince him" (Matthew 11:1-6). Jesus' proof is that no one else ever succeeded in making bad men good.

Jesus said in effect to Philip: "Listen to me! Look at me! And believe!" Still the way to Christian belief is not to argue about Jesus but to listen to him and to look at him. If we do that, the sheer personal impact will compel us to believe.

THE TREMENDOUS PROMISES (John 14:12-14)

14:12-14 "This is the truth I tell you--he that believes on me will do the works that I do, and he will do greater works than these, because I go to my Father. And I will do whatever you shall ask in my name, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."

There could scarcely be any greater promises than the two contained in this passage. But they are of such a nature that we must try to understand what they mean. Unless we do, the experience of life is bound to disappoint us.

(i) First of all Jesus said that one day his disciples would do what he did, and even greater works. What did he mean?

(a) It is quite certain that in the early days the early Church possessed the power of working cures. Paul enumerates among the gifts which different people had that of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 12:30). James urged that when any Christian was sick, the elders should pray over him and anoint him with oil (James 5:14). But it is clear that that is by no means all that Jesus meant; for though it could be said that the early Church did the things which Jesus did, it certainly could not be said that it did greater things than he did.

(b) As time has gone on man has more and more learned to conquer disease. The physician and the surgeon nowadays have powers which to the ancient world would have seemed miraculous and even godlike. The surgeon with his new techniques, the physician with his new treatments and his miracle drugs, can now effect the most amazing cures. There is a long way to go yet, but one by one the citadels of pain and disease have been stormed. The salient thing about all this is that it was the power and the influence of Jesus Christ which brought it about. Why should men strive to save the weak and the sick and the dying, those whose bodies are broken and whose minds are darkened? Why is it that men of skill and science have felt moved, and even compelled, to spend their time and their strength, to ruin their health and sometimes to sacrifice their lives, to find cures for disease and relief from pain? The answer is that, whether they knew it or not, Jesus was saying to them through his Spirit: "These people must be helped and healed. You must do it. It is your responsibility and your privilege to do all you can for them." It is the. Spirit of Jesus who has been behind the conquest of disease; and, as a result, men can do things nowadays which in the time of Jesus no one would ever have imagined possible.

(c) But we are still not at the meaning of this. Think of what Jesus in the days of his flesh had actually done. He had never preached outside Palestine. Within his lifetime Europe had never heard the gospel. He had never personally met moral degradation of a city like Rome. Even his opponents in Palestine were religious men; the Pharisees and the scribes had given their lives to religion as they saw it and there was never any doubt that they revered and practised purity of life. It was not in his lifetime that Christianity went out to a world where the marriage bond was set at nought, where adultery was not even a conventional sin, and where vice flourished like a tropical forest.

It was into that world the early Christians went; and it was that world which they won for Christ. When it came to a matter of numbers and extent and changing power, the triumphs of the message of the Cross were even greater than the triumphs of Jesus in the days of his flesh. It is of moral re-creation and spiritual victory that Jesus is speaking. He says that this will happen because he is going to his Father. What does he mean by that? He means this. In the days of his flesh he was limited to Palestine; when he had died and risen again, he was liberated from these limitations and his Spirit could work mightily anywhere.

(ii) In his second promise Jesus says that any prayer offered in his name will be granted. It is here of all places that we must understand. Note carefully what Jesus said--not that all our prayers would be granted, but that our prayers made in his name would be granted. The test of any prayer is: Can I make it in the name of Jesus? No man, for instance, could pray for personal revenge, for personal ambition, for some unworthy and unchristian object in the name of Jesus. When we pray, we must always ask: Can we honestly make this prayer in the name of Jesus? The prayer which can stand the test of that consideration, and which, in the end says, Thy will be done, is always answered. But the prayer based on self cannot expect to be granted.

THE PROMISED HELPER (John 14:15-17)

14:15-17 "If you love me, keep my commandments; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you for ever, I mean the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot receive him, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him because he remains among you and will be within you."

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 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.

But Jesus does not leave us to struggle with the Christian life alone. He would send us another Helper. The Greek word is the word parakletos (Greek #3875) which is really untranslatable. The King James Version renders it Comforter, which, although hallowed by time and usage, is not a good translation. Moffatt translates it Helper. It is only when we examine this word parakletos (Greek #3875) in detail that we catch something of the riches of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It 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 (Greek #3875) 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 (Greek #3875) 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 (Greek #3875), who will guide you as to what to do and enable you to do it."

Jesus went on to say that the world cannot recognize the Spirit. By the world is meant that section of men who live as if there was no God. 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.

The Holy Spirit gate-crashes no man's heart; He waits to be received. So when we think of the wonderful things which the Holy Spirit can do, surely we will set apart some time amidst the bustle and the rush of life to wait in silence for his coming.

THE WAY TO FELLOWSHIP AND TO REVELATION (John 14:18-24)

14:18-24 "I will not leave you forlorn. I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me; but you will see me because I will be alive and you too will be alive. In that day you will know that I am in the Father, and that you are in me, even as I am in you. It is he who grasps my commandments and keeps them who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him." Judas, not Iscariot, said to him: "Why has it happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered: "If any man loves me, he will keep my word; and the Father will love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our abode with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words. And the word which you hear is not mine, but it belongs to the Father who sent me."

By this time a sense of foreboding must have enveloped the disciples. Even they must now have seen that there was tragedy ahead. But Jesus says: "I will not leave you forlorn." The word he uses is orphanos (Greek #3737). It means without a father, but it was also used of disciples and students bereft of the presence and the teaching of a beloved master. Plato says that, when Socrates died, his disciples "thought that they would have to spend the rest of their lives forlorn as children bereft of a father, and they did not know what to do about it." But Jesus told his disciples that would not be the case with them. "I am coming back," he said.

He is talking of his Resurrection and his risen presence. They will see him because he will be alive; and because they will be alive. What he means is that they will be spiritually alive. At the moment they are bewildered and numbed with the sense of impending tragedy; but the day will come when their eyes will be opened, their minds will understand and their hearts will be kindled--and then they will really see him. That in fact is precisely what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. His rising changed despair to hope and it was then they realized beyond a doubt that he was the Son of God.

In this passage John is playing on certain ideas which are never far from his mind.

(i) First and foremost there is love. For John love is the basis of everything. God loves Jesus; Jesus loves God; God loves men; Jesus loves men; men love God through Jesus; men love each other; heaven and earth, man and God, man and man are all bound together by the bond of love.

(ii) Once again John stresses the necessity of obedience, the only proof of love. It was to those who loved him that Jesus appeared when he rose from the dead, not to the scribes and the Pharisees and the hostile Jews.

(iii) This obedient, trusting love leads to two things. First, it leads to ultimate safety. On the day of Christ's triumph those who have been his obedient lovers will be safe in a crashing world. Second, it leads to a fuller and fuller revelation. The revelation of God is a costly thing. There is always a moral basis for it; it is to the man who keeps his commandments that Christ reveals himself No evil man can ever receive the revelation of God. He can be used by God, but he can have no fellowship with him. It is only to the man who is looking for him that God reveals himself, and it is only to the man who, in spite of failure, is reaching up that God reaches down. Fellowship with God and the revelation of God are dependent on love; and love is dependent on obedience. The more we obey God, the more we understand him; and the man who walks in his way inevitably walks with him.

THE BEQUESTS OF CHRIST (John 14:25-31)

14:25-31 "I have spoken these things to you while to you while I am still with you. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I have said. I am leaving you peace: I am giving you my peace. I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Let not your heart be distressed or fear-stricken. You have heard that I said to you: 'I am going away and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to my Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you about it before it happens, so that whenever it does happen, you will believe. I shall not say much more to you, because the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me. His coming will only make the world know that I love the Father, and that I do as the Father has commanded me. Rise, let us be going."

This a passage close-packed with truth. In it Jesus speaks of five things.

(i) He speaks of his ally, the Holy Spirit, and says two basic things about him.

(a) The Holy Spirit will teach us all things. To the end of the day the Christian must be a learner, for to the end of the day the Holy Spirit will be leading him deeper and deeper into the truth of God. There is never any excuse in the Christian faith for the shut mind. The Christian who feels that he has nothing more to learn is the Christian who has not even begun to understand what the doctrine of the Holy Spirit means.

(b) The Holy Spirit will remind us of what Jesus has said. This means two things. 1. In matters of belief, the Holy Spirit is constantly bringing back to us the things Jesus said. We have an obligation to think, but all our conclusions must be tested against the words of Jesus. It is not so much the truth that we have to discover; he told us the truth. What we have to discover is the meaning of that truth. The Holy Spirit saves us from arrogance and error of thought. 2. The Holy Spirit will keep us right in matters of conduct. Nearly all of us have this sort of experience in life. We are tempted to do something wrong and are on the very brink of doing it, when back into our mind comes a saying of Jesus, the verse of a psalm, the picture of Jesus, words of someone we love and admire, teaching we received when very young. In the moment of danger these things flash unbidden into our minds. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

(ii) He speaks of his gift, and his gift is peace. In the Bible the word for peace, shalowm (Hebrew #7965), never means simply the absence of trouble. It means everything which makes for our highest good. The peace which the world offers us is the peace of escape, the peace which comes from the avoidance of trouble and from refusing to face things. The peace which Jesus offers us is the peace of conquest. No experience of life can ever take it from us and no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can ever make it less. It is independent of outward circumstances.

(iii) He speaks of his destination. He is going back to his Father; and he says that if his disciples really loved him, they would be glad that it was so. He was being released from the limitations of this world; he was being restored to his glory. If we really grasped the truth of the Christian faith, we would always be glad when those whom we love go to be with God. That is not to say that we would not feel the sting of sorrow and the sharpness of loss; but even in our sorrow and our loneliness, we would be glad that after the troubles and the trials of earth those whom we loved have gone to something better. We would never grudge them their rest but would remember that they had entered, not into death, but into blessedness.

(iv) He speaks of his struggle. The Cross was the final battle of Jesus with the powers of evil. But he was not afraid of it, for he knew that evil had no ultimate power over him. He went to his death in the certainty, not of defeat, but of conquest.

(v) He speaks of his vindication. At the moment men saw in the Cross only his humiliation and his shame; but the time would come when they would see in it his obedience to God and his love to men. The very things which were the keynotes of Jesus' life found their highest expression in the Cross.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

 


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Bibliography Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 14:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-14.html. 1956-1959.

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