Christ Comforting His Disciples
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us: —
1. Christ's call to faith in Himself, verse 1.
2. Christ's teaching about Heaven, verse 2.
3. Christ's precious promises, verses 3, 4.
4. Thomas' question, verse 5.
5. Christ perfectly suited to us, verses 6, 7.
6. Philip's ignorance, verse 8.
7. Christ's reproof, verses 9-11.
It is in the fourteenth chapter of John that the Lord Jesus really begins the Paschal Discourse, a discourse which for tenderness, depth, and comprehensiveness is unsurpassed in all the Scriptures. The circumstances under which it was delivered need to be steadily borne in mind. This heart-melting Address of Christ was given to the Eleven on the last night before He died, affording a manifestation of Him which has been strikingly likened to the "glorious radiance of the setting sun, surrounded with dark clouds, and about to plunge into darker, which, fraught with lightning, thunder, and tempest, wait on the horizon to receive him." Most blessedly do His words here bring out the perfections of the God-man. Any other Prayer of Manasseh, even a man of superior strength of mind and kindliness of heart, placed, so far as he could be placed in our Lord's circumstances, would have had his mind thrown into such a state of uncontrollable agitation, and most certainly would have been too entirely occupied with his own sufferings and anxieties to have any power or disposition to enter into and soothe the sorrows of others. But though completely aware of all that awaited Him, though feeling the weight of the awful load laid upon Him, though tasting the bitter cup which He must drain, He not only retained full self-possession, but took as deep an interest in the fears and sorrows of the apostles as if He Himself had not been a sufferer. Instead of being occupied with what lay before Himself, He spent the time in comforting His disciples: He "loved them unto the end."
During His public ministry and in His private intercourse with them, the apostles had heard repeated statements from His lips concerning His approaching sufferings and death, statements which appear to us simple and plain, but which perplexed and amazed them. It is most charitable, and perhaps most reasonable, to conclude that His disciples regarded His references to His coming passion as parables, which were not to be understood literally; and that, at any rate, He could not mean anything inconsistent with His immediately restoring the kingdom to Israel. They were fully convinced that He was the Messiah, and their only idea in connection with the Messiah was that of an illustrious Conqueror, a prosperous king; therefore, whatever was obscure in their Master's sayings, must be understood in the light of these principles. And it is probable that their hopes had never risen higher than when they had seen Him ride into Jerusalem amid the joyous acclamations of the multitudes hailing Him as the Son of David.
But right after His entry into Jerusalem they had heard Him speak of Himself as the "corn of wheat" which must fall into the ground and die, and this,, at least, must have awakened dark forebodings. And, too, His conduct and sayings during the pass-over-supper, and what followed, must have deeply perplexed and distressed them. "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?" must have filled them with painful misgivings. He had said, "Yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you." This was, indeed, sufficient to fill them with anxiety and sorrow. They dearly loved Him. The thought of Him dying, and of their parting with Him, was unbearable. Moreover, they must have asked themselves, How can this be reconciled with His Messiah-ship? Are we, after all, to give up our hope that this is He who would redeem Israel? And what is to become of us! We have forsaken all to follow Him, will He now forsake us, leaving us amid enemies, as sheep in the midst of wolves, to suffer the fierce malignity of His triumphant foes!
"Our Lord, who knew what was in Prayer of Manasseh, was well aware of what was passing in the minds of His disciples. He knew how they were troubled, and what anxious, desponding, and despairing thoughts were arising in their hearts, and He could not but be touched with the feeling of their infirmities. There lay on His own mind a weight of anguish which no being in the universe could bear along with Him. He could not have the alleviation of sympathy. He must tread the winepress alone. They could not enter into His feelings; but Hebrews, the magnanimous One, could enter into theirs. There was room in His large heart for their sorrows, as well as His own. He feels their griefs, as if they were His own; and kindly comforts those whom He knew were soon to desert Him in the hour of His deepest sorrows! ‘In all their afflictions, He was afflicted;' and He shows in the address which He made to them that ‘the Lord who anointed Him to comfort those who mourn,' and to bind up the brokenhearted, had indeed ‘given to Him the tongue of the learned that He might speak a word in season to them who were weary' ( Isaiah 61:1; 50:4)". (Dr. John Brown).
"Let not your heart be troubled" ( John 14:1). It was the sorrows of their hearts which now occupied the great heart of love. "Troubled" they were; deeply so. They were troubled at hearing that one of their number should betray Him ( John 13:21). They were troubled at seeing their Master "troubled in spirit" ( John 13:21); troubled because He would remain with them only a "little while" ( John 13:33); troubled over the warning He had given to Peter, that he would deny His Lord thrice. Thus this little company of believers were disquieted and cast down. Wherefore the Savior proceeded to comfort them.
"Ye believe in God, believe also in me" ( John 14:1). Commentators have differed widely as to the precise meaning of these words. The difficulty arises from the Greek. Both verbs are exactly the same, and may be translated (with equal accuracy) either in the imperative or the indicative mood. Either will make good sense, and possibly each is to be kept in mind. The R.V. reads: "Believe in God, believe also in me." Thus translated, it is a double exhortation. The force of it would then be: Your perturbation of spirit arises from not believing what God has spoken by His prophets concerning My sufferings and the glory which is to follow. God has announced in plain terms that I was to be despised and rejected of men, that I am to be wounded for your transgressions and bruised for your iniquities. These are the words of Jehovah Himself; then doubt them not. "Believe also in me." I too have warned you what to expect. I have told you that I am to suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests and scribes and be killed. These things must be. Then hold fast the beginning of your confidence steadfast unto the end: be not "offended" in Me, even though I go to a criminal's cross.
But it should be remembered that the Lord was speaking not only to the Eleven, but to us as well. Even Song of Solomon, the above interpretation supplies an exhortation which we constantly need. "Believe in God," O Christian. Let not your heart be troubled, for thy Father is possessed of infinite power, Wisdom of Solomon, and goodness. He knows what is best for thee, and He makes all things work together for thy good. He is on the Throne, ruling amid the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand. Why, then, art thou cast down, O my soul? God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swellings thereof. What though trials come thick and fast, what though I am misunderstood and unappreciated, what though Satan roar and rage against me? "If God be for us who can be against us?" Believe in God. Believe in His absolute sovereignty, His infinite Wisdom of Solomon, His unchanging faithfulness, His wondrous love. "Believe also in me." I am the One who died for thy sins and rose again for thy justification; I am the One who ever liveth to make intercession for thee. I am the same, yesterday, and to-day, and forever. I am the One who shall come.again to receive you unto Myself, and ye shall be forever with Me. Yes, "believe also in me!"
While the above interpretation is fully justified by the Greek, while the double exhortation was truly needed both by the Eleven and by us to-day, and while many able expositors have advanced it, yet we cannot but think that the A.V. gives the truer force of our Lord's words here, rendering the first verb in the indicative and the second in the imperative. "Believe also in me." What, then, did Christ mean? The apostles had already, by Divine illumination, recognized Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is clear, then, that He was not here challenging their faith. We take it that what the Lord had in view was this: the apostles already believed in Him as the Messiah, and as the Savior, but their confidence reposed in One who dwelt in their midst, who went in and out among them in the sensible relationship of daily companionship. But He was about to be removed from them, and He whom they had seen with their eyes and had handled with their hands ( 1 John 1:1) was to be invisible to the outward eye. Now, says Hebrews, "Ye believe in God," who is invisible; you believe in His love, though you have never seen His form; you are conscious of His care, though you have never touched the Hand that guides and protects you. "Believe, also, in me"; that is to say, In like manner you must have full confidence in My existence, love, and care, even though I am no longer present to sight. This comfort remains for us; this is the faith in which we are now to live: "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" ( 1 Peter 1:8).
"Believe also in me." The "also" here brings out the absolute Deity of Christ in a most unmistakable manner. "Here thou seest plainly that Christ Himself testifies that He is equal with God Almighty; because we must believe in Him even as we believe in God. If He were not true God with the Father, this faith would be false and idolatrous" (Dr. Martin Luther).
"In my Father's house are many mansions" ( John 14:2). The Father's "house" is His dwelling-place. It is noteworthy that the Lord Jesus is the only one who ever referred to the "Father's house," and He did so on three occasions. First, He had said of the temple in Jerusalem, "Make not my Father's house a house of merchandise" ( John 2:16). Then He had mentioned it in connection with the "prodigal son" and his elder brother: "As he came and drew nigh to the house (the ‘father's') he heard music and dancing"; here it is presented as the place of joy and gladness. In John 14Christ mentions it as the final abode of the saints.
The glories and blessedness of Heaven are brought before us in the New Testament under a variety of representations. Heaven is called a "country" ( Luke 19:12; Hebrews 11:16); this tells of its vastness. It is called a "city" ( Hebrews 11:10; Revelation 21; this intimates the large number of its inhabitants. It is called a "kingdom" ( 2 Peter 1:11); this suggests its orderliness. It is called "paradise" ( Luke 23:43; Revelation 2:7); this emphasizes its delights. It is called the "Father's house," which bespeaks its permanency.
The temple at Jerusalem had been called the Father's "house" because it was there that the symbol of His presence abode, because it was there He was worshipped, and because it was there His people communed with Him. But before the Lord Jesus closed His public ministry He disowned the temple, saying, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate" ( Matthew 23:38). Therefore does the Savior now transfer this term to the Father's dwelling-place on High, where He will grant to His redeemed a more glorious revelation of Himself, and where they shall worship Him, uninterruptedly, in the beauty of holiness.
The "Father's house" has been the favourite term for Heaven with most Christians. It speaks of Home, the Home of God and His people. Sad it is that in this present evil age one of the most precious words in the English language has lost much of its fragrance. Our fathers used to sing, "There is no place like home." To-day the average "home" is little more than a boarding-house—a place to eat and sleep in. But "home" used to mean, and still means to a few, the place where we are loved for our own sakes; the place where we are always welcome; the place whither we can retire from the strife of the world and enjoy rest and peace, the place where loved ones are together. Such will Heaven be. Believers are now in a strange country, yea, in an enemy's land; in the life to come, they will be at Home!
"In my Father's house are many mansions." The many rooms in the temple prefigured these (see 1Kings , 6; Jeremiah 35:1-4, etc.). The word for "mansions" signifies "abiding-places"—a most comforting term, assuring us of the permanency of our future home in contrast from the "tents" of our present pilgrimage. Blessed, too, is the word "many"; there will be ample room for the redeemed of the past, present, and future ages; and for the unfallen angels as well.
"If it were not Song of Solomon, I would have told you" ( John 14:2). Had there been no room for believers in the many mansions of the Father's House, Christ would have said so. He had never deceived them; truth was His only object—"To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth" ( John 18:37). It was because full provision had been made for their complete and eternal happiness that He encouraged them to entertain such high hopes. He would never have brought them into such an intimacy with Himself if that was now to end forever.
"I go to prepare a place for you" ( John 14:2). "He does not explain how the place in the Father's House should be prepared for them; nor were they yet, perhaps, able to understand. The Epistle to the Hebrews will show us, if we turn to it, that the heavenly places had to be purified by the better sacrifices which He was to offer, in which all the sacrifices of the law would find their fulfillment. Ephesians speaks similarly of the ‘redemption of the purchased possession'; and Colossians of the ‘reconciliation of things in heaven' ( Hebrews 9:23; Ephesians 1:14; Colossians 1:20). Such thoughts are even now strange to many Christians; for we are slow to realize the extent of the injury that sin has inflicted, and equally, therefore, the breadth of the application of the work of Christ. This is not the place to enlarge upon it; but it is not difficult to understand that wherever sin has raised question of God—and it has done Song of Solomon, as we know, in Heaven itself—the work of Christ as bringing out in full His whole character in love and righteousness regarding that which had raised the question, has enabled Him to come in and restore, consistently with all that He Isaiah, what had been defiled with evil. Thus our High Priest, to use as the apostle does, the figure of Israel's day of atonement, has entered into the Sanctuary to reconcile with the virtues of His sacrifice the holy places themselves, and make them accessible to us" (Numerical Bible).
"I go to prepare a place for you." We also understand this to mean that the Lord Jesus has procured the right—by His death on the Cross—for every believing sinner to enter Heaven. He has "prepared" for us a place there by entering Heaven as our Representative and taking possession of it on behalf of His people. As our Forerunner He marched in, leading captivity captive, and there planted His banner in the land of glory. He has "prepared" for us a place there by entering the "holy of holies" on High as our great High Priest, carrying our names in with Him. Christ would do all that was necessary to secure for His people a welcome and a permanent place in Heaven. Beyond this we cannot go with any degree of certainty. The fact that Christ has promised to "prepare a place" for us—which repudiates the vague and visionary ideas of those who would reduce Heaven to an intangible nebula—guarantee that it will far surpass anything down here.
"I go to prepare a place for you." God never has, and never will, take His people into a place un-prepared for them. In Eden God first "planted a garden," and then placed Adam in it. It was the same with Israel when they entered Canaan: "And it shall be, when the Lord thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he swear unto thy father, to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob, to give them great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, and houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees which thou plantedst not" ( Deuteronomy 6:10, 11). And what can we say of the grace manifested by the Lord of glory going to prepare a place for us? He will not entrust such a task to the angels. Proof, indeed, is this that He loves us "unto the end."
"And if I go and prepare a place for you" ( John 14:3). "A special people taken from the earth in a risen Christ must have a special place. A new thing was to take place, men brought into Heaven! Man was not made for Heaven, but for the earth, and so placed here to till the earth and live upon it. By sinning he lost the earth and the earth shared his ruin. But by sinning he brought down the Son of God from Heaven, who by His descent opened Heaven as the normal place for those believing on Christ, and so in Him" (Mr. Malachi Taylor).
"I will come again." The Lord will not send for us, but come in person to conduct us into the Father's House. How precious we must be to Him! "The Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
"And receive you unto myself." Notice, not "take" but receive. The Holy Spirit has charge of us during the time of our absence from the Savior; but when the mystical body of Christ is complete then is His work clone here, and He hands us over to the One who died to save us. "And receive you unto myself." To have us with Himself is His heart's desire. To the dying thief He said, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." To the Church it is promised that we shall "ever be with the Lord" ( 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
"That where I Amos, there ye may be also" ( John 14:3). The place which was due the Son is the place which grace has given to the sons. This is the blessed sequel to what was before us in John 13. There Christ said, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." There, it is the Savior maintaining His own on earth in communion with Himself. Here, in due time, we shall be with Him, to enjoy unbroken fellowship forever. This had been promised before: "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall also my servant be" ( John 12:26). Here it is formally declared. In John 17:24 it is prayed for: "Father I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am."
Here then, is the Divine specific for heart-trouble; here, indeed, is precious consolation for one groaning in a world of sin. First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, the assurance that the Father's House on high will be our eternal Home. Third, the realization that the Savior has done and is doing everything necessary to secure us a welcome there and fit that Home for our reception. Fourth, the blessed hope that He is coming in person to receive us unto Himself. Finally, the precious promise that we are to be with Him forever. But, and mark it well, it is only in proportion as we are "troubled" by our absence from Him, that we shall be comforted and cheered by these precious words! Here is solid ground for consolation, conclusive arguments against despondency and disquietude in the present path of service and suffering, the Savior lives and loves and cares for us! He is active, promoting our interests, and when God's time arrives He shall come and receive us unto Himself.
"And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know" ( John 14:4). To understand this verse it is necessary to keep in mind the connection. Only a very short time before, Peter had asked, "Lord whither goest thou?" ( John 13:36), and when He replied, "Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards," he rejoined, "Why cannot I follow thee now?" Both of these questions of Peter, and they probably expressed the thoughts of all the apostles, were answered by our Lord in the verses which have just been before us. "It is as if He had said, You are troubled in spirit because you know not whither I go; and because I have said, ye cannot follow Me now. I am going to My Father; to His House of many mansions; let not, therefore, these fears about Me distress you; and as to your following Me—as to the reason why you cannot follow Me now—and as to the way in which you are to follow Me hereafter, know that arrangements must be made for your coming to where I am going. I go to make these arrangements, and when they are completed I will come and take you to Myself, that where I Amos, there ye may be also. That is whither I am going—that is the reason why you do not go with Me, or follow Me now—that is the way in which you are afterwards to come where I am going: and, i.e. thus ‘ye know', for I have plainly told you ‘whither I go' and the ‘way' in which you are to come whither I shall have gone" (Dr. John Brown). The "whither" was unto the Father; the "way" was the process by which they would arrive there. It was not simply the goal, but the path to it; not simply the whither but the how which Christ had just revealed to them.
"Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" ( John 14:5). Our Lord had spoken very simply and plainly, yet was He misunderstood. The Father, His House, its many mansions, Christ going there to prepare a place and His promise to come and receive His people unto Himself and share His place with us—these things were dim and unreal to the materialistic and rationalistic Thomas. His mind was on earthly things. Did the "father's house" mean some palace situated outside Palestine, and did Christ's "going away" signify His removing to that palace? He was not sure, and tells the Lord so. Well, if we brought our difficulties unto Him. But let us not forget that the Spirit of truth had not yet been given to the disciples to show them "things to come" ( John 16:13). He has been given to us, therefore is our ignorance the more excuseless.
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life" ( John 14:6). Before sin entered the world Adam enjoyed a threefold privilege in relation to God; he was in communion with his Maker; he knew Him, and he possessed spiritual life. But when he disobeyed and fell, this threefold relationship was severed. He became alienated from God, as the hiding of himself painfully demonstrated; having believed the Devil's lie, he was no longer capable of perceiving the truth, as the making of fig-leaf aprons clearly evidenced; and he no longer had spiritual life, for God's threat "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" was strictly enforced. In this same awful condition has each of Adam's descendants entered this world, for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh"—a fallen parent can beget nought but a fallen child. Every sinner, therefore, has a three-fold need—reconciliation, illumination, regeneration. This threefold need is perfectly met by the Savior. He is the Way to the Father; He is the Truth incarnate; He is the Life to all who believe in Him. Let us briefly consider each of these separately.
"I am the way." Christ spans the distance between God and the sinner. Man would fain manufacture a ladder of his own, and by means of his resolutions and reformations, his prayers and his tears, climb up to God. But that is impossible. That is the way which seemeth right unto a Prayer of Manasseh, but the end thereof are the ways of death ( Proverbs 14:12). It is Satan who would keep the exercised sinner on his self-imposed journey to God. What faith needs to lay hold of is the glorious truth that Christ has come all the way down to sinners. The sinner could not come in to God, but God in the person of His Son has come out to sinners. He is the Way, the Way to the Father, the Way to Heaven, the Way to eternal blessedness.
"I am the truth." Christ is the full and final revelation of God. Adam believed the Devil's lie, and ever since then man has been groping amid ignorance and error. "The way of the wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble" ( Proverbs 4:19). "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" ( Ephesians 4:18). A thousand systems has the mind devised. "God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" ( Ecclesiastes 7:29). "There is none that understandeth" ( Romans 3:11). Pilate voiced the perplexity of multitudes when he asked, "What is truth?" ( John 18:38). Truth is not to be found in a system of philosophy, but in a Person-Christ is "the truth": He reveals God and exposes man. In Him are hid "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" ( Colossians 2:3). What tremendous folly to ignore Him! What will it avail you in Hell, dear reader, even though you have mastered all the sciences of men, were acquainted with all the events of history, were versed in all the languages of mankind, were thoroughly acquainted with the politics of your day? O, how you will wish then that you had read your newspapers less and your Bible more; that with all your getting you had got understanding; that with all your learning you had bowed before Him who is the Truth!
"I am the life." Christ is the Emancipator from death. The whole Bible bears solemn witness to the fact that the natural man is spiritually lifeless. He walks according to the course of this world; he has no love for the things of God. The fear of God is not upon him, nor has he any concern for His glory. Self is the center and circumference of his existence. He is alive to the things of the world, but is dead to heavenly things. The one who is out of Christ exists, but he has no spiritual life. When the prodigal son returned from the far country the father said, "This, my Song of Solomon, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" ( Luke 15:24). The one who believes in Christ has passed out of death into life ( John 5:24). "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life" ( John 3:36). Then turn to Him who is the Life.
"I am the way." Without Christ men are Cains-wanderers. "They are all gone out of the way" ( Romans 3:12). Christ is not merely a Guide who came to show men the path in which they ought to walk: He is Himself the Way to the Father. "I am the truth." Without Christ men are under the power of the Devil, the father of lies. Christ is not merely a Teacher who came to reveal to men a doctrine regarding God: He is Himself the Truth about God. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "I am the life." Without Christ men are dead in trespasses and sins. Christ is not merely a Physician who came to invigorate the old nature, to refine its grossness, or repair its defects. "I am come," said Hebrews, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" ( John 10:10).
"No man cometh unto the Father but by me" (verse 6). Christ is the only way to God. It is utterly impossible to win God's favor by any efforts of our own. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" ( 1 Corinthians 3:11). "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" ( Acts 4:12). "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" ( 1 Timothy 2:6). Let every Christian reader praise God for His unspeakable Gift, and "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath newly-made for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" ( Hebrews 10:19-22).
"If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him" (verse 7). This is intimately connected with the whole of the immediate context. The reason why the apostles found it so hard to understand the Lord's references to the Father, the Father's House, and His and their way there, was because their views respecting Himself were so defective and deficient. The true knowledge of the Father cannot be obtained but by the true knowledge of the Son; and if the Son be really known, the Father is known also. The Father is known just so far as the Son is known; no farther. Christ was more than a manifestation of God; He was "God manifest in flesh." He was the Only-begotten, who fully declared Him.
"From henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." "These words of our Lord are a prediction, which, like many predictions, is uttered in the present tense—the event not only being as certain as if it had already taken place, but appearing as accomplished to the mind of the prophet, rapt into the future by the inspiring impulse. It is equivalent to, ‘yet a very little while and ye shall know Him—know Him so clearly that it may be said you see Him? The prediction was accomplished on the day of Pentecost. From the time these words were uttered, a series of events took place, in close succession, in which through the atoning sufferings, and death, and glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus, the character of God the Father, was gloriously illustrated. But, till after the resurrection, the disciples saw only the dark side of the cloud in which Jehovah was; and even till ‘the Spirit was poured out from on High,' they but indistinctly discerned the true meaning of these events. Then, indeed, ‘the darkness was passed, and the true light shone.' The Holy Spirit took of the things of Christ and showed them unto them" (Dr. John Brown).
"Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us" ( John 14:8). What the Lord had just said to Thomas, Philip was unable to thoroughly grasp. With that strange faculty of the human mind to pass over the most prominent and important points of a subject and to seize only on that on which our own mind had been running, this disciple can think only of "seeing" the Father, not how He is to be seen. Possibly Philip's mind reverted to the experience of Moses on the Mount, when, in answer to earnest prayer, he was placed in a cleft of the rock and permitted to see the retiring glory of Jehovah as He passed by; or, he may have remembered what Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel were permitted to witness when "they saw the God of Israel, and under his feet, as it were, a paved work of a sapphire stone, and, as it were the body of heaven in his clearness" ( Exodus 24:10). He may have recalled that prophecy, "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" ( Isaiah 40:5).
"Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" ( John 14:9). This was a rebuke, the more forceful by being addressed to Philip individually. He had said, "Show us the Father." Christ replied, "Hast thou not known me, Philip?" The force of this was: Have you never yet apprehended who I am? The corporeal representation of God, such as Philip desired, was unnecessary; unnecessary because a far more glorious revelation of Deity was there right before him. The Word, made flesh, was tabernacling among men, and His glory was "the glory of the only-begotten of the Father." He was the visible Image of the invisible God. He was the "brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person." In Him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me he doeth the works" ( John 14:10). Christ was in the Father and the Father was in Him. There was the most perfect and intimate union between Them. Both His words and His works were a perfect revelation of Deity. It is very striking to note here that the Son refers to His "words" as the Father's "works." His words were works, for they were words of power. "He spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast"! He said "Lazarus, come forth"; and he that was dead came forth.
"Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake" ( John 14:11). This is solemn. The Lord has to descend to the level that He took when speaking to His enemies—"Though ye believe not me believe the works that ye may know, and believe that the Father is in me and I in him" ( John 10:38). So now He says to Philippians, If ye will not, on My bare word, believe that I am One with the Father, at least acknowledge the proof of it in My works. How thankful we should be that the Holy Spirit has been given to us, to make clear what was so dark to the disciples. Let us praise God that "we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true" ( 1 John 5:20).
Let the interested student carefully ponder the following questions:—
1. For whom are the promises in verse 12intended?
2. Who has ever done anything "greater" than Christ did, verse 12?
3. What does it mean to ask "in the name of" Christ, verse 13?
4. How is verse 14to be qualified?
5. Is obeying God's commandments "legalism," verse 15?
6. Why cannot "the world" receive the Holy Spirit, verse 17?
7. What is the meaning of verse 20?
Christ Comforting His Disciples (Continued)
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—
1. Christ's cause furthered by His return to the Father, verse 12.
2. Praying in the name of Christ, verses 13, 14.
3. Love evidenced by obedience, verse 15.
4. The coming of the Comforter, verses 16, 17.
5. Christians not left orphans, verse 18.
6. Our life secured by Christ's, verse 19.
7. Knowledge of Divine life in believers, verse 20.
At first reading there does not appear to be much direct connection between the several verses of our present passage. This second section of John 14seems to lack a central unity. Yet, as we read it more attentively, we notice that both John 14:13 and John 14:16 open with the word "And," which at once makes us suspect that our first hasty impression needs correcting. The fact is that the more closely this Paschal Discourse of Christ be studied, the more shall we perceive the close connection which one part of it sustains to another, and many important lessons will be learned by noting the relation which verse has to verse.
The first verse of our passage opens with the remarkable promise that the apostles of Christ should do even greater works than their Master had done. Then, in the next two verses reference is made to prayer, and the fact that these are prefaced with the word "And" at once indicates that there is an intimate relation between the doing of these works and the supplicating of God. This is the more striking if we recall the central thing in the former section. The opening verse of John 14is a call to faith in Christ, and the closing verse (11) repeats it. Following the word upon prayer, the Lord next said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" ( John 14:15). Here we seem to lose the thread again, for apparently a new subject is most abruptly introduced. But only seemingly Song of Solomon, for, in truth, it is just here that we discover the progress of thought. The faith and the praying (the two essential pre-requisites for the doing of the "greater works") have their root in an already existing love, which is now to be evidenced by pleasing its Object. What comes next? The promise of "another Comforter." Surely this is most suggestive. It was only by the coming of the Holy Spirit that the apostles' faith in Christ was established, that power was communicated for the performing of mighty works, and that their love was purified and deepened. Thus we have a most striking example of the importance and value of studying closely the connection of a passage and noting the relation of one verse to another.
Having remarked upon the relation between the verses of our present passage, let a brief word be said upon the connection which exists between it as a whole and the first section of John 14. The Lord began by saying, "Let not your heart be troubled." All that followed was the assigning of various reasons why the apostles should not be so excessively perturbed at the prospect of His approaching departure. He began, by setting before them three chief grounds of comfort: He was going to the Father's House of many mansions. He was going there to prepare a place for them. When His preparations were complete, He would come for them in person to conduct them to Heaven, so that His place might be theirs forever. Then He had been interrupted by the question of Thomas and the request of Philippians, and in response He had stated with great plainness the truth concerning both His person and His mission. Now, in the section before us, the Lord brings forward further reasons why the sorrowing disciples should not let their hearts be troubled. These additional grounds of consolation will come before us in the course of our exposition.
Though the Lord continues in this second section of His Discourse what He began in the first, yet there is a striking advance to be noted. At the beginning of John 14, Christ had referred to what the apostles should have known, namely, that the Son on earth had perfectly declared the Father, and this ought to have been the means of their apprehending whither He was going. This they knew ( John 14:4), however dull they might be in perceiving the consequences. But now the Lord discloses to them that which they could not understand till the Holy Spirit was given. It was by the descent of the Comforter that they would be guided into all truth. It was by the Holy Spirit that Christ would come to them ( John 14:18). And it was by the Spirit they would know that Christ was in the Father, and they in Him and He in them. The Lord did not say that they ought to have understood, even then, these things: the apprehension of them would not be until the day of Pentecost.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also" ( John 14:12). The "works" of which Christ here spake were His miraculous works, the same as those mentioned in the two preceding verses, works to which He appealed as proofs of His Divine person and mission. The one to whom Christ promised this was "He that believeth on me." Some have understood this to refer to all the genuine followers of Christ. But this is manifestly wrong, for there is no Christian on earth today who can do the miracles which Christ did—cleanse the leper, give sight to the blind, raise the dead. To meet this difficulty it has been replied, This is due to a deficiency in the Christian's faith. But, this is simply a begging of the question. Our Lord did not say, "He that believeth on me may do the works that I do, but shall do!" But of whom, then, was Christ speaking?
We submit that "He that believeth on me," like the expression "them that believe" in Mark 16:17, of whom it was said certain miraculous signs should follow them, refers to a particular class of persons, and that these expressions must be modified by their reference and setting. In each case the promise was limited to those whom our Lord was addressing. "The only safe way of interpreting the whole of this Discourse, and many other passages in the Gospels, is to remember that it was addressed to the apostles—that everything in it has a direct reference to them—that much that is said of them, and to them, may be said of, and to, all Christian ministers, all Christian men—but that much that is said of them and to them, cannot be truly said either of the one or the other of these classes, and that the propriety of applying what is applicable to them, must be grounded on some other foundation than its being found in this Discourse.
"It is plain from the New Testament that there was a faith which was specially connected with miraculous powers. This faith was that Christ is possessed of omnipotence, and that He intends, through my instrumentality, to manifest His omnipotence in the performance of a miracle. But, this faith, like all faith, must rest on a Divine revelation made to the individual; where this is not the case, there can be no faith—there may be fancy, there may be presumption, but there can be no faith. Such a revelation Christ made to the apostles and to the seventy disciples, when He said ‘Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you' ( Luke 10:19). No Prayer of Manasseh, to whom such a revelation has not been made, can work such miracles, and it would seem that even in the case of those to whom such a revelation was made, a firm belief of the revelation and reliance on the power and faithfulness of Him who made it, was necessary to the miracles being effectively produced in any particular instance.
"Keeping these undoubted facts in view, there is little difficulty in interpreting Christ's words here. The disciples had derived great advantage of various kinds from the exercise of their Master's power to work miracles. They were quite aware that if He should leave them, not only would they be deprived of the advantage of His superior powers, but that their own, which were entirely dependent on Him, would be withdrawn also. Now our Lord assures them in the most emphatic manner, by a repetition of the formula of affirmation, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you,' that His miraculous power was to continue to be exercised through them as a medium, and that, to its being exercised henceforth, as hitherto, faith in Him, on their part, would be at once necessary and effectual. Such a statement was obviously calculated to reassure their shaken minds, and comfort their sorrowing hearts. And we find the declaration was filled to the letter. They, believing on Him, did the works which He did. We find them, like Him, instantaneously healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead" (Dr. John Brown). Hebrews 2:4 records the fulfillment of Christ's promise: "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit."
"And greater than these shall he do" ( John 14:12). It is important to note that the word "works" in the second clause is not found in the original. We do not think Christ was now referring to miracles in the technical sense of that term, but to something else which, in magnitude and importance, would exceed t, he miracle done by Himself and the apostles. "Greater things would be better. What these greater things were it is not difficult to determine. The preaching of a risen and exalted Savior, the proclaiming of the Gospel to "every creature," the turning of souls from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to the service of the living God, the causing of heathen to demolish with their own hands the temples of idolatry, the building of that temple of living stones of which Christ is both the foundation and the chief-corner, and which far surpassed the temple at Jerusalem—these things were far greater than any interferences with the course of nature's laws. Thus did the Father honor His Song of Solomon, owning the perfect work which He had done, by the greater wonders which the Holy Spirit effected through the disciples.
"Because I go unto my Father" ( John 14:12). It is important to note how that in this "because" the Lord Jesus has Himself given us a partial explanation here of how His promise would be made good, though it is largely lost by placing a full stop at the end of John 14:12. If we read straight on through John 14:13 the Savior's explanation is the more apparent: "Greater things than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do." Christ would henceforth give to their prayers power from on high, so that what they did, He would do in and through them. Thus, in His "seed" was the pleasure of the Lord to prosper ( Isaiah 53:10). If the full stop be insisted on and its force rigidly pressed, John 14:12 would then teach that, the disciples must now continue to work in the place of their Lord the still greater things, because He Himself was no longer there. But this is obviously wrong. He left them, it is true; but He also returned to indwell them ( John 14:18), and in this way came the harvest of His own seed-sowing. "And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor'" (4:37, 38). Link John 14:13 with John 14:12 and all is plain and simple: thus connected we are taught that the greater things done by the apostles were, in reality, done by Christ Himself! As Mark 16:20 tells us, "And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them." But what He did was in answer to their believing prayers!
"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" ( John 14:13). The connection of this with the whole context is very precious. Let it be kept steadily in mind that Christ was here comforting His disciples, who were troubled at the prospect of His leaving them, and that He was calling them to an increased confidence in Himself. In the previous verse He had just assured them that His cause would not suffer by His return to the Father, for even greater things should be done through and by them as a testimony of His glory. Now He reminds them that His corporeal absence would only unite these apostles to Him more intimately and more effectually in a spiritual way. True, He would be in Heaven, and they on earth, but prayer could remove all sense of distance, prayer could bring them into His very presence at any time, yea, prayer was all-essential if they were to do these "greater" things. And had he not already given them a perfect example? Had He not shown them that there was an intimate connection between the great works which He had done and the prayers which He had offered to the Father? Had they not heard Him repeatedly "ask" the Father (see John 6:11; 11:41; 12:28, etc.)? Then let them do likewise. He was interpreting His own words at the beginning of this Discourse: "Believe also in me." Faith in His person was now to be manifested by prayer in His name!
"If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" ( John 14:14). Very blessed is this. The disciples were invited to count upon a power that could not fail, if sought aright. Christ was no mere man whose departure must necessarily bring to an end what He was wont to do upon earth. Though absent, He would manifest His Deity by granting their petitions: whatsoever they asked He would do. All power in Heaven is His. The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son ( John 5:22) and in the exercise of this power He gives His own whatsoever they need.
"If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." What is meant by asking in the name of Christ? Certainly it is much more than the mere putting of His name at the end of our prayers, or simply saying, "Hear me for Jesus' sake." First, it means that we pray in His person, that Isaiah, as standing in His place, as fully identified with Him, asking by virtue of our very union with Himself. When we truly ask in the name of Christ, He is the real petitioner. Second, it means, therefore, that we plead before God the merits of His blessed Son. When men use another's name as the authority of their approach or the ground of their appeal, the one of whom the request is made looks beyond him who presented the petition to the one for whose sake he grants the request. Song of Solomon, in all reverence we may say, when we truly ask in the name of Christ, the Father looks past us, and sees the Son as the real suppliant. Third, it means that we pray only for that which is according to His perfections and what will be for His glory. When we do anything in another's name, it is for him we do it. When we take possession of a property in the name of some society, it is not for any private advantage, but for the society's good. When an officer collects taxes in the name of the government, it is not in order to fill his own pockets. Yet how constantly do we overlook this principle as an obvious condition of acceptable prayer! To pray in Christ's name is to seek what He seeks, to promote what He has at heart!
"If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." From what has been said above it will be seen that Christ was very far from handing His disciples a ‘blank check' (as some have expressed it), leaving them to fill it in and assuring them that God would honor it because it bore His Son's signature. Equally so is it a carnal delusion to suppose that a Christian has only to work himself up to an expectation to suppose that God will hear his prayer, in order to obtain what he asks for. To apply to God for any thing in the name of Christ, the petition must be in keeping with what Christ is. We can only rightly ask God for that which will magnify His Son. To ask in the name of Christ Isaiah, therefore, to set aside our own will, and bow to the perfect will of God. If only we realized this more, what a check it would be on our ofttimes rash and illconsidered requests! How many of our prayers would never be offered did we but pause to inquire, Can I present this in that Name which is above every name?
Not what I wish, but what I want,
O let Thy grace supply;
The good unasked, in mercy grant,
The ill, though asked, deny.
"If ye love me, keep my commandments" ( John 14:15). There seems to be a most abrupt change of subject here, and many have been puzzled in finding the connection. Let us first go back to the opening verse of our chapter. The apostles were troubled at heart at the prospect of their Master's departure, and this evidenced, unmistakably, their deep affection for Him. Here, with tender faithfulness, He directs their affection. Your love for Me is to be manifested not by inconsolable regrets, but by a glad and prompt compliance with My commandments. So much is clear; but what of the link with the more immediate context? In seeking the answer to this, let us ask, "What is the leading subject of the context?" This, as we have seen, is a call to faith in an ascended Christ: in the previous verse, a faith evidenced by praying in His name. Now He says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Surely then the answer is plain: love is the spring of true faith and the goal of real prayer. "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" He had just said, and this that the Father might be glorified in the Son. For what, then, shall we ask? is the natural inquiry which is now suggested? Here then is our Lord's response: an increase of/ore (in myself and in all who are Christ's) which will evidence itself by doing His will. Unless this be the first and foremost desire of our hearts, all other petitions will remain unanswered. "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" ( 1 John 3:22).
"All sentimental talking and singing about love are vain. Unless, by grace, we show a truthful obedience, the profession of affection is worse than affectation. There is more hypocrisy than we suppose. Love is practical, or it is not love at all" (Mr. P. W. Heward).
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." How this verse rebukes the increasing Antinomianism of our day! In some circles one cannot use the word "commandments" without being frowned upon as a "legalist." Multitudes are now being taught that Law is the enemy of Grace, and that the God of Sinai is a stern and forbidding Deity, laying upon His creatures a yoke grievous to be borne. Terrible travesty of the. truth is this. The One who wrote upon the tables of stone is none other than the One who died on Calvary's Cross; and He who here says "If ye love me, Keep My Commandments" also said at Sinai that He would show mercy unto thousands of them "that love me and Keep My Commandments"! It is indeed striking to note that this tender Savior, who was here comforting His sorrowing disciples, also maintained His Divine majesty and insisted upon the recognition of His Divine authority. Mark how His Deity appears here: "Keep my commandments": we never read of Moses or any of the prophets speaking of their commandments!
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." What are Christ's commandments? We will let another answer: "The whole revelation of the Divine will, respecting what I am to believe and feel and do and suffer, contained in the Holy Scriptures is the law of Christ. Both volumes of Christ are the work of the Spirit of Christ. His first and great commandment is: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and strength'; and the second great commandment is like unto the first: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' The commandments of Christ include whatever is good and whatever God hath required of us" (Dr. John Brown) That the One who brought Israel out of Egypt, led them across the wilderness, and gave them the Law, was Christ Himself, is clear from 1Corinthians : "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents" (cf 1Corinthians 10:4).
"Obedience to the commandments of Christ is the test of love to Him, and there will be no difficulty in applying the test, if there be only an honest desire to have the question fairly settled; for there are certain qualities of obedience, which are to be found in every lover of Christ, and which are never found in any one else, and it is to these we must attend, if we would know what is our character. Every lover of Christ keeps His commandments implicitly: that Isaiah, he does what he does because Christ bids him. The doing what Christ commands may be agreeable to my inclinations or conducive to my interest; and if it is on these grounds I do it, I serve myself, not the Lord Jesus Christ. What Christ commands may be commanded by those whose authority I acknowledge and whose favor I wish to secure; if I do it on these grounds, I keep man's commandments, not Christ's. I keep Christ's commandments only when I do what He bids me because He bids me. If I love Christ, I shall keep His commandments impartially. If I do anything because Christ commands me to do it, I shall do whatever He commands. I shall not ‘pick and choose.' If I love Christ, I shall keep His commandments cheerfully. I shall esteem it a privilege to obey His law. The thought that they are the commandments of Him whom I love, because of His excellency and kindness, makes me love His law, for it must be excellent because it is His, and it must be fitted to promote my happiness for the same reason. If I love Christ I shall keep His commandments perseveringly. If I really love Him I can never cease to love Him, and if I never cease to love Him, I shall never cease to obey Him" (Condensed from Dr. John Brown).
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever" ( John 14:16). Note that this verse begins with "And." In the previous one the Lord had been speaking of the disciples' love for Him, marked by an obedient walk. Here He reveals His love for them, evidenced by His asking for One who should shed abroad the love of God in their hearts ( Romans 5:5) and thus empower them to keep His commandments! Until now Christ had been their Comforter, but He was going to leave them; therefore does He ask the Father that another Comforter should be given to them. Here, again, we behold the Savior loving them "unto the end"! There is also a blessed link of connection between this verse and verses 13, 14. There the Lord had taught them to "ask in His name," and in Luke 11:13, He had told them that the Father would give the Holy Spirit if they "asked for him." But here Christ is before them: His prayer precedes theirs—He would "ask" the Father for the Comforter to be sent unto them.
There has been a great deal of learned jargon written on the precise meaning of the Greek word here rendered "Comforter." Personally, we believe that no better term can be found, providing the original meaning of our English word be kept in mind. Comforter means more than Consoler. It is derived from two Latin words, corn "along side of" and fortis "strong." A comforter is one who stands alongside of one in need, to strengthen. The reference here Isaiah, of course, to the Holy Spirit, and the fact that He is termed "another Comforter" signifies that He was to fill the place of Christ, doing for His disciples all that He had done for them while He was with them on earth, only that the Holy Spirit would minister from within as Christ had from without. The Holy Spirit would comfort, or strengthen in a variety of respects: consolation when they were cast down, grace when they were weak or timid, guidance when they were perplexed, etc. The fact that the Lord here called the Holy Spirit "another Comforter" also proves Him to be a person, and a Divine person. It is striking to observe that in this verse we have mentioned each of the three Persons of the blessed Trinity: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter"! One other thought suggested by the "another Comforter." The believer has two Comforters, Helpers or Strengtheners: the Holy Spirit on earth, and Christ in Heaven, for the same Greek word here rendered "Comforter" is translated "Advocate" in 1John 2:l,—an "advocate" is one who aids, pleads the cause of his client. Christ "maketh intercession" for us on High ( Hebrews 7:25), the Holy Spirit within us ( Romans 8:26)! And this other "Comforter," be it noted, was to abide with them not just so long as they grieved Him not, but "for ever." Thus is the eternal preservation of every believer Divinely assured.
"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him" ( John 14:17). The Lord had just promised the apostles "another Comforter," that Isaiah, One like unto Himself and in addition to Himself. Here He warns them against expecting a visible Person. The One who should come is "the Spirit." Two thoughts are suggested by the title here given Him: "the Spirit of truth," or more literally, "the Spirit of the truth." The "truth" is used both of the incarnate and the written Word. Christ had said to the disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life"; a little later He would say to the Father, in their hearing, "Thy Word is truth" ( John 17:17). The Spirit, then, is the Spirit of Christ, because sent by Him ( John 16:7), and because He is here to glorify Christ ( John 16:14). The Spirit is also the Spirit of the written Word, because He moved men to write it ( 2 Peter 1:21), and because He now interprets it ( John 16:13). Hitherto Christ had been their Teacher; henceforth the Holy Spirit should take His place ( John 14:26). The Holy Spirit works not independently of the written Word, but through and by means of it.
"Whom the world cannot receive." Very solemn is this. It is not "will not," but cap, not receive. Unable to receive the Spirit "the world" demonstrates its real character—opposed to the Father ( 1 John 2:16). The whole world lieth in the wicked one ( 1 John 5:19), and he is a liar from the beginning: how then could the world receive "the Spirit of truth"? Our Lord adds another reason, "because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." But what did the Lord mean? How can the invisible Spirit be seen? 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." It is spiritual "seeing" which is in view, as in John 6:40. And why cannot those who are of the "world" see Him? Because they have never been born again: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." And why should the Lord have made this statement here? Surely for the comfort of the disciples. "Another Comforter" had been promised them; One who should abide with them for ever;, even the Spirit of Truth. What glorious conquests might they now expect to make for Christ! Ah! the Lord warns them of what would really take place: "the world" would not, could not, receive Him.
"But ye know him: for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" ( John 14:17). "But" points a contrast: indicating at once that the work of the Spirit would be to separate the people of Christ from the world. "He dwelleth with you": He did, even then, for Christ was full of the Spirit ( Luke 4:1; John 3:34). "And shall be in you" was future. The Lord Jesus here promised that the Third Person of the Holy Trinity should take up His abode within believers, making their bodies His temple. Marvellous grace was this. But, on what ground does the Holy Spirit enter and indwell the Christian? Not because of any personal fitness which He discovers there, for the old evil nature still remains in the believer. How, then, is it possible for the Holy Spirit to dwell where sin is still present? It is of the first moment that we obtain the correct answer to this, for multitudes are confused thereon: yet there is no excuse for this; the teaching of Scripture is abundantly clear. Jehovah of old, dwelt in the midst of Israel, even when they were stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart. He did so on the ground of atoning blood (see Leviticus 16:16). In like manner, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer now, as the witness to the excellency and sufficiency of that one offering of Christ's which has "perfected for ever them that are set apart" ( Hebrews 10:14). Strikingly was this foreshadowed in the types. The "oil" (emblem of the Holy Spirit) was placed upon the blood—see Leviticus 8:24, 30; Leviticus 14:14, 17, etc.
"I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you" ( John 14:18). ‘The marginal rendering here is to be preferred: "I will not leave you orphans." It looks back to John 13:33 where the Lord had addressed them as "little children". They were not to be like sheep without a shepherd, helpless believers in a hostile world, without a defender, forsaken orphans incapable of providing for themselves, left to the mercy of strangers. "I will come to you": how precious is this! Before we go to His place to be with Him ( John 14:2, 3), He comes to be with us! But what is meant by "I will come to you"? We believe that these words are to be understood in their widest latitude. He came to them corporeally, immediately after His resurrection. He came to them in spirit after His ascension. He will come to them in glory at His second advent. The present application of this promise to believers finds its fulfillment in the gift of the Holy Spirit indwelling us individually, present in the midst of the assembly collectively. And yet we must not limit the coming of Christ to His children to the presence of the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is altogether beyond the grasp of our finite minds. Yet the New Testament makes it clear that in the unity of the Godhead, the advent of the Holy Spirit was also Christ coming, invisibly, to be really present with His own. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age" ( Matthew 28:20). "Christ liveth in me," said the apostle Paul ( Galatians 2:20). "Christ among you, the hope of glory" ( Colossians 1:27). How unspeakably blessed is this! Friends, relatives, yea, professing Christians may turn against us, but He has promised, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" ( Hebrews 13:5).
"Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more" ( John 14:19). The last time "the world" saw the Lord of glory was as He hung upon the Cross of shame. After His resurrection He appeared unto none but His own. "The world seeth me no more" is not an accurate translation, nor is it true. "The world" shall see Him again. "Yet a little while and the world me no longer sees" is what the original says, "Every eye shall see him" ( Revelation 1:7). When? When He is seated upon the Great White Throne to judge the wicked. Then shall they be punished with "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" ( 2 Thessalonians 1:9).
"But ye see me" ( John 14:19). They saw Him then, while He was speaking to them. They saw Him, again and again, after He had risen from the dead. They saw Him, as He went up to Heaven, till a cloud received Him out of their sight. They saw Him, by faith, after He had taken His seat at the right hand of God, for it is written, "We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor" ( Hebrews 2:9). They see Him now, for they are present with the Lord. They shall see Him at His second coming: "When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" ( 1 John 3:2). They shall see Him for ever and ever throughout the Perfect Day: for it is written, "And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads" ( Revelation 22:4).
"Because I live, ye shall live also" ( John 14:19). "Your spiritual life now, and your eternal life hereafter, are both secured by My life. I live, have life in Myself, can never die, can never have My life destroyed by My enemies, and shall live on to all eternity. Therefore: ye shall live also—your life is secured forever, and can never be destroyed; you have everlasting life now, and shall have everlasting glory hereafter" (Bishop Ryle). The blessed truth here expressed by Christ is developed at length in the Epistles: there the Holy Spirit shows us, believers are so absolutely one with Christ that they partake with Him of that holy happy life into which, in the complete enjoyment of it, Christ entered, when He rose again and sat down on the Father's Throne.
"At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you" ( John 14:20). The first reference in "that day" is to Pentecost, when Christ came, spiritually, to His disciples; came not merely to visit, but to abide with and in them. Then were they brought into the consciousness of their oneness of life with Him. The ultimate reference, no doubt, is to the Day of His glorious manifestation: then shall we know even as we are known.
The following questions are on the closing section of John 14:—
1. How does Christ "manifest" Himself to us, verse 21?
2. What is the difference between "commandments" in verse 21and "words" in verse 23?
3. What is the double "peace" of verse 27?
4. How is the Father "greater" than Christ, verse 28?
5. "Believe" what, verse 29?
6. What is the meaning of verse 30?
7. What is the spiritual significance of the last clause in verse 31?
Christ Comforting His Disciples (Concluded)
The following is an Analysis of the closing section of John 14:
1. Christ manifested to the believer, verse 21.
2. The quandary of Judas, verse 22.
3. Christ's explanation, verses 23-25.
4. The ministry of the Spirit, verse 26.
5. The gift of Christ's peace, verse 27.
6. The failure in the disciples' love, verses 28-29.
7. The coming conflict, verses 30-31.
That the central design of Christ in the first main section of this Paschal Discourse was to comfort His sorrowing disciples, and that this section does not close until we reach the end of John 14is clear from verse 27: "Let not your heart be troubled." The Lord here repeats what He had said in the first verse, and then adds, "neither let it be afraid." That the first section of the Discourse does terminate at the close of the chapter, is obvious from its final words: "Arise, let us go hence."
Many and varied were the grounds of comfort which the Lord had laid before the apostles. First, He assured them that He was going to the Father's House. Second, that He would make provision for their coming there. Third, that when the necessary preparations were completed, He would come and conduct them thither. Fourth, that He had opened the way for them, had made them acquainted with the way, and would give them the energy necessary to go along that way. Fifth, that He would not withdraw from them the miraculous powers which He had conferred upon them, but would enable them to do still greater things. Sixth, that whatever they needed for the discharge of the work to which He had called them, on asking in His name, they should assuredly obtain. Seventh, that a Divine Person should be sent to supply His place, acting as their instructor, guide, protector and consoler. Eighth, that they should not be "left orphans," but He would return to them in possession of an endless life, of which they should be partakers. Ninth, that in a soon-coming day they should apprehend the oneness of life, shared by the Father and the Son and the sons.
In the passage which is to be before us we find the Lord adding to these grounds of comfort. Tenth, He would manifest Himself to those who kept His commandments. Eleventh, those who kept His Word should be loved by the Father. Twelfth, the Holy Spirit would bring back to their remembrance all things Christ had said unto them. Thirteenth, Peace He left with them. Fourteenth, His own peace He bequeathed unto them. No wonder that He said, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid"!
"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" ( John 14:21). In this instance we shall depart from our customary method of expounding the different clauses of a verse in the order in which they occur; instead, we shall treat this verse more or less topically. That in it which is of such vital importance is the final clause, where the Savior promised to manifest Himself to the obedient believer. Now there is nothing the real Christian desires so much as a personal manifestation of the Lord Jesus. In comparison with this all other blessings are quite secondary. In order to simplify, let us ask and attempt to answer three questions: How does the Savior now "manifest" Himself? What are the effects of such manifestation? What are the conditions which I have to meet?
In what way does the Lord Jesus now manifest Himself? It is hardly necessary to say, not corporeally. No longer is the Word, made flesh, tabernacling among men. No more does He say, as He said to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side" ( John 20:27). No longer may He be seen by our physical eyes ( 1 John 1:1). Nor is the promise of Christ which we are now considering made good through visions. We recall the vision which Jacob had at Bethel, when a ladder was set upon earth, whose top reached unto heaven, upon which the angels of God ascended and descended. We think of that wondrous vision given to Isaiah, when he saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, before which the seraphim cried, "holy, holy, holy." No, it is not in visions or in dreams that the Lord promises to come to His people. What then? It is a spiritual revelation of Himself to the soul! It is a vivid realization of the Savior's being and nearness, in a deep and abiding sense of His favor and love. "By the power of the Spirit, He makes His Word so luminous, that as we read it, He Himself seems to draw near. The whole biography of Jesus becomes in this way a precious reality. We see His form. We hear His words." It is through the written Word that the incarnate Word "manifests" Himself to the heart!
And what are the effects upon the soul of such a manifestation of Christ. First and foremost, He Himself is made a blessed and glorious reality to us. The one who has been granted such an experience can say with Job, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye (the eye of the heart) seeth thee" ( Job 42:5). Such a one now discerns the surpassing beauty and glory of His person and exclaims, "Thou art fairer than the children of men." Again: such a manifestation of Christ to the soul assures us of His favor. Now we hear Him saying (through the Scriptures) "As the Father hath loved me, so I have loved you." And now I can respond, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." Another consequence of this manifestation of Christ is "comfort and support in trials, especially in those trials, which, on account of their Personal nature, are beyond the reach of human sympathy and love—the trials of desertion and loneliness, from which Jesus Himself suffered so keenly; heart trials, domestic trials, secret griefs, too sacred to be breathed in the ears of men—all these trials in which nothing can sustain us but the sympathy which His own presence gives." Just as the Son of God appeared to the three faithful Hebrews in the fiery furnace, so does He now come to those in the place of trial and anguish. So too in the last great trial, should we be called upon to pass through it ere the Savior comes. Then to earthly friends we can turn no longer. But we may say with the Psalmist, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me."
Now, let us inquire, What are the terms on which the Savior thus draws near? Surely every Christian reader is most anxious to secure the key to an experience so elevating, so blessed. Listen now to the Savior's words, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." The faith by which we are saved does not destroy the necessity for an obedient walk. "Faith is the root of which obedience is the beautiful flower and fruit. And it is only when faith has issued in obedience, in an obedience which stumbles not at sacrifices, and halts not when the way is rough and dark; in an obedience that cheerfully bears the cross and shame—it is only then that this highest promise of the Gospel is fulfilled... When love for the Savior shall lead us to keep His holy Word—lead us to an immediate, unreserved, unhesitating obedience—lead us to say, in the spirit of entire self-surrender and sacrifice, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done,' then, farewell to doubt and darkness, to loneliness and sorrow! Then shall we mourn no more an absent Lord. Then shall we walk as seeing Him who is invisible, triumphant over every fear, victorious over every foe." 1]
This manifestation of Christ is made only to the one who really loves Him, and the proof of love to Him is not by emotional displays but by submission to His will. There is a vast difference between sentiment and practical reality. The Lord will give no direct and special revelation of Himself to those who are in the path of disobedience. "He that hath my commandments,'' means, hath them at heart. "And keepeth them," that is the real test. We hear, but do we heed? We know, but are we doing His will? "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" ( 1 John 3:18)!
"And he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father." There are three different senses in which Christians may be considered as objects of the loving favor of the Father and of the Son: as persons elected in sovereign grace to eternal life; as persons actually united to Christ by believing: and as persons transformed by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It is in this last sense that Christ here speaks. Just as the Father is said to love the Son because of His obedience ( John 10:17, 18), so is He said to love the believer for the same reason. It is the love of complacency, as distinguished from the love of compassion. The Father was well pleased with His incarnate Song of Solomon, and He is well pleased with us when we honor and glorify His Son by obeying His commandments.
"Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" ( John 14:22). This question had in view the Lord's words when He had just said, "The world seeth me no more" ( John 14:19), and that He would "manifest" Himself to him who kept His commandments. This conflicted sharply with the Jewish ideas of the Messiah and His kingdom. As yet Judas had failed to perceive that the truth of God must sever between those who receive it and those who reject it, and that therefore His kingdom was "not of this world" ( John 18:36). And why was it that Judas understood this not? 1 Corinthians 2:10, 11tells us—the Spirit had not yet been given.
"Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot." "There is something very affecting in this brief parenthesis; the short, sad sentence which our Evangelist throws in—‘Judas, not Iscariot.' The one is not for a moment to be confounded with the other; the true apostle with the traitor. How widely different may men be who yet bear the same name! How many have but the name in common!" (Dr. John Brown.) The Judas who asked this question was the brother of James, the son of Alphaeus, see Luke 6:16.
"Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" How many there are to-day who, by means of legislation and social amelioration, wish to press on the world those teachings of Christ which are only for His own! Judas did not go quite so far as the unbelieving brethren of Christ according to the flesh—"Go show thyself to the world" ( John 7:4); but he was sorely puzzled at this breach between the world and them. Dull indeed was Judas, for the Lord had just said, "Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him" ( John 14:17). But equally dull, most of the time, are all of us.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" ( John 14:23). "If Judas had known what the world Isaiah, and what every human heart is by nature, instead of being puzzled at the Lord's withdrawal from the world, he would have wondered how Jesus could reveal Himself to any man" (Stier). The Lord here repeats that God has fellowship only with those whose hearts welcome Him, who love Him, and whose love is manifested by submission to His Word. Then He loves in return. The Old Testament taught precisely the same thing. "I love them that love me" ( Proverbs 8:17). "If a man love me he will keep my word." Let not renewed souls torture themselves by attempting to define too nicely the extent of their "keeping." Let those who are tempted to do so meditate upon John 17:6—"I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy Word." Mark it well that this was said by the Savior in full view of all the infirmities and failures of the disciples, and said prior to the day of Pentecost!
To "keep" God's commandments is to obey them, and the primary, the fundamental thing in obedience, is the desire of the heart, and it is on the heart that God ever looks. Two things are true of every Christian: deep down in his heart there is an intense, steady longing and yearning to please God, to do His will, to walk in full accord with His Word. This yearning may be stronger in some than in others, and in each of us it is stronger at some times than at others; nevertheless, it is there! But in the second place, no real Christian fully realizes this desire. Every genuine Christian has to say with the apostle Paul, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may lay hold of that for which I am laid hold of by Christ Jesus" ( Philippians 3:12).
Now we believe that it is this heart-obedience, this inward longing to be fully conformed to His will, this burning desire of the renewed soul, of which Christ here speaks. "If a man love me, he will keep my word." Every true believer loves Christ; therefore every true believer "keeps" His Word, keeps it in the sense thus defined. Let it be repeated, God looks at the heart; whereas we are constantly occupied with the outward appearance. As we scrutinize our deeds, if we are honest, we have to acknowledge that we have "kept his word" very imperfectly; yea, it seems to us, that we are not entitled to say that we have "kept" it at all. But the Lord looks behind the deeds, and knows the longings within us. The case of Peter in John 21is a pertinent illustration. When Christ asked him a third time, "Lovest thou me?" His disciple answered, "Lord, thou knowest all things; THOU knowest that I love thee" ( John 21:17). My disgraceful actions contradicted my love; my fellow-disciples have good reason to doubt it, but Thou who searchest the heart knowest better. In one sense it is an intensely solemn and searching thing to remember that nothing can be hidden from Him before whom all things are open and naked; but in another sense it is most blessed and comforting to realize that He can see in my heart what I cannot often discover in my ways, and what my fellow-believers cannot—a real love for Him, a genuine longing to please and glorify Him.
Let not the conclusion be drawn that we are here lapsing into Antinomian laxity, or making it a matter of no moment what our outward lives are like. To borrow words which treat of another subject, "As there was a readiness to will so there should be a performance also" ( 2 Corinthians 8:11). Though the apostle acknowledged that he had not "already attained," yet he continued to "follow after." Where there is love for Christ, there cannot but be bitter sorrow (as with Peter) when we know that we have grieved Him. And more; there will be a sincere confession of our sins, and confession will be followed by earnest supplication for grace to enable us to do what He has bidden. Nevertheless, it is blessed to know that He who is the Truth declares, positively and without qualification, "If a man love me, he will keep my word;" and in the light of John 17:6, this must mean: first and absolutely, in the desire of his heart; secondly and relatively, in his walk.
It is to be noted that the Lord here makes a change of terms from what He had said in John 14:21; a slight change, but an important one. There He had said, "He that hath my commandments, keepeth them;" here, "If a man love me, he will keep my word"—in the Greek the singular number is used. "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 ask, ‘Must I do this? Is there any harm in that?' To such the Lord's will is solely a question of commandment. 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. Even in nature a parent's look will do it. As we well know, an obedient child catches the mother's desire before the mother has uttered a word. Song of Solomon, whatever might be the word of Jesus, it would be heeded, and thus the heart and life be formed in obedience" (Mr. W. Kelly).
"True also it is that something of both characters of love, as Christ affirms them, will be found in all true Christians over-borne by so much contrary influence that, like Peter in the high priest's palace, only He who knoweth all things can detect the true disciple beneath the false. There is the false within us all, as well as the true, Alas, in many, so often uppermost. The results cannot fail to follow: the blessing of which the Lord speaks attaches to that with which He here connects it. We find it in proportion as we answer to the character.
"Looked at in this way, there is no difficulty in seeing the deeper nature of a love that keeps Christ's ‘word', as compared with that which keeps ‘commandments' only. Not to keep a positive command is simple, rank rebellion, nothing less. His ‘word' is wider, while it addresses itself with less positiveness of authority to the one whose heart and conscience is less prompt to the appeal of love" (Numerical Bible). I do not "command" a friend: my mind is made known to him by my words, and he acts accordingly. One word has greater weight with him than a hundred commands have on one at a distance? A servant receives my commands and obeys them, but he knows not my heart; but my friend walks with me in the intelligence of my deepest thoughts. Ah! is this so with us? Are we really walking with Him who calls us not servants, but friends—see John 15:15!
"And my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." Just as there is a marked advance from His "commandments" in John 14:21 to His "word" in John 14:23, so there is in the blessings respectively attached to the keeping of the one and the other. In the former He promises to manifest Himself to the heart, in the latter He speaks of both the Father and Himself coming to make Their abode with such a soul. "Abiding" speaks of fellowship all through John's writings. Not only is our fellowship with the Father and His Son ( 1 John 1:3), but to the one who truly heeds the Word, They will come and have fellowship with him. This is the reward of loving obedience. The "result will be to manifest the competency of Scripture for the ‘man of God' to whom alone it is pledged as competent, able to furnish throughly unto all good works.' Who is the man of God, but he who is out and out for God, and who else can expect to be furnished in this way, but he who is honestly intentioned to use his knowledge as before Him who gave it? The very passage which we are quoting here reminds us of where the profit is to be found: ‘All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.' If we do not mean to accept the reproof and the correction, where is the use of talking about the rest?" (Numerical Bible).
"He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings" ( John 14:24). Here was the final word to Judas: the line between "the world" and "his own" is clearly drawn by the "whoso loveth me, whoso loveth me not." Not to love the Loveliest is because of hatred. There is no other alternative. Of old Jehovah had declared that He would visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hated Him, but that He would show mercy unto thousands of them that loved Him and kept His commandments ( Exodus 20:6). What seems to be indifference is really enmity. All who are not with Christ are against Him ( Luke 11:23).
"He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings." Observe the change. In the previous verse the one who loves Christ keeps His Word; here the one who loves Him not, His sayings or words. Why this variation? Because unbelief does not combine in their unity the individual sayings, but dismisses them as they are isolated. The true believer hears in all God's words one Word—Him, the unbeliever heeds not! An unbeliever may observe some of Christ's words as a matter of policy and prudence, because they commend themselves to his reason; but others, which to him are distasteful, which appear impracticable or severe, he esteems not. If he loved Christ he would value His Word as a whole; but he does not; therefore he keeps not His words.
"And the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me" ( John 14:24). Thus the Lord concludes this point by magnifying the Word. Here, we say again, was the final answer to the question, "How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" Does the world believe on Me? Does it love Me? Does it keep My commandments? How, then, can I manifest Myself to it? "Thus did the Lord dispose of the three main stumbling blocks which hindered these disciples: the offense of Thomas, who would know all with his natural understanding; the offense of Philippians, who was eager for visible manifestations to the outward senses; the offense of Judas, who would too readily receive the whole world into the kingdom of God" (Lange).
"These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you" ( John 14:25). In the light of the verse which immediately follows we understand this to mean: I said what I have in view of My near departure. Because I am yet with you, these things make little impression upon your hearts, but when the Holy Spirit has come you will be able to enter the better into their meaning and blessedness.
"But the comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things" ( John 14:26). This is one of many verses which contains clear proof of the Divine personality of the Holy Spirit. A mere abstract influence could not teach. Moreover, "he shall teach you," being a masculine pronoun, could not be applied to any but a real person. The Comforter would be sent by the Father, but in the name of Christ. The significance of this can best be ascertained by a reference to John 5:43: just as the Savior had come in the Father's name, so the Holy Spirit would be sent in the Son's name: that is to say, in His stead, for His interests, with His authority. Just as the Son had made known the Father, so the Spirit would take of the things of Christ and show them to His people. Just as the Son had glorified the Father, so the Spirit would glorify Christ. Just as, hitherto, the Savior had supplied all the needs of His own, henceforth the Comforter should fully provide for them.
"He shall teach you all things." Here is another instance where the words of Scripture are not to be taken in their absolute sense. If the apostles were to be taught all things without any qualification, they would be omniscient. Nor did Christ mean that the Holy Spirit would teach them all that it was possible for finite creatures to know: He would not make known to them the secrets of futurity, or the occult workings of nature. Rather would He teach them all that it was necessary for them to know for their spiritual well-being, and this, particularly, in connection with what Christ had taught them, either fully or in germ form. He would make clear to them that which, as yet, was mysterious in their Master's sayings.
"He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" ( John 14:26). Two striking examples of that are recorded in this very Gospel. In John 2:22 we are told, "When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them." Again, in John 12:16 we read, "These things understood not his disciples at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him." No doubt this promise of Christ applies in a general way to all real Christians. Hundreds of times has the writer prayed to God, just before entering the pulpit, that He would be pleased to strengthen his memory and enable him to recall the exact words of Scripture as he quoted them; and graciously has He answered us. We would confidently urge our fellow-believers to plead this verse before God on sleepless nights, or when on a bed of sickness, as well as before going to teach a Sunday School class, asking Him to bring back to your remembrance the comforting promises of His Word; or, when tempted, that His precepts might flash upon you.
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you" ( John 14:27). Without being dogmatic, we believe that there is a double "peace" spoken of here: a peace left and a peace given. In the New Testament "peace" is spoken of in a twofold sense: as signifying reconciliation, contrasted from alienation: and a state of tranquillity as contrasted from a state of tumult. The one is objective, the other subjective. The former is referred to in Romans 5:1: "Being justified by faith we have peace with God." His holy wrath against us and our vile opposition against Him are ended forever. The latter is mentioned in Philippians 4:7: "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The one who fully unbosoms himself before the throne of grace enjoys rest within. The one then is judicial, the other, experiential. "Peace I leave with you" would be the result of the Atonement. "My peace I give unto you," would be enjoyed through the indwelling Spirit. The one was for the conscience; the other for the heart.
"My peace I give unto you." This was the personal peace which He had enjoyed here on earth. He was never ruffled by circumstances, and never resisted the will of the Father. He was ever in a state of most perfect amity with God. The peace He here promised His disciples was the peace which filled His own heart, as the result of His unbroken communion with the Father. "For us it is restlessness of will which disturbs this—the strife with His will which this means, and the dissatisfaction of soul which follows every gain that may seem to make in that direction. Doing only His will, there can be no proper doubt as to the issue" (Numerical Bible).
"Not as the world giveth, give I unto you" ( John 14:27). The peace which the worldling has is shallow, unstable, unsatisfying, false. It talks much about peace, but knows little of the thing itself. We have peace-societies, peace-programmes, a peace-palace, and a League of Nations to promote peace; yet all the great powers are armed to the teeth! "When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:3). The world's peace is a chimera: it fails under trial. When the world gives, it is to the ungodly, not to the godly, whom they hate. When the world gives, it gives away, and has no longer. But Christ gives by bringing us into what is eternally His own. When Christ gives He gives forever, and never takes away.
"Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" ( John 14:27). Here the Lord concludes that section of His discourse which had been devoted to the comforting of His sorrowing disciples. Abundant had been the consolation He had proffered them. Their hearts ought now to have been at perfect peace, their minds being stayed upon God. And yet while this verse terminated the first section of the address, it is closely connected with the verses which follow where the Lord proceeded to make application of what He had been saying.
"Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come unto you. If ye love me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I" ( John 14:28). Connecting this verse with the one immediately preceding, the force of our Lord's words is this: If you only believed what I have been saying to you, your cares and fears would vanish, and joy would take the place of sorrow. But what did the Lord mean by "If ye loved me?" Was He not instructing and directing their love, in order to purify it? He knew that they loved Him, and what He had said in John 14:15, 21, 23, assumed it. But their love was not yet sufficiently dis-interested: they were occupied too much with the thought of their own bereavement, instead of the heavenly joy into which the Redeemer was about to enter. If they had loved Him with a pure love, they would have been happy at His exaltation and forgotten themselves.
"My Father is greater than I." This is the favourite verse with Unitarians, who deny the absolute Deity of Christ and His perfect equality with the Father—a truth which is clearly taught in many scriptures. Those who use these words of our Lord in support of their blasphemous heresy, wrest them from their context, ignoring altogether the connection in which they are found. The Savior had just told the apostles that they ought to rejoice because He was going to the Father, and then advances this reason, "For my Father is greater than I." Let this be kept definitely before us and all difficulty vanishes. The Father's being greater than Christ was the reason assigned why the disciples should rejoice at their Master's going to the Father. This at once fixes the meaning of the disputed "greater," and shows us the sense in which it was here used. The contrast which the Savior drew between the Father and Himself was not concerning nature, but official character and position.
Christ was not speaking of Himself in His essential Being. The One who thought it not robbery to be "equal with God" had taken the servant form, and not only Song of Solomon, had been made in the likeness of men. In both these senses, namely, in His official status (as Mediator) and in His assumption of human nature, He was inferior to the Father. Throughout this discourse and in the Prayer which follows in chapter 17, the Lord Jesus is represented as the Father's Servant, from whom He had received a commission, and to whom He was to render an account; for whose glory He acted, and under whose authority He spake. But there is another sense, more pertinent, in which the Son was inferior to the Father. In becoming incarnate and tabernacling among men, He had greatly humiliated Himself, by choosing to descend into shame and suffering in their acutest forms. He was now the Son of man that had not where to lay His head. He who was rich had for our sakes become poor. He was the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. In view of this, Christ was now contrasting His situation with that of the Father in the heavenly Sanctuary. The Father was seated upon the throne of highest majesty; the brightness of His glory was uneclipsed; He was surrounded by hosts of holy beings, who worshipped Him with uninterrupted praise. Far different was it with His incarnate Son—despised and rejected of men, surrounded by implacable enemies, soon to be nailed to a criminal's cross. In this sense, too, He was inferior to the Father. Now in going to the Father, the Son would enjoy a vast improvement of situation. It would be a gain unspeakable. The contrast then was between His present state of humiliation and His coming state of exaltation to the Father! Therefore, those who really loved Him should have rejoiced at the tidings that He would go to the Father, because the Father was greater than He—greater both in official status and in surrounding circumstances. It was Christ owning His place as Servant, and magnifying the One who had sent Him.
"And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe" ( John 14:29). "The question naturally occurs, Believe what? That question is answered by referring to the parallel statement in reference to the treachery of Judas: ‘Now I tell you, that when it is come to pass, ye might believe that I am' ( John 13:19)—that I am the Messiah, the Divinely appointed, qualified, promised, accredited Savior: and of course, that all that I have taught you is indubitably true; and all I have promised is absolutely certain. The disciples did believe this, but their faith was feeble; it required confirmation. It was to be exposed to severe trials, and needed support: and the declaration by Him of these events before they took place was of all things the best fitted for giving their faith that required confirmation and support" (Dr. John Brown).
"Hereafter I will not talk much with you" ( John 14:30). In a very short time He would be cut off from them, while He undertook His greatest work of all. In reminding them that it would be impossible for Him to say much more to them, He hinted at the deep importance of them pondering over and over what He had just said, and what He was on the point of saying to them. This was to be His last address in His humbled state, and during the next few hours they would sorely need the sustaining and comforting power of these precious promises if they were not to faint.
"For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" ( John 14:30). The awful enmity of the Serpent was now to be fully vented upon the woman's Seed: he was to be allowed to bruise the Savior's heel. All that this meant we are incapable of entering into. It would seem that Satan began his assault in the Garden, and ceased not till he had moved Pilate to seal the sepulcher and place a guard about it. The words "and hath nothing in me" refer to His inherent holiness. As the sinless One there was nothing within to which the Devil could appeal. How completely different is it with us! Throw a lighted match into a barrel of gunpowder, and there is a fearful explosion; cast it into a barrel of water and it is quenched!
"For the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." This too was said for the consolation of the apostles: the Savior would assure them beforehand that the issue of the approaching conflict was not left in any doubt. There was no weak point in Him for Satan to find; therefore He must come forth more than Conqueror. Satan could find something in Noah, Abraham, David, Peter. but Christ was the Lamb "without blemish."
"But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence" ( John 14:31). Most blessed is this. The last words of this sentence look back to the end of the previous verse. The prince of this world cometh—but, nevertheless, I suffer him to come against Me, and I go to meet Him. Christ's love to the Father was thus evidenced by His willingness to allow the dragon to lay hold upon Him. He went forth to meet Satan because He had received "commandment" from the Father to do so. It is remarkable that this is the only time that Christ ever spoke of His love to the Father; it was now that He was to give the supreme proof of it. How this rebukes those who are ever talking and singing of their love for the Lord! In the words "Arise, let us go hence," the Lord must have got up from the supper-table, and apparently was followed by His apostles into the outer room, where they remained until they left for Gethsemane, cf. John 18:1.
The following questions are to help the student on the first section of John 15:—
1. What is meant by "the true vine," verse 1?
2. In what sense is the Father the husbandman, verse 1?
3. What is meant by "He taketh away," verse 2?
4. What is meant by "purgeth," verse 2?
5. What is meant by "abide in Me," verse 4?
6. What is meant by the last clause of verse 5?
7. Who is in view in verse 6?
1] The above questions are from an article by the late Mr. Inglis, in "Waymarks in the Wilderness."
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 14". "A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany