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(1) Let not your heart be troubled.—The division of chapters is unfortunate, as it breaks the close connection between these words and those which have gone immediately before. The prophecy of St. Peter’s denial had followed upon the indication of Judas as the traitor, and upon the announcement of the Lord’s departure. These thoughts may well have brought troubled hearts. The Lord had Himself been troubled as the darkness drew on (John 12:27; John 13:21), and He calms the anxious thoughts that He reads in the souls of the disciples.
Ye believe in God, believe also in me.—It is more natural to take both these clauses as imperative—Believe in God, believe also in Me. Our English version reads the first and last clauses of the verse as imperative, and the second as an indicative, but there is no good reason for doing so; and a sense more in harmony with the context is got by reading them all as imperatives. As a matter of fact, the present trouble of the hearts of the disciples arose from a want of a true belief in God; and the command is to exercise a true belief, and to realise the presence of the Father, as manifested in the person of the Son. There was a sense in which every Jew believed in God. That belief lay at the very foundation of the theocracy; but like all the axioms of creeds, it was accepted as a matter of course, and too often had no real power on the life. What our Lord here teaches the disciples is the reality of the Fatherhood of God as a living power, ever present with them and in them; and He teaches them that the love of God is revealed in the person of the Word made flesh. This faith is the simplest article of the Christian’s creed. We teach children to say, we ourselves constantly say, “I believe in God the Father.” Did we but fully grasp the meaning of what we say, the troubles of our hearts would be hushed to silence; and our religion would be a real power over the whole life, and would be also, in a fulness in which it never has been, a real power over the life of the world.
(2) In my Father’s house are many mansions.—The Greek word used for “house” here is slightly different from that used of the material temple on earth in John 2:16. The exact meaning will be at once seen from a comparison of 2 Corinthians 5:1, the only other passage in the New Testament where it is used metaphorically. The Jews were accustomed to the thought of heaven as the habitation of God; and the disciples had been taught to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven.” (Comp. Psalms 23:6; Isaiah 63:15; Matthew 6:9; Acts 7:49; and especially Hebrews 9:0)
The Greek word for “mansions” occurs again in the New Testament only in John 14:23, where it is rendered abode.” Wiclif and the Geneva version read “dwellings.” It is found in the Greek of the Old Testament only in 1Ma. 7:38 (“Suffer them not to continue any longer”—“give them not an abode”). Our translators here followed the Vulgate, which has “mansiones “with the exact meaning of the Greek, that is; “resting-places,” “dwellings.” In Elizabethan English the word meant no more than this, and it now means no more in French or in the English of the North. A maison or a manse, is not necessarily a modern English mansion. It should also be noted that the Greek word is the substantive answering to the verb which is rendered “dwelleth” in John 14:10, and “abide” in John 15:4-10. (see Note there).
“Many” is not to be understood, as it often has been, simply or chiefly of different degrees of happiness in heaven. Happiness depends upon the mind which receives it, and must always exist, therefore, in varying degrees, but this is not the prominent thought expressed here, though it may be implied. The words refer rather to the extent of the Father’s house, in which there should be abiding-places for all. There would be no risk of that house being overcrowded like the caravanserai at Bethlehem, or like those in which the Passover pilgrims, as at this very time, found shelter at Jerusalem. Though Peter could not follow Him now, he should hereafter (John 13:36); and for all who shall follow Him there shall be homes.
If it were not so, I would have told you.—These words are not without difficulty, but the simplest, and probably truest, meaning is obtained by reading them as our version does. They become then an appeal to our Lord’s perfect candour in dealing with the disciples. He had revealed to them a Father and a house. That revelation implies a home for all. Were there not “many mansions” the fulness of His teaching could have had no place. Had there been limitations He must have marked them out.
I go to prepare a place for you.—The better MSS. read, “For I . . ,” connecting the clause with the earlier part of the verse. He is going away to prepare a place for them; and this also proves the existence of the home. There is to be then no separation; He is to enter within the veil, but it is to be as Forerunner on our behalf (Hebrews 6:20). “When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.”
(3) And if I go and prepare . . .—For the form of the expression, comp. Notes on John 12:32, and 1 John 2:28. It does not imply uncertainty, but expresses that the fact is in the region of the future, which is clear to Him, and will unfold itself to them.
I will come again, and receive you unto myself.—This clause has been variously explained of the resurrection; of the death of individual disciples; of the spiritual presence of our Lord in the Church; of the coming again of the Lord in the Parousia of the last day, when all who believe in Him shall be received unto Himself. The difficulty has arisen from taking the words “I will come again,” as necessarily referring to the same time as those which follow—“I will receive you unto Myself,” whereas they are in the present tense, and should be literally rendered, I am coming again. They refer rather, as the same words refer when used in John 14:18, to His constant spiritual presence in their midst; whereas the reception of them to Himself is to be understood of the complete union which will accompany that spiritual presence; a union which will be commenced in this life, advanced by the death of individuals, and completed in the final coming again. (Comp. John 17:24.)
(4) And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.—The better reading is, And whither I go, ye know the way, i.e., “Ye know that I am the way to the Father, whither I am going.” (Comp. John 14:6, and John 13:33.) They did not, indeed, fully know this, but the means of knowing it was within their reach, and His own words had declared it. (Comp., e.g., John 10:1; John 11:25.) They ought to have known it, and His words now are meant to contrast what they ought to have known with what they really did know, in order that He may more fully instruct them. To know our ignorance, is the first step to its removal.
(5) Thomas saith unto him.—Comp., for the character of Thomas, John 11:16; John 20:24; John 21:2.
Lord, we know not whither thou goest.— Our Lord’s words had laid stress upon the “way.” Thomas lays stress upon the “whither.” His mind seeks for measured certainty. In all that he has heard of the Father’s house of many mansions, of being with the Lord, there is much that he cannot understand. The Messiah, they thought, was to reign upon earth. Where was this vast royal home, with dwelling-places for all, to which Christ was going first, and to which they were to follow? They know not whither, and without that knowledge they cannot even think of the way.
(6) I am the way.—The pronoun is emphatic. “I, and none besides Me.” “The way” is again made prominent, reversing the order which Thomas had used. He and He only is the means through which men can approach to the Father. (Comp. Notes on John 1:18, and on 1 Timothy 2:5.)
The truth, and the life.—Better, and the Truth, and the Life. The thought of His being the Way through which men come to the Father is the reverse side of the thought, that in Him the Father is revealed to men, that He is Himself the Eternal Truth, that He is Himself the Source of eternal life. (Comp. John 1:14; John 1:17; John 6:50-51; John 11:25-26.) Had they known what His earlier words meant, they would have had other than temporal and local thoughts of the Father’s house, and would have known Him to be the Way.
No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.—This was the answer to the doubt of Thomas. This was the true “whither” which they knew not. The thought of heaven is not of a place far above, or of a time far before, but of a state now and hereafter. To receive the Truth and the Life revealed in the presence of the Son is to come to the Father by the only Way. To be with the Father is home. (Comp. Notes on John 1:18; John 3:13.)
(7) If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.—The thought here is made quite plain by what has preceded; but the form in which it is expressed demands attention. The emphasis of the first part of the sentence is not upon “Me” as is generally supposed, but upon “known.” In the second part the emphatic words are “My Father.” The English word “known” represents two Greek words in the better text which are not identical in meaning. The former means, to know by observation, the latter to know by reflection. It is the difference between connaître and savoir; between kennen (ken, k(e)now), and wissen (wit, wisdom). We may express the meaning more exactly thus, “If ye had recognised Me, ye would have known My Father also.” If ye had recognised who I really am; ye would have known that I and My Father are one.
And from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.—Comp. John 13:31, where the glorifying of the Son of Man is regarded as in the future which is immediately present. He can, therefore, say that from this time onwards, after the full declaration of Himself in John 14:6; John 14:9 et seq., they know and have seen the Father.
(8) Philip saith unto him.—Comp. for the character of Philip John 1:44 et seq.; John 6:5 et seq.; John 12:21 et seq. He is joined with Thomas at the head of the second group of the Apostles, in Acts 1:13.
Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.—He catches at the word “seen “and thinks of some revelation of the glory of God as that vouchsafed to Moses, or it may be of a vision like that which three of their number had seen, and of which others had heard, in the Mount of Transfiguration. One such vision of the Father, he thinks, would remove all their doubts; and would satisfy the deepest longings of their hearts.
(9) Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?—More exactly, . . . hast thou not recognised Me, as in John 14:7. Comp. the reference in John 14:8, from which it will be seen that Philip was one of the first-called disciples, and had occupied a prominent position in the band of Apostles. There is in our Lord’s words a tone of sadness and of warning. They utter the loneliness of a holiness and greatness which is not understood. The close of life is at hand, and Philip, who had followed Him from the first, shows by this question that he did not even know what the work and purposes of that life had been. They speak to all Christian teachers, thinkers, workers. There is a possibility that men should be in the closest apparent nearness to Christ, and yet have never learnt the meaning of the words they constantly hear and utter; and have never truly known the purpose of Christ’s life.
He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.—Comp. Note on John 14:7, and Philip’s own answer to Nathanael, “Come and see” (John 1:46). The demand of Philip is one which is constantly being read, and the answer is one that constantly holds good. Men are ever thinking and saying, “Shew us the Father and it sufficeth us.” “Give us something in religion upon which the soul can rest. We are weary of the doubts, and strifes, and dogmas which are too often called religion. We want something which can be real food for the soul. We cannot feed upon the husks which the swine do eat; and we believe that in the Father’s house there is, even for the hired servants, bread enough and to spare. We are not irreligious, but we are impatient of what is put before us as religion. Give us truth! Give us life! Let it be free and open as the air of heaven, and we will gladly accept it, embrace it, live it.” All this is the heart of the child seeking the presence of the Father. That Father has been manifested in the person of the Son. In the Life and Truth revealed in Him is the full revelation of God. In Him is the Bread of Life to satisfy every want of every man. He that hath seen Him hath seen the Father. How then can men say, Shew us the Father? (Comp. Note on John 12:44-45.)
(10) Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?—Comp. Note on John 10:38. He had there taught this truth to the Jews; but Philip’s words seem to show that even the disciples did not fully receive it. The order of the clauses is reversed here, in accordance with the thought of the context, which is of knowledge of the Son, and of the Father through the Son.
The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself.—This refers not to His present teaching only or chiefly, but to the whole of His manifestation of the character and attributes of God. All His words had been a revelation of the Father whom Philip now asks to see. (Comp. John 8:38.)
But the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.—The better reading is, but the Father that dwelleth in Me doeth His own works. This is the proof that He does not speak of Himself; and both clauses are together the proof of the indwelling of the Son in the Father and the Father in the Son. The works manifested in time in the power of the Incarnate Word are not His works, but those of the Father, who abides in the Son, and is revealed through Him. (Comp. John 8:28, and Note there.)
(11) Believe me that I am in the Father.—He passes now from Philip, and addresses Himself to the whole body of the apostles. He claims from them a personal trust in Himself, which should accept His statement that He and the Father were immanent in each other.
Or else believe me for the very works’ sake.—If they cannot receive the truth on the testimony of His word, He will take lower ground with them. He will place before them the evidence He had placed before the Jews. Let them, if they will not hear Him, believe on account of the very works which He had done. (Comp. Note on John 5:19-20; John 10:37-38.)
(12) Verily, verily, I say unto you.—Comp. Note on John 1:51.
He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also.—He that by faith becomes one with the Son shall have the Son, and therefore also the Father, dwelling in him (John 14:11; John 14:20; John 14:23), and shall himself become an instrument through which God, who dwelleth in him, shall carry into effect His own works. He shall, therefore, do works of the same kind as those which the Son Himself doeth.
And greater works than these shall he do.—Comp. Notes on John 5:20, and on Matthew 21:21-22. The explanation of these greater works is not to be sought in the individual instances of miraculous power exercised by the apostles, but in the whole work of the Church. The Day of Pentecost witnessed the first fulfilment of this prophecy; but it has been fulfilled also in every great moral and spiritual victory. Every revival of a truly religious spirit has been an instance of it; every mission-field has been a witness to it. In every child of man brought to see the Father, and know the Father’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ, has been a work such as He did. In the world-wide extent of Christianity there is a work greater even than any which He Himself did in the flesh. He left His kingdom as one of the smallest of the influences on the earth; but it has grown up as a mighty power over all the kingdoms of the world, and all that is purest and best in civilisation and culture has found shelter in its branches.
Because I go unto my Father.—The better reading is, because I go unto the Father. The words are to be connected not with one clause only, but with all the earlier parts of the verse. They are the reason why the believer shall do the works that Christ does, as well as the reason why he shall do greater works. The earthly work of Christ will have ceased, and He will have gone to the Father. The believers will be then His representatives on earth, as He will be their representative in heaven. Therefore will they do His works, and the works shall be greater because He will be at the Father’s right hand, and will do whatsoever they shall ask in His name.
(13) And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do.—Comp. John 15:16; John 16:23. The prayer is thought of as addressed to the Father; but the answer here, and still more emphatically in the following verse, is thought of as coming from the Son, who is one with the Father. The width and limitation of the promise are both to be noted. It is “whatsoever ye shall ask,” and it is “ask in My name.” This means, as My representatives on earth (comp. Notes on previous verse), as persons doing My work, living in My spirit, seeking as I have sought to do the will of the Father. It follows from this that personal petitions are not contemplated here, except as far as they are for the glory of God; and that petitions asked in ignorance may be most truly answered when they are not granted. The prayer of Gethsemane—“If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done,” should teach what prayer in the name and spirit of Christ means. We commonly attach to our prayers, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We do not always bear in mind that this implies an absolute self-sacrifice, and is a prayer that our very prayers may not be answered except in so far as they are in accordance with the divine will. (Comp. Note on 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.)
That the Father may be glorified in the Son.—Comp. Notes on John 11:4; John 12:28; John 13:31.
(14) If ye shall ask any thing in my name.—This is an emphatic repetition of the width of the promise and of its condition. In the second clause of the verse the pronoun “I” bears the stress. “I (on My part) will do it.” In the parallel passage in John 15:16; John 16:23 the Father is thought of as answering the prayer. The passage from one thought to the other is possible because the Father and Son are thought of as one.
(15) If ye love me, keep my commandments.—Comp. Notes on John 14:17; John 13:34; John 15:10. The connection here is through the condition “in My name,” which includes willing obedience to His commands. The word “My” is emphatic—“The commandments which ye have received from Me.” Those of this last discourse are perhaps prominent in the thought.
(16) And I will pray the Father.—Comp. Note on John 16:26. The pronoun is again emphatic—“I have given you your part to do. I on My part will pray the Father.” The word used for “pray” is one which implies more of nearness of approach and of familiarity than that which is rendered “ask” in John 14:14. It is the word which John regularly uses when he speaks of our Lord as praying to the Father, and occurs again in John 16:26; John 17:9; John 17:15; John 17:20. The distinction is important, but it has sometimes, perhaps, been unduly pressed. Both words occur in 1 John 5:16. (See Note there.)
And he shall give you another Comforter.—The better rendering is probably another Advocate. The word is used of the third person in the Holy Trinity here, and in John 14:26, and in John 15:26 and John 16:7. In each of these instances it is used by our Lord. It is found once again in the New Testament, and is there applied by St. John to our Lord Himself (1 John 2:1). In the Gospel the English version uniformly translates it by “Comforter.” “In the Epistle it is rendered by “Advocate.” But the whole question is of so much interest and importance that it will be convenient to deal with it in a separate Note. (Comp. Excursus G: The Meaning of the word Paraclete.) The word “another” should be observed as implying that which the Epistle states—the advocacy of the second Person in the Trinity, as well as that of the third.
That he may abide with you for ever.—The thought of the permanent abiding is opposed to the separation which is about to take place between them and the person of our Lord. He would come again to them in the person of the Paraclete, whom He would send to them (John 14:18), and this spiritual presence should remain with them for ever. (Comp. Note on Matthew 28:20.)
(17) Even the Spirit of truth.—Comp. John 15:26; John 16:13, and 1 John 5:6. He is called the Spirit of Truth, because part of His special office is to bring truth home to the hearts of men, to carry it from the material to the moral sphere, to make it something more than a collection of signs seen or heard—a living power in living men.
Whom the world cannot receive.—The Holy Spirit can be received only by those who have the spiritual faculty. It cannot be otherwise. The unbelieving world, caring only for things of the senses, has lost its spiritual perception. It has no eye to see and no heart to know spiritual things, for they are spiritually discerned. (Comp. Note on 1 Corinthians 2:14.)
But ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.—The better text is,. . . . and is in you. The verbs are in the present tense, describing the receptivity of the disciples as opposed to the moral blindness of the world. They had, during our Lord’s work and teaching in their midst, exercised and strengthened their spiritual faculties. They had in part received the Spirit, and by that reception were prepared for the fuller gift. They knew Him. He was in their midst. He was then, and therefore should be in the future, a living power, dwelling in their inmost life.
(18) I will not leave you comfortless.—Better with the margin, I will not leave you orphans, which exactly represents the Greek word. “Comfortless” is unfortunate, as it suggests a connection with “Comforter” which does not exist in the original. Our translators have rendered the word by “fatherless” in James 1:27, which is the only other passage where it occurs in the New Testament, and Wiclif has “faderless” here. He thinks of them as His children whom He is leaving in the world (comp. John 13:33), but He will not leave them destitute and bereaved.
I will come to you.—This coming, as is shown by the whole context, is the spiritual presence in the person of the Paraclete.
(19) Yet a little while.—Comp. John 13:33; John 16:16.
But ye see me—i.e., in the spiritual presence of the Paraclete. The words may indeed have their first fulfilment in the appearances of the forty days (comp. Acts 10:41), but these appearances were themselves steps in the education which was leading the disciples from a trust in the physical to a trust in the spiritual presence. (Comp. John 20:17.) To the world the grave seemed the closing scene. They saw Him no more; they thought of Him as dead. To the believers who had the power to see Him He appeared as living, and in very deed was more truly with them and in them than He had been before.
Because I live, ye shall live also.—Better, for I live, and ye shall live. Our Lord speaks of His own life in the present. It is the essential life of which He is Himself the Source, and which is not affected by the physical death through which He is about to pass. They also who believe in Him shall have even here this principle of life, which in them too shall be affected by no change, but shall develop into the fulness of the life hereafter. Because He lives, and because they too shall live, therefore shall they see Him and realise His presence when the world seeth Him no more.
(20) At that day ye shall know—i.e., the day of the gift of the Comforter, in whom Christ shall come to them. In the first reference the Day of Pentecost is meant, but the words hold good of every spiritual quickening, and will hold good of the final coming in the last day. The pronoun “ye” is emphatic—“Ye shall know for yourselves.”
That I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.—Comp. Note on John 10:38. The result of this spiritual illumination would be that they should of themselves know the immanence of the Son in the Father, and their own union with the Father through Him. They ask now (John 14:8) for a manifestation of the Father. The Spirit should so bring the life of Christ to their hearts that they would read in it the manifestation of the Father, and feel that in and through that life their own spirit has communion with God. The Spirit would witness with their spirit that they were the children of God. They would seek no longer for a Theophany from without, but in the depth of their inmost lives would cry, “Abba, Father.”
(21) He that hath my commandments.—Comp. John 14:15 and John 5:36. This verse points out the successive degrees which led up to the full manifestation of Christ. The first step is the moral apprehension and practical observance of our Lord’s commandments, which necessarily result from love to Christ.
He it is that loveth me.—The next step is the special receptivity of the Father’s love which he who loves Christ possesses, and therefore there is a special sense in which the Father loves him. The words express with fulness of emphasis, “He it is, and he only.”
And I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.—The special love of the Son follows from the special love of the Father, and is accompanied by the full manifestation of the Son. This is further explained in John 14:23.
(22) Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot.—That he was “not Iscariot” is mentioned to distinguish him beyond all possibility of confusion from him who had gone out into the darkness, and was no longer one of their number (John 13:30). He is commonly identified with “Lebbæus whose surname was Thaddæus” (comp. Note on Matthew 10:3), and was a brother or son of James (Luke 6:15).
How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?—The word “manifest” has brought to the mind of Judas, as the word “see” had to the mind of Philip (John 14:7), thoughts of a visible manifestation such as to Moses (Exodus 33:13; Exodus 33:18), and such as they expected would attend the advent of the Messiah (Malachi 3:1). But it was contrary to every thought of the Messiah that this manifestation should be to a few only. His reign was to be the judgment of the Gentiles, and the establishment of the Theocracy.
The words rendered, “How is it that . . .?” mean literally, What has happened that . . .? The words of our Lord, speaking of His manifestation, take Judas by surprise. He wonders whether anything has occurred to cause what he thinks a departure from the Messianic manifestation.
(23) If a man love me, he will keep my words.—Our Lord repeats the condition necessary on the part of man in order that the manifestation of God to him may be possible. This is an answer to the question of Judas, the world in its unbelief and rejection of Christ’s words, and without the spirit of love, could not receive this manifestation.
We will come unto him, and make our abode with him.—For the plural, comp. Note on John 10:30. For the word “abode,” comp. Note on John 14:2. The thought of God as dwelling in the sanctuary and among the people was familiar to the disciples from the Old Testament Scriptures (see, e.g., Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 26:11-12; Ezekiel 37:26), and the thought of the spiritual temple in the heart of man was not unknown to contemporary writers. Philo has a remarkable parallel in his treatise, De Cherubim, p. 124, “Since therefore He (God) thus invisibly enters into the region of the soul, let us prepare that place, in the best way the case admits of, to be an abode worthy of God; for if we do not, He, without our being aware of it, will quit us and migrate to some other habitation which shall appear to Him to be more excellently provided” (Bohn’s ed., vol. i., p. 199. See the whole of chap. 29). Schöttgen, in his note, quotes from a Rabbinical writer who says, “Blessed is the man who strives daily to make himself approved unto God, and prepares himself to receive the divine guest.” (Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; and Revelation 3:20.)
(24) He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.—He has shown in the previous verse how the Father and the Son can take up their abode in the hearts of the believers. He now shows how they could not be manifested to the hearts of the world. He that loveth not Christ keepeth not His word, and that word is the Father’s. He has rejected the love of God which is revealed in the Son, and has Himself closed the channels of communion with God. God cannot dwell with him because there is in him nothing which can be receptive of the Divine Presence.
(25) These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.—Better, . . . while abiding with you. He was about to depart from them. He had been speaking to them words which they found it hard to understand. He now pauses in His teaching, and proceeds to tell them of the Holy Spirit who should interpret His words to them.
(26) But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost.—Better, as before, but the Advocate . . . (Comp. Excursus G: The Meaning of the word Paraclete.) For the words “Holy Ghost” comp. John 7:39; John 20:22, which are the only passages where we find them in this Gospel. They are frequent in the earlier Gospels. (See Note on Matthew 12:31.) In four passages in the New Testament (Luke 11:13; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:8) our translators have preferred the rendering “Holy Spirit.” The identification here with the Advocate brings out the contrast between the practical obedience and holiness (John 14:23) of those to whom the Holy Spirit should be sent, and the disobedience (John 14:24) of those who rejected the revelation by the Son.
Whom the Father will send in my name—i.e., as My representative. (Comp. John 14:13.) Their Master will depart from them, but the Father will send them another Teacher who will make clear to them the lessons they have already heard, and teach them things which they cannot bear now.
He shall teach you all things.—Comp. John 16:13. The words are here without an expressed limitation, but the “all things” here is equal to the “all truth” in the later passage.
And bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.—The limitation, “whatsoever I have said unto you,” is to be taken with this clause only, and is not to be extended to the words, “He shall teach you all things.” For instances of the recurrence of words spoken by our Lord with a fulness of new meaning revealed in them by the Holy Spirit, comp. John 2:22; John 12:16. The Gospel according to St. John, with its full records of the words spoken by our Lord, is itself a commentary on this text.
(27) Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.—The immediate context speaks of His departure from them (John 14:25; John 14:28), and it is natural therefore to understand these words as suggested by the common Oriental formulas of leave-taking. Men said to each other when they met and parted, “Shalom! Shalom!” (Peace! Peace!) just as they say the “Salaam! Salaam!” in our own day. (See 1 Samuel 1:17; Luke 7:50; Acts 16:36; James 2:16; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Peter 5:14; 3 John 1:14.)
He will leave them as a legacy the gift of “peace.” And this peace is more than a meaningless sound or even than a true wish. He repeats it with the emphatic “My,” and speaks of it as an actual possession which He imparts to them. “Peace on earth” was the angels’ message when they announced His birth; “peace to you” was His own greeting when He returned victorious from the grave. “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14), and this peace is the farewell gift to the disciples from whom He is now departing. (Comp. John 14:27; John 16:33; John 20:19; John 20:21; John 20:26.)
Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.—The contrast is not between the emptiness of the world’s salutations and the reality of His own gift, but between His legacy to them and the legacies ordinarily left by the world. He gives them not land or houses or possessions, but “peace;” and that “His own peace,” “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.”
Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.—These are in part the words of the first verse, and are now repeated as a joyous note of triumph. Possessing the peace which He gives them, having another Advocate in the person of the Holy Spirit, having the Father and the Son ever abiding in them, there cannot be, even when He is about to leave them, room for trouble or for fear.
The word here rendered “be afraid” occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It points especially to the cowardice of fear. The cognate substantive is used in 2 Timothy 1:7, and the adjective in Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40; and Revelation 21:8.
(28) Ye have heard how I said unto you.—Better, Ye heard how I said unto you. (See John 14:19-20.)
If ye loved me, ye would rejoice.—True love seeks another’s good and not its own. Their sorrow at His departure was at its root selfish, as all sorrow for those who depart to be with God is, however little we think so. His departure would be the return to the glory of the Father’s throne, and was matter for joy and not for sorrow. For them also it was expedient. (Comp. Notes on John 16:6-7.)
For my Father is greater than I.—These words have naturally formed the subject of controversy in every period of the Church’s history, between those who deny and those who accept the truth that the Son is “very God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before all worlds.” And, as in all controversies, statements have been made on either side which cannot be supported by the words themselves. On the part of those who assert the divine nature, it has been contended that the Father is greater than the Son only as regards the human nature of the Son; but this is not here thought of. In this passage, as in others of the New Testament, it is plainly asserted that in the divine nature there is a subordination of the Son to the Father. (See, e.g., John 14:16; John 17:5; 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Philippians 2:9; Philippians 2:11; and especially Note on John 5:19 et seq.) On the part of those who deny the divinity of our Lord, it has been contended that this text asserts the inferiority of His nature to that of the Father, whereas the words could only have been uttered by one who meant in them to assert His own divine essence. If we try to imagine a man saying, “God is greater than I,” we feel at once that He who really said them claimed for Himself that He was truly God.
(29) And now I have told you before it come to pass.—Comp. John 13:19. Here, again, He tells them the event before the accomplishment, that it may serve to strengthen their faith. Two interpretations of this verse are possible. (1) That He told them of the coming of the Advocate to teach all truth, and bring all things to their remembrance, in order that in the fulfilment of this they may, with increase of faith, believe in Him. (2) That He told them of His going to the Father, in order that when the hour of departure came they may believe that He had gone to the Father. Upon the whole, and especially considering the close parallel with John 13:19, the first seems the more probable meaning.
(30) Hereafter I will not talk much with you.—Better, I will no more, or, I will not continue to talk much with you. The discourse is broken by the thought that the hour of the conflict is at hand, and that He must go forth to meet it.
For the prince of this world cometh.—Better, is coming. The approach is thought of as then taking place. For the phrase, “prince of this world,” comp. Note on John 12:31. The prince of evil is here regarded as working in and by Judas, who is carrying out his plans and doing his work. (Comp. Notes on John 6:70; John 13:2; John 13:27.)
And hath nothing in me.—The words are to be taken in their full and absolute meaning, and they assert that the prince of this world possesses nothing in the person of Christ. In Him he has never for a moment ruled. For this appeal to perfect sinlessness, comp. Note on John 8:29. It follows from this that His surrender of Himself is entirely voluntary. (Comp. Note on John 10:18.)
(31) The most probable arrangement of this verse is to omit the period after “so I do,” and to consider all down to this point as governed by “that.” We shall read then, “But, that the world may know that I love the Father, and that as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do, arise, let us go hence.” He has asserted, in the previous verse, the sinlessness which makes His act wholly self-determined. He now expresses the subordination of His own to the Father’s will, and summons the Apostles to rise up with Him from the table, and go forth from the room.
But that the world . . .—The words seem to point back to “the prince of this world” who has just been mentioned. The prince cometh, but it is to a defeat; and the very world over which he has ruled will see in the self-sacrifice of Jesus the love of the Father. That love will reclaim them from the bondage of the oppressor and restore them to the freedom of children.
It is an interesting question which we cannot hope with certainty to solve, whether or not in obedience to the command they went from the room at once. In other words, were the discourse of John 15:16 and the prayer of John 17:0, uttered in the room after the summons to depart, or on the way to the garden of Gethsemane? The immediate connection of the opening words of the next chapter with the present verse naturally leads to the opinion that they were spoken in the same place, and, in the absence of any hint of a change, it is safe not to assume any. The words of John 18:1 are probably those which express the act to which the words our Lord has just spoken summon them. But comp. Chronological Harmony of the Gospels, p. xxxv.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on John 14". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany