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The Lord’s words in ch. John 13:36-38 had concerned Peter alone. Here He turns directly to the disciples in general. The abruptness of the transition originated, in a series of many manuscripts, the clause which overwhelming authority decides to be spurious, καὶ? εἶ πεν τοῖ?ς μαθηταῖ?ς αὐ τοῦ? (Luther: and He said to His disciples). The transition is all the more startling, as Peter did not in the foregoing assume the character of representative of the Apostles, but appeared in his own personal relations. Further, the beginning, “Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God, believe also in Me,” and the sequel, in which all the resources of consolation and strengthening are suggested, presuppose that immediately before great dangers had been referred to, by which the disciples were threatened. Looking at John alone, that was not the case. In ch. John 13:36-38, the Lord had to do with Peter alone; and it is not of external danger that He spoke, so much as of moral aberration. In John 13:31-35 the Lord had certainly spoken of His departure; but He did not there allude to the disconsolate condition into which the disciples would, as a consequence, fall. He had exhibited that departure to them in John 13:31-32, under a cheerful aspect; and in John 13:33-34, connected with it the exhortation to love. How little chap. 13 furnishes the foundation of ch. 14, may be noted from the fact, that expositors can by no means come to agreement as to the connection between “Let not your heart be troubled,” and what precedes. Lampe’s embarrassment betrays him into the remarks: “His mercy is so great, that before His people call upon Him He answers them, Isaiah 65:24, and proffers consolation to those who have not in their thoughts the hope of experiencing it.” Accordingly, we are driven to suppose, that between ch. 13 and ch. 14, there is a link which the predecessors of John, whom he everywhere only supplements, will supply, and which will form the starting-point and the key to the encouragements that now follow. We are especially referred to Luke, as the immediate predecessor of John, to whom his supplementary details are generally most directly attached. In Luke we have the middle clause surprisingly supplied. The Lord there, in ch. Luke 22:35-38, turns from Peter to the disciples generally. He reminds them that, through the grace of God so visibly overruling them, they had hitherto prospered; that no distress and no need had invaded them, Luke 22:35. He tells them that now another time was coming, when God’s manifest grace would be withdrawn—a time of need and danger—enemies around them, and nowhere a friend—everywhere persecutions, hardships, and dangers, Luke 22:36. He points in Luke 22:37 to the reason of this change: the days were to come to their Master of which the prophet Isaiah had written, when He was to be “numbered with the transgressors;” and shows them that if their Head suffered, the members must suffer also; that their Head suffered only in consequence of that power which had been given to darkness, and that the members must encounter the same. It would have been unnatural that the servants should be prosperous while the Master suffered and died. The disciples had misunderstood the word, “Let him that hath no sword, sell his coat and buy one,” which in a proverbial form only expressed the thought that a very perilous period was at hand, which could not be met but by the most energetic and effectual means of defence, and in which they would have to sacrifice all in order to withstand the pressure of their foes. They supposed, though dubiously, with the feeling that they might be altogether wrong, and with the wish that the Lord would open to them the right understanding, that a defence with external weapons was recommended to them: “Lord, here are two swords,” The Lord says, “It is enough;” thereby intimating that His words were to be taken with some qualification, and that their defence must be sought in an altogether different region. For if two only were enough, swords of that kind generally must have been useless. Against the forces of the High Council nothing could be effected with two swords. And with this rejection of the wrong weapons of defence against the impending danger—of weapons that would have no value in a contest in which the real opponent is the “prince of this world,” ver. 30, is immediately connected the exhibition of those true and spiritual weapons which our chapter presents. It is enough: the visible sword is not to be your defence, but simple faith. Sursum corda. Seek your help above, from your God and your Saviour.
This explanation of the starting-point of our Lord’s words in this chapter is of no slight practical importance. The imperilled situation in which the disciples were placed during the sufferings of Christ, is typical for the Church of the last days. Then will power be again given to darkness; the world will again go such lengths as to crucify Christ afresh; His Church will be threatened with danger on all hands; and the grace of God, which had through such long periods been with her, will seem rather to retreat and be concealed. Now this chapter teaches us how we must conduct ourselves at such a time; with what weapons we are to defend ourselves against the threatening danger; and what those helps are on which we may surely rely.
The whole chapter bears a consolatory character, in harmony with Isaiah 50:4; Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 11:5, according to which it is the proper vocation of Christ to strengthen the feeble, to bind up broken hearts, and to bring glad tidings to the poor. The exhortations scattered here and there to love and to keep His commandments, vers. 15, 21, 23, are only subordinate: they only point by the way to the moral conditions on which the realization of His consolations and promises is suspended; they give the preparatory prospect of the unfolding of this most important aspect, the thorough exhibition of which could not be wanting in the Lord’s last sayings in another connection, and thus serve as a link between the consolatory and the hortatory portions of the farewell discourses. They have precisely the same position which ver. 18 assumes in Psalms 103,—a psalm which, in its fundamental tone, is thoroughly consolatory. That “Let not your heart be troubled” is here the ground-tone of the whole discourse, is shown by the recurrence of these introductory words towards the close, in ver. 27.
We have evidently here a complete whole connected and rounded. The three interruptions of the disciples—of Thomas in ver. 5, of Philip in ver. 8, of Judas in ver. 22—do not disturb the connection; the Lord’s discourse does not derive from them a character of irregularity; but they only give Him occasion to develop more fully what was in His original plan. The first interjection, that of Thomas, was excited by our Lord Himself.
The clause placed at the outset, “Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in Me,” is developed through the exposition of those individual grounds of encouragement for the troubled heart, and of those individual means of defence against distress and danger, which are provided of God in Christ. The first thing is, that to the disciples of Christ heaven is sure; that no power of this world can exclude them from eternal life: turning to this refuge, they can look calmly at the confusion of things upon earth; their tribulation, because temporal, is light: “Who can rob us of the heaven which the Son of God gives to our faith?” The departure of Jesus is all the less grievous to them, because it enabled Him to prepare them places in heaven, and because, when their hour is come, He will return to receive them into their eternal inheritance, vers. 2, 3. But they are not only referred to the world beyond: into the confusion of this world shine down the clear lights of the Divine grace from above; and even in the time of their perilous pilgrimage upon earth, they are enriched with the best possessions. The second in the series of encouragements is this: They have in Christ the certain way to heaven, the assured preparation for eternal life; and the being obliged to renounce the world, robs this present being of all its importance, and empties it of all real substance. In Christ the Father has been made known to them; in the world of shadows the truth has shined, and in the world of death life has been revealed; and, united to Him, they can never fail of their participation in His glory, vers. 4-11. The third consolation: They need not fear, that with the departure of Christ His works will cease. That departure will rather, as being His entrance to the glory of the Father, enable them in His power to do yet greater works: the apparent end of Christ’s manifestations of His power will in reality be the beginning of them, vers. 12-14. The fourth: If they must, in the coming hard conflict with the world, be without the visible presence and assistance of their Lord, He will instead send them another Intercessor, the Spirit of truth, vers. 15-17. The fifth: They need not fear that Christ will disappear from them. He would leave His people only for a short time; He would then come back again; and that not, as before, in a visible form, but secretly, and in such a manner as to be manifest only to His own; yet with a much more deep and effectual influence, so that His coming back brings true life with it, vers. 18-24. The sixth: The disciples must not despond because their understanding was as yet so dull, and because they had failed to penetrate the depths of truth. This defect the Holy Spirit would supply, whom the Father would send in His name: the same Comforter who was before promised as a Helper in the conflict with the world, is now promised as a Teacher, vers. 25, 26. Finally, the seventh consolation: The peace of Christ, ver. 27, where, after exhausting all grounds of encouragement, the “Let not your heart be troubled” returns again. After all this, the announcement of the departure of Christ to the Father would be no more grievous, but joyful. Christ passes thereby from the form of a servant into the full fellowship of the Divine glory, ver. 28. The conclusion of all is the declaration, that the catastrophe presented in the prospect was now very near at hand, and the summons to the disciples to go forth with their Lord to meet it. We must suppose, that after “Arise, let us go hence,” they arose and departed: this is evidently included. In such cases of request and performance the Scripture is often concise and condensed: so, for example, in Genesis 4:8, what Cain said to Abel is omitted, so that the supplement must be sought in the sequel: comp. Exodus 19:25. In Isaiah 8:2 we have a strictly analogous case. In our present passage we may find a particular reason for so brief a hint, in the solemn and stately character of the discourse of these chapters having something of a poetical tinge. If the Evangelist had not intended us so to understand him, he must needs have made some cautionary remark. The summons of itself excludes the idea of other discourses having been afterwards uttered in the same locality. It is inconsistent with the dignity of Christ, and the solemnity of the occasion, to assume that He followed arbitrary impulses, such, for instance, as Gerhard and others suggest, who compare it with the broken words of separating friends. Jesus repeats the “Rise, let us go hence,” afterwards in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:46; and there the departure follows hard upon the summons. Concurrently with the request to arise, the discourse itself reaches its full close in ch. 14, issuing in a formal word of farewell: comp. especially ver. 28.
We gather from this, that the discourse could not have been carried on upon the same scene; and that, if other words were to follow, these would have a new starting-point, and belong to a new locality, which suggested new impulses, and formed as it were a new station, different from that of the last supper. Here we have one terminus, the departure from the feast-chamber; the other is in ch. John 18:1, the passage of the Cedron. What intervened must have been spoken in the way from the chamber to the brook; and with this agrees the circumstance, that the vineyards on the road would give appropriate occasion for the representation of Himself as the true Vine (comp. John 4:35), and that the words, “He lifted up His eyes to heaven,” ch. John 17:1, suggest that the prayer was offered under the open heaven. So much of the way as led through the agitated city, the streets of which were in the evening especially excited, was probably passed in silence; outside the city, before that anxious passage of the Cedron with which John in ch. John 18:1 expressly links the discourses of ch. 15-17, Jesus stood and gathered the disciples around Himself. Robinson (vol. ii. 33) remarks with reference to this locality, that before the valley reaches the city, and opposite its northern part, it broadens into a space of considerable extent, which is built upon, and contains olive and other fruit trees. He adds, that at this place it is crossed obliquely by a path which leads from the north-eastern corner of Jerusalem over the northern part of the Mount of Olives.
Ver. 1. “Let not your heart be troubled: believe ye in God, and believe in Me.”—“These words,” observes Gerhard, “contain the sum of what was to be said; they are the theme which Christ would place at the head and bring in again at the close, that the main scope of the whole discourse might be perfectly clear.” The words are an allusion to Psalms 42:5: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God.” There can be the less doubt of this, inasmuch as the Lord frequently elsewhere refers to this passage: comp. on ch. John 12:27.
Jesus Himself says in ch. John 12:27, “Now is My soul troubled;” and in ch. John 13:21, it is said of Him that “He was troubled in spirit:” consequently He cannot have required in His servants anything like a stoical apathy, which is ever the sign of a withered and hardened heart; but only that their sorrow should never have the dominion over them. It must be observed that He is here speaking not to such as were enjoying a perfect tranquillity,—so that the dehortation would refer to a dismay possible in the future,—but to souls that were profoundly moved and disquieted. To these His exhortation is, that they should not remain in their disquietude, but rise through it to that consolation from above, the necessary condition of which is a previous sorrow, such a sorrow as dead insensibility can never know. Christians have tender hearts, and therefore deep sorrows; but they have also the privilege of consolation from above. But the dehortation and the exhortation have here—as a comparison of the original Hebrew, and especially the sequel of the chapter, show—a predominantly consolatory and encouraging significance: Ye need not disquiet yourselves, ye have reason to believe.
The original refers only to God. That God, however, was not the abstract God which could not be the object of true faith and living confidence; but rather the God who had been revealed through the ages, and had dwelt in their midst, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses. That God had now in Christ become perfectly revealed; and that gave the Believe in God an altogether new significance. (Bengel: Fides antiqua in Deum novo quasi colore tingitur in Jesum Christum credendo.)
Each of the two clauses suffices in itself: Believe in God and Believe in Me. The juxtaposition is only apparent. The God whom they were to trust was the Father of Christ; and the Christ whom they were to trust was the true revelation of God: they who believed in Him, believed on Him that sent Him, ch. John 12:44. If Christ and the Father are one, ch. John 10:30, it is indifferent whether we place our confidence in God or in Christ. The form of juxtaposition, as of counterparts, is adopted in order to obviate the misunderstanding which would sunder God from His manifestation in Christ, and assign to Christ only a subordinate place. But, strictly speaking, the two clauses include and are the equivalent of each other. The passage, Exodus 14:31, is in a certain sense analogous: “And the people believed the Lord, and His servant Moses.” Faith was reposed in Jehovah, who was revealed through Moses, and in Jehovah, who wrought great deeds by Moses. Here also the juxtaposition is merely apparent. Jehovah sundered from Moses would not be Jehovah, but an empty idea of the imagination, which could not be the object of faith and confidence. Another Old Testament parallel is 2 Chronicles 20:20, where Jehoshaphat says to the oppressed people, “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” There also Jehovah is not the abstract God, but, as the appendage shows, the God who dwelt among the people; and, in His organs the prophets, assumed, as it were, flesh and blood.
Those who would separate the clauses which are here inseparably connected together, who would hold to the “Believe in God,” but give up the “Believe also in Me,” are involved in a ruinous error. A God sundered from Christ dwells in inaccessible light—not to be apprehended, and utterly obscure. Faith, however, can apprehend only a God become incarnate; which explains the fact, that Deism everywhere in history appears as the mere forerunner of Atheism, and as nothing but a developing Atheism. But more: as the πιστεύετε denotes rather the privilege than the obligation of believing, it is of great significance that God sundered from Christ has nothing left for forgiveness or bestowment. All the Divine gifts which are individually enumerated in the sequel are bestowed through the medium of Christ; God has poured upon Him all the fulness of His gifts; and He has reserved nothing more that He could give to those who come to Him without the mediation of Christ. They are worthily dealt with in that they are sent away empty. It is the appropriate punishment of that pride which is offended by the lowliness of Christ. (Calvin: Pudet superbos homines humilitas Christi. Ideo ad incomprehensibile rei numen evolant.)
That the πιστεύετε is in both instances to be taken as imperative, is now all but universally acknowledged. (The Vulgate is incorrect: Creditis in Deum et in me credite; so Luther and the English translation.) The relation of the positive to the negative, with the comparison of Psalms 42:6, Exodus 14:31, and 2 Chronicles 20:20, are sufficient to prove this to be the correct view. Πιστεύετε is after εἰ?ς ἐ?μέ emphatically repeated, in order to point to the supreme dignity and importance of Christ, who is not introduced as a simple adjunct, but is on a level with the Father as a proper and real object of faith. Luther: “Ye have heard that ye should trust in God; but I would show you how you may come to that faith, so that ye may not set up for yourselves another idol under His name, after your own devices. If ye would assuredly come to Him with true faith, ye must come to Him in Me, and through Me: if ye have Me aright, ye have Him aright.”—’This saying shows us, on the one hand, that characteristic of our nature which everywhere and always inclines to fear and despondency; and it also shows us, on the other hand, the dignity of Christ, who in the fulness of love takes upon Himself our infirmity, who, Himself then going to meet Satan and death, yet is so sublimely exalted above His own suffering, that He can come to His disciples’ help with consolation, and arm them against danger and dread.
In vers. 2 and 33 we have the first ground of consolation, the allusion to life eternal. This is very fittingly made the first, inasmuch as eternal life is the supreme benefit, for which every other paves the way. That He would give His people eternal life, Jesus had from the very beginning declared emphatically: comp. ch. John 3:15-16. Then again it must be observed, that however glorious the gifts and graces are which Christ gives to His disciples in the present life, their condition in this life is, after all, a transitory and changeable one. The Divine gifts and influences themselves may suffer many interruptions. The sun often hides himself behind the clouds. The Church of Christ must be disciplined by the cross. There is one star of hope, however, which shines, and shines steadily, in always equal clearness. To this the Lord had pointed His people before, in the prospect of coming troubles and persecutions, Luke 6:23: “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” St Paul recommends this as an excellent defence against fear, in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: “For our light affliction, which endureth but a moment, worketh for us,” etc.; and so in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. John 11:26. When once this hope is firmly rooted in the mind, the soil is at the same time and thereby prepared for the scattering of the seed of other consolations. He to whom the end is sure, cannot before the end, and in the way to it, be forsaken and lost. The heirs of eternal life must be kept by God, during the time of their pilgrimage, like the apple of His eye.
Ver. 2. “In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
The Father’s house is His heavenly abode. Comp. Deuteronomy 26:15, “Look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel;” Isaiah 63:15, “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of Thy holiness;” Psalms 33:13-14, “The Lord looketh down from heaven: He beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of His habitation He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth;” 2 Chronicles 30:27, “Then prayer came up to His holy dwelling-place, even to heaven.” Comp. further, Psalms 20:7; Psalms 68:6; Jeremiah 25:30. The earthly Temple, the tabernacle of congregation, the place where God is wont to hold communion with His people, where He dwells upon earth and receives His people as guests, has its antitype in heaven: comp. Psalms 11:4; Hebrews 9:24; Revelation 7:15; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 14:15. There the supreme God, who in all times and in all places is the dwelling-place of His people,—whether upon earth or in heaven, Psalms 90:1; Deuteronomy 33:27,—has His sacred abode, in which He dwells not alone, but receives to Himself all His saints after the cares and the conflicts of life.
“Many mansions:” so there is room there for you all, when the prince of this world shall leave you no more place upon earth: comp. ἔ?τι τόπος ἐ?στί , “yet there is room,” Luke 14:22. Luther: “If they will not suffer you to be citizens and neighbours, or even guests, but would have all the world for themselves, let them have the world, but know that ye shall nevertheless have mansions enough.” Many the mansions must be, since the Father’s house will contain not only the multitude which no man can number, Revelation 7:9, of the saints made perfect, Hebrews 12:23, but also the ten thousands of angels, Deuteronomy 33:2; Hebrews 12:22. Allusion to the many gradations of dignity in that future life (Augustin: Multae mansiones diversas meritorum in una vita aeterna significant dignitates) introduces a discordant and foreign element into the passage. Here we can think only of what is common to all: if the earth has no more place for you, there is room enough in heaven. The phraseology reminds us of Genesis 24:23; Genesis 24:25. To the servant’s question, “Is there room in thy father’s house for us to lodge in?” Rebekah answers, “We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.” The allusion can be the less doubted, inasmuch as what follows, “I go to prepare a place for you,” stands in undeniable relation to that narrative: comp. ver. 31, where Laban says, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house.” Sept. ἐ?γὼ? δὲ? ἡ?τοίμακα τὴ?ν οἰ κίαν . We see from such an allusion as this, what high value the Old Testament had in the Saviour’s estimation. From a matter of common history there He derives here the words for the presentation of a supremely important truth. There is a real parallel, though not verbal, with these many mansions, in Matthew 25:34, where Jesus speaks of that kingdom which had been prepared for the blessed of the Father from the foundation of the world.
“If it were not so, I would have told you,” is, in another form, the same as “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” in ver. 12. The disciples might absolutely rely upon it; and in this confidence might count it for nothing that the earth seemed to have no more place for them,—comp. ch. John 16:2; Revelation 13:17,—and that the cry, ἆ?ρον , ἆ?ρον , John 19:15, was lifted up on all sides against them. For He who gave them this assurance was the only True Being
He of whom it is written, “There was no guile found in His mouth,” Isaiah 53:9, comp. 1 Peter 3:22; and who assuredly would not deceive His disciples with fallacious hopes. Heaven is an unknown land. It will be hard for men to obtain it by letters of commendation. If these are to have any value, the person who issues them must be absolutely confident, and enjoy an unlimited amount of personal confidence. Anton: “Here He speaks to His intimates. So great was their faith, that they believed what Christ said must be true, however hard they might find the application of it.”
There can be no doubt that after “I would have told you” there must be interposed a period. If the connection is made, “If it were not so, I would have told you that I go to prepare a place,” the going away to prepare a place is declared to be needless. But, according to ver. 3, Christ does actually go to prepare it. The ὅ?τι πορεύομαι , which is found in some considerable manuscripts, sprang from a false punctuation, and with a more correct punctuation must vanish. If we place a period after εἶ πον ἂ?ν ὑ?μῖ?ν , the on, can be justified only by a forced interpretation. That Christ goes away to prepare a place, is no apparent reason why there exist many mansions.
That the fact of there being many mansions does not exclude the Lord’s work in preparing them, may be illustrated by the narrative of the patriarchal times, already referred to. Rebekah had said, “There is room to lodge in;” and yet Laban afterwards, “I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.” The room may be there; but before it can be occupied, obstacles must be removed, and arrangements made.
In what way did our Lord provide a place for His people? He tells us Himself, in ch. John 16:10. By His departure to the Father He obtained that righteousness which is the essential condition of entrance into the Father’s house. By the propitiatory virtue of His sacrifice of His life for the sheep, ch. John 10:11, the partition between heaven and earth was done away. Eternal life was won, when Christ, the antitype of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, took sin upon Himself, and expiated it as a substitute, ch. John 3:15. But with the atoning sufferings there was connected, in order to the preparation of heavenly places, the resurrection and ascension of the Redeemer. He must first enter as our πρόδρομος , our Forerunner, into eternal glory, Hebrews 6:20. The Head must be in heaven before the members can enter there. To be in heaven is to be with Christ. We can conceive of the glory of believers only as the participation in His glory, as their assumption into glorious fellowship with Him.
Our entrance into the glory of heaven being thus made so entirely dependent upon Christ, His atoning sacrifice and entrance into glory, it follows, that in the times before the Christian economy this entrance was not fully opened, and that the pious of the Old Testament were only in a state of preparation. Christ first perfectly abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, 2 Timothy 1:10. The paradise in which, according to Luke 23:43, the penitent thief was to be with Christ, was opened first by Him.
He who receives and retains in his heart the full force of this text, must attain to an estimate of temporal things quite different from that which is held by the world. He has in himself an inalienable heritage which infinitely transcends all earthly good. St Basil, when the prefect of the Arian emperor threatened that he would persecute him by land and sea, and tauntingly asked him where he would abide then, said, with allusion to this passage, “Either under heaven or in heaven.” Luther answered Cardinal Cajetan in a similar way: “If the earth has no place for me, yet heaven will.”
Ver. 3. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Here we have the third thing: the abodes are there; Christ prepares them; and He receives His own to Himself. That which is here said of the coming of Christ, receives illustration from the example of Stephen. He, at the hour of his death, Acts 7:55, beholds the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. In his last word, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” he addresses Him as present, and yields to Him his soul, that He may introduce it into heavenly glory. We have here the comforting assurance that the Lord is personally present at every deathbed of believers; and in harmony with this assurance, we have countless records of dying experience, in which faith has been in such energetic exercise as to become sight. To set aside this consolatory truth by any qualifying interpretation, is wrong; nor is there any reason for doing so, since, according to vers. 18 seq., the entire life of believers is pervaded by manifestations of the Lord; and it is to be understood as self-evident, that He accompanies His own through the valley. The angel of the Lord, who appeared to Abraham in a bodily prelude of His incarnation, says, in Genesis 18:14, “At the time appointed I will return unto thee, and Sarah shall have a son;” and that He fulfilled His word, is manifest from ch. John 21:1, “And the Lord visited Sarah, as He had said.” If, at the hour of birth, the Son of God is near, why should He not much rather be near in the hour of death? The Lord teaches us, in Luke 16:22, that in the last hour the heavenly powers are especially active: the angels carry Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom. The other interpretations have sprung from the fact, that men have taken “I come again” separately from “and receive you unto Myself” (with which, however, it is so inseparably connected, that there is not even a comma between them), and have then compared with it other passages in which the coming of the Lord is spoken of, interpreting this by those. It is obvious, from the nature of the case, that the coming of the Lord is a manifold and various coming; for He is the Living One. Where a cold faith thinks only of an indefinite working from afar, there a living faith apprehends a real coming down from above. Here we have not simply a figure derived from sense, but the actual truth of the matter. The Lord, according to Revelation 2:1, walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks: He is everywhere present in His Church upon earth, and everywhere in ceaseless activity. And it is a fundamental view of the Apocalypse, that wherever He works He comes. With the coming of ver. 18 seq. the coming of our present passage has nothing to do. There it is not the receiving the disciples home that is spoken of, but rather the tokens and manifestations by which Christ declares Himself to His people during their pilgrimage to be the Living One. The eschatological interpretation (Origen: “He means His second coming from heaven;” so Lampe: “He speaks of His final coming visibly in the clouds of heaven,” Acts 1:11) overlooks the fact that the Lord’s utterance was primarily addressed to the Apostles, and that we must include here only what was an advantage to them personally; and it forgets the connection with the word spoken to Peter, ὕ?στερον δὲ? ἀ?κολουθήσεις μοι , ch. John 13:36. There is no reason why we should rob ourselves of the gracious consolation which this declaration of our Lord reserves for the time of our departure; we should rather receive it into our heart, and overcome by it all the terrors of death, which then assumes a friendly aspect, when we know that the Lord accompanies it, to take us to Himself.—“And receive you unto Myself:” heaven is made heaven really and truly only by our entering there into the most direct personal fellowship with Christ, whom upon earth we loved. Luther: “So that ye have most assuredly, both at once, the mansions in heaven and Me with you for all eternity.” Christ Himself, without any veil, and without any medium, without anything that in our present life interposes between Him and us—that is the profoundest desire of the soul in this valley of tears. And that desire will be satisfied when He shall come and receive us home to Himself.
“After Christ,” observes Lampe, “had, in vers. 2 and 3, shown that eternal salvation was connected with this going away. He now enumerates the several benefits which the disciples would have to expect upon earth through Himself and for His sake.” First, in vers. 4-11, to His people, through their knowledge of Him the way is open to heavenly blessedness, and to that glorious house of the Father. To be in possession of the right way to heaven, is a precious consolation in our present troubled life; through that we are enabled, in this miserable world, to wait patiently for the blessed time when we shall reach the house of our Father and the presence of our Lord.
Ver. 4. “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”
Jesus here passes over to the exhibition of the second ground of encouragement. The emphasis must be laid on the way. This is evident from what follows, where the way is spoken of simply and alone, not the place to which Jesus was going. Hence it does not refer to the way Christ Himself was taking, but to that way which His disciples must enter in order to reach His presence. We are led to the same conclusion by the relation in which the way stands to the last words of ver. 3, “that where I am, there ye may be also;” as also by the whole tenor of the thought in vers. 2 and 3, which is this, that heaven is not for Christ alone, but also for His disciples.
The abbreviated reading, ὅ?που ὑ?πάγω οἴ δατε , τὴ?ν ὅ?δον , which gives a very uncouth construction, is not essentially different from the common one, since even in it the emphasis lies upon the way. Perhaps it was a right apprehension of this that led to the abbreviation.
The way is not generally the way to God, but the way to the Father’s house; the way, therefore, to eternal life, the method and manner of attaining it. That Christ Himself, or faith in Him, was that way, the disciples had had abundant occasion to learn. The Lord had at an earlier time emphatically and repeatedly so declared: for example, He had, in ch. John 5:24, said, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life;” in ch. John 6:40; John 6:47, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life;” in ch. John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth on Me shall never die.” He had in the words immediately preceding declared it to be Himself who would prepare for His people mansions in eternal life, and then receive them there. In such a connection, no other way to heaven could occur to the disciples’ thoughts than Himself.
The definite words in which a knowledge of the way to heaven was here attributed to the disciples, were intended to expose to them the uncertainty in which they still remained, to give occasion for further instruction upon it, and to ensure for that other instruction a ready access. The taking their knowledge for granted served here the same purpose as, in Revelation 7:13, the question by which the knowledge of ignorance was communicated, and occasion taken to impart instruction in the most effectual way. “Ye know,” however, maintains its truth; and there is no reason for assuming, with Lampe, that Jesus attributed to them a knowledge of that which they might and ought to have known. The disciples knew more than they supposed. (Augustin: Sciebant discipuli, sed se scire nesciebant.) As certainly as they believed in Jesus, so certainly had they recognised in Jesus the true way to heaven. But their sorrow had thrown for a moment a cloud over their knowledge, and this cloud the Lord now sought to disperse.
Ver. 5. “Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?”
It is not without significance that the words “called Didymus” are not added, as in ch. John 11:16, John 20:24, John 21:2. It shows us that Thomas does not here exhibit his own peculiar spiritual character, but only expresses what was common to all. Accordingly, he does not speak in his own name, but in the name of all; and Jesus, in ver. 7, presupposes that it was the general spirit that spoke in him. Circumstances were already beginning to be such, that the differences between the man of rock and the man of doubt were done away. “All ye shall be offended because of Me this night,” said Jesus, Matthew 26:31, and this offence even now began to be developed.—“We know not whither Thou goest” must be more carefully interpreted than it has been by most expositors. Christ must have spoken altogether in vain to His disciples, if they had not understood that He was going to heaven, to the glory of the Father. He had, indeed, in so many words, told them that He was going to the Father’s house; and that that Father’s house was heaven, every child in Israel knew full well. “He that dwelleth in heaven” was, on the basis of Psalms 2, one of the most common designations of God. But the understanding of the disciples was only external. They were altogether sunk in grief at the departure of their Master, and in anxious solicitude on account of the abandonment and danger that impended over them. Heaven had become to them an unknown land; they could not spiritually accompany their Master on the way that lay before Him. And on that very account they could, in a realizing manner, apprehend the way for themselves to heaven. If the way of Christ was obscure, their own would be obscure also. Only when with clear glance they could accompany their Lord into the regions of light beyond, were they in a position to discern in Him the plain way to heaven. When the heavenly glory of Christ was obscured to them, their eyes were necessarily holden that they could not discern the shining path, the way of holiness, Isaiah 35:8, which would guide them from this world to the next. This way is no other than Christ Himself; and he who has not penetrated to a clear perception of the heavenly glory of Christ, must also lose His track upon earth. Berl. Bible: “The clearness of knowledge may, in the dark hour, be much dimmed. Christ the sun, however, is there, although behind the clouds.”
Ver. 6. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.”
When our Lord calls Himself the way, that means more than merely the guide. “The example,” says Luther, “of Christ is very precious, but it is too high for us, and we cannot follow it. I must have a firm and sure bridge which will carry me over.” The word “I am the way,” points to the fact that he who would enter heaven must be baptized and lost in Christ, so that not he himself shall live, but Christ in him. Jesus does not only show the way: He is the way. Only in absolute union to His person, only in the most internal fellowship with Him, can heaven be attained. This shows us the deep misery of our fallen nature, which of itself is altogether excluded from heaven. “Many paths paved by Divinity lead to happiness” is the maxim of the world; Christ declares these many ways to be only bypaths and ways of error. He teaches only one way
Himself; and to know only, one, is the note and badge of His disciples. The “particularism,” the individuality, which is now, under the dominion of rationalism, so much scorned, is the signature of the Christian Church. “With this one stroke,” says an old expositor, “Christ rejects all the worship of the heathen, of Mohammedans, and Jews outside the Church;” and, we would add, the delusion of all deists, freemasons, and rationalists. “Here is,” says Luther, “another marvellous thing; and this is what St John is evermore urging, that all our doctrine and believing must tend to Christ.” “A Carthusian monk makes a way in which he would reach to heaven: I will forsake the world as wicked and impure; I will go into a corner, fast every day, eat no flesh, and plague my body; such vigorous spiritual life God will regard, and by it save me.” The rationalist thinks that, in a way of righteousness much less anxiously sought out, he will attain to heaven. But the true Church of Christ knows, with Him, no other way than He Himself.
The words, “and the truth, and the life,” must essentially intimate the same thing. For the clause, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,” refers back to “I am the way.” Accordingly, the clause intervening must present the same relation under another expression: I am the way, because the truth and the life. This is important in the consideration of many expositions given of the words, especially of καὶ? ἡ? ἀ?λήθεια . That exposition is the only right one according to which the truth does not remain apart from the way and the life: the only idea of truth appropriate here is that in which Christ, as the truth, is at the same time the way and the life; just as all definitions of the way are inadmissible which remain apart from the idea of truth and of life.
Hence “I am the truth” cannot refer to the truth of words, but only to the truth of being, from which indeed truth of words necessarily flows. I am the truth is the same as, I am Jehovah; for Jehovah, Jahve, means the Being, the pure absolute existence, independent of which all is delusion, in whom all must participate who would be partakers of that Being which is the only source of all creaturely existence.
“I am the truth:” thereby the Lord primarily places Himself in opposition to all that is created, to the world and all that therein is. But the exclusiveness refers in a certain sense even to the Father and the Holy Spirit. To men, Christ is the truth; if, passing by Him, they would seek the truth in God or the Spirit, they find nothing but delusion and a lie. Only in Him is the Father and the Holy Ghost accessible to man as the truth.
If Christ is the way. He must also in this sense be the truth; and were He not the truth in this sense. He could not be the way. No man can win heaven who does not, in personal union with the personal truth, attain to redemption from the miserable delusion of the present world, from the shining impiety of its virtues, the wretched phrases of its truths, the hollowness of its inspirations, and the hypocrisy of all its views. If Christ is the truth. He must also be the way. He who is baptized into the truth, and penetrated by it, he who is taken lip into the fellowship of the personal truth, has heaven opened to him,—that abode of truth which is the absolute opposite of the vanity and the lie which from the Fall has set up its seat in the earth.
The Old Testament passage in which the word truth occurs in this sense is Jeremiah 10:10: “But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting King.” Jehovah as truth (Michaelis: Veritas in re) forms here the contrast to the false gods, whose nature is nothing else than deception and nothingness. That passage is seen the more certainly to be connected with this one, from the circumstance that there also the truth is conjoined with the life. There it is the effect of the truth of God that before His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot abide His indignation. This shows that truth does not there mean truth of words, but truth of being. That which is there uttered of Jehovah, is here appropriated by Christ to Himself; as truth is to lie, in Romans 1:25, the relation of God is to the idols. The truth of God means there, that He is as such the possessor of all true being, and that out of Him there is nothing but vanity; whence the necessary consequence is, that he who would be a partaker of the truth must partake of it only in fellowship with God.
In ch. John 1:14, Christ is spoken of as “full of grace and truth;” by that very word He is exalted above humanity, and placed in the Divine sphere, whose high prerogative it is alone to possess the truth. In Revelation 3:7 we read, “These things saith He that is holy. He that is true.” There we cannot limit the meaning to the truth of words. That truth of being is signified, may be inferred from the fact that truth is there in juxtaposition with holiness, absolute supremacy above all that is created. In Revelation 19:11, Christ as the True One is the antithesis of Psalms 116:11, “All men are liars,” who deceive those who trust in them, and cannot help those who hope in them. The truth of the nature of Christ, which is based upon His almightiness and true divinity, appears there as the guarantee of His Church’s victory. In 1 John 5:20, the True One is simply and as such identified with the true God; Christ is there first termed “He that is true,” and then designated the true God and eternal life.
As Christ is the truth, so also He is the life: comp. on ch. John 1:4. He who is not in fellowship with Him, has only the semblance of living; in reality he is dead, a walking corpse. Truth and life go hand in hand. Where truth is—true being, without the alloy of delusion and untruth—there is also life, and thence vanish all the miserable restraints which compass about on all sides the existence which is fallen into delusion and the lie.
There is no reason why we should restrict the coming to the Father to another world. Its meaning rather is generally a relation to the Father. Where such a relation is entered into, the way also to the Father’s house is opened: it were impossible that He, after the pilgrimage of life is over, should leave those without who once belonged to Him; just as, on the other hand, it were impossible that those should enter the Father’s house who never stood in any such personal relation to Him during their life upon earth. The words mean this: No man cometh to the Father, and therefore to the Father’s house. That this phrase must be regarded as expressing generally a relation to the Father, is shown moreover by ver. 7, where knowing the Father corresponds to coming to the Father here; and with the negative the positive runs parallel: every man who receiveth Me cometh to the Father, and so to the Father’s house.
This saying of our Lord is full of consolation. No crosses, no tribulations, however severe, can rob Christians of the confidence that they have in Christ, the way, the truth, and the life; that they are in Him redeemed from the oppressive empire of vanity, under which the soul that thirsts after true possessions, τὸ? ἀ?ληθινόν , Luke 16:11, is condemned, and from the thraldom of death, which has ever from the Fall compassed man about in all its variety of forms; that they are in the way to that heaven which has come down to earth in the truth and the life, and to which truth and life aspire back as their home. Those things which cannot deprive us of the truth and the life and the heavenly way, are in reality not afflictions; they are, indeed, if they tend to bring us into nearer connection with the truth and the life, to be esteemed rather as “pure joy,” James 1:2. This is the right spiritual estimate of all the trials of life and all suffering in the world, which indeed are hard to human nature, and against which human nature continually rebels.
Ver. 7. “If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.”
Luther: “If ye had known Me. This knowledge of Christ is not that of which St Paul speaks, the knowing after the flesh; but it is the knowing how to regard Him, what we have in Him, and how we may enjoy Him. This is not attained by high-minded hypocrites, but by the lowly, contrite hearts and troubled consciences; and by them not without care and trouble, so that “they must concern themselves mightily about it.” “If ye had known Me” intimates that the disciples had not yet pressed into a perfect knowledge of Christ, and therefore of the Father; of the Father who perfectly reveals Himself in Christ, the express image of His person, in whom, as St Paul says, Colossians 2:9, the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily. “From henceforth ye know Him:” this shows that, objectively considered, this knowledge of God was assured to them by the manifestation of Christ in the flesh, and their internal communion with Him; the necessary consequence being, that, in their willing docility, this knowledge was to all intents and purposes already fundamentally in them. “If ye had known Me” certainly required some following qualification, otherwise there would have arisen a contradiction with ver. 4 (the way ye know); and the disciples would have been placed on a level with the Jews, to whom Jesus in ch. John 8:19 said, “If ye had known Me, ye would have known My Father also.” The objective character of the γινώσκετε—that it primarily refers to a knowledge offered—is shown by the fact that ἑ?ωράκατε , ye have seen, is added, this being afforded directly by the manifestation of Christ. That which was intended first of all to soften the asperity of the blame, and to save the disciples from the painful feeling which the parallel with the unbelieving Jews would have excited, served at the same time as an admonition that they should ponder what was given them, and not, by a denial of the knowledge already imparted, sink down to the low and melancholy level of the Jews, who, dishonouring the Son, had lost the Father also. Ἀ?πάρτι , from this time forward, ch. John 13:19. The now does not mean the then present moment, but the time since they had learnt to know Christ. The Lord divides the existence of the disciples into two halves, formerly and now. The line of demarcation in their life was their relation to Christ. Before they had seen and known Him, they knew not the Father; in Christ they had learnt to know the Father, and thus gained the certain way to the Father’s house. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 also, ἄ?ρτι occurs in the sense, not of a moment, but of a period.
If the γινώσκετε is at once referred to a subjective knowledge, we must either, with Lampe, interpolate an exposition, “Ye begin now to know;” or, with Lücke, we must give it a future application, and extract from it the- consolatory assurance, “that the hour is not now far distant, when the former ignorance of the disciples would be exchanged for clear know ledge.” Against the latter view it may be observed, that the present, γινώσκετε , and still more the perfect, ἑ?ωράκατε , evidence that a knowledge is meant which the disciples already enjoyed. (Both are united, as here, in the passage of Demosthenes cited by Winer: ἀ?νθρώπῳ? ὅ?ν ἡ?μωῖ?ς γινώσκομεν οὔ?θʼ? ἑ?ωράκαμεν πώποτε .) But ver. 9 excludes all doubt. There Jesus mourns that Philip had denied the knowledge already imparted. That such a knowledge was intended, is shown also by the word spoken to him in ver. 8, which on any other supposition is unintelligible.
Ver. 8. “Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.”
The Apostles had hitherto seen Christ only in the form of a servant, in the humiliation under which the glory of the Father was profoundly hidden. At the Transfiguration it was only transitorily shone through; and that sublime spectacle was witnessed not by all the disciples, but only by the most advanced. Under these circumstances, it was natural that the disciples, having in their view the prophecies of the Old Testament, which always presented a prospect of the glorious revelation of the glory of the Lord, Isaiah 40:5, and having further in their view the impending severe trials and dangers which would demand a mighty auxiliary for their faith, should be unable altogether to reconcile themselves to the fact that they were so absolutely referred to Christ in regard to their relation to the Father, and should feel a disposition to ask for a revelation of the Father besides that of Christ, in order to their invigoration in their perilous path, more especially as their spiritual eye was not yet strong enough to discern the glory which was hidden under so thick a veil of humiliation. Their rising desire was gratified when the concealed glory of Christ burst through in the resurrection, in the ascension, and in those great victories which the Church through Christ gained over the world, ver. 12. Then the Father was plainly and obviously shown to them; although not in the way here desired by Philip, beside Christ, but in Christ. That which was natural and excusable in the Apostles, if not altogether justifiable, ver. 9, because it sprang from the dimness of their vision, which could not discern the glory behind the form of a servant, would be now, after the means for sharpening the spiritual vision have been afforded through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and when we have before us the glorious evidences and tokens of the ascended Lord, and of His triumph through the Christian ages, a melancholy anachronism. Where a similar desire now arises, it springs from a less excusable source. Christ must dwell in the heart by faith, if His spiritual glory is to be beheld. That man in whose heart, through his own fault, He has not taken up His abode, has eyes which see not, and ears which hear not. It is his righteous punishment that he is excluded, as from the Son, so also from the Father.
The Apostles exhibit their faith in Christ in this, that they ask of Him to bring about the manifestation of the Father which they desire. And they are all the more justified in putting that request, because in the earlier days of their predecessors and types, such a manifestation of the glory of the Lord was vouchsafed to the elders of Israel for the strengthening of their faith: comp. Exodus 24:9-11. They did not consider that the mediator of the old covenant was, unlike the Mediator of the new, a weak man, who needed to exhibit to the representatives of the people an authentication direct from God, and who needed himself to be invigorated by such a manifestation to his faith. To desire such a revelation under the New Testament, was a virtual denial of the divinity of Christ, which could not but meet with such an earnest rejection. This refusal, however, could not be absolutely severe, but rather full of tenderness, inasmuch as the revelation of the Father in Christ had not yet finished its course and reached its consummation. Καὶ? ἀ?ρκεῖ? ἡ?μῖ?ν points to the fact that they had not reached full satisfaction through any revelation of the Father in Christ which they had yet beheld: comp. 2 Corinthians 12:9.
Ver. 9. “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?”
Jesus could not possibly have cut off all immediate relation of believers to the Father, and required that the Father be sought only in Himself, if it were not that the being of the Father and the being of the Son perfectly coincided with each other, and the whole fulness of the Gospel dwelt in Himself bodily, and the Father had poured into Him all the riches of His essence. Otherwise, it would have been a betrayal both of the Father and of the believers. The Supreme God cannot give His glory to another; and the human heart thirsts for God, for the living God, nor can it be satisfied with any quasi-god, with any mere “divine being.”
The appeal by name served to prick the disciple’s conscience, and to remind him that he had become alius a seipso, an alien to himself.
Bengel rightly deduces from the Lord’s utterance here the inviolable rule: In omni cogitatione de Deo debemus Christum proponere. The duty, however, is subordinate here. The main thing is the consolation, the great grace, that the God who in Himself is a hidden God, has become perfectly revealed to us in Christ. “Have I been so long time with you,” has now for us become a much wader and more comprehensive truth.
Ver. 10. “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.”
The two clauses, “I am in the Father,” and “the Father is in Me,” denote only the same relation under two aspects. From this it follows that the two clauses which serve for the illustration of that relation,—and of which the former formally refers to the “I am in the Father,” the latter to “the Father is in Me,”—do, in reality, refer to both. It might just as well have stood, “The words which I speak, speaketh the Father Himself; and the works which I do, I do in the Father.”
The explanation is at the same time proof. This is shown by a comparison with such parallels as ch. John 10:37-38. The demonstrative argument in the words of Christ is seen in ch. John 7:46, where the servants of the high priests say, “Never man spake like this man,” and ch. John 6:68-69, where Peter says to Christ, “Lord, Thou hast the words of eternal life,” and bases upon the words of Christ his faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Christ Himself, ch. John 6:63, demonstrates from His words that He shared the Divine nature: “The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” With regard to the works, comp. on ch. John 5:36, John 10:25-26. These works are not exclusively the miracles proper: every act of Christ is, as an outbeaming of His nature, demonstrative of His unity with the Father; yet the works have their climax in the miracles, because these form the most palpable evidence of the saying, “I and the Father are one.” The “dwelling” or abiding indicates habitual indwelling, in opposition to a merely transitory influence and operation, such as men enjoyed under the Old Testament.
Ver. 11. “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.”
Heumann: “O how would the disciples be humbled by this address, in which our Lord spoke in such a manner as if He doubted as to their faith in Himself!” With this we must compare ch. John 10:38. His disciples ought first of all to believe Christ’s utterance as to His relation to the Father, as it was delivered by the impression of His whole personality. But if they were in circumstances which would not allow of this, they should at least believe on account of the works. In connection with these might, as in ver. 10, the words have been named, the whole sum of His spirit-breathing, life-breathing discourses, in contradistinction to the mere utterance concerning His being one with the Father. But the Lord falls back upon the works alone, because these furnished the most palpable evidence. The works themselves: this points to the fact that these alone were sufficient for demonstration. Luther: “This is the style in which St John and St Paul, before others, teach in this matter, firmly uniting together Christ and the Father, in order that we may learn not to think anything about God apart from Christ, and to hide and wrap ourselves in His Christ.
Here is a beautiful word and sermon for the Apostle Philip, in which not only is he answered, but the fluctuating thoughts of all men; for the whole world and thyself are here told by the Lord: Wherefore wilt thou seek God otherwise than in Me, or desire to see and hear any other word and work than that which I speak and do?”
In vers. 12-14 we have the third ground of consolation. Christ had finally, with express emphasis, referred to His works. Out of the consolation there sprang up to the disciples a new element of sorrow. These works must, it seemed to them, cease with the departure of the Lord. Left to their own poverty and impotence, they must, in opposition to the unfriendly word, fare but miserably. That was about to be removed which had given some measure of firmness to all. It is against this grief that their blaster here consoles them. The works would not cease with His departure; they should rather, in consequence of His departure, rise to a higher level of energy and significance. He who should be elevated to the glory of the Father, would, by His disciples, perform yet greater works. They should only ask; and out of His inexhaustible riches they should obtain all that their necessities might demand.
Ver. 12. “Verily, verily, I say unto you. He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than’ these shall he do: because I go unto My Father.”
This vigorous assurance shows at the outset how far beyond the horizon of the disciples lay the promise that followed. The Lord had, in ch. John 5:20, described the works which He performed during His earthly life as the mere prelude to greater works. The greatest deeds which, in the Old Testament, were ascribed to the Messiah, were at this time scarcely even inaugurated. He was to be the light of the Gentiles, Isaiah 42:6; and to rule from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth, Psalms 72:8; Zechariah 9:10; all kings were to worship Him, all the heathen serve Him, Psalms 72:11. The root of Jesse, which stood as an ensign to the nations, the Gentiles were to seek unto, Isaiah 11:10. Of all this there was as yet but the faint anticipation. And the great Messianic work of grace and judgment upon the Jewish people, as foreannounced by the prophets, was as yet far from accomplished. Instead of the hundreds of believers from among the Jews who were assembled during the Lord’s life, 1 Corinthians 15:6, many myriads were won by the preaching of the Apostles after the Lord’s resurrection, Acts 21:20. And as it regards the judgment upon them, the withering of the fig-tree of the Jewish people took place only in symbol shortly before the departure of Christ; and the actual rooting up of those plants which the heavenly Father had not planted was left to the future, to be the work of the exalted Redeemer, and to those prayers of believers which should evoke His work; for, according to Matthew 21:21, the withering of the fig-tree appears as the work, in this sense, of the believers themselves.
The antithesis is, in fact, not between Christ and His disciples, but between the humble and the exalted Christ. His disciples accomplish their works only as the organs of the ascended Lord, and by His assistance. The whole power of performance is here expressly placed in the disciples’ faith in Christ; in the words “because I go to the Father” it is based upon the glorification of Christ, and the omnipotence connected with it; in ver. 13, whose ποιήσω refers back to the ποιήσει of ver. 12, Christ alone is exhibited as acting, while the co-operation of the disciples is referred to their prayer. Without Me, said the Lord in ch. John 15:5, ye can do nothing.
The Apostles are not specifically spoken of, but generally all who believe in Christ. We are therefore justified to seek the fulfilment of these words in the whole course of the history of the Christian Church.
With “The works that I do shall he do” we must compare Mark 16:17-18. There the works are individually enumerated. But we must regard that enumeration as only an individualizing. Behind these palpable signs stand others, which are more concealed and less obvious, but in reality much greater: the miraculous power which Christ will assure to His people for the conversion of individuals and nations, for the effect of regeneration in a world corrupted to the very centre, for their victory over the whole hostile force of the world, and over its prince who wields that force. That of this we are especially to think, is plain from “greater things shall he do.” In reference to miracles, commonly so called, Christ was not surpassed by His disciples; on the contrary, they were considerably inferior to Him. But in what domain we are chiefly to seek the works here spoken of, ch. John 12:32 teaches us: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth” (this corresponds to the “going to the Father” here), “will draw all men unto Me.” Hence the great work which was to be accomplished after the exaltation of Christ, and in the power of that exaltation, was the conversion of the world, specially the heathen nations. Further, in ch. John 10:16, where our Lord thus exhibits the result of His atoning death, and the great task to be fulfilled after it: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: these also must I bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” So also we may compare Matthew 28:18-20. There the Lord bases upon the “power” given unto Him in heaven and earth as the result of His atoning passion, the injunction, “Go ye forth and disciple all nations,” and promises that He would be with them to the end of the world for the accomplishment of a work immeasurably surpassing all human power. We have also an illustration of the “greater works than these shall he do” in the Apocalypse, which depicts the marvellous victory of Christ and His members over the Gentile world and its prince; compare particularly, ch. John 17:14: “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and Kino; of kings; and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” But the proper commentary on our text is furnished by a word spoken some days before to the disciples. Matthew 21:21-22: “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this that is done to the fig-tree, but also, if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” This passage is closely connected with that we are considering. Ver. 22 absolutely coincides with ver. 13. They have in common also the introduction by “Verily,” and the emphasis laid on believing. We see from this that the greater works were to consist in the victory over Jerusalem, and over the Gentile secular power then concentrated in Rome. It needs no proof that the fig-tree signified the Jewish people; and, of course, what they were to do must have referred to an antitypical action in something else, since the natural fig-tree was already destroyed. “This which is done to the fig-tree” must have referred to something yet to be done to its counterpart. So also, in connection with the fig-tree, the mountain must have had a symbolical meaning: nor can this be obviated by the suggestion that this mountain is spoken of; for a specific fig-tree was also spoken of. This fig-tree, this mountain, were sanctified into symbols of hostile powers. The mountain, in contradistinction to the fig-tree, can only be a symbol of Gentile temporal power. In the Old Testament, mountains are used as the ordinary symbols of kingdoms. In Zechariah 4:7, the great mountain is the Persian empire, which was in an attitude of opposition to the building of the Temple. In Jeremiah 51:25, the mountain which endangers the whole earth is the Chaldean empire. So the mountain here is the universal empire that then was, that of Rome. The sea is, according to the common symbolism of Scripture, the sea of nations: comp. on ch. John 6:14-21; Revelation 8:8-9, out of which the universal empire had arisen mightily in the time of its prosperity, but into which it now sinks back again through the faith of the disciples and the power of Christ. Revelation 18:21 is parallel, where we read, with reference to the Roman empire, and in allusion to Jeremiah 51:63-64: “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” On the ground of the same passage in Jeremiah, our Lord, referring to the then ruling power, had already spoken, Matthew 18:6, of those who offended His little ones being cast into the sea with millstones.
The foundation of the doing works like Christ’s, and still greater works, is to be found in the “going to the Father.” What follows is only the further development of the idea, that Christ’s work would not cease with His death; that the disciples need not fear that they would sink back into the darkness when the light of His works, which during His earthly life had irradiated them, was withdrawn; and that they would not be left to the consequences of their own impotence. The independence of the clause is confirmed by a comparison with ver. 28, where the “I go to the Father” stands in a similar independent position, and where the “My Father is greater than I” develops the consolatory meaning lying in those words. The independence of the clause in ver. 13, “And whatsoever ye shall ask,” etc., is plain from Matthew 21:22, which accurately corresponds with this present saying. So also, from the repetition in ver. 14, Jesus was going to the Father, into the glory which He had with Him before the world was, ch. John 17:5; and He therefore could most mightily assist His disciples in the performance of greater works than He Himself, in the days of His servant form, could accomplish. To go to the Father was to enter into His glory, Luke 24:26; and this glory could not but have a most pervasive influence upon His people below. When Jesus went to the Father, the grief of the disciples must be turned into joy, and their despondency into confidence. The departure of their Lord, which seemed to make them helpless, and abandon them an easy prey to the wolves, was the very condition and foundation of their power and of their victory. It made their Master’s omnipotence available for them. “How should we not expect something more glorious from the exalted than from the humbled Christ?” Luther: “Christ going to the Father means, that He is exalted to the Lord above, and placed on a royal throne at the right hand of the Father, all power and authority being subjected to His sway in heaven and in earth. And ye shall therefore have the power to do such works, because ye are My members, and believe in Me, so that ye shall be in Me and I will be in you.
Now I am weak, because I yet walk here below in this flesh; and do slighter and less considerable works, only raising a few from the dead and healing a handful of Jews; and I must submit to be crucified and slain. But afterwards, when I have been crucified, have been buried, and have risen again, I shall make my great leap from death into life, from the cross and the sepulchre to eternal glory, and Divine majesty and power; and will then, as I have said, draw everything to Me, so that all creatures must be subjected to Me, and I can say to you. Apostles and Christians: Thou, Peter and Paul, go and overturn the Roman empire, if it will not receive My word and obey Me; for it must either receive the Gospel, or stumble over it to ruin.”
This present saying of our Lord is not merely rich in consolation; it also gives occasion to rigid self-examination on the part of the Church and of individual Christians. Christ has here given solemn asseveration, that whosoever believeth on Him shall do works like those which He did while on earth, and even greater works. Therefore, when these works are found wanting there must be lack of faith: as Augustin says. Si ergo qui credit faciet, non credit utique qui non faciet. The complaint, which is now so common, over the corruption of the world, the feeble wail of despondency over the unbelief of the age, must be abashed before this utterance of our Lord. Christ sits for ever at the right hand of the Father, equipped with irresistible arms against all His enemies. But “faith faileth upon earth.” There is, indeed, a difference of seasons in the kingdom of God; there are times in which power is given to the darkness; and, doubtless, such a time is that wherein we live. But our saying avails even for such times as these. The greater is the opposition, the more plainly is it the task of faith to do “greater works,” and the richer is the aid which is given from on high for the accomplishment of this task.
Ver. 13. “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”—“And,” when I have gone to the Father; or, in virtue of My departure, through which I shall be received into the fellowship of the Divine omnipotence. The connection with ver. 12 shows that petitions are referred to here which have relation to the things of the kingdom of God: their effect is the performance of the works. Prayer directed to that object is for ever being answered; although the arrangement of the time and hour must be left to the wisdom of Him who sitteth at the right hand of the Father, and although the answer may be impeded by many weaknesses and defeats on our part.
To the name all expressions and revelations of the nature converge: comp. on ch. John 1:12, John 2:23, John 5:43, John 12:13. It corresponds to the memorial, or memory, to the historical personality. He who would pray to Christ in such a way as to be heard, must not set before his eyes a phantasy of his own imagination: he must represent to himself the corporeal form of the historical Christ, in the outlines which the Apostolical Confession of Faith presents to us; he must thoroughly renounce all idealistic refuges. Christ has, by His deeds upon earth, made unto Himself a glorious name (comp. Isaiah 63:14); first of all, by those which He performed in His state of humiliation, and since by the victorious course of eighteen hundred years in His Church; and whosoever would pray to Him with acceptable prayer, must in faith embrace the whole fulness of these manifestations of His name. Experience bears witness that prayer dies out in feebleness, precisely in proportion as the name of Christ is obscured to the mind by doubt.
He to whom the prayer is directed is designedly not named, because it would be matter of indifference, after Christ had gone to the Father, whether petitions were addressed to Him or to the Father. Both would come to the same thing; for, as Christ is in the midst of the throne, Revelation 7:17, prayer truly offered to the Father is offered to Him, and prayer offered truly to Him is offered also to the Father. That supplication cannot be presented to the Father, as contradistinguished from Christ, is plain from the τοῦ το ποιήσω . If there were an alternative in the case, this expression would oblige us to assume that the prayer was to be addressed to the exalted Christ.
The ποιήσω ) here refers to the ποιήσει in ver. 12. Luther: “What He had said about their doing greater works. He again appropriates to Himself.” This was to the disciples, altogether penetrated by the consciousness of their impotence, not discouraging, but full of consolation. It might appear that the sphere of the Lord’s action and the sphere of the disciples’ action were different; but this distinction vanishes when we observe, that even in those cases in which the act seemed to belong to Christ alone (such as the destruction of Jerusalem), the disciples were actually co-operating by their prayer, and that, on the other hand, there could be no work done by the disciples alone without the effectual aid of Christ.—“That the Father may be glorified in the Son:” the aim of the acting of Christ is primarily His own glorification. But this reflects back on the Father. When it is seen that the Son can do great things, says Theophylact, He is glorified who hath begotten such a Son.
Ver. 14. “If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
We have here an express repetition, which, with its ἀ?μὴ?ν ἀ?μὴ?ν , at the beginning, springs from the same source. It is intended to furnish supplication with a yet firmer ground of confidence. Luther: “Our Lord Christ foresaw that this article would go hard with human reason, and that it would be much assailed by the devil.” Comp. Psalms 62:12: “God hath spoken once, yea, twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God.” God said it not once only, but confirmed it by a second assurance, that all power was His. So also in 1 John 2:14, repetition has the effect of stronger assurance. The ἐ?γώ , which Gerhard describes as a word of majesty, gives great prominence to the supreme authority of Christ in His exalted state: it is as it were, I to whom all power is given in heaven and upon earth. Luther: “What ye ask, I will do: this is as much as to say, I am God, who may do and give all things.”
In vers. 15-17 follows the fourth ground of consolation. Christ had foreannounced to His disciples, that they would be brought before judgment-seats, and princes, and kings. The contemplation of this must have invested His departure with every element of sadness. Their confidence in their conflict with the world had hitherto rested upon the fact, that they had Him in their midst as their champion and advocate. They were themselves ἄ?νθρωποι ἀ?γράμματοί εἰ σιν καὶ? ἰ?διῶ ται , Acts 4:13. What should they be able to attempt and accomplish after the departure of the Lord, when the contest with the world grew more and more fierce? The sorrow and anxiety of this prospect our Lord obviates here by His consoling word: He would send His people another Advocate in their process against the world,—an Advocate who should, during all the ages of the militant Church, abide with them, assist their infirmity, and conduct their cause with full efficiency—the Spirit of truth. Lampe thinks that the promise of the mission of the Holy Ghost was appropriately connected with the preceding, because in it was given the power for the accomplishment of the greater works. But the fact is, that with regard to the greater works, the disciples were referred not to the Holy Spirit, but to the power of the glorified Christ. The Holy Spirit appears here only in His proper function, as Intercessor, Advocate, or Comforter.
Ver. 15. “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”
This is the condition to which the fulfilment of the promise now to be given is attached. What is here, where the main point was consolation, only hinted at, is further dilated upon in ch. 15. And the hint given here leaves it to be expected that such a moral hortatory portion of the last discourses of our Lord was to follow. For if fidelity in the love of Christ, and in the observance of His commandments, is of such pervasive importance, surely it was not enough to deal with it only in the way of a brief and passing intimation. Jesus here most vitally and thoroughly connects together love to Himself, and the fulfilment of His commandments. He acknowledges no love which does not find its expression in the observance of His laws. These cannot be separated from the person: they are so many conditions, under which alone communion with His person is possible. On the other hand, our Lord recognises no fulfilment of His commandments which is not an outgoing of personal love to Himself. He condemns every other kind of fulfilment which springs only from temporal interest, from fear of punishment, from deference to public opinion, as mere illusion. It is expressly declared that love is the condition of all obedience to His commandments, and must approve itself in that obedience.
“My commandments:” Moses was not wont to speak thus. It implies the oneness of nature between Christ and the Supreme Lawgiver. Hence, in unison with this, we mark the intentional use of the same expressions which are used in the Old Testament with reference to Jehovah: comp. especially Exodus 20:6, “And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments;” Deuteronomy 7:9, “The faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him, and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations;” ver. 11, “Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments which I command thee this day to do them;” Psalms 103:17-18, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them;” Psalms 25:10. The two expressions of the Mosaic law come nearest to our passage. There the keeping of the commandments of God appears both as the guarantee and as the outflow of love to Him, as its inseparable attendant.
The commandments of the Old Testament were also the commandments of Christ; and they are included by Him when He speaks of His commandments. For He had solemnly recognised them, and exhorted His Church inviolably to keep them: comp. Matthew 5:17-20. But He did not simply receive them externally into His Gospel; He has everywhere modified, supplemented, and established them: comp. on ch. John 13:34.
All old things in Him became new. For example, the first and greatest commandment of the Old Testament, that of the love of God, takes here, as we see in ch. 15, the form of a commandment to love Christ, who first loved His disciples; whilst the commandment to love our neighbour takes the form of a commandment to love the brethren who are sharers of the redemption in Christ. All Old Testament ordinances and precepts are baptized in Christ, and new-born in Him.
Ver. 16. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.”
Jesus does not supplicate His Father as a servant, but as the Son, to whom He can deny nothing. If we remember the τοῦ το ποιήσω , and the “because I go to the Father,” in which Christ arrogates to Himself an absolute participation in the Divine glory, we might expect it to follow, “And I will send you another Intercessor,” as we find it actually in ch. John 16:7: ἐ?ὰ?ν δὲ? πορευθῶ? , πέμψω αὐ τὸ?ν πρὸ?ς ὑ?μᾶ?ς . But the phrase our Lord used received its character from the design, everywhere apparent (comp. ver. 13), to refer everything in its last issues to the Father, who was not, as it were, constrained by the mediation of the Son, but was to be brought nearer by Him to the spirits of men—infinitely nearer than He stood to them under the old dispensation. Luther says: “Christ asks the Father, not in His Divine being and nature, in which He is equally with the Father almighty, but because He is true man, Mary’s son.” But the Angel of the Lord also, the Logos, supplicated the Lord on behalf of His Church upon earth, Zechariah 1:12; and the Lord assured Him that He was heard. “Another Intercessor:” Luther: “For I cannot be ever with you below in this manner. If I am to enter into My glory, and spread My kingdom by your means, I must die, and go to heaven, and leave you behind Me.”
It seems at the first glance startling, that the sending of the Holy Ghost is here made conditional on the love of Christ and the keeping His commandments, while in 1 Corinthians 12:3 it is said, that no man can call Christ Lord but by the Holy Ghost. We have not, however, here to do with the mission of the Holy Ghost in general, but with His mission in a distinct relation, as the Paraclete, and as the Helper in that great process which the Church is ever vindicating against the world.
In regard to the Paraclete, expositors are very diverse. According to one party (Origen, Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, Theophylact, Luther), the word, which is used of the Holy Ghost only in the last discourses of Christ given by St John (comp. ver. 26, John 15:26, John 16:7; of Christ, in 1 John 2:1), means comforter, consoler. According to another, it is a judicial expression to designate advocates in judicial processes. The upholders of this interpretation appeal to classical Greek usage,, which is best explained in the treatise of Knapp, De Spiritu Sancto et Christo Paracletis (Opusc. t. i.), where παράκλητος , from παρακαλέω , to summon to aid, is used of those who, whether as agents or as influential friends, undertook the cause of those who stood before the judgment-seat.
But the interpretation Comforter has no trivial arguments in its favour. We read in Acts 9:31, concerning the first Christian congregations, καὶ? τῇ? παρακλήσει τοῦ? ἁ?γίου πνεύματος ἐ?πληθύνετο , “and by the comfort of the Holy Ghost were multiplied:” comp. ch. John 6:1; John 6:7, John 7:17. There the Holy Ghost is a comforting, encouraging Spirit. It is obvious to assume that we have here an exposition or paraphrase of the name Paraclete; and that He was called Paraclete on account of His consolation.
Further, the verb παρακαλέω is never used in the New Testament for summoning to aid; and therefore παράκλητος could not be derived from it as an adjective of passive signification, advocatus. It is always used in the sense of speaking to, or encouraging and comforting—in so many instances, indeed, amounting to more than a hundred, that the exclusiveness of this meaning can scarcely be accidental. In Acts 28:20—the only place adduced by Knapp in support of the meaning, summon to aid—the common interpretation is appropriate: comp. ch. Acts 24:4.
Finally, παρακαλεῖ τε παρακαλεῖ τε τὸ?ν λαόν μου , λέγει ὁ? θεός , is the beginning of the second part of Isaiah, to the commencement of which, especially ch. Isaiah 40:3-5, the New Testament repeatedly refers, and everywhere with the view that its fulfilment belongs to the time of the new economy: comp. on ch. John 1:23, John 2:11.
St Luke, in ch. Luke 2:25, alluding to this παρακαλεῖ τε , describes Simeon as προσδεχόμενος παράκλησιν τοῦ? Ἰ?σραήλ . It is hard altogether to sunder this παράκλητος from that παρακαλεῖ τε . The Son of man had hitherto fulfilled and realized this παρακαλεῖ τε : after His departure, the Holy Spirit would take His place.
These are very plausible arguments; but their weight is overbalanced by those which support the other interpretation.
And first, the form is of decisive importance. Derived from the 3 Perf. Pass, it bears a passive character; παράκλητος can no more mean Comforter than κλητός can mean Caller. That the older Greek expositors attributed an active signification to this form, is a fact not sufficient to outweigh this argument. Nor is it of much moment that Aquila and Symmachus, in Job 16:2, use παράκλητους where the Hebrew speaks of comforters, translated by the Septuagint παράκλήτορες and Symmachus παρηγοροῦ ντες . For even the παράκλητος , passively accepted, expresses the idea of supporting.
The second argument is, that we ought not, without due consideration, to forsake the classical Greek usage, in which παράκλητος always occurs in the sense of advocate-at-law. This has all the more force, inasmuch as the word bearing this meaning, and with it a series of other judicial expressions, had passed over into the Rabbinical phraseology; with the same meaning it is frequent in the writings of Philo (comp. Carpzov. Exerc. in Ep. ad Heb., p. 155; Loesner, Observ. ex Phil., p. 496),as also we find it in the epistle of Barnabas, who, in § 20, describes the wicked as πλουσίων παράκλητοι , πενήτων ἄ?νομοι κριταί .
In the document of the Church of Vienne (Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. v. 2) παράκλητος is used to designate one who represents the person of another in a judicial process. The passage is all the more remarkable, because it furnishes the first instance of an allusion to St John’s sayings concerning the Paraclete, and because it goes on the supposition that they mention the word Paraclete with the meaning then current among Greek writers. Vettius Epagathus requests, when certain Christians were brought before the tribunal, that he might be heard ἀ?πολογούμενος ὑ?πὲ?ρ τῶ? ἀ?δελφῶ?ν . This was refused him, and he was himself executed. It then goes on: ἀ?νελήφθη καὶ? αὐ τὸ?ς εἰ?ς τὸ?ς κλῆ ρον τῶ?ν μαρτύρων , παράκλητος Χριστιανῶ?ν χρηματίσας , ἔ?χων δὲ? τὸ?ν παράκλητον ἐ?ν ἑ?αυτῷ? , τὸ? πλεῖ ον τοῦ? Ζαχαρίου , ὅ? διὰ? τοῦ? πληρώματος τῆ?ς ἀ?γαπῆ?ς ἐ?νδείξατο , εὐ δοκήσας ὑ?πὲ?ρ τῆ?ς τῶ?ν ἀ?δελφῶ?ν ἀ?πολογίας καὶ? τὴ?ν ἑ?αυτοῦ? θεῖ ναι ψυξήν . He receives the name of the Christian’s Paraclete, not because he addressed comfort to them, but because he came forward as their advocate and intercessor; and he proved by this courageous intercession that he had within himself the Paraclete promised by Jesus to His disciples, who therefore was not to be a comforter, but only an intercessor.
The Christian’s conflict with the world presents itself in many ways under the aspect of a judicial process; and it was with reference to this aspect of it that Jesus had already previously promised His people the assistance of the Holy Ghost. In Matthew 10:17-18, He had predicted to His disciples, that “they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues, and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake. But when they deliver you up,” our Lord continued, “take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” Here we have the full Paraclete, as he appears in classical writers, the agent and pleader at the bar; only the name παράκλητος is wanting. The parallel saying in Mark 13:9-11 is all the more appropriate in this connection, inasmuch as it occurs in a discourse which our Lord had delivered shortly before, on the Tuesday before the feast, and thus only two days previously.
If we understand Paraclete in the sense of comforter, it is hard to account for the narrowly restricted use of the word. As in our passage the Paraclete is promised to the disciples in connection with their relation to the world (comp. ver. 17), so also, in ch. John 16:7, the promise of the mission of the Paraclete is connected with predictions of the world’s persecutions (comp. ver. 1). Generally there is no passage in which the idea of representative or advocate is not appropriate. In ch. John 15:26, the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter only in reference to ch. John 14:16: the same Person, whom I have promised to send as your advocate in the severe conflict with the world, will render you great assistances also in other respects. In 1 John 2:1, Christ Himself exercises the function of an advocate for His own people with the Father. Christians have a hard double cause to carry through with God and with the world; and in neither can they succeed without a powerful representative. That such a relation of advocate to clients is not limited to classical usage, is shown by Job 29:12-17. Job describes himself there as availing himself of his powerful position for the defence of the poor and the miserable in the judgment, as a true Paraclete.
Hence, as there are reasons so decisive for giving the term Paraclete the meaning of advocate and intercessor, we must not be inclined to allow much weight to those weaker reasons which favour the signification comforter. The argument which rests upon the meaning of the word παρακαλέω in the New Testament is set aside by the remark, that the noun, as such, irrespective of its derivation, was imported and accepted from the then current judicial phraseology. And this observation has all the more weight, inasmuch as John, the only Evangelist in whose writings the word Paraclete occurs, is precisely the one who never uses the παρακαλέω elsewhere so common in the New Testament,—a remarkable testimony, also, in favour of the unity and connectedness of his writings. The coincidence of the term with the παρακαλεῖ τε of Isaiah 40:1, we cannot regard as other than fortuitous; and must also assume, that in Acts 9:31 we have not an exposition of the name Paraclete, but only an allusion to it.
When our Lord says, “He will send you another Paraclete,” it does not lead necessarily to the conclusion that He had hitherto actually and effectually approved Himself their advocate. The meaning may be this: Be not afraid of the persecutions, the judicial processes, which threaten you in the world, whether the Jewish or the Gentile world. If I cannot be your παράκλητος in them, I will provide for you another advocate in My stead. Yet there had been occasions when Jesus had, in a certain sense, literally shown Himself their judicial advocate: comp. for example. Matthew 12:1-8. And then the whole contest with the world may be regarded as a judicial process with it, as we find in the Old Testament the epithets of legal contention are applied frequently to all contests, so that the idea of the Paraclete is enlarged to mean help in every kind of conflict with the world. A yet further extension, to mean help in every other kind of difficulty, cannot be established here. Paraclete and process are inseparably connected.
The first fulfilment of the promise lying before us we find in the fourth chapter of the Acts. The Apostles were asked, before the high council, by what authority and in what name they did those things. Peter answered the question, “filled with the Holy Ghost,” ver. 8. The members of the high council wondered at what they heard, and were unable to reconcile it with the position and education of the Apostles, so mightily did their Advocate make His presence and aid known, ver. 13.
The εἰ?ς τὸ?ν αἰ?ῶ?να , equivalent to πάσας τὰ?ς ἡ?μέρας ἕ?ως τῆ?ς συντελείας τοῦ? αἰ?ῶ?νος , Matthew 28:20, gives us the comforting assurance that the promise was given to the Apostles not as individuals, but as representatives of all believers; that, so long as the world lasts, the Paraclete will discharge His function in the Church; and that the Church, in her conflict with the world, need never despair, however superior may be the world’s numbers, dignities, and endowments. “Wherefore,” says Luther, “there is no wrath, or threatening, or dismay; nothing but confident laughter, and sweet consolation in heaven and upon earth.”
Ver. 17. “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
The Spirit of truth is the Spirit to whom the truth belongs, who possesses it as His own, ch. John 15:26, and who imparts it to those to whom He is given, ch. John 16:13; 1 John 4:6. The Spirit approves Himself as the Paraclete, by imparting the truth to those whose cause He defends in their severe process with the world. Of all weapons, this is the noblest. This will bring the Church finally and triumphantly through all beleaguerments. Truth is mightier and nobler than all science, than all hair-splitting reasonings, than all specious eloquence, than all cunningly conceived speculations. On their possession of this truth rested the confident fidelity to their confession displayed by the confessors of the faith, independent of all external relations, and unshaken even in the presence of death. It was the basis of that joyful acceptance of martyrdom, by which the Church made such an impression on the world. He who has a firm hold on the truth, knows that his interests and his person are hidden above, and that all his discomfitures are but the passage to victory. Luther: “Hence let it be to thee no small consolation; for there is nothing upon earth that can so comfort in the time of need, as for the heart to be confident in its cause.” But the truth not only evidences its influence upon the spirit of its confessors; it also impresses the world. From the Fall downwards the world has been overrun with lies; yet it can never evade the influence of the truth. The uncreated Divine image retains still some measure of its prerogatives. Truth makes its sure appeal to the conscience.
The world cannot, so long as it maintains itself to be the world, become partaker of the Spirit; for that Spirit it has no receptivity: its eyes, defiled by sin, cannot perceive Him; and therefore it is excluded from the independent possession of the high and noble blessedness of truth, access to which can be obtained only through the Spirit. For the truth belongs to God alone, and can become the heritage of the creature only through the Spirit, who is the bond between the Creator and the created. The truth impresses the world; but proper access to that truth is sealed against the world, because it cannot receive the Spirit. Believers, however, perceive and know the Holy Ghost by intimate communion, and not afar off. The example of the world shows that no discernment of the Spirit can be attained at a distance; and it is because the Spirit is immanent within them, that believers are established in the possession of the truth.
The world has also its own πνεῦ μα , the spirit of lying who proceedeth from Satan, Matthew 13:38-39; Acts 16:13. That spirit the world knoweth and seeth, although it is no less immaterial than the Spirit of truth. Hence we must not seek the reason for His not being seen, and not being known, in the fact of the immateriality of the Spirit of truth (Grotius: Mundus non curat nisi ea quae oculis corporeis conspiciuntur; quale non est ille spiritus); but only in this, that the eyes of the world were beclouded and holden by sin. Berl. Bible: For no man can know God, unless he is converted from his sins.
In the double present, γινώσκετε , and μένει , our Lord, abstracting from all relations of time, places the character of His disciples and the character of the world in contrast. But in order to obviate misapprehension, the timeless present is accompanied at the close by the future ἔ?σται , to show that the whole matter belongs to the domain of futurity. Many copyists could not appreciate this delicate turn: hence they displaced ἔ?σται by ἐ?στίν .
In vers. 18-24 we have the fifth ground of consolation: Christ comes again.
Ver. 18. “I will not leave you comfortless (orphans); I will come unto you.”
Our Lord does not place His own coming in opposition to the coming of the Holy Ghost. He does not say, I Myself will come; for even in the Divine Spirit it is He who comes to His disciples. He says positively, I come, that the disciples might not fall into the comfortless notion that they would not henceforth have to do with Him directly, and that the Holy Ghost would interpose as a separating medium between Him and them. He gives them, the assurance, that even after His departure they would remain in the most immediate connection with Himself. The evidence that Christ, even after His return to the Father, held personal intercourse with His disciples, in harmony with this promise, and therefore that the being in the Spirit furnished only the basis of this intercourse, we find primarily in the appearances of the risen Lord, but also in the history of Stephen, who, according to Acts 7:55-56, saw the heaven opened, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and who, in ver. 59, said to the immediately present Redeemer, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;” and in ver. 60, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Then the Apocalypse, the first chapter of which records a manifestation of Christ to the Apostle; a manifestation which, however, presupposes the ἐ?γενόμην ἐ?ν πνεύματι , ver. 10. How little the Spirit is to be regarded as a restricting medium of partition, which precludes the Lord from any direct operation upon earth, is shown by the history of Saul’s conversion, in which Christ comes to the persecutor without even any preliminary reference to the Holy Ghost at all.
What coming of Christ is here spoken of? Certainly not His return at the end of the world; for in that case He would have left His disciples long orphans, and the consolation would have been comfortless enough. According to ver. 19, the coming was soon to begin; and the characteristic distinction, “the world seeth Me not,” would not be at all suitable to the eschatological return, inasmuch as at His final coming all the nations are to be gathered into His presence. Matthew 25:32. Nor can the manifestations of the risen Lord exclusively be meant; for the Redeemer does not speak of what should be the prerogative of a few elect, but of what should be the portion of all His believers in every age and continually: comp. especially the μονὴ?ν παρʼ? αὐ τῷ? ποιησόμεθα in ver. 23, which cannot be referred to the appearances after the resurrection; and generally vers. 21 and 23, which, taking their whole contents, cannot, without great violence, be limited to those appearances of the risen Lord, as is all the more evident if we compare the strikingly coincident parallel in Revelation 3:20. There the Redeemer stands before the door of every one who belongs to the number of His people; and His coming notes a relation, the effect of which runs through the whole earthly existence of believers, “like heaven upon earth, and the brightness which irradiates the night.” The promise, “I will not leave you comfortless,” was but very imperfectly fulfilled in the manifestations of the Lord occurring in the interval between the resurrection and the ascension. It points to a permanent connection. On the other hand, we must not by any means exclude those intermediate manifestations of the risen Lord. When Jesus says here, in ver. 19, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me,” every one must refer the words primarily to the appearances after the resurrection, especially as these have that characteristic mark in common with all later spiritual manifestations, that the world does not participate in them, but that they belonged exclusively to believers: comp. Acts 10:40-41, “Him God raised up the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God.” This view is confirmed by the parallel passage, ch. John 16:16; John 16:22, which may well serve as a comment upon our ver. 19. But the appearances of our risen Lord must not be excluded; and all the less as the result of the coming of Christ here in ver. 19 is seen to be the invigoration of His disciples, a result which notoriously first followed at the resurrection of their Lord. When the risen Redeemer first appeared to His disciples, they rose immediately from the death of languor and despondency: comp. Psalms 72:15. It is evident that a false apprehension of the resurrection has placed in opposition things which are in fact perfectly accordant. When Christ arose with a glorified body. His appearances were a type and prelude of that living intercourse which, according to Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20, is to subsist between Christ and His Church to the end of the world; and what in Acts 1:3 is recorded as historical fact, bears at the same time the character of a prophecy, which in its fulfilment runs through all the ages of time. Only thus is it to be explained, that St Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:7-8, places the manifestation of that which was given to himself after the ascension on the same level with the manifestations of the risen Lord before the ascension.
Here we have the real secret of the strength of believers in their conflict with the world, which in number and equipments far preponderates. It is their concealed intercourse with that Jesus to whom all power in heaven and earth is given, that enables them to look down upon the earth far below their feet. When the waves of the world’s wrath run high, they say to Him, “Be not a terror unto me; Thou art my hope in the day of evil,” Jeremiah 17:17.
God in the Old Testament bears the honourable appellation of the God of the orphans, Psalms 68:6; He is described as one with whom the fatherless findeth mercy, Hosea 14:3; and also with special reference to His suffering Church upon earth. This His high title God will make good, so far as concerns the disciples, and especially the Apostles, through Christ, with whom all the treasures of His mercy and power are laid up, and who, in Old Testament prophecy, was once called the Everlasting Father, Isaiah 9:6. Their orphanhood, their abandonment, their misery, must not make them dispirited; it must rather fill them with deeper joy. For the greater their orphanhood, the more confidently might they rely upon the consolation of the Father of the fatherless.
The orphan condition of the Apostles lasted from the beginning of the passion to the resurrection. It was the type of conditions which are ever recurring in God’s dealings with the whole Church and its individual members. When these circumstances occur, it is “our duty to weep with our mother as fatherless, and to lift up our hands to our Father” (Quesnel). Then will the word be fulfilled to us, as it was formerly to the Apostles: I have forsaken thee for a small moment, but with great compassion I will gather thee.
Ver. 19. “Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also.”
That the world which was to be excluded from seeing Christ is primarily the unbelieving Jewish people, is shown by ch. John 7:33, where Jesus says to the Jews, “Yet a little while am I with you: ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me.” To see Christ no longer is the climax of all misery: for in Him is the fountain of all true joy; and when He departs, the Divine judgments throng in on all sides. The words, “Because I live,” etc., are the foundation of the promise that the disciples should see Christ. In the life of Christ Himself lies the guarantee that His disciples should live. But the condition of that life was, that they should see Him. Seeing Christ and living are, with the Apostles, everywhere and inseparably one and the same: He is the centre of their being. When they see Him not, they are as dead in a living body. The life of Christ must develop itself in His disciples further and further until the joyful resurrection: comp. ch. John 11:25. But, according to the connection, that life alone is here pre-eminently meant which unfolded itself in the Apostles immediately with the resurrection. Life is, in the Old Testament, wherever there is contentment and joy: comp. Job 21:7; Proverbs 16:15.
According to some critics, the present, ζῶ? , stands here instead of the future. But that would involve the necessity of the present being substituted afterwards for the future, ζήσεσθε . Jesus had described Himself in ver. 6 as the life. There is, therefore, no ground whatever for an enfeebling interpretation. Jesus not merely will live, but He is, under all circumstances, the Living; and in the fact that He lives is the pledge given that He will live, and that His disciples shall live with Him. Berl. Bible: “Life is His essential nature; dying is a strange thing, but now necessary to Him.” That which is a strange thing can only be transitory. In Luke 24:5-6, the angels say to the women, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.” Christ did not become alive again—the ἠ?γέρθη does not accord with that—but He is the Living One under all circumstances; and in the fact that He is always the Living One lies the ground of His resurrection. In Acts 2:24, Peter says concerning Christ, “Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it.” The impossibility rested upon this, that He was the essentially Living. The ζωῆ?ς ἀ?καταλύτος which, according to Hebrews 7:16, dwells inherently in Christ, elevates Him above the law of death. In Revelation 1:18, we read that Christ approved Himself the “Living One” by the overcoming of death.
The life of His disciples is the necessary consequence of the life of Christ. As the Living, He is also the life-distributing: He cannot rest until He has vanquished for His people death in all its forms, and abolished it utterly. In the Old Testament God is called the living God, for the consolation of His people who sink into death. David thirsts for the living God, Psalms 42:3, because, as such. He was the God of his life, ver. 9, distributing life to His own. But as the Living One is the source of life to His own, so He is the source of death to His enemies. Because He liveth, they must die. The first form of that death is their seeing Him no more.
Ver. 20. “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.”
Primarily the day of the resurrection; yet this only as the beginning of a whole period of time, during which the annunciations of this resurrection continued. By the resurrection, and the manifestation to the disciples connected with it, was actual demonstration given that Christ is in the Father, and that He stands in the most intimate and essential fellowship with Him: comp. Romans 1:4. The disciples learnt this by living actual experience, from the fact that the life of the Father manifests itself in Him. As by the resurrection it was demonstrated that Christ is in the Father, comp. ver. 10, so also it was proved that the relation of the disciples to Him was not an imaginary one, but a real one; that He was truly the life of their souls: comp. Galatians 2:20. That could He be, only if He is actually the only Son of God. But, as it regards the latter point, their knowledge depended not upon a mere inference. Concurrent with this conclusion, was the flowing of Christ’s life into them at His resurrection. Only by this communion of His life could a true assurance arise that they were in Him and He in them. Luther: “I had not such power in me before, for I was, like others, under the devil’s power, and under the fear of death. But now I have another spirit, which Christ gives me through the Holy Ghost; by which I trace that He is with me, and that I may scorn all the threats of the world, death, and the devil, and joyfully glory in my Lord, who lives and reigns for me in heaven.”
Ver. 21. “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.”
Lampe remarks: “The expression is changed. Earlier He had addressed the disciples; now He proceeds to speak in the third person, because the promise of His coming which precedes, specifically concerned His disciples, but this concerns all His people.” Instead of specifically, we would say especially. That Lampe distinguishes too nicely, is shown by the ἐ?μφανίζειν in ver. 22.
As the impartation of the Holy Spirit, ver. 15, so also the manifestation of Christ, is conditional on love to Christ approving itself in the keeping of His commandments. The high reward promised must fill with glowing emulation towards this obedience. What under one aspect is recompense, is under another the consequence of Christ’s manifestation. But before that manifestation there must be the full bias and earnest effort of the soul to keep His commandments. Christ cannot manifest Himself to an indolent and careless soul.
The καὶ? τηρῶ?ν αὐ τὰ?ς more closely explains the having: it points to the fact that our Lord did not mean the unreal and merely outward remembrance of the law. To refer the ἔ?χων to this latter, and assume that the καὶ? τηρῶ?ν αὐ τάς is an appendage, equivalent to “He that not merely has My commandments, but also keepeth them” (Augustin: Qui habet in memoriâ et servat in vitâ), would scarcely be in harmony with the emphasis of the Johannaean phrase. Grotius rightly compares (on ἔ?χειν ) ch. John 5:28, where it is used concerning the vital and real possession of the word of God. Christ Himself shows how the merely external having is, when closely considered, no having at all. Matthew 13:12: “But he that hath not, from him shall be taken away that which he hath.” The ἐ?κεῖ νός
He and no other—intimates that the human heart is eminently prone to yield itself to the delusions of a mere semblance of love to Christ, of a mere love of feeling and fancy.
The love of the Father comes into consideration only as the foundation of the love of Christ; and this only as the foundation of its form of expression, its manifestation, which involves in itself the fulness of all blessedness, and is the foretaste of eternal happiness, enabling the soul to say, in the time of affliction, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.”
Ver. 22. “Judas saith unto Him, (not Iscariot,) Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?”—“The disciples,” says Lampe, “did well in confessing their ignorance, and in asking questions for their further instruction. Their questions bring us excellent fruit, because they gave the Lord occasion to add further explanations and encouragements.” “Not Iscariot:” that was obvious of itself. But care for the honour of the true Judas, to whom it was a severe grief to have a name like the traitor’s, required that provision should be made against the possibility of ever so fleeting a confounding of the two persons, by keeping them absolutely distinct. Matthew, in Matthew 10, takes pains to avoid naming the true disciple by his name of Judas: he introduces him by a double surname, Lebbeus and Thaddeus, and makes the former take the place of his proper name. Mark also calls him Thaddeus in ch. Mark 3:18. Luke, in the Acts, describes him as Judas the brother of James, at a time when Judas Iscariot was already dead, and confusion was not possible any longer. The paraphrastic name in Matthew and Mark, and the addition Ἰ?ακώβου in Luke, sprang from the same reason as the “not Iscariot” here.
“How is it,” what has happened? (Lachmann omits the καί ; but it has been struck out here on the same grounds which secured its omission in ch. John 9:36): there must, in his opinion, something extraordinary have taken place, indeed some fatal incident must have interposed, that Jesus should limit His revelation to His disciples, and withdraw it from the world. Christ’s universal dominion, as predicted by the prophets, and so many earlier announcements of our Lord Himself—for example, that He would draw all men unto Him, and that many should come from the east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God—appeared to him to be altogether out of keeping with such a word as this. There would have been much to reply, indeed, to such a difficulty. For example: that Jesus did not renounce His absolute victory over the world by not revealing Himself to it; that the exclusion referred only to the world which should refuse to abandon its wickedness; and that Christ would adopt the most effectual means of redeeming it from that sinful nature. But Jesus limits Himself in His answer to one thing. After express repetition of the encouraging promise to His disciples. He indicates that the world excludes itself from participation in this glorious promise, inasmuch as it does not fulfil the absolute and unchangeable condition on which it is suspended. Thus nothing had taken place; no hindrance had occurred to baffle the Lord, constrain Him to change His plans, and give up His vast enterprise; the world simply made itself unworthy of so high an honour. We may compare Ecclesiastes 7:10 for the τί γέγονεν : “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these?”—what has brought in this fatal change?
Stier is not quite correct in making it the only word uttered by this Judas. It must be placed in connection with ch. John 7:4. There the “brethren” of Jesus say to Him: “If Thou doest these things, show Thyself unto the world.” The view is very common, that in the mission of Jesus a revelation to the world was necessarily given; that it is not enough if a little company in quietness enjoy His manifestations. The nearest connections of Jesus after the flesh were least satisfied with the notion of a seeming dominion in a corner. But by the appeal, “Lord,” Judas shows that he laid his scruples humbly at his Master’s feet.
Ver. 23. “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.”
The promise which had been given in ver. 21 to the disciples, receives here an addition. Not He alone comes, but the Father with Him, and with Him the inexhaustible fulness of all consolation, the most abundant compensation for the impending departure of Jesus, the Son of man.
The love of Christ and the performance of His commandments is, as for the individual, so also for the churches, the measure of the participation in this glorious manifestation. To deal lightly with the least among the precepts of Christ, is wilfully to fight against our own blessedness. “The soul,” says Quesnel, “which aspires to be the Temple of the Sacred Trinity, must have, as it were, an eternal longing to do His will.” What holds good of the soul, holds good also of the Church. The μονὴ?ν παρʼ? αὐ τῷ? ποιήσομεθα points to “that I may dwell among them,” Exodus 25:8; Exodus 29:45-46: compare Ezekiel 37:27, “My tabernacle also shall be with them.” The beginning of the true fulfilment of these Old Testament sayings was the revelation of Christ in the flesh (comp. on ch. John 1:14); its eternal realization we shall find in the new Jerusalem: here have we the middle fulfilment. In the parallel place, Revelation 3:20, the reference to the Canticles comes out more prominently than even here, where, however, the tender and internal tone points the same way.
Ver. 24. “He that loveth Me not keepeth not My sayings: and the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.”
He “keepeth not My words,” and therefore the Father cannot love him; we cannot come to him, and make our abode with him. Thus nothing has “taken place,” but the world excommunicates itself. The saying, “and the word which ye hear,” etc., gives the reason wherefore the not keeping Christ’s commandments entails such ruinous consequences. If Christ’s word goes back to the Father’s authority, then arise in full power all those sayings of the Old Testament in which the keeping of the commandments of God is exhibited as the condition of fellowship with Him, from Genesis 18:19 downwards. Compare particularly Leviticus 26:3, “If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them;” vers. 11, 12, “And I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people;” Deuteronomy 7:12 seq., Deuteronomy 28:1; Deuteronomy 28:15. And the reference to these passages of the Old Testament shows further, that, over and above the application to individuals, the application to religious communities must not be forgotten. In the proportion in which they are filled with zeal for the obedience of the words of Christ does the Father love them, and make His abode among them. When this zeal dies out, the Father with Christ retires, and leaves nothing but darkness behind. This the Jews were to find out in sad experience, to which the word of Christ primarily refers: comp. ch. John 15:20.
In vers. 25, 26, we have the sixth consolation. With the thought of their Master’s departure, the thought of their own immaturity must have painfully risen in their consciousness. “Ye are yet without understanding,” the Lord had not long before said to them, Matthew 15:16. Even as disciples and learners they felt themselves insecure, and thought they could not go on without the guidance and further instruction of their Teacher. And now, after the departure of Christ, they were alone to represent His cause. How should they step forward as teachers who had scarcely as yet clearly and sharply seized the very first elements of Christian doctrine, who were always stumbling at unsolved mysteries, and encountering difficulties everywhere? comp. ch. John 16:25. They might well indeed cry out, with Jeremiah, “Ah, Lord, I know not how to speak: I am young.” The Lord now intimates to them that His departure would not be, as they vainly supposed, the end of His instruction among them; but that, in the mission of the Holy Spirit, He had provided them with an abundant compensation for His own departure.
Vers. 25, 26. “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
The words, “These things have I said unto you,” indicate that the discourse of Christ to them was drawing near its end. They do not primarily refer to the whole of His discourses during His public ministry, but to the discourse which He was then uttering. Yet this particular portion was a representative of the whole. In this last discourse of Christ there was, as in all the former, much that remained obscure to the disciples; they did not yet feel themselves satisfied; everywhere there were chasms in their knowledge, and riddles unsolved. It was in view of the scruples and difficulties which this fact caused, that Christ uttered the present consolations. This promise is essentially different from that of vers. 15-17. There the Holy Ghost was promised to them as an advocate in their conflict with the world; here, as the teacher who should save them from their ignorance.
Here also the Holy Spirit is a Paraclete, an intercessor or advocate. But this designation was only to indicate the identity of the Helper in both cases: “the same whom I earlier promised to you as an advocate in your process with the world.” We are not at liberty to assume that the original idea of an advocate at the bar is enlarged into that of one who, under difficult circumstances, speaks in behalf of another. For it is not a Helper in their teaching office that is primarily promised to the Apostles—one who should speak for them to others—but one who should help them out of their ignorance. There is, however, no reason whatever for the assumption, that the specific idea of an advocate is here weakened down to the very general one of an assistant or helper. The term Paraclete never occurs in so general a sense. In ch. John 16:7, where He is named again, He is, as in ch. John 14:16, the advocate in the process against the world; and in ch. John 16:13, where our promise recurs, and is further unfolded, it is not the Paraclete who is mentioned, but the Spirit of truth. This shows plainly that the Paraclete here only lays down the stepping-stone for ver. 16, indicating that the Holy Spirit was a person already known to them by what had been spoken before. If this is forgotten, all that is characteristic is removed from the idea of the Paraclete. “The Holy Ghost:” comp. on ch. John 7:39. “In My name” indicates that the mission of the Holy Spirit has for its foundation the historical personality of Christ (comp. on ver. 14),—all that comes to mind when we hear the name Christ, all that He did and suffered upon earth, of which the atonement accomplished by the Redeemer’s suffering and death is the great result: comp. on ch. John 7:39. Before Christ had, by His passion and sacrifice, made Himself a glorious name, the Holy Spirit could not be sent forth.
We have here Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together, as in Matthew 28:19, where the name, the measure of personality, is attributed to the Holy Spirit no less than to the Father and the Son. The sending from the Father is here spoken of the Holy Ghost, even as in ver. 24 of the Son. That the teaching is not explained simply by the bringing to remembrance that follows, as many of the older expositors thought, in their polemical zeal against the Romish Church; that the teaching is either the generic notion, which includes the specific reminding, or refers to the impartation of new elements of instruction, with which the bringing instruction already received from Christ to mind was to go on concurrently,—is plain from the parallel passage, ch. John 16:12-13, according to which the teaching function of the Holy Ghost was far to transcend that of a mere remembrancer, and to refer to very much that Jesus Himself could not tell His disciples, because they were not able to bear it. The limitation of the teaching to the mere bringing to remembrance, is in opposition to the fact as we find it throughout the books of the New Testament. The doctrinal substance of the Apostolical Epistles, and of the Apocalypse, cannot by any means be referred back to the discourses which Christ delivered during His life upon earth; although the germs and principles of all, down to the minutest details, were contained in them. But it is self-evident that the teaching office of the Spirit could not come into contradiction with the reminding office; as also, that the promise is here given primarily to the Apostles, through whose instrumentality the Holy Spirit imparted His instructions to the churches of all ages. Assuredly the Divine Spirit continues still His teaching function in the Church; but it is limited now to the penetrating ever deeper into the meaning of that which Christ and His Apostles taught. That the promise here primarily referred to those who received it, and was mainly limited to them, is obvious from the second member of it. The reminding function of the Holy Spirit could be exercised only upon those who had been the companions of Jesus during His life upon earth. But the teaching and the reminding offices go hand in hand. That the “will teach you all things” was, as to essentials, closed with the completion of the canon, is made obvious by the “show you things to come,” in ch. John 16:13, which manifestly found its fulfilment in the book of Revelation. For us, the consolation here given assumes a different form from what it had to the Apostles. As the result of its fulfilment to those to whom it was primarily given, we have received the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, and in them the remedy of all our ignorance; especially as, depending upon the promises given first to the Apostles, we may be confident that we are not left to ourselves in its interpretation, but that the Holy Spirit will continue His teaching function by the exposition of the truth of Scripture. Here is the never-ceasing prerogative and pre-eminence of the Church before the world; with all the boasted advancement of its science, the world is left to the natural ignorance of man, and deals in the dark with the highest problems of life.
The bringing to remembrance was obviously not to be of a merely mechanical or internal kind; but such as at the same time opened up a deeper understanding. Bengel rightly observes, that in these last discourses of our Lord, so faithfully reproduced by St John, we have a document of the fulfilment of this promise itself.
In ver. 27 is the seventh and last consolation—the promise of peace. Enemies all around them, sheep in the midst of wolves—such was the position of the disciples on the departure of Christ. Nevertheless, Christ guarantees to them, and through them to the Church of all ages. His peace. This is, at the first glance, and to the judgment of carnal reason, an absurd promise; and yet it has its reality, and experience confirms its truth.
Ver. 27. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Peace is the condition of one who is not hurt by enemies. We must not set in the place of peace a mere state of prosperity. The original Hebrew שלום , from שלם , to be whole, denotes the condition of one who is unhurt by inimical influences, by those hostile powers which, from the Fall downwards, have hemmed in human life on all sides,—human nature, “beset with original sin, infirmity, distress, and death.” But εἰ ρήνη never has, even ostensibly, any other meaning than that of peace, which is the meaning entirely in harmony with the derivation of the word. The antithesis of εἰ ρήνη , according to ch. John 16:33, is θλίψις , tribulation or oppression.—Ἀ?φίημι is here, as in Matthew 22:25, used of that which one leaves behind on departing. Christ seemed as if He was about to leave His disciples nothing but an inheritance of warfare and oppression: comp. ch. John 15:18-21; but, when we look closely into the matter, He really leaves them peace. The words, “My peace I give unto you,” intimate that this peace would rest upon His positive influence, and spring directly from Himself. First comes the paradox, that after His departure they would have peace; then more definitely the source whence that peace would come, which, indeed, was slightly indicated in the ἀ?φίημι . The explanation, that “Jesus did not take away the peace of His disciples with Him, but rather gave them of His own peace,” devises a peace which the disciples had independent of their Lord, and overlooks the fact that it is not said, “your peace,” which such an antithesis would have required.
The severest trials awaited the Apostles; nevertheless, they found themselves more and more in a condition of peace. For, 1. They were, through Christ, established in the possession of eternal life, and no enemy could rob them of that blessed state and experience. 2. Hostile oppression was a disturbance of their peace only to human apprehension, and so far as fleshly sensibility went; in reality, it furthered their religious welfare, helped to prepare them for eternal life, and was therefore a concealed benefit of grace. And during their tribulation the Lord was peculiarly near to them; then more than usually He fulfilled His own word, “We will come to him, and make our abode with him.” Had they much tribulation in their hearts, the consolations of Christ all the more quickened their souls. 3. Oppression, persecutions, and contempt, bore, even upon earth, only a transitory character. Final victory over them all was guaranteed, ch. John 16:33, and, in the confident expectation of that victory, their momentary degradation could not overmuch affect their hearts. The death of Christ seemed essentially to peril the peace of the disciples: comp. Luke 24:17. But after His resurrection, the Lord welcomed them with the greeting, Peace be unto you! ch. Luke 20:19, Luke 21:26, and thus intimated that the promise given to them before His departure had begun its accomplishment. This is a type of the ever recurring dealings of our Lord with us. The most perfect realization of the words, “My peace I give unto you,” belongs to the perfect kingdom of God.
That the promise of peace stands here just at the end, probably has allusion to the circumstance, that men were wont to utter the wish of peace at the time of separation: comp. 1 Samuel 1:17; 1 Samuel 20:42; 2 Samuel 15:9. In the place of the impotent wish, the saving efficacy of Christ’s promise comes in. The objection, that Christ is not immediately departing from His disciples, but they go along with Him, has no force. We sometimes take farewell more than once. Here this takes place at the close of the last and highest festival, at the end of their last mournful interview, before the stress of conflict with the prince of this world begins.
“Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” According to the current exposition our Lord here says, that He does not give peace, or gifts generally, as the world gives them, delusively; that is, merely seeming peace and hollow blessings. But such a thought would thus be very imperfectly expressed. We must not arbitrarily introduce the idea that the world’s peace is an illusion or an empty phrase, and that its good things are only the semblance of good things. Nor do we clearly see that there is any antithesis of Christ’s peace as the true. But the main point is, that with its principle of selfishness, the world does not like to give at all, not even its seeming peace and its seeming good things. Especially in relation to the disciples, who come prominently into view here, the world must be regarded as manifestly and only hostile. The key to the right interpretation is found in ch. John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation:” this is all the more obvious, inasmuch as we have there the last farewell of Christ to His disciples, just as here we have the preliminary farewell. Tribulation, θλίψις ; that is the world’s gift in regard to all the disciples of Christ. For them it has nothing better. It seems, indeed, sometimes as if Christ also had nothing better for them; as if He left them, without help, a prey to the oppressions of the world. There lies the essential sharpness of the sting; that was the strong temptation to which the Baptist had sometime been exposed. But in reality it is far otherwise. As the world gives them tribulation, so He gives them peace: only this is required, that His disciples should know how to appropriate that peace, that they should take a spiritual estimate of things, and await the right time. The ὑ?μῖ?ν belongs also to the καθὼ?ς ὁ? κόσμος δίδωσι . Instead of as, we might read equally well what. The difference in the gift connects with it also a variation in the manner of giving, an unfriendly or a friendly. The tribulation which the world inflicts upon the disciples of Christ, is with a touch of irony described as a gift, in reference to those good gifts which they ought to have been ready to give. Such a use of the word giving is often found in the Old Testament: for example, in Deuteronomy 32:6, “Do ye thus requite (give) the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?” 1 Samuel 24:18, where Saul says to David, “Thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil:” I, who should have given thee that which was good, have instead thereof brought thee a wicked gift: comp. my commentary on Psalms 7:5.
The recurrence of μὴ? ταρασσέσθω indicates the conclusion of the grounds of consolation.
After the Lord has so powerfully and in such various ways comforted His disciples. He can now go further, and declare that they ought to rejoice over that which had been the source of their deeper sorrow.
Ver. 28. “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for My Father is greater than I.”
Christ exhibits His return to the Father as a matter of joy to the disciples, first of all on the ground of their love to Him; but what would redound to His honour would serve at the same time their best interests. He enters into a condition of eternal glory, which will allow Him to fulfil the high promises that He had made to them in the previous words. That He made prominent the former point, had respect to the sentiment of the disciples, that it was the obligation of their love to mourn over His departure. But if reference to the good of the disciples had not been in the background, Christ would not have added “and come again unto you” to the “I go away.” That would have had no meaning, if the personal interests of Christ alone had been involved. If, on the other hand, there is a latent reference to the salvation of the disciples, these have their due significance. Through His departure to the Father, who is greater than He, He can fulfil His promise of return. This return, in which He would impart to His disciples much more than He had imparted during His earlier earthly life, was to be a result of His assumption into the glory of the Father. That the personal interests of the disciples were in the background, and that they were coincident with those of Christ Himself, is shown by the relation in which “ye would rejoice” stands to “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” in ver. 27. There the subject was solicitude about their own danger, and therefore the corresponding joy must have reference to their own salvation, Quesnel is perfectly right in saying, “The interests of Jesus Christ ought to be dearer to us than our own. But we cannot seek His things without at the same time finding our own.”
Christ does not demand of His disciples that they should i rejoice. He knew that their love was not yet purified enough for that. But when He says to them that they ought, if they loved Him, to rejoice, the result was doubtless attained that their sorrow was mitigated. So from us He does not demand at once that we should rejoice when our beloved are taken away. He leaves nature its rights; He has sympathy with our weakness, which is bound up with the best elements of our nature. It is the healthy development of love, that it is first blended with earthly admixtures, and only by degrees sublimates itself into the pure heavenly flame.
In a certain sense, every one who dies in the Lord may say to his friends what Christ says here to His disciples. Every believer goes at his departure to His Redeemer, and thus into the glory of the Father.
That the Father was greater than Jesus, makes His departure to the Father matter to be rejoiced in, only if Christ in His departure was received into the fellowship of the glory of the Father (comp. ch. John 17:5). If I shall be with My Father, I shall be greater than I am now. It is clear from this, that Christ is not here set over against the Father in His original essence, nor in His human nature generally; for this shared the exaltation to the Father’s right hand, whereas a condition is here meant which was laid aside by going to the Father. But He is placed in opposition to the Father according to His entire personality, as the Christ come into the flesh, and in the form of a servant, as He was then incorporate and lived among men. The Arians had no right to use this passage in the interest of their doctrine; on the contrary, the assumption of Christ into the supreme glory of the Father, as it is here taught, serves most effectually to refute their error. Equality in glory presupposes, and is based upon, equality in essence. According to Lücke, the word, “For My Father is greater than I,” must express, “not the transitory human consciousness of the Redeemer in His earthly humiliation,” but “the essential, indissoluble consciousness of His subordination to the Father.” But indeed the going to the Father made no difference in that essential consciousness. But only such a being greater can be attributed to the Father as came to an end when Christ went home to Him. Other explanations, such as “God can better protect you than My earthly presence with you,” or “the Father is a mightier defence than I am,” are negatived by the consideration that Christ’s going to the Father is primarily exhibited as a matter of joy and advantage to Christ Himself. “If ye loved Me” plainly shows that the disciples were to rejoice on Christ’s own account at His departure to the Father.
Ver. 29. “And now I have told yon before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.”
Comp. ch. John 13:19. “I have told it yon” refers to the departure of Christ, and His return to His disciples, as this had its glorious beginning in the resurrection. Of like significance with the ὑ?πάγω καὶ? ἔ?ρχομαι πρὸ?ς ὑ?μᾶ?ς , is the πορεύομαι πρὸ?ς τὸ?ν πατέρα . For the going of Christ to the Father must have its announcement or declare itself in His resurrection and glorification. The prediction, therefore, refers to the suffering of Christ, and His entrance into His glory, Luke 24:26.
After the Lord had strengthened His disciples. Himself doing that which He appointed Peter to do, “Strengthen thy brethren,” Luke 22:32, He can challenge them to go forth with Him to the decisive conflict.
Vers. 30, 31. “Hereafter I will not talk much with you; for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me. 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.”
In relation to the prince of this world, comp. on ch. John 12:31. “As often as we hear this name,” says Calvin,” we should be ashamed of our wicked condition. For, let men vaunt themselves as they may, they are the devil’s slaves, and no better, until they are born again through the Spirit of Christ.” Those who boast of their free spirit, and of being freethinkers, are entangled in their own great folly. It is well for them to say, “We will not have this man to rule over us;” but that does not make them free, and they are enslaved still in the most abject bondage. “When the people of the world,” says Quesnel, “follow their passions, they think they are doing their own will; but in reality they are only, on the one hand, obeying the will of the prince of this world, whose desires and plans they execute, and, on the other, they serve, through the overruling power of God, His plans, and do His will, which is, and must evermore be, supreme over that of His creatures.” Satan never approved himself more fully the prince of this world, than when he incited the Jews and the Gentiles to contend against the Son of God.
Judas was in the confederacy of the multitude: comp. ch. John 18:3. But Jesus introduces us into the concealed background of the manifestations of his life, the mere external part of which is all that the world in its melancholy superficiality beholds. Before His profound glance Judas vanishes, the Roman soldiers vanish, the servants of the high priests and Pharisees vanish, and one only remains, whom they, with their superiors, serve as poor unconscious instruments,—the prince of this world, who sets in motion their schemes and their arms. This view of the matter gives us to perceive, on the one hand, the full solemnity of .the conflict, and urges us to take the whole armour of God, since in such an assault we can do nothing by our own power (comp. Ephesians 6:11-12); on the other hand, it is full of encouragement, since, when Satan is on the scene, we may be very sure that God will be on the scene likewise.
In Luke 22:53, again, our Lord refers to Satan what the Jewish rulers undertook against Him with seeming success. All rested upon this, that power was given to the darkness. So also, in ch. John 8:44, He had indicated Satan as the proper originator of the assaults of the Jews. In ch. John 6:70, too, the traitor was connected with Satan. But we must not limit our thoughts to Satan’s manifestations in the persons of his instruments. We are led to perceive that Jesus had to do immediately with the enemy himself, by the parallel of the temptation at the outset of our Lord’s ministry, and by Revelation 12:7-9, where Christ is in direct conflict with Satan and his angels. At the agony in Gethsemane, which preceded the appearance of Satan in his instruments, we must regard Satan himself as actively engaged. There, as formerly in the beginning, he assaulted Christ as a tempter.
In the present passage the prince of this world and the Redeemer are in contest; in the parallel passage of the Apocalypse, ch. John 12:7-9, Michael and the dragon contend: these are only different names of the same persons. “Michael and Satan are the proper factors of history. All others, however they may push themselves forward, and however much also they may draw upon themselves the eyes of a shortsighted world, are but subordinate agents and instruments.” (Comment, on Apocalypse, Clark’s Trans.) This note on the Apocalyptic passage holds good here also. The obscuration of the true nature of this conflict involves the greatest peril. The spiritual eye of the believer must be open to discern the real opponent.
“He hath (indeed) nothing in Me” (οὐ?κ is not superfluous; the double negation strengthens the emphasis—absolutely nothing): this is to be interpreted by reference to the ἄ?ρχων , the meaning being regulated by the fact that Satan is called the regent of this world. The having is accordingly that of a ruler and possessor; and the ἐ?ν ἐ?μοί marks the territory of the possession. The reference to the prince of this world makes the mere ἔ?χειν equivalent to the ἔ?χειν ἐ?ξουσίαν , the having authority, in ch. John 19:11. Christ was absolutely beyond the domain of his authority, because He was not of this world, which since the Fall has been subject to the dominion of Satan, and consequently by a righteous judgment exposed to his assaults: comp. on ch. John 12:31. To be in constrained subjection to Satan is the wretched lot only of the children of Adam; Christ is in His divine nature sublimely elevated above it. But in His obedience to God, and in His acceptance of the work of redemption committed to Him—which demanded that He should submit to Satan’s assault for one moment, that He might vanquish him for ever—our Lord would not evade or withdraw from the contest. “He hath nothing in Me:” these words are in fact equivalent to “I am not of this world,” to which the domain of Satan was limited, but “from above,” ch. John 8:23; the cause and the effect are here both intimated.—“Hath nothing in Me:” One only upon earth could ever utter these words. All who come into being according to the ordinary course of nature, are, in consequence of sin, Satan’s subjects. But this One, who voluntarily placed Himself before the enemy, and confronted all his power, broke down his dominion for all those who should become one with Himself through faith. “Hath nothing” absolutely nothing, points primarily and obviously to the Lord’s perfect freedom from sin. But His divinity is thereby assumed. A sinless man is an unreality; as certainly so as Adam, according to Genesis 5:3, begat a son in his own image and likeness.
Lücke is wrong here: “The reason why Satan had no power over Christ lay in this, that Christ had overcome the world, and already glorified it.” The true reason was no other than this, that Christ was not of the world, and that there was in Him nothing of that element which gives Satan his power over the world. This being sin, the reason why Satan had nothing in Him was simply this, that He was “holy, and undefiled, and separate from sinners,” Hebrews 7:26, and therefore absolutely apart from the human race, and “higher than the heavens.”
Our Lord uttered the words, “he hath nothing in Me,” as a protest against those erroneous conclusions which have been drawn, or might be drawn, from the fact that He seemingly became subject to the power of Satan. Luther: “My suffering this, is not because I am not strong enough for Satan, whom I have so often cast out.” Lampe: “Not through any flaw in Him, but through the exuberance of His love; not through the power of the devil, but the will of His Father.”
“But that the world may know;” the world which lieth in the wicked one, but which includes in itself the yet future children of God, ch. John 11:52, who through faith in Christ are to be drawn out of the world and introduced into the Church of God, ch. John 3:16. It is only under this aspect that the world comes here into consideration. The world embraces all the children of Adam; all are by nature children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3. Nevertheless there is here a great distinction. There is a world which is capable of being drawn, ch. John 6:44, John 12:32, does not serve its prince with perfect joy, but sighs to be free from his dominion. This is the aspect of the world that comes into view here. The world only on its susceptible side, and not the hardened, it is the design of the Lord to enlighten and bring to true knowledge.
The true reason why our Lord confronted Satan and submitted to his assaults, was His love to His Father, and the great commission entrusted to Him. The Father gave Him this work to do out of love to the world (comp. on ch. John 3:16); and the Father’s motive was no secret unshared by the Son. But while He also loved the world, it was primarily out of love to the Father that He accomplished the work of redemption. That He entered into the contest with Satan under these particular circumstances, in this so to speak dramatic form,—so that the Church has bequeathed to her a passion-history with all its affecting and heart-piercing crises, and can, on the basis of that history, celebrate a passion-week,—took place in order “that the world might know,” etc., that there might be given to it the true and urgent impulse to behold and meditate upon the scene.
The words, “Rise, let us go hence”—which must be preceded, not by a full stop, but by a comma—contain, in the form of a command to the disciples, the intimation of what was to be done in order that the world might know, etc.; they are equivalent to, “Therefore I will set forth with you, that I may encounter the assault of the prince of this world.” Ἐ?γείρεσθε ἄ?γωμεν· ἰ?δοὺ? ἤ?γγικεν ὁ? παραδιδούς με : thus Jesus speaks, according to Matthew 26:46, in Gethsemane immediately before the arrival of Judas. He designedly repeats the “Rise, let us go,” when the conflict directly impends. On the ἐ?γείρεσθε Augustin remarks: Discumbens discumbentibus loquebatur. The word in Matthew 26 also signifies rising up in opposition to sleeping and continuing to rest.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 14". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany