John 14 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

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Jesus Contrasts His Disciples' Relation to God with the World's Relation to God

Jesus has said he will show himself to the one who loves him (v. 21), so Judas (not Judas Iscariot) asks, But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world? (v. 22). The term used for show (emphanizo) is used in the Septuagint for the theophany Moses received on Sinai (Ex 33:13, 18). Judas seems to be confused because he is "looking for another theophany that will startle the world" (Brown 1970:647), but Jesus is only speaking of showing himself to his disciples.

As is often the case, Jesus does not seem to address the question directly, yet in fact he goes to the heart of the issue. Judas has spoken of the contrast between us and the world, and Jesus describes the disciple as one who loves him (v. 23): If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching (v. 23; or "keep my word," ton logon mou teresei). Jesus is referring not to simply holding onto his teaching, but to actually acting in accordance with it, as he himself has responded to the Father (v. 31). His teaching is not just interesting thoughts about God and the world. Rather, he has revealed God and opened the way to share God's own life. To obey his teaching is to adopt God's pattern of life. But the condition for such obedience is love for Jesus. The commands of Jesus are not a set of rules like a traffic code; they are a description of a pattern of life that reflects God's own life trans-posed into human circumstances. Love for Jesus involves both an attachment to him and a oneness with him and his interests, which naturally leads one to obey him and walk as he walked (1 Jn 2:6). One obeys what one loves. Indeed, our patterns of obedience reveal what we really love.

After describing the one to whom he will show himself, Jesus speaks of the showing itself: My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (v. 23). Instead of describing a spectacular theophany, Jesus speaks of dwelling with his disciples. The word for home (mone) is the same used earlier of the "rooms" in the Father's house (v. 2). The future intimacy in heaven will begin already here on earth. The great prophetic hope of a time when God would dwell with his people (Ezek 37:26-27; Zech 2:10) has come to pass in the incarnation and the dwelling Jesus here mentions.

In this passage, as throughout the Gospel, we have the dependency of the Son upon the Father. The Father, in love, sent the Son, and so those who receive the Son in love will receive this love of the Father. For the word that they obey in love is not the Son's but that of the Father himself (v. 24). Jesus' word is not the word of a mere human teacher that can be debated and modified; it comes from the Father and thus is and expresses ultimate reality. Those who do not love and obey the Son reject the Father himself (v. 24; cf. 1 Jn 2:23). The opponents are not able to hear Jesus' word from the Father (8:43), but the disciples receive the Father's word through the Son and take into their lives that which is of God, thus sharing in his love. The Son does not come to the disciples on his own, but, just as with the incarnation itself, this new mode of dwelling with them will be initiated by the Father's love. The Son continues to do what he sees the Father doing, and together he and the Father come to the disciple. The divinity of the Son, his oneness with the Father, again underlies what is being said (cf. Westcott 1908:2:181).

While in the future the Father and the Son will make their dwelling with (para) the true disciple (v. 23), in the meantime Jesus is still with (para) them, giving them further words to receive and obey (v. 25). He realizes that there is no way they can understand what he has just been explaining to them, so he comforts them with the promise of an interpreter: But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (v. 26). Here is the second of the Paraclete passages (cf. v. 16). Jesus has just referred to himself as one sent by the Father (v. 24), and now he says the same of the Paraclete. This is the only place the Paraclete is identified with the Holy Spirit, which indicates that the Paraclete passages convey only part of the larger teaching about the Holy Spirit, focusing mainly on the role of witness and instruction. Earlier it was said the Paraclete is sent at Jesus' request (v. 16), and now it is said that he is sent in my name. This expression, as we have seen elsewhere (see comment on v. 13), includes the idea of union. As the disciple's prayer is to be in conformity with Jesus' character and actually in union with Jesus' own intent (v. 13), so the Paraclete himself is in union with Jesus and in conformity with his character and mission. "Jesus bore God's name (17:11, 12) because he was the revelation of God to men; the Spirit is sent in Jesus' name because he unfolds the meaning of Jesus for men" (Brown 1970:653). Thus, the Paraclete will bear witness to Jesus just as Jesus has borne witness to the Father, having come in his Name (5:43; 10:25).

Specifically, the Paraclete will teach and remind. In John, to remember something means both to recall it and understand it (see comment on 2:22; Mussner 1967). Teaching and reminding probably should not be seen as two separate activities but instead as two ways of speaking of the same thing (the kai would be epexegetic; cf. Schnackenburg 1982:83), so verse 26 is perhaps better translated as "that one will teach you everything, that is, he will remind you of everything which I said to you." The all things that the Paraclete will teach the disciples does not refer to knowledge of all sorts, such as the height of Mount Everest or the general theory of relativity. God is indeed the God of all creation, but the all things spoken of here is the revelation of himself that has come in Jesus (see comment on 16:14). The Spirit understands all about Jesus and will clarify all that he has taught (cf. 1 Cor 2:11-12). This word "all" (panta, translated all things and everything in the NIV) speaks of the comprehensiveness of the Spirit's work; he will leave out nothing of what Jesus has taught. Later we will learn that Jesus himself has left out nothing of what he has learned from the Father (15:15), and all that belongs to the Father is his (5:20; 16:15; 17:10). Thus, Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of the Father. No further revelation is needed, nor would it be possible. What is called for is an understanding of the revelation that has come in Jesus, and this is what the Paraclete will provide.

The promise that the Father and the Son will dwell with believers is in close proximity to the promise of the Spirit. This has led many to understand the presence of the Father and Son as being mediated by the Spirit (cf. Turner 1992:349-50), though others point out that the text does not say as much (Beasley-Murray 1987:258, 260). It is clear that the Father and the Son are personally present with the believers and that the Spirit has a role clearly distinguished from, though in union with, the Father and the Son. The Paraclete's teaching role is focused on the historical Jesus, as indicated by the reference to all things and everything (v. 26) and the use of the past tense (eipon, translated I have said). This focus on the Son is further emphasized by the inclusion of the emphatic personal pronoun "I" (ego, in v. 26: everything I have said to you) though the manuscripts vary at this point. Later passages will also indicate that Jesus himself continues to instruct the disciples, which suggests the Spirit mediates Jesus' presence (see comment on 16:25).

The other distinctive is the gift of peace that Jesus gives them: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives (v. 27). Here is the fulfillment of the prophets' promise of peace (for example, Is 9:6-7; 52:7; Ezek 37:26; cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:262). The peace Jesus is talking about is not the cessation of hostilities from enemies, but rather the gift of calmness and confidence that comes from union with God and faith in him and his purposes. The world's idea of peace is something that comes through destroying of enemies and consists of physical and emotional comfort. The peace that Jesus gives is grounded in God and not in circumstances. It is the peace that Jesus himself has exhibited in this Gospel and is exhibiting in this farewell discourse, even while he knows he is about to be killed. Soon he will speak of the continued trouble his disciples will experience in the world (15:18--16:4), but they will simply be living out what he himself has already been experiencing. They will share his troubles, but they will also have his peace, for they will share in his own relationship with the Father.

This promise of the gift of his own peace serves as the foundation for the command he now gives: Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (v. 27). He repeats exactly the command that began this chapter (v. 1), adding now a reference to fear (mede deiliato). This word family is always used of fear in a negative sense, as the opposite of courage. Those with a settled disposition of such fear evidence a lack of faith in God and a denial of his presence, his goodness and his power. Those who experience such fear, which includes virtually all of us to some degree, may take comfort that as God's life grows within us and as our hearts are healed, we enter into the inheritance of Jesus' peace, which replaces our sinful fear. Jesus here calls us to receive his peace. The grounds of this peace is the "perfect love" that "drives out fear" (1 Jn 4:18). This love is ultimately a sharing of the relationship between the Father and the Son, of which Jesus now goes on to speak.

His announcement that he is departing to the Father should fill them with joy instead of disturbance and fear (v. 28). The construction in Greek of the phrase If you loved me indicates that Jesus' view is that they have not done so. So their response shows that they have not yet come to love him in the truest sense. They think they love him, but in fact they are more focused on themselves than on him (Westcott 1908:2:185). Fear in itself is focused on self and circumstances rather than on God. Focus on God is central to all Jesus does and says, as it is here: If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I (v. 28). Jesus' great love and focus is the Father; thus the prospect of returning to him fills Jesus with joy. If the disciples shared this focus and really loved Jesus, that is, willed the best for him, they also would share this joy.

Jesus' statement that the Father is greater than I is very important for understanding the relation between the Father and the Son. Arius, who lived in the fourth century, and others who have held views similar to his since then have taken this verse as proof that Jesus is not divine. The teachers of the church rejected this notion, and indeed it is not compatible with other material in this very Gospel. It has been clear from the first verse that the Son is one with God yet distinct from God (especially 1:1-18; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28). In fact, this distinctness is now further clarified by Jesus' saying the Father is greater. From the time of the early church this verse has been the focus of much thought (cf. Westcott 1908:2:191-96; Pollard 1970). There have been two main ways to understand this verse that do justice to the oneness of the Father and the Son.

First, some say that the verse's focus is on Jesus' historical mission. The Father is greater in that he is the source and goal of Jesus' mission (for example, Calvin 1959:89-90; Brown 1970:655; Schnackenburg 1982:85-86; Ridderbos 1997:512). Others hold another form of this first view, which says the Father is greater than the Son in reference to his incarnate state (for example, Cyril of Alexandria, Ambrose, Augustine; cf. Westcott 1908:2:195). Such focus on the incarnation as such or on Jesus' historical mission are quite compatible with "the belief in the unity of the divine Nature, and therefore with the belief in the equality of the Godhead of the Son with the Godhead of the Father" (Westcott 1908:2:191). Indeed, many of the fathers of the church accepted more than one view. But some also said that while the incarnate Son may be in view here, by itself this interpretation is inadequate. After all, it is no big deal to say that God is greater than a man (Basil Letter 8.5; Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 30.7).

While the words "Father" and "Son" are obviously taken from our human context, they refer, according to the second main interpretation of this verse, to realities within the Godhead itself. Fatherhood is not our projection onto God; rather it is from him that our fatherhood derives (cf. Eph 3:14-15). His fatherhood transcends our limited ideas and experience, but it is not less than that which is reflected amongst us, and indeed it provides a standard of true fatherhood. Now, to be a father one must have an offspring. Jesus is eternally Son; he is not just Son at his incarnation. Such was the faith of the ancient church, as expressed in the Nicene Creed, which refers to Jesus Christ as "the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, very God from very God." So the Father is understood as the source of Jesus not just in his incarnation and mission, but in his eternal being as Son. "What else does the word Father signify unless the being, cause and origin of that which is begotten of him?" (Basil Against Eunomius 1.25; 3.1). The Father is greater in that he is the origin (eternally) of the Son, but he and the Son are equal in that they share the same nature (Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 30.7). To say that the Father is greater than the Son does not in the least mean that the Son does not share in the deity, since "comparisons are made between things of the same species" (Basil Letter 8.5). As D. A. Carson says, if he were to say, "`Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second is greater than I,' no one would take this to mean that she is more of a human being than I" (1991:507). Thus, this passage gives a further glimpse into the relations within the Godhead without denying the oneness of the Father and the Son.

Given the focus in this Gospel on the relation between the Father and the Son it seems likely that the passage addresses this deeper issue. This does not mean that John himself was thinking in the categories the later church used to express the relation between the Father and the Son. But the fundamental mystery, the reality itself, is here revealed. The fact that the deeper relation is in view does not mean the reference to the incarnation is not also appropriate. C. K. Barrett stresses the incarnation view, but he actually captures nicely the two thoughts together in one sentence: "The Father is fons divinitatis [fountain/source of divine nature/Godhead] in which the being of the Son has its source; the Father is God sending and commanding, the Son is God sent and obedient" (1978:468).

The issues raised by this verse are matters of significant debate today. The false teaching of Arius is still quite prevalent, and thus the issue of Jesus' deity continues to be debated. But even among those who accept his oneness with God there is dispute over the nature of this relationship. Since the life of the church derives from and is to reflect the pattern of the life of God the question of hierarchy and equality within the Godhead has significant implications for our view both of God and of the life to which he calls us. Unfortunately, most of the debate seems to be between those promoting hierarchy on the one side and equality on the other. Few are wrestling with what seems to be the biblical picture of both hierarchy and equality. Fallen human society can understand hierarchy and equality separately, but to have them both at the same time is a concept found rarely if ever in fallen humanity. But then Jesus is quite clear that his kingdom is not of this world (18:36; cf. 8:23; 14:30). The patterns of kingdom life proposed by both hierarchicalists and egalitarians are altogether too much of this world. We need to take more seriously the otherworldly revelation John is passing on to us. We need now as much as ever the Paraclete to instruct us.

Jesus concludes this short section on peace by saying the very fact that he is telling them all of this ahead of time is itself a part of his message of assurance and peace (v. 29). Jesus knows what is about to occur, so therefore these events, as devastating as they will seem, should strengthen their faith in him rather than undermine it (cf. 13:19; 16:4).

After emphasizing his present teaching (vv. 25, 29), Jesus concludes by saying the time for talk is over--now come the final deeds (vv. 30-31). The reason he will not speak with them much longer is that the prince of this world is coming (v. 30). This passage has dealt mainly with the distinction between the disciples and the world, and now at its conclusion we have the fundamental contrast between Jesus and the world. Behind Jesus' human opponents is the one primary opponent who has led the rebellion that transformed the world as the created order, which was good, to the world in opposition to the loving Father. According to the NIV Jesus says this prince . . . has no hold on me. This verse may reflect a Hebrew expression (`ayin lo `ali) that was used in a legal sense of having no claim over a person (Beasley-Murray 1987:263). So Jesus would be making again the point that no one takes his life from him; rather he lays it down of his own accord (10:18). The expression has no hold on me could also be translated "has nothing in me" (en emoi ouk echei ouden). With this reading, the text would give us the reason the prince has no hold or claim on Jesus--there is nothing of his rebellion in Jesus; Jesus is not of this world (8:23).

The NIV takes Jesus' next expression as an imperative: but the world must learn that I love the Father (v. 31). The construction here (a hina clause) more often conveys purpose, and this reading would be more in keeping with the flow of thought. There is nothing in Jesus that gives the ruler of this world a hold or claim on him, but Jesus is going to go through with the Passion in order that the world may know that he loves the Father. This love for the Father is then explained in the next clause (taking the kai as epexegetic; cf. Brown 1970:656): ". . . that I love the Father, that is, that I do just what the Father commanded me to do." The command, of course, is to lay down his life, which itself is love (1 Jn 3:16).

This obedient love Jesus has for the Father is the ultimate contrast between himself and the devil. As the disciples share in this love by their own obedient love for Jesus they also will no longer be of this world (17:14). In the Passion that is about to take place, the prince of this world will be driven out, and the world will be judged (12:31). But more is involved than just condemnation. Another side of the Passion, as verse 31 reveals, is its witness to Jesus. The cross itself will demonstrate what everything else in his life has also testified, that he loves the Father and is obedient to him. Here is a manifestation for the world, and it is meant for the salvation of the world (12:32). The cross is both God's judgment and his evangelism, and both are expressions of his love. Witnessing to this revelation of the cross will be the job of the disciples, enabled by the Paraclete, as the next two chapters will explain. While Jesus will not manifest himself to the world (v. 22), the disciples' union with the Father, the Son and the Paraclete and their sharing in the divine life and peace and joy will be a witness to the world. They will bear witness both verbally and in their life to the love of God manifest in the cross.

Jesus concludes, Come now; let us leave (v. 31). These words are puzzling, because Jesus and his disciples do not seem to leave until later: "Having said these things, Jesus departed with his disciples" (18:1; obscured in the NIV, which paraphrases eipon, "having said," as "when he had finished praying"). Some commentators take the end of chapter 14 quite literally and assume the next three chapters were spoken en route, with 18:1 referring to the departure from Jerusalem (Westcott 1908:2:187). Others suggest, as commonly happens, that they stood to leave but lingered to talk further. In this case the end of verse 31 would signal a new stage in the teaching (Morris 1971:661). Others, such as C. H. Dodd, spiritualize the leaving referred to in verse 31: "There is no physical movement from the place. The movement is a movement of the spirit, an interior act of will, but it is a real departure nevertheless" (Dodd 1953:409). The majority of recent commentators believe this is a clear seam in the fabric of the Gospel, which indicates that chapters 15--17 were added to an earlier version of the Gospel. They point to the fact that 13:31--14:31 forms a coherent whole, whereas the material in chapters 15--17 shares the same style and theology and for the most part covers the same ground. Some would say, therefore, that these chapters formed an alternative version of the farewell discourse. But the fact that new angles are explored in this material (for example, through the theme of abiding and through an increased emphasis on the conflict with the world) suggests rather that this material was a supplement to the material in 13:31--14:31 and not an alternative version. This material could have been composed by later disciples, but one would expect them to have done a better job of editing. More likely it came from John, comprising further material that he was used to including as he recounted the story of Jesus but that he had left out of his draft of the Gospel. These chapters were added later either by him or by his disciples. If they were added by John's disciples, then the fact that they did not modify these last words of verse 31 to make the transition smoother may point not to their incompetence but to their reverence for their master's teaching. Thus, while there is debate about the exact nature of this inclusion (cf. Beasley-Murray 1987:223-24; Carson 1991:476-80; Paschal 1992:231-32), some such theory seems likely. Further work on ancient literary and oral forms will probably add new insight to this puzzle.

Previous commentary:
Jesus Speaks of Both His Relation to the Father and His Disciples' Relation to the Father

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