When friends are parting, it is a common request they make to each other, “Pray let us hear from you as often as you can:” this Christ engaged to his disciples, that out of sight they should not be out of mind.
I. He promises that he would continue his care of them (John 14:18): “I will not leave you orphans, or fatherless; for, though I leave you, yet I leave you this comfort, I will come to you.” His departure from them was that which grieved them; but it was not so bad as they apprehended, for it was neither total nor final. 1. Not total. “Though I leave you without my bodily presence, yet I do not leave you without comfort.” Though children, and left little, yet they had received the adoption of sons, and his Father would be their Father, with whom those who otherwise would be fatherless find mercy. Note, The case of true believers, though sometimes it may be sorrowful, is never comfortless, because they are never orphans: for God is their Father, who is an everlasting Father. 2. Not final: I will come to you, erchomai—I do come; that is, (1.) “I will come speedily to you at my resurrection, I will not be long away, but will be with you again in a little time.” He had often said, The third day I will rise again. (2.) “I will be coming daily to you in my Spirit;” in the tokens of his love, and visits of his grace, he is still coming. (3.) “I will come certainly at the end of time; surely I will come quickly to introduce you into the joy of your Lord.” Note, The consideration of Christ’s coming to us saves us from being comfortless in his removals from us; for, if he depart for a season, it is that we may receive him for ever. Let this moderate our grief, The Lord is at hand.
II. He promises that they should continue their acquaintance with him and interest in him (John 14:19, 20): Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more, that is, Now I am no more in the world. After his death, the world saw him no more, for, though he rose to life, he never showed himself to all the people, Acts 10:41. The malignant world thought they had seen enough of him, and cried, Away with him; crucify him; and so shall their doom be; they shall see him no more. Those only that see Christ with an eye of faith shall see him for ever. The world sees him no more till his second coming; but his disciples have communion with him in his absence.
1. You see me, and shall continue to see me, when the world sees me no more. They saw him with their bodily eyes after his resurrection, for he showed himself to them by many infallible proofs, Acts 1:8. And then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. They saw him with an eye of faith after his ascension, sitting at God’s right hand, as Lord of all; saw that in him which the world saw not.
2. Because I live, you shall live also. That which grieved them was, that their Master was dying, and they counted upon nothing else but to die with him. No, saith Christ, (1.) I live; this the great God glories in, I live, saith the Lord, and Christ saith the same; not only, I shall live, as he saith of them, but, I do live; for he has life in himself, and lives for evermore. We are not comfortless, while we know that our Redeemer lives. (2.) Therefore you shall live also. Note, The life of Christians is bound up in the life of Christ; as sure and as long as he lives, those that by faith are united to him shall live also; they shall live spiritually, a divine life in communion with God. This life is hid with Christ; if the head and root live, the members and branches live also. They shall live eternally; their bodies shall rise in the virtue of Christ’s resurrection; it will be well with them in the world to come. It cannot but be well with all that are his, Isa. 26:19.
3. You shall have the assurance of this (John 14:20): At that day, when I am glorified, when the Spirit is poured out, you shall know more clearly and certainly than you do now that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (1.) These glorious mysteries will be fully known in heaven; At that day, when I shall receive you to myself, you shall know perfectly that which now you see through a glass darkly. Now it appears not what we shall be, but then it will appear what we were. (2.) They were more fully known after the pouring out of the Spirit upon the apostles; at that day divine light should shine, and their eyes should see more clearly, their knowledge should greatly advance and increase then, would become more extensive and more distinct, and like the blind man’s at the second touch of Christ’s hand, who at first only saw men as trees walking. (3.) They are known by all that receive the Spirit of truth, to their abundant satisfaction, for in the knowledge of this is founded their fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. They know, [1.] That Christ is in the Father, is one with the Father, by their experience of what he has wrought for them and in them; they find what an admirable consent and harmony there is between Christianity and natural religion, that that is grafted into this, and so they know that Christ is in the Father. [2.] That Christ is in them; experienced Christians know by the Spirit that Christ abides in them, 1 John 3:24. [3.] That they are in Christ, for the relation is mutual, and equally near on both sides, Christ in them and they in Christ, which speaks an intimate and inseparable union; in the virtue of which it is that because he lives they shall live also. Note, First, Union with Christ is the life of believers; and their relation to him, and to God through him, is their felicity. Secondly, The knowledge of this union is their unspeakable joy and satisfaction; they were now in Christ, and he in them, but he speaks of it as a further act of grace that they should know it, and have the comfort of it. An interest in Christ and the knowledge of it are sometimes separated.
III. He promises that he would love them, and manifest himself to them, John 14:21-24. Here observe,
1. Who they are whom Christ will look upon, and accept, as lovers of him; those that have his commandments, and keep them. By this Christ shows that the kind things he here said to his disciples were intended not for those only that were now his followers, but for all that should believe in him through their word. Here is, (1.) The duty of those who claim the dignity of being disciples. Having Christ’s commandments, we must keep them; as Christians in name and profession we have Christ’s commandments, we have them sounding in our ears, written before our eyes, we have the knowledge of them; but this is not enough; would we approve ourselves Christians indeed, we must keep them. Having them in our heads, we must keep them in our hearts and lives. (2.) The dignity of those that do the duty of disciples. They are looked upon by Christ to be such as love him. Not those that have the greatest wit and know how to talk for him, but those that keep his commandments. Note, The surest evidence of our love to Christ is obedience to the laws of Christ. Such is the love of a subject to his sovereign, a dutiful, respectful, obediential love, a conformity to his will, and satisfaction in his wisdom.
2. What returns he will make to them for their love; rich returns; there is no love lost upon Christ. (1.) They shall have the Father’s love: He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father. We could not love God if he did not first, out of his good-will to us, give us his grace to love him; but there is a love of complacency promised to those that do love God, Prov. 8:17. He loves them, and lets them know that he loves them, smiles upon them, and embraces them. God so loves the Son as to love all those that love him. (2.) They shall have Christ’s love: And I will love him, as God-man, as Mediator. God will love him as a Father, and I will love him as a brother, an elder brother. The Creator will love him, and be the felicity of his being; the Redeemer will love him, and be the protector of his well-being. In the nature of God, nothing shines more brightly than this, that God is love. And in the undertaking of Christ nothing appears more glorious than this, that he loved us. Now both these loves are the crown and comfort, the grace and glory, which shall be to all those that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Christ was now leaving his disciples, but promises to continue his love to them; for he not only retains a kindness for believers, though absent, but is doing them kindness while absent, for he bears them on his heart, and ever lives interceding for them. (3.) They shall have the comfort of that love: I will manifest myself to him. Some understand it of Christ’s showing himself alive to his disciples after his resurrection; but, being promised to all that love him and keep his commandments, it must be construed so as to extend to them. There is a spiritual manifestation of Christ and his love made to all believers. When he enlightens their minds to know his love, and the dimensions of it (Eph. 3:18, 19), enlivens their graces, and draws them into exercise, and thus enlarges their comforts in himself—when he clears up the evidences of their interest in him, and gives them tokens of his love, experience of his tenderness, and earnests of his kingdom and glory,—then he manifests himself to them; and Christ is manifested to none but those to whom he is pleased to manifest himself.
3. What occurred upon Christ’s making this promise.
(1.) One of the disciples expresses his wonder and surprise at it, John 14:22. Observe, [1.] Who it was that said this—Judas, not Iscariot. Judah, or Judas, was a famous name; the most famous tribe in Israel was that of Judah; two of Christ’s disciples were of that name: one of them was the traitor, the other was the brother of James (Luke 6:16), one of those that were akin to Christ, Matt. 13:55. He is called Lebbeus and Thaddeus, was the penman of the last of the epistles, which in our translation, for distinction’s sake, we call the epistle of Jude. This was he that spoke here. Observe, First, There was a very good man, and a very bad man, called by the same name; for names commend us not to God, nor do they make men worse. Judas the apostle was never the worse, nor Judas the apostate ever the better, for being namesakes. But, Secondly, The evangelist carefully distinguishes between them; when he speaks of this pious Judas, he adds, not Iscariot. Take heed of mistaking; let us not confound the precious and the vile. [2.] What he said—Lord how is it? which intimates either, First, the weakness of his understanding. So some take it. He expected the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, that it should appear in external pomp and power, such as all the world would wonder after. “How, then,” thinks he, “should it be confined to us only?” ti gegonen—“what is the matter now, that thou wilt not show thyself openly as is expected, that the Gentiles may come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising?” Note, We create difficulties to ourselves by mistaking the nature of Christ’s kingdom, as if it were of this world. Or, Secondly, as expressing the strength of his affections, and the humble and thankful sense he had of Christ’s distinguishing favours to them: Lord, how is it? He is amazed at the condescensions of divine grace, as David, 2 Sam. 7:18. What is there in us to deserve so great a favour? Note, 1. Christ’s manifesting himself to his disciples is done in a distinguishing way-to them, and not to the world that sits in darkness; to the base, and not to the mighty and noble; to babes, and not to the wise and prudent. Distinguishing favours are very obliging; considering who are passed by, and who are pitched upon. 2. It is justly marvellous in our eyes; for it is unaccountable, and must be resolved into free and sovereign grace. Even so, Father, because it seemed good unto thee.
(2.) Christ, in answer hereto, explains and confirms what he had said, John 14:23, 24. He overlooks what infirmity there was in what Judas spoke, and goes on with his comforts.
[1.] He further explains the condition of the promise, which was loving him, and keeping his commandments. And, as to this, he shows what an inseparable connection there is between love and obedience; love is the root, obedience is the fruit. First, Where a sincere love to Christ is in the heart, there will be obedience: “If a man love me indeed, that love will be such a commanding constraining principle in him, that, no question, he will keep my words.” Where there is true love to Christ there is a value for his favour, a veneration for his authority, and an entire surrender of the whole man to his direction and government. Where love is, duty follows of course, is easy and natural, and flows from a principle of gratitude. Secondly, On the other hand, where there is no true love to Christ there will be no care to obey him: He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings, John 14:24. This comes in here as a discovery of those that do not love Christ; whatever they pretend, certainly those do not love him that believe not his truths, and obey not his laws, to whom Christ’s sayings are but as idle tales, which he heeds not, or hard sayings, which he likes not. It is also a reason why Christ will not manifest himself to the world that doth not love him, because they put this affront upon him, not to keep his sayings; why should Christ be familiar with those that will be strange to him?
[2.] He further explains the promise (John 14:23): If a man thus love me, I will manifest myself to him. First, My Father will love him; this he had said before (John 14:21), and here repeats it for the confirming of our faith; because it is hard to imagine that the great god should make those the objects of his love that had made themselves vessels of his wrath. Jude wondered that Christ should manifest himself to them; but this answers it, “If my Father love you, why should not I be free with you?” Secondly, We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. This explains the meaning of Christ’s manifesting himself to him, and magnifies the favour. 1. Not only,I will, but, We will, I and the Father, who, in this, are one. See John 14:9. The light and love of God are communicated to man in the light and love of the Redeemer, so that wherever Christ is formed the image of God is stamped. 2. Not only, “I will show myself to him at a distance,” but, “We will come to him, to be near him, to be with him,” such are the powerful influences of divine graces and comforts upon the souls of those that love Christ in sincerity. 3. Not only, “I will give him a transient view of me, or make him a short and running visit,” but, We will take up our abode with him which denotes complacency in him and constancy to him. God will not only love obedient believers, but he will take a pleasure in loving them, will rest in love to them, Zeph. 3:17. He will be with them as at his home.
[3.] He gives a good reason both to bind us to observe the condition and encourage us to depend upon the promise. The word which you hear is not mine, but his that sent me, John 14:24. To this purport he had often spoken (John 7:16; 8:28; 12:44), and here it comes in very pertinently. First, the stress of duty is laid upon the precept of Christ as our rule, and justly, for that word of Christ which we are to keep is the Father’s word, and his will the Father’s will. Secondly, The stress of our comfort is laid upon the promise of Christ. But forasmuch as, in dependence upon that promise, we must deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and quit all, it concerns us to enquire whether the security be sufficient for us to venture our all upon; and this satisfies us that it is, that the promise is not Christ’s bare word, but the Father’s which sent him, which therefore we may rely upon.