John 14:1-31 . DISCOURSE AT THE TABLE, AFTER SUPPER.
We now come to that portion of the evangelical history which we may with propriety call its Holy of Holies. Our Evangelist, like a consecrated priest, alone opens up to us the view into this sanctuary. It is the record of the last moments spent by the Lord in the midst of His disciples before His passion, when words full of heavenly thought flowed from His sacred lips. All that His heart, glowing with love, had still to say to His friends, was compressed into this short season. At first (from John 13:31 ) the intercourse took the form of conversation; sitting at table, they talked familiarly together. But when ( John 14:31 ) the repast was finished, the language of Christ assumed a loftier strain; the disciples, assembled around their Master, listened to the words of life, and seldom spoke a word (only John 16:17 John 16:29 ). "At length, in the Redeemer's sublime intercessory prayer, His full soul was poured forth in express petitions to His heavenly Father on behalf of those who were His own. It is a peculiarity of these last chapters, that they treat almost exclusively of the most profound relations--as that of the Son to the Father, and of both to the Spirit, that of Christ to the Church, of the Church to the world, and so forth. Moreover, a considerable portion of these sublime communications surpassed the point of view to which the disciples had at that time attained; hence the Redeemer frequently repeats the same sentiments in order to impress them more deeply upon their minds, and, because of what they still did not understand, points them to the Holy Spirit, who would remind them of all His sayings, and lead them into all truth ( John 14:26 )" [OLSHAUSEN].
1. Let not your heart be troubled, &c.--What myriads of souls have not these opening words cheered, in deepest gloom, since first they were uttered!
ye believe in God--absolutely.
believe also in me--that is, Have the same trust in Me. What less, and what else, can these words mean? And if so, what a demand to make by one sitting familiarly with them at the supper table! Compare the saying in John 5:17 , for which the Jews took up stones to stone Him, as "making himself equal with God" ( John 14:18 ). But it is no transfer of our trust from its proper Object; it is but the concentration of our trust in the Unseen and Impalpable One upon His Own Incarnate Son, by which that trust, instead of the distant, unsteady, and too often cold and scarce real thing it otherwise is, acquires a conscious reality, warmth, and power, which makes all things new. This is Christianity in brief.
2. In my Father's house are many mansions--and so room for all, and a place for each.
if not, I would have told you--that is, I would tell you so at once; I would not deceive you.
I go to prepare a place for you--to obtain for you a right to be there, and to possess your "place."
3. I will come again and receive you unto myself--strictly, at His Personal appearing; but in a secondary and comforting sense, to each individually. Mark again the claim made:--to come again to receive His people to Himself, that where He is there they may be also. He thinks it ought to be enough to be assured that they shall be where He is and in His keeping.
4-7. whither I go ye know . . . Thomas saith, Lord, we know not whither thou guest . . . Jesus saith, I am the way, &c.--By saying this, He meant rather to draw out their inquiries and reply to them. Christ is "THE WAY" to the Father--"no man cometh unto the Father but by Me"; He is "THE TRUTH" of all we find in the Father when we get to Him, "For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" ( Colossians 2:9 ), and He is all "THE LIFE" that shall ever flow to us and bless us from the Godhead thus approached and thus manifested in Him--"this is the true God and eternal life" ( 1 John 5:20 ).
7. from henceforth--now, or from this time, understand.
8-12. The substance of this passage is that the Son is the ordained and perfect manifestation of the Father, that His own word for this ought to His disciples to be enough; that if any doubts remained His works ought to remove them works of His were designed merely to aid weak faith, and would be repeated, nay exceeded, by His disciples, in virtue of the power He would confer on them after His departure. His miracles the apostles wrought, though wholly in His name and by His power, and the "greater" works--not in degree but in kind--were the conversion of thousands in a day, by His Spirit accompanying them.
13, 14. whatsoever ye . . . ask in my name--as Mediator.
that will I do--as Head and Lord of the kingdom of God. This comprehensive promise is emphatically repeated in John 14:14 .
15-17. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, &c.--This connection seems designed to teach that the proper temple for the indwelling Spirit of Jesus is a heart filled with that love to Him which lives actively for Him, and so this was the fitting preparation for the promised gift.
he shall give you another Comforter--a word used only by John; in his Gospel with reference to the Holy Spirit, in his First Epistle ( 1 John 2:1 ), with reference to Christ Himself. Its proper sense is an "advocate," "patron," "helper." In this sense it is plainly meant of Christ ( 1 John 2:1 ), and in this sense it comprehends all the comfort as well as aid of the Spirit's work. The Spirit is here promised as One who would supply Christ's own place in His absence.
that he may abide with you for ever--never go away, as Jesus was going to do in the body.
17. whom the world cannot receive, &c.--(See 1 Corinthians 2:14 ).
he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you--Though the proper fulness of both these was yet future, our Lord, by using both the present and the future, seems plainly to say that they already had the germ of this great blessing.
18-20. I will not leave you comfortless--in a bereaved and desolate condition; or (as in Margin) "orphans."
I will come to you--"I come" or "am coming" to you; that is, plainly by the Spirit, since it was to make His departure to be no bereavement.
19. world seeth--beholdeth.
me no more, but ye see--behold.
me--His bodily presence, being all the sight of Him which "the world" ever had, or was capable of, it "beheld Him no more" after His departure to the Father; but by the coming of the Spirit, the presence of Christ was not only continued to His spiritually enlightened disciples, but rendered far more efficacious and blissful than His bodily presence had been before the Spirit's coming.
because I live--not "shall live," only when raised from the dead; for it is His unextinguishable, divine life of which He speaks, in view of which His death and resurrection were but as shadows passing over the sun's glorious disk. (Compare Luke 24:5 , Revelation 1:18 , "the Living One"). And this grand saying Jesus uttered with death immediately in view. What a brightness does this throw over the next clause, "ye shall live also!" "Knowest thou not," said LUTHER to the King of Terrors, "that thou didst devour the Lord Christ, but wert obliged to give Him back, and wert devoured of Him? So thou must leave me undevoured because I abide in Him, and live and suffer for His name's sake. Men may hunt me out of the world--that I care not for--but I shall not on that account abide in death. I shall live with my Lord Christ, since I know and believe that He liveth!" (quoted in STIER).
21. He that hath my commandments and keepeth them,
my Father and I will love him--Mark the sharp line of distinction here, not only between the Divine Persons but the actings of love in Each respectively, towards true disciples.
22. Judas saith . . . not Iscariot--Beautiful parenthesis this! The traitor being no longer present, we needed not to be told that this question came not from him. But it is as if the Evangelist had said, "A very different Judas from the traitor, and a very different question from any that he would have put. Indeed [as one in STIER says], we never read of Iscariot that he entered in any way into his Master's words, or ever put a question even of rash curiosity (though it may be he did, but that nothing from him was deemed fit for immortality in the Gospels but his name and treason)."
how . . . manifest thyself to us, and not to the world--a most natural and proper question, founded on John 14:19 , though interpreters speak against it as Jewish.
23. we will come and make our abode with him--Astonishing statement! In the Father's "coming" He "refers to the revelation of Him as a Father to the soul, which does not take place till the Spirit comes into the heart, teaching it to cry, Abba, Father" [OLSHAUSEN]. The "abode" means a permanent, eternal stay! (Compare Leviticus 26:11 Leviticus 26:12 , Ezekiel 37:26 Ezekiel 37:27 , 2 Corinthians 6:16 ; and contrast Jeremiah 14:8 ).
25, 26. he shall teach you all things, and bring all to . . . remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto so the Father shall send the Spirit in My name, says Jesus, that is, with like divine power and authority to reproduce in their souls what Christ taught them, "bringing to living consciousness what lay like slumbering germs in their minds" [OLSHAUSEN]. On this rests the credibility and ultimate divine authority of THE GOSPEL HISTORY. The whole of what is here said of THE SPIRIT is decisive of His divine personality. "He who can regard all the personal expressions, applied to the Spirit in these three chapters ('teaching,' 'reminding,' 'testifying,' 'coming,' 'convincing,' 'guiding,' 'speaking,' 'hearing,' 'prophesying,' 'taking') as being no other than a long drawn-out figure, deserves not to be recognized even as an interpreter of intelligible words, much less an expositor of Holy Scripture" [STIER].
27. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you--If John 14:25 John 14:26 sounded like a note of preparation for drawing the discourse to a close, this would sound like a farewell. But oh, how different from ordinary adieus! It is a parting word, but of richest import, the customary "peace" of a parting friend sublimed and transfigured. As "the Prince of Peace" ( Isaiah 9:6 ) He brought it into flesh, carried it about in His Own Person ("My peace") died to make it ours, left it as the heritage of His disciples upon earth, implants and maintains it by His Spirit in their hearts. Many a legacy is "left" that is never "given" to the legatee, many a gift destined that never reaches its proper object. But Christ is the Executor of His own Testament; the peace He "leaves" He "gives"; Thus all is secure.
not as the world giveth--in contrast with the world, He gives sincerely, substantially, eternally.
28. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I--These words, which Arians and Socinians perpetually quote as triumphant evidence against the proper Divinity of Christ, really yield no intelligible sense on their principles. Were a holy man on his deathbed, beholding his friends in tears at the prospect of losing him, to say, "Ye ought rather to joy than weep for me, and would if ye really loved me, "the speech would be quite natural. But if they should ask him, why joy at his departure was more suitable than sorrow, would they not start back with astonishment, if not horror, were he to reply, "Because my Father is greater than I?" Does not this strange speech from Christ's lips, then, presuppose such teaching on His part as would make it extremely difficult for them to think He could gain anything by departing to the Father, and make it necessary for Him to say expressly that there was a sense in which He could do so? Thus, this startling explanation seems plainly intended to correct such misapprehensions as might arise from the emphatic and reiterated teaching of His proper equality with the Father--as if so Exalted a Person were incapable of any accession by transition from this dismal scene to a cloudless heaven and the very bosom of the Father--and by assuring them that this was not the case, to make them forget their own sorrow in His approaching joy.
30, 31. Hereafter I will not talk much with you--"I have a little more to say, but My work hastens apace, and the approach of the adversary will cut it short."
for the prince of this
cometh--with hostile intent, for a last grand attack, having failed in His first formidable assault ( Luke 4:1-13 ) from which he "departed [only] for a season" ( John 14:13 ).
and hath nothing in me--nothing of His own--nothing to fasten on. Glorious saying! The truth of it is, that which makes the Person and Work of Christ the life of the world ( Hebrews 9:14 , 1 John 3:5 , 2 Corinthians 5:21 ).
31. But that the world may know that I love the Father, &c.--The sense must be completed thus: "But to the Prince of the world, though he has nothing in Me, I shall yield Myself up even unto death, that the world may know that I love and obey the Father, whose commandment it is that I give My life a ransom for many."
Arise, let us go hence--Did they then, at this stage of the discourse, leave the supper room, as some able interpreters conclude? If so, we think our Evangelist would have mentioned it: see John 18:1 , which seems clearly to intimate that they then only left the upper room. But what do the words mean if not this? We think it was the dictate of that saying of earlier date, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!"--a spontaneous and irrepressible expression of the deep eagerness of His spirit to get into the conflict, and that if, as is likely, it was responded to somewhat too literally by the guests who hung on His lips, in the way of a movement to depart, a wave of His hand, would be enough to show that He had yet more to say ere they broke up; and that disciple, whose pen was dipped in a love to his Master which made their movements of small consequence save when essential to the illustration of His words, would record this little outburst of the Lamb hastening to the slaughter, in the very midst of His lofty discourse; while the effect of it, if any, upon His hearers, as of no consequence, would naturally enough be passed over.