Commentary on John 14 by Milligan and Moulton
The following is a commentary on John chapter 14, from: The gospel according to John by William Milligan and William Fiddian Moulton. [Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883.] pp. 306-320.
Chap. 14, ver. 1. Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. No separation ought to be made between this chapter and the last section of chap. 13, for the place the circumstances, and the object of the discourse here entered on are the same as there. The dominating thought of all is that of chap. 13:31,–that the time is come when a full revelation is to be made of the ‘glory’ of the Son of man in the Father, and of the Father in Him when it shall be seen that the ‘going away’ of Jesus to the Father not only contains in it what swallows up all the humiliation of His earthly lot, but is the great proof and illustration of that union of Himself with the Father in love, the manifestation of which ‘glorifies’ both the Father and the Son. To such a manifestation, then, it is evident that the ‘going away’ of Jesus was necessary: He must in His earthly form be separated from His disciples, that His glory may be revealed not only to those who had the spiritual eye, but to the world (chaps. 16:10; 17:21). While however separation must thus take place, it is, on the other hand, the object of our Lord to show that it was really no separation,–that He does not ‘go away’ in the carnal sense understood by Peter in 13: 36, but will ever be with His disciples in an abiding union and communion of spirit, (comp. the interesting parallel in 20:17). The ‘trouble’ spoken of in the words now before us is not that of mere sorrow; it is rather that which Jesus had Himself experienced (see 12:27) when the prospect of His sufferings rose immediately before Him. It is ‘trouble’ from the opposition of the world while they carry on their work of love; but ‘trouble’ which at the same time passes into the heart, and leads to the conflict of all those feelings of anxiety, perplexity, fear and sorrow, which make the heart like a ‘troubled sea’ that the Divine voice ‘Peace, be still!’ alone can calm. The foundation of all peace comes first, and the word ‘believe’ must be taken in the same way in both clauses of the statement. To understand it differently in the two would give, either to faith in God or to faith in Jesus, an independent existence inconsistent with the general teaching of this Gospel. We must, therefore, either translate, ‘Ye believe in God, ye believe also in me,’ or, ‘Believe in God, believe also in me;’ the hortatory form of ‘Let not your heart be troubled’ and of the whole discourse makes the latter probable. Yet, as the disciples already believed, the exhortation must have reference not to the formation, but to the deepening and constant exercise of that faith, the object of which is really one–God in Jesus. Thus also we may understand why faith in God is mentioned first, and not second, as in 12:44. It is the highest act of faith that is referred to,–faith, no doubt, in God through Jesus, but faith in Him as the ultimate Guide of all that happens. It is the evolution of the Divine plan that they have to do with; therefore let them believe in ‘God.’ The order of the words in the two clauses is different, ‘God’ following, but ‘me’ preceding, its verb. The effect is to bring ‘ in God’ and ‘in me’ into the closest possible connection.
Ver. 2. In my Father’s house are many places of abode: if it were not so, I would have told you; because I go to prepare a place for you. All the substantives here used–‘house,’ ‘places of abode,’ ‘place ‘–are full of meaning. The first is not the material building, but the building as occupied by its inmates; the second, used in the New Testament only in this verse and in ver. 23, is connected with the characteristic ‘abide’ of our Gospel; and the third embodies the idea of something fixed and definite–something that we may call our own (comp. 11:48). But the full force and beauty of the words are only understood when we look at them in a light different from that in which they are generally regarded. For ‘my Father’s house’ does not mean heaven as distinguished from earth, nor are the ‘abiding places’ confined to the world to come. Earth as well as heaven is to the eye of faith a part of that ‘house:’ ‘abiding places’ are here as well as there. The universe, in short, is presented to us by our Lord as one ‘house’ over which the Father rules, having ‘many’ apartments, some on this side, others on the other side, the grave. In one of these the believer dwells now, and the Father and the Son come unto him, and make their abode with him (ver. 23): in another of them he will dwell hereafter. When, therefore, Jesus ‘goes away,’ it is not to a strange land, it is only to another chamber of the one house of the Father: and thus ‘many’ is not to be understood in the sense of variety,–of different degrees of happiness and glory provided for different persons. The main thought is that wherever Jesus is, wherever we are, we are all in the Father’s house: surely such separation is no real separation. Had not this been the true nature of the case,–had it not been essentially involved in the mission of Jesus that His disciples, once united to Him, could never be separated from Him, He would ‘have told’ them. His teaching would have been entirely different from what it had been; but, because wherever He was there He would prepare a place for them also, He had not thought it necessary till now to speak either of being separated or of being united again. It will thus be seen that the words beginning with ‘because’ are to be connected with those going immediately before, and not with the earlier part of the verse.
Ver. 3. All that has preceded these words has rested upon the idea that, although Jesus is now ‘going away’ to the Father, He is not really forsaking His disciples. Even when in one sense separated from them, in another He will still be with them; and this latter presence will in due time, when they like Him have accomplished their work, be followed by their receiving again that joy of His immediate presence which they are now to lose. This double thought seems to explain the remarkable use of two different tenses of the verb in the second clause of the verse,–‘I come,’ ‘I will receive.’ ‘He is’ wherever His people are: they ‘shall be,’ when their toils are over, wherever He is (comp. 12:28). The Second Coming of the Lord is not, therefore, resolved by these words into a merely spiritual presence in which He shall be always with His people. The true light in which to look at that great fact is as the manifestation of a presence never far away from us (comp. ver. 18). Our Lord is always with us, though (as we have yet to see) it is in the power of the Spirit that He is now. He will again Himself, in His own person, be with us, and we with Him, when our work is ‘finished.’ Observe also the change of order in the original in the case of the words ‘I am’ and ‘ye may be,’ the effect being to bring the ‘I’ and the ‘ye’ into the closest juxtaposition (comp. on ver. 1).
Ver. 4. And whither I go away ye know the way. These words convey to the disciples the assurance that they already had the pledge and earnest of all that Jesus had spoken of; for their interpretation depends on the same principle as that formerly applied at chap. 4:32. To ‘know’ is not merely to know of; it is to have inward experience of. As, therefore, ‘whither I go’ is the Father’s presence; as Jesus is the way to the Father; and as they have experimental knowledge of Him, they ‘know the way.’
Ver. 5. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest away; how do we know the way? In ver. 4, Jesus had spoken of ‘going away,’–not of ‘going,’ as in ver. 3. The idea of separation is thus again brought prominently forward, and Thomas is overborne by the thought of it (comp 11: 16). His discouragement, which blinds his eyes, is uttered in the words before us.
Ver. 6. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The three terms here used must not be taken as expressing three independent thoughts; still less can we fuse them into one, as if the meaning were, ‘I am the true way of life.’ It is evident, both from what precedes and from what follows, that the emphasis is on ‘way,’ and that the two other terms are in some sense additional and explicative. But in what sense? Let us notice that the thought of the Father is the leading thought of the previous verses of the chapter, and that in ver. 7 the knowledge of the Father is the great end to be attained; let us further observe that ‘truth’ and ‘life’ are precisely the two constituent elements of that knowledge, the one that upon which it rests, the other that in which it issues; and we shall see that Jesus adds these two designations of Himself to the first, because they express the contents, the substance, of that in which the ‘way’ consists. The Father is ‘the truth,’ ‘the life:’ Jesus is the revelation of these to men: because He is so He is ‘the way;’ and because He only is so, He is the only way to the Father. We must beware, however, of the supposition that the ‘life’ thus spoken of is only life to us in a future world. It is life now in that ever-ascending cycle of experience in which the believer passes from one stage to another of ‘truth,’ and thus from one stage to another of corresponding ‘life.’ In the present ‘way’ we have present ‘ truth’ and present ‘life;’ and each fresh appropriation of the truth deepens that communion by which the life is conditioned. It may be well to notice, too, that the prominence here given to the mention of the ‘way’ arises from that thought of separation with which the minds of the disciples were filled. Jesus had said to them, ‘I must go away,’ and it seemed to them as if in the language a journey were involved, which would separate them from their Lord. Therefore with loving condescension the figure is taken up, and they are assured that He is Himself, if we may so speak, this very distance to be traversed. Is it a ‘way’ that they have to travel? Then He is ‘the way,’ and all along its course they shall be still with Him.
Ver. 7. If ye had learned to know me, ye would know my Father also. The change in this verse from ‘the Father’ of ver. 6 to ‘my Father,’ as well as the use in the original of two different verbs for ‘know,’ is peculiarly instructive. The meaning seems to be, that when we have gained a knowledge of the Son, we find ourselves possessed of a knowledge of His Father; then in that knowledge, the veil which hides from us in our natural condition the true knowledge of God is withdrawn, and we possess the highest knowledge of all, the knowledge of God in the deepest verity of His being, the knowledge of ‘the Father.’ It is true that we immediately read, From henceforth ye learn to know Him, and have seen Him. But we must bear in mind that possession of a perfect knowledge of God is never reached by us. Each stage of ‘knowing’ is but the beginning of a new stage of ‘learning to know’ more; ‘forgetting the things that are behind,’ we start ever afresh towards a knowledge of ‘the Father,’ always increasing but never consummated. The same remark applies to ‘have seen,’ by which we are to understand ‘have begun to see.’ This knowledge, this sight, the disciples have ‘from henceforth.’ The point of time is not Pentecost anticipated. It dates from the great ‘Now’ of chap. 13:31, and the explanation is to be found in the peculiar circumstances in which the disciples have been placed since then. They have been separated from all worldly thoughts of Jesus; His true ‘glory’ and the true glory of the Father in Him have been revealed in all their brightness; and in an intimacy of communion with their Lord never enjoyed before they ‘learn to know’ with an inward spiritual discernment, they ‘have seen’ with a sharpness of spiritual intuition, not previously possessed by them.
Ver. 8. The same bluntness of spiritual sight (that is, really the same weakness of faith) that had been exhibited by Thomas is now exhibited by Philip, though in relation to another point. Jesus had said (ver. 7) that the disciples had seen the Father, meaning that they had seen the Father in Him. Philip fails to understand; and, thinking perhaps of the revelation given to Moses in Ex. 33:18, 19, he asks that he and his fellow-disciples may have granted them some actual vision of the Father (comp. his spirit in 6:7). The reply of Jesus, vers. 9-21, falls into three leading parts, of which the first is found in vers. 9-11.
Ver. 9. ‘Have I been with you,’ literally, ‘Am I with you,’ the very words of ver. 3. ‘The words are those of astonishment and sorrow that the effect of all this spiritual intercourse has failed; and the declaration of Jesus in the latter half of the verse rests upon the fact that He is the complete expression of the Father (comp. chap. 1:18). He does not say ‘my Father’ but ‘the Father,’ because He speaks not of the personal relation between the Father and Himself, but of the light in which God is revealed as Father to all who learn to know Him in the Son.
Ver. 10. If what is stated in the first clause of this verse be the fact, the bluntness of Philip’s spiritual vision will be proved. It is of this truth, therefore, that Jesus speaks. The statement is that of one great truth with two sides, each of which has its appropriate proof– the first, in the ‘words’ of Jesus; the second, in the Father’s ‘works.’ For, as to the first, that Jesus is ‘in the Father,’ He is the Word, and words characterize Him. If His words are not ‘from Himself,’ He is not from Himself; if they are the Father’s, He is ‘in the Father.’ As to the second, the Father does not work directly, He works only through the Son; therefore as the Father He can be known only in the Son. Thus the Son is in the Father; He is in no other way: the Father is in the Son; He is the Father in no other way. Hence the proof of the statement to Philip, ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,’ is complete. The distinction between ‘ words’ and ‘works’ in this verse thus springs from a point of view wholly different from that which refers the one to the teaching, the other to the miracles, of Jesus; it is connected with the essential qualities of that Son who is the Word, of that God who is the Father. The transition from the ‘words’ to the ‘works,’ otherwise so inexplicable, is also thus at once explained. This is the only passage of the Gospel in which the verb ‘say’ is connected with the ‘words’ or with the ‘word’ of Jesus. ‘The words that I say unto you’ are equivalent to ‘My words.’
Ver. 11. Jesus has established the proposition by which He would show Philip the impropriety of his request. He now calls upon him, and upon the other disciples through him, to receive it. First, they ought to do this upon the authority of His own statement, the statement of One who is in the Father; but, if that be not enough, then upon the authority of the Father’s works in Him. By these last we are certainly not to understand miracles alone. Miracles are, no doubt, included, although not simply as works of supernatural power. All the works of the Father in the Son are meant, all bearing on them those tokens of the Father which appeal to the heart, and ought to satisfy men that, in doing them, Jesus reveals not Himself but the Father. The second part of the reply follows in vers. 12-14.
Ver. 12. It seemed to the disciples that, by the departure of Jesus, all the glorious manifestations of the Divine which they had beheld in Him would be brought to an end. So far is this from being the case that these shall not only continue but become even more glorious than before. By ‘works’ we are to understand something wider than miracles, for the promise is to all believers, and it cannot be said that they in any age have wrought greater miracles than their Lord. What Jesus speaks of is the general power of the spiritual life, not only as it exists in the breast of the believer, but as it shows itself in all life and action corresponding to its nature. What He had been and had done was to be exhibited in the disciples themselves. They were to he put into His position, to take His place, to be sustained in all inward strength and outward manifestation as He had been. Nay more, He was going to the Father,–not the verb of 13:33, 36; 14:4, 5, but another, suggesting less the thought of what He was leaving than the thought of what He was going to; and He was going to ‘the Father,’ not His own Father only, but One who stood in the same relation to all the members of His body. Therefore what He had been and had done would be still more gloriously unfolded in them than it had been as yet in Him. When He went to the Father, His life would be set free from the struggles and sufferings by which its power and glory had been obscured on earth. But His disciples were one with Him, and what He was they should be. They are the organs not of a humbled only but of an ascended Lord; and through what He is at the right hand of the Father they shall do ‘greater works’ than He did in the world. The same great truth is expressed in 1 John 4:17. ‘Because as He is’ (not was), ‘so are we in this world.’ How little do Christians realize their position and their privileges!
Vers. 13, 14. The twice repeated ‘this I will do,’ of these verses, is the taking up again of the ‘do’ of ver. 12; so that what Jesus says is, that He in His glorified condition, being the believer’s strength for what he does, will be the real doer both of the ‘works’ and the ‘greater works’ done by Him. The condition on our part of the accomplishment of this promise is prayer. (1) Prayer in the name of Jesus, the words ‘in my name’ occurring in both these verses. This expression is connected not only with our asking, but, in ver. 26, with the Father’s sending; and that the order as well as the contents of the thought is to be observed, is made clear by the fact that in the latter part of the discourse the same order is observed (comp. 15:16 and 16:28). The ‘name’ spoken of is in the first place the name of ‘Son;’ as we shall find that in chap. 17 the ‘name’ of God spoken of is in the first place that of ‘the Father.’ But the thought is not to be confined to this. When we bring all the passages together in which the words occur in 14–17, and particularly the verse before us and 17:11, 12 (‘Thy name which thou hast given me’), it becomes clear that we must extend the meaning of ‘name’ so as to include the revelation of what the Father is in the Son. To ask ‘in the name of the Son of man,’ therefore, is to ask in a confidence and hope which have their essence and ground in the revelation of the Son. (2) Prayer to the Son as well as to the Father; yet not to Jesus regarded as an independent personality, but to Him as the Son, so that in praying to Him we pray at the same time to the Father, for only in the Father do we know (he Son. Hence also the ‘whatsoever’ of ver. 13, and the ‘anything’ of ver. 14, have in this their necessary limitations. Believers are not viewed here simply as members of the human family in the midst of the weaknesses, perplexities and sorrows of humanity. They pray with the mind of the Son, which is the mind of the Father, and in that sphere only can they be assured that whatever they ask shall be done for them and through them, ‘that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ Only by the explanation thus offered does it seem possible to account for the insertion of ‘me’ in ver. 14; and the whole statement may be regarded as a realization of chap. 1: 51, even the very same order of thought being there observed, the ‘ascending’ preceding the ‘ descending’ of angels upon the Son of man. The third part of the reply to Philip follows in vers. 15-21.
Ver. 15. An abiding communion between the glorified Redeemer and His disciples on earth has been spoken of as established,–a communion not to be broken by the ‘going away’ of Jesus to the Father. The object of the present verse is to point out the condition by which alone this communion can be preserved and its greatest blessing, the presence of the Advocate, enjoyed–love. This love, too, consists in a loving self-surrender of ourselves to the sole object of glorifying the Father, analogous to the loving self-surrender of Jesus; for ‘my commandments’ are not merely commandments which He gives, but which He has Himself first received and made His own (comp. ver. 27).
Ver. 16. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, that he may be with you for ever. The word here translated in our English Version ‘Comforter,’ and partially introduced into the English language as ‘Paraclete,’ means properly, One called to stand by us for our help, our Advocate, Helper, Representative. ‘Comforter’ is not its meaning. And the unfortunate use of this term, so dear to the Christian amidst the troubles of the world, has tended in no small degree to make believers think less of strength than of comfort, of the experience of a private Christian who needs consolation instead of that of one who has to face the opposition of the world in his Master’s cause. The ‘Paraclete’ is really One who stands by our side, sustains us in our Christian calling, and breathes into us ever new measures of a spirit of boldness and daring in the warfare we have to wage. He is the representative of the glorified Lord with His militant people upon earth. The promise of this Advocate is given four times in the chapters before us (the only other passage in the New Testament where the word occurs being 1 John 2:1); and in the first two, chap. 14:16, 26, it has reference mainly to the preparation of the heart and mind of the disciples; in the other two chaps. 15:26, 16:7, to their actual work. The Advocate thus spoken of is further marked out by the remarkable addition of the word ‘another;’ and the word implies that the first Advocate had been Jesus Himself, whose ‘going away’ prevented His continuing to be still the Advocate and Helper of His disciples. In this sense we find Him described by the very term here used in 1 John 2:1: ‘We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ It is in the idea of representation that the two designations meet. Jesus glorified represents us before the Father’s throne; the Holy Spirit abiding with us represents Jesus gone to the Father. This word ‘other’ is thus full of the most precious meaning. It tells us that Jesus when on earth had been the Paraclete, the Advocate of His disciples. It suggests that what He had been to them during His earthly life, His representative will be after He has ‘gone away,’ so that every narrative of what He had done for them becomes a prediction of what the Holy Spirit will do for them and for us who come after them. The verb ‘ask’ of this verse is different from that so translated in vers. 13 and 14; and it can be used only of One who stands in that closeness of relation, in that intimacy of union with the Father, in which Jesus is represented throughout these chapters as standing to Him (comp. 16:26; 17:9, 15, 20).
Vcr. 17. What this Advocate is, is now explained more fully. He is the Spirit of ‘the truth.’ the Spirit whose essence is ‘the truth.’ and who is the medium by which ‘the truth’ comes to men. This Spirit the world cannot receive, because it has no perception of the things with which He deals, no sympathy with them, no adaptation to them. As it cannot ‘hear God’s word, because it is not of God,’ (chap. 8:47), so it cannot receive the spirit of the truth, because it has no eye for the spiritual and invisible, and no growing apprehension of them. The Spirit comes to the world, and would stay with it; but it will not have Him for a guest, and it never attains to that experimental knowledge of Him which is alone worthy of the name. But the disciples are ‘ of the truth;’ they welcome the heavenly Guest; He ‘abides’ with them; He ‘is’ in them; they advance to ever deeper knowledge of what He is and does.
Ver. 18. The disciples were the ‘little children’ of Jesus (13:33), and He may therefore well speak to them as a Father. Not from Pentecost, but from the moment of His reunion to the Father, and by means of the Spirit of the truth, He comes to them (see ver. 20).
Ver. 19. Yet a little while, and the world beholdeth me no longer; but ye behold me. The ‘little while’ is that of 13:33, extending from the moment immediately at hand to the resurrection. After that ‘little while’ the world beholdeth Jesus no more, but His disciples behold Him,–the present tense being used in both clauses absolutely, and not as the mere present of time. In the first clause ‘beholdeth’ can be understood only of physical vision, for in no other way had the world ever beheld Jesus, and the risen Saviour did not show Himself to the world. In the second clause ‘behold’ must be so far at least used in the same sense, and the appearance of the risen Jesus must again be thought of. Yet the meaning of the second ‘behold’ is not thus exhausted, for it obviously includes a vision of the Redeemer not limited by the forty days between the resurrection and the ascension, but stretching onward into the eternal future. The ‘Me’ is Jesus glorified: Him, because He is glorified, the world unfit for the vision ‘ beholdeth no longer.’ But the disciples, one with Him not only in His humiliation but in His ‘glory,’behold Him, first from time to time with the eye of sense, always with the eye of faith and in the power of the Spirit. It need only be further remarked that this intensifying of the meaning of the second ‘behold’ may be indicated by the order of the original, which gives the place of emphasis to the word in the second clause; and that, by the view now taken, we at once see the connection of the words that follow: only the ‘living’ can behold the risen Lord, or have the abiding spiritual sight.–Because I live and ye shall live. Not, ‘Because I live ye shall live also,’–which would divert the thoughts to something entirely foreign to the course of our Lord’s remarks; but, ‘Because I live glorified, and ye, in this respect wholly different from the world, shall live in the power of Me, your risen Lord, therefore shall this intimacy of intercourse, implied in My coming and your beholding, last unbroken and for ever.’
Ver. 20. Not the particular day of the resurrection, or of Pentecost, or of the Second Coming, but the day beginning with the return of Jesus to His Father, when He shall send to His disciples the promised Advocate the Spirit of the truth. Then in the knowledge of ever-deepening experience they shall know that the Son of man whom they had thought ‘gone away’ is really in the bosom of His Father, glorified in the Father (comp. chap. 13:31), that they are in Him thus glorified, and that He thus glorified is in them. So shall the end of all be attained, the perfect union in glory of Father, Son, and all believers, in one uninterrupted, unchanging, eternal unity (comp. 17:21, 23). It is of great importance to note the expression, ‘Ye in me, and I in you.’ We cannot here follow out the thought, but we must not fail to notice that the fulness of the union referred to belongs only to the time of Jesus glorified. The limiting influences of the world, of the flesh, must be overpassed before that perfect union of all existence is reached which can be established only (for ‘ God is Spirit,’ 4:24) where the Spirit is the dominating, all-embracing, all controlling element of being. Jesus says ‘my Father,’ not ‘the Father,’ because His personal union with the Father forms the basis of the wider and more glorious union here referred to.
Ver. 21. The thought of privilege in ver. 14 led to that condition on which alone privilege can be preserved (ver. 15). We have a similar transition now. Here, as there, one thing must be distinctly remembered, that this unity is one of love. There is love on the part of the believer to his Lord, love on the part of the Father to the believer, love on the part of Jesus to the believer. In this fellowship of love the result of all will be the manifestation by Himself of the glorified Redeemer to His people. He will ‘ manifest’ Himself from His glory, and in knowing and seeing Him by the power of the Spirit they will know and see the Father. A third difficulty arises in the breast of Judas.
Ver. 22. Judas is distinguished from the traitor, that we may have kept distinctly before us that the latter had gone out (13: 30). His error consists in not seeing that the spiritual can only be apprehended by the spiritual. Filled with the thought of the external kingdom, he cannot understand why the glorious revelation of Christ to be made to himself and his fellow disciples should not be made to all, so that all may believe and be blessed.
Ver. 23. Again the thought of ver. 15, and a fuller expression of the main teaching of this chapter, and, indeed, of this whole section of the Gospel. The answer to Judas is, that the manifestation referred to must be limited, because it can only be made where there is that communion of love which proves itself by the spirit of self-denial and submission to the charge of Jesus (comp. vers. 17, 21). Two additional points are to be noted–(1) The climax: no longer ‘I’ but ‘We,’ a fuller presentation of the truth. (2) The beginning of the discourse is taken up again, and thus its parts are more closely united: ‘In my Father’s house are many places of abode’ (ver. 2); ‘We will make our abode with him.’
Ver. 24. A fuller explanation than before why the world cannot receive the manifestation of the Father and the Son, but given now from the negative rather than the positive side. It will be observed that in vers. 23, 24, we have first ‘word,’ then ‘words,’ and then, again, a return to the singular ‘word.’ The explanation may in part be that to him who receives in faith the ‘ words’ of Jesus are one; he sees their unity: they are a ‘word:’ to him who receives not in faith they are scattered and unconnected, ‘words’ not a ‘word.’ We remark only further that our Lord, while implying in vers. 23 and 24 that the world cannot receive such a manifestation of the Father and of Himself as had been promised to His own, shows with equal distinctness that there is no class favored in an arbitrary manner. All make themselves what they are. If ‘anyone,’ He says, ‘loves me;’ and, again, ‘he that loveth me.’ Every one may come and have the promise in all its fulness.
Ver. 25. We now enter upon a new part of the discourse, in which the leading idea is the strength to be afforded to the disciples after the departure of their Lord. It is important to notice that this is bestowed upon them not merely as disciples, but as disciples about to be sent forth to occupy their Master’s place, and to do His work. During the absence of their Master the Advocate shall be with them.
Ver. 26. Again we meet with the expression ‘in my name,’ considered at ver. 13, where we saw that it primarily refers to the name ‘Son,’ and then to the revelation of the Father in the Son. This conception suits each of those nine places in chaps. 14-17, where the words occur, as well as the two others in chap. 17, where Jesus speaks of manifesting or declaring the ‘name’ of God. Here the Father sends the Holy Spirit ‘ in the name’ of Jesus ; that is, the sending of the Spirit is grounded in the Father’s revelation of Himself in the Son. It is because in Him He reveals Himself to us as our Father, because He makes us by faith in Him His own sons, that we are brought into that relation to Him which enables us to receive the fulness of His Spirit. In this verse, as contrasted with verse 16, we have not merely a promise of the Spirit of the truth. There is an advance of thought, and the Spirit is spoken of in His training power, as He applies to the heart ‘ the truth’ which is His being. Several particulars in the words before us illustrate this. First, there is the epithet ‘holy,’ which here, as throughout this Gospel, expresses the idea of complete separation from all that is of the world, and complete consecration to all that is spiritual and heavenly (comp. chaps. 3:34; 10:36). Secondly, the Father is to ‘send’ the Spirit to the disciples even as He has sent the Son (ver. 24), a statement indicating that He is sent to be in them for a similar purpose. And lastly, the ‘all things ‘ that the Spirit is to teach must (according to the rules suggested by the climactic structure of our Gospel) be included in the ‘all things’ spoken by Jesus, and now to be brought to their remembrance. What Jesus taught shall be the ‘all things’ that are taught; can they be taught for any other purpose than to be again spoken for the salvation of men? In the words of Jesus ‘all things’ needed for man’s salvation are implicitly contained, and with that teaching the disciples shall be filled. These considerations lead directly to the conclusion, that Jesus is now dealing with His disciples not as simply believers in His name, but as persons about to enter on His work.
Ver. 27. The peace spoken of here is not the legacy of a dying father, but the salutation of a departing Master. It is thus not mere peace of heart, a pacified conscience, the result of a personal resting in the love of God. It is peace in the midst of the trials which the world brings on the followers of Jesus while they perform their task; peace that is the result of His having ‘overcome the world’ (comp. on chap. 16:33). ‘My’ peace, again, is the peace which Jesus Himself enjoys as well as that which He alone can give; this peace becomes the true possession of the receiver (comp. on chap. 17:14). The effect is that the disciples shall neither be ‘troubled’ from within, nor ‘afraid’ with a coward terror in the presence of outward foes.
Ver. 28. But the disciples were not only to have peace; true love would fill their hearts with joy. The ‘going away’ of Jesus is really a ‘going unto the Father,’ a re-establishment in all the glory of the Father’s immediate presence. The last clause of the verse contains simply the general teaching of the Gospel, of the whole Bible, and of all the greatest theologians of the Church, that the Son, while of the same nature as the Father, is subordinate to Him, inferior (for essence is not spoken of) economically, as Mediator. While, however, the departure of Jesus was thus a return to the glory of the Father’s presence, and good for Him, we must not suppose that it is on that account that the disciples are to ‘rejoice.’ ‘If ye loved me’ is not an appeal to their personal interest in Himself; it appeals rather to their interest in His work and purpose; it is a statement of the fact that ripened Christian perception, when they stand in the ‘love’ spoken of in vers. 21, 23, 24, will lead them to see that the departure of Jesus to His Father was an arrangement fraught with far higher blessings, both to His believing people and to the world, than His remaining among them would have been. The love which is the condition of higher revelations will teach them that the departure preliminary to these is not a matter of sorrow, but of joy.
Ver. 29. It is not a first faith, but the deeper working of faith, the experimental seal to it, that is spoken of.
Ver. 30. I will no longer talk much with you, for the prince of the world cometh. (Comp. on 12:31.) ‘The prince of this world’ is equivalent to the world in its essence. He embodies the spirit of the world, so that what is said of it may be said of him, what is said of him may be said of it. Observe the ‘cometh,’ the contrast of the ‘coming’ of Jesus.–And he hath nothing in me. Ver. 31. But he cometh that the world may perceive that I love the Father, and that even as the Father gave me commandment so I do. Arise, let us go hence. The difficulty of interpreting these words is very great. The common interpretations of ‘hath nothing in me’–such as, ‘hath no power over me,’ I die freely; ‘hath no ground of accusation against me,’ I am innocent; ‘hath no hold on me,’ I present no point on which he can fasten his attack–are all at variance with the meaning of the verb ‘hath’ in the writings of John. The true interpretation seems to be that there is an absolute barrier between the ‘prince of this world’ and Jesus. Neither in the Person (in whom is no sin) nor in the work of the Redeemer has he any interest; there is absolutely no point of connection (the expression of the original is strong) between him and these. He has deliberately opposed, denied and rejected the truth. Therefore he has now nothing to do with it–except in one terrible respect! The following words point out the exception. He ‘comes,’ and the ‘world’ ruled by Him comes, to see that He whom they have rejected is the ‘consecrated One’ of God, the ‘Sent’ of God, the Fulfiller of the Father’s will. But they come to see this only when it is too late; when amazement and horror alone remain for them; when the judgment shall be executed; and when out of their own mouth they shall be condemned. The words in short express, although far more pointedly than elsewhere, the great truth so often stated in Scripture, that those who reject the salvation shall meet the judgment of Jesus, and that, when they meet it, they shall acknowledge that it is just. Blind now, they shall not be always blind; their eyes shall be opened; and to their own shame, they shall confess that He whom they rejected was the ‘Beloved’ of the Father, and that His work was the doing of the Father’s will. Hence the startling close of the discourse: ‘Arise, let us go hence.’ Not merely: ‘Let us meanwhile arise, and leave this place that we may go to another, where my discourse maybe resumed;’ but, ‘Let us go: I have led you to the glorious places of abode in my Father’s house, and I have followed the world to its doom; I have traced the history of mankind to its close; it is over; arise, let us go hence.’