John 14 - IVP New Testament Commentaries

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

In response to Jesus' assertion that they know the Father and have seen him (v. 7), Philip says, Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us (v. 8). It will be enough for us--one would hope so! Here is the great desire of people throughout the ages--the vision of God. In saying it will be enough for us perhaps Philip simply means such a vision would take care of their troubled hearts (v. 1). In any case, Philip's request focuses on what has been central to Jesus all the way through, namely, the Father. Philip has the right focus, though he has much to learn concerning his master.

What in particular does Philip have in mind? His request echoes that of Moses when he said to God, "Show me your glory," which the Septuagint translates, "Show me yourself" (Ex 33:18). The Old Testament has accounts of people who have seen God, yet also warns that such a vision would bring death (see comment on 1:18). Philip seems to have in mind an experience such as Moses or Isaiah had. He has a very exalted view of Jesus since he thinks Jesus can enable such an experience. But his view is not nearly exalted enough, as Jesus makes clear.

Philip has not really known Jesus (v. 9) because at the center of Jesus' identity is his relation to the Father, a relation of such intimacy that Jesus can say anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (v. 9). Again we have the language of agency, reflecting the idea that one's representative is "like to himself" (m. Berakot 5:5; see note on 5:21). But the way Jesus describes this relationship goes far beyond the notion of an agent, for he speaks of a mutual indwelling: I am in the Father, and . . . the Father is in me (v. 10). He does not simply represent the Father, he presents him. Such complete union means that Jesus' words and deeds have their source in the Father (v. 10; cf. 5:36; 8:28; 10:38). Jesus may be the Father's agent, but the Father is also the agent at work through Jesus. Jesus does not say, however, that he is the Father. Throughout the gospel Jesus maintains a careful distinction between his oneness with God and his distinctness from him (see comments on 1:1 and 10:30).

Thus, elements of all three of the forms of sight mentioned above (see comment on 1:18) are included in Jesus' response to Philip. The incarnation points to the value of these first two types of sight, the physical and the intellectual, but in themselves they do not go deep enough. Physical sight is involved in observing Jesus, but this form of seeing is the least significant element, since even the opponents had that. Intellectual insight is important, because Philip is supposed to draw out the implications of what he has seen and heard in Jesus. But again this is not enough, for even the opponents have seen the implications but have rejected them (for example, chap. 9). The third type of sight is needed, that which comes through faith. Jesus asks Philip whether he believes that the Father and the Son dwell within one another (v. 10). Then he addresses all the disciples, saying, Believe [pisteuete, plural] me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves (v. 11). They should trust his claim or, if need be, go to the evidence of the deeds he has done. These deeds have manifested "his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (1:14). "The faith at issue is the faith that man really encounters God in his encounter with Jesus, that Jesus and the Father are one" (Bultmann 1971:609). Until they grasp this aspect of Jesus' identity they cannot really understand anything else about him.

With Jesus about to depart, he speaks of greater things, which the disciples themselves are to accomplish (v. 12). Those who will do greater things are not just the disciples to whom Jesus is speaking but anyone who has faith in me. Each believer will do what I have been doing (v. 12), or more literally, "will do the works (ta erga) that I do." Some people find it odd to join together faith and works. Scripture is clear that salvation comes from God's grace, which we appropriate by faith. Our works do not produce life in us, but faith itself includes works because faith is not just a response of the intellect or the feelings but of the whole person, especially of the will. Salvation itself is a matter of sharing in God's own life, and that life is very active. As Paul will say, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself [or "working" energoumene] through love" (Gal 5:6).

What are these greater things of which Jesus speaks? Some think he is referring to spectacular miracles, but what would top the raising of Lazarus? Others think it refers to the missionary activity of the disciples, their bringing more converts to faith. Such activity is an important focus for the disciples, but the meaning here is more specific. These greater things are possible because I am going to the Father (v. 12). That is, Jesus' greatest work has yet to occur: his death, resurrection and ascension. After he is glorified, the Spirit will be given (7:39), and believers can then receive the full benefits of the salvation Jesus has accomplished through the union that comes through the Spirit. The disciples' works are greater in that they are "the conveying to people of the spiritual realities of which the works of Jesus are `signs'" (Beasley-Murray 1987:254). So greater things refer to our having a deeper understanding of God and sharing in his own life through actual union with him, which is now possible as a result of Jesus' completed work (cf. 14:20). It is not just a matter of more disciples; it is a matter of a qualitatively new reality in which the disciples share.

Even though Jesus is departing, these greater things are not accomplished by the disciples apart from Jesus (cf. Bultmann 1971:611), but rather through prayer to him (vv. 13-14). Even though he will be gone, they can still ask him. Such a claim may mean merely that Jesus will be a heavenly mediator, but given the clear teaching throughout the Gospel that affirms Jesus' deity we should see much more involved here. Like the Father, he is an appropriate one to whom to pray.

Jesus assures them that I will do whatever you ask in my name (v. 13), a theme that will be repeated throughout the farewell discourse (15:7, 16; 16:23-24, 26; cf. 1 Jn 3:22; 5:14-15). Praying "in Jesus' name" does not refer to some magic formula added to the end of a prayer. It means to pray in keeping with his character and concerns and, indeed, in union with him. The disciples, through their union with Christ, are taken up into his agenda. This agenda, as throughout his ministry, is to bring glory to the Father (v. 13). This verse has been understood by some Christians to be a blanket promise that Jesus will give them whatever they want. Such idolatry of the self is the very opposite of eternal life. "Whatsoever we ask that is adverse to the interests of salvation, we do not ask in the name of the Savior" (Augustine In John 73.3). Rather, the promise is made to those who will pray in Jesus' name and for the glory of the Father. As such it is a great promise for the advance of God's purposes in oneself, in the church and in the world.

That which is called for on the part of the disciple is love: If you love me, you will obey what I command (v. 15), or, more literally, "you will keep my commands" (tas entolas tas emas teresete). Again Jesus describes himself in a role commonly, though not exclusively, associated with God, the giver of commands. This statement is not so much a promise that the one who loves him will keep his commands as it is a definition of love itself. Jesus is referring not only to his ethical instructions, which are very few in this Gospel, but to the whole of his teaching (vv. 23-24), including his way of life. Accordingly, John will instruct his disciples later, saying, "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 Jn 2:6; cf. 1 Cor 4:17). Now the hallmark of Jesus' "ways," his "walk," was complete dependence on and obedience to the Father, only doing and speaking what he received from the Father. Such a life is itself an expression of love, since love, for John, is the laying down of one's life (1 Jn 3:16). Thus Jesus himself has modeled the life of love he describes here in terms of obedience (cf. 8:29; 14:31). Love, like faith, is the engagement of the whole person, especially the person's will.

Faith and love unite disciples to God and take them up into God's work, but these "greater things" will require God's own resources. So Jesus promises that I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever (v. 16). Here is the first of several references in the farewell discourse to the Paraclete (parakletos), translated in the NIV as Counselor (14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-11, 13-15). This word is a verbal adjective meaning "called alongside," related to the verb parakaleo, "call to one, summon." Outside the New Testament it is used in legal contexts to mean "a legal assistant, advocate" (Liddell, Scott and Jones 1940:1313; Behm 1967:800-803). Johannes Behm, among others, tries to argue that this is the meaning in John as well (1967:811-14) but has to conclude "subsidiary senses were interwoven into the primary sense of `advocate,' so that no single word can provide an adequate rendering" (1967:814). Actually, even the sense of advocate, as either a defense attorney or a spokesman, is not present in John (Brown 1970:1136). Rather, in John the functions of the Paraclete are mainly "teaching, revealing and interpreting Jesus to the disciples" (Turner 1992:349). While the Paraclete's activity of testifying to Jesus (15:26) and convicting the world (16:7-11) are like legal activities, they are not specifically activities of a defense attorney but rather of a prosecuting attorney, toward the world, and a witness, toward the disciples. Thus, "the title and the tasks ascribed to the Paraclete seem to be out of step" (Burge 1987:7), and there is no comprehensive title that does justice to "the variety of traits given to the Paraclete" (Burge 1987:9). It is best to use the transliteration "Paraclete" and examine the Gospel itself to see how John uses the term.

John speaks of the Paraclete in relation to the Father, the Son, the disciples and the world. The Father is the source of the Paraclete (14:16, 26; 15:26), and Jesus is the one who sends the Paraclete by asking the Father to send him (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). Thus both the Son and the Paraclete have the same source, the Father, but the Son has a role in the historical sending of the Paraclete. Both Jesus and the Paraclete play distinct but related roles in the revelation of the Father and the giving of life. Indeed, Gary Burge has counted sixteen similarities between Jesus and the Paraclete (1987:141), which we will note as they appear in the text. For instance, in our present text the Paraclete is called "another Paraclete" (14:16), which implies that Jesus himself is the Paraclete. In 1 John the term itself is actually used of Jesus: "But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense [the NIV's paraphrase of parakletos]--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (2:1). In 1 John the role does seem to be in a legal setting. Jesus, in his humanity as the Righteous One, is our advocate before God when it comes to dealing with our sin. But in the Gospel, Jesus says the Paraclete will take up the role Jesus himself has already been fulfilling during his ministry. Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of Jesus' ministry has been to mediate the divine presence, so it is tempting to find the general idea behind the usage of the word Paraclete, both in John's letter and in the Gospel, to be "presence." Jesus is a human presence ("the Righteous One") in heaven, and he is the divine presence on earth. The Paraclete (who is himself distinct from Jesus and not simply Jesus' presence) is to continue that divine presence among the disciples.

The various terms used to translate parakletos, such as Counselor, Advocate and Comforter, get at different aspects of what he accomplishes through his presence. The Paraclete is called "the Spirit of truth" (14:16; 15:26; 16:13) and "the Holy Spirit" (14:26), which may help explain why the world does not see or know him (14:17), since the world is neither holy nor of the truth. His dwelling is with the believers, for he is in them and is known by them (14:17). By his presence with the disciples, not with the world, and by his witness to Jesus who was rejected by the world, the Paraclete judges the world through the believers (16:7-11). As the divine presence among believers the Paraclete enables them to be God's presence in the world. He is with them and in them glorifying Jesus by revealing the truth about him to believers (14:16-17; 14:26; 16:13-15). In this way, the community, by the presence of the Paraclete, bears witness to Jesus and thus continues Jesus' own mission of judgment and life-giving. Most commentators think that the Paraclete actually mediates the presence of Jesus to the community. This is true (see comment on 16:25), though John does not say this directly (see comment on 14:23-27).

Thus, we understand that much of John's theology is captured in this term parakletos, especially when we realize it is used of both Jesus and the Spirit. Jesus as the divine presence on earth and the human presence in heaven speaks of the mystery of the incarnation, of the divine-human being who is "presence" both before God and humanity. Jesus and the Spirit together reveal the Father within history--Jesus within his own person and the Spirit through testimony to Jesus within and through the community of God, those who have received Jesus and been given power to become children of God (1:12) and have become witnesses to Jesus (15:26-27). The Spirit is the divine presence within believers, bringing about the transformation of human beings so they live the life of God in the form that such divine life takes within and among us creatures, though John does not use the term Paraclete when referring to this role of the Spirit. Rather, the role of the Spirit as Paraclete is similar to that of the Spirit of prophecy in the Old Testament, that is, "the Spirit acting as the organ of communication between God and a person" (Turner 1992:342; see also p. 351). He bears witness to Jesus, thereby leading the disciples into all truth and convicting the world for their rejection of Jesus. This theme of bearing witness is part of the larger motif of a legal trial that runs through the Gospel: Jesus reveals the Father, which brings about the world's judgment, and the world in turn condemns Jesus.

Returning to our present passage (14:16), we see that the Paraclete, like the Son, comes from the Father as a gift of the Father, for Jesus says the Father will give them the Paraclete at the Son's request. In contrast to Jesus, who is now departing, the Paraclete will be with them forever. As we will soon learn, it is only Jesus' visible presence that will be absent from them; Jesus himself will remain in union with them. Thus both Jesus and the Paraclete will be with the believers. Further connection with Jesus is evident when he refers to the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth, since Jesus is the truth, as he has just affirmed (14:6). The Paraclete's relation to the world is like Jesus', since the world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him (v. 17), as has been the case with Jesus.

Jesus contrasts the disciples to the world: But you know him, for he lives (menei, "remains," "abides") with you and will be in you (v. 17). This present tense, you know him, seems strange, since Jesus has yet to request the Spirit (v. 16; 16:7) and the disciples have not yet received the Spirit. Although Jesus says this Paraclete will be in you, he already remains among them (v. 17; par' hymin menei, translated in the NIV as lives with you). The Spirit is not absent before the glorification. Indeed, he is present "without limit" in Jesus (3:34; cf. Burge 1987:83-84) and must be at work in the disciples in order for them to have the faith and love that Jesus mentions (vv. 12, 15; cf. Augustine In John 74.1-2). But the Paraclete has not yet been sent to the disciples and received by them in the new way Jesus is opening up. Both Jesus and this Paraclete have been present to the disciples already, even though the coming level of intimacy with both will be so much deeper that it is the difference between death and life (see comment on 20:22; cf. Gen 2:7).

Having promised that the Paraclete would be given to the disciples, Jesus next speaks of his own return to them (v. 18). Some suggest that orphans is "simply used in a figurative sense for `abandoned'," with "perhaps a hint of the defenselessness of the orphan: `I will not leave you unprotected'" (Seesemann 1967:488). But more is involved, for Jesus is the only way to the Father (v. 6), and apart from him we are in fact orphaned. Only his coming to us overcomes this condition. But which coming does Jesus refer to? The fact that the disciples will see him (v. 19) suggests his coming spiritual presence with them is not in view, and the fact that the world will not see him rules out the second coming. So, most likely, he is speaking of his appearance after the resurrection (Beasley-Murray 1987:258), at which time he will impart the Spirit to them (20:22).

Not only will they not be abandoned, with Jesus' return after the resurrection they will enter into the new kind of life he has been revealing throughout his ministry (v. 19). The phrase before long, literally, "yet a little while" (eti mikron), comes from the Old Testament (for example, Ps 37:10 par. 36:10 LXX; Is 10:25; 26:20; 29:17; Jer 51:33 par. 28:33 LXX; Hos 1:4; Hag 2:6), where it is used "to express optimistically the shortness of time before God's salvation would come" (Brown 1970:607). When Jesus uses the expression it is indeed only a little while, a matter of a couple of days, until the salvation that is the beginning of the fulfillment of all the hopes will come. This salvation is a matter of life: Because I live, you also will live (v. 19). They will live because they will be united to him by the Spirit and thus come to share in the life of him who is resurrection and life. All of this is made possible by Jesus' own death and resurrection.

These connections are brought out in the next verse: On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you (v. 20). The day referred to is the day of resurrection that inaugurates on earth a qualitatively new form of life, eternal life. The phrase on that day, like the phrase before long, echoes Old Testament hopes, for it is used 111 times in the Prophets to refer to the day of God's great acts of judgment and salvation. Here the salvation is expressed in terms of knowledge and union. The intimacy that exists between the Father and the Son has been the subject of Jesus' revelation. Jesus has called upon the disciples to accept this truth about him in faith (vv. 10-11), and now he promises that after the resurrection the disciples will come to realize it (gnosesthe), they will know it. Like faith, this knowledge is not just an intellectual grasping of a truth. It comes from a participation in the divine reality itself, for it is said they will share in that relationship because they will be in the Son and he in them. Thus, what was just said of the Paraclete (v. 17) is now said of the Son. The Son and the Paraclete will both indwell the disciples, key themes that will be developed in the rest of the farewell discourse.

This indwelling is what will enable them to accomplish the task of doing "greater things" (v. 12). What has been true of Jesus will now be true of them--not that they will become unique sons and daughters of God as Jesus is the "One and Only" (1:14, 18), but rather that they, continuing as creatures, will share in the divine life by being taken up into the Son, just as Jesus took up into himself humanity at his incarnation. For Jesus "was much more than one individual among the many. He was the true self of the human race, standing in that perfect union with God to which others can attain only as they are incorporate in Him; the mind, whose thought is truth absolute (14:6), which other men think after Him; the true life of man, which other men live by sharing it with Him (14:6, 20; 6:57)" (Dodd 1953:249).

Jesus then ties this teaching together by repeating his description of the disciples of whom all of this will be true: Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me (v. 21). This union is not simply a matter of shared ideas or feelings but of shared life. The love is reciprocal: He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him (v. 21). This verse does not deny the love God has for all his creatures, but rather speaks of the fulfillment of that love in a qualitatively new way for those who are in the Son. Believers are those who "have entered into the same reciprocity of love that unites the Father and the Son" (Barrett 1978:465).

Jesus says that he himself will love such a disciple and will show himself to him or her (v. 21). Thus, Jesus himself will remain in personal contact with his disciples. He may be departing, but he will remain in relationship with them although the relationship will exist in a new form (see comment on 20:17). The showing he mentions could refer to his resurrection appearances, but the shift from the plural (v. 20, you) to the singular (v. 21, he who) suggests more is intended (Ridderbos 1997:507). The reference to resurrection presence slides over into a reference to the ongoing presence mediated by the Spirit, as becomes clear from the further discussion raised by this statement.

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Jesus Declares Himself to Be the Way to the Father

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

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