A Bible Lesson on John 14:1-26

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This passage is part of John’s extended account of the last supper.  As we pick up the narrative, Jesus has already washed the feet of the disciples, He has predicted His betrayal, told the disciples that He is going away, and predicted Peter’s denial.  This is a dark, unsettled, confused, and distressed time.  We can look back on it and see the great salvation plan of God at work, but the disciples living it were understandably disoriented, discouraged, and completely unable to process what is going on.  They had pretty much staked their whole existence on Jesus, and now He’s been talking in ways that they hear to mean that all is lost.  Beginning in Chapter 14 Jesus brings comfort to the disciples.

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.”  John has described Jesus as Himself troubled, at the death of Lazarus (11:33), His coming death (12:27), and Judas’ betrayal (13:21).  He’s borne that for you and me, but He comforts the disciples and you and me, and tells us not to be troubled.

Apparently the “believe in God” and the “believe in Me” could each be rendered either as exhortations or as statements of fact.  English translations have typically taken the first as a statement of fact and the second as exhortation.  What is clear and essential is the inseparability of Jesus and the Father.  It is universally assumed that most people in some vague way “believe in God,” but there is no true believing in God outside of trusting in Jesus.

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

There are many rooms/places/dwelling places.  The feeling is one of permanence, of being home, of no longer being a stranger and pilgrim, but truly being where one belongs.  There are many rooms.  There is room for the whole family, all those who name the name of Jesus.

Jesus assures the disciples that He’s not leaving them hopeless and without a future.  But He has a work to do on the cross.  Jameison/Faussett/Browne say, “to prepare a place for you” is “to obtain for you a right to be there, and to possess your ‘place'”  And too, He, through the Spirit, has a work to do in them.  Augustine said, “He prepares the dwelling places by preparing those who are to dwell in them.”

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

Compare

John 13:33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’

and

John 13:36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 

Jesus had to go to the cross alone, but He promised to return.

Consider the Old Testament parallel:

Deuteronomy 1:29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them.

30 The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes,

31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’

32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God,

33 who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.

God went ahead of the Israelites into what they saw as great danger.  Jesus promises the same for us all!  He goes first.  And what is the end of all this?  It is that His will be with Him!  What are the details??  Those are simply not so important!  They will surely be glorious and take care of themselves.

4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

We humans would dispute with the Lord as Thomas is going to do.  We want details and mechanisms.  We don’t think we “know” enough.  But Jesus tells them that they know what is both necessary and sufficient to the salvation of their souls.

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Thomas may not be a perfect role model, but he’s at least candid.  He’s confused.  Peter has shown he’s equally confused, but he either won’t admit it or isn’t even aware that he’s befuddled.

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

“I AM”  Once again, this is an appropriation of the personal name of the God of the Bible (the 6th of 7 recorded in John).  Thomas asks “How can we know the way?”  Jesus answers with the emphatic “I AM”

Jesus is the “way.”  He is the way to the Father.  In Acts 9:2 and 19:9,23 the church, the visible manifestation of Christ on earth, is referred to in this way.

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

He is the “way” in that He is both “the truth” and “the life.”  John in Chapter 1 already told us these things about Jesus.

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

As Paul put it

Colossians 2:9  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

Barnes said, “Truth is a representation of things as they are …  Jesus Christ was the most complete and perfect representation of the things of the eternal world that … can be presented to man.”

“No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  This only makes sense.  If God has, at infinite expense to Himself, provided grace/pardon for us, to look for another way is just outrageous rebellion.  The only real and lasting goal of life is to “come to the Father,” and Jesus is plain that coming possible is through Him and Him alone.

Again, Barnes wrote, “To come to the Father is to obtain his favor, to have access to his throne by prayer, and finally to enter his kingdom. No man can obtain any of these things except by the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. By coming by him is meant coming in his name and depending on his merits. We are ignorant, and he alone can guide us. We are sinful, and it is only by his merits that we can be pardoned. We are blind, and he only can enlighten us. God has appointed him as the Mediator, and has ordained that all blessings shall descend to this world through him. Hence he has put the world under his control; has given the affairs of men into his hand, and has appointed him to dispense whatever may be necessary for our peace, pardon, and salvation …”

7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

“If you had known me …”  The disciples had known Jesus deeply in some ways.  But they had not really known Him in His full significance and glory.  They knew Him as a human being, but they had not grasped that He is God incarnate.  That is about to change.  The cross and the resurrection are going to alter things.  They are going to see the deep mystery and truth of the harmony of the Father and Son.  They are going to some degree get it that seeing Jesus is seeing the Father.  From now on, henceforth understand you do know Him and have seen Him!

It’s significant that the Jews rarely talked about anyone actually “knowing God.”  That was mostly something for a future blessing, for the last day.  Or people might be urged to “know God” but the implication was that people rarely did.  What Jesus is promising here doesn’t sound to us nearly as stunning as it must have sounded to the disciples.  That ordinary people like the disciples and then you and me would really “know God” and truly see Him was to them really quite shocking.

8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”

Philip apparently misunderstands.  He’s probably thinking of a Moses-type look at the back of God.  It should go without saying that such a request is pretty silly.  Visual/sensory apprehensions of God have never changed peoples’ hearts.  At the giving of the law, there was fire and smoke, and 40 days later a pagan orgy.  Peter had been at the transfiguration and seen Jesus glorified without fundamental change in his character.  He’s about to deny Jesus.  A vision adds nothing to what God has said to us about Himself in Jesus.

9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

“Have I been with you (plural) so long and you (singular) still do not know me?”  There is gentle rebuke here.  Philip has had Jesus before him for 3 years.  He’s had the opportunity to weigh the significance of what Jesus has done and said.  He’s had a chance to ask himself how this man could possibly be who He is.  And he’s not gotten to the point of seeing His complete harmony with the Father.  We’d like to think we would have been otherwise, but we are every bit as frail and purposely blind.

10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

“Do you (plural) not believe?”  Jesus speaks not just to Philip, but to all the disciples and to us.  Is it not obvious that Jesus is in complete harmony with the Father in both word and deed?

11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

“Believe me”  Saving faith is reliance upon, trust in, adherence to a person, but it also absolutely has a factual objective dimension.  How could one rely upon a God unless one believes what He says?  If Jesus is pulling our legs on this, if He’s not one with the Father, He has no legitimate claim on anyone’s loyalty!  What He said ought to be self-authenticating, but if we won’t think that deeply about it, consider the physical evidence.  He raised a man dead long enough to stink, He healed a man born blind, He rose from the dead.  If nothing else, if we’re so hard of heart, at least look at the signs!

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

“… will also do the works I have been doing”  What has Jesus been doing?  He’s been pointing people to God, bringing life, giving people sight, pronouncing Himself to be one with the Father.  He has been doing what the Father gave Him to do.  These are the works that Jesus now says will become the works of those who believe in Him.

Our human minds always run to “bigger miracles” when we read “greater works.”  But Jesus didn’t mean “more spectacular in kind or greater in power.”  Especially in John it is clear that miracles have a place only as signs that point people to the truth.  Jesus is saying that as He goes back to the Father, His work of pointing people to God will be wider in scope and opportunity than when He walked the earth as a single human being.  He won’t be restricted to a single location.  Huge multitudes of Christian people will be at work offering eternal life to people across the planet.

13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus never asked anything outside the will of the Father.  Asking in the name of Jesus is asking in accord with all that name stands for.  It means asking in accord with the purposes and glory of God.  And Jesus says “I will do it.”  This is no mere mortal speaking.  He is the One who answers, to the glory of the Father.  That on the lips of any other human who has ever lived is foolishness.  But this is the very Son of God.

15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

This only makes sense.  Biblical love is tangible, real, not some mushy vague feeling, but something seen in action.  If the Father and Son are who Scripture says they are, Creator, Sustainer, Lord, how could it be otherwise?  Barrett said, “John never allowed love to devolve into a sentiment or emotion.  Its expression is always moral and is revealed in obedience.”

16  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,

“another (of the same kind) Helper”  Jesus is the first.  This is the famous word “counselor/paraclete.”  The word has at least 4 shades of meaning in Greek and the New Testament.  It means 1) helper/friend/intercessor/mediator/spokesman, 2) a comforter or consoler, 3) an exhorter and encourager (related to apostolic preaching) and 4) one called along side to help/an advocate or defense attorney.  The “comforter” meaning that we in the 21st century hear as somebody who will sympathize with us when we’re sad isn’t true to the real meaning.  It is much more One who will enable someone who is dispirited to be brave and carry on.

This is not a description of the Holy Spirit apart from or in contrast to what Jesus has been to the disciples.  It is not a matter that Jesus is the Son and separately the Holy Spirit is our Helper/Counselor/Comforter/Exhorter.  Rather, He continues what Jesus already was to the disciples, namely Immanuel/God with us.

Jesus says, “to be with you forever.”  This is not on an intermittent basis, but forever.

17  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

This is “the Spirit of truth.”  Jesus has already declared Himself to be the way the truth and the life.  No surprise then, the Holy Spirit’s work is thus described in the same terms.  And the reaction to the work of the Spirit will be the same as the reaction to the work of Jesus.

But “you know him.”  They have known Jesus the man and the Holy Spirit will be the same in essence.  There will be no discontinuity in essence and he lives with you.

18  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

“I not leave you as orphans.  I will come to you.”  The language here emphasizes the unity in the Trinity.  A “spirit” separated from the person, work and purposes of Jesus is NOT the Holy Spirit.

19  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

The world will “see me” no more.  The world will not see 1) the resurrected Jesus or 2) the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Jesus has and gives life.

20  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

There is unity in the Trinity AND with the Christian believer.  This is not in some kind of Hindu/universal consciousness sense, but instead in purpose, action, communication and fellowship.

21  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.

Again, Christian love is not simply a feeling.  It is tangible/observable.  The “whoever” at the start of this verse ought to be encouragement for us.  This is for all who hear and have a heart to know and obey God.

22  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Jesus has heard this kind of appeal before, in John 7:1-5 from His relatives.  They say essentially “If you want to be somebody, you need to be seen by the masses.”  Or perhaps Judas is expressing a vague concern for humanity in general without a real grasp on what that entails.  Jesus makes an indirect reply to Judas’s question.

23  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

24  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Jesus WILL be seen by those with a real desire to know/obey God.  The others are incapable/unwilling to see, just as many looked at Jesus’s earthly ministry and failed to see Gods’ Son.

25  “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.

26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The first meaning of this is directed to the 12.  This is essential to our faith.  Christianity is founded on the reliable recollections and testimony of the Apostles.  And the Spirit of Christ was at work in them reminding them

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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