3 Words that will forever change the way you read the Gospel of John: Week 14

Contents

Chapter 14

JesusThis is part 14 of a 21-part series which traces “seeing” and “hearing”, and looks at how they relate to “believing”, through the Gospel of John.

In chapter 14, Jesus speaks with his disciples and prepares them for what is about to happen. The story is now converging on the moment at which Jesus will be crucified and then buried, and eventually he will ascend to heaven. Then nobody else will see Jesus him. But his disciples, those who believe, will see him…

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me

– John 14:19


REVIEWING THE TEXT – CHAPTER 14

The chapter opens with Jesus talking. He is reassuring them that there will be a place for them “in my Father’s house”. This is a precious and vital assurance, but watch how he constructs it. This text underscores the “hearing” aspect of John’s Gospel.

The Words of Jesus

Firstly, Jesus speaks with the full expectation that what he says will be treated as completely authoritative, and completely equivalent to anything God has said:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

– John 14:1

Drawing on that authority, he makes a statement about the nature of heaven.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

– John 14:2a

Just in case anyone was thinking of doubting what he said, he goes on to ask a rhetorical question. The question is premised on the understanding that Jesus’ words are absolutely authoritative and trustworthy:

If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

John 14:2b

Now, given that his above statements must be true, it must also be true that Jesus will return for the faithful.

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

– John 14:3

Ok, that was “hearing”, but what about “seeing”? The next section is vividly addressing this theme. Consider Thomas’ question here, in response to Jesus:

“… And you know the way to the place where I am going.”

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

How indeed? Now watch closely:

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

– John 14:6

Jesus is pointing Thomas to the identity and reality of Jesus himself. The point not being to know some kind of special doctrine, but to know Jesus. To know Jesus is to know “the way”.

But even more than that, this “knowing” is closely related to the idea of “believing”:

“If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

– John 14:7

There are a few points to make about verse 7.

Firstly, to know Jesus is to know God the Father. Jesus is drawing together three years of teaching here for his disciples, so that they might finally realise the incredible truth.

Secondly, because they do know Jesus, they do know God the Father… and therefore they have seen God. Compare this to what was said back in chapter 1: “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:18).

This makes the point: to “know” (that is, to properly “believe”), is to “see”. The point is then reinforced through the following section, verses 8-14. Particularly note v9: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

The Holy Spirit

Jesus goes to some lengths to tie the concepts together for us. From verse 16 he starts to explain how the indwelling Holy Spirit comes into this:

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

– John 14:16-17

There is a range of Trinitarian reflaction possible here, but for our purposes, let’s focus on the see/hear/believe theme. Notice that “the world cannot receive … it neither sees him nor knows him”. Here are just a couple of related ideas from earlier chapters, which prefigured these sayings:

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

– John 1:10-14

 

Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

– John 3:3

Jesus goes on:

In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me

– John 14:19

Does this mean “when I rise from the dead”? No… I would suggest it means, “when I ascend to heaven, and you receive the Holy Spirit”, in keeping with the previous paragraph. Besides, Jesus was asked for clarification, and that’s what he went on to say:

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

– John 14:22-23

The Words of Jesus

Jesus then goes on yet again to emphasise “the word” he has spoken. This theme should by now be very recognisable to us, at week 14 of this study!

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

– John 14:24-26


Questions to Ponder from Chapter 14

How does this chapter relate to the topic of “Trinity” (One God, Three Persons, Father, Spirit, Son)
What does it mean, to “keep my commandments/words”?
Do you “know the way”? Do you “know” Jesus? Do you believe?

 

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