John (Part 53): Peace Given (ch 14)
In verses 12 through 14 of chapter 14, Jesus explained the benefit to the disciples in his “going away.” He began by saying, “I assure you,” as a continuation of his insistence that they be not troubled. The word translated “assure” (which is translated as “verily” in the KJV and “truly” in most other versions) is the word amen. Paul uses it sometimes in his benedictions ending his letters (e.g., Romans 16:27). It means what we normally understand amen to mean—so be it or may it be so. It is a word of assurance of truth. Jesus had just told them that he did the works of the Father (14:10), and, in that explanation, he told them that it was the Father in him that did the works (14:11). Then in verse 12 he said that whoever believes in him will do the same works. This solidifies what Jesus had been telling them: he would bring them to the Father; they would have relationship with the Father just as he had; the Father would be in them as he was in Jesus. This is the assurance he continues to comfort them with.
Of course, we know that the apostles also did those works done by Jesus. Their ministries saw the lame walk (Acts 3), others were healed (Acts 5), and even the dead were raised (Acts 9). But miracles such as these have not been so numerous or at the leading point of ministry since the apostles. This does not mean we need to pick sides regarding miracle workers—either cessationist or continuationist. It would appear that the purpose for which Jesus used miracles (confirming he was from God) and the apostles used miracles (introducing Christianity to the world) are no longer applicable—at least in a broad spectrum focus. God has changed the means of attraction and edification to preaching and love exhibited among Christ’s followers. However, that doesn’t mean that God could not and does not in certain instances for other good purposes heal or perform miracles in moving hearts and coordinating events. Most of us have heard of or experienced these workings of God. Therefore, the age of miracles should not be dogmatically proclaimed as over. Rather, the focus and purpose has changed. God has decreed no limit on himself and his activity. But that, of course, doesn’t mean that every faith healer must be believed. In fact, since the focus has changed, most faith healers whose ministry is highlighted by a claim to heal would seem doubtful to me. But doubting faith healers does not mean we have to doubt God’s work in certain instances that he may miraculously perform.
Jesus went on to say that the ones who believed in him would be doing even greater works than what he had done. Greater works? Jesus had calmed the sea, healed the lame and the blind, and even raised the dead. How could the works they do be greater than that? I think we need to keep in mind the perspective of Jesus to this point and not fall to the same physical perspective that the disciples had. Greater works didn’t mean flashier or more astounding works in the disrupting of physical laws. The “greater” aspect, again, was in purpose. The miracles that Jesus had done were to confirm that God was with him. The greater works the disciples would do would be intended and would result in people coming into relationship with God. Of course, stepping back and looking at the whole, that certainly could be said of Jesus’s ministry as well. But I think the “greater” is in reference to the more immediate purpose and impact. It speaks to the results of the completion of Jesus’s ministry through his death and resurrection as John 5:20 had hinted. Notice in 14:12, Jesus said the greater works were the result of him going to the Father—which means they are a result of his own death and resurrection. We know this means that believers will be born anew into life relationship with God. Those rebirths are the greater works.
Continuing this very thought, Jesus said that whatever they ask in his name, he would do it. Again, this is not the genie in the lamp telling Aladdin that he will serve him, granting whatever he wished. Saying Jesus’s name is not an incantation like “Abracadabra” so that a wish can be granted. We must keep tight hold of the context and perspective. What had Jesus been saying? His going away to death and resurrection would result in new life of relationship with God for these disciples. That new life relationship would have God living within them. That closeness of God in them and them in God would allow them to do the works of God. Asking in Jesus’s name, then, means exactly that. Notice that Jesus said he would do what they asked “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Remember that glory is the manifestation of God’s truth, goodness, and beauty. So as we do God’s works, his truth, goodness, and beauty are reflected by us to the world—it is the glory of God shining forth. Asking in Jesus’s name is living wholly devoted in love with God doing what he prompts us and leads us to do. When we ask, having been led by the Spirit, we are asking for things in concert with God’s already desired will and way. But why do we ask “in Jesus’s name”? It is through Jesus that we have relationship with God. We are no longer children of Adam and broken relationship. We have been reborn as children of Jesus into new life. It is through that rebirth that we have in Jesus that we approach God. And our asking is for God to flow through us.
The whole following section from verse 15 through 26 defines this new relationship in Jesus, or living through Jesus’s name, made possible by Jesus’s death and resurrection. And it is identified by love. Jesus said in verse 15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” Is this some list of duty to fulfill? No. He had told them his new command for the New Covenant was to love each other (John 13:34). He had mentioned that all the Law and Prophets—everything God had brought forward to this point had as its basis love of God and love for others (Mt 22:37-40). We learn in Jeremiah 31:33 that in the New Covenant God’s teaching would not be some list of rules to follow but rather it would be in written on our hearts. In other words, we would be directed by God’s Spirit to act in that basis of love for God and for others. All Jesus’s commands rest in the heart attitude of love. And this is exactly, then, his point—to imitate him in imaging/reflecting our God through love.
The rest of the chapter is a summation of what Jesus had been telling them. He began with a word of peace. He had to leave, but he left them with his peace. We may wonder briefly about this since we read of Jesus being troubled in 12:27 and 13:21. How can Jesus talk about leaving us with peace when he was troubled? We know from Matthew’s account that Jesus said in Gethsemane that his “soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death” (Mt 26:38). That doesn’t sound very peaceful.
But notice that in 14:27 he told them that he gives peace not as the world does. It is not a peace simply of making circumstances not be troubling for them. In fact, he was soon to tell them that they would suffer in this world (Jn 15:20; 16:2). His peace was the peace above the circumstances of being in relationship with and in the care of God. He was going away so that he could bring them to that place of peace with God above the circumstances no matter what they would be.
Again, Jesus brings up going away and coming again. His death and resurrection would bring them to God. If they had realized this, they would have rejoiced that he was going to die and rise to life again—that would be their focus. He tells them that the Father is greater than he (Jesus the man) because relationship with Jesus the man was not the end. He was the catalyst. He would bring them to life (relationship with God). He told them this in advance—before he died—so that they could be confident in faith that his death was the plan to give them life. (Just as he mentioned in 13:9. He had told them in advance that the betrayal would occur.)
In verse 30, he told them that the time was short. Satan was coming. But again he let them know it was not that Satan had control. God does. He also told them that he was going away (dying/rising) not merely out of blind master-slave relationship. The Father did tell him to do this, but he was doing it because he loved God. This is what relationship with God is built on. It is not a king-subject view that should define our thinking ever about God and his creation. It was and is always about love relationship. Jesus—the only one who had relationship with God—showed us what kind of relationship it was and what was in store for us—everlasting love relationship with God.
Remember that Jesus is the perfect image bearer. He reflects God perfectly and thus shows love for him. It all begins with God’s truth, goodness, and beauty (TGB). That is the essence of who God is. God himself confirms his own TGB in his faithful hold and hopeful intent. And he communicates that TGB through his love. As the perfect image bearer, Jesus apprehends God’s TGB through his own image-bearing qualities of conceptual intelligence, conscious morality, and critical aesthetic. Jesus approbates that apprehended TGB in his concluding faith and continuing hope. And then Jesus articulates or reflects that apprehended and approbated TGB from God in love. So Jesus going to his death for the Father’s TGB is done so in love.
The chapter ends with a statement providing transition. Jesus said, “Get up; let’s leave this place.” Some people have noted a seeming contradiction between this statement and the first verse of chapter 18. There we read that Jesus and his disciples crossed the Kidron valley on the east side of Jerusalem to get to Gethsemane after he had said “these things” (chapters 15-17). So, the question is whether they left the upper room at the end of chapter 14 or at the end of chapter 17. This really is no big controversy. They could have gotten up to go in chapter 14 and Jesus continued talking as they prepared to leave. (Do we ever get up to leave after a church service and still have lengthy conversations before we exit the building?) They also could have been talking on the walk from their upper room location across the city. We can imagine either scenario as to how when Jesus spoke the words of chapters 15-17. One solution, with which I disagree, is that chapters 15-17 occurred earlier in the evening, in conversation before chapter 14, but John placed it here for contextual purposes. That could be possible, but it doesn’t seem likely. There is too much, especially in chapter 15, that builds on what Jesus said in chapter 14 to imagine Jesus explaining this in reverse order.
But if that last clause of chapter 14 bears no significance as to where the next chapters are spoken, why did John include it? I think John included it to mark a transition. There does seem to be a focus change from the conversation in chapter 14 to the other chapters. In 14, Jesus concentrates more on the imagery of his relationship—being in the Father and the Father in him. In 15-17, Jesus shifts to the disciples being in God and each other as they go out to face the world. We’ll start on that next time.