At the end of our previous study, we dwelt upon the need to have a clear vision of the Lord Jesus, of his teaching and his character. As the Lord continues his teaching to the eleven, the Lord speaks of “that day” (in John14:20) when they will be convinced he is in the Father, the apostles in him (Jesus), and he in them. What day does he here envisage?
A higher level of association
Certainly not at that moment, but the time would come when their faith in him would not merely be restored but given a strength against which no amount of opposition and persecution would prevail. The supreme token of this lies in the transformation wrought in the apostles, the evidence of which can be found especially in the early chapters of Acts. What we must not miss in this verse 20, however, is the anticipation of a new awareness in the apostles: they would not merely be convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, a conviction expressed already in John 16:30. Rather, they would have a new consciousness: their life would be shared with the Lord for he would truly be in them and they in him. This is one of the many fundamental truths grasped by the apostle Paul, who speaks of Christ being in the believers, “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). This must surely move us to examine ourselves and ask, “How true is this of ourselves?”
The Lord reminds us, as he does so often, how this ideal can be achieved: our love for the Lord is demonstrated by the acceptance of his commandments and the observance of them in thought and practice (John14:21). It is then, we are loved in the fullest sense by the Father and the Son.
When this fundamental requirement is satisfied, the Lord will manifest himself in his fullness to the believer. The statement prompts an enquiry by Judas (to be differentiated, as John is quick to remind us), not the traitor. “Why to us, and not to the world at large?” is the puzzled enquiry. We take note in passing — here again we encounter an apostle who is a mere name in the gospels. We are thus reminded we are reading no academic dissertation by the Lord, but final words to men who are hanging on to everything he says.
The vital importance of obedience
In his reply, the Lord effectively restates what we have learned from verse 23: love for him is shown by the observance of his teaching, the putting of it into practice. But there is now an additional promise: when this requirement is satisfied, the Father and the Son will make their abode with him. Clearly we find here an echo of verse 2, for there the disciples are told there are many abiding places in the Father’s house. A place in that house can be assured only if the Father and the Son can find an abiding place in our lives. Constantly we are being reminded of the intimate union that needs to exist between the Father and the Son and those who profess to follow them. As John puts it in his first letter, “Yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3).
The importance of this reflection is reinforced when the Lord, yet once more, reminds us that love for him is empty unless it reveals itself in the observance of his teaching. Again, too, we are told the authority of the Lord’s doctrine derives from the fact it is his Father (cf. v. 10 in this chapter and7:16) who is speaking through him.
In these final hours with the eleven, he has taken the opportunity to speak in the unique terms that characterize this section of John. But the atmosphere in the upper room is emotionally charged, and how are they to remember what has been said to them? To reassure them, the Lord renews the promise of the Comforter (see v. 16), they will receive the holy spirit which the Father will send in the Son’s name (cf. Acts 2:33). The parakleetos will teach them “all things” and revive their memory of what they have heard. This would later prove to be a particularly precious promise when the apostles would recall the circumstances in which the Lord’s words had been spoken. Over and over again they would talk of what had happened in the upper room, and of what their Lord said to them.
A remarkable peace
There is a striking contrast in v. 27, between the Lord’s composure and the troubled minds of his hearers: he is bequeathing his peace to them. How can he possibly speak of his own peace? Is he not soon to be arrested, subjected to a humiliating trial, the object of mockery and buffoonery; is he not going to be scourged and finally impaled upon the cross?
Yet he talks of his peace. This is in stark contrast with what we know about Gethsemane, where, especially in Luke’s moving words, the Lord’s sweat “became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (22:44). However, as Jesus knew full well, he had received a commandment from his Father: he was to lay down his life (John10:18). But as this same passage makes clear, the commandment from his Father included the promise he would be able to take it again. It would be a voluntary surrender and because of his willingness to be obedient, his Father loves him (v. 17). We should not miss this all-important truth, for we shall meet the concept of love again, in its association with the Lord’s death.
The battle of Gethsemanehad been won when he prayed he would do his Father’s will. Having thus resolved the conflict in his own soul, the Lord is henceforth in total control of himself, and this will be in contrast with the Jewish authorities, and indeed with his own followers. Briefly then, the Lord does not idly speak of the peace he is leaving with his apostles. Yet we must recognize that his mention of his own peace looks beyond Gethsemaneto a peace of which he rightly says the world knows nothing. But he understands the apostles’ troubled minds: hence he repeats what he has said at the beginning of the chapter: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful.”
The associations of the Lord Jesus with peace are multiple and we can now only briefly refer to them. By his sacrifice, he established peace between God and man (see Ephesians2:14). He will in due course establish peace between the nations and show himself thus to be the prince of peace (cf. Isa. 9:6). This will be rendered possible because in him righteousness and peace will have embraced each other (Psa. 85:10).
The prince of this world cometh
To return to the upper room: the Lord yet once more says something beyond the immediate comprehension of the apostles; he is going away as he has already said, but he will not thereby forsake them (John14:28). The fact he is going to the Father should be a matter for rejoicing on their part, and this would be so if they truly loved him, for the Father is greater than the Son. This latter truth he has declared by his constant insistence he can do nothing, say nothing, except with his Father’s help (see for example, John5:19).
Conscious as he was that so much of what he was saying was an enigma to his hearers, he nevertheless speaks to them of developments yet to come, and when they are fulfilled, their faith in him will be fortified (v. 29).
The Lord is well aware his time with the eleven is drawing to a close, for the prince of this world is coming to apprehend him, but it will be in vain. The powers of darkness will not prevail against him. To the motley company who, under the guidance of Judas, came to arrest him in Gethsemane, (the chief priests, captains of the temple, and elders) the Lord said: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke22:53).
During the final hours on the cross, the Father caused darkness to overspread the land (Matt. 27:45; Mark15:33; Luke23:44), a symbolic intervention on God’s part. The eclipse of the Light of the world was brief for, on the third day the Sun of righteousness arose, never again to set.
The Son’s love for the Father
John 14 concludes with the declaration that the Lord is going to carry out his Father’s commandment. This is going to be done, not with any reluctance, but as an expression of love for his Father. In the great passage in Philippians 2, the Apostle stresses the Lord’s humility by his submission to the cross (v. 8). However, now the Lord himself tells us he is going forward to carry out his Father’s will in a spirit of love.
When we reflect upon all that is going to be experienced in terms of shame and suffering, the thought must surely fill us with awe. If we go back to John 10, we discover the Father loves the Son because he is going to lay down his life at His behest (v. 17). Thus the death of our Lord is an expression of love on the part of the Father and the Son. Constantly we should take note of the great theme of love that runs through this section of John’s gospel. All who profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus need to examine how far love is the expression of what they do for the Lord and their fellows. In what appear to be the last words in the upper room, the Lord says to the eleven: “Arise, let us go hence.”