In Chapter 13 we have seen Jesus enact the event of the incarnation in divesting himself of glory in order to become a servant. What Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-11 we find in a striking and shocking action of Jesus to wash his disciples’ feet. Then in his words he states another deeply disturbing element of his incarnation and humiliation. One of his original followers, one trusted among the disciples, would betray him (13:21-30). Jesus now begins to unfold the mystery of the glory of God being manifested in the passion of Christ. His act of laying down his life makes him the “way” to the Father and shows his perfect knowledge of, perfect conformity to, and perfect approbation of his mission given him by the Father.
I. Jesus begins his parting instructions (31-35).
A. The Glory of Jesus (31-32)
1. The Death of Christ which is his chief glory, glorifies the Father. All the glorious attributes of the Father come to bear on this event of the death of Christ. His justice is shown in actually executing such a payment for sin; his mercy is shown in giving such a payment for sin. Not only is there the reconciliation of sinful creatures to a holy God, but we discover the reconciliation of God’s love with his wrath, his mercy with his justice, his grace with his immutability, his righteousness with his propensity to forgive, and his eternal decrees with his use of means within the created order.
2. The Son’s glorification of the Father in such a way results in the Father’s glorification of the Son “in Himself.” (cf. 17:24). This death will gain for the incarnate Lord a glorious resurrection over death, over the condemnation of sin, and over all the hostile hosts until every enemy is placed under his feet. He ascended and is at the Father’s right hand experiencing in his completed messianic office the glory that, as Son of God before the incarnation, he had enjoyed as the natural expression of love that constitutes the life of the Trinity. He had the name that surpassed all other names by his eternal generation; now he has been given “the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
B. What is the “Going-away” of Jesus (33)? – This going away has two foci.
1. One is the death that he is going to die. They cannot follow him there. None but he could die this death; no other person will die such a death that propitiates God’s wrath and brings redemption to sinners. In the short term, they will be sad. But he will return by resurrection, having removed the sting of death, and their mourning will turn to joy (cf. 16:19, 20).
2. The second meaning is his ascension. Having conquered death and raised in a glorified body fit for dwelling the presence of God, they cannot follow. Their corruption must put on incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:53, 54). Even after that, however, in just a little while, they will see him again; He will come in like manner as he ascended (Acts 1:11).
C. Jesus points to the duty and of the intrinsic moral fitness and necessity of love among His followers (34, 35) –
What about the world can possibly transcend the bond of election and redemption as a source of love? Those upon whom God has placed this special redemptive love, has chosen as his own, and has commended his love in that Christ died for them can certainly be the objects of our love. No earthly commonality, no temporal form of fellowship or common interest can possibly transcend the union of believers in Christ.
II. Denial Predicted (36-38)
A. Peter could not be content with the explanations that Jesus was giving.
He had told him plainly that where he was going, they could not come. So Jesus reiterates that Peter cannot come where he is going (36). Eventually, the way would be cleared, and the disciples would follow.
B. Peter, as so often, indicates a discontent with the answer Jesus gives.
He cannot be criticized for the immediacy of his desire to follow where Jesus goes at whatever cost (37). The pressing, however, for special consideration shows an underestimation of what Jesus is telling them that he is going to experience. None can follow him there. He must do it alone. None other is qualified in strength, righteous character, honor, and knowledge of exactly what is transpiring. Peter, however, in his love for Christ, not only underestimates what Christ is on the verge of enduring, but overestimates his own courage. Uninformed zeal often leads to errors in judgment and intrusion into places where we are not allowed to tread.
C. Difficulty of following Jesus through his chosen route (36, 38) –
Certainly this prediction must have been perplexing, shocking, and embarrassing for Peter. “You will deny me three times.” These were hard words to hear, but true; it was a harder experience to endure, but restoration would follow. Often our pretensions of courage and devotion have not plumbed the depths of fear that can shatter the most determined human resolve. His time would come for having increased knowledge, an increased sense of ultimate glory, and a joy in following Jesus even unto death.
III. Seek an extended understanding of this event.
A. Christology –
Jesus’ Person: what are some ways in which Jesus indicates the uniqueness of his knowledge of and relationship to the Father? Jesus’ Work: What is the significance of his loving his own “to the end?”
B. We should be impressed about how weak our powers of observation and deduction are even in light of special revelation; we need the illumination of the Spirit (cf. 12:16 w/28, 29; 1 Cor 2:14 and Phil 3:15, 16).
C. What are the spheres of ministry for which Jesus begins to prepare his Apostles? (13:15, 20, 34f.)
D. How do we process the relation between earthly affections and God’s eternal love (For his Son, for us)?
IV. Jesus is the Way to the Father (14:1-16)
A. Verse 1 – There are three imperatives in this verse.
1. He tells them not to let their hearts be troubled. Remember, he has just announced that he will be betrayed (13:21) and also that Peter will deny him (13:38). Jesus is talking to men whose minds are quite confused with the prospects of betrayal and denial and they have had the sweetness and tranquility of their Passover meal with Jesus interrupted severely.
2. “Believe in God” (14:1). They did believe in God, but Jesus now is indicating that all these events are in the purpose of God and will serve to accomplish his will. They must trust him. His coming experience of arrest, trial, and death is not a failure of God’s protective provide over Jesus but is the perfect execution of it.
3. “Believe in me also” (14:1). Belief in God the Father necessarily involves belief in Jesus; Throughout the gospel, John has emphasized Jesus’ claims of a special relationship of sonship and equality with the Father. In his introduction. John has emphasized that to behold Jesus in all his moral perfection, knowledge, power, and purpose is to behold the glory of the Father (John 1:14, 18). Jesus’ claims of equality with the Father brought upon him the ever-increasing hostility of the Jewish leaders. Here, with his disciples, Jesus gives this same claim as a means of comfort and to show that the purpose of the Father in these upcoming events is also the purpose to which he has committed himself in his being sent by the Father.
B. Verse 2 – Jesus prepares the place in God’s presence for his followers.
1. Does this mean that we will have specific residences in eternity? The fact that he says “many rooms” indicates that each person will occupy a specific place. In Colossians 1:12, Paul indicates that each of the saints has a “share” of the overall inheritance, that is something that is peculiarly designed for him or her. The reality of our having resurrected and glorified bodies means that we will take up space and will have places for all the activities of heaven.
2. How does Jesus “Prepare” this place? The translation indicates that Jesus has told them this before. One of the ways in which Jesus prepares the place is by his own presence in the glorified human body. He shows that operating in the realm of the spiritual even with a physical body is entirely in keeping with the divine purpose for his creatures made in his image.
C. Verses 3, 4 – So how does one get to where Jesus is going?
1. Jesus Himself will usher us to the place: Jesus, who had loved them to the end, and who had just washed their feet, now tells them that his preparation of a place for them means that he Himself will come again and will be responsible for taking them to himself. There is nothing they can do to prepare the place or to get to the place but trust in their shepherd who will lead them out to pasture, who will bring all of his sheep to himself (John 10:9, 15, 16).
2. Jesus indicates that they know the way. They are not aware that they know the way, but their having believed constitutes their knowledge of the way to be with him forever. The glorious details of both the way and the place he is leading them will be unfolded later, and they will be a part of revealing this (1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 3:10-13; 1 John 3:1-3).
D. Verses 5, 6 – Jesus is the way to the Father’s place, that is, the glory of his presence.
1. Thomas speaks for all of the disciples at this point. It is all too confusing. First Jesus speaks of betrayal and now he speaks of a place for them in a place where he is going. Then he tells them he will come back and take them to himself and says that they know the way. Thomas has not even absorbed the first of these dizzying revelations. Thomas, therefore, very naturally has two questions. “Where are you going?” and “How do we know the way?” These questions should let us all know that that gifts God grants through his Son transcend any experience we have had here and give greater privileges and glorious riches than we can ever comprehend.
2. Jesus responds with the classic statement of his exclusivity as the way of true knowledge of and saving relation with God.
- Jesus Himself does not merely show or tell the way but is the way. Because of the uniqueness, necessarily so, of his person within his work of redemption he is established as the only path by whom any can come to knowledge of God.
- He is the truth – there is nothing false in him and his knowledge is infinite. It is impossible for him not to speak and act in accordance with the truth for he has made all things and upholds all things. He cannot represent anything to be other than it is. And particularly in this most august area of knowledge of the Father, he alone truly knows the Father and can speak the truth about him, and conduct his sheep to him in a way that is consonant with truth—a way consistent with all the moral attributes of God.
- He is the Life – in him alone is eternal life—this is, life lived without restriction of sin and corruption in the presence of the author and sustainer of all life in all its possible vigor and beauty.
V. Jesus is the Father’s Peer – Verses 7-14
A. Verses 7-9 – All knowledge of the Father is in the Son.
1. “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.”
- Ontologically none of the divine attributes of the Father were absent or diminished in any sense in the Son. Had their minds been opened to see beyond the humiliation, which happened on brief occasions (Luke 9:28-32; 2 Peter 1:16-18), they would have known something of the eternal blessedness of the Father. In knowing the Son as God, they would know the divine attributes of the Father.
- They had already confessed that Jesus was the Christ and that he was the Son of God. They still were confused about the reasons for his being sent, that is, to die for the ones the Father had given him. Their knowledge, therefore, of the way to the Father was couched in great obscurity for their grasp of his atoning work as their substitute, their propitiation, their reconciler, their redeemer had virtually no form. Had they known these things at this time, their knowledge of the attributes of the Father of justice, righteousness, and holiness, as well as his infinitely condescending kindness, mercy, and grace would have been immensely expanded.
- Henceforward, “from now on,” seeing his trial, his death, his resurrection and ascension and receiving the Holy Spirit as the revealer of all things about Christ, they will know and see with far greater clarity.
2. Philip asked, with a sense of reverence and respect, for Christ to show them the Father (8). Christ now indicates that any knowledge of the Father comes through the Son, and the one who truly sees the Son in his purpose and divinity has seen the Father (9). The Father’s glory and eternal concerns rest in the Son in undiminished form. The attributes of his person as Son of God, his teachings, his purpose of redemption are all the same as those resident in the Father who “has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:3, 4). The answer Jesus gives to Philip’s question forms the background for the last verse of John’s prologue: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18).
B. Verses 10, 11 – The Son does all he does in union with the Father [circumincessio].
In the trinitarian being of God, all activities of each person necessarily involve the fitting participation of the other persons of the Trinity. In addition, each action carries with it something of the distinctive operations and personhood of each respective person. The unity of divine attributes and the distinctions of personality constitute the basis for both unity and diversity in the entire created order.
1. Jesus indicates here a union of essence between the Father and the Son. As the Son is in the Father, so is the Father in the Son. No attribute of the divine essence has greater presence in one than in the other; both Father and Son (and the Holy Spirit) participate fully in every essential attribute of deity. A Trinity of persons, moreover, is one of the essential attributes of deity in the whole as revealed in Scripture; this accounts, therefore, for the reality of the separate personalities without their distinctions in any way compromising their fully sharing all essential attributes. Thus,
2. Jesus indicates that their mutual indwelling does not confuse their distinct personalities. Jesus clearly identifies himself as a knowably discreet person from the Father, and the Father as a knowably discreet person from Himself. Likewise with the Spirit (14:16, 26). Their absolute unity of essence, knowledge, and purpose, however, means that all essential attributes of deity may be affirmed of each person as well as singularly of the One of whom Isaiah says, “O Lord, you are my God. I will exalt you, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isaiah 25:1). Even so God says of himself, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. … I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7).
3. All the words of Jesus are perfectly consonant with the knowledge of and will of the Father. Jesus does not claim a distinct authority from that possessed by the Father but does claim the same authority. (e.g. John 10:18). This authority then leads to the distinctives of the works done by each person (e.g. electing, coming, indwelling; decreeing, executing, effecting) but in perfect knowledge of and delight in the perfection of each part of the overall purpose. “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. …It is the spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words [hramata} that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life” (John 6:57, 63).
4. Within all the works, therefore, the authority is the same in its potency and in the infinitely wise distribution of creative, providential, revelatory, and redemptive events but located in respective fields of effectuality for the final consummation of each of these events. For example, the Father elects, the Son dies for the ones given to him in election by the Father, and the Holy Spirit energizes with creative and resurrection power the affections of those so elected and reconciled. Jesus points to all the works and their implications of divine power and prerogative. “Believe on account of the works themselves.”
C. The Father grants gifts through the name of the Son (12-14).
1. “Whoever believes in me . . . greater works than these” (12)
- The apostles did many of the things that Jesus did by calling on his name in the realm of natural signs: healing the lame, (Acts 3:1-10) raising the dead (Acts 9:36-43), and a general manifestation of power through their ministry (Acts 5:12, 14-16). One could not demonstrate that these were greater or even more numerous than those performed by Jesus.
- It seems that though Jesus’ words—‘the works that I do”—include these “signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4), the more important matter is the preaching of a gospel to be fully completed in the ascension of Christ and fully communicated by the revelatory operations of the Holy Spirit. Upon this basis the apostles would see greater success in their preaching ministry than Christ did. The fulfillment of this would begin in just a short while at Pentecost and continue in its expansion until the day that Christ returns.
- “Because I go to the Father” (12c) – Had it come about that Jesus did not ascend to the Father, then his work would have been faulty. He could not have entered before the holy throne of God in a human nature that had not accomplished the will of the Father. The demerit of the rebellion of the first Adam would not have been corrected, overcome, and reversed by the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-28). But his ascension to the Father, having been raised from the dead, put our nature there with the “hope of eternal life” now objectified (Titus 1:2; 2:13; 3:7; 1 John 3:2, 3) . His going to the Father gives full power and prerogative for the unconditional calling of all the elect through the preaching of the gospel and the certainty of the resurrecction.
2. The promise of Jesus here, “Whatever you ask in my name” (13), certainly does not extend to the carnal desires of this-worldly covetousness (See James 4:1-4). Jesus speaks here of all the spiritual blessings that are given us in him before the foundation of the world. Paul states the proposition “He who spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him give us all things” (Romans 8:32). Thus, the Father is glorified through the Son in that the Son’s obedience opens the floodgates of spiritual blessings that the Father delights to give his children. “In my name” means, not just calling the name of Jesus over our random requests, but discovering and requesting those spiritual blessings that Jesus died to obtain. Look at Paul’s prayers in Philippians 1:9-11, Ephesians 1:16-19; 3:14-19; Colossians 1:9-14 for an example of those things that God will grant us in the name of Jesus. Jesus affirms here, what Paul taught in Ephesians 1, He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 1:3). No blessing fit for eternity, nothing that gives everlasting happiness will be withheld from the people for whom Jesus died.