Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

200. "I go away" (John 14:25-31)

There is a strange paradox about the development of Christ's discourse to the twelve in John 14. After repeated emphasis on their dose fellowship with both the Father and the Son (v. 18-23 especially), he was at pains to prepare their minds for separation. "These things have I spoken, being yet present with you." The time when he would be taken away was drawing near, and there were many things he had tried to teach them which they would forget. And many which they remembered they would understand only imperfectly. The disciples themselves knew this well enough. So it was a great comfort to them to be assured that the gift of the Holy Spirit, "whom the Father will send in my name (to further my work), he shall teach you all things (Mt. 23:8), and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."

This was a tremendous promise. The new commandment: "Do this in remembrance of me," properly and dutifully observed, would involve their remembering all that the Lord had said and done among them-and not only the remembering but the understanding also. With so many blatant examples in their recent experience of downright lack of comprehension of Christ, how could they hope to keep him in memory as they ought? Luke's gospel especially tells with unequivocal bluntness of their lack of insight: "They understood not this saying, and it was hid from them that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying" (9 :45). And again: "They understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken" (18:34).

Lack of Insight

But, by contrast, there are several examples of blindness giving place to sight: "When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered (and understood) that he had said this unto them" (Jn.2 :22). "And they remembered his words" (Lk.24:8), now making sense of them. "These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him" (Jn.12 :16). "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter, Thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards" (Jn. 13:7,36). Peter could not follow physically then, because he was unable to "follow" Jesus in his spiritual grasp of what it all meant. "These things have I told you, that when the time shall come ye may remember" (Jn.16 :4). At the tomb of Jesus there was mystification in Peter's mind because "as yet they knew not (i.e. they understood not) the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (Jn.20:9).

Within a few weeks what a change was to come over these men! The company of their risen Lord during the forty days, and the endowment of the spirit's wisdom and power at Pentecost, transformed them into veritable geniuses of Bible exposition. Ignorant and unlearned men bequeathed to later generations matchless compressions of forceful reasoning and perceptive interpretation.

High priest's blessing

Nor was the guiding and comforting Holy spirit to be the Lord's only bequest to his faithful at the time of his going away: "Peace I leave with you, my Peace I give unto you." This was more than a conventional farewell! Shalom!

Jesus had encouraged them to consider him as sacrifice and High Priest, consecrated and consecrating in God's new spiritual House. After the offering of the daily sacrifice, and most especially after the great sin-offering on the Day of Atonement, it was normal for the priest to convey God's blessing to the assembled worshippers: "The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace" (Num.6 :24-27). This was no formality, but the imparting of a very real blessing: "and I will bless them," said the Lord to Moses. It meant the forgiveness of sins (See Study 194) and reconciliation ("Peace") with their God.

Now, in reality and not in type, Jesus gave his high-priestly blessing to the disciples before the sacrifice was offered and before he went away into the divine Presence with the evidence of the sacrifice. "Not as the world-the Jewish world, and its high priest—giveth (Peace), give I unto you." It was a further indication that his offering of himself was timeless in its quality and effects. True faith in Christ (like that of Abraham; Jn.8:56) need not wait for Golgotha in order to know the "Peace" of Christ.


Wherefore, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Fear of what? That their Master was to be taken from them, seems to be the obvious answer. But it may be that his talk of a new temple, with a new sacrifice, new ordinances and a new high priest suddenly appalled them with the utterly revolutionary thought that they were now to turn their backs on the temple in Jerusalem and on the men who exercised authority there. If, indeed, this was not their greatest fear at this moment, it was to become so before very long.

"I said to you, I go away, and come again unto you," Jesus reminded them. He had said this when speaking of the new "Father's house" and of his own role in it (14 :2,3). Now he repeated that assurance: "If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced, because I said, I go unto the Father." The past tenses here might suggest that he was taking their minds back to the Breaking of Bread which they had scarcely understood? Had they done so, they would have found much greater joy of fellowship at that table, out of deeper appreciation of the redeeming truth it symbolized.

Going to the Father

Jesus, their Master, was the Son of God and for their sakes was about to go away to the Father's presence, even as Moses had gone up into the mount to learn God's will for His people. But Jesus was greater than Moses-everything in this latest discourse had proclaimed that fact-and the Father to whom he would approach on their behalf was greater than he, and was able and for the sake of His beloved Son was willing to pour out limitless blessings on those who honour the Son as they honour the Father.

"My Father is greater than I"

From the earliest days of apostasy that simple truth: "My Father is greater than I," has been a thorn in the sides of Trinitarians. To this day the best they can do with it is to coin a strange dichotomy that sometimes the gospels speak of Jesus as God and sometimes as man. Thus Wordsworth, Bishop of Lincoln: "My Father is greater than I am, in the nature that goes to Him. But I am equal to Him in that Nature which is now and ever with Him"!! Very lucid! Would Jesus be at pains to say: 'My Father is greater than my mortal nature'? Was he in the habit of speaking such platitudes?

The real purpose of this declaration by Jesus was to emphasize that even though the Father is so much greater than the Son, the latter has qualities which enable him to approach into and abide in the Father's presence, in a way which was never possible for Moses, no matter how great his other privileges.

All these things Jesus sought to inculcate, so that the disciples would weather the coming storm and ultimately find all the more confidence in their Lord simply because he had foretold everything. "Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous?" (Is.41 :26). If such power vindicated Almighty God, what should they not similarly learn concerning Jesus?

The prince of this world

There was little more that he could tell them. The hour-glass was fast running out: "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." In this context of temple, priesthood, and I ministered sacrifice, there is much to be said for the suggestion (Study 169) that "the prince of this world" is the high priest of the Jewish order, now about to use every villainous device he was capable of to rid the country of Jesus of Nazareth. But- "he hath nothing in me."

The conclusion of this discourse is a strange unfinished sentence. The interpreter is compelled to assume an ellipsis or a parenthesis, probably the latter, thus: "But that the (Jewish) world may know that I love the Father, arise, let us to hence-and as the Father gave me commandment (to lay down my life) even so I do." Alternatively, assuming an ellipsis: "But (the prince of this world comes) that the world may know that I love the Father ..." Either way, one central truth shines out: The world learns his love of the Father. It is the only thing that the world does learn from Jesus!

Notes: Jn. 14:25-31

A summary of the Lord's promises concerning the Holy spirit:

14:16-18. Comfort.

14:26. Instruction.

15:26; 16:7-11. Witness.

16:13,14. Interpretation.
26, 27
The sequence of ideas: teaching, peace, no fear (v.26,27), is also to be found in Is. 54:13,14.
I go unto the Father. An impressive case can be made out for reading a substantial part of these discourses (ch. 14-16) and especially the prayer of ch. 17 as having been spoken by the Lord just before his ascension. But in that case, why incorporated here?- because so much was also relevant to the Lord's farewell before going to the cross?

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