Interpretation 14


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  Copyright © 2001 Jeanie C. Crain
Last modified: March, 2002

John  14 is probably one of the most beloved chapters in the book and the one most easily remembered and quoted, with the exception of chapter one. Perhaps, although not consciously recognized, a pattern may exist in these chapters and in John as a whole. John may  contain an intricate literary structures, as argued by Kym Smith in The Amazing Structure of John. He argues that John contains sets of chiasms:

A chiasmus, or chiasm, is a literary tool used by the writers of the Scriptures. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible says, Biblical writers used chiasmus extensively to lend variety and charm to their parallel structures. Onmicro and macro levels chiasmus has been shown to be a basic element in the formal structure of biblical literature, so that critics can use it to determine the reading of a difficult text, the meaning or grammatical function of a word, or the limits of extensive pericopes…

The Gospel of John is a collection of chiasms, a veritable cascade of chiasms. Every part is caught up in one or other of the seventy chiasms which make up this gospel. All but thirteen of these chiastic structures are based on the number seven, the significance of which, in ancient literature, was ‘completion, fulfillment and perfec-tion.’ By using the number seven John was not stressing the perfection of his gospel but the perfection of Christ, the perfection of all that God has done in creation and redemption and the perfection of all that he will do in the ultimate glorification of all things.

Those chiasms which are not based on the number seven are five of the six signs and the seven discourses of the Signs and Discourses section (these vary in size), and the final formation which has ten complementary parts. ‘The simplest use of ten is to denote a round or complete number’ and so, numerically, this is an appropriate chiasm to bring the gospel to completion. Considering the significance of both numbers, seven and ten, it is not without significance that the whole gospel is built on seventy (i.e. 75 10) separate chiastic structures.

The chiasms, as I have presented them, are shown in the opposite way to that in which they are normally arranged in Biblical studies. Usually they are ordered by increasing the left hand indent of each successive line or phrase to the center point and then reversing that to the end. I have inverted this sequence because, if John ‘stepped’ his chiasms at all, this is most likely the way he did it to form the image already mentioned. That same image may have demanded that the chiasms which make up the second half of the Signs and Discourses structure were formed in the ‘normal’ way. To avoid confusion, however, I have maintained the same pattern throughout.

 Kym provides two chiasms for John 14;

LS3 — 14:1-11

a 14:1-2 ...believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house...

b 3-5 I...prepare a place for you...that where I am you may be also.

c 6a Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life;

d 6b no one comes to the Father, but by me

e 7a If you had known me, you would have known my Father also

f 7b henceforth you know him and have seen him

g 8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied."

g¢ 9a Jesus said..."Have I been with you...and yet you do not know me, Philip?"

f¢ 9b He who has seen me has seen the Father;

e¢ 9c how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

d¢ 10a Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?

c¢ 10b The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority

b¢ 10c but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

a¢ 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me...

LS4 — 14:12-31

a 12-14 ...who I do...greater...he do...I go to the Father.

b 15 ...If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

c 16-17 ...the Father...will give you another Counselor, even the Spirit...

d 18-20 I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you...

e 21a He who has my commandments and keeps them, he...loves me;

f 21b and he who loves me will be loved by my Father,

g 21c and I will love him and manifest myself to him."

g¢ 22 Judas (not Iscariot)..., "Lord, how...will manifest yourself to us...?"

f¢ 23 Jesus: "If a man loves Father...we will...make our home with him.

e¢ 24 He who does not love me does not keep my words

d¢ 25 These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you.

c¢ 26-27 ...Counselor...Holy Spirit...the Father will send...peace I give...

b¢ 28 ...If you loved me, you would have rejoiced...

a¢ 29-31 ...I do as the Father...commanded...believe...I love the Father...

If Kym is right, then John's intricate detail and structure lead theologically to the question of authorship and the time of composition. I have touched on authorship in my work in Revelation and noted similarities between John and Revelation.  Kym also points out resemblances in much more depth:

I have held several presuppositions which have some bearing on what follows. These should be made apparent at the beginning. They are (1) that the Revelation preceded the Gospel of John, (2) the Apostle John was the ‘author’ of both books, (3) while John gave the gospel its final form it is actually a collation of contributions from a number of apostles and other eye-witnesses of Jesus and (4) at the time of preparing this work John had seen the Gospel of Mark and knew of the intended production of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. I have presented a case for these presuppositions in another book which Ihope to publish shortly titled Redating the Revelation and… While these presuppositions do not affect the structure of the gospel they do affect some of the implications which I will be drawing from it. Even if each of the pre-suppositions is proved false, along with their related implications, the structure still stands.

    Alfred Edersheim in The Life and Times of Jesus places John 14 in the context of the Last Supper, citing the unlikelihood that the narrow streets of Jerusalem would allow extended discourses enroute:

The new Institution of the Lord’s Supper did not finally close what passed at that Paschal Table. According to the Jewish Ritual, the Cup is filled a fourth time, and the remaining part of the halel repeated. Then follow, besides Ps 136, a number of prayers and hymns, of which the comparatively late origin is not doubtful. The same remark applies even more strongly to what follows after the fourth Cup. But, so far as we can judge, the Institution of the Holy Supper was followed by the Discourse recorded in Jn 14. Then the, concluding Ps of the halel were sung, after which the Master left the ‘Upper Chamber.’ The Discourse of Christ recorded in Jn 16, and His prayer were certainly uttered after they had risen from the Supper, and before they crossed the brook Kidron. In all probability they were, however, spoken before the Saviour left the house. We can scarcely imagine such a Discourse, and still less such a Prayer, to have been uttered while traversing the narrow streets of Jerusalem on the way to Kidron. (Book Five, Chapter Eleven)

Edersheim continues by stating the elements of the discourse provide teaching and comfort. Jesus' going would lead to ultimate union with God in the eternal:

At the outset we ought, perhaps, to remember the very Common Jewish idea, that those in glory occupied different abodes, corresponding to their ranks. If the words of Christ, about the place whither they could not follow Him, had awakened any such thoughts, the explanation which He now gave must effectually have dispelled them. Let not their hearts, then, be troubled at the prospect. As they believed in God, so let them also have trust in Him. It was His Father’s house of which they were thinking, and although there were ‘many mansions,’ or rather ‘stations,’ in it - and the choice of this word may teach us something - yet they were all in that one House. Could they not trust Him in this? Surely, if it had been otherwise, He would have told them, and not left them to be bitterly disappointed in the end. Indeed, the object of His going was the opposite of what they feared: it was to prepare by His Death and Resurrection a place for them. Nor let them think that His going away would imply permanent separation, because He had said they could not follow Him thither. Rather did His going, not away, but to prepare a place for them, imply His Coming again, primarily as regarded individuals at death, and secondarily as regarded the Church - that He might receive them unto Himself, there to be with Him. Not final separation, then, but ultimate gathering to Himself, did His present going away mean. ‘And whither I go, ye know the way.’ (Book Five, Chapter Eleven)

What was the goal of the teaching? That the way to the Father led directly through Christ, that coming remains a matter of personal apprehension of Christ in the life, the mind, and the heart. Gazing on Christ, those who apprehend see "the shining track up to heaven, the Jacob's ladder at the top of which was the Father:

Jesus had referred to His going to the Father’s House, and implied that they knew the way which would bring them thither also. But His Words had only the more perplexed, at least some of them. If, when speaking of their not being able to go whither He went, He had not referred to a separation between them in that land far away, whither was He going? And, in their ignorance of this, how could they find their way thither? If any Jewish ideas of the disappearance and the final manifestation of the Messiah lurked beneath the question of Thomas, the answer of the Lord placed the matter in the clearest light. He had spoken of the Father’s House of many ‘stations,’ but only one road led thither. They must all know it: it was that of personal apprehension of Christ in the life, the mind, and the heart. The way to the Father was Christ; the full manifestation of all spiritual truth and the spring of the true inner life were equally in Him. Except through Him, no man could consciously come to the Father. Thomas had put his twofold question thus: What was the goal? and, what was the way to it? In His answer Christ significantly reversed this order, and told them first what was the way - Himself; and then what was the goal. If they had spiritually known Him as the way, they would also have known the goal, the Father, and now, by having the way clearly pointed out, they must also know the goal, God; nay, He was, so to speak, visibly before them - and, gazing on Him, they saw the shining track up to heaven, the Jacob’s ladder at the top of which was the Father. (Book Five, Chapter Eleven)

Edersheim's introduction certainly points the reader correctly into understanding John  14.

   John 14 begins a discourse that contains Jesus' farewell discourse and prayer, a discourse continuing through John 17.26 and interpreting Jesus' completed work on earth and relation to believers, according to the Oxford annotation: 

14.1–17.26: Jesus’ farewell discourse and prayer; an interpretation of Jesus’ completed work on earth and relation to both believers and the world after his resurrection and ascension. It is a meditation, which—like a love-letter—is difficult to outline.

14.1–31: The believers’ relation to the glorified Christ; no separation, but deepened fellowship. 1: Belief in God has new meaning in Jesus. 2–3: For him to go, through death and resurrection, to his Father’s house (with dwelling places for all) was to prepare a place of permanent fellowship with him (John 13.33; John 13.36). 4–7: Access to God is solely through Jesus (Matthew 11.27; John 1.18; John 6.46; Acts 4.12).

14.8–11: Knowledge of God is solely through the person, words, and works of Jesus. 12–17: Greater works (of a more exalted nature because redemption is achieved) will be done by the believers through prayer (John 14.13; John 14.15), obedience (John 14.15), and the Holy Spirit (Advocate, John 14.16; John 14.17).

14.18–20: The Spirit imparts Christ’s life (Acts 2.33) and unites the believer to God. 21–24: Fellowship with Christ is dependent on love which issues in obedience.

14.25–27: The Holy Spirit interprets Christ’s teachings (John 14.26), and imparts his peace (John 14.27). 28–31: To go to the Father meant Jesus’ self-chosen conflict with the ruler of this world (i.e. Satan), whose power would be broken by death and resurrection.

Jesus reveals that he  himself becomes the way to the Father. The disciples should command their hearts, not being disturbed or troubled that Jesus is going away, and that where he is going, they cannot come. The reader will recall from chapter eleven that Jesus has been disturbed at the tomb of Lazarus:

11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jewish people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed.

Just prior to being affirmed glorified by the Father, Jesus also expressed this state of being troubled; importantly, though, he recognizes his purpose for coming to the earth in the first place:

12:27 “Now my soul is greatly distressed. And what should I say? ‘Father, deliver me53 from this hour’?54 No, but for this very reason I have come to this hour.

A similar sentiment precedes his announcement of betrayal:

13:21 When he had said these things, Jesus was greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, “I tell you the solemn truth,5 one of you will betray me.”

As the Net Bible concludes, "Jesus is looking ahead to the events of the evening and the next day, his arrest, trials, crucifixion, and death, which will cause his disciples extreme emotional distress."

14 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believea in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?b 3And 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. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going."c 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will knowd my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
  8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask mee for anything, I will do it.

 It should not be surprising that Jesus seeks to console at the same time that he begins to instruct once again relative to spiritual matters. The identity of Jesus is complete in verse one: “You believe in God, believe also in me.”

For the writer of the Fourth Gospel, faith in Jesus
cannot be separated from faith in God. Jesus addresses precisely this point in context as he is about to undergo rejection by his own people as their Messiah:

 The disciples' faith in him as Messiah and Lord would be cast into extreme doubt by these events, which the author makes clear were not at this time foreseen by the disciples. After the resurrection it is this identification between Jesus and the Father which needs to be reaffirmed (cf. John 20:24-29). Thus it seems best to take the first pisteuvete as indicative and the second as imperative, producing the translation "You believe in God; believe also in me." (Net Bible Notes)

Jesus’ disciples have little understanding that Jesus speaks to them about a journey that will take him physically away from them.   He speaks to them in words that have been picked up and used by generations of Christians who wish to console loved ones in the face of physical death:

2 In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going."

First, Thomas responds by indicating he does not know physically where Jesus is going:

5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"

Jesus’ response makes clear that the way, the truth, and the life indicate an understanding of spiritual matters and an obedient walk in faith:

6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him."

As always, the text presents theological difficulty, and the time indicated here becomes an issue:

15tc (14:7) Again there is a difficult textual problem: the statement reads either "If you have known (ejgnwvkate, egnwkate) me, you will know (gnwvsesqe, gnwsesqe) my Father" or "If you had really known (ejgnwvkeite, egnwkeite) me, you would know (ejgnwvkeite) my Father." The division of the external evidence is difficult, but would appear to favor the first alternative, since there is an Alexandrian-Western alliance supported by Ì66. In this case (a first class condition) Jesus promises the disciples that (assuming they have known him) they will know the Father. Contextually this fits better with the following phrase (7b) which asserts that "from the present time you know him and have seen him" (compare John 1:18).

Phillip, also, expresses confusion:

8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.

Jesus explains to Phillip that his words do not originate with him but with the Father. When one recalls the beginning of John, one remembers that the Word has been from the beginning an active and creative power, so it is not surprising here to see Jesus combining words with works:

Jesus says that his teaching (the words he spoke to them all) did not originate from himself, but the Father who permanently remains (mevnwn, menwn) in relationship with Jesus performs his works. One would have expected church fathers (e.g., Augustine and Chrysostom) identified the two by saying that Jesus' words were works. But there is an implicit contrast in the next verse between words and works, and v. 12 seems to demand that the works are real works, not just words. It is probably best to see the two terms as related but not identical; there is a progression in the idea here. Both Jesus' words (recall the Samaritans' response in John 4:42) and Jesus' works are revelatory of who he is, but as the next verse indicates, works have greater confirmatory power than words. Net Bible Notes)

Jesus tells his disciples that if they love him, as they have professed, then they will follow his example:

12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; 14 if you ask anything in my name, I will do it. 11      "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

The connection between words (prayer) and action (keeping commandments)  results from a genuine love:

35sn (14:15) Jesus' statement If you love me, you will obey my commandments provides the transition between the promises of answered prayer which Jesus makes to his disciples in vv. 13-14 and the promise of the Holy Spirit which is introduced in v. 16. Obedience is the proof of genuine love.

Personal apprehension of Christ is the life, mind, and the heart, a matter of personal choice and committed understanding .

            That Jesus now directs his discourse to his disciples’ need of yet another teacher may be anticipated.  Too many times throughout the Gospels, the faithful fail to understand or to see clearly.

16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. 18 "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. …. 25 "These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Jesus directs his disciples from seeking externally to themselves for the truth to seeking for it internally: “the Spirit of truth…dwells with you, and will be in you.” This completes what has begun in John the Baptist, who calls for repentance and baptism with water or concern with external cleanliness, although to John’s credit, he did call for a repentance requiring a change of heart and direction.  With Jesus, the baptism is that of Spirit. One notes, once again, a question from Judas, not Judas Iscariot; one notes that, like Luke, John introduces a second individual names Judas:

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" 23 Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 11      He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

Jesus’ answer reveals an indwelling of spirit manifesting itself in action: “keeping the word.” In short, true disciples of Jesus will follow his example.  Jesus then bids his disciples a traditional peace of shalom or  14:27 "Peace I leave with you;62 my peace I give to you; I do not give it63 to you as the world does.64 Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” Jesus knows that the disciples must continue to be taught and that they will not understand a great deal of what he has said to them until he is no longer physically present with them.  They have been told before events have taken place so that when they finally occur, they will believe in retrospect.

28 You heard me say to you, `I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence.

I conclude my discussion of chapter fourteen with reference again to Alfred Edersheim and his commentary on the final discourses:

.And in this sense also should they have rejoiced, because, through the presence of the Holy Ghost in them, as sent by the Father in His 'greater' work, they would, instead of the present selfish enjoyment of Christ's Personal Presence, have the more power of showing their love to Him in apprehending His Truth, obeying His Commandments, doing His Works, and participating in His Life (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah).