From:  Busy Person’s Guide to John 11 to 21                                  Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019

 

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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding John

 

(Volume 2:  Chapters 13 to 15)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

Jesus Washes the Feet of His Apostles (John 13:1-11):  1 Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end.  The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. 

Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself.  He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”  Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 

10 Jesus replied, “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean.  And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you.”  11 (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him.  For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is clean.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

 

            13:1     Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.  With the Passover approaching, Jesus knew that the time of His death had arrived.  Yet in spite of all the psychological pressure this imposed upon Him, it did nothing to hinder His love for His disciples.  That continued all the way “to the end.” 

 

            13:2     And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him,   Judas came under the decisive influence of “the devil . . . to betray Him” during that final meal together.  The past had been temptation; now was the decisive time when the plan would be translated into action  It had to be done now or the entire scheme given up.

 

            13:3     Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,  Though knowing that God had given Him all His authority to exercise (cf. Matthew 28:18) and even though He knew that He would shortly be returning to God, this did not destroy His humility.  Indeed it offered Him the final opportunity to teach by personal example the importance of it to His disciples.  

 

            13:4     rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.  Jesus rose from the meal, slid aside the outer garments and took a towel and promptly began to carry out the humble task of a household servant or slave. . . .

 

            13:5     After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.  . . . and poured water into a container and proceeded from apostle to apostle to wash their feet.  Note “feet” plural.  It was not a ritual; it was done because the apostles’ dirty feet--both feet--needed washing and none had performed it. 

            This interpretation assumes that this is occurring literally at the beginning of the meal.  The translation “supper being ended” (verse 2) doesn’t really do justice to that timing because the following verses show that all of the observance had not yet occurred--so it can’t be after it is all over!  The proper translation of the Greek does not have to be that way, however; it easily yields a rendering of “the evening meal was in progress” (NIV) or “when it was time for supper” (CSB).  In other words, at or near the beginning of the gathering.

 

            13:6     Then He came to Simon Peter.  And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”  Simon Peter protested as to why Jesus was doing such a thing.  There was something disconcerting and alarming that their Leader would take the lowest role in such a group gathering.  John the Baptist had felt similarly out of place when Jesus had come to be baptized; he also felt that it was out of place for the lesser to be served by the greater (Matthew 3:14-15). 

 

            13:7     Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”  Jesus conceded that Peter did not understand the reason for the behavior, but that at a later time the apostle would recognize the point being made.  The “ignorance” will only be temporary, it won’t be permanent.  Surely intended as reassuring words.  They weren’t reassuring enough. . . .

 

            13:8     Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”  Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”  Since Jesus had dodged giving an explanation, Peter refused to permit his feet to be washed at all.  It was undignified for their Leader to be doing such a thing.  Jesus insisted it was a matter of obedience or rejection; if he refused “you have no part with me.”  You are not being faithful to My wishes.  Are you rejecting Me as Master?

 

            13:9     Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”  Frustrated, Peter protested that if he were going to go through with this, then let Him wash the head and hands as well.  Either he said this to protest the “foolishness” he saw in the act or because he regarded it symbolically as conveying the idea of the acceptance of the entire person receiving the washing.  Compare Paul’s words on the acceptance of the entire person:  may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23)  As Chrysostom suggested of Peter’s words, “In his deprecation be was vehement, in his yielding more vehement, but both came from his love.”  (Pulpit Bible)

 

            13:10   Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”  Jesus responded with physical cleaning immediately in mind but with a broader spiritual cleansing implied beyond it:  All of them were already washed except for their dirty feet (i.e., physically).  But there was another meaning of “clean” as well and there the situation was not the same:  All of the group was morally and ethically “clean” except for that one single person whom He declines to identify.

            Sidebar on the application of the “partial” washing to the life of the disciple:  “In the Greek we have quite a different word from the one rendered ‘wash’ elsewhere in these verses:  the latter means to wash part of the body, this to bathe the whole person.  A man who has bathed does not need to bathe again when he reaches home, but only to wash the dust off his feet:  then he is wholly clean.  So also in the spiritual life, a man whose moral nature has once been thoroughly purified need not think that this has been all undone if in the walk through life he contracts some stains:  these must be washed away, and then he is once more wholly clean.  Peter, conscious of his own imperfections, in Luke 5:8, and possibly here, rushes to the conclusion that he is utterly unclean.  But his meaning here perhaps rather is; ‘If having part in Thee depends on being washed by Thee, wash all Thou canst.’  Peter excellently illustrates Christ’s saying.  His love for his Master proves that he had bathed; his boastfulness (John 13:37), his attack on Malchus (John 18:10), his denials (18:25, 27) his dissimulation at Antioch (Galatians 2), all show how often he had need to wash his feet.”  (Cambridge Bible)

 

            13:11   For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”  Jesus makes that point of uncleanness yet a second time--as if for emphasis.  He had in mind the person who would ultimately betray Him.  That person was not “clean” in the sense the others were.  Indeed, he had polluted his soul with both treachery and the acceptance of bribe money.

 

 

Jesus Washed the Feet of His Apostles to Set Them an Example of Humble Service to Others (John 13:12-17):  12 So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?  13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am.  14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. 

15 “For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you.  16 I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  17 If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’  

--New English Translation (for comparison) 

 

 

            13:12   So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  Taking off His outer garments so they would not get wet or dirty He had washed their feet to show them the embodiment of humility--that the one “clearly in charge” had been willing to take the role of the lowest servant.  Having done so, He challenged them as to whether they had understood His thinking.  Rather than wait for their response--which would likely have been hesitant and uncertain--He immediately explains its significance. . . .   

 

            13:13   You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  They praised Him as “teacher” and “Lord” and both titles were both fitting and accurate.  But they also needed to learn to do what He did, to live by the example He set.  It wasn’t just a matter of believing the right thing but of doing it as well as He immediately drives home. . . .

 

            13:14   If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  If He had humbled Himself into the role of a mere servant in order to wash their feet, they should similarly be willing to cast aside their own pride in order to do whatever “lowly” task was required to meet the needs of their fellows.  It could be just about anything, but whatever needed to be done, they should be willing to do themselves rather than just delegating the chore to someone else--or allowing it to pass undone altogether.

            Sidebar:  Some have understood this literally as instituting a religious rite which we ought to observe; but this was evidently not the design; because:  1. There is no evidence that Jesus intended it as a religious observance, like the Lord’s Supper or the ordinance of baptism.  2.  It was not observed by the apostles or the primitive Christians as a religious rite.  3. It was a rite of hospitality among the Jews, a common, well-known thing, and performed by servants.  4. It is the manifest design of Jesus here to inculcate a lesson of humility; to teach them by his example that they ought to condescend to the most humble offices for the benefit of others.”  (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)  5.  It was to be done because it needed to be done and not because it conveyed some symbolic meaning as it would in a church worship context.  6.  Washing already clean feet in worship would be a redundancy and fall under the condemnation of “vain repetition” (Matthew 6:7).   

 

            13:15   For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  This example of constructive helpfulness to one’s co-religionists was to be one they should be careful to imitate.  It might come in the form of dirty feet to be washed; it might come in a hundred other forms.  In whatever form it came, they were to rise to the occasion and not rest on their “position” and “dignity” to avoid doing it. 

 

            13:16   Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If they wished a temporal parallel, the earthly servant is not greater than the Master of the household.  Hence if the Master Himself had acted in such a manner—setting aside any claims of rank or preeminence in order to be of benefit to others—they should be willing to do the same.  In most cases this would not happen in everyday households nor be expected to be (compare Luke 17:7-8) but there would be cases within the believing community that not only might it happen, but that it should happen.

            Sidebar:  This saying occurs four times in the Gospels, each time in a different connection:  (1) to show that the disciples must expect no better treatment than their Master (Matthew 10:24); (2) to impress the Apostles with their responsibilities as teachers, for their disciples will be as they are (Luke 6:40); (3) here; (4) with the same purpose as in Matthew 10:24, but on another occasion (John 15:20).  We infer that it was one of Christ’s frequent sayings:  it is introduced here with the double ‘verily’ [or ‘truly, truly’ or ‘most assuredly’ in other translations] and as of special importance (John 1:51).”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) 

 

            13:17   If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  If they understood the reason He was insisting on such behavior, then they would be “blessed” if they acted upon their knowledge.  To do things without understanding the reason behind them is to fall into a kind of blind  ritualism, the act becomes more important than the reason or motive behind the act. 

            Take foot washing itself.  There are religious bodies that once a year do this--imitating the act Jesus did when not one of them needs to have their feet washed.  In contrast Jesus did it because all of them wore sandals and needed to have their feet cleansed because of dustiness and dirtiness.  It was never intended to be a ritual and the point Jesus was driving at--helping those needing help in the specific way they needed it--can be meaningfully fulfilled in a hundred ways that never involve feet, but which do involve going out of our way to be helpful.   

 

 

Jesus Warns The Apostles That One of Their Number Will Betray Him (John 13:18-30):  18 “What I am saying does not refer to all of you. I know the ones I have chosen.  But this is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who eats my bread has turned against me.’  19 I am telling you this now, before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I am he.  20 I tell you the solemn truth, whoever accepts the one I send accepts me, and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

21 When he had said these things, Jesus was greatly distressed in spirit, and testified, “I tell you the solemn truth, one of you will betray me.”  22 The disciples began to look at one another, worried and perplexed to know which of them he was talking about. 

23 One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was at the table to the right of Jesus in a place of honor.  24 So Simon Peter gestured to this disciple to ask Jesus who it was he was referring to.  25 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaned back against Jesus’ chest and asked him, “Lord, who is it?”  26 Jesus replied, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread after I have dipped it in the dish.”  Then he dipped the piece of bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son. 

27 And after Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him.  Jesus said to him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 (Now none of those present at the table understood why Jesus said this to Judas.  29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him to buy whatever they needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor.)  30 Judas took the piece of bread and went out immediately.  (Now it was night.)     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            13:18   “I do not speak concerning all of you.  I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.  They were cautioned not to feel guilty about what He was about to say:  It only applied to one of them.  (Compare John 6:70:  “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”)  Just as Psalms 41:9 had spoken of one who would share a meal with a friend and then turn against Him, they were going to see that same scriptural text acted out again.

           Sidebar:  Assuming this to be a Psalm by David (the traditional attribution) the friend who betrays is likely Ahithophel, a respected adviser who took the side of Absalom in his revolt against his father (2 Samuel 15:12, 31; 16:20, 23).  He ultimately committed suicide (17:23)--making a very appropriate parallel not only in being a friend who betrayed his leader but also in committing suicide as the ultimate result.   

 

            13:19   Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.  Such a prediction could be extremely discouraging and cause them to despair of their faith in Jesus.  By telling them in advance, the unexpected prediction would increase their faith in Him after the tragic event came to pass:  He had known it all along; He was not “blindsided.” He had not been outsmarted.  He had seen what none of them had even guessed!  Is not that last fact something implying omniscience--or at least something close to it?  

 

            13:20   Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”  No matter what happened in the future, whoever embraced their word would still be receiving Him as well for He had sent them out.  Furthermore, the receiver of the apostles would also be accepting God Himself who had commissioned Jesus with the task of going into the world.  The point is perhaps conveyed more meaningfully among the several translations that render along the lines of the NIV, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes Me, and whoever welcomes Me welcomes the One who sent Me.”

            Jesus had made this same point when He sent them out under the Limited Commission (Matthew 10:40).  With them to receive a world wide one rather than simply a national field to work in (Matthew 28:18-20), it was natural to remind them that their position and authority remained as it had in the past.  Having just warned of His imminent betrayal (verses 19-20), this provided reassurance to them that their responsibility as teachers of Jesus’ will was far from over.  Betrayal or not, the work would go on. 

 

            13:21   When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”  However essential it was that He die for the human race, death is a sobering thought--especially a painful and humiliating one such as He was going to endure.  Hence Jesus was disturbed within when He solemnly warned that one of their number was going to act in this atrocious a manner.  Jesus was no soulless automation; He bled and felt like a man. 

 

            13:22   Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.  Opposition they were well aware of.  But it “perplexed” them all that He should speak of a betrayer springing up from within their number:  Who was it?  How was it possible?  These were the ones--they thought--He could count on at all times!  For that matter, perhaps even “betrayal” in what sense?  Brazenly depart from His teachings?  Undermine His cause?  Since they were all eating the meal together, “betrayal” to mean “intentionally cause to die” would seemingly fall far down their list of possibilities.  But with Jesus speaking of His approaching death, how could the words have any but that most ominous of meanings?  But sometimes the most obvious interpretation is ruled out because it scares us or is rejected as “unthinkable.”
            Sidebar on the reactions of the apostles depicted here as joined with that mentioned in the other gospels:  (1) ‘They were exceeding sorrowful’ (Matthew 26:22).  (2) ‘They began to inquire among themselves which of them it was that should do this thing’ (Luke 22:23).  (3) ‘They began to say unto Him one by one, Is it I, and another, Is it I?’ (Mark 14:19).  Generous, simple hearts!  They abhorred the thought, but, instead of putting it on others, each was only anxious to purge himself and know if he could be the wretch.  Their putting it at once to Jesus Himself, as knowing doubtless who was to do it, was the best, as it certainly was the most spontaneous and artless evidence of their innocence.  (4) Jesus, apparently while this questioning was going on, added, ‘The Son of man goeth as it is written of Him, but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed!  It had been good for that man if he had not been born’ (Matthew 26:24). 

            “(5) ‘Judas,’ last of all, ‘answered and said, Lord, is it I?’ evidently feeling that when all were saying this, if he held his peace, that of itself would draw suspicion upon him.  To prevent this the question is wrung out of him, but perhaps, amidst the stir and excitement at the table, in a half-suppressed tone as we are inclined to think the answer also was—‘Thou hast said’ (Matthew 26:25), or possibly by little more than a sign; for from John 13:28 it is evident that till the moment when he went out, he was not openly discovered.”  (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)

 

            13:23   Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.  The disciple who was nearest Jesus and could even lean over to ask something quietly and discretely.  It is normally thought that this was John, the author of this history.

            Sidebar on our traditional mental image of the scene versus the way it was actually happening:  Leonardo’s picture is in one respect misleading, and, like most paintings of the Lord’s Supper, has not represented the method in which the guests reclined rather than sat at table.  Each leaned on his left arm, leaving the right arm free.  The feet were stretched out behind the guest on his right hand, and the back of the head reached near to the [chest] of the guest on the left.  (Compare John 13:25.)  The Jews followed this Persian method of reclining on couches at meals from the time of the Captivity, and this method of eating the Passover had the special significance of security and possession of the Promised Land, as opposed to the attitude of one undertaking a journey, which was part of the original institution (Exodus 12:11).”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)      

 

            13:24   Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.  The unnamed disciple was motioned to by Peter and that--rather than Peter loudly asking the question or calling him by name--meant that Peter wanted to be discreet and even inconspicuous about this.  Peter was probably desirous to know, not only that he might be sure it was not himself, but that, knowing who it was, he and the other disciples might withdraw from him, and guard against him, as also, if possible, prevent his design.”  (Benson Commentary)

 

            13:25   Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”  Peter’s request he promptly relayed.  After all, it was surely profoundly disturbing to him as well!  External opposition, they were all well acquainted with.  But that the long established relationships of the twelve apostles would be ripped apart by internal betrayal was a world of horror they were not prepared for. 

 

            13:26   Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.  And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.  The whispered and private response was that it would be the next one He gave bread to.  No loud shouts or screaming denunciation.  Simply an act that would be interpreted as perfectly innocent by everyone else.  That Jesus was able to calmly do this tells us much of just how profoundly He could control His actions and words even when under severe stress.

            The pronouns are emphatic. ‘He it is for whom I . . .  The word ‘morsel’ or ‘sop’ occurs in the New Testament only in this context.  The meaning is illustrated by the use in the LXX [Septuagint] in Ruth 2:14 (‘Come thou hither, and thou shalt eat of the bread and dip thy morsel in the vinegar’); and Job 31:17 (‘And if I ate my morsel alone, and did not impart it to the orphan’).  The cognate verb occurs twice in the New Testament--Romans 12:20 and 1 Corinthians 13:3 [for the distribution of food]. . . .  The original root of the word means ‘to rub.’  Hence it is ‘anything rubbed or broken off.’  It was often used for a mouthful just like ‘morsel,’ which means literally, a little bite.  As used here, the word means any portion of food.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)  “Whether the morsel was a piece of the unleavened bread dipped in the broth of bitter herbs depends upon whether this supper is regarded as the Paschal meal or not.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  Most opt for it being a formal Passover meal.

 

            13:27   Now after the piece of bread, Sat an entered him.  Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”  The unthinkability of Judas—or any of them—consciously and knowingly acting in a betraying manner, discouraged a public challenge to Judas, as did Jesus’ refusing to name the individual.  An action might be misinterpreted, especially when one considered it improbable.  In purely worldly terms, the person handling the money is just about the most important person around and one you have great faith in or you would not permit him to have the privilege in the first place. 

            Furthermore direct challenge was  discouraged by Jesus’ ambiguous instruction to Judas, “What you do, do quickly.”  To others in the company, it might easily be interpreted as Judas simply acting upon an earlier instruction from Jesus.  How could that have anything to do with betrayal?  Even to Peter and John, if Judas was going to engage in betrayal, surely it must be something that would occur later:  Here Judas seems to be acting only on a specific reminder by the Lord.  Hence the danger could not be immediate.

 

            13:28   But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.  From Judas standpoint it was fish or cut bait time for him:  a time to act or to repudiate his own decision.  One inevitably wonders how Judas justified this betrayal to himself.  Was he so disillusioned by Jesus’ emphatic rejection of being made a temporal king (John 6:15)--and giving teaching so antithetical to the popular way of thinking that it drove away the support of such people (6:60, 66)--that he simply wants to make a little money as the Jesus movement is ready to be crushed by the Sanhedrin?  For that matter, might he be intending a double game?  Might he had the delusion to hide behind that if he placed Jesus in a position where He had to act, Jesus would claim His rightful kingship?  Then He would get his bribe money and Israel would get its sought for king as well!  But that could only work if the Lord had decided that His work on earth could be finished by something else than sacrificial death.   

 

            13:29   For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.  Some thought that there were some expenditures for the Passover feast that needed to be made.  If this was their own Passover meal, perhaps bills to pay in regard to it.  Even if the more observed date by Jews was not till the next night, this could still be true.  However, Judas’ possible task is not interpreted as paying for something already obtained, but to “buy those things we [still] need for the feast”--i.e., it hasn’t yet been held.  It has been argued that Galileans had a double observance:  A kind of “last supper” before the feast day and the Passover itself.  There would be costs in regard to both and this interpretation fits well with the need to “buy” Passover related things not yet used.  They don’t realize yet that Jesus won’t be there to partake however.

            Others thought that there was some special gift to the poor that Judas was supposed to make on their behalf.  After all, in 12:4-5 Judas had spoken up vigorously on the importance of assisting them.  If the Passover as normally observed doesn’t actually occur until the next night, it could be Passover related charity that was anticipated:  Such gifts seem to have been made at all festivals. Their thought was probably of gifts to enable the poor to obtain the lamb and other requisites for keeping the Passover.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)  We read of such feast time generosity being endorsed by Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8:9-12).

           

            13:30   Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately.  And it was night.  Judas promptly left into the “night”—an act both literal and yet profoundly symbolic of the evil that he was entering into.  Indeed it was a “far blacker night in the soul of Judas than in the sky over his head.”  (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary) 

 

 

Jesus Teaches on “Glorification,” Love, and How Peter Will Deny Being a Disciple Before the Next Day Fully Dawns (John 13:31-38):  31 When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him.  32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him right away.  33 Children, I am still with you for a little while.  You will look for me, and just as I said to the Jewish religious leaders, ‘Where I am going you cannot come,’ now I tell you the same.

34 “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”  Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later.”  37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!”  38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?  I tell you the solemn truth, the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times!”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            13:31   So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.  Standing by itself this verse makes perfect sense.  The problem arises in connecting it with the context.  Seeking such a linkage, perhaps the best explanation lies in the fact that even though Judas was betraying Jesus (verse 30), the authority and teaching of the Son of Man was still being “glorified” by all that was happening.  This was done through Jesus’ prediction and teaching being fulfilled; hence, being proved true and reliable.  In turn, God Himself was being “glorified” through that same teaching being proved true since He had provided it to the Son--John 7:16; 14:24; 17:8.    

 

            13:32   If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.  God would “immediately” glorify Jesus by making His predictions of the death and resurrection come true.  Death and valiant triumph will come not years apart but only three days--“immediately” is the word that best fits such a short period when contrasted with other promises that had years, decades, or centuries between promise and fulfillment.  Both types had their place in the Divine scheme of things.  But quickness and promptness is the case here.  

 

            13:33  Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer.  You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you.  The apostles needed to accept the fact that He would be with them only “a little while longer.”  Afterwards He was going to a place neither His enemies nor they would be able to accompany.  The concept of being “left alone” had to startle them:  What in the world that was happening could make that a reality?  They had heard from Him the indications of approaching death, but their minds refused to absorb their literalness or near approach.     

            Sidebar on “little children:”  Nowhere else in the Gospels does Christ use this expression of tender affection (teknia), which springs from the thought of His orphaned disciples.  John appears never to have forgotten it.  It occurs frequently in his First Epistle (1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 1 John 3:7, 18; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 5:21), and perhaps nowhere else in the New Testament.  In Galatians 4:19 the reading is doubtful.  ‘Children’ in John 21:5 is a different word (paidia).”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) 

 

            13:34   A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  Because of their coming separation, He wished to stress a “new commandment:  mutual love for each other.  In the trials and tribulations that would arise both in the short term and long term they would stand in strong need of such reinforcement of each other’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

            The oddity here is that He labels this “a new commandment” since it was far from that.  It is not a new teaching now added to Jesus’ teaching for He had already taught it (Matthew 5:43-47) and it was even found in the Old Testament as well (Leviticus 19:18).  The command is not new but the reason is:  becauseI have loved you.”  This love goes far beyond anything previously taught--carrying it to the self-sacrificial level.  In this context consider the broadness of the concept developed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. 

             It is intended to carry the connotation that, “You used to think that love of each other meant such and such; through My example of enduring what is happening next you will discover that ‘love’ involves something far more profound than you had ever guessed.”  This deepened recognition and definition would be so great that they could rightly regard it as a virtual “new commandment.”  A love so intense that one not only does right by others but, if necessary and like Jesus, is willing to die for them. 

            Others suggest that the word “new” often has a moral or ethical element carrying the meaning of exemplary and praiseworthy:  Psalms 33:3, Mark 1:27; Revelation 2:17 are cited as examples--and in these texts that conceptual “overlay” certainly seems to fit as well.       

 

            13:35   By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Some things can be proved by citing book, chapter, and verse.  Other things are better proved in action rather than text:  By demonstrating love toward each other they would prove themselves true “disciples” in a way that mere verbal protestations alone would never establish.  The ancient Tertullian (155-240 A.D.) spoke of how, “The working of such love puts a brand upon us; for see, say the heathen, how they love one another.”

 

            13:36   Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?”  Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.”  Peter asked the question that must have been on the mind of all of them, but Jesus avoided a clear answer, emphasizing that though he could not and would not follow immediately but at some point “afterward” he would, indeed.  The description of Peter’s fate leaves room for his martyrdom but does not require it; the prediction in 21:15-19 is typically pointed to as more direct reference to that mode of death.  

 

            13:37   Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now?  I will lay down my life for Your sake.”  A quite logical question:  If I’m willing to even die in your cause, what in the world would make it inappropriate or improper for me to follow you wherever it is you plan on going?  (The other apostles also shared in this emphatic willingness to risk their lives to serve Him--Matthew 26:35.)  Some see here the possibility that Peter is beginning to--vaguely at least--suspect that Jesus refers to being killed.  Far from impossible, of course, but if Jesus were going to physically stay on earth but leave His country--as His words could also reasonably imply--won’t He need men like Peter with Him to provide protection?  Men willing to die in protecting Him?    

 

            13:38   Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake?  Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.  Peter surely meant every word of his claim, but his confidence was far greater than his actual strength would demonstrate.  The sad truth was that before the morning rooster had finished its multiple crowings, he would have denied the Lord multiple times.  He wasn’t playing the hypocrite here; he was simply vastly overrating his capacity for loyalty.  And isn’t that sometimes the danger for us as well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

 

 

Jesus Was Going Back to the Father to Prepare a Place for His Followers (John 14:1-7):  7 “Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me.  There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house.  Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you.  And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.  And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you have known me, you will know my Father too.  And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            14:1     “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  The warning that Peter would deny personal knowledge of the Lord could have been devastating to Peter’s spiritual perseverance rather than a mere slap at his excess pride.  (And that on top of the news that Jesus would both be betrayed and be leaving for where they would be unable to follow!)  Hence Jesus immediately urges him and the other apostles not to “be troubled” by the things about to happen but to persevere in their belief in spite of it.  Since a very intense reaction is clearly under consideration, perhaps “be worried” (CEV) or “be distressed” (NET) conveys the sentiment better.

            Sidebar:  The same Greek behind “troubled” is used of Jesus describing His own intense emotions both in John 11:33 (of His reaction to Lazarus’ death) and in 12:27 and 13:21 (of His coming death).  He had to deal with these same emotions Himself.   

 

            14:2     In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  In other words there would be space in abundance for all of them.  If the situation were any different, Jesus would have already warned them.  Hence they could be absolutely confident about their future that there would be abundant room for them and all others they led to the Lord.  Space would never run out.  Any lingering concern it might, they could crush since Jesus was going in advance to assure that things would work out exactly this way.

            Sidebar:  Because these “many mansions” are depicted as within “My Father’s house,” the vast bulk of translations now render “mansions” as “rooms” or “dwelling places.”  (“Apartments” might be the better modern idiom.)  “Mansions” however stresses the quality or our dwelling place and in the context of the entirety of heaven being represented as God’s “house,” then the use of that term still retains a certain appropriateness in describing its awesomeness.    

 

            14:3     And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  He now elaborates on the subject He has just introduced:  Even though His departure would involve things neither they nor Him want to occur (i.e., pain and suffering and death), there was another side to it as well:  He still had preparatory work to complete on their behalf.  Not only would He thoroughly finish this work, He would ultimately “come again” and take them to where He had gone.  In His absence He will not have forgotten them.

            By his going is meant His death and ascent to heaven.  The figure here is taken from one who is on a journey, who goes before his companions to provide a place to lodge in, and to make the necessary preparations for their entertainment.  It evidently means that he, by the work he was yet to perform in heaven, would secure their admission there, and obtain for them the blessings of eternal life.  That work would consist mainly in his intercession:  Hebrews 10:12-13, 19-22; Hebrews 7:25-27; Hebrews 4:14, 16.”  (Barnes’ Notes) 

            Not until He comes m all his glory will the words be perfectly fulfilled; but the early Church . . . expected that Christ had come and taken to himself one by one those who died in the faith (1 Thessalonians 4:14).  Thus Stephen expected the Lord to receive his spirit (Acts 7:59); and the dying thief was to be with him, in Paradise; and Paul knew that to be from home, so far as body is concerned, was to be ‘at home or present with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8).  ‘To be with Christ’ was ‘far better’ than to labor on in the flesh (Philippians 1:23).”  (Pulpit Commentary) 

 

            14:4     And where I go you know, and the way you know.”  Thomas had thought Jesus was talking about geographic locations.  Jesus, however, was talking about spiritual matters.  He assured them that, if they thought about it perceptively, they would both recognize “where I go” (i.e., heaven) as well as the “way” that would lead Him there (i.e., death).  Perhaps to soften their emotional turmoil, He preferred to use euphemisms for what was happening.  Still taking the language in a literal and superficial sense left one baffled, however, as Thomas promptly shows. . . .

 

            14:5     Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  He protested that what Jesus had just claimed was simply not the case:  they did not know either fact--the “where” or the “way.”  Approaching the language quite “literally,” he has in mind the idea that Jesus was leaving to establish the earthly court for His temporal kingdom but He had left them bereft of any idea where to go to join it or the best way to undertake the journey.   

 

            14:6     Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  Rather than directly explain Himself, Jesus shifts the emphasis to how He Himself was the only “way” to God--was the full and exclusive “truth” of God--and was the only means whereby one could obtain eternal “life.”  These three core realities grew out of the fact that the only way anyone could come to God was through embracing Him and His teaching.  This was the truth they needed to center their minds on rather than the shorter term difficulties that were about to occur.  Or their momentary inability to understand what He was driving at.  None of those would alter these vital key facts.

 

            14:7     “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”  If they had understood (“known”) Christ’s nature and purpose as they should, they would also have understood the Father’s nature and purpose as well.  Indeed, from now on they would understand the Father because they would recognize that in Jesus they had seen Him manifested.  He is the unblemished reflection of the Father (cf. Colossians 1:15-17).

 

 

To See Jesus Was Equivalent to Seeing the Father Himself (John 14:8-13):  Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.”  Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip?  The person 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 is in me?  The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. 

11 “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves. 12 I tell you the solemn truth, the person who believes in me will perform the miraculous deeds that I am doing, and will perform greater deeds than these, because I am going to the Father.  13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

--New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            14:8     Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”  Still not understanding Jesus’ allusive reference in the preceding verse and expecting something quite literal and visible instead (“from now on you know Him and have seen Him,” verse 7), Philip appeals to Jesus to visibly do exactly that.  Clearly he is anticipating some type of literal epiphany--in a vision like certain Old Testament figures or perhaps something even more tangible.  Even without an answer to the rest of their concerns, that would be “sufficient” to make them feel comfortable. 

            Sidebar on Philip:  For the fourth and last time Philip appears in this Gospel (. . . John 1:44-49, 6:5-7, 12:22).  Thrice he is mentioned in close connection with Andrew, who may have brought about his being found by Christ; twice he follows in the footsteps of Andrew in bringing others to Christ, and on both occasions it is specially to see Him that they are brought; ‘Come and see’ (1:45); ‘We would see Jesus’ (12:21).  Like Thomas he has a fondness for the practical test of personal experience; he would see for himself, and have others also see for themselves.  His way of stating the difficulty about the 5,000 (6:7) is quite in harmony with this practical turn of mind.  Like Thomas also he seems to have been somewhat slow of [comprehension], and at the same time perfectly honest in expressing the cravings which he felt.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

            14:9     Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Jesus chided Philip for not recognizing—after so long a period of working together—that in seeing Jesus they had already seen the Father:  His attitudes, character, and holy teachings.

            Albert Barnes (in his Notes) offers this perceptive suggestion:  The word ‘Father’ in these passages seems to be used with reference to the divine nature, or to God represented ‘as a Father,’ and not particularly to the distinction in the Trinity of Father and Son.  The idea is that God, as God, or as a Father, had been manifested in the incarnation, the works, and the teachings of Christ, so that they who had seen and heard Him might be said to have had a real view of God.  When Jesus says, ‘hath seen the Father,’ this cannot refer to the essence or substance of God, for He is invisible, and in that respect no man has seen God at any time.  All that is meant when it is said that God is seen, is that some manifestation of Him has been made, or some such exhibition as that we may learn His character, His will, and His plans.”

 

            14:10   Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?  The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.  If the Father is both present in the Son and the Son in the Father how could one escape the conclusion that his plea to see the Father had already been granted?  Furthermore, Jesus’ teaching did not originate from within Himself but from the Father and the Father had confirmed its reliability and authority by the miraculous “works” they had observed.

 

            14:11   Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.     They could take as absolute fact the intermingling of Father and Son in each other on the basis of His teaching them about it.  If they hesitated to do so, they had an alternative:  they could believe in it on the basis of the supernatural “works” they had observed.  The most important thing was to embrace it as the reality.  (And from believing it, it was but a modest step to the fully developed doctrine of the Logos found in chapter one.)

 

            14:12   “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.  If they were impressed by the “works” Jesus had done, they would perform even greater ones:  Jesus’ vital mission was to lay the groundwork in a small piece of territory that was dear to God’s heart; theirs would be to anywhere and everywhere throughout the world.  Hence their works would be greater geographically and perhaps even numerically--especially over an extended period of time.  Also although none of their miracles could exceed that of Jesus raising Lazarus, some of the healings of Peter (Acts 5:15) and Paul (Acts 19:12) quite arguably exceeded in awesomeness the bulk of Jesus’ miracles.

            Some have wisely suggested we should also think at least equally in terms of “moral miracles” of ethical transformation that occurred throughout the world due to their gospel labor.  Jesus had sown the initial field with His teaching; they would further plant and reap throughout the entire world (Matthew 28:18-20).  Greater works than any wrought by the Lord in the days of his [earthly life] are predicted of the Messiah:  He is to be the ‘Light of the Gentiles’ (Isaiah 42:6; cf. Psalms 72:8, 11; Psalms 110).  He is to rule the world, to cover the earth with the glory of God.  How He was to do this was hidden from the disciples, but it would soon appear that they were the instruments, in His loving hands, for world-victories.  Nay, more than that, Jesus (John 4:36-38) had told these disciples that they might reap what He had sown.”  (Pulpit Commentary)

 

            14:13   And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If they wished to have their prayers answered, it was essential that they ask in Jesus’ Name (= by His authority; in accord with His will), i.e., ask what He would wish, for what purpose He would wish, and with the mind frame of humility that He Himself had so often demonstrated.  These things would be granted so that the Father might be “glorified” (= honored and praised ) through His Son.   

 

            14:14   If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.  Lest they did not grasp it the first time, Jesus repeated His promise:  Ask the kind of things that are appropriate and right to ask “in My name” and it will be granted.

            Anything that can rightly be asked in His name will be granted; there is no other limit.  By ‘in My name’ is not of course meant the mere using the formula ‘through Jesus Christ.’  Rather, it means praying and working as Christ’s representatives in the same spirit in which Christ prayed and worked—‘Not My will, but Thine be done.’  Prayers for other ends than this are excluded [from the promise]; not that it is said that they will not be granted, but there is no promise that they will.  Compare 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.”    (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges) 

            There are things we understandably wish for but which it would not be best if we actually receive.  I have repeatedly thought of how if my wish to secure an advanced degree had worked out, I would almost certainly have landed up working in a small college somewhere in a rural community.  And been dead twenty years ago when my massive heart attack occurred and there was no nearby hospital for quick treatment.    

 

 

Jesus Would Have the Father Send the Holy Spirit to Teach the Apostles What Additional Things They Needed (John 14:15-26):  15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.  16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him.  But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you.  19 In a little while the world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too.  20 You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you.  21 The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

“Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”  23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.  24 The person who does not love me does not obey my words. And the word you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you.  26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            14:15   “If you love Me, keep My commandments.  Lest they think they had been granted carte blanche by being assured that their prayers would be answered (verses 13-14), He promptly added that true love for Him required that they continue to keep His “commandments.”  To truly respect His name and authority required such.  Hence an implied condition to answered prayer:  they had to personally observe those teachings.  Even though they had done their best to do so while He was still among them, they were to continue to do the same after He returned to heaven.

            Note that this instruction is given to those who will be the leaders of the church after Jesus has returned to heaven.  A strange twist of the human psyche is often found:  Because a person has leadership he or she is no longer bound by the rules applicable to everyone else.  Jesus firmly crushes any temptation toward such a delusion:  You followed this standard while I was with you; it is essential that you continue it after I am gone.         

 

            14:16   And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever  The apostles would be sent a special Helper and that Helper would abide with them throughout their entire ministry.  Jesus would not be there with them as He had been throughout these years of His personal preaching, but this new Helper would continue to be, working on His behalf and in His place.  Hence the use of “another Helper;” Jesus had played this role while on earth and now the Spirit would assume it. 

            Sidebar:  The Greek word rendered “Helper” by this version can also be translated by such terms as “Comforter” or “Advocate” and there has been considerable debate as to which is best.  Is it not probable that the term is used because the role of the Spirit takes more than one form?

 

            14:17   the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  Their Helper would be the Holy Spirit whose essence and nature was “truth.”  He would both be “with” them and even “in” them.  That would be proved by how they acted rather than by His “physical” presence.  Their behavior and their teaching would both be shaped to the standards demanded by the Spirit just as it had been while under the personal presence of the Lord.

            Sidebar:  The difficulty of picturing a “spirit” as a person has resulted in the Holy Spirit often being referred to by people as an “it.”  (By myself as well.)  The “He” language of this text and the surrounding verses, however, stresses the fact that a distinct personality or being is under discussion.  The Spirit is not a mere theoretical abstraction to convey the idea that truth would be transmitted to them.

            The whole of what is here said of the Spirit is decisive of His divine personality.  ‘He who can regard all the personal expressions, applied to the Spirit in these three chapters (‘teaching,’ ‘reminding,’ ‘testifying,’ ‘coming,’ ‘convincing,’ ‘guiding,’ ‘speaking,’ ‘hearing,’ ‘prophesying,’ ‘taking’) as being no other than a long drawn-out figure, deserves not to be recognized even as an interpreter of intelligible words, much less an expositor of Holy Scripture’ [Stier].”  (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)

 

            14:18   I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  The use of the word “orphans” shows that during His ministry they had become “family” to each other, with Jesus as its head.  They needed assistance after Jesus’ departure lest they be left as deserted and abandoned as “orphans” without any kin.  Through this Spirit Jesus would come to them to assure that did not happen.       

 

            14:19   “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.  Because I live, you will live also.  Very soon the world would lose the opportunity to see Jesus; His own ministry within it would come to an end the next day.  But they would be granted an opportunity the broader society would be denied--seeing Him after His death (Acts 10:40-42).  Indeed, because He would demonstrate resurrected life, that fact would assure them that they also would “live” beyond death.  Live happily and gloriously just as their Lord.  Jesus’ resurrected state in glory would demonstrate God’s approval; theirs would as well.

 

            14:20   At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.  When they saw the resurrected Jesus they would grasp what He had meant in claiming an intermingling of Father and Son in each other.  Yet it would go beyond this as well.  In the future Father, Son, and Spirit would all be “in” them as well:  Their spiritual and ethical “footprint” (so to speak) would be visible to one and all.  They would not be standing alone in the world no matter what happened in the future.  The accomplishment of this would begin with His post resurrection appearances and be intensified even further when they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2).

 

            14:21   He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.  And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”  Again, He stressed the obligation that came with this promise of an abiding presence lest they be tempted to take it for granted and claim rights that were not theirs to claim.  Continuing to obey Jesus’ “commandments” would stay essential as the means to demonstrate true “love” for Jesus; empty rhetoric would never suffice.  Indeed, if they wished for both the Father and Son to love them, this was absolutely essential.

 

            14:22   Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”  This time it is the other Judas who is an apostle who  confesses a lack of understanding of what He is driving at.  “The word ‘manifest’ has brought to the mind of Judas, as the word ‘see’ had to the mind of Philip (John 14:6-7), thoughts of a visible manifestation such as to Moses (Exodus 33:13, 18), and such as they expected would attend the advent of the Messiah (Malachi 3:1).  But it was contrary to every thought of the Messiah that this manifestation should be to a few only.  His reign was to be the judgment of the Gentiles, and the establishment of the Theocracy.”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)  Hence Judas requests an explanation of the difference between what everyone assumed and what Jesus insists will actually take place.

 

            14:23   Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone 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.  Now the Lord explicitly links together the ideas of the indwelling of Deity and obedience:  If they continued in loving obedience, then both Father and Son would make their “home with” that disciple--through the word they had revealed and to which disciples were obedient.  In other words an indirect but quite real moral, ethical, and spiritual indwelling.

            Some ways it might be done:  We will come to him with the manifestation of pardon, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Spirit.  It means that God will manifest himself to the soul as a Father and Friend; that Jesus will manifest himself as a Savior; that is, that there will be shed abroad in the heart just views and proper feelings toward God and Christ. . . .  This does not mean that there is any personal union between Christians and God--that there is any special indwelling of the essence of God in us for God is essentially present in all places in the same way; but it is a figurative mode of speaking, denoting that the Christian is under the influence of God; that he rejoices in His presence, and that he has the views, the feelings, the joys which God produces in a redeemed soul, and with which He is pleased.”  (Barnes’ Notes)    

            However the idea of a direct Divine indwelling--rather than indirectly through their inspired revelation--was not unknown to Jewish thought and a goodly number of commentators take our text in such a fashion--or verbally edge right up to it.  Philo has a remarkable parallel in his treatise, De Cherubim:  Since therefore He (God) thus invisibly enters into the region of the soul, let us prepare that place, in the best way the case admits of, to be an abode worthy of God; for if we do not, He, without our being aware of it, will quit us and migrate to some other habitation which shall appear to Him to be more excellently provided.’  (See the whole of chapter 29).  Schöttgen, in his note, quotes from a Rabbinical writer who says, ‘Blessed is the man who strives daily to make himself approved unto God, and prepares himself to receive the divine guest.’  (Compare 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; and Revelation 3:20.)”  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

 

            14:24   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.  Separating love of Christ from obedience to Him is impossible for the word He spoke was the message the Father had given Him.  He had stated this in a positive form in the previous verse (love produces obedience); here He flips the statement over and stresses that the lack of obedience proves a lack of love.     

            In modern society, we make “love” an emotion.  Both here and in 1 Corinthians 13 love is pictured as a way of life, a way of acting and behaving.  Love on an emotional level is fine and praiseworthy, but only if it is manifested in action is it really proved to exist.  When it comes to Christ, that “action” is continued obedience.

 

            14:25   “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.  Jesus had taught them a number of important things during His personal ministry, but that did not necessarily mean that the full teaching they needed had yet been delivered.  Or, for that matter, that they adequately understood what had already been taught.  On both scores further assistance was required.

 

            14:26   But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.  Odd as it may sound, in a very real way the Helper who was the Holy Spirit would do even more than Jesus had done while on earth!  The Helper would bring to them a complete and full “remembrance [of] all things that I said to you”—hence assuring the reliability of the apostolic testimony when we read it.  This assistance assured that they got their teaching both accurate and dependable.  Interlocked with this is the fact that they would also be blessed with a greater comprehension of what Jesus had been alluding to and driving at--things they had “missed” when He had spoken them.  John himself alludes to this twice earlier in the book (2:22; 12:16). 

            Secondly, there were things that were not appropriate for Jesus’ earthly ministry to deal with since it concentrated on only the Jewish people and only that fraction of it that lived in geographic Palestine.  The broader Jewish (and even Gentile) world needed more.  Hence the Divine Helper would provide a complete revelation of what Jesus knew was required:  The Spirit “will teach you all things.”  Nothing essential would be overlooked. 

            Implicit in this is the obligation to ultimately write them down and preserve them in what we today call the New Testament.  That way that completeness would be available for those who came afterwards.

            Sidebar:  The epithet ‘holy’ is given to the Spirit thrice in this Gospel (John 1:33; 20:22) and here (in John 7:39 the ‘holy’ is very doubtful).  It is not frequent in any Gospel but the third; five times in Matthew, four in Mark, twelve in Luke.  Luke seems fond of the expression, which he uses about forty times in the Acts; and he rarely speaks of the Spirit without prefixing the ‘holy.’  Here only does John give the full phrase, both substantive and epithet having the article:  in John 1:33 and John 20:22 there is no article.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)

 

 

Jesus Tells Them Clearly That He Was Returning to the Father and That They Should Be Pleased That He Is (John 14:27-31):  27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does.  Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.  28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’  If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 

29 “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.  30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me, 31 but I am doing just what the Father commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.  Get up, let us go from here.    --New English Translation (for comparison) 

 

 

            14:27   Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  Jesus gave them all a special and profound kind of “peace” that the world could not provide--permanent and ongoing assurance rather than a transitory and passing one.  It was a peace with both God and Himself, the Messiah, the about-to-be King--obtained as they strove to live by the standards He had spoken.  Therefore they should avoid letting their hearts “be troubled” and “afraid.”  The world could threaten much harm, but God would reward with far more than the earth could ever punish.

            Sidebar on “be afraid:”  “Properly it signifies cowardly fear.”  (Vincent’s Word Studies)  Hence substitute translations such as “lacking in courage” (NET); “cowardly” (GW); “dismayed” (Weymouth).  

 

            14:28   You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’  If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.  Their reluctance to accept the fact that He was going away was disturbing for two reasons.  First, they overlooked that He was also “coming back to you.”  It was not going to be a permanent separation.  Secondly—however much it might temporarily discomfort them—it meant that Jesus was returning to the Father and the place that was His own eternal home.  If they properly “loved” Him, this would cause them to “rejoice” because that was also where they wished to ultimately be and He was going there first.

            Sidebar:  Much theological debate has raged around “My Father is greater than I” and how it affects--if at all--Jesus’ own status and nature.  The language is probably used because it seems that every human society automatically regards the Father as greater than the Son.  Jesus sees no need to challenge that language even in describing His own relationship with the Eternal Father. 

            The contrast is quite natural:  Jesus is in a far inferior place for earth is inherently inferior to Heaven.  Furthermore He is on earth to carry out the Father’s plans--again implying “subordination.”  Finally He is embodied in a frame of flesh and blood with all its limitations while the Father is operating without those inhibitions.  If anything more is involved than these type of things we simply have to wait until we are admitted to heaven ourselves in order to find out.     

 

            14:29   “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.  Jesus had forewarned them of both the departure and the return not out of the hope that they would understand it now, but that after both events occurred that it would increase the intensity of their faith.  He has specifically in mind His resurrection and appearances to them afterwards.  

 

            14:30   I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.  He would have little more to say to the apostles in the short term for “the ruler of this world” was intervening.  The Devil and his earthly allies will shortly have Him arrested and bring His opportunity for spiritual dialogue to an end.  Even so they have “nothing in Me” to use as a legitimate reason to silence Him through death.  What they do will be totally unjust and evil.  The words apply equally to both the Devil and the religious authorities--neither had any interest in His words except as possible sources to be misrepresented and misinterpreted and used against Him.

            Sidebar:  It is easy to take “has nothing in Me” in a far broader sense as well:  The words are “quite literal:  there is nothing in Jesus over which Satan has control.  ‘Let no one think that My yielding to his attack implies that he has power over Me.  The yielding is voluntary in loving obedience to the Father.’  This declaration, in me he hath nothing, could only be true if Jesus were sinless.  On the import of this confident appeal to His own sinlessness see . . .  John 8:29 [‘The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him’]; John 8:46 [‘Which of you convicts Me of sin?’] and John 15:10 [‘I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love’].”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)  

             

            14:31   But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do.  Arise, let us go from here.  To prove to the world that His love for the Father was genuine and not self-serving pretense, He would submit Himself to the death that the Father had told Him would be necessary to salvage the human race.  The Father had given this “commandment” that He must die and He would not defy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

Jesus Is the Vine Planted by the Father and the Apostles Are Its Branches (John 15:1-8):  1 “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.  He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me.  He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.  You are clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you. 

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.  

“If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you.  My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            15:1     “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  If one wished to know the relationship of the disciple, Jesus, and the Father to each other, one should imagine Jesus as the true vine and the Father as the vinedresser in charge of its care and growth.  Without being “attached” to that true vine we are spiritually and morally cut off from God.  Jews were counted “children of God” because of their genetic tie to Abraham; now everyone had to have a spiritual tie through Jesus to be such.  Genetics alone is honorable but incomplete.

            Sidebar:  In the Old Testament physical Israel is compared to a vineyard and God as its owner--an outraged owner when they acted contrary to His wishes.  (Isaiah 5:1-7; Joel 2:20-29; Psalms 80:8-18).  

 

         15:2        Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Every person (“branch”) that claims to be a follower of Jesus is removed if the fruit of spiritual improvement is not borne.  A person may outwardly remain a Christian in name only and have a comfortable relationship indefinitely with others, but the Lord is not deceived by spiritually empty “pretend believers.”  So far as He is concerned, they are rejected. 

         In order to produce self-improvement among the rest, even fruit bearing branches endure the “pain” and discomfort of pruning so that more fruit may be formed.  This “pruning” can occur in either of two ways.  First, through our life’s hardships and difficulties.  These can work to increase our spirituality; can, not necessarily will—the mental framework and attitude of the person enduring it will be pivotal.  The second is that God submits us to the discomfort of reordering our lives and purging them of our sins.  That way we can be even more useful servants in His behalf.  Without the honorable “fruit” (behavior / lifestyle) produced by our changes (“goodness, righteousness, and truth,” Ephesians 5:8) we never live up to our potential nor does the church expand to its maximum potential.

           

            15:3     You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  By conforming their lives to Jesus’ words, the disciples had already been “clean[ed]” of their sins.  They have already gone through the “pruning” of their inappropriate priorities and preferences.  Now they were fully centered on the Lord and His service.  Yes they still have their weaknesses, but their core loyalty to the Lord has been solidified.  Why be willing to come to this final Passover and knowingly risk death (John 11:16) if this weren’t the case? 

 

            15:4     Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  Only by remaining linked to Jesus like the branch of a vine, could they hope to bear the kind of “fruit” in their lives that they could or should.  It does not necessarily mean that they would be “bad” people otherwise--at least as the world defines such things in a carefully limited manner.  Rather they will never produce the kind of quality and Divinely acceptable fruit that was their potential.  Nor will they do it out of the right motive of pleasing God.

            Sidebar:  For the various kinds of “fruit” (= results, behaviors) that discipleship should produce see Galatians 5:22-26.  What we do exhibits what our true purpose and loyalties are; words alone do not.  For example, Jesus speaks of deciding whether a person is a false prophet by using this standard (Matthew 7:15-20):  by their fruits you will know them” (verse 20). 

 

            15:5     “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.  By retaining the vine-branch linkage with Jesus, the disciple would be able to bear an abundant amount of harvest.  In verse 4 the emphasis is on the ability to produce acceptable fruit at all; here it is on the quality and volume produced.  Yet immediately He returns to that earlier thought as well:  Truth be told, without that linkage they could “do nothing” acceptable to Him or His Father.  The Lord is not talking about what those in the world can do, but those who claim to be His disciples.  The rhetoric of faith, unless implemented through the actions of faith, are futile.  Cf. James 2:14, 18, 20. 

 

            15:6     If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.  If the spiritual linkage with Jesus is not maintained, one is like a withered branch that is discarded in the “fire” as useless and of no value.  He isn’t trying (here at least) to convey the idea of punishment but of uselessness.  Their usefulness to God is tied irrevocably to their active loyalty to the Lord.  Without it they are worthless. 

            Sidebar:  For an example of spiritual uselessness leading to Divine retribution, consider the “vine branch” destruction imagery in Ezekiel 15:1-8.  In a somewhat similar vein the suggestion of the Pulpit Commentary:  Some have supposed (Meyer and Alford) that the fire is here the last judgment, which our Lord looks upon as come.  But the present tense, following the two aorists, suggests the immediate consequence of such severance from Christ--the fiery trials, the fierce temptations, the terrible judgments, always overtaking the unfruitful and unfaithful servants, and preluding the awful consummation of Divine judgment, of which our Lord had often spoken (Matthew 13:42-50; Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:24), and which the apostle of love described in Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:8.”   

 

            15:7     If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.  There is a reward for the continued linkage of disciple and Jesus, the servant to the Lord and Master:  By loyally abiding in Jesus and His word, their prayers would be answered.  Note the implicit:  no obedience, no answered prayer.  He had been discussing the disaster of departing from the Lord; now He invokes the advantages of remaining that can be gained nowhere else.

            Sidebar:  The assumption, of course, is that we will be asking for what is desirable and acceptable for a believer.  On this theme the same author later writes:  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”  (1 John 5:14-15).    

 

            15:8     By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  God receives honor and glory by Jesus’ disciples bearing abundant evidence of their faith and loyalty.  Indeed, it will be evidence to the surrounding world that one is a disciple; it will be the lifestyle that will verify and demonstrate it.  Or as the NASB renders this verse, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  In Christianity there no room for tokenism and “pretend Christianity.”  It benefits no one else and, least of all, ourselves.

   

 

Obedience to Jesus’ Teaching Is Essential to Remaining in His Love—The Same Standard Jesus Himself Met By Obeying His Father’s Instructions (John 15:9-17):  “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love.  10 If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  11 I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. 

12 “My commandment is this—to love one another just as I have loved you.  13 No one has greater love than this—that one lays down his life for his friends.  14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.  15 I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing.  But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father. 

16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.  17 This I command you—to love one another.”     --New English Translation (for comparison) 

 

 

            15:9     “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  Just as God had manifested His love in His attitudes and actions toward Jesus, Christ had manifested His own toward the disciples.  In a similar manner the disciples urgently needed to show their own love by continuing to abide in Jesus’ love.  They had begun well, but will they continue to do so? 

            Jesus insists that He invariably did what His Father wanted in the very next verse as well as in other passages as well (John 12:49; 14:31).  In a similar way we should assure that we also conform to their will.  They are the rule givers; we are the rule obeyers.  If for no other reason than that they are the embodiments of wisdom light years beyond human capacity--and can teach us what true love involves and is embodied in .     

 

            15:10   If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.  Jesus demands no more of us than He had exemplified throughout His own life; He had established the importance of an ongoing obedience to the Divine commandments by His own example.  The result was that He continued to “abide” in the Father’s love on an ongoing basis as well.  Likewise we should.  Without that steadfast loyalty, the bond of love would be cut in two and we would be left adrift on the sea of life.

 

            15:11   “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  By obeying this teaching Jesus would be filled with “joy” as would they.  It would make Him delighted that they were abiding by it and it would also permit the apostles’ joy to be as “full” and complete as it ever could be.  By reasonable application, the same point can be made when we also imitate the apostolic commitment to a life of love of Christ.

            Sidebar:  The Old Testament speaks of God being full of joy over a repentant Jerusalem that had set its spiritual affairs in order (Isaiah 62:4-5).  That joy is pictured as a two way street--of both God and the people (Zephaniah 3:14-17).    

 

            15:12   This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  The pivotal relationship of disciple to disciple is love.  Not mere glorying in the idea of love, but actually practicing it.  If there is to be a “competition” among Christians, it should be based on doing even more of this than others.  No one is harmed and the cause of Christ prospers. 

            The standard of how intense that love is to be was set by Jesus Himself--so wholeheartedly committed to the spiritual betterment of others that He even died when nothing else could provide what was needed (in His case, our forgiveness of sins).  If it will be of value to others, we are told that even our dying for our brothers and sisters in the Lord is also praiseworthy (1 John 3:16--a principle that John immediately applies in the next two verses to helping them in other aspects of life).       

 

            15:13   Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  That a man should be willing, not only on some sudden alarm, or in some extraordinary and unexpected danger, to hazard his life on their account; but on the coolest deliberation, to submit to lay it down for their preservation and happiness.”  (Benson Commentary)

            Love in the gospel is not the mere emotion, but the action of love--which can take a multitude of forms.  In its most extreme form it can involve dying so that someone else can live.  In fact this example is surely given because we can conceive of nothing greater.

            Sidebar:  Not only did Jesus die for his spiritual friends (disciples and apostles) but even for His enemies so that they too might have the opportunity for eternal life if they repented (Romans 5:6-11).    

 

            15:14   You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  Jesus had often spoken of His relationship to the disciples as one of Master and follower, of teacher and disciple.  Here He introduces a dramatically different relationship, that of “friend.”  To have that relationship required obedience, however.  Abraham was God’s “friend” (2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23) and that was because he had the kind of belief in God that resulted in faithful conformity to His will.  In the same way we prove our friendship with the Lord.

 

            15:15   No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.  “[The slave] receives the command of his master without knowing the reason why this or that thing is ordered.  It is one of the conditions of slavery not to be let into the counsels and plans of the master.  It is the privilege of friendship to be made acquainted with the plans wishes, and wants of the friend.”  (Barnes’ Notes)  

            Hence the language of “servant” and “master” no longer really fitted their relationship.  Since He had revealed “all things” that the Father wished to be shared with them, their relationship had gone beyond such mere power relationships to that of a bond of friendship.  Yes, there were additional things they needed to know--but they were too much for them to handle at their current level of spiritual and emotional maturity.  These would be shared with them after the resurrection through the teaching of the Holy Spirit (John 16:12-15).

           

            15:16   You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.  Jesus had demonstrated His confidence in them by (1) choosing them to be disciples; (2) appointing them to be apostles; (3) instructing them to “bear fruit,” and (4) promising that “whatever” they asked that fitted His will (= “name” / authority / teaching) would be granted to them.  Even when they died, their “fruit” (converts and teaching) would live on beyond them to spread the good news of the Savior yet further.

 

            15:17   These things I command you, that you love one another.  The various “things” (note the plural) that He had urged and commanded were for the purpose of motivating, maintaining, and deepening their mutual love.  Since He had given them so much, how could there be any objection that they, similarly, manifest in action their deep love of each other?  

 

 

If Jesus Had Been Hated and Persecuted, the Apostles Could Expect the Same Thing Because of Their Continued Loyalty (John 15:18-21):  18 “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first.  19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  However, because you do not belong to the world, but I chose you out of the world, for this reason the world hates you. 

20 “Remember what I told you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they obeyed my word, they will obey yours too.  21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            15:18   “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  In spite of their relationship with Jesus and God, the path of the apostles would be rocky.  True, the world “hates you,” but what more is that than the attitude that had been manifested toward Jesus Himself?  The subtext here is “if I have refused to let it silence Me, don’t let it drive you into silence either!” 

 

            15:19   If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  The “world” would love them if they acted and believed just as it did.  Because they have loyalty to Jesus instead, this reinforced the world’s hatred.  Although the application to why the unbelieving world resents them is a logical application of this principle, it is important to remember the original context which is in mind:  It is not the “world” in general but to a specific segment of it--“the Jewish religious world.” 

            And not even all of that, but the strongly dominant elements in the “Jewish religious leadership world” who they all had antagonized.  There is tremendous irony here:  These are the people who by their learning and spiritual practice should have been among the most fervent of Jesus’ supporters!

            What led them astray?  For the Sanhedrin, fear of losing their own authority over the masses due to the rival system of Jesus--not to mention horror that it might provoke Roman retaliation.  (Their own religious practice had not; why should Jesus’ non-violent religious system do so?) 

            Then there were the Pharisaic and religious “lawyers” for they had evolved a highly detailed and elaborate series of religious traditions and Jesus had opted for one relying on Divine law and responsible application of it instead.  Under Jesus you no longer needed to become “super religious” like them, but be of simple humble service to God and helpfulness to others.   

            In the expansion of Christianity the apostles would also suffer from the hostility of pagan religious systems and those who “didn’t give a hoot” about religion in the first place.  Hence we land back at where the discussion began but in a much broader application:  “because you are not of the world” you will be despised, rejected, and hated.  Only the “who” and their excuse for hatred will vary.          

 

            15:20   Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  Again, Jesus is not expecting more of them than He Himself had demonstrated.  How could it be surprising if the world hated them since it had acted the same way toward their Master? 

            But this line of reasoning could be flipped over as well:  among those who had obeyed Jesus previously, well those would heed the words of the apostles as well.  Hence, they weren’t without allies.  They might not be visible at the moment--least of all in Jerusalem!--but they unquestionably existed in significant numbers.  There was no reason to despair and consider the situation hopeless.

 

            15:21   But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.  The mistreatment they would receive would be from people who did not truly “know” (= understand, embrace, cherish) God Himself and His objectives.  They had invented their own way of “serving God” rather than following His revealed standard, the scriptures.  Since they misunderstood God in His intents and purposes, how would it be surprising if they rejected them as well when they taught that same Divine will?  It has been wisely suggested that the best commentary on verses 20 and 21 is a reading of the book of Acts as it shows the manifestation of these rival attitudes of hostility and support.

 

 

Jesus’ Pattern of Successful Miracles Ruled Out Any Legitimate Reason for Refusal to Embrace Him and His Cause (John 15:22-27):  22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But they no longer have any excuse for their sin.  23 The one who hates me hates my Father too.  24 If I had not performed among them the miraculous deeds that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin.  But now they have seen the deeds and have hated both me and my Father.  25 Now this happened to fulfill the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without reason.’ 

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me, 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”     --New English Translation (for comparison)

 

 

            15:22   If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  Their condemnation was great.  Previously they could claim ignorance.  But after Jesus had shared His teaching, they no longer had that veil to hide behind and their sin was now without excuse.  This was true of both Jew and Gentile for His message was ultimately to the entire world and not just part of it.  In the same vein, the apostle Paul preached in Athens to the latter:  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.  He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). 

 

            15:23   He who hates Me hates My Father also.  His foes went far beyond mere “disliking,” “resenting” and even “despising” His message and His success--there came to be a raw hatred in their hearts as well.  But hatred of Jesus is no trivial thing.  The one who hates Him, whether consciously realizing it or not, is actually hating the “Father also.”  So tight and unbreakable is the linkage between the two--in both their teaching and their holy nature.  The Jewish leaders thought they were squashing a dangerous “heretic;” they were actually trying to destroy an even more important messenger from God than even Moses had been.  

 

            15:24   If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father.  Once they could have hid behind their ignorance, but that had been stripped from them by Jesus teaching them the truth (verse 22).  Returning to a variant of that theme, not only had Jesus taught them the truth, He had demonstrated the authority behind the teaching by His various miracles.  Since these were “works which no one else did” (i.e., unprecedented) they could not dismiss Him as a teacher without credentials.  He had demonstrated those credentials by His actions--repeatedly and consistently. 

            They had seen some of them themselves; others they had word of via those they regarded as reliable sources.  What He had done was not really in doubt; all that remained was how they would react to it:  embrace the truths being taught or reject them and their Teacher?  They chose the latter.  As John repeatedly emphasizes:  sought all the more to kill Him” (John 5:18); “lately the Jews sought to stone You” (7:1); they took up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:39); “then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:31); “lately the Jews sought to stone You” (11:8). 

 

            15:25   But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’  In acting this way, they duplicated the behavior denounced by the Psalmist of hating one without any justification (Psalms 35:19; 69:4; cf. 109:3-5).

            The meaning here is that the same thing happened to him which did to the psalmist.  The same words which David used respecting his enemies would express, also, the conduct of the Jews and their treatment of the Messiah.  In both cases it was without cause.  Jesus had broken no law, he had done no injury to his country or to any individual.  It is still true that sinners hate him in the same way.  He injures no one, but, amid all their hatred, he seeks their welfare; and, while they reject him in a manner for which they ‘can give no reason in the day of judgment,’ he still follows them with mercies and entreats them to return to him.” (Barnes’ Notes)

            Sidebar:  Normally we speak in terms of Law, Psalms, and prophets (as in Luke 24:44) or Law and prophets (as in Matthew 22:40; Luke 16:16) but “Law” also works as a fair description of the entire Old Testament since all of it had legal and spiritual authority in God’s sight.  For which usage see both our current text and John 10:34 which invokes Psalms 82:6.  Popular opinion in John 12:34 appears to apply the language to such texts as Isaiah 9:7 and Daniel 7:14. 

 

            15:26   But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.  Another role the Spirit would play as Helper would be that of teaching them further about Jesus.  They already knew a lot, but there remained much to be added.  Also note the description of the Spirit as the “Spirit of truth.”  There would be nothing undependable that would come from Him. They would find the Spirit to be just as trustworthy and reliable as they had Jesus while on earth. 

           

            15:27   And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.  They would be able to bear witness of what Jesus had done and said because they had personally seen and observed it.  It wasn’t second hand information for they had been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry.  What they would receive from the Divine Spirit was supplemental to that personal knowledge and memories and would assure its accuracy as well.  Furthermore greater insight into the reasons behind it and its implications would come from the Spirit.  They would not be susceptible to wild guesses or miscalculations.  The Spirit would be the “failsafe” on what they taught--compare Acts 5:32:  And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”  Similarly Acts 15:28:  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.”