<< John XIV: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>
If the knowledge of God in Christ is the highest and most precious knowledge that the church can possess or the Christian disciple acquire, this chapter is one of the most important that the Scriptures contain. Jesus reveals himself more fully to his disciples than he has perhaps done in any of his conversations with them. The chapter is a continuation of the address he was delivering to them respecting his going away, whither they could not then follow him. His words now are words of comfort, which he shows them they must seek through faith in him.
1. Let not your hearts be troubled : ye believe in God, believe also in me. Immunity or deliverance from mental trouble is to be found only through belief in Jesus, and not only through belief in “him, but through belief in him as God. ” Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” It is evident that Jesus here places himself on an equality with God, and inculcates or demands the same belief in Him as that which men directed to God. As God has no equal but himself, Jesus must be God himself. But although he was God, and therefore God alone, there is yet a distinction between God and Jesus, or between the Father and the Son. This distinction is an important one, as our Lord here evidently teaches. He says to his disciples, Ye believe in God; but notwithstanding this belief, they were in a state of obscurity, and were the subjects of tribulation. It was by believing also in Jesus, as they believed in God, that they were to escape or surmount trouble. God is the divinity, pure and unmanifested; Jesus is the divinity clothed in humanity. It was not, therefore, by their belief in God, but by their belief in God incarnate, that they were to be secured from trouble of heart. If the Lord, as God, could have given peace to the troubled heart of humanity, he needed not to have come into the world. It was because he could not, as God, that he became Man. It is by belief in Jesus, as the manifested God, that men obtain rest to their souls. If, therefore, we would be saved from spiritual trouble, we must believe in Jesus as we believe in God.
2 The Lord proceeds to say, In my Father’s house are many mansions : if it were not so, I would have told you. From the Father, the Lord passes to the Father’s house, as the place where the heart shall experience no more trouble or sorrow. Heaven is the Father’s house. In the individual, the Father’s house is the regenerate heart, where the Lord dwells with his love, or rather in his love, for the Lord dwells only in his own. In the abstract sense, love in the heart is itself the Father’s house, the habitation where his honour dwelleth. Understood of the heaven of angels, or the spirits of just men made perfect, the many mansions are the innumerable distinct habitations where the elect reside. Heaven is not a promiscuous multitude, but a most perfectly classified assembly, where every one has his own place, his own use, and his own reward. Heaven consists of innumerable societies, each formed of those who are in the common love of a particular degree or principle of goodness. Like the church, Heaven is the mystical body of the Lord, the societies of which form its members and organs, most perfectly fitted into each other, and forming one Grand Man, one sublime harmony. This perfect arrangement of all hi heaven, according to the degrees of perfection they have attained, contributes to the happiness, as it does to the order, which reigns there, for in this way all are associated with their like, and all are in the freest exercise of their powers and the fullest enjoyment of their delight. Our Lord, after telling his disciples there were many mansions in his Father’s house, adds, ” If it were not so I would have told you.” Why should the Lord make this remark 1 What was it to them, at this juncture, to know that there were many mansions in his Father’s house; and if il were not so, that he would have told them ? The Father’s house was that to which he was now hastening, and the place where they were soon to follow him. Heaven was the end of his labour upon earth. To lift up its evellasting doors, that he, as the king of glory, might go in, to be followed by the faithful upon earth, was the end of his warfare and the fruit of his triumphs. But it was necessary for those, who were to go forth to gather, men into the Lord’s house, both in the church and in heaven, to know that it had many mansions—that it was not for the reception of the Jews only but of the Gentiles, for those of every tongue and people and nation, since men were to be gathered into it from the east and the west, from the north and the south. This was a truth which the disciples required to know, but were slow to learn— that as there were degrees of perfection on earth there were degrees of eminence in heaven. As one star differeth from another star in glory, so is the resurrection of the just. And this view is full of consolation as well as of encouragement. That house which includes all degrees of glory, has mansions for the lowest as well as for the highest. As on earth, so in heaven, the hand cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee. This is an eternal truth, so consistent with the nature of humanity, that if it had not been so, the Lord would have directly declared it. There are many mansions in heaven; there is room for all; and a place for every one who sincerely desires to make it his eternal home. But the Lord added, I go to prepare a place for you. Why did Jesus require to prepare, and how did he prepare, a place for his disciples ? Heaven was included in the work of redemption. The Lord redeemed not only men but angels. The ordination of heaven, as well as the subjugation of hell, was the object and result of the Lord’s divine work in the flesh. The glorification of the Lord’s humanity effected a corresponding change in the state both of heaven and the church. The preparation of heaven as a place for the redeemed was completed by the Lord at his ascension, as the preparation of the church, as a place for the redeemed, was completed by the Lord at his resurrection. But place means state. And this our Lord prepared.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. The Lord’s coming again, to receive his disciples into the place he had prepared for them, is considered to mean his coming to remove them by death to the mansions of heaven. This may be admitted as his meaning ; but it is not his whole meaning. The Lord came again at the day of Pentecost, when he poured out his Spirit from on high on his disciples. This was the coming which he several times promised to make; coming as the Comforter, who was to guide them into all truth, and bring all he had said to their remembrance, and show them things to come. This was a second coming, the completion of the first. But the Lord makes a second coming of this kind to all true disciples. He came first as their Instructor and then as their Enlightener, first as the Teacher, and then as the Spirit, of Truth. This is the coming by which the Lord receives the faithful unto himself, or by which he draws them into spiritual conjunction with him. The Lord, in the best and highest sense, takes his disciples unto himself, when lie draws them away from the love of themselves unto the love of him. The true and renewed disciple is no longer his own, he is the Lord’s. The Lord’s purpose in taking his disciples to himself is, that where lie is, there they may be also. Not, strictly speaking, in the place, but in the state where he is, does the Lord desire his disciples to be. If they come into his state, they will come into his place as a necessary consequence. The Lord desires indeed that his disciples should find their home in heaven, but the heavenly state is a sure passport to the heavenly place. This is what all the desires of divine love and all the operations of divine wisdom unite to secure.
4 The Lord, after speaking of his departure, says to them, And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. There are two kinds of knowledge, especially in regard to divine and spiritual things, the knowledge that is of the memory and the knowledge that is of the understanding and the heart—of science and, of experience. The disciples possessed one kind of knowledge but not the other; they knew and they did not know. The Lord had taught them that he must go away unto the Father, and that they must follow him. They knew the way also, as we shall see, and yet they did not know it. They were in that state in which they saw and heard, but understood not. This is not to be considered simply to mean, that the disciples knew that he was about to depart out of the world and return to the Father. .By going to the Father the Lord meant the glorification of his humanity, the union of his humanity with his divinity. His going was not a change of place but a change of state, an. elevation of the human into the state of the divine.
5 Hence Thomas saith unto him. Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way ? This statement and question were uttered by Thomas, because he represented those within the church who are of an external character, and judge of spiritual things by the light of the world rather than by the light of heaven. Such, therefore, know not where the Lord goes nor the way that leads thither. The principle of human nature which he represents, the sensuous, as it exists in every disciple, asks the same question, when the Lord makes the assertion that drew forth the words of Thomas.
6 The Lord answers the question of Thomas by saying unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life : no man cometh unto the Father but by me. Jesus himself was the way, which he truly said the disciples knew, though they hardly yet knew in what respect he was so. That which the Lord now delivers is a great truth, one of the greatest in the New Testament. How is it to be understood ? Jesus is the way; no one can come to the Father but by him. “We can only understand this clearly when we know that the Father and the Son are the Divine and the Human in the person of the Lord, and the divine Love and Wisdom in his nature, embodied in his person. The Humanity is the way to the Divinity, for we cannot approach the Lord in his Essential Divinity, except in and through the Divine Humanity in which it dwells. The Lord is also the truth which reveals his love, and invests it. Truth is as light, love is as heat; and heat clothes itself with light as with a garment; as does the divine love with divine wisdom. But Jesus is also the life. This is agreeable to the declaration of John : “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (i. 4). Life produces light, love produces or clothes itself with wisdom. He who claimed all these characters, or attributes, cannot be less than divine. Yet that distinction of essential principles in the nature of God, which constitutes the divine trinity, is here very strikingly taught, and its benefits to men pointed out. Divinity is distinct from humanity, love is distinct from wisdom. The great object of the Lord is to bring us by his humanity to his divinity, by his wisdom to his love; and his humanity or his wisdom is the way which alone can lead unto it. In relation to man, the way is doctrine, the truth is everything relating to doctrine, and life is goodness, which is the life of doctrine and truth. Nothing makes life spiritual but the knowledges of truth applied to life. Truths are applied to life when they are made laws of life. Then man respects the Lord in them; and the Lord is present with him, and gives him intelligence and wisdom, with affection for truths and delight in them. The Lord is in his own truth in man, since all truth proceeds from him, and what proceeds from him is his, and is himself, so that he is in every true disciple as the way, the truth, and the life. And as there is nothing in man, as he is in himself, by which he can come to the Lord; only what he has received can lead him to the Being from whom he received it.
7 Jesus proceeds to say, If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. The disciples knew Jesus and acknowledged him as the Messiah, but they knew him not as yet in his true character. Had they known that the essential and eternal divinity was in the humanity, they would have known the divine by the human. The human manifested the divine both in person and in character. The Lord’s divinity was manifested personally in his humanity, as a man’s soul is manifested in his body; and it was manifested characteristically, by his love being exhibited in his wisdom, as a man’s will is exhibited in his understanding. Those who know Jesus know the Father, and when the true knowledge of Jesus is attained, from henceforth the Father is known and seen by the reception of his love in the heart, and even by the perception of his truth in the understanding. In Jesus we know and see the Father, for he is at once the Father and the Son, the divine and the human, the love and the wisdom, in one glorious person.
8 But there is yet another claimant for further light or demonstration. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. As Thomas signifies those who judge from sense, Philip signifies those who judge from reason, as yet unenlightened by the rays of divine truth. Such desire to see the Father, to have the divinity revealed, the divine love made known, in some other than the only way in which they can be known. They want to see immediately that which can only be seen mediately—to see the Father, but not through the medium of the Son. There are many in Philip’s state, who think of the Father out of and separate from the Son, as a Person or Being who may be seen by the eye of the mind, if not by that of the body, as he is in his own essence.
9 The Lord’s answer to Philip is sufficent to correct this grave error. Have I been so long time with you, and yet li.ast thou not known me Philip ? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? The Lord speaks as if in the language of surprise, that Philip should ask to see Him he had so long and so often seen. Jesus had been long with him, and yot ho had not known him. This could only he said on the ground that Philip was ignorant of who Jesus really was. If he had not seen the Father in Jesus, he had not known Jesus. Jesus was the manifestation of the Father. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” What could be stronger than this in proof that the Father and the Son are one, and that he who saw the Son saw the Father 1 Hence the demand, “How sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”
10 The Lord proceeds, Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father, that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Not only the unity of the Father and the Son, but the nature of their distinction’ and union, is placed in the clearest light. The Father in the Son, and the Son in the Father, imply unity that is only possible 011 the ground of equality, and in mutual and reciprocal action and intercommunion. Each is in the other. The Father is in the Son as love is in wisdom, and the Son is in the Father as wisdom is in love ; the Father is in the Son as the soul is in the body, and the Son is in the Father as the body is in the soul. That this is the kind of distinction between the Father and the Son, the Lord further and plainly declares. “The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” If the Son had been a divine person distinct from the person of the Father, and possessing all divine attributes equally with him, this language would have been impossible, for it would not have expressed the truth. But when Father and Son are considered as being to each other as soul and body, or as love and wisdom, or as will and understanding, the words of the Lord are seen to be most significant and beautifully expressive of the truth. The words that the body speaks, it speaks not of itself; the soul that dwells in the body, it doeth the works. Both the words and the works of man, though spoken and done by the body, are spoken and done by the body from the soul, or by the soul through the body. It is the same with love and wisdom, which are in the Lord as will and understanding are in man. Whatever wisdom speaks and does, it speaks and does from love, just as all that the human understanding says and does is from the will. Impossible is it to understand our Lord’s words in reference to the co-eternal and co-equal divine persons; they have a natural and in every way consistent meaning when understood in reference to the two essential principles of love and wisdom in the divine Being, or to the divinity and humanity in the one Person of the Lord Jesus, as the incarnate God.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake. The Lord impresses upon Philip the duty of believing in the reciprocal union of Him and the Father; or if he cannot see the truth from its reasonableness and consistency, he is exhorted to believe it on account of the works which the Lord had performed, of which Philip himself was one of the witnesses. Those works were such as testified to an indwelling divine power in him who performed them. Wonderful works had been performed by some of the prophets of the Old Testament, and even by the apostles of the New, and perhaps by Philip himself as one of them.; but they performed their works in the name and by the power of the Lord ; while Jesus performed his works by his own power,—by the power of the divinity that dwelt within him.
12 Yet great as the Lord’s works were, he promises that the true disciple shall be able to do, not only the works that he did, but works still greater. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall lie do also ; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. We are not informed that the disciples, after the Lord’s ascension, did any greater works than the Lord himself performed. Those of which he here speaks are indeed greater works than he had done, but they are works of another kind. They are internal works, of which the Lord’s miracles were but the types and foreshadowings. The greater works which the disciples were and are able to do, are works that relate to the soul and its restoration to spiritual health and life. These works are as much greater than those which our Lord performed as the soul is greater than the body. To some extent the Lord performed these spiritual works in the days of his flesh; but not until after his glorification could they be done effectually and fully, since man could only be regenerated as the Lord was glorified. Therefore our Lord says, ” Greater works than these shall ye do—because I go unto my Father.” His going to the Father was the union of his humanity with his divinity. In the spiritual sense, this teaches us that the union of the Lord’s truth with his love in the minds of the disciples is that which enables them to do the greater works of regeneration. It is hardly possible to miss the meaning and force of the Lord’s declaration. We cannot reason ably suppose that the Lord referred to the performance by the disciples of miraculous works greater than those which he himself performed. The disciples did not perform any such works. Although it might be admitted that some of their works equalled some of his, they did not surpass them. It must be evident that the Lord spoke of those spiritual works which were to follow his glorification, as its eternal results, miraculous cures and restoratives being only temporary. Those spiritual works with their eternal consequences were the very end and object of the Lord’s coming into the world. Then, therefore, came the greater works, which his disciples were to do, because he went to the Father. Truth before its union with good reforms, but truth united with good regenerates.
13 The Lord further says, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. To ask in the Lord’s name is not to pray to one divine person to grant favours for the sake of another. This is not the meaning of the Scripture form of expression. The general custom of Christians of addressing their prayers to the Father, as a divine person, for the sake or in the name of the Son, as another divine person, arises from an entire misapprehension of the meaning of the Lord’s words, as well as from a mistaken view of the nature of the Lord’s work in the flesh. It is supposed that Jesus came into the world to make satisfaction for sin, and that sinners receive pardon of their sins and find acceptance with God, on account of what Jesus has done- to satisfy the demands of divine justice. Such a doctrine has no foundation in the Scriptures. It is inconsistent with human justice, much more with divine justice, which is infinitely perfect. Divine justice could secure nothing to satisfy it from such a transaction. Indeed, such a mode of satisfaction would be an outrage upon the justice of God; and is not to be thought of as a part of true Christianity. To ask in the Lord’s name is to ask in his spirit. This is the same as to ask in faith ; and whatsoever the disciple asks, believing, he shall receive. Faith is the gift of the Lord’s spirit, and is the spirit of his truth in the human heart. Indeed, the Lord’s name means the quality of his love and truth; and to ask in his name is to ask under the influence of his love and the direction of his truth in our hearts and minds. And as all the divine qualities and attributes are brought near to us in the Lord’s humanity, therefore also to ask the Father in the name of the Son, is to approach and worship the Lord in his Divine Humanity, as the temple of the Divinity. The Lord promises to grant the petitions that are preferred in his name, “that the Father maybe glorified in the Son.” The Father is glorified in the Son in every saving operation which the divinity performs through the humanity, or which the humanity performs from the divinity. We express the same truth in another form when we say, that the divine love is glorified in the divine truth, in every act of grace which it performs, in every evil it removes, and in every good it implants in the human heart.
14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. We may remark again, that asking in the Lord’s name cannot mean asking for his sake, else he would have said, not that he, but the Father, would do it. What meaning can we attach to the promise of a person, that he himself will do for us what we ask another to do in his name ? Is it not evident that to ask in the Lord’s name is to ask in the spirit of the Lord ? that if we pray in the spirit of his humility and meekness, of his mercy and forgiveness, of his love and truth, we shall receive ? To ask in the name or for the sake of Christ, on account of what he has done, cannot, of itself, make it certain that we shall have the things we ask, however good these things may be ; but to ask in the spirit of the Lord, having the same mind in us which was also in him, this is a security for the reception of ” whatsoever” we ask; for this implies a state of mind which at once gives us to know what we should ask, and prepares us for receiving it. The Lord is then the inspirer as well as the answerer of prayer, and whatsoever we ask we shall undoubtedly receive. We never really ask in his name until his name is in our prayers, till he inspires them, till his Spirit is the spirit of our prayers. Prayers addressed to the Father, as an invisible and incomprehensible because unmanifested God, with the name of Jesus Christ pronounced at the conclusion, as the name of one for whose sake we expect our petitions to be granted, is not to pray in the name i of Christ, in the sense in which our Lord taught us to pray. Those who pray according to this formula, may indeed pray in the name of Jesus, because they may pray in the spirit of Jesus; but the form itself has no scriptural authority or Christian meaning. And, * innocent though it may be, it has a tendency to do harm, and to dishonour rather than to honour the Lord, since it may create a false trust, and so draw the mind away from the true.
15 Our Lord now proceeds to teach the condition on which our prayers are to be answered. If ye love me, keep my commandments. Considered in itself this is a lesson of great importance. Love must be manifested in a loving obedience to the divine commands. Where there is sincere love, there will be obedience; but the Lord’s imposing this duty upon those who love him, shows that there may be a kind of love which is without obedience. His exhortation implies, that we must show our love in discharging our duties ; and that if these are neglected, our love is not true love, but some counterfeit, that claims the name without having the power of real affection. The Lord in effect says, If ye really love me ye will keep niy commandments; if ye do not keep my commandments, it is because your love is not real love. Practical love is the love that secures for the disciples of Christ an answer to their prayers, and which secures for them the pray era Jof the Lord himself, as he now proceeds to say.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. A most instructing subject is the Lord’s praying the Father. The Lord literally prayed in the days of his humiliation. Does he pray literally now in the days of his glorification ? We assume that one who prays must be inferior to him whom he addresses. In the days of his flesh the Lord’s human nature was inferior to his divine nature; therefore, as a man, Jesus prayed to God. He could not pray as to his divinity. Pure divinity cannot pray. It has no one to pray to, nothing to pray for. It lias in itself all that can be the object of prayer. Jesus prayed upon earth, because he was clothed with a frail humanity, which was inferior to his divinity and dependent upon it. Some may think that the man Christ Jesus could not pray to a divinity that dwelt within him. But this would make no difference. It is not space but state that distinguishes and separates man from God, and gives to man the sense of distance and separateness from God. The Infinite and the finite are not separated by space, yet there is an impassable gulf between them. And so long and so far as the Lord’s humanity was finite, he had, in his states of humiliation, a sense of inferiority and dependence, and therefore prayed to the Father. Union with the Father was the supreme object of his prayers. While this union was in progress the Lord could pray, but when that union was completed, prayer, in the literal sense, must cease: there was no longer the union to pray for. But as the union of love and wisdom, or of goodness and truth, first effected in the Lord, was afterwards to be effected in men, there was this object to be desired, and therefore to be prayed for. But the prayers of the Lord now are the desires of his love and the activities of his wisdom for man’s salvation. When, therefore, the Lord says, ” I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,” we are not to understand that he actually and literally addresses prayers to another person, to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, whom he was about to leave. The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete or Comforter, we have seen, is the Spirit of regeneration proceeding from the Lord’s divine humanity, and is called another, because the Saviour was about to come to his church in another character. He was now with them in the flesh, he was about to be with them in the spirit. He was with them, and he was to be in them. The real meaning of the Lord’s promise, in its practical application, is, like many of his declarations, to be understood in relation to his operations in the minds of the regenerate. The truth is, the Lord now prays in us. The work of the Father and the Son, of the divine love and wisdom, which was effected in the Lord, is now to be effected in us. And unless the Son’s praying to the Father, which men think of as still taking place in heaven, takes place in the heaven of our own minds, its effects will never be experienced by us, in the descent of the Holy Comforter.
17 The Comforter, whom the Lord was to pray the Father to send, is the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth, not because the divine Emanation inspires the mind with the love, or gives it the perception, of truth only—for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord’s love as well as of his truth; but because what proceeds from the Lord is called truth; the Lord from whom it proceeds being Goodness itself; and what proceeds from him contains both his love and his wisdom. This Spirit of truth the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. The worldly-minded cannot receive the Spirit of him whose kingdom is not of this world. They see him not by singleness of mind and know him not by simplicity of heart. But the disciples know him, for, says our Lord, ” he dwelleth with you and shall be in you.” It is evident from these words that the Lord himself was that Spirit. It was he who was with the disciples, and it was he who was to be in them. The emphatic part of this teaching is this : there was to “be a decided difference in the state of reception on the part of the disciples, after the Lord’s departure out of the world, from what there was before. The reception of the Lord, even by his disciples, was external. He was with the disciples rather than in them. They saw him and they saw him not; they knew him and they knew him not. They had not a spiritual perception of his truth, nor a spiritual affection for his goodness, partly because of their own external condition of mind, partly from the Lord himself being as yet in a comparatively external and unglorified state. But after his ascension in his glorified humanity, his Spirit descended, or he himself descended as the Spirit, and entered into the hearts and understandings of his followers, dwelling in them by the good of his love and the truth of his wisdom.
18 That the Lord himself was the Spirit of truth, he now evidently declares. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. It was, then, he himself who was to come as the Comforter. The identity of the Lord and the Spirit does not imply that there is no distinction between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The Lord and the Spirit are distinct as essentials, but they are essentials of one person. In a practical sense, the promise that the Spirit would come as the Comforter, and then that Jesus himself would come as the Comforter, teaches us, that the Lord comes to his regenerate people, first as the Spirit of truth to enlighten the understanding, and then as the Spirit of love to warm the heart. When the Lord said he would not leave his disciples comfortless, more properly, that he would not leave them orphans, he meant that he would not leave them in truth only, but that he would come and impart goodness unto them. An orphan is one without a father or without a mother. A father signifies interior good, a mother truth joined to that good; and children or sons are truths thence derived. Orphans here signify those who have been instructed in truth as the means of leading them to good. They denote also those who are in truth and desire good. In the spiritual sense, the Lord is the Father and the church is the mother. The church instructs her children in truth, and into and by that truth the Lord communicates good; and he who communicates good is the Father of the faithful. The Lord’s loving promise that he would not leave his disciples fatherless, is a promise that he would not leave them without the good which makes them his children.
19 Jesus proceeds to say, Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. The world saw the Lord only while he was clothed with the likeness of sinful flesh. “When he was no longer invested with the garment of mortality, they saw him no more. The world, however, spiritually understood, consists of those who are in the love of the world; and the world cannot see the Saviour with the eye of spiritual faith, but the true disciples can. The disciples saw the Lord more clearly and profitably after his departure than before it. While he was present with them in the body, they saw him too much as the world saw him ; it was not till after he had ” vanished out of their sight,” that they truly saw him as the Lord and Saviour of their souls. The eyes of their understandings were opened, and they saw him in his true character. But the Lord promises the disciples, what he could not promise the world, that they should live by him. ” Because I live, ye shall live also.” Jesus speaks of the life which he was as to his divinity, and which he became as to his humanity, that he might give it to his disciples. This our Lord spoke of when he said, ” As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” The life of which the Lord speaks is not mere existence. This is indeed included in it. It is not because Jesus lives as God, but because he lives as man, that his disciples live also. It is because the humanity lives and has ” life in itself,” that men can live from him. It is because the life of love and wisdom in the divinity became the life of love and wisdom in the humanity, that humanity can receive that life and live by it. This is the foundation of hope for humanity, as arising out of the Incarnation—that, as Jesus lives, the disciples of Jesus shall live also. The divine life has accommodated itself to men, brought itself near and placed itself within the reach of all, that all may receive it if they will.
20 The Lord now speaks of the time and state which follow the reception of his Spirit. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. Jesus had already declared to Philip that he was in the Father, and the Father in him. He now tells his disciples that in the day of their beginning to live from his life, they should know, not only that he was in his Father, but, as a consequence, that he was in them, and they in him. The day in which they should know this is, spiritually, the state in which they should realize it. To know that Jesus is in the Father, is to know that his humanity is fully united to his divinity; it is to know that in his humanity divine truth is united to divine goodness, divine wisdom to divine love. The Lord’s conjunction with his disciples, is an effect and image of this. His disciples are in him, as he is in the Father. Jesus is the Father of the faithful, as God is the Father of Jesus. As he was born of God, the disciples are born of him. The disciple cannot be in the Father immediately, but only mediately through the Son; the Son in the Father, and the disciples in the Son, and through the Son in the Father. In other words, man has not conjunction with the divinity immediately, but only mediately through the humanity. But the conjunction of the Lord and man is mutual. ” Ye in me, and I in you.” So the Lord says respecting himself and the Father, ” I in the Father, and the Father in me.” This mutual and reciprocal union is most momentous in its nature and significance. It is acknowledged in the church, that in the Lord, God is man and man is God. God is man by the Father being in the Son, and man is God by the Son being in the Father. The Father is in the Son by the divine uniting itself to the human, and the Son is in the Father by the human uniting itself to the divine. Not only was it necessary for the divinity to unite itself to the humanity, but it was no less neccessary for the humanity to unite itself to the divinity, that the divine might become human and the human become divine. The whole of the Lord’s trials and experience as a man were the means of the union of the human with the divine. It was for this reason that the Lord was left to himself, that is, was left to act altogether as a man, for unless he had passed through all human experience, even to feeling himself alone, forsaken, not only of man but of God, he could not have united himself to the Father, so as to make his manhood God. This reciprocal union of the human with the divine in the Lord was also required for the reciprocal union of men with himself. It is because the Lord as a man united himself to the Father, that man, as a free agent, can conjoin himself with the Lord. Man does not, like the Lord, do this from himself, but he must do it as of himself, as if the result depended on himself alone; but this is to be followed by the acknowledgment that all his power is the Lord’s power in him. It is the state resulting from this experience which brings the disciple to know that the Lord is in him and he is in the Lord. It is this, indeed, that saves; for we are not saved by the Lord being in us, but by our being in him. The Lord is in every man, and if this could give salvation, every man would be saved ; but every man is not in the Lord, therefore not every man is saved but all who are in the Lord and the Lord in them are among the blest.
21 The Divine Teacher now tells his disciples how they may be in him, and he savingly in them. He that hath my commandments-, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. The Lord had already exhorted his disciples to love Mm, even as he had loved them, and to love one another. Love, we know, is the means of conjunction and the bond of union. The Lord now tells his disciples who those are that love him, and thus have conjunction with him. They are those who love his commandments and keep them. Love is very commonly considered, even among Christians, as a feeling ; and many judge of the intensity of their love to the Lord by the ardency of their feelings towards him personally. We ought, indeed, to think of the Lord as a person, and cultivate the feeling of love towards him. But we must remember, that, as the Lord regards not the persons of men, but regards and loves them according to their characters, so ought we to regard and love the Lord. We are to love the Lord for what he is, and for what he has done. The Lord in his very essence is love and wisdom, or goodness and truth; consequently he is mercy, clemency, forgiveness, truth, righteousness, holiness. We only truly love the Lord when we love these qualities which constitute his nature. And we only truly love these qualities in the Lord, when we love them and cherish them in our hearts. And we only truly love and cherish them in our hearts, when we love to practise them. Indeed, the only way to acquire and possess them is to do them. We cannot call love into existence by a direct act of the will, but we can bring it into existence by the will acting through the life. We cannot love by simply willing to love, but we can come to love by doing from the will the good in which love is grounded. Love must be acquired by obedience, before obedience can spring from love. Love is the highest grace of the regenerate mind, and can only be reached by ascending through all the lower graces. Obedience is the foundation on which our heavenly house is built; it is the earth on which the spiritual ladder rests, by which the soul climbs through all the other graces to the heaven of love and goodness. The ladder by which the soul ascends is that by which it also descends, from love to God into a life of usefulness to man. But in this second stage of the spiritual life, obedience is of a far more perfect character than in the first. In the first stage, obedience is from fear; in the second, it is from love: in the first, it comes from a sense of duty; in the second, it proceeds from a sense of delight. Still, love rests upon duty as its proper and indispensable basis. So that the Lord’s words are eminently and eternally true, “he that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, lie it is that loveth me.” ” And he that loveth me,” saith our Lord, ” shall be loved of my Father.” The Father being the divine love, and the Son the divine wisdom, we learn from the Lord’s words, that he who keeps the laws of the Lord’s wisdom, shall become receptive of His love. . ” Love is the fulfilling of the law.” Doing the truth prepares the way for the spirit of truth. The Lord enters into the heart which his truth has purified and prepared as a ‘habitation for it. The Lord says, that he that loves him shall not only be loved by his Father, but also by him-self. The Father loves us when the. Lord’s love is in our hearts, and the Son loves us when His wisdom, is in our affections. The Lord loves us, in the true and practical sense, not merely when we are the objects, but when we are the subjects, of His love. When the Lord’s wisdom is the object of our affections, the Lord not only loves us, but also manifests himself to us. The divine wisdom, dwelling in the mind by love, gives it illustration. The Lord’s wisdom is thus no longer a law but a light, a light in which the Lord manifests himself to us as our Saviour, the Giver of love and truth, and of the happiness that they confer.
22 This teaching is not yet clear to the minds of all the disciples. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world ? This Judas is the Jude of the epistles, who bears such clear testimony to the sole divinity of the Lord, as the only wise God our Saviour. Judas, at this time less enlightened than when he wrote his epistle, asks how it is that Jesus will manifest himself to his disciples, and not unto the world. The disciples still entertained the idea that the kingdom, which Jesus was about to establish, was a temporal kingdom; and Judas no doubt expressed the surprise and disappointment which the disciples generally felt, on hearing the Lord speak of a manifestation which they only were to witness. This is the only instance which the gospels record of this disciple expressing himself, either under the name of Judas, or that of Lebeus, as he is also called. In all the lists of the apostles, his name is among the last of the twelve, and by Luke (vi. 16), is placed next to Judas Iscariot, though honourably distinguished from him. As Judas Iscariot represents the corporeal principle of human nature, Judas, who now speaks, may be understood to represent the sensuous, which is next above it. Yet he is not Iscariot, he is a true disciple, and came fully to know the truth which he now so dimly saw but afterwards so clearly expressed: ” But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” The question of Judas is expressive of a desire to know the nature of the manifestation Jesus promised, and the difference between the disciples, to whom this manifestation was to be made, and the world, to whom it was not to be made. Divine wisdom is unfolded, as it has in all ages been revealed, according to the general state of human apprehension, and this is indicated by the truth being often given to those who inquired after it.
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. In this declaration the Lord points out to Judas how it was that he would manifest himself unto his disciples, and not unto the world. His manifest presence was to be given to those who loved Mm and kept his words. The world loved him not and kept not his words, therefore no manifestation would be made to the world. There is little verbal difference between this explanation and the statement which the Lord was desired, to explain, but the difference, slight as it is, requires our attention. Jesus had said, ” He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me ;” now he says, ” If a man love me, he will keep my words.” In the first, obedience is given as a test of love ; in the second, love is given as the cause of obedience: yet both assert that there is no love without good deeds. We-keep the Lord’s commandments that we may love him; we love the Lord that we may obey him, or keep his words. The Lord now speaks of the Father and him self coming, and coming together : ” we will come and make our abode with him.” This is expressive of the reception by the disciple of love and wisdom united; and they not only come to the loving disciple, but abide with him, expressing a state of confirmed faith and love; a state of reception both in the understanding and the will; for to come is expressive of reception in the understanding, and to abide is expressive of a state of reception in the will.
24 On the other hand our Lord says, He that loveth me not, keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear, is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. The first part of the Lord’s statement is evident, since it is but the negative side of the truth already considered. If those who love him keep his words, those who do not love him do not and cannot keep his sayings. The Lord enforces the authority of his words, by saying that they are not his but the Father’s. “We cannot understand this if we regard Jesus as a divine person; for how, in that case, would the word be not his, if it was the Father’s, since he and the Father were equal in divinity, and one God 1 If we understand the Father to be the divinity and the Son to be the humanity, we can see that the word was not his but the Father’s, as the words which the lips utter are not the body’s, but the soul’s. If, again, we understand the Father and the Son to be the divine love and the divine wisdom, we can see a profound and great truth revealed in the Lord’s saying. For the word which the Lord spake was not the ex pression of his wisdom only, but of his love. The Lord’s infinite love was the fountain of his words. Love was the real origin of all his words and works. His words were words of love.” They were, in deed, words of wisdom, but they proceeded forth and came from love, and were love in their very essence. They were the breathings, the expression, and the very form of eternal, infinite, and most tender love.
25, 26. Having instructed his disciples in the all-important subject of their duty to him, he now says, These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach, you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. The Lord spoke as if he could only partially reveal himself to his disciples while he was present with them in the flesh. He had many things to say unto them, which they could not then, hear. The canon of Scripture was not yet complete; but the supplemental part of his “Word which was yet to be communicated to the disciples, was not only a further but a higher revelation—a revelation not only of the letter, but of the spirit and inner meaning of his Word. The Comforter, whom the Father was to send in his name, was to teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all that he himself had taught them. The Comforter being sent in the Lord’s name, is expressive of the great truth, that the Spirit was to bring with him all the virtue and power of the Lord’s work on earth, all the saving qualities which the Lord embodied in the glorified Humanity in which he now dwelt. He was to lead the disciples into all truth. The disciples but half understood most if not all of the words that Jesus addressed to them. Neither the things to be understood, nor the faculty of understanding them, existed as yet. Not till the Lord had gone through his experience, and ascended into heaven, and returned to the disciples by his Spirit, could they know the mysteries of the kingdom in its completed establishment. How many things must the disciples have forgotten, as well as imperfectly understood ! They had forgotten the words of the repeated prediction, that he should be put to death, and would rise again the third day. This is also a symbol of the forgetfulness of the disciple in all times, for, spiritually, he remembers nothing which he does not realize. The inner memory is the memory of the heart rather than of the understanding, for it records the affections rather than the thoughts, and the thoughts only so far as they are the forms and outbirths of the affections. Hence it is that in the Scriptures the heart is often spoken of as the memory. So is it with the Lord’s word, as to the letter and the spirit. While the disciple is in the letter, the Lord is present with him as the Son of man, but when he is in the spirit the Lord is with him as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was to teach the disciples all things—all things that concerned their salvation, that came within the limit of their capacities, and were accordant with their states. And he was to bring all things to their remembrance, not only by bringing to their remembrance facts they had forgotten, but tilings contained in those facts, given in parable and in language they little understood. We are not to suppose that the Lord meant that the Spirit would teach the disciples things that he had not delivered to them, or that are not revealed in the written Word. The Holy Spirit does not teach independently of the Scriptures, but by means of them. He teaches the truths which the Scriptures contain, by giving the mind a spiritual perception of them, by opening the mind itself to a more interior view of its teachings, and disclosing deeper things in the Word than had been possible to make known before. The teaching of the Spirit is not only different in degree, but in kind, from that of the Son of man. The Spirit does not add to verbal revelation, but unfolds it. He does not teach other things than the Lord taught, but the same things in another manner. He does not enlarge, but only exalts, the circle of revealed truth; giving the spirit of that of which the Lord gave the letter. The teachings of the Spirit are, therefore, now to be tried by the teachings of the Son of man, so that every proposed revelation of the Spirit is to be tested by the actual teachings of the revealed Word. The teachings of the Spirit are, in fact, illustrations rather than revelations. This we shall see more fully when we come to a future part of our Lord’s discourse.
27 Having promised his disciples the gift of the Spirit, the Lord now bestows upon them the gift of his peace. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Innocence and peace are the inmost principles of all perfection and blessedness. Innocence was the state from which man fell, and to which the Lord came to restore him. To effect this the Lord, by glorification, made his humanity Innocence itself. Having by this means reconciled the human to the Divine nature in himself, he made peace between them. So that innocence and peace, which sin had destroyed in the human race, were restored and brought nigh to them in the perfected humanity of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s own peace—that which he calls ” my peace “—is the result or state of the perfect reconciliation and union of the Human nature with the Divine in his own person. The union of the divine and human natures in the person of the Lord is, therefore, essential and perfect peace. And when the Lord removes the enmity that dwells in our hearts, we, being reconciled to him, have his peace imparted to and dwelling in us. ” For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell: and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated, and enemies in your minds by wicked works, hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight ” (Col. i. 19). ” For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having removed the enmity thereby” (Eph. ii. 14). But the Lord gives peace to his disciples, by a work wrought in them, corresponding to that by which he himself became the Prince of peace. Peace in the human mind is a state produced by the removal of the enmity of the unregenerate heart, and its renewal by the Spirit of the Lord. A new heart and a new spirit are the essentials of the new nature, in which the Lord’s peace dwells. As the union of the human and the divine in the Lord is his own peace, our conjunction with him is his peace in us. And our conjunction with the Lord is effected by the conjunction of his love and truth within, us. When the Lord promised to give the disciples his peace, he added ” not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” His peace has nothing of the world in it; it is opposite to that which the world bestows. That which the world gives, is the peace of gratified, nob of conquered passions. It is outward not inward peace, natural not spiritual peace, temporal not eternal peace it is the peace which is not peace—the peace in which is the cankerworm of discontent, of envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness, which eats into the heart of every pure affection, every true enjoyment. No, not as the world gives does the Lord give his peace; the peace which he gives, is the peace of one who has overcome the world, and which he gives to those who also overcome. Knowing that we have One who is able to make us more than conquerors, and give us the peace of victory over sin, we may well listen to his exhortation, ” Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” If the Lord is with us, who can be against us ? Of whom shall we be afraid ? No evil or falsity can injure us, if we have the principles of peace, which are love and truth, dwelling united within us. At peace with God, at peace with man, our hearts need not and cannot be troubled by evil, neither need they be afraid from falsity. In this world indeed the Lord’s disciples will have tribulation but this does not destroy or even disturb their inward peace in the Lord and their confidence in him, as the Author of peace and of every other blessing.
28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, go a away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto my Father: for my Father is greater than I. The disciples had heard the Lord speak of his departure and return; and because he had said these things unto them, sorrow had filled their heart. He now tells them. that if they had loved him, they would have rejoiced at his going to the Father. If the disciple has love he will rejoice in all that helps forward the work of his salvation. The greatest of the means for effecting salvation, the work that provided for it, was the Lord’s glorification,, and his union with the Father. Love to the Lord must ever rejoice in this; it is the cause of all spiritual joy. ” If ye loved me.” Yes. But when in the state which that of the disciples represented, man does not truly love the Lord. He hardly, as yet, knows who the Lord is, or what true love to him means. But if he did know and did love, he would rejoice, because the Lord was going to the Father ; “for the Father is greater than I.” The divinity was yet greater than the humanity. The humanity, before it was fully glorified, was inferior to the divinity. And as it is the divine humanity from which enlightenment, and love, and peace come, the Lord’s going to the Father was the humanity acquiring all the power and glory of the divinity, and becoming itself divine., The Lord’s going to the Father was his progressive union with the Father; and this union was a cause of joy. But joy is inscribed on love. In love there is joy; for perfect love casts out fear. This subject has an interest for the disciple, as great as that which it had for those to whom these words were spoken. The love of God in the inner man is the Father in us, and the truth of God in the outer man is the Son in us. During the progress of regeneration, truth in the external looks to, and progresses towards, union with good in the internal. Good is then greater than truth, but when they are united, each is as the other, and both are one.
29 Our Lord further says, And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. The disciples did not now believe, for they did not understand, nor were they disposed to entertain the idea, that the Lord must pass through death into glory. Nevertheless it was expedient that they should be instructed, that they might believe when the event fulfilled the prediction. Spiritually understood, truth foretells, good fulfils; knowledge is prediction, experience is fulfilment. Spiritual and saving faith comes by experience. When we do not believe the truth, it is essentially because we do not feel the want of it. It is the heart that believeth unto righteousness. It is not till truth is united to good that it produces full belief, or that faith is a living faith. Truth tells us before it comes to pass; but it is only when it comes to pass in our own experience that we truly and fully believe.
30, 31. The Lord concludes this part of his discourse in these words : Hereafter I will not talk much with you ; for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father ; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. The time was fast approaching when the work, of which the Lord had been telling his disciples, was to be accomplished. When his work on. earth was finished, lie was not to speak, but to act—to act out his own divine purpose, of drawing them still more closely into union with himself. But between the time of his speaking to them and of his doing what the Father had given him to do, the Prince of this world was to come to make a last determined effort to defeat the Lord’s purpose of redeeming mankind. We know how terribly and awfully this was realized in our Lord’s experience, in the garden and on the cross. The commandment the Lord had received from the Father was, to lay down his life, that he might take it again. This commandment included the doing of all that the divine law required ; for to overcome in the last temptation, when all the powers of evil, in both worlds, were to be resisted, the power of love and wisdom must be active. The devil is called the prince of this world. The love of the world is the prince of this world, for this love is the ruling power in the world, and the ruling principle in the natural mind, where the world has its empire. The prince of this world, our Lord said, ” hath nothing in me.” The Lord subsequently declared ” I have overcome the world.” The Lord does not, however, mean that the prince of the world would find no ground of temptation in him, but that the temptation would result in convincing the world that he loved the Father. Jesus does not indeed say that the Prince of this world would find absolutely nothing of the world in him; only that the prince of this world had nothing in him, but that the world might know that he loved the Father. Similar is the meaning here to the Lord’s words to his disciples respecting the man who was born blind, “Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents : but that the works of God should be made manifest in him ” (chap. ix. 3). In reference to the disciple, the Lord’s words teach that between words and deeds— between the reception of truth and the doing of good—between a state of intellectual and practical faith, there is a state of conflict. But with the faithful, this conflict only introduces the mind into a higher because a purer state, leading the Christian to do the Father’s commandment. And when we consider that the state which precedes this is a state of truth and temptation, then we see the significance of the Lord’s concluding words, ” Arise, let us go hence,” which are expressive of the desire, which the Saviour is ever inspiring into the hearts of the faithful, to seek that elevation out of a state of truth into a state of goodness, and out of a state of tribulation into a state of peace, by which the world shall know that we love the Lord as our Father. The world is here mentioned in two senses. The world is the natural mind, as consisting of affections and thoughts that relate to the world. This natural mind is evil while it is ruled by the love of the world, as its prince; but when the prince is overcome, and the love of the world is subdued, the world .itself is capable of being brought to know and acknowledge the Lord as its ruler. To arise, is to raise our affections above the world; and to go forth, is to carry out the higher principles we have acquired in a life and conversation that are such as promote the glory of God and the welfare of men.
Author: William Bruce –1870
Pictures: James Tissot—-Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum