The greatness and beneficence of the father
Tom J. Nettles
I. The Father’s Place
A. Verse 1 – There are three imperatives in this verse.
1. He tells them not to let their hearts be troubled. Remember, he has just announced that he will be betrayed (13:21) and also that Peter will deny him (13:38). Jesus is talking to men whose minds are quite confused with the prospects of betrayal and denial and they have had the sweetness and tranquility of their Passover meal with Jesus interrupted severely.
2. Believe in God. They did believe in God, but Jesus now is indicating that all these events are in the purpose of God and will serve to accomplish his will. They must trust him.
3. Believe in me also. Belief in God the Father necessarily involves belief in Jesus; Throughout the gospel, John has emphasized Jesus’ claims of a special relationship of sonship and equality with the Father. In his introduction John has emphasized that to behold Jesus in all his moral perfection, knowledge, power, and purpose is to behold the glory of the Father (John 1:14, 18). Jesus’ claims of equality with the Father brought upon him the ever-increasing hostility of the Jewish leaders. Here, with his disciples, Jesus gives this same claim as a means of comfort and to show that the purpose of the Father in these upcoming events is also the purpose to which he has committed himself in his being sent by the Father.
B. Verse 2 - Jesus prepares the place in God’s presence for his followers
1. Does this mean that we will have specific residences in eternity? The fact that he says “many rooms” indicates that each person will occupy a specific place. In Colossians 1:12, Paul indicates that each of the saints has a “share” of the overall inheritance, that is something that is peculiarly designed for him or her. The reality of our having resurrected and glorified bodies means that we will take up space and will have places for all the activities of heaven.
2. How does Jesus “Prepare” this place? The translation indicates that Jesus has told them this before. One of the ways in which Jesus prepares the place is by his own presence in the glorified human body. He shows that operating in the realm of the spiritual even with a physical body is entirely in keeping with the divine purpose for his creatures made in his image.
C. Verses 3, 4 – So how does one get to where Jesus is going?
1. Jesus Himself will usher us to the place: Jesus, who had loved them to the end, and who had just washed their feet, now tells them that his preparation of a place for them means that he Himself will come again and will be responsible for taking them to himself. There is nothing they can do to prepare the place or to get to the place but trust in their shepherd who will lead them out to pasture, who will bring all of his sheep to himself (John 10:9, 15, 16).
2. Jesus indicates that they know the way. they are not aware that they know the way, but their having believed constitutes their knowledge of the way to be with him for ever.
D. verses 5, 6 - Jesus is the way to the Father’s place, that is, the glory of his presence
1. Thomas speaks for all of the disciples at this point. It is all too confusing. First Jesus speaks of betrayal and now he speaks of a place for them in a place where he is going. Then he tells them he will come back and take them to himself and says that they know the way. Thomas has not even absorbed the first of these dizzying revelations. Thomas, therefore, very naturally has two questions. “Where are you going?” and “How do we know the way?” These questions should let us all know that that gifts the God grants through his Son transcend any experience we have had here and give greater privileges and glorious riches than we can ever comprehend.
2. Jesus responds with the classic statement of his exclusivity as the way of true knowledge of and saving relation with God.
· Jesus Himself does not merely show or tell the way, but is the way. Because of the uniqueness, necessarily so, of his person within his work of redemption he is established as the only path by whom any can come to knowledge of God.
· He is the truth – there is nothing false in him and his knowledge is infinite. It is impossible for him not to speak and act in accordance with the truth for he has made all things and upholds all things. He cannot represent anything to be other than it is. And particularly in this most august area of knowledge of the Father, he alone truly knows the Father and can speak the truth about him, and conduct his sheep to him in a way that is consonant with truth—a way consistent with all the moral attributes of God.
· He is the Life – in him alone is eternal life—this is, life lived without restriction of sin and corruption in the presence of the author and sustainer of all life in all its possible vigor and beauty.
· Jesus affirms here, what Paul taught in Ephesians 1, He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 1:3).
II. The Father’s Peer - Verses 7-14
A. Verses 7-9 - All knowledge of the Father is in the Son
1. They had already confessed that Jesus was the Christ and that he was the Son of God. They still were confused about the reasons for his being sent, that is, to die for the ones the Father had given him. Their knowledge, therefore, of the way to the Father was couched in great obscurity for their grasp of his atoning work as their substitute, their propitiation, their reconciler, their redeemer had virtually no form. Had they known these things at this time, their knowledge of the attributes of the Father of justice, righteousness, and holiness, as well as his infinitely condescending kindness, mercy, and grace would have been immensely expanded. Henceforward, seeing his trial, his death, his resurrection and ascension and receiving the Holy Spirit as the revealer of all things about Christ, they will know and see with far greater clarity.
2. Philip asked, with a sense of reverence and respect, for Christ to show them the Father. Christ now indicates that any knowledge of the Father comes through the Son. The Father’s glory and eternal concerns rest in the Son in undiminished form. The attributes of his person as Son of God, his teachings, his purpose of redemption are all the same. The answer Jesus gives to Philip’s question forms the background for the last verse of John’s prologue: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:18)
B. Verses 10, 11 - The Son does all he does in union with the Father [circumincessio] In the trinitarian being of God, all activities of each person necessarily involve the fitting participation of the other persons of the Trinity. In addition, each action carries with it something of the distinctive operations and personhood of each respective person.
1. Jesus indicates here a union of essence between the Father and the Son. As the Son is in the Father, so is the Father in the Son. No attribute of the divine essence has greater presence in one than in the other; both Father and Son (and the Holy Spirit) participate fully in every essential attribute of deity. A Trinity of persons, moreover, is one of the essential attributes of deity as revealed in Scripture; this accounts, therefore, for the reality of the separate personalities without their distinctions in any way compromising their fully sharing all essential attributes. Thus,
2. Jesus indicates that their mutual indwelling does not confuse their distinct personalities. Jesus clearly identifies himself as a distinctly discreet person from the Father, and the Father as a distinctly discreet person from Himself. Their absolute unity of essence, knowledge, and purpose, however, mean
3. All the words of Jesus are perfectly consonant with the knowledge of and will of the Father. Jesus does not claim a distinct authority from that possessed by the Father, but does claim the same authority. (e.g. John 10:18). This authority then leads to the distinctives of the works done by each person.
4. Within all the works, therefore, the authority is the same in its potency and in the infinitely wise distribution of creative, providential, revelatory, and redemptive events but located in respective fields of effectuality for the final consummation of each of these events. For example, the Father elects, the Son dies for the ones given to him in election by the Father, and the Holy Spirit energizes with creative and resurrection power the affections of those so elected and reconciled. Jesus points to all the works and their implications of divine power and prerogative. “Believe on account of the works themselves.”
C. The Father grants gifts through the name of the Son 12-14
1. “Whoever believes in me . . . greater works than these”- The apostles did many of the things that Jesus did by calling on his name in the realm of natural signs: healing the lame, (Acts 3:1-10) raising the dead (Acts 9:36-43), and a general manifestation of power through their ministry (Acts 5:12, 14-16). One could not demonstrate that these were greater or even more numerous than those performed by Jesus. It seems that though Jesus words include these “signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will,” (Hebrews 2:4) the more important matter is the preaching of a gospel to be fully completed in the ascension of Christ and fully communicated by the revelatory operations of the Holy Spirit. Upon this basis the apostles would see greater success in their preaching ministry than Christ did. The fulfillment of this would begin in just a short while at Pentecost and continue in its expansion until the day that Christ returns.
2. The promise of Jesus here, “Whatever you ask in my name” certainly does not extend to the carnal desires of this-worldly covetousness (See James 4:1-4). Jesus speaks here of all the spiritual blessings that are given us in him before the foundation of the world. Paul states the proposition “He who spared not his own son but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him give us all things” (Romans 8:32). Thus the Father is glorified through the Son in that the Son’s obedience opens the floodgates of spiritual blessings that the Father delights to give his children. Look at Paul’s prayers in Philippians 1:9-11, Ephesians 1:16-19; 3:14-19; Colossians 1:9-14 for an example of those things that God will grant us in the name of Jesus.
III. The Father’s Prerogative – all of this is premised on the love that the disciple has for Christ. Since we could not love unless god had first loved us, we must look at these following verses and within a realm of reciprocity of blessings, rewards and further manifestations of spiritual truth and life that come as God rewards in us the presence of those graces that he first gives us. He loved, we love, we obey, he loves.
A. Sends the Spirit 16, 17, 26 – In light of Jesus return to heaven, the Spirit comes in a more powerful way and in a different context.
1. He comes as a comforter, or advocate, now that Jesus has gone to the Father’s side and intercedes for us as our propitiation and advocate. The Spirit can now impress on the minds of believers that Christ’s blood and righteousness are eternally sufficient for the presence and enjoyment of eternal life. When Jesus’ work reached its fullness in his ascension, the Spirit’s work can also reach its fullness in assurance and granting of gifts for the development of the Church as the body of Christ.
2. As the Spirit of truth, he reveals all those elements that are necessary to understand the mysteries of the gospel. According to verse 26 “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” and then in 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” The gift of the apostolic ministry for the exposition of the meaning of Jesus as the Christ in his work as Prophet, Priest, and King is peculiarly a new covenant blessing that can only be completed after Christ’s ascension. This is one way in which the Spirit has been given in a way that He was not before, that is, peculiarly as the revealer of the meaning of the all those events included in this startling proposition, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
3. The world cannot receive the Spirit in any of his functions. We see how Jesus uses sensory language in a spiritual way when he notes that the world “neither sees nor knows him.” Of course, no one has ever seen the Holy Spirit, but those that have his present operations do “see” him in seeing the loveliness of those things that he is sent to do: through him we “see” the kingdom of God, and we “see” the glory of God in the face of Christ, and, as Jesus has just told his disciples, “he that has seen me, has seen the Father.”
4. Now he would be with believers to form among
them a spiritual, believing, forgiven community. He would actually be within
the life of the corporate body (Ephesians 4:3, 4). Formerly he had operated
with individual believers, both by regeneration and indwelling, that lived in
external community with those that Paul called “my kinsmen according to the
flesh.” He was alongside these believers helping and sustaining them as they
walked perseveringly as isolated spiritual beings in the midst of those that
had not seen the glory of God’s promises in the coming Messiah. Now, however,
he would be “in you” (plural for you) which means “among you” that is, now
functioning to make the entire body characterized by these spiritual traits.
The words of this verse [one reading of 14:17 says “will be in you” and another
says “is in you”] are repeated by the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:27: To the
saints “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of
the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” so that
through faithful proclamation and instruction “we may present everyone mature
in Christ.” The Spirit “in you” is synonymous with “Christ in you.” this is not
specifically the personal indwelling of Christ by the Spirit (although that is
assumed among all the members of this new community), but the corporate
operation of the Spirit by which all these individual members constitute one
unified body (Ephesians 4:15, 16; Colossians 1:28; 3:12-17). The Christ has
come to bring into one family both Jew and Gentiles and inhabit the whole of
these communities, called churches, that the Spirit brings together and, by the
truth and through his distribution of gifts, presents the entire community
mature in Christ. This is an operation of the Spirit in the New Covenant that
could not have been done in the ethnically and ceremonially united but
spiritually diverse national
B. Establishes fellowship with sinners through the Son – Within this narrative we find a point of unity in love and obedience. (15, 23. 24)
1. Verse 19, 20 - Life from the Father through the Son – The eternal life merited for us by Jesus is the result of union with the Father that he has gained for us in his humanity. Because he has completed what he came to do, his presence in this world no longer is needed and so the world sees him no more; their sight of him was only physical sight, but those that know what he has done in his redemptive work will see him all the more fully and clearly, having seen the glory of the Father through him. “Because I live” – He refers here to his life in his human nature having defeated the power of sin and death through his absolute righteousness and substitutionary satisfaction of a necessary punishment for sin. Now, having completed that, he goes to prepare the place for us in the presence of an in union with the Father in heaven. Our union with Christ in his reward of eternal life means that when Christ as the righteous one achieves union with the father in the presence of his glory, we too participate in it.
2. Love from the Father through the Son 21 – It is impossible to be a Christian and not love Jesus and desire to follow him and be true to his commandments. This change from enmity to love is supernaturally natural in the entity of salvation. God loves us with electing love, and in accordance with that love regenerates us from death to life and gives us union with Christ even to the point of seating us in heavenly places in him (Ephesians 1, 3,4; 2:4-6) Thus loved and altered in moral dispostion, the now-saved sinner finds the beauty of Christ a transforming power in his life and he pursues the will of God out of love for Christ. Thus pursuing transformation, one finds the love of God more profusely manifest in his thoughts and daily walk, and more to be desired both now and forever than any earthly treasure, position, or relationship. Paul says in Romans 5:5 that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” He then explains this has come about by way of Christ’s reconciling death. This manifestation of the infinite love of God as well as the exquisite holiness of his character in reconciliation of his enemies, that is, ungodly sinner, became the objective truth through which greater and ever expanding impressions of God’s love transform our affections (“I will love him and manifest myself to him”) and engender more profound and immoveable resolutions of obedience.
3. Disclosure from the Father through the Son – 15, 21-24. The question asked (22) by the disciple Judas (not Iscariot) assumes that Jesus is speaking only of a manifestation that can be observed with all the natural senses.
· revealed truth about which there could be certainty in no other way. Jesus emphasizes that this manifestation involves the expressions of words. Jesus says this three times. Anyone can read the words, understand, the syntax, and know from a grammatical standpoint what is being said.
· true disclosure involves not just the possible grammatical, syntactical, and contextual meaning of the language and the proposition inferred from that kind of speculative knowledge, but heartfelt consent and love. “He who does not love me does not keep my words” This is the kind of manifestation Jonathan Edwards talked about when he remarked, “I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the Holy Scriptures of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.”
C. Verses 25-27 – The Father Grants his continuing favor through the Son by a ministry of the Spirit. Jesus had spoken to them profound words, but they obviously were uanble to process them all at that time.
1. The effectual working of the Spirit happens because of Christ in accordance with the will of the Father, particularly his ministry of inspiration to the apostles.
· This is a ministry of teaching. The Spirit gave truths to the apostles about Christ that had not been spoken by Christ. Christ had given some indicators of the direction that this more expanded revelation would go, but the details and its application would be a unique ministry communicated through the Apostles and, under their authority, prophets in the local churches (Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:4, 5)
· It was a ministry of remembrance – Many things Jesus did and said were without any significance to the disciples during his earthly ministry. Later they would remember what he had said and find his meaning. This happened as a result of the Spirit’s ministry as promised here by Jesus. (cf. John 2:21, 22)
2. Jesus gives his peace – What is this? Perhaps John 13:1, 3
· This must first of all be the peace of reconciliation. Christ has reconciled sinners to God. He has made it so that our sins are not counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19)
· Second it must be the proclamation of this peace. False prophets say “Peace, peace,” when there is not peace, but the apostles and their followers may say “Peace, peace,” and for those that embrace this gospel message, there is peace. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
· Third, this is the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) that comes to reconciled ones who consistently carry their earthly concerns to God and trust in his will and provision for every need.
D. The Father’s Glory is more to be desired than his wrath resisted –Jesus would go, and then he would come.
1. He would do this once in the culmination of his humiliation in his death and burial followed by resurrection. He would be raised by the glory of the Father (Romans 6:4). Because his death so magnified the glory of God, it gave the Son great pleasure to do this, and that same glory, in accordance with which he died, became the power by which he was raised over death and all that brings it about. This should cause the disciples to rejoice.
2. He would do it again in his ascension to the Father to be followed, at the appointed time, by his return in glory. This should cause the disciples to rejoice.
3. Father is greater as the person . . .
· To whose will the Son was being obedient in his incarnation (Hebrews 10:7-10
· From whom the common deity flows as a fountainhead in the eternal generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit, and by whose person the Trinity sustains its identity and infinite glory 28
· Who had the prerogative to determine every aspect of the human pilgrimage of Christ that it might fulfill all that such an obedient human should accomplish and constitute the acceptable sacrifice for sin.
4. The ruler of this world has no ground of temptation in Christ for the Son’s knowledge of and love for the Father transcends anything Satan could possibly place before him. V. 30
5. His love for the Father takes him to the glory of his Father’s wrath. V. 31 “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
IV. Featuring Pertinent Connections
A. Look at this chapter in light of John 1:1
B. How does this chapter relate to John’s ability to recall long discourses? 26
C. What greater works will we do as a result of Jesus’ going to the Father? 12
D. How are the works of the Trinity manifestations of the eternal relatiionship within the Trinity?
E. Does impeccability [“He has nothing in me”] negate the reality of Jesus’ temptations?
F. Jesus himself is the paradigm for the coexistence of the infinite with the finite; How does our Place in the Father’s house relate to this? Consider the truth of God’s immensity.