Thursday, September 23, 2021

John 14:15-31

John 14:15–31: Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

This is a discussion between Jesus and his disciples. It’s his last night before his crucifixion, and he’s passing on some final teachings to his disciples (other than Judas, who has left).

Text Thoughts
15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Right off the bat, at the very beginning of Jesus’ speech, he comes out with what is, to me, one of the most painful verses to read in Scripture. Does anyone read this and feel good? Can any Christian read this and think to themselves, “Yep! That’s me! Showing God how much I love Him by obeying His commands so well every day!” And Jesus probably isn’t saying these words with the intent of depressing hundreds of thousands of Christian followers for the next couple of millenia, and He doesn’t expect that we’re going to obey fully—that’s the whole reason he came to this world to be sacrificed on our behalf—but it does mean that, as a child of God, I will want to obey Him, and I’m very aware that I don’t.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” In the previous passage Jesus had alluded to the fact that his followers will do even greater things than He did (which should be read with care, because I will never die for anyone’s sins), and I think these two verses are part of the reason that we will do such amazing things: we have the Holy Spirit. Did Jesus not have the Holy Spirit? Of course He did! But I have to assume Jesus is referring to the nature of the work He has prepared for us to do; likely referring to extending the Gospel to non-Jewish people, I’m guessing. Which, again, pales in comparison to Jesus’ work on the cross!
18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” At the time that Jesus said these words to his disciples, I don’t think they could possibly understand how comforting this would be. Even after he had left they were too confused to remember or take comfort in these words. But as soon as he came back, and they started to understand all that He’d done for them, I’m sure they looked back on these prophetic words. As 21st Century Christians, however, with full knowledge of all that happened in the Gospels, we can take comfort in these words with full knowledge of all that Jesus did for us.
21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” I feel echos of verse 15 here; again, I feel guilty when I read this because I don’t properly keep God’s commandments, and therefore it doesn’t feel like I love the Father, and therefore it doesn’t feel like the Father would or should love me. And when I say that I don’t “properly” keep God’s commandments, there are those who might feel that I’m being too hard on myself; “God doesn’t demand perfection” they’d say. Except… He does. I’m not being hard enough on myself! But again: this is why Jesus came. God knew I (and everyone else) was far too inadequate to meet His needs to have a relationship with Him, so He took care of the problem for me.
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If 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. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” What’s interesting to me here is that Jesus doesn’t actually answer Judas’ question. Judas asks him how He will manifest Himself to His disciples, and Jesus doesn’t tell him. He simply goes back to his previous point: If we love Him, we’ll keep His commands, and the Father will love us. I think what Jesus is saying to Judas is that the “how” doesn’t matter. Do you love God? Obey His commands, and rest in the fact that He will be with you.
25 These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 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 that I have said to you.” Again, this should bring comfort to the Christian. The Holy Spirit is with us, and will help us.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” And even more comfort is given here. At two levels: Firstly, because Jesus brings us peace. Real, literal peace: we’re at peace with God, because of Jesus’ sacrifice. But there’s another level, because he doesn’t give “as the world gives.” There are no strings attached to the peace Jesus gives us.
28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” This is not something I think about very often. I’m thankful that Jesus did what He did for me, but I doubt that I’ve ever, even once, thought to myself, “I’m happy for Jesus, that He is able to be with the Father! And I’m happy for the Father—and the Spirit—for the same reason!”
29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.” Again, even though Jesus told his disciples this, they didn’t believe, until He came back and explained it all to them again.

I’m not sure what Jesus means by, “Rise, let us go from here,” because they don’t actually rise and go anywhere. The ESV Study Bible notes think that John might be, “implying that Jesus and his followers are leaving the upper room, making their way to the Kidron Valley, and arriving in the Garden of Gethsemane,” but I don’t see any indication of that in the text—unless Jesus is going to give the next couple of chapters of instructions to his disciples on the move.

Other Thoughts

Let’s look again at verses 16–17:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

We know the order of events:

  1. Jesus came to this world
  2. He was sacrificed
  3. He was raised from the dead
  4. A little while after that the Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ disciples

And ever since, Christians—all Christians—have had the Holy Spirit. The reason Jesus had to be sacrificed is that we’re not holy on our own, we’re sinful, and so we can’t be in the presence of God. But with our sins being taken away from us, and put on Jesus instead, we are now holy, and can be in the presence of God.

It never occurred to me until now, but I wonder if that’s why the Holy Spirit didn’t come until after Jesus’ sacrifice. Was the Holy Spirit—who is God—not able to be with people before Jesus’ sacrifice, because they weren’t justified yet?

I will not argue strongly for this point, it’s just something that occurred to me as I was reading this.

If anyone loves me”

It’s probably worth covering Jesus’ words in verse 23 again:

“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.”

Taken in isolation, this verse sounds like a quid pro quo where God’s love depends on our actions: If we love Jesus and keep His word, then the Father will love us and the Father and the Son (and the Spirit) will make Their home within us. And therefore, if we don’t love Jesus or keep His word, then God won’t make His home within us. And… that’s sort of true, just not in a cause and effect kind of way. It’s true in that it’s all one package deal: A Christian is someone who loves Jesus, and keeps His word, and in whom God dwells.

There is no such thing as a Christian where only some of these things are true.

Love Jesus Keep Jesus’ Word God Indwelt Possible?
Y Y Y Yes: this is a Christian
Y Y N No: If a person loved Jesus and kept His word, God would be with them
Y N Y No: Someone who loved Jesus and in whom God dwelt would keep His Word
Y N N No: Jesus already said that if you love him you’ll keep His word, so if we’re not keeping His word we don’t really love him
N Y Y No: There is no keeping Jesus’ word and having God dwell in us if we don’t love Jesus
N Y N No: There is no keeping Jesus’ word if we don’t love Jesus
N N Y No: God doesn’t dwell in us if we don’t love Jesus and keep His word
N N N Yes: This is a non-Christian

But does that mean that we keep Jesus’ word perfectly? No, not at all. Not even close. We all, even Christians (who have the Holy Spirit), are very sinful. Nobody keeps Jesus’ word perfectly. Most of the time we don’t even keep it well. But we want to, it’s our desire to be like Him and to obey Him, and we trust in Him to save us from our mistakes when we don’t obey Him.

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