John 14:21-31, The Abode of Peace

[May 29, 2011] Today we continue where we left off in chapter 14. Last time we saw that it was clear that Jesus was not talking about His going away for the duration of the church age and coming again at His Second Advent; rather, He was clearly talking about His going away in death and coming again in resurrection. Nor was Jesus talking about going to “heaven” (as in our “heavenly home”) but about going to the Father. The Father’s House, it is clear, is Jesus’ incarnate Self, the embodiment of the Trinity, and not some sort of “mansion in the skies.” The abodes then, of which He spoke, are His believers—those in whom the Holy Spirit would come to dwell. “I go to prepare a place for you, and I am coming again and will receive you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be.” This describes our present salvation, not something we must wait for in the afterlife.

This is really what the Gospel according to John is all about. Jesus comes as life but, though He abides with us He cannot communicate His life to us until He undergoes and thus conquers death as the true Passover Lamb and thereby releases His life so that He can communicate it to us. After He passed through death His humanity was glorified—or divinized—so that it participated in all the perfections of His divine nature; it became omnipresent and its time was taken up into eternity. It was the beginning of the transformation of the entire creation.

On Easter Sunday, after sending Mary on ahead of Him to meet His disciples, Jesus ascended to the Father in His humanity, and then returned to His disciples gathered behind closed doors. Now, not only does He dwell in the Father and the Holy Spirit in His divine nature, but He also dwells in Them in His human nature, a human nature that has passed through the judgment of God and thereby fulfilled the reconciliation to the Father that is lacking in us and of which we are incapable. This human nature, now also divinized, dwells in the Holy Spirit as much as His divine nature, making the Holy Spirit capable of entering and dwelling in us. It is the cross that makes this possible. Without the cross, an impossible barrier stood between us and God—the barrier of our sin, the barrier of God’s judgment, the barrier of our unwillingness to repent. The cross—not the death in and of itself, but the way in which, the faithfulness with which, Christ bore God’s judgment—overcomes this barrier.

When the Holy Spirit enters the believer, the mutual indwelling of Father, Son and Holy Spirit extends to include the believer. Now the believer dwells in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the Three dwell in the believer. There is a mutual indwelling, a coinherence. Even though this is so, however, the believer only participates in this coinherence in Christ and by the Holy Spirit, that is, by the grace of Christ. It is not native to us but an ongoing gift in the present “moment” when eternity intersects with time. We cannot “claim” it as our own possession except as it is given to us moment by moment. In this sense, however, we “possess” it forever because of the love of God and the faithfulness of our Savior. It is thus , and only thus, yet assuredly thus, that the promises of God are fulfilled—by grace alone.

We come now to verse 21.

His Commandments (John 14:21)

In verse 15 Jesus said, in relation to His sending the Holy Spirit, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” and now He says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves Me.” Prior to chapter 13 in John’s gospel Jesus only used the word “commandment” (entolē) in relation to the Father and Himself (10:18; 12:49-50). The first time it occurs in relation to His disciples is 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” Yet this is a singular commandment whereas in chapter 14 the word is plural. Without using this word, prior to the new commandment, what Jesus has consistently demanded of people was that they believe into Him. Is this what Jesus means here: to believe into Him and to love one another?

Certainly this meaning is not excluded, but the context seems to speak of the response of a disciple to his master. In other words, it is not the obeying of particular commandments that is in view but rather our response of subjection and obedience to the Person of Christ. In verse 15 it is the fact of their being His disciples prior to His death and resurrection. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments, and I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter.” This is what happened. The disciples whom Jesus called did love Him (even Peter) and when they gathered in the upper room on the evening of the resurrection, He gave them the other Comforter. Here the “you will keep My commandments” refers to who they are as His believers: they are His disciples who will keep His commandments.

He will give them the Holy Spirit. “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you,” in the Person of the Holy Spirit. “Because I live”—in resurrection—“you also shall live. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Then Jesus says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves Me.” This refers to “in that day,” the day when He dwells in us as the Holy Spirit. The commandments, therefore, are the commandments of the indwelling Master. We continue to be His disciples if we keep the present commandments of His indwelling Person. In other words, the one who has His commandments and keeps them is the one who “walks” by the Spirit, who follows the inner “commanding” of the Holy Spirit.

This one is the one who loves Me. It is not enough just to “believe” in certain “beliefs.” One who does not response appropriately to the indwelling Holy Spirit, who does not recognize Christ there, is lacking in love. But if a believer responds to the Holy Spirit as he or she would to Christ (rendering the response of a disciple to his or her master), “this is the one who loves Me.” A believer recognizes Christ, and the “voice” of Christ, as He speaks as the Holy Spirit within.

Jesus goes on to say, “And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.” I think it is not necessary to understand this verse consecutively. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves Me.” So loving Him is prior to having His commandments and keeping them. The one who loves Christ is loved by the Father and the Son. The love of the Father and the Son precedes the believer’s love and is its cause, but it also responds to the believer’s love with love. When the Son loves us, He manifests Himself to us. This refers to an inner manifestation, for it is on account of the coming of the Holy Spirit after the resurrection.

In other words, if we are His believers we love Him. This means we recognize His indwelling “face”—we recognize the Holy Spirit as Him. When we recognize Him, we have His commandments and keep them. If we have His commandments and keep them, He will continue to manifest Himself to us so that we can continue to have His commandments and keep them. Thus our love comes from His love of us, but when we love Him, He loves us in response, and then we love Him in response, and so it goes.

Making an Abode with Us (John 14:22-24)

When Judas (not Iscariot) asks, “What has happened that You are to manifest Yourself to us and not to the world?” the reader is given to see that Jesus is talking about the resurrected Christ who manifests Himself by His continuing presence within and among us as the Holy Spirit. (Thus when He appears in His resurrection, John says that He manifests Himself. The Gospel according to John does not end with His ascension; rather the ascension has already taken place. His resurrected presence continues with the disciples “until I come.” The manifestations reveal and teach this to them.)

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him …” This repeats the thought in verse 21: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father.” “My commandments” has been replaced by the singular “My word.” Is there a difference? Perhaps. In the context of John’s gospel, “My word” refers more to His self-revelation. In practice, however, it is His commanding Presence through His revelation. (Verse 24, which refers to the world of verse 22, has “keep My words” (plural), and “the word which you hear” (singular). To keep His words is to obey them. The Father’s “word” which Christ speaks is His self-revelation. This verse then combines these two senses.)

And when the Father loves Him, “We will come to him and make an abode with him.” This is parallel to, “I will love him and will manifest Myself to him.” “We” refers to the Father and the Son. When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and we awaken to Her indwelling presence and the presence of Christ’s Person coinhering, then it is the case that the Father and the Son have also come to us and dwell within us. Because the Father and the Son dwell in the Holy Spirit, when we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive the entire Trinity. The Father (who is in the heavens) dwells in us as well as the Son (who is also in the heavens). In our spirit we are also in the heavens because of the indwelling (thus the way the letter to the Hebrews speaks of heaven).

That the Father and the Son “make an abode” in the believer draws our attention because the word “abode” is the same as the word “abode” in verse 2. If the Father and the Son make an abode in each believer, then there are many abodes. If the Father dwells in the Son, then “in My Fathers House are many abodes.” This is clear.

The word “abode” is the noun of “abide,” and abide is the same as the word “dwell” that I have also been using. However, “to make an abode” is saying more than “to abide.” “To make an abode with” the believer means that the believer becomes a place for their mutual abiding—the believer abides in the Father and the Son while the Father and Son abide in the believer—and the believer becomes the place where this takes place.

If this is so, and there is a mutual abiding in the believer, then the Father and the Son also abide in all the believers together, for the Father and the Son are one in themselves. The believers collectively become the habitation of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). The believers, each being begotten of God to become this abode, therefore love one another (1 John 5:1). “We know that we have passed from death into life because we love the siblings” (1 John 3:14).

The Reminding (14:25-26)

Jesus spoke to the disciples while abiding with them, but when the Holy Spirit came in Jesus’ name, He (the masculine Paraklētos, the Spirit here is neuter, though in Hebrew Spirit is feminine) will “teach you all things and remind you of all the things which I have said to you.” The Father sends the Holy Spirit in the name of the Son. A “name” is more than a place-marker. It is the reality of a person. Thus Jesus reveals the Father and makes the Father present by doing everything in the name of the Father (John 5:43; 10:25). The Holy Spirit conveys the reality of Christ. Just as Jesus does not merely represent the Father but the Father is the very One speaking when Jesus speaks, for the Father is in the Son as the Son is in the Father (John 14:10), so the Holy Spirit does not merely represent the Son but makes the Son really present.

It may be otherwise when we are speaking of human beings, yet even in that case, one who speaks in the name of another still carries their authority. In the case of the Trinity however, each Person dwells in the other, so Jesus can say, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30; 14:9).

“He will teach you all things.” In 1st John we read that because of the anointing from the Holy One we all know (or know all things; 1 John 2:20). Know what? The truth of Christ (2:21-23). “The anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone teach you; but as His anointing teaches you concerning all things and is true and is not a lie …” (1 John 2:27). The anointing refers to the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us. The revelation of Christ is the entire teaching of the Gospel according to John. This is what the Holy Spirit teaches us.

“He will remind you of all the things which I have said to you.” This remembrance calls to mind the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper. In the Supper we “remember” Christ. Here we see that this remembering takes place through the Holy Spirit. It is not an ordinary memorial but a making present of Christ through the testimony of the Gospel story. It is this “remembrance” that we are eating and drinking in the supper. When the Jews celebrate Passover, they too are “remembering,” but it is in the sense of making the Exodus present to them, as if they were there and it was happening in the present moment. For us, Jesus is not merely called to mind but becomes actively and personally present through the words of the Gospel. When we remember Him through the Holy Spirit, His Person comes face-to-face with our person. We are the direct recipients of His words. We enter the Gospel story as participants and Christ is revealed to us as He was to the first disciples.  

Peace (14:27-29)

Jesus goes to the cross and leaves His peace with the disciples. They did not make good use of it, for sure. (“Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”) However, His peace was His assurance that His going away was something to rejoice about.

Why should they rejoice? Because He was going to the Father and the Father was greater than He. I pointed out before that in His divinity Jesus was already with the Father, and in fact the Father was in Him and He was in the Father. What was about to take place was that He was going to the Father in His humanity. His humanity was about to be glorified “with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). When Jesus says “for the Father is greater than I,” then, He is speaking of His humanity, not His divinity. This transformation of our humanity, of its divinization and entering into the Father in the eternal coinherence, is our full salvation and the beginning of the transfiguration and glorification of the entire creation in Him.

Christians often speak of redemption, the forgiveness of sins, as being what salvation is all about. But that is merely the gate. Our salvation has only just begun.

This is the peace that Jesus brings to the gathered disciples—and to us—on Easter. “Peace to you.” It is the peace of His own Person with His glorified humanity. His Father is now our Father, His God our God, and the love that the Father has for Him the Father now has for us, and the glory which the Father has given to Him the Father is in the beginning of the process of giving to us. Peace in the immediate context of the Last Supper is freedom from trouble and fear, and therefore safety; but as the meaning carries forward, it is much more.

The Ruler of the World Has Nothing in Me (14:30-31)

Jesus cannot speak much longer with them. Jesus equates the Roman cohort and the attendants from the chief priests and Pharisees who come for Him in the garden as “the ruler of the world.” When they come, the ruler of the world comes for Him. When the world acts in relation to Jesus, it is the ruler of the world who acts. The world in this sense is mindless; it does not know what it is doing. The minds of people are enslaved to the powers (archons) of the world. Their justifications and rationalizations disguise their lack of freedom; they always have good reasons, but the reasons would be exchanged for other reasons, yet their actions will remain the same. Freud discovered this: that the real reasons are subconscious. People are afraid to acknowledge them. People live in denial, and this subjects them to the powers of the world. These powers manipulate them to fulfill the will of the ruler of the world. The ruler of the world defines the world as a single gestalt in rebellion against God, and thus against reality itself. The world is that collective soul which attempts together to insulate itself from reality, motivated by its fear of God and God’s judgment.

(Here is why the forgiveness of sins is so important, for the basis of this fear is existential guilt—which is not the same as psychological guilt. We are not aware of our existential guilt unless God reveals it to us. Psychological guilt is another matter altogether.)

But the ruler of the world has nothing in Jesus. He is utterly independent of the world as a gestalt. He operates outside of it, completely free of its powers. Because the ruler of the world has no territory in Jesus, no ground in Him, he cannot touch Jesus. He can move people to seize Jesus and have Him crucified, but in all of this Jesus is impervious to the world. He willingly submits to these outward forces, knowing that it is the Father who controls all things. In fact, because He is doing the Father’s will, He goes forth to meet these forces as a Conqueror going forth to meet His enemy. When the enemy assaults Him, He turns all that might back on itself to overcome His enemy. In the end, even though He dies, He is unscathed inwardly. By dying He has conquered death, and He has conquered the ruler of the world.

The ruler of the world is coming, Jesus says, and Jesus—He in whom this ruler has nothing—will go forth to meet him so that the world may know that Jesus loves the Father and does as the Father commands. In other words, the world will know—will have proof—that He is independent of the world (proved by His loving the Father and doing what the Father commands). We too are independent of the world when we do the same in Him (by His indwelling as the Holy Spirit).

This is similar to the motif in Exodus. God liberated Israel that Pharaoh may know that He is who He is (“I am who I will be”). There is the same principle at work here. Pharaoh was not persuaded, but rather his guilt was confirmed and God was vindicated. In the same way, the world does not cease its rebellion against God but the cross of Jesus confirms its guilt and vindicates reality. This sentencing of the world by the overcoming of the world in the one Case of Jesus, prepares the world for its ultimate overthrow, and foreshadows and guarantees its manifest end. Hallelujah!

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