John 14:25-31

John 14:25-26     Second Promise of the Spirit

25 “II have said all this while still dwelling with you.
26 The Paraclete, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything,
and will bring back to your minds all I said to you.

The translation persisted with its use of the word Paraclete. The word bears an emotional warmth, and connects easily with the role of teaching.

As the Father had sent Jesus, the Father, likewise, would send the Spirit to enable the continuing mission of Jesus. 

Spirit Teacher

The text had already referred implicitly to the Spirit’s role as teacher and reminder: When he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus said [2:22]; and, again: At the time, the disciples did not realise all this; but when Jesus was glorified, they remembered that these things had been written about him, and that they had done this [12:16].

One of the Beloved Disciple’s concerns was to reassure the members of his own community who would have to carry on without him after his eventual death. He reassured them that the Spirit would keep them in touch with Jesus, just as, under the guidance of that Spirit, he had aimed to do while he was still alive.

Jesus identified still further the nature and role of the Paraclete as:

  • holy,
  • sent by the Father,
  • teacher of everything,
  • and constant reminder of all that Jesus had said.

The Paraclete – II

The Spirit of truth would remind later disciples of all that Jesus had said. How could this be? Like the Beloved Disciple, the first disciples had known Jesus face to face. They had grown to love him, and had observed him in action. He had taught them and formed them immeasurably more by the way he was than by what he specifically said. People learn from loving contact with wise and mature friends, and are imperceptibly transformed by that contact.

The Spirit would work directly on the disciples in the same way that the Spirit had worked in Jesus. Anointed by the Spirit [1.32], Jesus was an authentic and fully mature human being.  He taught his disciples primarily through his own truth and authenticity. It was essentially this inner truth and authenticity of Jesus that tangibly expressed his message, and gave substance and “feel” to his teaching word.  

Centuries before Jesus, the wise man and prophet, Isaiah, had seen the Spirit as the source of the richly mature humanity of the coming Messiah:

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord [Isaiah 11:2].

As the Spirit of truth had informed the human Jesus, so the Spirit of truth would inform the disciples, empowering them to become fully authentic human persons. While the Spirit’s influence on each disciple would essentially be from within, the Spirit would work on them also through the impact that they had on each other.

John 14:27-31     Responding to the Future

27 Peace I leave with you, my own peace I hand on to you.  
The peace I give is not like that which the world gives you.

On the night of Jesus’ resurrection, his first message to the frightened disciples would be: Peace be with you [20:19]. Jesus would be consistent.

The peace given by Jesus would not arise from the events and circumstances of people’s lives in the world. It would be sheer gift, arising from their own depths where Jesus dwelt, substantially unaffected by whatever was happening in their world. It would be a peace that was also empowerment – not just hoped for, but verified by their experience.

The peace that the world gives is a superficial, illusory and fragile peace. So often, it is the illusory peace that results from having a common enemy, with little other foundation than shared fear and hatred. People experience genuine peace, the peace that Jesus gives, only when they allow themselves to be empowered by the love revealed in Jesus, and choose to relate to each other in mutual respect and love. 

Do not let your heart be troubled or be alarmed.
28 You heard me say to you, 'I am leaving you and I am coming back to you.’ 

The Discourse returned to where it had begun [verse 3]. Though the disciples might feel fearful, they had no need to act from fear. Whatever their experience might be in the world, Jesus’ peace, the fruit of his presence within them, would be irrepressible.

Troubled Hearts

Present readers need to hear Jesus’ words addressed, not only to the original disciples, but to themselves. Many earnest Christians allow themselves to be unduly troubled and defensive by what is happening in society at large as well as in the Church itself.

Jesus’ words are not meant simply as reassurance; they are call and challenge as well. He invites beyond optimism to hope; the kind of hope that empowers and motivates ongoing commitment to the work of unshakeable, confident love in the face of opposition, betrayal, confusion and disappointment.

To access such hope, disciples need to treasure the words of Jesus as they continue to make their home in him.

… If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father,
because the Father is greater than I.

Jesus’ death and resurrection would be the occasion of the world’s salvation, which the Father so ardently desired. His saving the world would fulfil the Father’s hopes and dreams for humanity. Jesus’ mission was the purpose for which he lived: to reveal to the world, in his own humanity, the glory of God. This he would achieve precisely through his death and resurrection – his going to the Father. Jesus’ life was orientated totally toward the Father.  He could go to the Father because his life’s work had been accomplished.

Jesus shared with his Father the identical inspiration and motivation; but, even though they were totally his own, he knew them to originate in, and be sourced from, that intimately mysterious Other whom he called his Father. In this sense, the Father was greater than Jesus. 

Jesus would soon achieve all he had hoped for. Though his going to the Father would mean his departing from the disciples, nevertheless, as their love for him grew beyond shared intimacy to the sharing of the same values and mindset of the one they loved, they, too, (as John the Baptist had done earlier [3:29]) would rejoice with Jesus in the world’s salvation.   

29 I have said this to you before it happens,
so that when it does happen you may believe.
30 By now, there is not much more I have still to tell you.
The ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me.
31 The purpose is so that the world might know
that I love the Father,
and that I carry out exactly what the Father has commanded me.

The Gospel repeated the comment that had preceded Judas’s betrayal of Jesus [13:19]. 

The power of evil is real, and, at times, it can seem to be in the ascendant. But evil’s very power is reason for faith, since it serves only to reveal the greater power of Jesus. In the midst of all that would happen to him, Jesus would retain his union with his Father, who in turn would never desert him. His murderers would succeed in killing him only because he freely permitted them to do so. God would bring about the world’s salvation at the moment of the apparent victory of evil. Jesus’ faithfulness to the end, his utter integrity and love, would be highlighted precisely in the midst of the hatred and violence shown to him: indeed, the world would know that I love the Father.

… Get up! Let us leave here.

Jesus’ comment seemed to indicate the end of his Discourse, yet the Discourse would continue for the next two chapters. The “stage direction” has led to various theories by commentators trying to explain the anomaly, none of which has been totally convincing.

The final editor obviously chose to include the comment deliberately.

Perhaps, as so often in the Gospel, this historical detail is to be read theologically. Jesus invited the disciples to follow and to join with him in his approach to life in the world, to face evil, whatever shape it might take: to leave whatever, trusting in the empowering love of the Father.

Next >> John 15:1-17