These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.
Verses 1-6. - (c) The bitter issues of the hostility of the world. Verse 1. - These things. What things? Primarily the explanation he had given of the opposition and hatred of the world, and the vast consolation which he had promised in the identification of the disciples with himself, and the witness which would be borne by the Paraclete; but not exclusively, for they include all the preparatory instructions based on his own Person, his going to the Father, his return in the power of the Spirit. Have I spoken to you, that ye should not be offended; that you should not be made to fall over the stumbling block of persecution, and the refusal of the people to hear your message concerning me. For the moment he passes over the terrible stumbling and falling of that very night, whose shadows were deepening as the hours moved on, and he anticipated their future temptations and the source of their ultimate heroism.
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
Verses 2, 3. - They (used impersonally, as the German man, or the French ou) shall make (or, declare) you excommunicate - ἀποσυναγώγους "put you out of the synagogue," expel you from the fellowship of your country's worship (cf. John 9:22 and John 12:42) - nay, further (the ἀλλὰ abruptly introduces a very much stronger assertion) an hour cometh, that - ἵνα is here, by Meyer and many others, said to involve a Divine order, purpose, or destiny, intended by the drawing on of the foreordained crisis; but it seems enough to convey by it the contemplated result (see Canon Evans, Expositor, 1882) - whosoever killeth you will deem that he is offering service - sacrificial homage - to God (προσφέρειν; both these words are persistently used with this meaning. See, for προσφέρειν, Matthew 5:23; Matthew 8:4; Acts 7:42; Hebrews 5:1). The well-known quotation from 'Bammidbar Rabba,' fol. 329. 1, "Every one shedding the blood of the wicked is equal to him who offers sacrifice," may throw light on the expression. The intensity of the fanaticism was well exhibited in the persecution in which Stephen fell, and which St. Paul deemed worthy service, and one which he ought to have rendered (Acts 26:9; Galatians 1:13, 14). The curse was long and deep and tragic, and Christ explains it by the awful reiteration, These things will they do because they have not known the Father, nor me (see John 15:22, etc.). He reiterates the explanation already given of the manner and form as well as the fact of the world's hatred.
And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
Verse 4. - But - the ἀλλὰ suggests a kind of pause, as if he had said, "I will go into no further details" (Meyer) - these things - these prophecies of approaching persecution - I have spoken to you, that (here ἵνα has its proper relic force) when [their] hour is come, ye may remember [them] how that I told you. This awkward form is that due to the perplexities of the position of αὐτῶν in the text. Frequently our Lord thus prepared his disciples for the future, called upon them to remember his predictions as pledges of his Divine mission, but still more as consolations and supply of strength when they would most of all need it. These things I told you not from the beginning; not "at the beginning," ἐν ἀρχῆ, nor ἀπ ἀρχῆς, but ἐξ ἀρχῆς (cf. Isaiah 40:21; Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 43:9), from the beginning of my ministry (as Mark 1:1), and continuously throughout it. If "these things" are restricted to the prediction of cruel persecution, they are certainly contradicted by the language of Matthew 10:17, 21, 28; Luke 6:22; Matthew 5:10, etc.; Matthew 21:36; 24:9; Luke 12:4, etc. The numerous explanations of the commentators, that Christ had now given a more detailed, particular, and tragic outlook, cannot be sustained. Nor does the supposition that John is here the corrector of the synoptic narrative satisfy (Meyer); nor that of Godet, that Matthew, in his tenth chapter, was gathering together all that Christ had said of this nature, antedating instructions that the Lord had given, at all explain the corresponding passages in Luke's Gospel. The language of the last clause, because I was with you, throws more light upon it. This does not surely mean "because I was bearing for you the brunt of the opposition," - it would be unnecessary altogether to say that. All along they must have bitterly felt the antagonism which their Lord encountered. The difficulty is removed by including in the ταῦτα of Ver. 4 what certainly is involved in the ταῦτα of Ver. 1; and the reference is to the whole of his instructions touching his departure and the coming of the other Paraclete, and the principle from which the hatred of the world would spring; the explanation of the anticipated hostility which he had now offered, and the way in which they might overcome it. So long as he was with them they could not be made to understand the Divine riches of the consolation which was now so near. From the beginning he had not given all this class of instruction, because he was with them. While at their side, it was premature to speak of the special help they would require in their bereaved condition.
But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou?
Verses 5, 6. - Now - at this very moment - I go away to him that sent me. I have completed his work, and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? This seems at variance with Peter's inquiry, "Whither goest thou?" (John 13:36), and with Thomas's question (John 14:5), "We know not whither thou goest," etc.? yet they are only opposed in appearance. Peter's question had obviously turned the whole matter back upon himself, and the way in which the Lord's departure affected his own duties and position; and the same may be said of Thomas. They had both lost sight of the "whither" in the pain and anguish of the departure. Our Lord had great difficulty in inducing them to realize the blessedness that would befall themselves from his own exaltation, and even now, after all that he had said about this great power and glory which awaited him, he added, Because I have spoken these things to you - since all along you are taking the dark side, and looking on the anguish of my departure and desolateness of your own condition, instead of the grandeur of the new kingdom and dispensation of which you will be witnesses and organs - sorrow hath filled your heart; the one heart which I throughout have been seeking to comfort. You are not looking on the end of my departure, or on the fullness of my glory, or on the addition to your own blessedness, but on your own loss, disappointment, and chagrin.
But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
Verses 7-33. -
(9) The promise of the Paraclete. Verses 7-11. - (a) The threefold conviction of the world. The extraordinary fullness of suggestion in the following words, and the strong opinions entertained by different theological schools, render interpretation a difficult task. Verse 7. - Though you are crushed with a sense of your approaching bereavement, and so imperfectly apprehend the conditions of your future power and the method which it is incumbent upon me to adopt for your consolation and the completion of my earthly work, nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is wonderful that he who is the Truth itself should have needed, in such various forms, to have reiterated and affirmed the supreme right he possessed to claim their acceptance of his veracity. The truth, then, thus solemnly asserted, because in their then frame of mind it was so utterly unpalatable and incredible notwithstanding all that he had said - the truth is, It is expedient for you that I go away. The ἵνα ἀπέλθω clause simply defines that which is expedient, profitable to the disciples. Many commentators, holding everywhere the relic force of ἵνα, say, with Meyer and Lange, that "ἵνα marks fact considered with regard to the purposes destined to be accomplished by it." Here, however, the profitableness to the disciples is the chief and solitary thought. "For you:" here lies the gist of the mystery. They might have accepted his own assurance that, bitter as the mode of his departure must be, yet they ought, to and would rejoice because he was going to the Father. How was it possible for them to rejoice so far as they were personally concerned? He answers the question, For if I go not away - and surely this solemn departure meant, as he had recently told them, by the way of death and glorification - the Paraclete, of whom I have spoken, the Spirit of truth (see John 15:26, 27), will not come to you; but if I go (πορευθῶ, to my Father; observe the form of the two conditional sentences, the degree of uncertainty as to the issue, to be determined by the result), I will send him to you (see notes on John 7:39. "The Holy Spirit," as the Divine dispensation of grace to men bringing a renewed humanity into living incorporation with its great Head, was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified). Jesus could not become the Divine Life-center of the human family, radiating from himself the full glory of a universal harmony, until he had been taken up, until he had been glorified in God. Unspeakably precious as many of our earthly gifts and friendships are, we do not apprehend them, nor profit by them to the full, until they are taken from us. The youth, submitted to the condition of perfect dependence on a parent's care and guidance, can scarcely ever reach the fullness of his manhood until he is thrown back upon the spirit of his father's counsel, apart from that father's presence, and brings into daily practice from a new standpoint the principles he has learned. So, without any hyperbole, nothing had ever been so wonderful and blessed to the human spirit as the fellowship which had prevailed between the Son of man and his disciples. They were with him, they sat at his feet, they watched his countenance, they experienced a continuous series of Divine surprises at his judgments and his mercies. They were walking by sight, as the children of Israel did, following the pillar of fire and cloud, and drinking of the living water; but they were nevertheless living by sight. Nevertheless, there was something more wonderful and gracious still, when, in his physical absence, they would have the sense of his spiritual presence. They would lose him as an earthly Friend, but they would regain him as a Divine Reality; they would discover more than his humanity in his God-Manhood. They would wield his Divine Word as their weapon, and would become the channels of his healing and convincing and judging powers. The promise, "I will send him," is the guarantee of something more than a "Christ after the flesh" could ever be.
And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
Verse 8. - And he, when he is come (ἐλθών). A right royal assurance. The Holy Spirit will come, as my grace and the result of my sending. He will convict the world. Little doubt is now entertained that this ἔλεγχος implies the refutation of error, the discovery of wrong-doing, the bringing it home to the person convinced, and thus convicted (John 3:20; John 8:9, 46; 1 Corinthians 14:24; Titus 1:9; James 2:9); making such a one see that he is open to the condemnation of conscience, or of men, or of the Law of God. This conviction may in some cases lead to conversion and deliverance, but is distinct from it, and sometimes also may issue after such a manifestation in hardness and impenitence. The patristic interpretation (Authorized Version and Hengstenberg), "He will reprove," might pass as a fair translation of the word, in its reference to sin, but would have small meaning as applied to righteousness or judgment. Meyer, Godet, Luthardt, Lange, Westcott, Stier, and Moulton agree that ἔλεγξει means more than "reprove," less than "convince." The world is spoken of, not Jews merely, or their leaders. Humanity itself, with its false standards of judgment, and its self-complacency, is to be convicted of being in the wrong; all kings, princes, potentates, priests, and publicans, who are out of harmony with God, wilt be convicted by the Paraclete. The conviction of the world is threefold - in respect of sin, in respect of righteousness, and in respect of judgment. The three great categories of thought, custom, and conduct; the three themes where the world is in infinite need of being compelled to see that it is altogether in the wrong. The disciples are to overcome the whole world by the intensity with which they will be instrumentally the occasion of this conviction. The world under the depressing and distracting influence of its own principles, as well as its passions, has misconceived the whole nature of "sin," the entire mystery of "righteousness," the certainty of retribution, and the things and principles on which condign "judgment" must fall. The Advocate, the Divine, indwelling Spirit of the truth, whom Christ will send into his disciples as compensation for his own absence, will through them do this strange and tremendous work. Our Lord does not here promise the conversion of mankind, but such a conviction that the blessed consequence may follow. The first great step will be taken.
Of sin, because they believe not on me;
Verse 9. - The three elements of this conviction of the world are separately treated. In respect of sin, because they believe not on me. The ὅτι, has been restricted by Meyer to "so far as," as though the conviction with respect to sin was limited to a charge of specific unbelief; and Hengstenberg would render it "consisting in this, that," etc. But surely the full causal force of the particle is to be pressed, "because they believe not on me." The essence of all sin is unbelief, a refusal to surrender heart and will to the Divine will and authority, though the world generally had taken different views of it: supposing "sin" to be disobedience to some particular class of duties, or the neglect of certain specific ceremonial. Christ declares that the Spirit which has always been striving with men to bring them into reconciliation with God, will now convict the world that its sinful tendencies and principles have reached their highest and most willful expression in unbelief εἰς ἐμέ, towards me. The most complete manifestation of God has received from the world the most utter and insensate repudiation. The very nature of sin thus stands revealed, the leprosy of sin will come out on the smiling self-complacency of the world. It will no longer be able to charge upon Adam, nor the devil, nor upon natures nor upon temptations of the flesh, the blame of sin; but will take the guilt home, and see that, in this crowning act of human folly, unbelievers have rendered themselves personally liable to condemnation, and, by rejecting infinite love as well as eternal law, have left themselves without excuse.
Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Verse 10. - In respect of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more. Not merely that the world will be led to form a new conception of righteousness, seeing that God has exalted him whom they have condemned as a malefactor, - that would really, with Lucke and Meyer, limit this "righteousness" to a judgment concerning the guiltlessness of Christ; nor can we, with Luther, etc., regard it as equivalent to the δικαιοσύνη of Romans 1:17, the righteous attribute and righteous process by which God is able to treat as righteous those who believe. This is the only place in the Gospel where the word occurs, and it can scarcely bear the technical significance of the great theological discussions with which it was afterwards associated. Schaff has called attention to the Vulgate translation justitia, which is represented in the Rheims English Version by "justice," and reminds us how Archdeacon Hare urges that "righteousness" and "justice" correspond to the entire theology of the Protestant and Romanist Churches. The Protestant sees in "righteousness" an ideal never reached by the human will in its own strength; the Romanist, by the term "justice," embodies itself in outward acts. The idea of righteousness involves the demand for purity; the idea of justice, one for cleanness. But seeing that Christ had all along called urgent attention to the fact that that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God, and that the righteousness of his kingdom must exceed "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees," it becomes clear that his exaltation to the right hand of the Father would exhibit God's ideal of righteousness; and by the aid of the Holy Spirit working through the word of the apostles, the world's view of these things would be utterly subverted, the world would be silenced, convicted of being utterly in the wrong in its idea of righteousness as well as in its judgment upon the nature of sin. The idea of righteousness will be expanded and transfigured; the idea of sin will be deepened and intensified and brought home. Stier has, with great eloquence and power, pressed the other view, which makes the ἐλέγχος of the Holy Ghost nothing short of this - that there is no other righteousness for men than the righteousness of God in Christ and the righteousness of Christ before God. Notice, nevertheless, the occasions on which the world was brought to recognize the triumph of Christ's righteousness and confusion of its own prejudices (Acts 2:27, 31; Acts 3:14; Acts 7:52).
Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
Verse 11. - In respect of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. The conviction of sin will have a peculiarly and specially subjective cause; that of judgment will, like that of righteousness, be preceded by two stupendous objective facts - the exaltation of Christ and the judgment of Satan. The glorification of the Son of man, to the extent of his being declared to be the Son of God with power, will be the grand event which human nature will be powerless to counteract or ultimately to resist. "Know assuredly that this same Jesus whom you have crucified is both Lord and Christ." The judgment of the prince of this world is also a fact lying outside the politics of the world, which may fume and rage as it will; it is beyond the reach of the philosophy or literature, the courts or armies, the fashions or the force, of this world. The central prince and spirit of the world is judged by the Lord Jesus, and condemned; and the time is coming when the old standard of judgment will be cast out, and the world will be compelled to admit that it has been vanquished (John 12:31). The conviction concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, by the aid of the Advocate whom Christ will send, will become the great work of the apostles and of the Church, until he comes again in his glory. While commenting upon this sublime assurance the awful process must not be forgotten, nor the fact that the prince of the world dies hard. The atrocious wickedness which burst out after the exaltation of Christ among the people who had rejected their Lord, and the consummation of the mystery of iniquity in the Roman empire, was a part of the providential conviction of the world. Archdeacon Hare, in his ' Mission of the Comforter,' insists that the entire conviction of judgment, righteousness, and sin must be the work of "the Comforter;" that all the objective facts, all the teaching of example, all the thunder of prophecy, nay, all the outward demonstration of sin, righteousness, and judgment, made in and by the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ, must be complemented by the grace of the Holy Spirit on individuals, nations, and humanity at large; and that it is in the capacity of human "Comforter," or "Advocate," that this conviction is wrought.
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Verses 12-15. - (b) The power of the Paraclete on the disciples themselves. From the twelfth to the fifteenth verse the relation of the Paraclete to the disciples themselves makes yet more evident the expediency of the glorification of the Son of man, and demonstrates the authority of the apostolic teaching. Verse 12. - Notwithstanding the abundance of the revelations which Christ had given, still, said he, I have many things yet to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now (ἄρτι); i.e. at this epoch of your training. Christ (John 14:18, etc., in a passage which he proceeds to enlarge and deepen) has already said that the coming to them of the Paraclete would be one method of his own Divine approach to them for purposes of consolation and instruction; consequently he does not now allow them to suppose that, though separated from them by death, he would ever cease to instruct them. They could not in their present condition, and before the great events should have happened - events on which so much revealing fact would turn - bear the revelation of these "many things." Pentecost will enable them to appreciate the full mystery of love. The word used for "bear" is that which is used (John 19:17) to describe the bearing of the cross by Christ himself. Some have found in these "many things" new articles of doctrine which have been preserved by tradition; and others, a development of truths already presented in germ; and others, again, much of the future order of the world and the Church, such as gradually evolved itself to the vision and insight and spiritual wisdom of apostolic men. But they could not, on the eve of the Passion, have borne the full mystery of the atonement, or sufficiently have comprehended the glory of the enthroned King.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
Verse 13. - Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come. This points to the definite promise already made (conditioned by his own departure, and so rendering that departure "expedient") when the Spirit of truth is come, having been sent by me from the Father. He will be your Guide (so that you will not be mere passive instruments, but living agents. "Things" may be transported, but "persons" only can be "guided." The pillar of fire and cloud led the way, and Israel struck its camp and followed) into the truth in all its parts. As Godet says, "The reading εἰς suits ὁδηγήσει better than ἐν." A most glorious promise this, for as days of darkness and perplexity draw on, fresh needs will arise. The "many things" which would thus be said must be presumed to have been said on highest authority; and hence the unapproachable dignity of the apostles themselves; hence the secret of all their binding and loosing power; hence the revelations they have been able to supply with reference to Christ and salvation, glory, duty, and eternal life, and all the laws of the kingdom. From this vast promise we see the sufficiency of the apostolic teaching, and by implication the portion of it which is committed to writing. Our Lord had delivered to his disciples "nothing but the truth;" but from the nature of the case they must wait for the truth in its completeness, the whole truth of salvation and deliverance. But our Lord proceeds to show that the infallibility of the Holy Spirit is not that he will be a secondary, or tertiary, or independent Divinity. Like Christ, the Son of God, who was in the bosom of the Father (see John 7:17, 18; John 8:28), so he who proceedeth from the Father will not speak from himself, as from any spontaneous, independent source. He is, in his gracious operations, no rival Deity, but the Spirit of the Father and the Son (comp. John 8:44, where the essence of the lie is that the devil speaketh of his own), and whatsoever things he shall hear (or, heareth, or, shall have heard), that shall he speak. The verb "hear" is used absolutely, and has been variously completed with the words, "of me" or "of the Father," whether verbally supplemented or not. We learn that the Holy Spirit is limited by the revelation already involved in the great fact of the Incarnation. "He will speak" of that which he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are coming. The revelation will concern Christ and the future. The whole New Testament, so far as it is apostolic, is here declared to be the work inspired by the Spirit's guidance of the apostles' mind into the truth in all its completeness and in all its parts. Some, like Westcott, refer the ἐρχόμενα to "the constitution of the Christian Church;" but the most satisfactory view is that the Spirit would himself be the Source of the prophetic hope and wondrous vision of the future which pervades the apostolic writings. Hengstenberg runs here into great detail. His remark is of deep interest - that such a promise should be found in the Fourth Gospel, preluding those sublime premonitions which the beloved disciple, when "in the Spirit," received and recorded concerning the things which are and are to come (Revelation 1:19). Not only in the writings of John, but of Peter, and in the prophetic spirit given to Paul, we see how the Lord the Spirit fulfilled the promise.
He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
Verse 14. - He shall glorify me. Christ has spoken of being straightway glorified, lifted into the fullness of the Godhead, glorified in God himself (John 13:32). This statement is partly explanatory of that, but is also an addition to the previous assurance. The Spirit will glorify the God-Man, will augment the luster of his blessed Name, will crown him with honor, and multiply the mirrors of his majesty and the subjects of his power; and the reason is given: For he shall take of mine, and (for the second time, ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν) declare it to you. Christ is here profoundly conscious of the abundance of truth and reality involved in himself and in his functions, in the work he is doing and will continue to do. He is mournfully alive to the fact that the disciples were not able to perceive what there was in him without supernatural aid. The Spirit of God will augment Christ's glory in the Church, seeing that he will reveal to men the Person and glory of the Christ, by inward processes, by vivid spiritual intuitions, by mental exercises which we are quite ready to confess are far beyond the compass of logic, and break through all laws of induction or evolution. This is the high function of the Spirit in inspiration - to take of that which belongs to the Son of God, and so to quicken the spiritual faculty of men that they can and do understand it. "The Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of Deity," and reveals them to those who receive the Holy Ghost. Our Lord declares that all truth is implicitly contained in himself. In John 14. he said, "I am the Truth" about God and about man, and about the relation of man to God. The Spirit will draw aside the veils which hide this truth, will draw forth the hidden harmonies contained in this wondrous Personality. Such continuous revelation is from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18). St. Paul at the close of his ministry was aware of unfathomed treasures still hidden in the Christ, and he put before himself, as the goal of his highest ambition, "that I may know him" (Philippians 3:10).
All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
Verse 15. - In this verse our Lord makes a still more superlative claim. All things which the Father hath (ὅσα ἔχει) are mine. Perhaps no sentence recorded by St. John is more difficult to reconcile with the mere humanity of our Lord, even of the loftiest kind. The "mine" of the previous verse is declared to embrace something more than the mystery of his Person and sacrifice. "All that the Father hath," all his fullness of being, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, all the power, all the effulgence of the glory of the Father, of the human race, and of all things, "are mine." This makes a spiritual apprehension of Christ include a perfect revelation of all the Father's character and work. Therefore said I, that he (the Spirit of truth, in being your Guide into all the truth) taketh of mine, and will declare (it) unto you. Because "mine is the Father's, and the Father's is mine;" because, i.e., he is the Center, and Agent, and Motive, and Force in all the Divine self-revelation, and because he possessed as his own this vast range, this infinite fullness of Divine operations, he promised them this spiritual teaching, and assured them that his highest glory was simply to be made known as he is. Calvin, "We see how the greater part of men deceive themselves; for they pass by Christ, and go out of the way to seek God by circuitous paths." In these verses we have a very abundant exhibition of the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, coupled with a very remarkable setting forth of the tri-personality. The Father "hath" (ἔχει) that which is in very. essence the Son's (ἐμα); and the Spirit, whose purpose is to glorify the Son by making him known to men (λαμβάνει), takes of "mine" and will declare it (see Stier, Schaff, note to Lange). Luthardt once thought with Stier, but now limits the reference, without giving any reason for it, to what he calls "the deposit of Divine truth in the humanity of Jesus." The sum of this astonishing assurance is that the Holy Spirit of truth, an essential element if not Personality in the Godhead, will lead these apostles into the fullness of truth, and of knowledge of the future, by taking up the essential realities of the Christ in the fullness of his being and work, and disclosing them by spiritual insight and supernatural quickening. These realities of the Christ will prove to be the fullness of the Father's heart - all that the Father hath. Again we ask - Does St. John even here travel beyond his prologue?
A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
Verses 16-24. - (c) The sorrow turned into joy. In these verses he approaches the final farewell, in which the whole body of the disciples are introduced as inwardly or among themselves perturbed by the special difficulty of the words. Before the Spirit can do all this, a separation must be experienced. Verse 16. - A little while. A phrase repeated seven times in this brief passage, emphatically encouraging his own disciples to rise above the limitations of time, and enjoy the habits of eternity. Ye behold me no more. The first puzzle of this utterance lies in this - that (John 14:19) he had told them that, though the world would see him no more, they would behold him in the power of the Spirit, and that they would moreover have adequate preparation for such spiritual beholding in the resurrection; yet now he says, "Ye behold me no more." True, he has associated this phrase already, in Ver. 10, with the conviction of the world touching true righteousness and his "going to the Father," so that henceforth he would be hidden in God; but now he increases the perplexity by adding, And again, a little while, and ye shall see me. The commentators differ greatly as to the reference, but (with Hengstenberg, Weiss, Stier, Westcott, Ebrard, Ewald) the most obvious explanation is that he is referring to the resurrection, which in itself would be in part a glorification of Christ, and which, from its entire method of manifestation to them, would prove a preparation for the spiritual sense of his continual presence. This was perfected at Pentecost, and will be completed when he shall come again in his glory.
Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?
Verse 17. - Then said (some) of his disciples one to another, not daring to utter it to him, What is this that he saith to us, A little while, and ye behold me not: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? This clause now aggravates their difficulty, whether they associate it with the idea already uttered, or whether they repeat the Lord's word (g-r, may be simply the "that" of quotation). The program of the future - e.g.
(1) death and momentary absence,
(2) resurrection and transitory presence,
(3) departure to the Father and abiding presence
form a group of ideas very difficult even for us now to realize or "to know" fully what he saith. Who need wonder that these disciples should have been in doubt, since one of their number intimately acquainted with them and their state of feeling records it of them?
They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.
Verse 18. - They said, What is this little while whereof he speaketh? (λέγει; Vulgate, dicit). (The R.T. and Westcott and Hort invert the τοῦτο and τί, and thus greatly increase the simplicity of the passage.) What are these two short periods of which he speaks, so full of mysterious significance? We know not what he saith (λαλεῖ; Vulgate, loquitur). We do not apprehend the wonderful interchange of vision and blank darkness - of presence and absence and presence again!
Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?
Verse 19. - Now Jesus knew (perceived by his Divine penetration of human thought here quickened by their anxious look and hurried whisperings) that they were wishing to question him, and he said to them, Are you inquiring among yourselves concerning this that I said, A little while, etc.? In his repetition he does not quote the clause which they had added - i.e. added if the clause, Ver. 16, is not genuine. He proceeded to meet their difficulties.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
Verse 20. - There is no exact or categoric reply to the very inquiry which he has heard and cited, but there is more of prophecy and help than if he had said, "Tomorrow I die and shall be laid in the grave, and on the third day I shall rise again." He had often said this, and they refused to understand. It was not merely a resurrection of the body, but the glorification in the Father of his entire Personality, for which he wished them to be prepared. A simple restoration like that of Lazarus would not have secured him from the malice of those who sought to put Lazarus also to death. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that weep and lament you shall, and the world shall rejoice. Here is his own account of the effect upon them of that he said, "A little while," and you will behold me, as you think, no more. The world will rejoice, because to some extent it will be the world's doing, and it will fancy for a little while that it has got its way and succeeded excellently well The world will roll a stone to his sepulcher, and make it as sure as they can, sealing the stone and setting a watch. Pharisaism will exult that this demand for a higher righteousness than its own is for ever hushed; Sadduceeism will rejoice that this troublesome witness to unseen and eternal things is silenced; the hierarchy will boast that now no danger prevails of the Romans taking away their place and nation; the world will praise the deed of blood; but all this rejoicing will last "a little while." Christ reaffirms their grief, and even for "a little while" justifies it, so long as they can hear the jubilate of the world over their personal burden of unutterable sorrow. He continues: You shall be sorrowful, but in a little while your sorrow shall be (ἐγένετο εἰς, Acts 4:11; Acts 5:36) turned into joy. Clearly because "you shall see me." It cannot be said that our Lord here positively asserts his resurrection; but when we remember how "the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord," how Mary ran "with great joy to bring his disciples word," we feel that here was the simple solution of the mystery, and that our Lord's intercourse with them in his resurrection-body was the great prelibation of the method of his continuous abiding with them in the power of his Spirit and the glorification of his body - we cannot doubt that this was his meaning and the purpose of the evangelist in recording it.
A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
Verse 21. - The next illustration is very remarkable, and surely cannot be a simple analogy of the supervening of joy on sorrow. The woman (the article does not point to any special γυνή, but refers to a universal fact and law of womanhood, cf. ὁ δοῦλος, John 15:15) when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come. So now there are the travail-pangs of the new humanity, the new theocracy, bitter and terrible, But as soon as she has brought forth the child, she remembereth no longer the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world. The old prophets often compared the grief of Israel or her peril to the pangs of a travailing woman preluding deliverance (Isaiah 21:3; Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:6, 7; Hosea 13:13) and even joy - the joy of bringing manhood into the world and the new consciousness of maternity. Meyer and others rebel against any meaning beyond that of the following of joy upon sorrow; but Tholuck, De Wette, Ebrard, and Moulton see here the obvious reference to those "travail-pangs of death" with which St. Peter (Acts 3:24) said that the Holy One could not be restrained, agonies in which for a while every apostle must have wept and lamented, dying and being crucified with him, and to the glorious deliverance of all who suffered with him, when they live again in newness of life by the power of his resurrection.
And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
Verse 22. - And, so he continues, ye therefore indeed now have sorrow - your hearts are troubled, you weep and lament to-night, your desolation for "a little while" will be utter collapse and dismay - but I shall see you again. He does not repeat, "Ye shall behold me" (θεωρεῖτέ με, cf. John 14:19), but "I shall see you (ὔψομαι ὑμᾶς)." The same word, however, is used repeatedly in the record of the resurrection, and in Ver. 19 he had said ὄψεσθέ με. The point of the vision is his own consciousness of their human need filling all the forty days with its glory. The occasional manifestations of his Person during that interval helped them in a wonderful way to recognize the fact that he was ever watching them, and was at their side under all the circumstances of human life. And your heart shall rejoice, and this joy of yours no one taketh (present in the full sense of a realized future) from you. The ὄψομαι ὑμᾶς lends itself to the larger conception which, by the gift of the Holy Ghost, they at length fully apprehended, that he was with them always, even to the end of the world. That conviction was forced upon them before Pentecost (see Matthew 28:19, 20, and the account in this Gospel of the spiration and communication of the Holy Ghost, John 20:22), before he came as the sound of a rushing mighty wind, or sat in tongues of flame on their heads. Your joy in the sense of my constant presence no one, neither man nor devil, taketh away from you. That presence will not be any further exposed to Jewish malice or treachery, nor darkened by persecution, nor destroyed by death; though with bodily eyes ye see me not, yet, fully realizing that my eye is on you, "you will rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Verse 23. - And in that day - that long and blessed period beginning at the Resurrection with your vision of me, and being ever more and more enhanced in blessedness by your intense conviction that "I am with you" and "see you," though you see me not - in that day ye shall put me no question, as in the old method of confidential intercourse of man with man. That period passes away with this solemn night. Not in this way will the intercourse be carried forward. "That day" started from Easter morning, and it is not yet noon. Perhaps one reason for this statement is that the illumination of the Spirit would render such questioning unnecessary, but a more certain explanation is that they would themselves stand in new relations with the Father through him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever thing ye shall ask (αἰτήσητε) the Father, he will give it you in my Name. The modern editors, by placing the ἐν τῷ ονόματί μου ("in my Name") after δώσει ὑμῖν, or as Tischendorf (8th edit.), in a clause commencing with δώσει, suggest that in this particular clause the Name of Christ is not only the medium by which the disciples approach the Father (which is obvious enough from Ver. 24), but the manifestation and ministry by which not only is the prayer heard, but the gift or answer bestowed. As sentence after sentence follows, the disciples are led up to the heart of the Father himself.
Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
Verse 24. - Hitherto - up to the present period - ye asked (ἠτήσατε, the common word for petition and request made by the inferior to the superior, the man to his Maker) nothing in my Name. The disciples had not comprehended the fullness of that Name of the well-beloved Son, filling their minds with the revelation of God made in it, and feeling it to be the great inducement and guarantee of acceptable prayer. Ask (continuously, habitually, for this is no longer in aorist, but in the present tense), and ye shall receive (ἵνα here not relic, but indicates "contemplated result"), that your joy may be fulfilled [rendered complete and full] (comp. John 15:11; Ver. 22); the joy of your love to one another and to me may reach its highest expression. There may be reference to their unanimity in the Holy Spirit, the Pentecostal outburst of perfect love which casts out fear.
These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.
Verses 25-33. - (d) The final conviction wrought that Jesus was what he had said that he was. The joy of Christ, with its note of warning. Verse 25. - These things I have spoken to you in proverbs (see John 10:6); i.e. in concentrated and to some extent enigmatical utterances, "in dark sayings upon a harp," in words which subsequent events and higher enlightenment would interpret (cf. here Christ's distinction between his disciples and the multitude in the matter of parables, Matthew 13.). He used the parable to the stupefied, that they might thus separate between those who were susceptible to his teaching and those who were not. To his disciples he interpreted his parables, still leaving much which might be regarded as παροιμίαι, condensed word-utterances, in which words stood for higher things than in their ordinary usage. Thus the similitudes adopted throughout John 9, 10, 11, 12-16, are numerous, intended to draw the disciples on from their ordinary ideas to the heights of his thought and the mystery of his Person. The ἀλλ is omitted by modern editors. The hour cometh - the great climacteric period of my revelation - when I shall no longer speak to you in proverbs, when, indeed, the sound of my voice will be hushed, and words will no longer be needed, when Divine spirations and heavenly pulsations shall convey to you what my parabolic teaching and my paroimic interpretations have failed to impart, when I shall be with you and in you, and by the energy of the Paraclete I shall declare (to you) plainly, with clearness and openness, in the fullness of spiritual light, without reserve, circumlocution, or parable, concerning the Father. This promise declares that the glorious revelations of Pentecost and the teaching of those who received the Holy Ghost will be verily and indeed our Lord Christ's own most personal and frank and outspoken revelations of the Father;
At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you:
Verse 26. - In that day - pointing to "the hour" of these open declarations - ye shall ask (make petitions, not ask or demand of me, in the tone of equality) in my Name. The opportunity will come when all my Name will be appreciated by you, and your spiritual reception of me will teach you to approach the Father, who is thus revealed to you. Calvin in these verses calls attention to the familiarity of Israel with the idea of a Mediator, one by whom they drew near to God, and that Christ places himself here in the stead of the whole propitiatory service and ritual of the temple. "His Name" was the Divine equivalent of all the work of the high priest from one Day of Atonement to another and for evermore. And I do not say to you, that I will make my request to the Father concerning you (see note on ἐρωτάω and αἰτέω, Ver. 23, etc.). It will not do to argue, with Grotius, that this is just as if he had said, "To say nothing of my own intercessions for you," or, "You may take these for granted;" because the very next verse gives his reason for the assertion. Nor is it satisfactory to say, with Meyer, that the "prayers" of which he speaks (John 14:16; John 17:9, 20) are before the gift of the Paraclete, and not inconsistent with the higher condition of the disciples after the Paraclete should have been given; because John had received the Paraclete when he wrote, "We have an Advocate with the Father" (1 John 2:1). Nor can we suppose that the great utterances of Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 9:25 are vain imaginations, and that there is no sense in which the Lord does augment and complete our prayers, taking them upon his heart and going in his high-priestly prerogative into the holy place with his own blood; but the words must nevertheless be pressed, and their meaning held to be compatible with what Paul and John say of the" intercession of Christ." They reveal the perfect access to the Father's heart which he has secured for his disciples, the full reconciliation effected as well as devised and consummated by the Father's own love (cf. Ephesians 2:18, "By Christ we both [Jew and Gentile] have access (προσαγωγήν) in one spirit to the Father"). The end of the whole ministry of Christ is, in the power of the Holy Ghost's revelation of him, to bring men to the Father and let them know it. There is no need that Christ should (ἐρωτᾶν) make special prayer to the Father, as though he were merciful and the Father needed to be appeased towards those for whom he had prepared so great a salvation (see Romans 8:34, where Philippi, Calvin, and others show that Christ's ἐντυγχανεῖν is the effect of his own glorious and eternal work). His appearance in the presence of God for us is the perpetual pledge of the completeness of his sacrifice. These very passages in Hebrews and Romans have to be interpreted in harmony with this great statement of his own, viz. that there is no reason to ask the Father concerning them; all has been asked and answered, the intercession is complete; his whole work will have reconciled the Father with his children, and that by reason of the Father's own love.
For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.
Verse 27. - For the Father himself loveth you (φιλεῖ), with love of a fatherly affection, such as mine to you, because ye have loved me (the perfect preterit, in the sense of the realized past in the present which shall then be), and have believed that I came forth from the side of (παρὰ) the Father. In their belief of this transcendent fact is the hope of the world. It was wrought in them by the strengthening pulses of a deepening love, and to this love God himself responds with a personal tender affection that encourages boundless prayer. The disciple and lover of Jesus, having Jesus in the heart, united to him by living faith, will find in Christ that there is a perpetual pledge of reciprocal love between the Father and himself. Christ will not (ἐρωτᾶν) ask the Father, because his entire position as Mediator establishes a continual appeal, is a perpetual ἔντευξις, a continuous drawing near and appeal to God on our account, a pledge and guarantee of our own fellowship with and access to the Father. Our English word "intercession," though apparently corresponding with the Latin and with the Greek word, does not now represent its original meaning. That meaning is by no means equivalent to the hind of prayer which is here excluded (Trench, 'Syn. N.T.,' § 51.).
I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.
Verse 28. - In these words our Lord gathers sublimely up a record of his entire self-manifestation. I came forth out of the Father (where ἔξελθον ἐκ, instead of παρὰ, is the new and better reading), as from the Divine Source of my pre-existent glory, I have come into the world, incarnate in humanity, "the Word was made flesh," "the Light lighting every man has come into the world." Again, I am leaving the world behind me, though for a little while you may behold me, and I am going on a great mission, with a goal in view, to the Father. "Recapitulationem maximam habet hic versus" (Bengel). Christ had said all this before, but they have never seen it as a whole. The several parts had been so impressive, that the whole truth had been concealed from them.
His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.
Verse 29. - His disciples say to him, Behold, even now thou speakest (λαλεῖς); thy utterance is with plainness and clearness, and speakest (λέγεις) no proverb. The promise made so recently (Ver. 25) seems to them already fulfilled. Some beam of the heavenly light has begun to irradiate the whole of this sublime but partially realized revelation of God in Christ. The doubts vanish in this sunshine.
Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.
Verse 30. - Now know we that thou knowest all things. He had answered their unutterable yearning. That which stirred them very deeply on many occasions was this proof that nothing in their hearts was hidden from him. Nathanael was one of them, and now he saw "angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man." "Thou knowest all things." The idea in their minds does not embrace the full range of human inquiry, nor the depths of Deity, but all the things which are in their hearts to ask him. Their word is true even if in their intention they fall short of ascribing omniscience to their Lord. And thou hast no need that any one should put to thee these inquiries. Thou hast sounded the depths of our hearts, and found out the unutterable and unuttered within us. When we were afraid to ask thee concerning "the little while," thou didst discern our unspoken yearning, and now thou art so establishing thy Divine claim upon our reverence and affection, that we can trust thee to give us all needful illumination when we most require it. In this fact, in this consideration just stated, we find our justification and the cause of our faith. We believe that thou earnest forth from (ἀπό) God (ἀπό differs from the solemnity of the παρά or the ἐκ of Ver. 28. Though Lange makes the ὅτι equivalent to "because," yet generally John gives to the ὅτι which follows a verb after ἐν τούτῳ the sense of "that," thus introducing the object of the verb, though in one place, 1 John 4:13, both constructions are seen in the same sentence. The objective force of "that" is to be preferred here). We believe that thy whole ministry and message is a revelation of God, a coming near to us of the Father. Thy name is "Immanuel, God with us." A question arises whether the disciples in this gush of faith said more than they really meant, and deserved reproof, or whether they had reached an elevation of thought from which they never would absolutely recede.
Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?
Verse 31. - Jesus answered them, Now, at this stage in my self-revelation, do ye believe? It seems as though the whole of Christ's ministry turns on their acceptance of his claims. If he should pass from the world and return to the Father, and leave behind him none who had discovered and become intensely convinced of his Divine nature, the whole work he had done would be, humanly speaking, a failure. An almost womanlike passion of desire breathes through the inquiry, "Do ye now believe?" or, as some commentators (Gorier and Meyer) translate it indicatively, "Now ye believe." There is truly no essential difference whether it be taken interrogatively or indicatively. Both forms mean, "I have at length brought you to the point of faith. The kingdom of God is now established, and the prince of this world cast out. But a terrible trial awaits the new-born faith." Christ had warned them of the treachery of the absent one, of the approaching denial of the foremost of their number, and he now gives them another warning of the severity of the trial which awaited them all. The power and permanence of their faith may be open to doubt, but not its essential quality. Their faith may not stand firm on that awful night, but it will ultimately prevail, and Christ rejoices in the fact that his words have at last evoked this genuine response. In the prayer which follows (John 17:8) he thanks God "that they have known verily that I came forth from thee, and have believed that thou hast sent me."
Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
Verse 32. - Behold, the hour cometh, [yea] is come, that (see Ver. 2. The effort made by some to preserve the relic force of ῖνα here breaks down. It has very little more than the power of "when," and the bringing in of the notion of a purpose or Divine counsel encumbers the sense) you shall be scattered (i.e. the fact is as good as already enacted) every man to his own, and shall leave me alone. The σκορκισθῆτε points back to Zechariah 13:7, and reminds us of our Lord's recent quotation of this very prophecy, and his application of it to the disciples (Matthew 26:31, 32). This falling away from Jesus as he rises more and more into the greatness of his work is one of the witnesses of his Divine mission into such a world as this First the Galilaean hosts and the multitudes who shouted "Hosanna!" then his own brethren, then all except the twelve, then all the authorities, are openly hostile. Even Joseph and Nicodemus and Lazarus are silent, Judas is treacherous; but the eleven still cling to him. Soon Christ selects from the faithful few the faithfullest for the watch over his last agony, but one of these denies him, and they all forsake him and flee. John and his mother, who follow within earshot of the cross, are sent to their own home, and there is a moment when he is absolutely alone. He even says, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But as in this agony he can still say, "Father, into thy hands," so here he anticipates the Divine overshadowing presence, and adds, Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. The sublimest word of all, charged with consolation.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
Verse 33. - These things have I spoken (ταῦτα; all the farewell discourses. The tone of these last triumphant words reminds them of the finest and noblest of his previous assurances, his promises of peace, courage, and victory over all the evil and power of this world) to you, that in me ye might have peace (see note, John 14:27, 28). The entire issue of the discourse is the conference on his disciples of his own secret of peace - the adequate support amid the crushing force and vehement hostility of the world (cf. Psalm 46:2-4, "Though the earth be removed.., there is a river," etc.). Peace is the balance of equilibrating forces; and man needs a Divine force behind and within him to encounter the tremendous odds arrayed against him, in mysteries of life, temptation of the devil, infirmity of the flesh, and antagonism of the world, so that we need not be surprised to hear him say, In the world ye have tribulation. It is the fundamental condition of Divine life in this world. Christ's disciples may take that for granted (see 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:4), but the most striking and unique note of the true faith is that this sorrow is blended with an inward rapture which transforms it into peace. The blending of fear and love, of law with promise, of righteousness with mercy, of the sense of sin with that of pardon, of a great peace with a crushing tribulation, is one of the most constant tokens, signs, or marks of the mind of Christ. But be of good courage. This is the practical uprising of the soul into the joy of the Lord (cf. also John 14:1, 28). (The word itself is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in John, though found in Matthew 9:2 and Mark 10:49.) 'Αχο, I - very emphatic - have overcome the world. "A vous encore le combat, a mot des a present la victoire! Mats en mot la meme victoire a vous vous aussi" (Reuss). The royal sublimity of this last word, on the eve of the Passion, became one of the perpetually recurring thoughts of John (1 John 5:4 and Revelation 2, 3, where the ὁ νίκων is again and again referred to). Christ's victory already assured to him becomes theirs. So "by similar anticipation we have ἐνίκησαν in Revelation 12:11, and ἡ νικήσασα in 1 John 5:4." The victory had been, however, already achieved over the world's temptations, and over the bitterness of internal treachery, and the vast sum of human ingratitude; and this may in part explain the use of the perfect tense, "I have overcome."