Jesus’ Imminent Departure (John 14:1-31)

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Concerning his leaving them (if not also his words about their abandoning him and Peter’s denial), Jesus said to the apostles, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Within themselves, they were not to give way to feelings of alarm and uneasiness. Instead, Jesus admonished them to believe in God and also in him. Their faith would then enable them to come through the difficult time that lay ahead. (John 14:1)

Jesus’ leaving them would not be an event they were to dread. There was ample room for them in his Father’s house, with its “many dwelling places.” If that had not been the case, Jesus would have told the disciples. His departure and return to the Father meant that he would be preparing a place for them. This assured them that he would come again and take them to be with him. Where he had his home, they also would be. Jesus then added, “You know the way [to the place] where I am going.” (John 14:2-4) His earlier comments should have helped them to discern that “the way” involved faith in God and in him.

Thomas may not have been alone in failing to make this connection. Thinking that Jesus had spoken about a literal way or path, he raised the question, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5)

In his response, Jesus made it clear that he was not referring to a literal road or path. “I am the way,” said Jesus, “and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known [know, P66 (second century) and other manuscripts] me, you would have known [will know, P66 and other manuscripts] my Father also. From now [on] you know him and have seen [him].” (John 14:6, 7)

Jesus is “the way,” for through him alone can one come to the Father. The Son’s example and teaching provide the dependable guidance. As the unique Son of God, the one who has fully revealed the Father in a manner that he alone could, Jesus is “the truth” or the embodiment of the truth. He is “the life,” for through him and faith in him one comes into possession of the real life, the life that is distinguished by an enduring relationship with his Father.

If P66, the earliest extant manuscript, preserves the original reading, then Jesus said that, by knowing him, the disciples would come to know his Father. This would suggest that, in the future, they would come to know the Father fully. The meaning conveyed in many other manuscripts appears to be that the disciples had not yet come to know Jesus from the standpoint of coming to know the Father fully through him. In that case, Jesus’ words would have constituted a reproof. The phrase, “from now [on] you know,” then appears to suggest that, based on what he had revealed to them, the disciples did know the Father. They also had seen him. Jesus could say this, for he, the unique Son, was the express image of his Father. On the other hand, if P66 contains the original text, Jesus’ words could be understood to mean that their knowing the Father would not come about at some future time but was possible from then on. Based on what Jesus had revealed in his own person, the disciples did know the Father and had seen him.

Seemingly, Philip understood Jesus’ reference to seeing in a literal sense. This prompted him to say, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” (John 14:8) Philip felt that, if Jesus would let the disciples actually see the Father just once, they would be completely satisfied.

Jesus appears to have directed his reply to Philip in a way that included all of the apostles. This is suggested by the plural “you,” seemingly indicating that Philip may not have been the only one wanting to be shown the Father in a perceivable manner. “Have I been with you [plural],” Jesus said, “[for] so much time, and [still], Philip, you do not know me? He who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you [plural] I am not speaking [as originating] from myself, but the Father who remains in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and [that] the Father [is] in me. But if not, believe for the reason of the works themselves.” (John 14:9-11)

Philip was among Jesus’ first disciples and so, along with the other early disciples, had been with him from the start of his ministry. Therefore, Jesus could refer to Philip and the other apostles as having been with him for considerable time. Nevertheless, Philip still had not fully recognized in Jesus the complete reflection of his Father. Philip’s request to be shown the Father revealed that he had not as yet understood that, in the face of the Son, he had seen the Father. (Compare 2 Corinthians 4:6.) Jesus perfectly reflected everything about him. As Hebrews 1:3 indicates, the Son is the exact imprint of his Father’s very being. Therefore, when seeing Jesus, being closely associated with him, and witnessing the works his Father had empowered him to perform, the disciples were being given an all-encompassing and clear vision of the Father. Accordingly, they had seen the Father in the Son. On account of what Philip had experienced during a course of many months, Jesus rightly asked him, “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

In every way, the Son enjoyed a oneness with his Father. Because of being completely at one with him, Jesus could say that he was “in” the Father, and the Father was “in” him. Jesus did not speak of his own but expressed what his Father had committed to him to speak. So, through Jesus, the disciples heard the words of his Father. Although his Father was in heaven, this had no bearing on the intimate relationship he enjoyed with him. In all that Jesus said and did, the Father remained “in” him, was with him, or resided in him. Therefore, the marvelous deeds that Jesus performed (healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, soundness of body to the lame and the crippled, and raising the dead) were his Father’s works.

When Jesus told his disciples, “I am in the Father and the Father [is] in me,” he could rightly say to them, “Believe me.” They had ample evidence for believing him. Yet, if they did not believe him, not accepting his word, they could not deny the fact that they had witnessed marvelous deeds. As Jesus said, “Believe for the reason of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)

For the disciples, their belief, faith, or trust in Jesus would result in their doing works they could not then have imagined. After his solemn introductory words (“Amen, amen” [Truly, truly], I say to you”), Jesus continued, “He who believes in me will do the works I am doing, and greater [works] than these he will do, for I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Upon returning to his Father, Jesus would no longer be physically present and bringing relief to the afflicted as he had while with the disciples. They would then be doing the very deeds that he had done. Collectively, their activity would be more extensive, reach far beyond the areas where Jesus had ministered to the people, and continue for much more time. Therefore, he could say that he who believes in him would do greater works.

His being away from the disciples did not mean that his care and concern for them would diminish. Moreover, they could look to him for aid and guidance. “Whatever you ask in my name,” Jesus said, “I will do this, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you [plural] ask [me, found in numerous manuscripts] anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13, 14)

After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the disciples commonly directed their prayers to the Father, doing so in Jesus’ name or as persons who recognized him as their Lord. Colossians 3:17 specifically refers to “thanking God the Father through him [the Lord Jesus].”

At certain times, the disciples directly appealed to Jesus. The apostle Paul mentioned having three times pleaded with the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” Paul did not say how he received the Lord’s answer, “Sufficient is my grace [unmerited favor] for you, because my power is made complete in weakness.” He humbly accepted it as Christ’s answer, telling the Corinthians that he would prefer to take pride “in [his] weaknesses, that the power of the Christ might dwell with [him].” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

This illustrates that Jesus’ words about doing what his disciples requested does depend upon its being in harmony with the divine will or prerogative. In Paul’s case, the power of Christ proved to be more fully manifest through his continuing to bear his “thorn,” with the grace or favor extended to him being sufficient for him to endure it. From a personal standpoint, Paul would benefit from seeing Christ’s interests advanced despite his “thorn” and those who responded in faith would be able to see that the advancement of Christ’s cause did not depend on human strength.

Jesus’ unique oneness with his Father is of such a nature that his will and that of his Father are identical. Accordingly, appeals that are made in Jesus’ name, or in recognition of him as Lord, will be answered. His words to the disciples indicate that he would act in keeping with their petitions and that his doing so would serve to glorify the Father. The Father would be honored “in the Son,” for the Son’s response would perfectly reflect the Father’s will.

The disciples would manifest their love for Jesus by observing his commandments, following his example and adhering to his teaching. (John 14:15) The implication is that they should do so even after his departure.

While with them, Jesus had proved to be their “paraclete” (parákletos), helper, comforter, advocate, supporter, or intercessor. Although he would be going away, he would not leave them without needed aid. He assured them that he would request his Father to give them another paraclete to be with them permanently (literally, “into the age”; forever). (John 14:16)

Jesus referred to the paraclete as the “spirit of the truth.” (John 14:17) When functioning in the capacity of teaching or guiding the disciples or of recalling to their minds Jesus’ teaching, the spirit’s aid would be solidly based on truth and could always be trusted. Regardless of the circumstances, the disciples could rely on the spirit for spiritual strength and for help in their loyally upholding and advancing the interests of God’s Son. Based on the context, the paraclete may primarily be regarded as a helper.

In a state of alienation from and at enmity with the Father, the world of mankind cannot receive the spirit. Not wanting a relationship with the Father and his Son, those of the world in their state of alienation can neither know nor see the spirit’s function in a personal way. With their minds focused solely on what pleases the senses, they are unresponsive and unreceptive to the spirit.

Regarding the spirit, Jesus said to his disciples, “You know it, for it remains with you and is [will be, according to other manuscripts] in you.” (John 14:17; see the Notes section.) In the life and activity of Jesus, the disciples had repeatedly seen the operation of God’s spirit. Empowered by the spirit, they, too, had performed miraculous works. From personal experience, they knew or had acquaintance with the spirit. As they followed through on the commission Jesus had given them to proclaim the glad tidings and to cure the sick and infirm, the spirit had not left them and was at work “in” and through them.

At the same time, however, their acquaintance with the spirit was never independent of Jesus’ personal presence with them. The future reception of the spirit would result in a continuing possession thereof while the Son of God would not be personally among them.

He promised not to leave them as orphans or in a helpless and needy state, adding, “I am coming to you.”` (John 14:18) After his resurrection, Jesus did reveal himself alive to his disciples. The context, though, suggests that this particular coming to his disciples relates more to his turning his attention to them through the provision of another paraclete and, by means of this helper, making his home with them.

His death, resurrection, and return to his Father being imminent, Jesus could say that the world would shortly no longer see him. The disciples, though, would see him, for, as he told them, “I live and you will live.” (John 14:19) As one raised from the dead, Jesus did live, and the disciples were infused with new life upon seeing him and his giving them many proofs that he was indeed alive. (Acts 1:3) Moreover, with the pouring out of God’s spirit upon them on the day of Pentecost, the disciples truly could be spoken of as living. With boldness they began to witness concerning the Son of God. Jesus’ words spoken just before his last post-resurrection appearance were fulfilled, “You will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all of Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus’ request to his Father for the disciples to be given another paraclete was answered on the day of Pentecost. Particularly in connection with that day Jesus’ words to them applied, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you [are] in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) Jesus received the holy spirit from the Father and then, through Jesus, the disciples received the spirit. (Acts 2:33) This provided undeniable evidence that he was indeed “in” or at one with his Father. As for the disciples, the reception of the spirit from Jesus established that they were “in” or at one with him and that he was “in” or at one with them.

For one to “have” Christ’s commandments would mean to have received or accepted them. Acceptance and observance of these commandments would demonstrate love for him. The one who thus loved Jesus would be loved by his Father, and Jesus would love the individual and would reveal himself to him. In view of Jesus’ return to his Father, this revealing of himself would be through the spirit. (John 14:21)

Judas (not Iscariot, but the son of James), also called Thaddaeus, asked how it would be that Jesus would be revealing himself to the disciples but not to the world. (John 14:22) His answer indicated that this disclosure depended on a relationship that the world did not have. “If anyone loves me,” said Jesus, “he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you [plural] are hearing is not mine, but [is that] of the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23, 24)

Only those who love Jesus, loyally adhering to his word or teaching, would have the clear vision of him that would follow the reception of the spirit. The Father would love the person who loved his Son. By means of the spirit, both the Father and the Son would make their home with the individual who faithfully followed the Son’s teaching. That word or teaching did not originate with Jesus but had been received by him from his Father. Therefore, the individual who did not observe Jesus’ words also disregarded his Father who had sent him, and demonstrated himself to be a person having no love for Jesus. Being unreceptive to the spirit by reason of a state of alienation and enmity, such a person could not come to have a clear vision of the Son nor of the Father. Therefore, just as Jesus had said, the world would not see him.

Regarding the teaching he had then imparted to them, Jesus said, “These things I have told you while remaining with you.” (John 14:25) This kind of personal teaching would end after his going away to his Father. From then onward, the paraclete, the holy spirit, to be sent by his Father in his name (or on the basis of his request as God’s unique Son), would teach them everything they would need and recall to their minds everything he had said to them. (John 14:26; see the Notes section for additional comments.)

Jesus’ mention about his departure troubled the disciples. Reassuringly, he told them, “Peace I leave you.” His going away from them was not to occasion disquietude or alarm. Spiritually, the disciples would not experience any lack, and they would have the dependable help and guidance of the paraclete. Continuing, Jesus said, “My peace I give you.” (John 14:27)

This peace was his gift. As recipients thereof, the disciples would enjoy an inner sense of well-being and calm from knowing that he deeply loved them. Jesus’ giving was not like that of the world. (John 14:27; see the Notes section for additional comments.) His giving was an expression of genuine concern and love. Those who are part of the world alienated from the Father often do their giving with impure motives, endeavoring to secure future gain or favors for themselves.

In view of his gift of peace, Jesus admonished the disciples not to allow their hearts to be troubled nor to become fearful. (John 14:27) He thereby implied that his leaving them should not occasion inner alarm, apprehension, uncertainty, or confusion.

Jesus reminded the disciples of what he had said to them, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” Although the disciples did see Jesus on numerous occasions after his resurrection, his appearances primarily served to show them that he was alive. Often he appeared for just a short time and then vanished. Therefore, the coming to which Jesus referred appears to be the coming by means of the paraclete. This appears to be indicated by the words that follow, which words focus on his again being with his Father and not personally with them. “If you loved me,” Jesus said, “you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I [am].” (John 14:28)

The love of the disciples for Jesus should rightly have moved them to rejoice with him, for he would again be with his Father. As the Son sent by and given the words of the Father to speak, Jesus could say about him, “The Father is greater than I [am].” Upon returning to his Father, Jesus would be the exalted Son to whom his Father had given all authority in heaven and on earth. He would then enjoy the closest relationship possible with his Father, the possessor of unsurpassed greatness. For Jesus’ disciples, his friends, this should have occasioned rejoicing.

By telling them about what would soon be taking place, Jesus provided the disciples with an additional evidence for faith. (John 14:29) Whereas they believed in him as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, his death and resurrection would so overwhelmingly confirm his identity that it would be as if the disciples believed anew, with the strongest conviction possible.

Only a short time remained for Jesus to be with his disciples. Therefore, he told them that he would not be speaking much more to them. The ruler of the world, Satan, was coming, suggesting that Jesus knew that he would shortly face intense assault from the powers of darkness. Confidently, Jesus expressed himself regarding this impending threat, saying that the ruler of the world had “nothing” in him. (John 14:30) Satan had no power over Jesus, for there would be nothing he could get hold of in an effort to sway him from carrying out his Father’s will.

With apparent reference to the surrender of his life in loyal submission to his Father, Jesus spoke of this as the way in which he would show the world that he loved him. For Jesus, his Father’s will constituted his Father’s command. As the loving and obedient Son, he would act on the commandment, which included sacrificing his life. (John 14:31)

The words, “Rise, let us go from here,” do not necessarily indicate an immediate departure from the location where the Passover meal had been eaten. Thereafter Jesus is represented as continuing to speak. Not until a while later did he actually leave with the disciples and head for the Mount of Olives. (John 18:1) Therefore, Jesus’ words about going may have been his way of saying that the time had come for him to surrender his life and of expressing his determination to set out on the course his Father had willed for him.


The holy writings or sacred scriptures with which Jesus’ disciples were familiar included numerous references to the spirit (Hebrew, rúach; Greek, pneúma), God’s spirit, or holy spirit. Like the corresponding Greek word pneúma, the Hebrew term rúach can also mean “wind.” Whereas pneúma is neuter gender, rúach is feminine gender. In the holy writings, the spirit is often mentioned in contexts identifying it as a divine agent or the power emanating from God. (Judges 3:10; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6; Ezekiel 3:14; 8:3; 11:1; 37:14) For the disciples to have come to a changed understanding about the spirit would have required explicit teaching from God’s Son. In expressing his promise about the paraclete or the spirit of the truth, Jesus’ use of some masculine pronouns would have been far too subtle for the disciples to have come to understand the nature of the spirit differently.

The Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic forms of the word “paraclete” came into use through Greek influence and, like the Greek, are masculine gender. According to the idiom of the language in which Jesus spoke to his disciples, he would have used feminine pronouns when referring to the spirit and masculine pronouns when speaking of the paraclete.

Therefore, what has been regarded as a fluctuation of masculine and neuter pronouns in the Greek text of John 14 is best understood as being of a grammatical nature. Where the apparent or intended antecedent is pneúma, the corresponding pronouns are neuter. If, on the other hand, the apparent or intended antecedent is parákletos, the corresponding pronouns are masculine.

In John 14:26, the paraclete (parákletos) is identified as “the holy spirit.” The phrase that follows, in keeping with the neuter gender of “spirit” (pneúma), starts with the neuter pronoun (“which [] the Father will send in my name”). Then, in agreement with the masculine parákletos, the masculine pronoun ekeínos (“that one” or “he”) begins the concluding part of the sentence (“that one will teach you everything and recall to you everything I said to you”).

The reference to the giving that is not like that of the world does not have a designated object in the Greek text of John 14:27. A number of translations have added “it,” making “peace” the antecedent, and other translations have added the word “peace” as the object of the giving. “I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives.” (NLT) “I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give.” (CEV) “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give peace to you as the world gives.” (NLB) According to this meaning, the peace the world gives could be understood to be the kind of seeming well-being and security that is based on attaining positions or possessions and would be temporary.

The world, however, cannot give real peace, the enduring well-being, security, and tranquility that comes from having a relationship with the Son of God and his Father. Some translations render the verse in a way that conveys the inability of the world to give peace. “Peace is my parting gift to you, my own peace, such as the world cannot give.” (REB) “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” (NJB)

Without an object for “give,” this verb could be understood in a generic sense, indicating that Christ’s giving differs from that of the world. This may be the preferable meaning, considering that it requires no additions to the actual reading of the Greek text.