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John 14:23-29 Biblical Commentary:
JOHN 14:1-31. THE CONTEXT
Jesus’ death is imminent, but his concern is for the disciples rather than himself. He reassures them that they will not be alone, and promises them peace. He offers hope not only to his immediate disciples but also to all who love him and keep his word (v. 23).
Verse 23 seems an odd place to begin. In verse 22 (not included in this Gospel lesson), Judas asks, “Lord, what has happened that you are about to reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” The author is careful to inform us that this is not Judas Iscariot, but another Judas—perhaps Judas, the son of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13), but we don’t know for sure.
Our Gospel lesson begins with Jesus’ somewhat oblique answer to Judas’ question. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.”
In verse 18, Jesus says, “I will not leave you orphans.” Jesus will be going back to the Father (v. 28), but not at the expense of the disciples. He will make provision for the disciples, current and future, through the gift of the Spirit. Again, this gives us peace, because we have not been abandoned.
JOHN 14:23-24. IF A MAN LOVES ME, HE WILL KEEP MY WORD
23Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word (Greek: logon). My Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home (Greek: monen) with him. 24He who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word which you hear isn’t mine, but the Father’s who sent me.“
“If a man loves me, he will keep my word” (logon—from logos) (v. 23a). This Gospel begins with the proclamation, “In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).
• Jesus is the logos, or the faithful expression, of God. The logos that he brings is not his creation, but “the Father’s who sent me” (v. 24).
• Jesus calls us to demonstrate our love by keeping his word. As he reflects God’s image by faithfully obeying God’s will, he calls us to reflect his image by obeying his will.
Love is at the heart of Jesus’ word. Jesus has just given the disciples a new commandment, “that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another” (13:34; see also 14:15; 15:12). Keeping Jesus’ word means, at a minimum, loving one another.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus identifies two great commandments—to love God and to love neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-31), but in this Gospel the only commandment is to love one another.
“we will come to him and make our home (monen) with him” (v. 23b). The Greek word translated home is monen. In verse 2, Jesus promised the disciples a home in heaven, “In my Father’s house there are many monai (dwelling places or rooms). If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you.” In verse 23, he promises that the Father and Son will make their home with us where we are. Therefore, whether in heaven or on earth, God is with us. As Paul says, “if therefore we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).
God’s promise to dwell in the midst of his people has its roots in the Old Testament (1 Kings 8:27; Ezekiel 37:27; Zechariah 2:10), and was displayed visually in the form of the tabernacle and temple. While these buildings were made with human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1), they were nevertheless holy beyond measure, because God dwelt there in the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest is permitted access to the Holy of Holies, and he only once a year, on the Day of Atonement. At Jesus’ death, the veil guarding the Holy of Holies will be rent from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45), signaling that all the people of God, and not just the high priest, have full access to the presence of God.
In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of himself as a temple (Matthew 12:6; John 2:19). Paul speaks of Christians as God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). In this verse, Jesus promises that both he and the Father will “come to (those who love him and keep his word) and make our home with (them).” Just as the Father dwelled in the tabernacle and temple, so also the Father and Son dwell in us.
We say, “Home is where the heart is,” meaning that home is the place where we live with loved ones, a place where we love and are loved in return. Home is where they know us best and love us anyway. In verses 2 and 23, Jesus promises us a place where we love and are loved in return, both here and in heaven. It is quite a promise. Home is where we are with the Lord—and we are with the Lord now—and will be with the Lord forever.
Jesus makes this promise to the church, the community of faith, rather than to individuals. Throughout these verses, “you” is plural (O’Day, 749). This is an important insight for an age that glorifies the individual. We are tempted to celebrate individual spirituality and to downplay the role of the church, but the church is the body of Christ, the agency through which God chooses to dispense blessings and to keep promises. We cannot honor the head (Christ) while despising the body (the church). Cyprian said, “Who has not the Church for mother can no longer have God for father.” His wording might be a little sharp, but only a little.
“He who doesn’t love me doesn’t keep my words. The word which you hear isn’t mine, but the Father’s who sent me” (v. 24). If it is true that those who love Jesus will keep his word, the converse is also true. Those who do not love Jesus will not keep his word—will not obey his new commandment—will not love one another.
JOHN 14:25-26. THE COUNSELOR WILL TEACH YOU ALL THINGS
25“I have said these things to you, while still living with you. 26But the Counselor, (Greek: parakletos) the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.“
“I have said these things to you, while still living with you” (v. 25). Imagine going on a long trip and trying to tell your children or work associates all that they need to know while you are gone. You feel your lips moving and know that you are saying the right words, but it is difficult to imagine that your listeners fully appreciate the import of your instruction. Only later, after they have done the work without your help, will they really understand. It is clear to Jesus that the disciples do not understand, but he must tell them anyway. Later, they will remember his words, and the Holy Spirit will teach them everything and remind them of all that he has said.
“But the Counselor, (parakletos) the Holy Spirit” (v. 26). Jesus assures the disciples that he will not leave them alone. The word, parakletos is translated variously as Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, or Helper, and describes a Spirit who remains at our side forever (v. 16) to represent us, defend us, argue our case, give peace, or provide counsel as needed. Unlike defense lawyers today, who are not responsible for revealing truth but instead must try to secure a favorable verdict for their client, the parakletos whom Jesus introduces here “is the Spirit of truth” (v. 17). The parakletos is someone (a counselor, advocate, helper) called in to help a person in need (Barclay, 194). The Paraclete gives us peace, because we know that our Advocate, Comforter, Counselor, and Helper is always present with us.
“whom the Father will send in my name” (v. 26). The Father sends both the Son and the Spirit (Kostenberger, 442).
The Paraclete/Holy Spirit “will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you” (v. 26). Jesus has taught the disciples a great deal, but they will understand only after the resurrection. Then the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will help them to remember Christ’s teachings and to interpret those teachings for their immediate situation. The Paraclete, the one who stands beside them day and night, will make all things clear.
This is still an encouraging word today. The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, stands beside us to guide us. If we follow, the Spirit leads us to truth. If we obey, the Spirit leads us to life. But the blessings are not automatic. We must follow; we must obey.
JOHN 14:27-29. PEACE, I LEAVE WITH YOU
27“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. 28You heard how I told you, ‘I go away, and I come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I said ‘I am going to my Father;’ for the Father is greater than I. 29Now I have told you before it happens so that, when it happens, you may believe.“
“Peace I leave with you.My peace I give to you” (v. 27a). This is Jesus’ last will and testament. “He had little to leave. Even his clothes would soon be the property of the crucifixion squad of soldiers. But there was one thing he could give—“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you”—a mighty gift indeed” (Gossip, 713). As Jesus will reveal in the next chapter, he will also leave his disciples with love (15:9-10) and joy (15:11).
“Not as the world gives, give I to you” (v. 27b). At this time, the world is enjoying a kind of peace—the pax Romana—the Roman peace. The pax Romana, however, was founded on Roman military prowess, funded by Roman taxation, and maintained by Roman soldiers. It is dominance rather than peace. Many people chaff under Roman rule and want to expel Roman occupiers from their midst, but Rome has the power to crush rebellion—and uses that power ruthlessly.
By contrast, Christ offers real peace. We see it in the lives of those who have entrusted their lives to Christ. We envy their calm strength. Their creed is, “If God is for us, who can be against us,” (Romans 8:31)—and they have peace.
But Jesus does not offer a life without hardship. As he makes this promise, Jesus is on his way to the cross. His disciples will soon face opposition from powerful enemies (Kostenberger, 444).
“If you loved me” (v. 28b). This phrase implies that they do not love him—at least not to the extent that they are focused on his welfare rather than their own.
“you would you would have rejoiced, because I said ‘I am going to my Father'” (v. 28c). Jesus has finished his mission on earth, and is returning to the glory that is his natural heritage. Anyone who truly loves him will rejoice in his return to glory.
“for the Father is greater than I” (v. 28c). Arius will turn this into heresy by denying Jesus’ deity, but it does not confuse anyone who has read Philippians. “Christ Jesus… emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7). Christ accepts the limitations imposed by his humanity. The Father, not subject to these limitations, is greater than the incarnate Jesus.
The inequality, however, is temporary. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus will pray, “Now, Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world existed” (17:5). Paul assures us that this prayer was answered. “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave to him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). In this Gospel, Jesus’ glorification takes place through his death, resurrection, and ascension, which end in his return to the glory from whence he came.
“Now I have told you before it happens so that, when it happens, you may believe” (v. 29). Jesus reveals himself to the disciples and not to the world in his pre-death instruction. The disciples will not fully appreciate the full import of Jesus’ words until the things about which he speaks have taken place. Jesus is laying the foundation so that the disciples will be able to believe once the events about which he is speaking begin to unfold.
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Barclay, William, The Daily Study Bible, “The Gospel of John,” Vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1955)
Beasley-Murray, George R., Word Biblical Commentary: John (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999)
Borchet, Gerald L., New American Commentary: John 12-21, Vol, 25B (Nashville: Broadman Press, 2002)
Brown, Raymond, The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI (Garden City: Doubleday, 1970)
Bruce, F. F., The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983).
Burridge, Richard A., in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Text. The Third Readings: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001)
Carson, D. A., The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991).
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Gossip, Arthur John and Howard, Wilbert F., The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 8 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952)
Howard-Brook, Wes, Becoming the Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship (New York: Maryknoll, 1994).
Kostenberger, Andreas J., Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: John (GrandRapids: Baker Academic, 2004)
Krentz, Edgar, and Vogel, Arthur A., Proclamation 2: Easter, Series C.
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Lindberg, Paul H., Lectionary Bible Studies, “The Year of Luke,” Lent-Easter, Study Book (Augsburg-Fortress, 1976).
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Morris, Leon, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995).
O’Day, Gail R., The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995)
Ridderbos, Herman (translated by John Vriend), The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997)
Sloyan, Gerald, Interpretation: John (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988)
Smith, D. Moody, Jr., Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: John (Nashville: Abingdon, 1999)
Williamson, Lamar, Jr., Preaching the Gospel of John (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004)
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