It is tragic when I read the words of friends and family who take verses and rip them out of context to suit their ends. This is the reason that I am in seminary: to add the weight of respect of letters among men to the explanation of the Word so that some men might actually hear. Today’s passage is from John 14, the first part.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever 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 that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:1-14 ESV)
I saw today, tragically, from some whom I love, the typical “name it, claim it” abuse of verses 12-14. Let us look at this 14th chapter of John with some perspective and see if we can shed some light on the various parts.
First, and most importantly, Jesus is talking to his disciples, men who are following him and yet do not understand at this point of the story why it is that Jesus has come, nor what he is doing. Jesus has just told Peter that Peter will deny Jesus. We have the benefit of hindsight, but we should not lose touch with the context. This chapter is so incredibly dense, that I will have to keep focus on the verse in question, but always in the context of this first statement: Jesus is talking to his remaining eleven disciples.
Starting with the first verse, we run into our first question on translation. Is the phrase Believe in God or You believe in God? So, if Jesus has just informed Peter and the other apostles of Peter’s denial, then when he says to Believe in God, there is a context of denial. This is an imperative, yes; but it is in the context of speaking to a group who clearly do believe in God. So why should Jesus use this imperative?
This chapter is one of the sentinel Trinitarian passages in the Bible. In this first section, Jesus lays out His own unity with and yet separate person from God. In the second section, Jesus will lay out His unity with and yet separate person from the Holy Spirit. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s continue.
Jesus sets up Thomas by saying “…And you know the way to where I am going.” Realize that Jesus has just described metaphorically heaven and yet Thomas, who is just not seeing the point of all of this says. “We don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
This is vitally important point. Even one of the eleven remaining disciples did not know the way, did not know the goal, did not know the purpose of Jesus and His coming into the world, and the manner of His leaving the world. Is it any wonder that we today have such a perverted view of Jesus and His life and ministry? What were the Jews expecting? What did they get instead? This dichotomy of expectation and realization is part of the backdrop of Christianity both then and now. What do we expect and what has actually been realized?
We all know the famous quote of John 14:6. If you don’t, I’m sorry, but we’ll have to come back to that another day. Let us look for now at John 14:7: “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” This is a remarkable statement. He is accusing His disciples of not knowing Him! Look at His audience here: the eleven remaining disciples! If you had known me…. Why does he say this? Remember what we keep saying, context, context, context. This is about Jesus making the claim, over and over again, until He gets it through their thick skulls, that He is from God, He is of God, He is God.
Now comes the big set up for our quoted passage for today. Philip requests that Jesus “show us the Father, and it is enough.” Now, look how this follows on the heels of what Jesus has just said! You have to love the humanity of the Apostles. They have the Real Deal, Jesus Himself, in flesh and blood, standing (or sitting) with them, and they still have ears filled with wax, minds full of worldly clutter, totally incapable of hearing the message right in front of them. It is truly remarkable. Types and shadows, my friends, types and shadows. To the ears of the nonbeliever, all this is foolishness. But to the ears of the believer, these are the Words of Salvation. Look at these words Jesus spoke to the scribes and Pharisees back in John 8:
"But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:45-47 ESV)
Is Jesus comparing His own eleven to the scribes and Pharisees? In a very real sense, yes, He is. We are all condemned to death under Adam. It is not until Jesus arises from the dead, overcoming death and sin, that any one of them gets it! If the Apostles don’t get it despite seeing with their eyes and hearing with their ears, how are we to do so? That is the role of the Holy Spirit, and we are coming to that shortly.
So, what is Jesus’ response to Philip? First, His response is almost incredulous. “How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Really, Philip? Aren’t you listening? “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?” Really Philip? Now, one more time in small words, Philip, and the rest of you, so that you will all understand me plainly. “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
One aside, the word works in this contexts means not just signs and wonders, miracles and healing, and all of the great stuff Jesus does, but much more importantly, all of the teaching that He has done, all of the re-examination of scripture that He has done (and notably will do shortly after His resurrection.) The words that I say to you.... The point of this statement is not the works, the point is to believe that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus.
And now, finally, we are ready for our verses for the day, John 14:12-14.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14 ESV)
Look, you lot, you are the believers. It’s all going to be on your back, because I have to leave very soon. You will have to do works, greater works than what I have done. Now, here, it is very important to look at that word works again in this context. Clearly, Jesus doesn’t mean that they will have to duplicate what He Himself is about to in terms of the resurrection. That much I think we can state as a given. So, there are limits to the scope of these works. What is the point of the works? To demonstrate that the Father is in Jesus and Jesus is in the Father. Does that mean signs and wonders and miracles? Sure, we know that it does. What is the purpose of these signs and wonders and miracles and are they all of what the apostles need to be doing? Works, importantly, specifically and most prominently means to teach, to spread the Word. How do we know this? That’s what Jesus will follow through with in the next section. If the apostles have to do great works, they are going to need a Helper. And Jesus will define the Work of the Helper.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 ESV)
Ah, so remembering and repeating the Words of Jesus is a big time Work. Whatever you, the eleven remaining apostles, ask in My name, this is will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Please, please, please, read that highlighted portion again and again. I know that you will want to highlight the next line, because that is what our fallen minds seek. We want to name it and claim it. But it is not about us, it never has been. It’s all about Jesus, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
That’s enough for today. Go to church, one in which the Word of God is preached from the Bible, in an expository manner, explaining the Word in light of the unfolding mystery of redemptive history, in light of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our only mediator and advocate.
– Troll –