John 14, 1 through 4, is one of my favorite passages to read at funerals in that it gives much comfort to God's believing people as they think about the life that comes after our physical death. I’m sure these words were a great comfort to Jesus’ disciples who were gathered around Him a short time before He went to the cross.
Verse 1. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.”
The heart is the center of our very being and Jesus wanted to give His assurance to their troubled hearts.
“You believe in God; believe also in Me.” Jesus knew the disciples believed and trusted in God and He told them that to trust in God was to trust in Him also. The things He was about to tell them were coming straight from God.
Jesus was troubled because of what He knew lay before Him, and the disciples were troubled because they didn’t understand what lay before them. In the previous chapter, Jesus had spoken of a severe trial that He would soon face. He also told them that He was going to leave them. That troubled them because they had forsaken all to follow Him. In that same chapter He stated that Peter would deny Him three times.
Verse 2-3. “In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
I love these two verses. Jesus was comforting His disciples. He no doubt was sad at the thought of leaving them, but He was going to His Father’s house to prepare it for them, and if He did that, He would return for them later and take them to be with Him where He was.
The Father's house is heaven. The King James translates it as “mansions.” That’s the part I like.
This passage reflects the Jewish marriage custom where the bridegroom would go to the bride's house to take her to his father's house where he had prepared a place for his bride.
This is a beautiful picture of what Christ has done. As the Bridegroom of the church, He has prepared a place of permanent residence for the church who is His bride. His death and resurrection, along with His ascension, would prepare, or make ready, the place where believers would ultimately join Him.
I don’t believe that Jesus has been constructing a dwelling place for believers in heaven for over 2,000 years. Heaven was already there. He went there to prepare it to receive the believers of all time.
Jesus mentioned He would return several times in this Gospel. One of them would be His return to meet the disciples following His resurrection and before His ascension. John 21:1. “After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias...”
At another time He spoke of His coming to them through the Holy Spirit after His ascension. Then, when Jesus promised to return from heaven to take believers there, He was referring to His bodily return at the rapture. The disciples undoubtedly did not realize that Jesus was speaking here of His bodily return for them at that future time. They looked for His return at the close of the Great Tribulation.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 clarifies that when Jesus returns at the Rapture, He will take His own to heaven immediately. When He returns at the Second Coming, it will be to remain on the earth and reign for 1,000 years.
Jesus did not say, in verse 3, that His future coming to receive believers is so that He can be where they are---on the earth. He said that it is so that they can be where He is-in heaven.
In this chapter of John, the Lord gives a new revelation; He speaks of something which no Old Testament prophet wrote about or understood. Nowhere is it written that the Messiah would come and take His saints to His Father’s house. He is not speaking of the coming deliverance for the Jewish remnant, nor of coming to establish His kingdom over the earth, or to judge the nations. He was speaking of His return to meet the believers of this present dispensation in the air to take them to His Father’s house.
Jesus shows His personal concern for His disciples here. He promised His return would be as certain as His departure. The greatest blessing of heaven for the believer in Christ is going to be his endless personal fellowship with Jesus Christ and not the splendor of the new dwelling place.
Verse 4 “And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Jesus had previously made it plain that He was going to His Father's house and that faith in Him was the way to eternal life (John 3:16). Our salvation was the main theme of His teaching throughout His ministry but even His disciples didn’t seem to fully understand it at this time.
Verse 5. “Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Thomas asked this question but I’m sure the other ten had the same thoughts. Evidently the “Father's house” didn’t clearly identify heaven to them. They didn’t have a clear understanding of their final destination so naturally they weren’t sure of how to get there.
Verse 6. “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
The disciples didn’t understand that Jesus would die for their sins as well as the sins of the world. He had said plainly that He would die and rise again. Mark 8:31. “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Their understanding of the Messiah's earthly ministry, as it is recorded in the Old Testament, didn’t lead them to take His words literally.
Jesus described Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the way to God because He is the truth from God and the life from God. He provides the way of salvation for the sinner through His death on the cross and He is the only way God will accept. He is the truth because He is God in the flesh and God cannot lie. He is the life because He imparts eternal life to all who trust Him for the forgiveness of their sin. Jesus was summarizing in these three words the revelations about Himself that He had already given the disciples.
Jesus did not say that He was one way to God among many. He was not saying that He was showing the sinner the way to God either. He said that “no one comes to God the Father but through faith in Me.”
When Jesus is seen in any role different from the one the Bible gives Him, there is no way it can lead to eternal life for the person with that view. He is the only way to heaven. Acts 4:12. “ Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” It’s only through faith in His dying in our place for our sins that we can enter heaven.
Verse 7. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” The disciples had come to know Jesus in a personal way as a friend, and now He wanted them to realize fully that He was the Son of God and their Savior. When they came to know who Jesus really was, they had come to know God eternally, or “from now on.”
Verse 8. “Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” The disciples didn’t fully understand that Jesus was equal with the Father. They did regard Jesus very highly but they didn’t yet realize that He was the full revelation of God the Father and that to see Jesus was to see the Father.
Philip wanted a clarification on this point and, in effect, He asked ‘are You truly and fully God?’ He was asking for an answer that would remove any doubt from the minds of himself and the other disciples.
People throughout biblical history have wanted to see God as He really is. When Jesus came to earth in the form of a man, He revealed the Father more clearly, fully, and finally than anyone else ever could. Shortly after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, He spoke these words. “Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” John 12:44-45.
Verse 9. “Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Philip and the other disciples had not, as yet, completely realized who Jesus was. They did not understand what John revealed in the beginning of this Gospel, namely, that the Son is the exact representation of the Father. John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Verse10. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.”
Jesus again stated that He and the Father were one without denying the individual identities of the Father and the Son. Jesus didn’t come as an ambassador for God. He did do everything the Father gave Him to do as an ambassador would, and He did everything the Father did. John 5:19. “Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”
Verse 11. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” Another proof that Jesus gave along with His words was His works. He was referring to the many miracles He had performed. Incidentally, what we regard as a miracle was a normal work for Jesus.
Verse 12. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
The “greater works” that men might do would be based on believing that Jesus was the divine Messiah. The basis for these greater works would be His going to the Father, turning His work of spreading the gospel over to the disciples and those who would follow after. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer and the Holy Spirit is the power that enables us to do any and all true works for God.
During Jesus' earthly ministry relatively few people believed on Him. After His ascension, the disciples would do even greater works in that the miracle of regeneration multiplied after Jesus ascended to heaven and the Father sent the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, three thousand people became believers when the gospel was heard by them in their own languages. The Holy Spirit miraculously enabled them to hear what was preached in their own tongue, even though the disciples did not speak in their language.
Jesus’ ministry was mainly confined to Palestine while the disciples and others preached the gospel throughout the Roman Empire during their lifetimes and great numbers of Jews and Gentiles were saved. Many of the greater works Jesus predicted do appear in The Book of Acts. People getting saved is mainly in view here but there were a few miracles of healing recorded. We can’t assume that Jesus meant that these miracles would continue throughout church history as He was speaking directly to the eleven apostles at this time.
Verse 13-14. “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” Jesus made this promise that whatever the disciples might want will be granted as long as it was asked for in His name. Many Christians think that means simply making our request and then adding the phrase “in Jesus' name” at the end.
Jesus said, “whatever you ask in My name, that I will do.” To ask in His name is to pray for what He would pray for. As believers, we need to make sure we understand His will for us and then we have His authority for making the request.
Jesus’ prayed that He would bring glory to His Father. Our prayers should reflect the same desire. In fact, Jesus promised that the Father would be glorified by our prayers in His name.
In this day of God’s grace, believers normally address the God the Father in prayer in the Son's name. This format is not “written in stone.” When we consider the unity of the Godhead there may also be times when we address our prayers to Jesus or the Holy Spirit.
There are times when we properly pray to Jesus in thanksgiving for dying on the cross for our sins. By the same token, we may properly pray to the Holy Spirit to intercede in the case of a non-believer. John 16:7-9 and 13. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me...”
The Holy Spirit is also the teacher that the believer prays to for understanding of the scriptures.
John 14:26. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things,” And, in John 16:13. “.... when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
The last part of this verse, where it says “and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you,” was a promise to those who heard His teaching before the Cross but didn’t understand it until after the Resurrection.
This promise wasn’t totally fulfilled in the age of the apostles. The Holy Spirit continues His teaching ministry today by giving understanding to those who request it in prayer as they study the scriptures.
The Holy Spirit is the true teacher of every Christian and human teachers serve a secondary role. That is why we should rely on the scriptures fully. We need to remember that all commentaries and books are men’s writing, and while they can be helpful in many instances, we need to remember they are written by men. In teaching the scriptures, the scriptures are the fundamental source of information since they contain what Jesus personally taught.
Verse 15. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” This is the first time in John’s Gospel that Jesus has mentioned the love of the believer. We usually read of Jesus reaching out in love with the expectation of the believer returning his or her love to the Savior, but in John 15:17, He commands the believers to love one another. “These things I command you, that you love one another.” Our love for God is in direct proportion to our obedience to His commandment and will motivate the believer to obey Him. 1 John 3:23. “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” Our love for God corresponds to how we conform to all that He has revealed.
Verse 16-17. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Here we have the example of the Trinity working as One. The Son, Jesus, praying to the Father to send the Spirit to indwell the believer.
In verse 17, Jesus identified the Helper as the Spirit of truth, that is, the Spirit who would bear witness to and communicate the truth. This is a distinct ministry of the Spirit in this present age as He indwells the believer.
Jews who had grown up believing that there is but one God would have a hard time understanding this. While the Holy Spirit of God is definitely evident in the Old Testament, it must have been difficult for them to think of the Spirit of God as a Person. The fact that God is evidenced in three distinct Persons is alluded to in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament it is plainly revealed that the Godhead is a Triune Godhead with three distinct Persons within that Godhead.
Verse 18. “ I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” After the Holy Spirit came, the believer’s relationship with God would include the Spirit indwelling all believers for the rest of their lives. This new relationship to the Holy Spirit is one of the greatest differences between the church age and dispensation of law.
In summary, Jesus revealed that He would soon go and prepare the place where the believers would dwell with Him in heaven. He would make this place ready for them by going to the cross, rising from the dead, and ascending to heaven. Then He will return for them and take them to that place. In the meantime He would not leave them without someone to comfort them, He would dwell in them by His Spirit.