John 14 Bible Commentary

John Lightfoot’s Bible Commentary

(Read all of John 14)
1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

[Let not your heart be troubled.] They could not but be exceedingly concerned at the departure of their Master drawing on so very near. But there were other things beside his departure that grieved and perplexed their minds.

I. They had run along with their whole nation in that common expectation, that the kingdom should be restored unto Israel through the Messiah, Acts 1:8. They had hoped to have been rescued by him from the Gentile yoke, Luke 24:21. They had expected he would have entertained his followers with all imaginable pomp and magnificence, splendour and triumph, Matthew 20:20. But they found, alas! all things fall out directly contrary; they had got little hitherto by following him but poverty, contempt, reproach, and persecution: and now that their Master was to leave them so suddenly, they could have no prospect or hope of better things. Is this the kingdom of the Messiah?

Against this depression and despondency of mind he endeavours to comfort them, by letting them know that in his Father's house in heaven, not in these earthly regions below, their mansions were prepared for them; and there it was that he would receive and entertain them indeed.

II. Christ had introduced a new rule and face of religion, which his disciples embracing did in a great measure renounce their old Judaism; and therefore they could not but awaken the hatred of the Jews, and a great deal of danger to themselves, which now (they thought) would fall severely upon them when left to themselves, and their Master was snatched from them.

That was dreadful, if true, which we find denounced: "Epicurus" (that is, one that despises the disciples and doctrine of the wise men) "has no part in the world to come, and those that separate themselves from the customs of the synagogue go down into hell, and are there condemned for all eternity."

These are direful things, and might strangely affright the minds of the disciples, who had in so great a measure bid adieu to the customs of the synagogues and the whole Jewish religion: and for him that had led them into all this now to leave them! What could they think in this matter?

To support the disciples against discouragements of this nature:

I. He lays before them his authority, that they ought equally to believe in him as in God himself: where he lays down two of the chief articles of the Christian faith: 1. Of the divinity of the Messiah, which the Jews denied: 2. As to true and saving faith, wherein they were blind and ignorant.

II. He tells them that in his Father's house were many mansions; and that there was place and admission into heaven for all saints that had lived under different economies and administrations of things. Let not your heart be troubled for this great change brought upon the Judaic dispensation, nor let it disquiet you that you are putting yourselves under a new economy of religion so contrary to what you have been hitherto bred up in; for "in my Father's house are many mansions"; and you may expect admission under this new administration of things, as well as any others, either before or under the law.

2. 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.

[I go to prepare a place for you.] Compare this with Numbers 10:33; "And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, to search out a resting place for them."

6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

[I am the way, the truth, and the life.] Why is this superadded of truth and the life, when the question was only about the way?

I. It may be answered that this was perhaps by a Hebrew idiosyncrasy; by which the way, the truth, and the life, may be the same with the true and living way.

Jeremiah 29:11: To give you an end and hope, or expectation: that is, a hoped or expected end. So Kimchi in loc.; "A good end even as you expect."

II. Our Saviour seems to refute that opinion of the Jews concerning their law, as if it were the way, the truth, and the life, and indeed every thing: and to assert his own authority and power of introducing a new rule of religion, because himself is the way, the truth, and the life, in a sense much more proper and more sublime than the law could be said to be.

It had been happier for the Jew if he could have discerned more judiciously concerning the law; if he could have distinguished between coming to God in the law and coming to God by the law: as also between living in the law and living by the law. It is beyond all doubt, there is no way of coming to God but in his law: for what outlaw, or one that still wanders out of the paths of God's commandments, can come unto him? So also it is impossible that any one should have life but in the law of God. For who is it can have life that doth not walk according to the rule of his laws? But to obtain admission to the favour of God by the law, and to have life by the law; that is, to be justified by the works of the law; this sounds quite another thing: for it is by Christ only that we live and are justified; by him alone that we have access to God.

These are the fictions of the Rabbins: "There was one shewed a certain Rabbin the place where Corah and his company were swallowed up, and, 'Listen,' saith he, 'what they say.' So they heard them saying, Moses and his law are the truth. Upon the calends of every month hell rolls them about, as flesh rolls in the caldron, hell still saying, Moses and his law are truth."

It is, indeed, a great truth, what is uttered in this most false and ridiculous legend, that "the law of Moses is truth." But the Jews might (if they would) attain to a much more sound way of judging concerning the truth of it, and consider that the law is not the sum and ultimate of all truth, but that Christ is the very truth of the truth of Moses: John 1:17, "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."

7. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

[If ye had known me, &c.] It was a very difficult thing to spell out the knowledge of the Messiah from the law and the prophets under the first Temple; but it was doubly more difficult under the second. For, under the first Temple, Moses had only his own veil over him, and the prophets only their own proper and original obscurity: but under the second Temple, the obscurity is doubled by the darkness and smoke of traditions; which had not only beclouded the true doctrines of faith and religion, but had also brought in other doctrines diametrically contrary to the chief and principal articles of faith: those for instance concerning justification, the person, reign, and office of the Messiah, &c.

With what measures of darkness these mists of tradition had covered the minds of the apostles, it is both difficult, and might be presumptuous, to determine. They did indeed own Jesus for the true Messiah, John 1:41; Matthew 16:16: but if in some things they judged amiss concerning his office, undertaking, and government, we must put it upon the score of that epidemical distemper of the whole nation which they still did in some measure labour under. And to this may this clause have some reference, "If ye had known me, and had judged aright concerning the office, undertaking, and authority of the Messiah, ye would, in all these things which I teach and do, have known the will, command, and authority of the Father."

[And from henceforth ye know him.] We may render it, Henceforward therefore know him: "Henceforward acknowledge the Father in all that I have done, brought in, and am to introduce still, and set your hearts to rest in it: believing that you see the Father in me, and in the things that I do."

8. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

[Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.] "When the law was given to Moses, the Israelites saw God in his glory: do thou, therefore, now that thou art bringing in a new law and economy amongst us, do thou shew us the Father, and his glory, and it will suffice us; so that we will have no more doubt about it."

16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

[He shall give you another Comforter.] I. Amongst all the names and titles given to the Messiah in the Jewish writers, that of Menahem, or the Comforter, hath chiefly obtained; and the days of the Messiah amongst them are styled the days of 'consolation.' The names of Messiah are reckoned up, viz. Shiloh, Jinnon, Chaninah, Menahem. And in Jerusalem Berac. we are told how the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem under the name of Menahem.

Luke 2:25; "Waiting for the consolation of Israel." Targumist upon Jeremiah 31:6: "Those that desire or long for the years of consolation to come." This they were wont to swear by, viz. the desire they had of seeing this consolation. So let me see the consolation.

Now, therefore, bring these words of our Saviour to what hath been said: q.d. "You expect, with the rest of this nation, the consolation in the Messiah and in his presence. Well; I must depart, and withdraw my presence from you; but I will send you in my stead 'another Comforter.'"

II. The minds of the disciples at present were greatly distressed and troubled, so that the promise of a Comforter seems more suitable than that of an Advocate, to their present state and circumstances.

17. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

[The Spirit of truth.] Let us but observe how the whole world at this time lay in falsehood and error: the Gentiles under a spirit of delusion; the Jews under the cheat and imposture of traditions: and then the reason of this title of the Spirit of truth will appear; as also how seasonable and necessary a thing it was that such a Spirit should be sent into the world.

26. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

[He shall teach you all things.] So chapter 16:13: "He shall lead you into all truth." Here it might be very fitly inquired, whether any ever, besides the apostles themselves, were "taught all things," or "led into all truth." It is no question but that every believer is led into all truth necessary for himself and his own happiness; but it was the apostles' lot only to be led into all truth necessary both for themselves and the whole church.

30. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.

[The prince of this world cometh.] Seeing this kind of phrase, the prince of this world, was, in the common acceptation of the Jewish nation, expressive of the devil ruling among the Gentiles, it may very well be understood so in these words; because the very moment of time was almost come about, wherein Christ and the devil were to enter the lists for the dominion and government, which of those two should have the rule over the Gentiles.

31. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.

[Arise, let us go hence.] These words plainly set out the time and place wherein our Saviour had the discourse which is contained in this fourteenth chapter. The place was Bethany; the time, the very day of the Passover, when they were now about to walk to Jerusalem.

Those things which Christ had discoursed in chapter 13 were said two nights before the Passover; and that at Bethany, where Christ supped at the house of 'Simon the leper.' He abode there the day following, and the night after; and now, when the feast day was come, and it was time for them to be making towards Jerusalem to the Passover, he saith, Arise, let us go hence. What he did or said the day before the Passover, while he stayed at Bethany, the evangelist makes no mention. He only relates what was said in his last farewell before the paschal supper, and upon his departure from Bethany. All that we have recorded in chapters 15, 16, and 17, was discoursed to them after the paschal supper, and after that he had instituted the holy eucharist.