The Lord proceeds to explain why He had now and not before spoken of the things which were then occupying His heart and being made known to the disciples.
“These things I have spoken to you that ye should not be stumbled. They will put you out of the synagogue; nay, an hour is coming that every one who hath killed you will think that he is offering service to God. And these things will they do to you325 because they knew not the Father nor Me. But I have said these things to you, that when the (or, their)326 hour shall have come, ye may remember them that I told you; but these things I told you not from (the) beginning, because I was with you. But now I go (
ὑπάγω) unto Him that sent Me, and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart” (verses 1-6).
Many were to be stumbled among the Jews who looked for anything but sorrow, shame, and groundless hatred to be the portion of those who follow the Messiah. But the Lord graciously considers His own; and while He uses trial for the blessing of the strong, He would shield and strengthen the weak, both by warning them of the world’s undying ill-will and of the Holy Ghost’s coming to add His testimony to theirs in the face of the persecution of the servants as of their Master. How precious what He has thus spoken!
Two forms should be taken to get rid of Christians and their testimony: one in common when men affect the utmost zeal for Divine authority and holiness; the other open to individuals even to the extreme point of death to extinguish malefactors not fit to live. “They will put you out of the synagogue; nay, an hour cometh that every one that hath killed you will think that he is offering service to God.” Impossible to conceive rancour more deadly, yet sanctioned by all, than that anyone who liked might take on himself (though not without the seal and law of authority) to kill a follower of Christ, not only with impunity, but claiming therein to do a religious service to God.294 Saul of Tarsus furnishes a notable example of this till sovereign grace chose him to bear the Lord’s name before all and to suffer great things for His sake.
Doubtless there is a disposition in men generally to fight for their religion, whatever it be. But a special reason gives intensity to the world’s, and in particular to the Jews’, enmity to Christians. Any measure of truth possessed is to the flesh the most powerful motive for disliking and resenting that which claims fuller light; and Christianity cannot but confess the truth in all its fulness in Christ by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. He who confesses the Son has the Father also; as he is the antichrist who denies both (1 John 2:23). And this is what the proud unbelief of Judaism ever tends to when confronted with the testimony of Christ. They set their partial and preparatory knowledge against that complete revelation which could not be till He came Who shows the Father, and accomplished everlasting redemption. How blessed for the babes of God’s family that, if what they heard from the beginning abides in them, they too shall abide in the Son and in the Father!
And as it was with the Jew, so it is with every ecclesiastical system of Christendom itself, which in order to embrace the greatest possible number contents itself with the least and lowest confession, and hence is exposed to the snare of the devil in setting itself against all that go beyond the Christian alphabet. So even the Reformed bodies settled themselves on what their founders learnt on emerging from Popery, and oppose as innovation all that working of the Spirit which recalls to the fulness of Christ in the written word that was long before either the Reformation or Popery. They, too, persecuted when they had any confidence in their own confessions; till of late they have become so honeycombed with the indifference or the activity of scepticism that they care too little for anything to persecute anybody.294a But where there is a real holding fast of such a measure of traditional truth as arrogates the name of orthodoxy, there is always a jealousy of the action of the Spirit which insists on Christ more richly known with fresh power to men’s hearts, and, consequently, claiming exercise of faith.
So the Jew set the unity of the Godhead to deny the Father and the Son and the Spirit; so men now resist the truth of the one body and one Spirit, devoted to the fleshly unity of Rome, or boasting of the active rivalry of Protestant societies. But the more they hold even truth itself in a measure as a form the less willing are they to allow the activity of the Spirit by God’s word as a whole. “And these things will they do, because they knew not the Father nor Me.” Yet to know both is eternal life, which every Christian characteristically has by the Gospel, though the most advanced is marked by deepening acquaintance with Him that is from the beginning. When and where idols reigned, it needed the energy of grace to turn to God, the living and true; where God was making Himself known in the Son, flesh might avail itself of old truth no longer contested nor costing any sacrifice, and have its tongue set on fire of hell to blaspheme the full revelation which tests actual faith and faithfulness, and seek to exterminate those who testified it. The principle holds good in small things as well as in the greatest, and now as ever.
But as the Lord thus prepared the disciples for harsher things from the professing people of God than from men wholly ignorant, so now He lets them know what they must suffer, that they might gather comfort even in that hour by remembering His words. As the trial that came to pass was known to Him and made known to them, now they could trust His assurance of love and blessing, of deliverance and glory. Besides, He explains why He had not told of these things before. He was with them, their shield and Paraclete; and what need was there to say a word ? But as He was about to leave them, it was well, and would help all to work for good.
“But now I go unto Him that sent Me, and none of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou [back]? But because I have said these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart.” This sorrow was more of nature than of faith. No wonder it surprised them to hear of their Divine Master leaving them with such a prospect before them, with so little manifestation of the effects of His coming in the world or even in Israel. And they had forsaken their all and followed Him: what could it mean? He had already assured them that He would not leave them orphans, but was coming to them. Had faith been simpler, they would have not only counted on His loving care of them, but have asked whither He was going, and have learnt its bearing on His glory and their blessing. It is ignorance of His mind which fills the heart with sorrow at His words, for they are spirit and life, though we may need to wait on God in order to lay hold on them intelligently.295 But the Lord proceeds to bring out all clearly in what follows.
This leads the way to the main distinctive truth the Lord is intimating, the presence and action of the Holy Ghost when sent down from heaven. The Son would send Him.
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is profitable for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Paraclete will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (verse 7).
The Lord had told them before, that had they loved Him, they would have rejoiced because He said, I go unto the Father. What was it not for the humbled, holy, and suffering Son of man to quit the scene of His unequalled sorrows for His Father’s presence on high? Now He shows the connection of His departure with their fresh and deeper blessing. It might seem, to them especially, strange to say, that the loss of His bodily presence should be their gain. But so it was to be. The truth is not what seems, but the manifestation of what really is; nor is it found in the first man, but in the Second; nor can we know it but by the Spirit. Now it was to be established and enjoyed more than ever. For Christ going to heaven on the ground of accomplished redemption, thence to send the Holy Spirit to the saints on earth. It was profitable for them, then, that Christ should go away. He Who alone effectuates any spiritual good would not otherwise come. God’s will must first be done (Heb. 10:5-10).
And now that the Lord was going above, having obtained eternal redemption, the Holy Spirit was not only to work as He had never before wrought in the children of men or in the children of God, but was to come personally296 and undertake the entire charge and business of the disciples. For this is the meaning of
παράκλητος, which our “Comforter”327 imperfectly represents. He had come in person to abide in Jesus; He had sealed the Son of man; He had anointed Him with power. None else could have Him thus till God’s judgment of sin had taken its course in the cross. Not that compassion or fidelity of goodness, or any other form or way of Divine love had been lacking in times past; but this presence of the Spirit could not be till then. Jesus at His baptism had the Spirit thus descending and abiding on Him, and this as the perfect Man without blood-shedding, for He knew no sin. But others were sinners, and those who believed had a sinful nature, notwithstanding their believing. The flesh still remained, and they are contrary to each other. Here comes in the efficacy of Christ’s work. God was then and there glorified even as to sin in His cross. His blood cleanses from all sin. God “made Him to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” Not only were the bad fruits gone, but the evil root that bore them was judged and sentence executed. Hence could the Spirit come and dwell in us as never before, not as if we were better than the saints of past ages, but in virtue of Christ’s death and its infinite value in God’s eyes, and in pursuance of Divine counsel.
This, then, is the distinctive character of Christianity. It is not the kingdom, Christ reigning in Jehovah, power and glory, and the Spirit poured out upon all flesh, but Christ departing to be in heaven, and the Spirit as Paraclete sent and abiding with the saints on earth.
“And when come, He will afford proof to the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness, because I go unto My (or the)328 Father, and ye behold Me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is (or hath been) judged” (verses 8-11).
The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him. He is the object of neither sense nor intellect. Whatever the effects or displays of His energy, He abides invisible in Himself and outside the ken of the world. But the saints know Him, and that their bodies are His temple; even as they by Him know all else that they really know. God has revealed to us by His Spirit what is beyond human intelligence as such; for the Spirit searches all things, yea, His depths; and just as the spirit of man knows the things of a man, even so the things of God none knows but the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:11.) And Him we as Christians have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God, that we might know the things that are freely given us of God. And not only so, but they are communicated in words by Him, and received by His power in the believer, as truly as they are by Him revealed: all is by the Holy Spirit of God.
Here we have His present relation, not to the saints, but to that world which is outside. And the Lord tells us that, when come, He
ἐλέγξει the world. It is difficult to convey justly the force of this. “Reprove,” as in the Authorised Version, is too narrow a meaning, if not false. “Rebuke” is here out of the question. “Convict” hardly applies, even to the first, not at all to the second and third clauses; and supposes an effect produced which may not really be in any case. Nor is one satisfied with “convince,” save in the sense of affording proof by His presence, rather than by His action. For by His coming and abiding in the saints, apart from the world, He gives it demonstrative proof of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
The law dealt with Israel as those under it. But now it is the Spirit Who demonstrates the “sin” of the world; and this not because they violate that Divine measure of a man’s duty, but because they reject the Son of God: “of sin, because they believe not on Me.” He had come in grace; to reject this was fatal. It is not merely failure in obligation, but despite of God’s love. Such is the true and actual gauge of the world before God, Who tests and proves the guilt of the whole system which opposes Him by its unbelieving ignorance and refusal of His Son, spite of the fullest testimony. This is the sin demonstrated.297
Further, He affords demonstration of “righteousness.” Where is this? In the race or first man? On the contrary, there is none righteous, no, not one. And as for the Righteous One, even Jesus, He, as we have seen, was despised and rejected of men, by none so keenly as by the Jews, but in fact and to the uttermost by the world. Where, then, is the Spirit’s proof of righteousness? “Because I go to My (or the) Father, and ye behold Me no more.” Righteousness is on God’s part only. Man condemned and killed the Just One; God raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand. The Son “going to the Father” is the standing witness of righteousness there, and not here. For man He Who came into the world in love is clean gone. They would not have Him, and “ye behold Me no more.” He returns for the world as Judge; but this is a wholly different and most solemn affair. But He is lost to men according to His presence in grace as at His first Advent; all is closed with His mission to the world as He came. And the Spirit testifies and demonstrates only Divine righteousness in Him on high, and man lost in casting out Him no longer to be seen as before here below.298
But, again, the Spirit gives proof of “judgment”; and this, “because the prince of this world is (or hath been) judged.” Here again it is not a question of the kingdom in power and glory when Jehovah shall punish the host of the high ones on high, as well as put down the kings of the earth upon the earth, and slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isa. 24:21; Isa. 27:1.) The Christian knows what will be for the earthly people’s deliverance and the joy of all nations, but he sees already by faith that Satan is judged in Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension, The Holy Ghost sums up all in Christ’s Person; and this is the grand demonstration for the world. Its ruler is already judged in rejecting Him Who made known the Father, glorified God, and is glorified of God. All is closed for the world in Him Who came in love, and is gone up in righteousness. The ruler of the world is judged in His cross.
Men are apt to err doubly in their estimate of the Holy Spirit’s relation to us. They either overlook the immense effect of His presence and teaching, or they attribute to Him what may be the mere fruit of natural conscience and diffused information. Our Lord here puts in His own perfect way what the Spirit would do as sent down from heaven, not now in external demonstration to the world, but in the positive blessing and help of the disciples.
“I have yet many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear (them) now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, shall have come, He will guide you in329 (or into) all the truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but whatever330 He shall hear331 He will speak; and He will announce to you the things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will receive of Mine, and will announce (it) to you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: on this account I said, that He receiveth332 of mine, and will announce (it) to you” (verses 12-15).
It has been repeatedly shown-and in this chapter most expressly-that the presence of the Spirit depended on the departure of Christ to heaven, consequent on accomplished redemption. This changed the entire groundwork, besides morally fitting the saints for the new truth, work, character, and hope of Christianity. The disciples were not ignorant of the promise that the Spirit should be given to inaugurate the reign of the Messiah. They knew the judgment under which the chosen people abide “until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest”; (Isa. 32:15) so vast outwardly, no less than inwardly, the change when God puts forth His power for the kingdom of His Son. They knew that He will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh; not only the sons and daughters, the old and young of Israel, enjoying a blessing far beyond all temporal favours, but the servants and the handmaidens-in short, all flesh, and not the Jews alone, sharing it. (Joel 2:29.)
But here it is the sound heard when the great High Priest enters into the sanctuary before Jehovah, and not only when He comes out for the deliverance and joy of repentant Israel in the last days. It is the Spirit given when the Lord Jesus went on high, and by Him thus gone. For this they were wholly unprepared, as, indeed, it is one of the most essential characteristics of God’s testimony between the rejection and the reception of the Jews; and the Spirit, when given, was to supply what the then state of the disciples could not bear. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God (and He is a spirit, not of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind), besides the incalculable facts of Christ’s work in death, resurrection, and ascension, to which He testifies. Truly the Lord had many things to say reserved for the Holy Ghost, when the disciples had their consciences purged and could draw near boldly into the holies, and a Man glorified in heaven furnished the meet occasion for the display of all that is in God, even for the secret hid in God before all worlds, of which not John or any other than the Apostle Paul was to be the administrator.
But be the instrument who it might, when the Spirit of Truth is come, as the Lord intimates here, “He will guide you into all the truth,” or “in” it all as the Sinaitic, Cambridge (D), and Parisian (L) uncials with other authorities have it. For this two main grounds are given, besides His necessary competency as a Divine Person. First, He does not act independently, but fulfilling the mission on which He is sent expressly. “For He will not speak from Himself, but whatever He shall hear, He will speak; and He will announce to you the things to come.” Secondly, His prime object is to exalt the Lord Jesus, and therefore He will assuredly make this good in testimony to the disciples. “Me He will glorify, for He will receive of mine and announce (it) to you.”
The reader must guard against the popular error, easily suggested by the Authorised Version of verse 13, as if the sense meant were that the Spirit shall not speak about Himself. For it is neither true as a fact, nor is it of course intended here. The Spirit largely speaks concerning Himself in this Gospel, and particularly in the section we are examining. So He does in Rom. 8; in 1 Cor. 2, 12; in 2 Cor. 3; in Eph. 1, 2, 3, 4, and many other parts of Scripture. This makes it the more strange that even the simplest have not learnt the meaning here to be, that He shall not speak from Himself, but, as the next clause explains, whatever He shall hear He will speak. As the Son came not to act independently, whatever might be His glory, but to serve His Father; so the Spirit is come to serve the Son, and whatever He shall hear, He will speak.299
But there is more. Not only can He speak of the Son in heaven as Himself sent down by Him, and thus bear the highest testimony to His intrinsic dignity and the new position Christ is in there, but He has not ceased to be the Spirit of prophecy. On the contrary, He would thus work abundantly in view of the world’s total ruin and the blessing that waits on the Lord’s return. “And He will announce to you the things to come.” The prophetic word is found largely in the New Testament, not only in the Gospels, but also in the Epistles, but most of all in the wonderful book of Revelation. And the effect was immense in detaching the saints from the world as under judgment, however this might tarry. They knew these things before, and thus held fast their own steadfastness. Nevertheless prophecy as occupied with the earth, even though it go on to the kingdom of God there, is but a small and even inferior part of the Spirit’s testimony, however astonishing in man’s eyes and precious in itself.
Christ’s own glory, now on high, is the direct object; and this in every way. “Me He will glorify, for He will receive of Mine and will announce (it) to you.” And here also all is in contrast with Messianic light or earthly dominion, however just and great. “All things that the Father hath are mine: on this account I said that He receiveth of Mine and will announce (it) to you.” He is sent down to glorify not the Church but Christ, and this by receiving and reporting what is Christ’s (and all the Father has is His), not by exaggerating man’s importance or allowing the will of man. Thus it was not only the universe which God had created, but the new creation also in relationship with the Father, and this even specifically.
But there is another intimation needful to press the “little while” with its issues of sorrow and joy.
“A little while and ye behold Me not:333 and again a little while and ye shall see300 Me (because I go away unto the Father).334 (Some) therefore of His disciples said one to another, What is this which He saith to us, A little while and ye behold Me not: and again a little while and ye shall see Me, and because I go away [back] to the Father They said therefore, What is this that He saith, the335 little while? We know not what He speaketh. Jesus knew (therefore336) that they wished to ask (
ἐρωτᾶν) Him, and said to them, Do ye inquire of this one with another because I said, A little while, and ye behold Me not; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me? Verily, verily, I say to you, Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; 337ye shall be grieved, but your grief shall be turned into joy. The woman, when she bringeth forth, hath grief because her hour is come; but when she shall give birth to the child, she no longer remembereth the affliction for the joy that a man was born into the world. And ye therefore now have grief, but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no one taketh from you” (verses 16-22).
The “little while” in any and every sense was a strange sound to Jewish ears; so was His going away to the Father. It is no question here of their lost Messiah, the suffering Son of man. This of course is true and important in its place, and fully treated in the closing scenes of the Synoptic Gospels. But here we see and hear the conscious Son of God, a man, but a Divine Person Who had come from, and was now going back to, the Father. We need especially to be in the spirit of this to estimate the “little while,” and indeed Christianity, in contradistinction to what was and what will be. The resurrection brought the disciples into the intelligence of this “little while,” though it may not be all out till He comes again. The Jew thought nothing more certain than that the Christ when He came would abide for ever. The “little while” was therefore another enigma which His death and ascension cleared up, and the Spirit subsequently showed to be bound up with all that is characteristic of the present work of God for the glory of Christ. We anticipate by faith what will come, and manifestly at His appearing.300b
Nothing can be more marked than the Lord’s avoidance here of introducing His death as such; and it is all the more striking because it is so prominent in chapters 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12. Here no doubt it underlies all, and poor indeed had been the joy without His infinite sorrow on the cross. But that solemn hour is here passed over thus: “A little while, and ye behold Me not; and again, a little while, and ye shall see me. Verily, verily, I say to you, Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; ye shall be grieved, but your grief shall be turned into joy.” This was surely true when He rose after His brief absence, as it will be fully verified when He comes for them never to part more.301 And this He illustrates by the most familiar of all figures of sorrow issuing in joy (verses 21, 22). The absence of the Lord is to the world getting rid of Him; but even now His resurrection is a joy which none takes away. What will it be when He comes to receive us to Himself?
The Lord proceeds to set forth yet more fully the blessing and privilege which should flow from His going to heaven, and so bringing out the Father’s love to them.
“And in that day ye shall ask302 me nothing; verily, verily, I say to you,338 Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father, He will give you in My name.339 Hitherto ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (verses 23, 24).
It is well known that the Greek words we are well-nigh obliged to translate “ask” in verse 23 are not the same, the first (
ἐρωτάω) being expressive rather of familiar entreaty, the second (
αἰέω) of lowly petition. Hence, while our Lord often in this Gospel employs the former in His requesting the Father on behalf of the disciples, never does He use the latter. However low He may go down in grace, He is ever the conscious Son of God in flesh, but none the less a Divine Person; whilst Martha shows her slight appreciation of His glory by supposing that He might fitly and successfully appeal to God after a suppliant sort (John 11:22) 302a.
But it seems too strong to say that every competent judge admits that “ye shall ask” of the first half of the verse has nothing to do with “ye shall ask” of the second; or that in the first Christ is referring back to the desire of the disciples in verse 19 to question Him. So Euthymius Z., as well as the Vulgate and a crowd of moderns from Beza to Trench, including many German and British theologians. But though the word
ἐρωτάω occurs often in the New Testament, and even in this chapter, with the ordinary classical sense of “question” (interrogo), it is used quite as often or more so for “requesting” or “beseeching,” etc. (rogo), as in the LXX., and thus like our English “ask,” which means “to request” no less than “to question” or “inquire.” Inquiring of God in Old Testament phrase approaches, in fact, nearer to prayer for any one or thing than to a question. It seems, then, that varying the English word is not the true solution, though obvious enough on the surface, and that the earlier Greek commentators were nearer the truth, save Origen, who, like later errorists, perverted the passage to deny the propriety of praying to our Lord, thus flatly contradicting the early disciples (Acts 1:24), Stephen (Acts 7:59), and the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:8). In matters which concern His service and His Church it is even more proper, according to Scripture, to pray to Him than to the Father, to Whom we instinctively turn for all that concerns the family of God in general.
The Lord is really signifying the great change from recourse to Him as their Messiah on earth for every difficulty, not for questions only, but for all they might want day by day, to that access unto the Father into which He would introduce them as the accepted Man and glorified Saviour on high. Till redemption is known, and the soul by grace is set in righteousness, even believers are afraid of God, and hide, as it were, behind Christ. They draw near in spirit, as the disciples did actually, to Him Who in love came down from heaven to bless and reconcile them to God. But they do not really know what it is to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace. They are not in the distinct consciousness of children before their Father, enjoying liberty in Christ by the Spirit of adoption.
This, then, appears to me what the Lord gives the disciples to know should follow His Resurrection and departure “in that day”: a day already come, the day of grace, not of glory, save so far as we enter in by virtue of Him Who is gone above and sent the Spirit thence to be in us. He had already and fully told them what the Spirit of truth would do in guiding them into all the truth (verses 12-15). Here He substitutes access to the Father for everything in prayer, instead of personal requests to Himself as their Master, ever ready to help on earth. It is not a question, then, of a declaration of being so taught of the Spirit as to have nothing further to inquire, but of no longer having One at hand to Whom they had been in the habit of appealing for each difficulty as it rose. The departing Son of God would draw out confidence of heart in the Father.
Hence the solemnity of making known their new resource. “Verily, verily, I say to you, Whatsoever (or, If) ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give you (in My name).” The text differs in the manuscripts and other authorities; but the best of them place “in My name” after the assurance that the Father will give, not after the saints asking the Father as in the common text, which, however, is best supported by the ancient versions.340 There can be no doubt, as we shall see presently, that the saints are encouraged and entitled in the value of the revelation of Christ to prefer their requests to the Father; but, if the more ancient reading holds in verse 23,341 we have the collateral truth that He gives in virtue of that name whatsoever they shall ask Him. How blessed and cheering to the saints! What pleasure to the Father and honour to the Son! The rejection of the Messiah only turns to His greater glory and better blessings for His own.
And this is followed up in verse 24: “Hitherto ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be fulfilled.” The importance of this can hardly be exaggerated: I do not mean as bearing merely on the use of the blessed prayer given long before to the disciples, but on the broader question of their approaching new relationship, and standing by redemption and the gift of the Spirit. On the face of the words, however, it is plain that to use that prayer is not to ask the Father in Christ’s name. The disciples were, no doubt, in the habit of using it day by day; yet up to the present they had asked nothing in His name. Now, so to ask the Father in the Son’s name is alone Christian prayer in the true and full sense. Those, therefore, who insist on going back to the prayer of the disciples fail to enter into the new place on which the Lord here sets all that are His. It may be reverently meant; but is it the faith which really enters into God’s mind and honours the Master? I trow not. As a prayer to be used when the disciples knew not how to pray it was perfection; as a model, it abides ever full of depths of instruction. But the Lord, now at the end of His career here below, lets them know the shortcoming in ground and object of their previous petitions, and tells them what should be their appropriate character in future through their new blessing at hand, through redemption and ascension.
It would have been out of season and presumptuous for the disciples in the past to have drawn near to the Father as the Son did, Who, in His wisdom and goodness, gave them a prayer perfectly suited to their then state when the atoning work was not yet done, and the Holy Ghost accordingly not given. But now, as we have already seen so often in this context, consequent on Christ’s glorifying God on earth by death and going up on high, the Holy Ghost would come to be in and with them. And this is the great result Godward, as we have already seen much saintward: they should ask in Christ’s name; and they are called to ask and receive, that their joy might be full. Life in Christ would go forth in suited desires, to which the Holy Ghost would impart power as well as intelligence; and assuredly, with such a ground and motive before Him as the Son of man Who had devoted Himself at all cost to His glory, the Father would fail in nothing on His part. Their joy would indeed be at the full.
“These things have I spoken to you in proverbs (allegories): an hour303 cometh when I shall speak no longer to you in proverbs, but openly report342 to you about the Father. In that day ye shall ask (
αἰτήσεσθε) in My name, and I say not to you that I will request (
ἐρωτήσω) the Father for you; for the Father Himself dearly loveth you because ye have dearly loved Me, and have believed that I came out from (
παρὰ) God.343 I came out from344 the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world and proceed unto the Father” (verses 25-28).
It is owing, I presume, to the large and various meaning of the Hebrew mashal that we have in Greek
παροιμία as well as
παραβολὴ used correspondingly not only in the LXX., but in the New Testament, the Synoptic Gospels always using the latter, John only the former, as in John 10 and here. Perhaps “allegory” might be more appropriate, or even a “dark saying” in our chapter where parable or allegory can scarcely apply. A close examination of the usage will prove that both Greek words are employed with considerable latitude in the four Gospels, as elsewhere.
Here the Lord was conscious that what He uttered fell like enigmas on the ears of the disciples. His plain declaration or report about the Father would clear up all in due time. What did not His Resurrection? and His appearances and converse from the first to the last of His forty days’ intercourse, as well as His ascension? Take alone the message through Mary of Magdala on the first day of the week. Did He not plainly declare about the Father, His and theirs? Was not His God and their God a deep intimation of blessing? But, above all, when He testified by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, did not the truth shine out more than ever? He made known to them His Father’s name then; He was to make it known when gone above (John 17:26), and did so only more effectively from thence.
This also turned (as was intended) to their increasing sense of the value of Christ’s own name. “In that day ye shall ask (
αἰτ.) in My name.” Asking in His name is not merely for Christ’s sake as a motive, but in the value of Himself and His acceptance. His worth goes in its fulness to the account of those who thus plead; and how precious and all-prevailing it is in the Father’s eyes! How glorifying to both the Father and the Son! How humbling and no less strengthening to the saints themselves! It is the title of every Christian now; none ever enjoyed it before. Never was there a soul blessed on earth apart from Him and His work foreseen; but this is known nearness and acceptance applied even to our petitions in virtue of Himself fully revealed when His work was done and accepted in infinite efficacy.
“And I say not that I will request (
ἐρωτ.) Father for you, for the Father Himself loveth you dearly, because ye have loved Me dearly, and have believed that I came out from God.” This is another of those sentences over which not men and scholars, but saints also, stumble, because many a believer even is not enjoying the truth of it; and what John’s Gospel and Epistles treat of must be really entered into to be understood. This verse 26 not more denies Christ’s intercession for us than verse 23 forbids the servant praying to His Lord about His work or His house. It is not an absolute statement, nor is there the smallest need to apply the technical device of “Præteritio,” as it is called, so as to convey, not a negation, but a strong affirmation. Thus it would mean, “I need not assure you that I will request the Father for you.” But it is simply an ellipse, which the words following explain: I do not say that I wild request the Father for you, as if He did not love you; for the Father Himself (
προπριο μοτυ) does love you dearly, etc. This, too, accounts for the words of special affection,
πεφιλ., which follow. It was grace, the Father’s drawing, which brought them to hear the voice of the Son and believe on Him; yet does the Lord speak of the Father’s dearly loving them and of their having dearly loved Him, to Whom they clung truly, however feebly.304 They had believed that He came out from God. They truly believed that He was the Christ of God, and was born of God. It was Divine teaching and grace as far as it went.305
But this was far short of the full truth which He proceeds to reveal: “I came out from the Father, and am come into the world; again I leave the world and proceed unto the Father.” Here they were altogether short. They realised as yet little or nothing of His full, Divine, and eternal glory as the Son of the Father. God the Father was fully revealed, no doubt, in the Son; but the presence and power of the Spirit, personally sent down, was needed to give them communion with Him thus made known. It is this which, when the conscience is purged, brings into happy liberty. Here, then, is what so many saints are still ignorant of, in the state of their souls pretty much where the disciples then were; for though they may see rather better the glory of the Son, they fail to see in Him and His work their title to rest in the Father’s love.
It is striking to remark the contrast throughout this series of discourses with the Synoptic Gospels. In these Christ’s death is made most prominent; here it is going away to the Father. How true to the design the Holy Spirit impressed on the narrative of John!
It would be difficult to find a verse of John which presents more tersely and completely, too, the character of his Gospel than the one we have just had before us; nor one less really apprehended now, as then, by the disciples. His Divine relationship and mission from the Father stand clearly revealed on earth before they join Him on high. His presence as man in the world, no less than His quitting the world, and going to the Father, none the less the Son now become man, with the immense results of all this for God, and more especially for the saints. These great truths wholly transcend all Messianic glory which as yet filled the minds of His followers, who proved how little they knew by the very fact that they thought they knew all clearly.
“His disciples say (to Him),345 Behold, now Thou talkest with openness and speakest no parable. Now we know that Thou knowest all things, and hast no need that one ask thee: herein we believe that Thou didst come out from God” (verses 29, 30). Their own language betrayed them. Simple as His words were, they had not taken in their depth. They had no conception of the mighty change from all they had gathered of the kingdom as revealed in the Old Testament to the new state of things that would follow His absence with the Father on high and the presence of the Spirit here below. It sounded plain to their ears; but even up to the Ascension they feebly, if at all, caught a glimpse of it. They to the last clung to the hopes of Israel, and these, surely, remain to be fulfilled another day. But they understood not this day, during which, if the Jews are treated as reprobate, even as He was rejected of them, those born of God should in virtue of Christ and His work be placed in immediate relationship with the Father. His return to the Father was a parable still, though the Lord does not correct their error, as, indeed, it was useless: they would soon enough learn how little they knew. But at least even then they had the inward consciousness that He knew all, and, as He penetrated their thoughts, had no need that any should ask Him. “Herein we believe that Thou camest out from God.” Undoubtedly: yet how far below the truth He had uttered is that which they were thus confessing! The Spirit of His Son sent into their hearts would give them in due time to know the Father; as redemption accomplished and accepted could alone lay the needful ground for it.306
“Jesus answered them, Just now do ye believe? (or ye believe).307 Behold, an hour cometh, and346 is come, that ye should be scattered, each unto his own,308 and leave Me alone; and I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things have I spoken to you that in Me ye may have peace. In the world ye have347 tribulation; but be of good courage: I have overcome the world” (verses 31-33).
Their faith was real, but they were shortly to show how small it would be proved to be in the hour of trial already come. If doubt is never justifiable, it is good in our weakness to live in constant dependence. When strong in our own eyes, we are weak indeed; when weak, we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus. But oh, what a Saviour! and what disciples! They scattered to their own, and He left alone in the hour of His deepest need! Would any heart but His own have hastened to add, after such desertion on their part, “and I am not alone, because the Father is with Me”? Could any but Himself have added, especially to such saints and under such circumstances, “These things have I spoken to you, that in Me ye may have peace”? or have given such solid ground for it, at the very moment of contemplating their present portion of trouble in the world? “Be of good courage: I have overcome the world.” As Christ alone could so feel and bless, so are these words worthy of Him; and one knows not whether to admire most their Divine authority or their matchless grace and suitability to our need here below. As He is absolutely what He also speaks, so He speaks what He is to the unfailing comfort of the believer.
Strikingly characteristic of our Gospel is the omission of the sorrows of Gethsemane,308a and yet more of God’s abandoning Him on the cross. Neither fell in with that account of Him which sets forth the glory of His Person, Whose it was to do the will of Him Who sent Him, and to finish His work. Others bring out His complete rejection and humiliation, the service He rendered, and the depth of His sympathy as the perfect Man. John sees, hears, and records the Son above all circumstances, the object and the revealer of the Father, even when that sorrow came which scattered them, and that forsaking of God which was unfathomable save to Himself.
With all before Him He spoke what He did here, that in Him they might have peace; and so He walked Himself. In the world tribulation was to be their portion, not as for the Jew retributively at a specified and measured hour (Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21; Mark 13:19) at the time of the end, or even preparatorily meanwhile (Luke 21:22-24), but habitually for those not of the world, and hence a prey in it. Yet are they called to courage, as knowing Him Whom they have believed, His glory and His grace Who has overcome the world. What a spring and cheer, that we have to overcome a foe already overcome! He indeed alone; we looking to Him Who gives power for all things. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:5.)309
324 [Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 543-556.]
325 Text. Rec.
ὑμῖν, “to you,” with DL, etc., a few cursives [33 in the form
προς ὑμᾶς (cf. John 15:21)] and versions, but the mass of manuscripts and oldest versions omit.
αὐτῶν, “their,” AB
Πpm, etc., but the great majority [including D
327 It is striking to see how almost all the ancient translators felt compelled to adopt rather than to render the Greek word; for so it is in languages different as the Syriac, the Sahidic, and the Memphitic, the Latin (odd Itala as well as Vulgate), the Æthiopic, the Arabic, the Gothic, and the Persian. The Armenian gives “Comforter,” followed by Georgian and the Sclavonic, and, it would seem, by the Anglo-Saxon in its own way, and certainly by Wiclif and his disciple-translator; but they have “Advocate,” like the Vulgate, Syrr., etc., in 1 John 2:1.
328 BDL, some cursives and versions, omit
μου, “my” which the rest add.
ομ. πάσῃ) DL , etc. [Tisch.], but ABY, etc.,
εἰς τ. ἀ. π., [Treg. and later Edd.], while the mass [
ΓΔΛΠ, etc.] have, with Text. Rec.,
εἰς. π. τ. ἀ.
330 Many add
331 Text. Rec.
ἀκούσῃ with most,
ἀκούσει BDEpm HY [Treg.];
ἀκούει L, etc. [most Edd.].
λήφεται Text. Rec., but
λαμβάνει the best and most numerous.
οὐκέτι, “no more,” is read by BDgr, etc. [W. and H., Weiss, etc.] but
οὐ Text. Rec., with most [as Blass], BDL, and other good authorities, omitting the last clause, although it is added by some fourteen uncials, most cursives, and many ancient versions [Syrsin pesch jer Cod Brix, and other old Latt.].300a
335 BLY, etc. [Treg., W. and H.], omit the article, contrary to the mass [Weiss, Blass, after Tisch.].
336 BDL, etc. [Edd.], omit
οὖν, contrary to most.
337 Text. Rec., with most, adds
ὅτι (Text. Rec. after very many) is not in some of the best, and for
ὅσα ἂν, “whatsoever,” Text. Rec., supported by most;
ἐάν τι BCDLY, etc.; or
ὃ ἂν ;
ὃ ἑὰν X
ἐν τῶ ὀν. μου, after “the Father,” ACcorr.D, etc., and Text. Rec.; but at the end a BCpmLXY
Δ, etc. [Edd.].
340 [ BCpmLXY
Δ, Orig., Cyr., place the words after “give,” whilst Ccorr.D, Syrr., old Latt., have “them” after “Father.” Blass follows other Edd. in reading, as in , etc.]
341 [The words
ἄν τι, instead of
ὅτι ὅδα ἄν of Text. Rec.]
342 ABCpmDKL MNXY
ἀπαγγ, “report”, others
ἀναγγ. “announce,” as in verses 13, 14, 15.
θεοῦ pmA and most MSS. and versions [as Syrsin];
πατρὸς BCpmDLX, etc. How singularly biassed was Tregelles to edit the latter, being plainly inconsistent with the context! The edition of W. and H. follows Tregelles. [Weiss and Blass follow Tisch.,
ἐκ BCpmLX, etc.,
αὐτῶ Text. Rec. [Blass], with most MSS. [pm, etc.], vv., etc.; but not the most ancient [corr.B, etc.], some of which add
παρρησία [W. and H., Weiss].
346 Text. Rec. adds,
νῦν “now,” with some old MSS. and versions; but ABCpmDpmLX, etc., have it not.
ἕξετε, “ye shall have,” is the error of D and many cursives [67, etc.], with most of the Latin copies, etc., followed by Elzevir, but not Stephens, for though it appears in the text of his edition of 1550, it is corrected at the end according to his editions of 1546, 1549;
ἔχετε “ye have,” ABCL and a dozen more uncials, etc. [Tisch., W. and H., Weiss]. Here many of the ancient versions are wrong, but not the Syrr., Memph., some old Latin, etc. It is strange that Lachmann edited
ἕξετε, not only in his small edition of 1831, but in his larger and more mature one of 1842, actually giving B with D abc as authority. [Blass follows Lachm.]