Teaching on the Gospel of John by Rev. Dr. Nadine Burton

“We have an Advocate – The Spirit of Truth”

John Chapter 14

At the beginning of this chapter, we read some popular scriptures among contemporary Christians. “Let not your heart be troubled. If you believe in God, believe also in me” are customary for funerals and memorial services and provide comfort to families during their time of loss. Jesus affirms that there is another place that has been prepared for us, and that he is going back to God to prepare those places (mansions) for us. “This is not a misuse of the text, but it originally had nothing to do with the death of Christians.”[i] It had everything to do with the disciples being troubled that Jesus would soon be leaving them. “In the situation of the Johannine community, it addresses those who wonder what it means to be a disciple of Jesus? How can one follow an absent Lord? Where is Jesus now?”[ii] In addition, believing in God and Jesus is not understood as “though one can first believe in God and then add on faith in Christ. For John, faith in God is nothing less than faith in the one who reveals God and vice versa.”[iii]

Thomas asked Jesus, “How can we know the way?” Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” This claim in scripture offends many religious schools of thought while fundamentalists celebrate the claim. Some believe there are many paths to God. However, Jesus exclaims in this passage that “No one comes to the father except through him (Jesus).” I wonder how those who believe that there are other paths to God contextualize these scriptures. Craddock and Boring’s research affirms that “Neither here nor there, does the Bible assume that a large number of ways to God exists. Rather, the biblical assumption is that sinful humanity had closed off its own access to God from the human side. When all access is closed, to announce that there is one way open to God is good news.”[iv]  The way to God is open, not by our own accomplishments, but by what God has done in the Christ event.

Jesus shared with the disciples that if they have seen him, they have seen the Father and that they do know him and have seen him. There are varied traditions that analyze seeing versus not seeing God. There are examples throughout scripture from mainstream religious views on not seeing and Jewish traditions as evidence that God has been seen in times past (see Ex. 33:33; Gen 32-30; Deu. 5:24; Judges 13:22).  

Phillip asked Jesus to show him the Father, and they would be satisfied. Jesus seemed agitated as he stated that he had been with the disciples a long time and questioned that they still did not know him. How can you say, “show us the Father?” The words that Jesus spoke were not his own. They were the words of the Father. He asked his disciples to believe that he is in the Father, but if they did not, then believe for the works they had seen him perform. Those who believe in Jesus would do the works that Jesus did and greater. This is problematic because, as believers, we still see people being mistreated, and there is still hate and racism in our land, even among Christians. While the early disciples managed to heal, feed people, and bring reconciliation, in the post-resurrection story, this was not John’s intent. “The Johannine Jesus already speaks from the eschatological perspective of the transcendent world in which God rules. The disciples still belong to this world and cannot yet grasp the extravagance of living in the realm of eternal life. It is this unexplainable “greater” to which Jesus points, a greatness that cannot be quantified.”[v]

Another bold affirmation that Jesus makes is that the disciples could “ask anything in Jesus’ name and he would do it, so that the Father would be glorified in the son.” Anything! “This mind-blowing promise is to be explained neither literally nor spiritually, for here we are confronted by a reality beyond ourselves, beyond our capacity to explain. It is thus an encouragement to pray, to bring our petitions before a God greater than all our theology.”[vi]  If we pray needing an explanation or an answer, either we will cease praying or try to explain our prayers away, “unworthy of address to a transcendent God.”[vii]

If we keep his commandments, Jesus promised to send us another Advocate – the Holy Spirit – to be with us forever. The Spirit of Truth that the world cannot receive. The world does not know or have the capability to receive the Spirit because it neither sees nor knows the Spirit. But the disciples know him. We know him because he abides within us. Jesus promises not to leave us orphaned, but cautioned that in a little while, they would see him no longer. This is the first of five paraclete sayings in the book of John. “The Holy Spirit is the promise and gift of God. Yet from the human side, love for God expressed in keeping Jesus’ commandments is the prerequisite for reception of the Holy Spirit.”[viii] 

The second paraclete saying is in verses 25-26. If we love Jesus, he promises to love us and reveal himself to us. Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus how he would reveal himself to the disciples. The commentary of one explanation:

“The Holy Spirit represents Jesus in the church after the crucifixion and resurrection and binds together the earthly and risen Lord. The new insights brought by the Spirit after Easter develop the meaning of the Christ event, but there is no independent revelation through spiritual experiences (don’t know if I agree with that statement). The continuing revelation brought by the Spirit is in continuity with the definite life and message of the earthly Jesus.”[ix] 

Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in his name, would teach us everything, and remind us of all that Jesus has done. He leaves his peace – not that the world gives, but the peace that comes from God. This is not peace of mind, but wholeness and well-being, according to Boring and Craddock. Jesus ends his discourse by encouraging the disciples that it will be better for them when he goes away and that they should rejoice. “It is better for them that the earthly Jesus be absent and that they live in the Spirit-empowered Christian community rather than in direct contact with the earthly Jesus.”[x]

After this discourse, Jesus and the disciples left that setting. According to the commentary, Chapter 18 connects easily with chapter 14, and one could easily skip chapters 15-17. However, we will transcribe all chapters to see what the Spirit of Truth will speak to us.

Blessings on your journey!

[i] Craddock and Boring, pg. 336.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid., pg. 337.

[v] Ibid., pg. 338.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid., pg. 339

[x] Ibid., 340.