John 14: 21 — 31
The text for this reading is officially verses 23 — 29. For the purposes of our meditation notes we have also taken the two verses before and after. As this Gospel account is very complex, notes on selected portions need to be rather detailed if they are to offer a sound analysis. In the case of this particular reading, we will offer Ryle's "Expository Notes" rather than our customary verse by verse commentary. We will however offer our usual treatment in regard to verse 27 which is very special.
Let us now do what the Church, Christ's Body, has done since the Resurrection: let us go back to our origins and contemplate the meaning of the extraordinarily rich teaching offered by our Lord in his last hours. On this occasion, we are joining him on the last day of his mortal life. He has eaten his last meal with his apostles, and he is now saying good-bye.
John Ryle, D. D. John 14: 21 — 26
We learn from these verses that keeping Christ's commandments is the best test of love to Christ.
This is a lesson of vast importance, and one that needs continually pressing on the attention of Christians. It is not talking about religion, and talking fluently and well too, but steadily doing Christ's will and walking in Christ's ways, that is the proof of our being true believers. Good feelings and desires are useless if they are not accompanied by action. They may even become mischievous to the soul, induce hardness of conscience, and do positive harm. Passive impressions, which do not lead to action, gradually deaden and paralyse the heart. Living and doing well are the only real evidence of grace. Where the Holy Spirit is, there will always be a holy life. A jealous watchfulness over tempers, words, and deeds — a constant endeavour to live by the rule of the Sermon on the Mount, — this is the best proof that we love Christ.
Of course such maxims as these must not be wrested and misunderstood. We are not to suppose for a moment that "keeping Christ's commandments" can save us. Our best works are full of imperfection; when we have done all we can, we are feeble and unprofitable servants. "For by grace you are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ep.2: 8 and 9) But while we hold one class of truths, we must not forget another. Faith in the blood of Christ must always be attended by loving obedience to the will of Christ: what the Master has joined together, the disciple must not put asunder. Do we profess to love Christ? Then let us show it by our lives. The Apostle who said, "Thou knowest that I love Thee! received the charge, "Feed my lambs." That meant, "Do something. Be useful: follow my example." (John 21: 15.)
We learn, secondly, from these verses, that there are special comforts laid up for those who love Christ, and prove it by keeping His words. This, at any rate, seems the general sense of our Lord's language: "My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
The full meaning of this promise, no doubt, is a deep thing. We have no line to fathom it. It is a thing which no man can understand except he that receives and experiences it. But we need not shrink from believing that eminent holiness brings eminent comfort with it, and that no man experiences such enjoyment of his religion as the man who, like Enoch and Abraham, walks closely with God. There is more of heaven on earth to be obtained than most Christians are aware of. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant." — " If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me." (Ps.25: 14; Rev: 3: 20.) Promises like these, we may be sure, mean something, and were not written in vain.
How is it, people often ask, that so many professing believers have so little happiness in their religion? How is it that so many know little of "joy and peace in believing, and go mourning and heavy-hearted towards heaven?" The answer to these questions is a sorrowful one, but it must be given. Few believers attend as strictly as they should to Christ's practical sayings and words. There is far too much loose and careless obedience to Christ's commandments; there is far too much forgetfulness that while good works cannot justify us they are not to be despised. Let these things sink down into our hearts. If we want to be eminently happy, we must strive to be eminently holy.
We learn, lastly, from these verses, that one part of the Holy Spirit's work is to teach, and to bring things to remembrance.. It is written, "The Comforter shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance."
To confine this promise to the eleven Apostles, as some do, seems a narrow and unsatisfactory mode of interpreting Scripture. It appears to reach far beyond the day of Pentecost, and the gift of writing inspired books of God's Holy Word. It is safer, wiser, and more consistent with the whole tone of our Lord's last discourse, to regard the promise as the common property of all believers, in every age of the world. Our Lord knows the ignorance and forgetfulness of our nature in spiritual things. He graciously declares that, when He leaves the world, His people shall have a teacher and remembrancer.
Are we aware of spiritual ignorance? Do we feel that at best we know in part and see in part? Do we desire to understand more clearly the doctrines of the Gospel? Let us pray daily for the help of the "teaching" Spirit. It is His office to illuminate the soul, to open the eyes of the understanding, and to guide us into all truth. He can make dark places light, and rough places smooth.
Do we find our memory of spiritual things defective? Do we complain that though we read and hear, we seem to lose as fast as we gain? Let us pray daily for the help of the Holy Spirit. He can bring things to our remembrance. He can make us remember "old things and new." He can keep in our minds the whole system of truth and duty, and make us ready for every good word and work.
John Ryle, D.D. John 14: 27 — 31
We ought not to leave the closing portion of this wonderful chapter without noticing one striking feature in it. That feature is the singular frequency with which our Lord uses the expression, "My Father," and "the Father." In the last five verses we find it four times. In the whole chapter it occurs no less than twenty-two times. In this respect the chapter stands alone in the Bible.
The reason of this frequent use of the expression is a deep subject. Perhaps the less we speculate and dogmatise about it the better. Our Lord was one who never spoke a word without a meaning, and we need not doubt there was a meaning here. Yet may we not reverently suppose that He desired to leave on the minds of His disciples a strong impression of His entire unity with the Father? Seldom does our Lord lay claim to such high dignity, and such power of giving and supplying comfort to His Church, as in this discourse. Was there not, then, a fitness in His continually reminding His disciples that in all His giving He was one with the Father, and in all His doing did nothing without the Father? This, at any rate, seems a fair conjecture. Let it be taken for what it is worth.
We should observe for one thing, in this passage, Christ's last legacy to His people. We find him saying, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you."
Peace is Christ's peculiar gift to His people. He seldom gives them money, or worldly ease, or temporal prosperity. These are at best very questionable possessions. They often do more harm than good to the soul. They act as clogs and weights to our spiritual life. Inward peace of conscience, arising from a sense of pardoned sin and reconciliation with God, is a far greater blessing.
This peace is the inheritance of all believers, whether high or low, rich or poor.
The peace which Christ gives He calls "my peace." It is specially His own to give, because He bought it by His own blood, purchased it by His own substitution, and is appointed by the Father to dispense it to a perishing world. Just as Joseph was sealed and commissioned to give corn to the starving Egyptians, so is Christ specially sealed and commissioned, in the counsels of the Eternal Trinity, to give peace to mankind. (John 6: 27.)
The peace that Christ gives is not given as the world gives. What He gives the world cannot give at all, and what He gives is given neither unwillingly, nor sparingly, nor for a little time. Christ is far more willing to give than man is to receive. What He gives He gives to all eternity, and never takes away. He is ready to give abundantly "above all that we can ask or think." "Open thy mouth wide," He says, "and I will fill it." (Ephes.3: 20; Ps 81: 10.)
Who can wonder that a legacy like this should be backed by the renewed emphatic charge, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid"? There is nothing lacking on Christ's part for our comfort, if we will only come to Him, believe, and receive. The chief of sinners has no cause to be afraid. If we will only look by faith to the one true Saviour, there is medicine for every trouble of heart. Half our doubts and fears arise from dim perceptions of the real nature of Christ's Gospel.
We should observe, for another thing, in this passage, Christ's perfect holiness. We find Him saying, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me."
The meaning of these remarkable words admits of only one interpretation. Our Lord would have his disciples know that Satan, "the prince of this world," was about to make his last and most violent attack on Him.
He was mustering all his strength for one more tremendous onset. He was coming up with his utmost malice to try the second Adam in the garden of Gethsemane, and on the cross of Calvary. But our blessed Master declares, "He hath nothing in Me." — " There is nothing he can lay hold on. There is no weak and defective point in Me. I have kept my Father's commandment, and finished the work He gave Me to do. Satan, therefore, cannot overthrow Me. He can lay nothing to my charge. He cannot condemn Me. I shall come forth from the trial more than conqueror".
Let us mark the difference between Christ and all others who have been born of woman. He is the only one in whom Satan has found "nothing". He came to Adam and Eve, and found weakness. He came to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and all the saints, and found imperfection. He came to Christ, and found "nothing" at all. He was a Lamb "without blemish and without spot," a suitable Sacrifice for a world of sinners, a suitable Head for a redeemed race.
Let us thank God that we have such a perfect, sinless Saviour; that His righteousness is a perfect righteousness, and His life a blameless life. In ourselves and our doings we shall find everything imperfect; and if we had no other hope than our own goodness, we might well despair. But in Christ we have a perfect, sinless, Representative and Substitute. Well may we say, with the triumphant Apostle, "Who shall lay anything to our charge?" (Rom. 8: 33.) Christ hath died for us, and suffered in our stead. In Him Satan can find nothing. We are hidden in Him. The Father sees us in Him, unworthy as we are, and for His sake is "well pleased." (Matt.3: 17.)
Lectio Divina Notes on John 14: 27
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
Notes from Adam Clarke
Peace I leave with you! The Jewish form of salutation and benediction. A wish of peace among them is thus to be understood: May you prosper in body and soul, and enjoy every earthly and heavenly good! For the meaning of this word, see Matt 5: 9
"My peace I give to you", Such tranquility of soul, such uninterrupted happiness of mind, such everlasting friendship with God as I enjoy, may you all enjoy! And such blessedness I bequeath unto you: it is my last, my best, my dying legacy.
"Not as the world gives" Not as the authorities, in empty wishes: not as the people of the world, in empty compliments. Their salutations and benediction are generally matters of custom and polite ceremony, given without desire or design; but I mean what I say; what I wish you, that I will give you. To his followers Jesus gives peace, procures it, preserves it, and establishes it. He is the author, prince, promoter, and keeper of peace.
"And do not be afraid" Let not your heart shrink back through fear of any approaching evil. This is the proper meaning of the word. In a few hours you will be most powerfully assaulted; but stand firm: -the evil will only fall upon me; and this evil will result in your comfort and salvation, and in the redemption of a lost world.
1. Our reading (verse 27), in the original Greek uses the word "eirene" which is the normal equivalent of the Old Testament "Shalom"
Both words are core concepts in the Scriptures. Where they are used in their proper context each means far more than just "peace" in English.
2. In the Old Testament there is perhaps no concept richer than the Hebrew word for peace shalom. Shalom is difficult to translate because of the depth and breadth of its connotations. It possesses no single meaning, though one might translate it as completeness, soundness, or wholeness. It extends far beyond "peace" as we commonly think of it in the English language.
Shalom means the end of war and conflict, but it also means
friendship, contentment, security, and health; prosperity, abundance,
tranquility, harmony with nature, even salvation. And it means these things for
everyone, not only a select few. Shalom is ultimately a blessing, a gift from
God. It is not a human endeavor. It applies to the state of the individual, but
also to relationships - among people, nations, and between God and man. Beyond
this, Shalom is intimately tied to justice, because it is the enjoyment or
celebration of human relationships which have been made right.
3. The old Testament prophets took great pains to declare that peace does not consist in mere prosperity and wellbeing; an essential component in peace is righteousness. Where there is no righteousness there will be no genuine peace.
4. Around a Jewish home or Synagogue on Saturday one of the most frequently heard phrases is "Shabbat Shalom": "A peaceful Sabbath to you" This is probably a weak translation of such a beautiful greeting. But is does illustrate the close connection of Sabbath and peace in our treasured Jewish heritage. For further comments on this thought click here for other articles on this web site.
5. John L. McKenzie, S. J. in his monumental Dictionary of the Bible (Geoffrey Chapman, 1965) offers a very authoritative note.
The greetings of peace, when uttered by the messengers of Jesus, is a word of power, for to their words is communicated some of the dynamism of the utterances of Jesus; when one refuses to accept this greeting, the peace which it conveys returns to the one who utters the greeting (Mt 10: 13; Lk 10: 5). Peace comes through union with Jesus Christ and surpasses all human thought; it cannot be affected by human ingenuity (Phi 4: 7). It reigns in the hearts of Christians, who are joined in the peace of the one body of Christ (Col 3: 15). Peace is the fruit of spiritual mindedness (Rom 8: 6); in this verse peace is coupled with life, of which it is the fullness. Paul's phrase, "the God of peace (Rom 16: 20; 1 Thes 5: 23 ) is equivalent to "saving God," as peace in the NT becomes very nearly synonymous with salvation.
Peace is communion with God, and Jesus Himself is our peace in this sense, since He is the bond of communion (Eph 2: 14 — 17); we live in peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5: 1). It is also a state of interior calm and of harmonious relations with the Christian community, both of which are implied in the Christian vocation to peace (Rom 14: 17; 1 Cor 7: 15)
Peace in the Biblical sense, and certainly as used by Jesus, either preserves wholeness or restores it if damaged. When he gives his peace, he gives himself, and he does so to make sure that as we face life's difficulties we can keep going, knowing that during his great trial, he never lost his inner peace or outer composure. Countless martyrs going to their brutal death for love of the Lord have shown the world that with his help they never faltered a single moment in their faith. Let us pray for the same generous gift from God.
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