Jesus’ Departure. Referring again to his imminent departure, Jesus said to his disciples, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you” (v.33).
“My children (teknia)…” This term of endearment expresses Jesus’ love for his disciples and is a poignant introduction to his announcement that his departure is imminent. The term a little longer (eti mikron) is imprecise (cf. 7:33), so they could not be sure how soon this separation would take place, but given the announcement of the betrayal they might suspect that it would be very soon. Jesus seems to refer not just to the time of separation between his death and resurrection, but also to the time thereafter. For he says they will look for him, which they did not do after his death, but which they did do after the resurrection. Just as the first disciples sought him out (1:38), so will they continue to seek for him after his departure. Part of the purpose of the farewell discourse is to tell them of the new ways in which they will find him in the future.
The departure had been a theme in the controversy with the Jewish opponents (7:34; 8:21), as Jesus reminds the disciples. Even earlier Jesus had talked about going to where he was before (6:62), referring to the ascension.
While it is impossible for either group to follow Jesus where he is going, there is a big difference between the groups’ relationships to Jesus. For the opponents are alienated from God and can never follow Jesus into the Father’s presence as long as they remain in that condition. The disciples, on the other hand, have been cleansed (v. 10). They are little children who will indeed follow Jesus as later outlined:
- “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” (12:26).
- “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where (I) am going you know the way.” (14:3-4)
- “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24).
As the following chapters will make clear, they first need to receive the Spirit, the Paraclete, to share in the Father’s life and love and to accomplish his works, as Jesus himself has done.
The question of Jesus’ origins – “where he is from” (pouthen) – becomes a significant faith-issue in John (7:27-28; 8:14; 9:29-30; 19:9). His human origins in Galilee are clear, but by faith, we also know of his divine origins and the place where he will return to.
13:33 My children: Jesus addresses the immediate impact of the cross on the disciples. By calling them children (using the diminutive form teknia, “little children,” which the translation tries to capture by adding my) he is putting them in a relation to himself that is analogous to his relation to the Father (cf. 14:20; 17:21, 23). This term would be in keeping with the Passover meal setting since “small groups that banded together to eat the paschal meal had to pattern themselves on family life, and one of the group had to act as a father explaining to his children the significance of what was being done” (Brown, 611).
- Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 29 in Anchor Bible series, ed. William Albright and David Noel Freeman (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1966)
- Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996)
- Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources at www.crossmarks.com/brian/
- Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
- G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007)
- John R. Sachs, S.J., “Glory” in The New Dictionary of Theology, eds. Joseph A. Komonchak, Mary Collins and Dermot A. Lane (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000)
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970 at http://wwwmigrate.usccb.org/bible/