Commandment: love

I will not leave you…I will come to you. The second promise of continuing presence is Jesus’ promise of his own return (vv. 18-20). “Orphan” (orphanos) was a common metaphor to describe disciples left without their master but the use of the meta­phor here has a special poignancy in the light of the familial and domestic imagery that runs throughout Jesus’ words to his own (e.g., 13:33; 14:2-3, 10-14; 15:9-11; 16:21-24, 27). Jesus’ promise that he will not leave the disciples or­phaned recalls his use of the address “little chil­dren” in 13:33 and is an assurance that the intimacy of that familial relationship is not under­cut by Jesus’ departure. His promise to return (v. 18b) thus immediately counters any possible per­ception of Jesus’ death as his abandonment of his own.

The primary meaning of this promise is fulfilled in the post-resurrection appearances. As in the promise of the Paraclete (v.17), Jesus’ promise of his Easter return also makes a distinction be­tween the world and the believing community (see also 15:18-25; 16:8-11; 17:6-25). Jesus’ resurrection life gives life to the believers (v. 19b), because it is the ultimate demonstration that Jesus is indeed “the resurrection and the life” (11:25-26). Brown [646] notes that the profound insight of the Johannine community is that “union with Jesus was not permanently dependent on bodily presence.” This is not to say there is no difference between the post-Easter appearance of Jesus and indwelling, but it does say that the appearances “were not an end in themselves; they initiate and point to a deeper type of presence” (cf.I am with you always, until the end of the age” Mt 28:20)

But the promise is also more. The promise of Jesus’ return needs to be read in concert with the preceding promise of the Paraclete (vv. 16-17). The advent of the Paraclete does not render Jesus himself superfluous, nor does it supersede him. Rather, the Paraclete’s presence will make the events of the resurrection available beyond their limited moment in time.

On that day…The expression “on that day” is a standard Johannine expression pointing to the “hour” when Jesus is glorified in the events surrounding the passion, death and resurrection [Brown, 640]. Jesus promises that the events of Easter will be the catalyst for them to realize two things. First, they would understand what they had not previously been able to comprehend (7–11), that Jesus and the Father are one and to see Jesus is to see the Father. Second, they would understand something new: with the coming of the Spirit they would be ‘in’ Jesus, and Jesus ‘in’ them.

This concept of (mutual) indwelling is found in several places in the Fourth Gospel (6:56; 14:17, 20; 15:4–6, 7). What it means for Christ to dwell in believers has already been made clear: their love for Jesus is evident by their “holding dear” his commandments. However, what it means for believers to dwell ‘in’ Christ is more difficult to grasp. Perhaps a key text is John 15:4–10, where, describing the disciples’ relationship to him in terms of branches in the vine, Jesus says the disciples (branches) ‘remaining’ in him (the vine) is associated with allowing his words to ‘remain’ in them (15:7). While some commentators attempt to make a distinction, perhaps it is best to think of vine/branches somewhat literally.  Externally one might be able to point to “this place” is vine while “that part” is branch.  However, internally, the distinction is less clear as the biological reality becomes “metaphor” for the love relationship between Christ and the believer.

It always comes back to Love. The final verse in this passage (15–21), where the first promise of the Paraclete is found, returns to the theme of love and obedience with which the passage begins: Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. Love for Christ does involve heartfelt appreciation of him (cf. 21:15–17; Luke 7:36–50) and should express itself in concern for his pleasure, but what Jesus himself stressed was that those who love him are those who obey his commands. This means responding to his teaching with obedience and faith.

Jesus promised that He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. Our love for Jesus, imperfect though it is, is rewarded in two related ways. First, we become the objects of the Father’s own love, and second, we become the objects of Jesus’ love and self-revelation. Love for Jesus does not end in stoic obedience to his will. Obedience is involved, but it leads to an  experience of the love of the Father and the Son, and the revelation of the Son to the believer—surely the greatest incentive to express our love for Christ by obedience to his will.


Notes

John 14:18 I will come to you: The vast majority of scholars hold that this coming refers primarily to the post-resurrection appearances (and secondarily to the promised indwelling) and not the second coming (parousia)

John 14:21 commandments and observes them is the one who loves me: The OT wisdom background is clearly echoed here, e.g., Wisdom 6:12 describes Lady Wisdom  in terms of love itself is the keeping of her laws and it is the keeping of the commandments that reveals the one who loves her.  Wisdom 1:2 says that the Lord will reveal Himself to those who trust Him and obey his commandments.

Sources

  • 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) 488-90
  • Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 29b in The Anchor Bible, eds. William Albright and David Freeman (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1966) 637-48
  • Neal M. Flanagan, “John” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, eds. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 1005
  • Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003) 299-306
  • Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John, vol. 4 in Sacra Pagina, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998) 400-408
  • John J. McPolin, John, vol. 6 of the New Testament Message, eds. Wilfred Harrington and Donald Senior (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, 1989) 199-204
  • Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996) 745-50

Dictionaries

  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)
  • David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1996)

Scripture – Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. © 1991, 1986, 1970

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