The Pulpit Commentary

John 14:8-21 (John 14:8-21)

(5) The question of Philip , with the reply .

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John 14:16-21 (John 14:16-21)

(c) The greatest Gift—the other Advocate .

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John 14:18 (John 14:18)

I will not leave you behind as orphans , bereft of my paternal guardianship. Though the disciples were his brethren, yet, as we have seen, he calls them ( John 13:1-38 :53) τεκνία his "little children;" and ( Hebrews 2:11 ) the apostles reckoned him as Arthur (in 'Guinevere') does when he speaks of "our fair Father Christ." His departure might be the signal for the most utter sense of desertion, exposure, and peril; and even the promise of another Advocatus would hardly console them before the time would arrive when he would receive them unto himself; but, says he, I am coming to you. Much unnecessary comment has here arisen as to whether this coming was the last triumphant παρουσία of which he speaks in part in John 14:3 ,—this would be incompatible with the assurances that then the world would and will see him: "Every eye shall" then be prophetic and "see him," and "before him shall be gathered all nations;" or whether this coming be simply his resurrection with his transitory appearances in the flesh; for both of these representations would fail of the full consolation which would terminate their orphanhood. Surely he speaks of his own spiritual coming in the bestowment of the other Advocate , who, by being with them and in them, would prove to them, notwithstanding his own apparent departure, that he had come again in his glorious fullness of love. In the thought of the early Church the Lord was the Spirit: the glorified Lord, the Christ, who had " all power in heaven and earth," was manifested, was veritably present, in all the work of the Spirit of God in his Church. The Spirit was not only the Unity of the Father and the Son, the one Self-consciousness of both, but the one Consciousness of the Son of God and Son of man, the uniting Energy which represents the one Personality of the Christ, the Spirit-power which blends all the members of the mystical body with the Head. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles we see that all the great operations of the Holy Spirit are but the energies of the living, reigning Lord.

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John 14:8-21 (John 14:8-21)

Philip's questioning.

This disciple, one of the earliest, seizes upon the last word of our Lord and asks for a bodily sight of the Father.

I. PHILIP 'S DEMAND TO SEE THE FATHER . "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us."

1. It is hard to decide how much of ignorance is compatible with saving grace .

2. Evidently Philip thought of such a revelation of God as was vouchsafed to Moses in answer to the request , " Lord , show me thy glory ."

3. He believed that such a revelation would solve all his difficulties and doubts .

4. How strange that Philip should not , in three years , have found what he aspired after! "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

5. Yet his request implies that it was in Christ ' s power to satisfy his demand . ( Matthew 11:29 .)

II. OUR LORD 'S ANSWER TO PHILIP 'S DEMAND . "I have been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not known me, Philip."

1. Philip was longer with Jesus than most of the disciples . The words have a touch of sadness and disappointment, as if Philip had failed to benefit by all the teaching and experience of three years.

2. The answer implies the impossibility of seeing the invisible Father with the eyes of the body .

3. But the Father is seen in him who is his express linage . "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." He sees the Father's love, faithfulness, and power. The life of Christ is the true manifestation of the Father.

4. Jesus points to two proofs of his union with the Father .

III. CHRIST 'S DEPARTURE WILL BE THE SIGNAL FOR THE REVELATION OF NEW POWER IN THE APOSTLES . "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father."

1. Christ endowed his disciples with power to work miracles like his own .

2. He endowed them with power to do still " greater works " in Pentecostal conversions—which were of a far more exalted nature and with more enduring results than miracles of power. The prophecy began to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, and is still in process of fulfillment in the expanding growth of the kingdom of God.

3. This higher productiveness of the disciples is to depend upon Christ ' s higher position . "Because I go to the Father." The ascended Lord has received the "all power" of heaven and earth for the use of his Church.

4. Prayer will be the disciples ' part in these greater works . "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."

(a) it implies that it is by the blood of Christ we draw near to God;

(b) that we pray in the strength of Christ;

(c) that we believe we shall obtain from Christ in heaven whatever we ask of him.


1. Mark the moral condition of this new blessing . "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

2. Mark the glorious provision that is made for Christ ' s absence . "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever."

(a) This title implies his distinct Personality,

(b) his true Divinity.

(c) Mark his various relations to believers.

( α ) He is "with them" in fellowship.

( β ) He abideth by them in personal comfort.

( χ ) He is "in them" in indwelling power.

( δ ) His presence will be perpetual—"that he may abide with you for ever." Christ's historical presence was now to be measured by a few hours or days. The Holy Spirit will be with the Church till the end of the world.

( ε ) He cannot be received by an unreceptive , unsympathetic world. "Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." The world cannot see or know spiritual things, which demand the faculty of spiritual discernment ( 1 Corinthians 2:14 ).

( ζ ) The receptiveness of the disciples, so different from the moral blindness of the world, had its origin in the Spirit's indwelling, and would be still further strengthened by the fuller measures of his grace.


1. Our Lord thinks of them as "little children ," who needed

2. His departure was just at hand . "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also."

(a) It is the fullness of life to see God as he is ( 1 John 3:1 , 1 John 3:2 ).

(b) Christ's life is the foundation and guarantee of the life of believers.

3. The day of the gift of the Comforter will be the signal of fresh arid enlarged blessings . "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."

(a) Mark the need of knowledge to obedience.

(b) The need of obedience to loving happiness.

(a) The Father loves all who love the Son, his own beloved Son.

(b) The Son loves' those who love the Father, and makes through that very love, a more perfect revelation of himself. Thus this higher manifestation more than supplies the place of his bodily presence.

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John 14:18-21 (John 14:18-21)

The comforts of Christ.

Notice some of the comforts left by Jesus to his disciples. "I will not leave you desolate [or, 'orphans,' or, 'comfortless']," implying that he would leave them some suitable and substantial comforts.


1. This was really the case , in spite of some appearances to the contrary . They thought that he would leave entirely and for ever by death. This was a mistake, and Christ is very careful to correct it. "I come unto you." Many of our troubles and sorrows arise from our mistaken notions of things. Things are not always what they seem. The disciples thought that Christ was going away from them by death, while in fact he was coming unto them, spiritually nearer to them in sympathy and fellowship. On the cross and in the grave he was coming unto them; and he was coming nearer and nearer unto them in all the trials and dangers of after-life. And thus he comes unto all believers, even when they think that he leaves them.

2. This was literally the case at his resurrection . He came unto them, and they embraced their risen Lord.

3. This was specially the case on the Day of Pentecost . When his promise of the Spirit was fulfilled, and in the fulfillment of this promise, they realized the presence of Christ more than ever; and, instead of the outward Christ, they henceforth enjoyed him in them as a Divine power, light, and inspiration. "Christ in you, the Hope of glory."

4. This will be fully the case at the last day . He ever comes in his Word, in his Spirit, in the dispensations of providence, in the shadows and sunshine of life, and especially in the gloom of death, and each coming is a source of comfort and joy; but his great coming at the last day will crown all, and swallow every other coming in itself, and will perfect the mutual fellowship for ever.


1. This is denied to the world . "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more." The world had seen him outwardly. But even this vision would be soon withdrawn. There is an undertone of sadness in his announcement of this. The best opportunity the world ever had would soon be lost forever. The world cannot see the spiritual and eternal; only the material and outward. Only this it saw of Jesus; but even this was about to be withdrawn.

2. This vision is granted to the disciples . "But ye see me." He assures them not merely that he would continue to come unto them, but that they would continue to see him—see him even after his departure; and if not, it would be their own fault. They had professed to have the power of spiritual vision, faith, which they doubtless had, and they had been well strengthened by his teaching and miracles. Now it was about to be tried, and he had no doubt of the ultimate success. Material and circumstantial changes cannot entirely intercept the vision of faith. There may be an eclipse, but not total; and if total, it will not continue long enough to be specially noticed. It was so now in the case of the disciples with regard to their impending trial. After the terrible but brief gloom, " the Sun of Righteousness" appeared to faith brighter than ever. So clear and full was the vision to the disciples that they could see nothing else. It filled their horizon with his presence and glory. They saw him in every object around and above them in the gloom of earth and in the glory of heaven; saw him in all the circumstances and trials of life and in the sufferings of death, in nature, providence and redemption. Christ, in fact, was their "all in all."


1. The life of Jesus . "I live." Christ's life was continuous. It is true that he really died, but it was the act of his own will. He was the Prisoner of death, but only for a short time, and that by his own permission. By reason of the fullness of life in him, he could well afford to ignore death. He lived in death, and through death he attained his mediatorial life in its glory. Death was made by him to serve life. The disciples were afraid that would be his final end; but this fear is dispelled by the announcement, "I live." Of the truth of this they had ample proofs in due time. What a comfort it is to believers to know that their pious dead are still living, and especially to know that their Redeemer liveth! They are not orphans.

2. Their life . "And ye shall live also." Next to their concern for his life was that for their own. They were afraid that his death would involve their death, and they would naturally and sadly ask—What will become of us, of our fond hopes, dreams, and aspirations? They are set at rest by the statement, "And ye shall live a]so."

3. Their life as united with his . "Because I live," etc. We have here:


1. The fellowship of Christ with the Father . "Ye shall know that I am in my Father." This as yet was but imperfectly known—a source of perplexity to them.

2. Their fellowship with Christ , and Christ with them . "Ye in me," etc.

3. Their fellowship with the Father . This is an inevitable consequence of their fellowship with Christ. To realize all this would be to them a source of great comfort and spiritual peace and joy. Then they would not consider themselves orphans, but happy and rich children in the warm embrace of an almighty and infinitely kind Father.


1. This is a self-manifestation of Christ . He is the Revealer and the Revealed. Different mediums and agents are employed; still he is the Source and Subject of the revelation. During his personal ministry on earth he chiefly manifested the Father and the Spirit; but after the Ascension he manifests himself through the Spirit and the ministry of his Word. He manifests himself in his humanity and Divinity—in his human and Divine relationships; in short, in all his past, present, and future agency with regard to the great scheme of human redemption. His manifestation in the flesh was comparatively small, and only introductory to the great spiritual manifestation of himself in the soul and in the spirit of humanity.

2. This self-manifestation of Christ is inseparably connected with loving obedience to him . "He that hath my commandments," etc. Love to Christ manifests itself through obedience to his commands, and through this loving obedience Christ manifests himself to the soul. With every loving act comes a fresh vision of the Savior.

3. This self-manifestation of Christ is inseparably connected with a corresponding experience of Divine love . "He that loveth me shall be loved," etc. Love begets love. Human love to Christ is repaid with Divine interest. It returns in living streams of love to the experience from the Father and the Son. And this Divine love is the sweetest and most powerful medium through which Christ manifests himself. It is a manifestation of him in itself.

4. This self-manifestation of Christ is gradual and progressive . It was so in the experience of the disciples. There was a vast difference between the Christ of Pentecost and Jesus of Nazareth. And it is so in the experience of believers ever since. Jesus once really seen by faith will never be permanently lost sight of, but the constancy and clearness of the vision depend upon the degree of faith and love in the soul. He will manifest as we believe and love.

5. This self-manifestation of Christ will be ultimately complete . "I will," etc. It will not reach completion till the last day. To fully see him, he must fully appear; to fully know him, we must be like him; and to be like him, we must see him as he is. But even then we shall not see all his beauty nor comprehend all his Being. Were this the case, our happiness would cease. Eternity will not exhaust his glory, although fully employed in its exhibition. But at his final coming there will be such a full manifestation of him as will exclude every element of unhappiness, and fill the soul with satisfaction forever. We shall be satisfied with each draught of revelation, and look forward with serene confidence and ecstatic joy to the next and the next.


1. The sympathy of Christ with his people is most tenderly considerate . It was so here. His disciples did not tell him that they were afraid of orphanage and desolation, but he knew it; and in answer to their inward thoughts and feelings, he tenderly said, "I will not leave you," etc.

2. His sympathy with his people is ever practical . It is not mere sentiment. It is not only negative, but ever assumes an affirmative form. He did not stop with saying, " I will not leave," etc., but proceeded to say, "I come," etc. And all this was fulfilled in their experience; and it is ever so.

3. As Christ is manifested in the soul , we at once realize all we need . When the sun appears in the sky, all the landscape around is in full view. So, when the Sun of Righteousness arises in the soul, the spiritual universe is all ablaze. We see an ever-living Savior and an ever-loving Father in closest fellowship, and our life by faith in closest fellowship with both. When Christ manifested himself to his disciples, they never thought of orphanage and desolation afterwards.

4. Let us take care of the condition of our spiritual comfort and realization . "He that hath my commandments," etc.—B.T.

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John 14:16-18 (John 14:16-18)

"Another Comforter."

I. AS ANSWER TO A REQUEST OF JESUS . The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is a conditional thing. Jesus must ask the Father for it; and he can only ask the Father when he perceives the disciples to be going in the way of his directions. If only the disciples will do what Jesus wants them to do, ha will secure for them the indispensable help. They must not be under the delusion that the might of the Holy Spirit will be given to aid them in their own plans and schemes. They must be servants to the plans and schemes of Jesus. The Father waits for the Son to ask, and the Son waits till he sees his people ready to receive.

II. THE GIFT BESTOWED . Here it is plain we must try to look at things rather than words—at the whole actual work of the Holy Spirit rather than at special words by which he is described. And inasmuch as he is called "another Paraclete," we must consider the incarnate Jesus himself as the first and introductory Paraclete. Well did the disciples know how utterly helpless they would have been without the assistance of Jesus. Truly he was an earthly Providence to them. They never needed to be at a loss. And all the time they were made to feel more and more their natural insufficiency. And doubtless Jesus saw in their hearts the question rising as to what they should do when he was gone. If Jesus had not come into their lives, they would not have known what life can be. But having had a Paraclete, it would be like sinking from light into darkness to go on without one. Better never to have known Jesus at all, than to know him and then lose him, and have to go on with no mere than they had at the beginning. More than that, the gift of the second Comforter includes all that was essential in the first one. Nay, we may say even more. The first Comforter was only truly operative when he blossomed out, so to speak, into the second one. Jesus was the Truth, and the second Comforter was the Spirit of the Truth. Jesus gave the seed, and then the Spirit came like the breath of spring to stir up the seed into life. There is much about all this process that we cannot understand; but that is all the more reason why we should mark what we can mark—even the sequence of processes and results. If the second Comforter had never come, the mission of the first one would have been the greatest enigma in the history of humanity.

III. THE RECIPIENTS OF THE GIFT . It has been well said that Jesus is spoken of as having come into the world. The world could receive him after a fashion, because it could gaze upon him and recognize him by the senses, as it could any incarnated human being. But the Holy Spirit comes to the Church, to prepared and humbled hearts. He comes to complete repentance. Men see that the past has been wrong and foolish, full of wasted days and powers. Then they begin to study the communications of Jesus, and so they are led on into a reception of the Holy Spirit. There must surely be much listening to Jesus, much pondering over all the elements of his incarnate career, before it can be comprehended what the Holy Spirit really is and does.—Y.

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