In my Father's house are many mansions ; or, abiding-places , homes of rest and peace and sojourn. " My Father" is the grandest name of all—the Divine fatherhood, as conceived in the consciousness of Jesus and revealed to them. Had not he who dwelt for ever in the bosom of the Father come forth, as he alone could, to reveal "the Father" and what the Father had been to him in the eternities? " My Father's house" is the dwelling-place in which devout believing souls would abide forever ( Psalms 23:6 ; Psalms 90:1 ). In the vast home filled by my Father's glory and lighted by his smile of recognition and reconciliation, in the high and holy place ( Isaiah 63:15 ; Deuteronomy 26:15 ), are "many mansions" prepared from the foundation of the world ( Matthew 25:34 ). Heaven is a large place; its possibilities transcend your imagination and exceed your charity. Thoma quotes all the grand hopes which Paul's Epistles and that to the Hebrews contain, that Jesus made heaven and home by his presence there ( Philippians 1:23 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:14 , 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ), and he supposes that the Johannist put these words into the lips of Jesus. One conclusion forced upon the reader, so far as this passage is concerned, is that there is no reason why this Gospel may not have been written long before the close of the first century. If it were not so ; i.e. if there were any doubt about it, if the revelations already made do not avail to prove as much as this, if you have been cherishing nothing better than vain illusions on this subject, I would have told you , for I came forth from God, and know these many mansions well. I would have told you, for all things that I have heard from the Father (up to this time possible for you to receive) I have made known to you. Here surely is a colon, if not a period. Many interpreters, by reason of the ὅτι £ which Lachmann, Tischendorf, Westcott, and Meyer believe to be the correct reading, link the following sentence in different ways to the preceding; e . g . some say ὅτι is equivalent to " that ," and read, " I would have told you that I go, etc.; but against this is the simple statement of John 14:3 , where Jesus proceeds to say that he is going to prepare, etc. Others, translating ὅτι " for ," differ as to whether the departure of Jesus and his preparation of a place for his disciples refers to the first or second part of the sentence. Surely the ὅτι , " because " or " for ," opens out a new thought based on the whole of that sentence: "Because, seeing if it were not so, I would have told you ," because our relations are so close as to have involved on your part this claim on my frankness, for I am going to prepare a place —to make ready one of these many mansions— for you . Over and above the vague mystery of the Father's house, my departure is that of your " Forerunner ," and my presence will make a new resting-place—it will localize your home. As you have made ready this guest-chamber for me, I am going to make ready a presence-chamber for you in the heavenly Jerusalem. Lange objects to this view of Lucke, Calvin, and Tholuck, that it involves a diffusion of knowledge and revelation among the disciples, of which there is no proof. This does not seem bettered by another rendering preferred by him, viz. "If it were not so, would I have told you I go to prepare a place for you?" But then this mode of interpretation implies a previous definite instruction as to the part he himself was going to take in the furnishing of the heavenly mansion. Of that most certainly there is no proof.
Comfort under separation.
There is no break between this chapter and the preceding.
I. MARK OUR LORD 'S SYMPATHY WITH HIS DISCIPLES . "Let not your heart be troubled."
1. The best of God ' s people may be at times in a desponding and distrustful mood .
2. Jesus takes delight in comforting his saints and lightening the burden of a heavy heart . "Come unto me, and I will give you rest."
II. MARK THE REMEDY FOR THE DESPONDENT MOOD OF HIS DISCIPLES . "Believe in God, believe also in me." It is faith. Jesus invites them to confidence.
1. There must be faith in God , who has provided a home for his children on high . There is great comfort in the thought of the Fatherhood of God.
2. There must be faith in Christ , who , as the Mediator , will realize what the Father has promised .
III. THE ARGUMENTS FOR CONSOLATION .
1. The existence of heaven as the home of the saints . "In my Father's house are many mansions."
(a) This does not signify that there are different degrees of happiness in heaven,
(b) but that there is room in heaven for the whole family of God.
(a) This implies that Jesus will go first to heaven.
(b) He enters within the veil as "Forerunner." What strong consolation is in this blessed truth!
2. Another argument for consolation is the promise of Christ ' s return to receive his disciples . "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and I will receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
(a) at Pentecost,
(b) nor at conversion,
(c) nor at the day of judgment,
(d) but at the death of each disciple.
(a) Heaven is wherever Christ is; therefore "to depart and be with Christ is far better."
(b) Christ will be the Center of the believer's joys.
3. Another argument for consolation is that the disciples knew the way to heaven . "And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know."
The revelation made to faith.
The dark shadow of our Lord's approaching agony and death was now upon his heart. Yet he thought tenderly of the sorrow of his disciples on their own account. Hence the sympathizing and consolatory tone of his last sustained and leisurely conversation with them. Hence the special revelation with which they were on this occasion favored. And hence, too, the intercessory prayer which was at that juncture of their need offered so fervently on their behalf. The words which comforted them have proved consolatory to Christ's people in every age, and especially to those in affliction of spirit.
I. THE OBJECT OF FAITH , AS ENJOINED BY CHRIST . Faith was the condition of receiving the revelation and enjoying the promise which the Lord Jesus had to communicate. Now, it is a very common thing in our days for men to eulogize faith. But it is not infrequently forgotten that the virtue of faith depends upon its object. To believe is good, if we believe what is worthy of credit. To trust is good, if we trust one deserving of confidence. Our Lord enjoins faith:
1. In God. If there be a God, surely we can need no argument, no persuasion, to induce us to believe in him. We believe in our imperfect earthly friends; how much more reason have we to believe in our perfect God? Especially does this appear when we consider, not only what God is, but what he has done to justify and to elicit our faith.
2. In Christ. How shall we connect faith in the Savior with faith in the Father? Probably thus: we need some faith in God in order to believe in Jesus whom he sent, and then, trusting in Christ, we attain to a fuller, stronger faith in the Father. The apostles and disciples, whom Jesus gathered round him in his earthly ministry, had such experience of his truth, his tenderness, his fidelity, that they might well trust him entirely and always—trust him so as to receive his declarations, to rely upon his promises, to do his will. How natural and proper is it for the Christian, who knows alike his own need and the sufficiency of his Savior, to place in him an absolute and unfaltering trust! If such trust was becoming on the part of those who knew Jesus in his ministry, how far stronger are the inducements which our experience of our Savior's grace and power furnish to our confidence! We took back upon what Jesus suffered for us, upon his victory as our Representative, and upon his long unseen ministry of grace; and we respond to his summons, and renew our faith in his words and in his work.
II. THE REVELATION CHRIST MAKES TO FAITH . This unfolding of Divine counsels has reference to man's life and history as a whole; not only to the seen, but to the unseen, the eternal. Temporary sorrows and difficulties all but disappear when they take their place as incidents in an immortal existence.
1. The universe is our Father's house and temple. How far otherwise is it regarded by many, even of the inquiring and intelligent! To not a few the world is mindless, loveless, has no origin that can he understood, and no aim; and has, therefore, a very feeble interest. As God's house, it has been built and furnished by the Divine Architect, who has arranged it to suit the needs of all his children. As God's temple, it is the scene of his indwelling and manifestation, of his holy service and his spiritual glory. It is the place where he dwells and where he is worshipped, who is Christ's Father and ours. What sweet and hallowed associations are wont to gather around the house of the human father! Similarly to the Christian the universe is dear, because there the Divine Father displays his presence, exercises his care, utters his love. That rebellious and profane voices are heard in the house which is consecrated to obedience, reverence, and praise, is indeed too true. Yet the Christian can never lose sight of the true purpose, the proper destination, of the world; in his apprehension it has been formed for the Divine glory, and it is consecrated by the Divine love.
2. The universe is further represented by Jesus as containing many and varied abodes for the spiritual children of God. Why is the great house so spacious and commodious? Because it is constructed to contain multitudes of inhabitants, and to afford to all a scene of service and of development. "Many abiding-places" are for the use of many guests, of many children. There are many citizens in the city, many subjects in the kingdom, many children in the household, many worshippers in the temple. Among those of whom we have little knowledge are the angels, thrones, principalities, and powers. Among those known to us by the records of the past are patriarchs and prophets, apostles, saints, and martyrs. There is room for all—for the young and the old, the ignorant and the learned, the great and the despised. No reader of Christ's words can doubt that his purpose and his promise included untold myriads of mankind. His life was given a ransom "for many." He designed to "draw all men unto himself." He foresaw that many should enter his kingdom, from the East and from the West. In the Book of his Revelation by John, it is foretold that "a great multitude, whom no man can number," shall assemble before the throne of glory. The pilgrim shall leave his tent, the captive his prison, the voyager his ship, the warrior his camp, and all alike shall repair to "the house which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." It is a glorious spectacle, one which reason is too dim-sighted to behold, but which is clear to the eye of faith.
III. THE PROMISE CHRIST GIVES TO FAITH . Many of our Lord's earlier sayings had been vague; now, in anticipation of his departure, his language is plain and clear.
1. Jesus has gone to prepare. Not indeed for himself, but for his people. When earth has no longer a place for them, a home will be found to have been made ready for their reception elsewhere. There is much that is mysterious in the exercise of our Savior's mediatorial grace in the sphere of his present action; but we have no difficulty in believing that he concerns himself above with the work which he commenced below.
2. He will come again to receive. Shall we take this assurance to refer to his resurrection, or to his second coming yet in the future? Of has it not rather reference to that perpetual coming of Christ unto his own, of which his Church has always and everywhere had experience? When the earthly service of a faithful disciple is finished, then Jesus comes to welcome that beloved and approved one to rest and recompense. Concerning our dear ones who are dead to earth, we have the assurance that they have not been overlooked by the Divine and tender Friend of souls.
3. He assures his people of his blessed fellowship. The language in which Jesus conveyed the assurance must have been peculiarly affecting to those who had been with him during his earthly ministry. They knew by experience the charm of their Lord's society, and the strength it gave them for work and for endurance. What more attractive and glorious prospect could the future have for them than this—the renewal and the perpetuation of that fellowship which had been the joy and the blessing of their life on earth? But the same is in a measure true of every Christian. What representation of future happiness is so congenial and so inspiring as this—the being "ever with the Lord"?
IV. THE PEACE WHICH IS THE FRUIT OF FAITH . Much was at hand which was likely to occasion alarm and dismay. Events were about to happen which would crush many hopes and cloud many hearts. This was well known to the Master. Hence his admonition to his disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled." An admonition such as this, when it comes alone, is powerless. But Christ, by revealing himself and his purposes to the minds of his brethren, supported the precept he addressed to them. What might well distress and even overwhelm those who were without the support and consolation of a sustaining and inspiring faith, would be powerless to shake such as built their hopes upon the sure foundation of unchanging faithfulness, immortal love. Those who have faith in Christ are the possessors of true peace—the peace which "passeth understanding," the peace which the world can neither give nor take away.—T.
The work of the ascended Jesus.
And yet manifestly it is only part of the work. So much is spoken of as needed to be spoken of here. Jesus tells us that which will best blend with other things that have to be said at the time. Who can imagine, who can describe, anything like the total of what Jesus has gone from earthly scenes to do?
I. CONSIDER THE OCCUPATIONS OF THOSE WHO WERE LEFT . Just one word gives the suggestion that these were in the mind of Jesus as he spoke, and that is the word "mansions." The settled life is thought of rather than the wandering one. Jesus knew full well what a wandering life his disciples would have, going into strange and distant countries. They would have to travel as he himself had never traveled. The more they apprehended the work to which they had been called, the more they would feel bound to go from land to land, preaching the gospel while life lasted. To men thus constantly on the move, the promise of a true resting-place was just the promise they needed.
II. THE FUTURE COMPANIONSHIP OF JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE . To those who have come into the real knowledge and service of Jesus nothing less than such a companionship will make happiness; and nothing more is needed. Jesus needed not to have a place in glory prepared for him; he had but to resume his old station, and be with his Father as he had been before. This is the great element of happiness on earth—not so much where we are as with whom we are. The most beautiful scenes, the most luxurious surroundings, count as nothing compared with true harmony in the human beings who are around us. And just so it must be in the anticipations of a future state. While Jesus was in the flesh, his presence with his disciples was the chief element in their happiness; and as they looked forward to the future, this was the main thing desired, that they should be with Jesus. As Paul puts it, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."
III. THE PREPARATION OF A COMMON HOPE . Is this to be taken as a real preparation, or is it only a way of speaking, to impress the promise of reunion more deeply? Is there now some actual work of the glorified Jesus going on which amounts to a necessary preparation for his glorified people? Surely it must be so. We are not to go into another state, as pioneers, to cut our own way. We are not as the Pilgrim Fathers, who had to make their own houses, and live as best they could till then. It is clear that a kindly Providence made the earth ready for the children of men, storing up abundance for all our temporal need; and in like manner Jesus is making heaven ready. Earth was made ready for Jesus to come down and live in it, and for him and his disciples to live together in. And when his disciples ascend to a higher state, all things will be ready then.—Y.