canoe_lakewith Tony W. Cartledge
John 14:18-29

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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

At Home with God

Do you like saying goodbye? Some goodbyes are easy – we’ve all had visits that lasted well beyond their expiration date, when it was a relief to say goodbye and get back to life as usual.

On the other hand, leaving loved ones for an extended period can be painful as well as poignant. Leaving town is one thing, but sooner or later, we all must leave this world. Saying goodbye as death approaches can be the hardest farewell of all. Such goodbyes are easier when the dying have a faith that reaches beyond death. If we can encourage others to remember us fondly but get on with their lives, our final farewell will also be a blessing.

That is precisely what we find in today’s text. John 14 is part of an extended farewell discourse in which Jesus had a heart-to-heart talk with his closest followers. Things were about to change. Jesus’ earthly life would soon come to an end, and his friends would have to learn to get along without him.

Going and coming(vv. 18-22)

John 14 begins with a comforting exchange frequently recalled at funeral or memorial services: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (vv. 1-3).

Thomas asked how the disciples could know the way to that home (v. 5), and Philip asked Jesus to “show us the Father” (v. 8). Jesus responded with assurance that those who knew him would know the way home as well as the Father (vv. 9-11). He encouraged the disciples to live in love and trust that God would send to them “another Advocate,” the “Spirit of truth,” to assure them of God’s continued presence with them (vv. 15-17).

Jesus knew that it would be hard for the disciples to carry on after his departure. They would need to know that he, though absent in body, would remain present in spirit. “I will not leave you orphaned,” Jesus told them. “I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you will also live” (vv. 18-19).

It was not unusual, in the first century, for disciples left without their masters to be called “orphans,” but there was also a sense of family about Jesus and his disciples, whom he sometimes addressed as “little children” (13:33). This made their parting all the more distressing.

Jesus’ promise that “I am coming to you” (NRSV) – or “I will come to you” (NET, NIV11, KJV) – may refer primarily to his post-Easter appearances to the disciples, but also carries implications of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and even to his second coming at the end of the age. Jesus seemed to have the post-resurrection interactions in mind when he said: “the world will no longer see me, but you will see me.” Jesus’ resurrection would demonstrate his oneness with the Father, and the disciples’ love for one another would demonstrate their oneness with him (vv. 20-21).

Jesus’ somewhat ambiguous promise prompted another question from yet another disciple. The “other” Judas (not Iscariot) appears to have remained focused on the hope that Jesus would act as a Messiah who would defeat the Romans and restore Israel as a sovereign nation. Such a Messiah would necessarily be a public figure. Thus, Judas asked why Jesus would reveal himself to his followers, but not to the world (v. 22).

Being at home(vv. 23-24)

Judas seems to have hoped that Jesus would yet perform some massive messianic miracle, and failed to understand that Jesus considered the love of his disciples to be the primary sign of his continued work in the world. For this reason, perhaps, Jesus did not answer Judas’s question directly, but focused again on the centrality of love. Jesus would not be revealed to the world through impressive signs, but through the love of his followers.

Such love might be a miracle in itself, for the disciples’ internal disputes and strivings for supremacy were well known (Mark 10:35-45, for example), and there’s little doubt that Jesus’ broader constituency could also be conflicted. But, his followers would not be left to their own devices in learning to love each other unselfishly. Jesus went on to say: “my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (v. 23).

Note the contrasting imagery: in vv. 1-4, Jesus spoke of going to the Father’s house to prepare a place for his followers, that they might ultimately come to be at home with him. In v. 23, Jesus insisted that he and the Father would come to disciples and be at home in their lives on earth. John underscores the connection by using the same word, monē, to indicate both the dwelling place Jesus prepares in v. 2 and the home he and the Father will make with the believer in v. 23. In this life as well as the life to come, he seems to be saying, Jesus’ followers can be assured that they will always be “at home” with God.

Jesus makes the same point negatively in v. 24: those who do not truly love Jesus do not follow his command to love, and thus do not make space for God to be at home with them.

Do you have a sense of God’s presence being “at home” with you? When our lives are devoted to worldly pursuits, we may feel fulfilled, but we are at odds with God. When life goes awry, the emptiness that follows can be devastating. Those who have come to love Jesus and follow his teaching to love others need not fear such hollowness. Both the friendships we make and the indwelling presence of Christ ensure that we are never alone.

Learning from the Spirit(vv. 25-29)

As Jesus’ followers would not be orphaned, neither would they be left without instruction or continued revelation. “I have said these things to you while I am still with you,” Jesus said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (vv. 25-26). This echoes an earlier promise: in vv. 16-17 Jesus had said “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

“Advocate” (NRSV, NIV11, NET) translates the Greek word paraklētos, which can also carry the sense of “Counselor” (NIV, HCSB), “Comforter” (KJV), or “Helper” (NAS95). Jesus probably had all of those aspects in mind, including the role of “Teacher” or “Reminder,” and Greek readers would have appreciated the multivalent nature of the term. Because of this, it might be better to use the transliteration “Paraclete” (as in the New Jerusalem Bible) rather than attempting a more restrictive translation.

Some writers argue that the Paraclete would be limited to reminders and interpretations of Jesus’ teachings, but Jesus’ phrase “will teach you everything” leaves open the possibility of continued revelation or guidance in specific circumstances.

Whenever individuals, committees, or congregations pray for divine direction in dealing with contemporary issues or needed decisions, we acknowledge a belief that the Spirit may offer new insights for our day that speak to issues that were not addressed in scripture. Some of the church’s sharpest conflicts have arisen over issues such as slavery, women’s equality, gender identity, or scientific findings that were not fully understood or appreciated in the biblical world. There are times when we need to go beyond a literal reading of culturally limited scriptures and ask God to teach us how best to live and to love in our own day.

Jesus’ identification of the Para-clete as the Holy Spirit (v. 23) or “the Spirit of truth” (v. 16) has clear Trinitarian implications. Jesus says in v. 23 that he and the Father would dwell in the believer, and adds in v. 26 that the Holy Spirit would be sent to remind and teach Jesus’ followers. None of the New Testament writings develop a full-fledged view of the Trinity, but texts like this provided the basis of the doctrine later developed by the church.

We need not worry about Jesus’ mixture of images. In v. 23 he says that both he and the Father will come to believers and make their home with them. Yet in vv. 16 and 26 Jesus says the Father will send the Paraclete in his name to be with believers, teaching and reminding them. Why would this be necessary if the Father and the Son are already “at home” with believers?

The apparent redundancy should not trouble us: Jesus’ intent was not to explain the metaphysics of divine-human relationships, but to use varying images to communicate the same truth conveyed by the name Immanuel: God is with us. Jesus’ departure from the disciples did not leave either them or us orphaned, for in some fashion beyond our understanding, God remains present with us.

We are not alone. NFJ

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Adult Teaching Resources

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Additional Links/Resources
Read Scripture online: John 14:23-29



Parent Prep

Social media causes a lot of pressures and the pressure is not just for your youth, but for you as well. Parents post pictures of their youth’s latest successes and #tbt pictures of what was happening great last year and five years ago. Social media can make any family look perfect because you get to control what is placed out there for the world to see. Most people don’t post all the struggles and warts that their families have, so don’t compare your family to “the perfect family” that you see on Facebook. Instead, focus on love. Your house will become a home when you focus on love. Sometimes this love needs to be firm and at other times it needs to be more forgiving. Your youth will know who you are and what you are about by the love that they receive from you, not from the pretty pictures that get posted on Facebook.

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Additional Links/Resources
Read Scripture online: John 14:23-29