Translation and commentary on John’s Gospel
JOHN 14: 15
( Jesus said) “If you love me, you will keep my instructions, and I will ask the father and he will give you another defender, to be with you forever, the spirit of reality, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you bereft, I will come to you. Only a little longer and the world will see me no more, but you will see me, that I am alive, and you will be alive. In that day, you will surely know that I am in my father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my instructions and keeps them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my father and I will love her and will appear to her.”
Judas (not Iscariot) says to him, “Lord, how come that you will appear to us and not to the world?”
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my teaching, and my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home in him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my teaching. And the teaching you hear is not mine but the father’s who sent me. I have spoken to you about these matters while I remain with you here, but the advocate, the holy spirit, whom the father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will prompt you to remember everything I have told you.
I leave you peace, I give you my peace. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled or timid. You have heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and will come back to you.’ If you loved me you would have been happy that I am going to the father, because the father is greater than me.
So now I have told you before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may have trust. I will not speak much more with you now, for the world’s ruler is coming. He has no power over me. But so that the world may know I love the father, I am doing exactly as the father has instructed me.
Get up, let’s go from here.”
These concluding discourses of Jesus are at once directed to the historical disciples before his arrest and to the messianic community of the writer, which has gone through hostility from the orthodox synagogues after the destruction of the Temple. Opposition to Jesus and his people is characterised as the work of the “world” and the “ruler of the world,” the cosmos as separated from God is understood as demonic. This view of the world is different from that of most of the scriptures, which understand the world as God’s creation even if it is rebellious.
The issue that divides people is starkly stated as love or hate of Jesus, and love is expressed obedience to Jesus’ teaching. Those who love Jesus will keep his commandments. Again this is different from other books of the new testament, many of which deal with the disobedience of believers. This Gospel sees Jesus’ death as the demonstration of sacrificial love through which human beings are drawn to him and to the father. But once drawn into the community of Jesus, believers are expected to obey.
This obedience is connected with the fact that the father and Jesus, through the agency of the spirit, come to dwell in the believer. How can such a person sin any more? Those of us who know a) that we love Jesus and b) that we sin through disobedience, also know that there is something wrong the absolute separation of obedience and disobedience in the life of faith.
The relationship of the believer to Jesus, the father and the spirit, is intimate, as he/she becomes a “house of God” a holy place. The indwelling of the father and Jesus is specifically promised; they will make their home in the one who loves Jesus. So what is special about the spirit? The Spirit takes the place of the physical Jesus as “parakletos” a word which may be translated, friend, helper, advocate or defender, as I have chosen. I think that for this author Jesus is the one whose whole ministry is his defense of human beings, not against the father, who has after all sent Jesus to do this, but against the ruler of the world, who wants them to recognise his rule. The spirit is described as the spirit of aletheia, which can mean truth, disclosure, transparency or reality: the spirit does not permit the “world” to conceal (lethe) the reality of God and his creation. The “world” as such, that is, an arrogant culture that denies the spirit, cannot accept reality, but always tries to bend it to its own desire. The wilful denial of evident truth in the British General Election campaign which ends today is evidence that the theology of this gospel is still relevant.
The spirit does not announce new reality or truth, but by prompting memory of Jesus and his teaching, enables its application to new situations. Because the spirit defends believers against the ruler of the world, they are open to become the residence of Jesus and the father. This intimacy is continued in Jesus’ gift of shalom (peace, welfare) which is neither a casual greeting nor the absence of trouble, but rather the assurance of God’s love, the same assurance in which Jesus submits to death at the hands of the world’s ruler. The note of mutual tenderness shared by God, Jesus and trustful human beings, is the keynote of this chapter, and has encouraged a warm-hearted spirituality among Christian people over the centuries.