Thought for the day
There is a move afoot to replace church teaching on the just war with a more proactive doctrine of just peace. As Paul VI observed long ago, peace is much more than the absence of war. In a world riven by conflict, peace is a matter of discipleship and, at the personal level, a matter of deliberate choice even in the everyday conflicts of our ordinary lives. The prayer for peace goes well beyond praying for individualistic freedom from stress.
O God, though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation. Even more, by your Spirit you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries may join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. Amen.
John 14:22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
John 14:25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 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. 27 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. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
This is part of a longer speech in John 14-17, where Jesus prepares his disciples for his absence. It takes place at the Last Supper and corresponds in the Fourth Gospel to the shorter speeches at the Lord’s Supper in the other three Gospels. The opening verse has been added to give the context.
Kind of writing
This belongs to the literary category of Farewell Discourse. The common situation in almost all of these instances is that of a prominent person who gathers his followers (children, disciples, or the entire nation of Israel) just before his death or departure to give them final instructions, which will help them after he is gone. In our passage, Jesus prepares the disciples for this absence (i) by the commandment of love; (ii) by the promise of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit; (iii) by the gift of peace; (iv) by an invitation to rejoice that he departs; (v) by informing them beforehand. As usual in the Fourth Gospel, we are not dealing with a transcript, but with a profound meditation on Christian life in the period after the resurrection, placed on the lips of Jesus by the author. These are really the present gifts of the Risen Lord, present in the community.
Old Testament background
(i) In the Old Testament, God’s Holy Spirit is present in creation, inspires prophets and imparts the gift of Wisdom. This Gospel adds to these functions the roles of “advocacy” (paraclete = advocate) and “reminding.”
(ii) Peace or shalom enjoys a high profile in the Old Testament with a distinctive range of meanings: physical well-being, fertility in family and crops, good relations with others. See Psalm 122.
(iii) One of the most common phrases across the whole bible is “do not be afraid”. This is said to everyone who has an encounter with the transcendent. The Johannine form of this is “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Cf. Gen 15:1; 21:17; 26:24; 35:17; 43:23; 46:3; 50:19; Exod 14:13; 20:20; Num 21:34; Deut 7:18; Josh 10:25; 11:6; Ruth 3:11; 1 Sam 4:20; 12:20; 22:23; 23:17; 2 Sam 9:7; 13:28; 1 Kgs 17:13; 2 Kgs 1:15; 6:16; 19:6; 25:24; 1 Chr 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chr 32:7; Neh 4:14; Ps 49:16; Prov 3:25; Isa 10:24; 37:6; 41:10; Jer 1:8; 10:5; 40:9; 42:11; Ezek 2:6; Zech 8:13, 15; Tob 4:8, 21; 6:18; 12:17; Jdt 11:1; 1 Macc 3:22; 2 Esd 6:33; 10:55; Matt 1:20; 10:31; 14:27; 17:7; 28:5, 10; Mark 6:50; Luke 1:13, 30; 2:10; 5:10; 12:7, 32; John 6:20; 12:15; Acts 18:9; 27:24; Rev 1:17. (Pardon the completeness of the references, but it does make the point!)
New Testament foreground
There are usually three levels when reading the Fourth Gospel.
(a) A “natural” level, often involving misunderstanding.
(b) A higher level of perception, with a realisation that Jesus’ words have a spiritual and existential reference.
(c) A third level, which invites reading across the Gospel. It is characteristic of the Fourth Gospel that the text is highly self-referential. A look at these cross-references is a commentary in itself.
Keep my word
John 8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. 51 Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” 55 though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. 12:47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
The word that you hear is not mine
Jn 14:10; 5:19-23, 30; 6:38; 7:16-18; 8:15-16, 28-29, 38; 12:49; 15:15; 17:7-8:
The advocate will teach you everything
Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7, 12-15.
Jn 16:33; 20:19-26.
The Father is greater than I
Jn 1:1-2, 12; 10:30, 38; 14:9-10; 20:17; 20:28.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1–5)
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:17–19)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4–7)
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Gal 5:14)
Verse 23 Home = “abode”, corresponding to the verb “abide”. In the words of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is outlining the mutuality of indwelling which will mark the post-Resurrection period. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15) If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (John 15:10)
Verse 24 The mutuality is available only for those who are obedient to the love commandment. Jesus mediates the word of the Father: “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me. (John 5:30) Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. (John 7:28)
Verse 25 The tone is that of “farewell discourse” and the time is short. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19) Cf. 16:16-19.
Verse 26 Remembering and understanding later are part of the theology of the Fourth Gospel. Only in the light of the resurrection and by the power of the Holy Spirit (unique here in the NT) can true insight into Jesus’ ministry and identity be reached. See for example 2:22 or 20:9. On the Holy Spirit, see 14:15-17.
Verse 27 The special peace of the risen Lord is freedom from death and from the fear of death. See 14:1-7. In the biblical view, true peace—shalom—is enjoyed by those in continuing relationship with God.
Verse 28 The going points to death and resurrection—the ground of Christian joy (and peace). This Gospel teaches the equality of the Father and the Son and at the same time the priority of the Father (as the parent-child metaphor suggests). The Son obeys the Father. (Heretics exploited this verse!) His “going away” is for their benefit.
Verse 29 Everything is done in this Gospel so that we may believe. See 20:30-31.
Pointers for prayer
1. Jesus seeks to reassure his followers in the face of his imminent death. Although he will be leaving them he promises them the gift of the Spirit. How have you been aware of the gift of the Spirit of God in your life?
2. Remember times of separation from a loved one through change of residence or other circumstances. How has the love between you been a support after the separation?
3. To his followers Jesus, promises ‘we will come and make our home with them’. Our God is not a distant God but one who lives in us. What has helped you to be aware of the closeness of God to you?
4. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid’. When you have been anxious, who have been the Jesus people for you who were able to calm your anxiety. How did they do this? For whom have you been one who calmed anxiety?
Great and loving Father, your will for us in Jesus is the peace the world cannot give; your abiding gift is the Advocate he promised.
Calm all troubled hearts, dispel every fear. Keep us steadfast in love and faithful to your word, that we may always be your dwelling place.
Grant this through Jesus Christ, the first-born from the dead, who lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.