Sunday, June 29, 2014

An Exegesis of John 14:1-15






June 29, 2014

The Gospel of John is one of the most beloved books in the entire Bible. And John 14 is one of the greatest chapters in that book because it contains so many different promises. It is a rather perplexing section of Scripture that requires the reader spend the additional time reading and re-reading the message to come to a fuller understanding. One of the first things the reader should come to understand is that chapter 14 takes place in the middle of a discourse of Jesus. He is in the upper room and has just told his disciples that one of them would betray him and Peter would deny him three times. So this section is somewhat of a continuation of this conversation known as the farewell discourse (chapter 13-17). 
John is original in many different ways while still being similar enough to the synoptics. According to Carson and Moo, “Like the other canonical gospels, John’s gospel sets out to tell the story of Jesus’ origins, ministry, death, and resurrection. Like them, it does not purport to be neutral. The evangelist intends to engender faith (20:30–31), and to that end he shapes his witness with the needs of his readers in mind.”[1] We know who is the writer of this Gospel from internal and different external evidences, while it is never explicitly mentioned. In other words, the name of the fourth evangelist is John and is to be identified with the beloved disciple of John 13:23.[2] There are still other things to be considered like where was this letter written, why was it written and whom was it written to. Let’s start with where it was written; while there have been thrown around several different possibilities, the greatest possibility seems to be Ephesus. Carson and Moo suggest, “The traditional view is that the fourth gospel was written in Ephesus. In large part this view depends on the weight given to the uniform but sometimes difficult patristic evidence.”[3] What must be acknowledged is that whether rightly or wrongly no other option has the support of the early church fathers. [4]
            While like many things about this book we cannot be certain of, like where it was written or whom it was written to exactly, we cannot be sure of the date in which it was written either. However, from some very strong evidence we can assume that work was probably written between A.D.80-85. Most commentators will agree that it is hard to pin point any specific area as to where John may have been writing, it could have simply been the portion of the empire in which he lived or he could have been penning the work for the whole world. Lastly, we need to understand why the book was written. It was not written just to be another account among the others. It was written, as John says, so that many will come to belief through the signs done by Jesus.  And with all of that, the power of belief is an amazing thing; in this section of Scripture Christ was trying to convince his disciples that he and the father were one, while trying to get them to believe in themselves and the things they will accomplish for him.

Exegesis of Verses 1-7
            It is amazing that in this very first verse when his disciples should seek to comfort him, he is still the one comforting them by telling them to let their hearts not be troubled. The word used here for troubled is tarassestho. According to the Louw Nida, this word is “(a figurative extension of meaning of ταράσσωa ‘to stir up,’ 16.3) to cause acute emotional distress or turbulence—‘to cause great mental distress.’”[5]The word is used a total of seventeen times in the whole New Testament and of those John uses the word six times. The word ‘your’ is plural while hearts is singular in this verse. J. Ramsey Michaels suggests, “One might have expected “your hearts” (plural), but “heart” is always singular in this Gospel, even when it is the heart of many. With Judas gone, Jesus’ disciples share a common “heart,” with common concerns and similar kinds of questions.”[6] That should help the reader to experience some comfort, knowing that God even in his lowest moments still cared deeply about his disciples.
             He starts his very next sentence with a word he likes very much, believe. He likes this word so much that he uses it ninety-eight times in his gospel alone. The word John chose for ‘believe,’ out of all the words he could have chosen from, was pisteuo, which “means “to trust” (also “to obey”), “to believe” (words), and in the passive “to enjoy confidence” (cf. the later sense “to confide in”).”[7]The word’s semantic range covers all types of belief and trust type words. Something that stood out when researching this passage is that, “The Greek word (pisteuo,believe) denotes personal relational trust, in keeping with the OT usage (e.g. Isa 28:16).”[8] With this section comes a tough section of language because the phrase here can be read several different ways dealing with the indicative/imperative system. Most commentators do agree that is should be read as imperative/imperative. Carson agrees when he says that the “imperative/imperative: ‘Trust in God; trust also in me’ (niv). This is the way the verbs were taken in nearly all the Old Latin MSS, and it makes most sense of the context.”[9] It is very interesting that the ESV chooses to translate the word believe while the NIV chose trust. This author thinks that the NIV made the better choice in phraseology because it comes closer to the meaning of the word, now if there were a way to express a deeper trust than the word trust, one would think it should be chosen.
            Looking ahead to verse two, Jesus says, “in my Father’s house there are many rooms….” Older commentaries still have the KJV of “many mansions” which newer commentators agree is not a correct rendering of the word mone. This word is only used twice in the NT and both times are in the Gospel of John; actually they both occur in the same chapter to be exact. With the use of the word ‘house,’ mansions just does not seem to be a good fit. According to Robertson the “Old word from μενω [menō], to abide, abiding places, in N. T. only here and verse 23. There are many resting-places in the Father’s house (οἰκια [oikia]). Christ’s picture of heaven here is the most precious one that we possess. It is our heavenly home with the Father and with Jesus.”[10] It is comforting to know that there is a place that is specifically for us. Of this idea Phillip Comfort says, “He knows us, each one. He has planned our dwelling place accordingly. He will keep our place for our arrival. It will not suit another and will not be given to another. If it were not so, he would have told us.”[11]Comfort points out another very interesting word choice, “Jesus did not say, “In my Father’s house there will be (future tense) many rooms”[12]; but that there are many rooms in my Father’s house. It was commonplace for a son to get married and build onto his father’s house and expand the family compound.
            I am going there to prepare a place for you: the words presuppose that the ‘place’ exists before Jesus gets there. It is not that he arrives on the scene and then begins to prepare the place; rather, in the context of Johannine theology, it is the going itself, via the cross and resurrection, that prepares the place for Jesus’ disciples.[13]Jesus pretty much repeats himself in verse three in telling his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them, and that he will return to get them. Even in this verse the Lord is still offering comfort to his followers by telling them that he will return for them, so that they may be with him. Comfort again notices a very interesting play on words, “Notice the Jesus did not say, “I am coming again and will receive you to heaven”; he said, “I am coming again and will receive you to myself.””[14] Comfort, in his work, takes the stance that heaven has duel meanings one is a place the other is a person (Jesus).  Something that should be noted is that, “This is the only place in the entire New Testament in which Jesus speaks of “coming back” or “coming again”, and thus the only explicit evidence in the Gospels  of a “second” coming of Jesus (see,, however, Heb 9:28)”[15]
            As we see in verse four, Jesus is laying the groundwork for his famous response in verse six. Jesus says, “And you know the way to where I am going.”(ESV). Michaels explains that, “His point is that if they truly know “the way,” they do not even need to know the destination, for their arrival at the right destination is guaranteed.”[16] The word John uses for ‘know’ is not the usual ginosko, but odia, which has the meaning of “to possess information about—‘to know, to know about, to have knowledge of, to be acquainted with, acquaintance.”[17]While this is important to know, the semantic range for this word is huge, with almost all translations having something to do with the word know or knowledge. It is used 318 times in the NT and in John’s Gospel 84 times. This is the same word Thomas will use in the next verse.   
            Verse Five gives us the first response of any of the disciples. Thomas’ response shows us his lack of understanding as to what the Lord was saying. Yet, “once again, John’s account reflects firsthand experience, including who asked what questions at a particular time.”[18] Just because Thomas asked the question does not change the fact that there seems to be some sincerity behind it.  What makes this verse so important is not the question Thomas asked, but the response he received from the Lord.
            In the sixth verse we find the sixth of seven “I Am” statements. I am going to spend a considerable amount of space on this verse due to its theological import and my own fascination with it. We should note that, “in the Old Testament, “I am” often begins a divine oracle, and its impressiveness is always unmistakable.”[19] The use of “I am” in the Old Testament is sacred and the Israelites would have a hard time using that name. “The absolute use of “I am” as a way of speech was cryptic and mysterious to the Israelite. The name “I am” is too sacred to be pronounced (YHWH). John’s attribution to Jesus of this tetragrammaton is a pointed to Jesus’ divine nature: his preexistence, changelessness, and uniqueness of being.”[20] Moving forward Christ says that he is the way, not a way, but the way to the father. There are many people who have a problem with such an absolute statement.  R. C. Sproul says,
“The structure of this statement is such that Jesus was not giving a string of descriptive terms. He was not saying, “I am: A)the way, B)the truth, C)the life.” Rather, this statement is in an elliptical form, so that Jesus was saying: “I am the way because I am the truth and because I am the life. I am the way to the Father because I am the true manifestation or revelation of the Father. I am the way to the Father because I alone have the power of eternal life.”[21]

Most commentators agree that while there are three expressions listed, being the way is of the greatest importance. “Jesus could have just said, “I am the Way. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and the dynamic of the exchange would have been the same. “The Truth” and “the Life” simply spell out for his disciples the benefits of the salvation to which “the Way” leads.”[22]D. A. Carson goes on to further explain that, “only because he is the truth and the life, can Jesus be the way for others to come to God; the way for his disciples to attain the many dwelling places in the father’s house (vv. 2 – 3), and therefore the answer to Thomas’s question (v.5).”[23] The first half of this verse does stir up some controversy on its own; it is not until you add the second part of the verse when things become more challenging. Carson goes on to say, “The second half of this verse shows that the entire verse must be taken as the answer to Thomas’s question.”[24] If this verse does anything, it should instill a desire for evangelism for those who are truly followers of “the Way.” “Consequently no one can reach the Father except by perceiving the truth, participating in the life, and following the way revealed to us in Jesus Christ.” [25]
            As we move in to verse seven, Christ has some very interesting things to say about his relationship to the father and his relationship with the disciples.” The first sentence in this verse may either be a promise (“If you really knew Me, you will know My Father as well”) or a rebuke (If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well). The Lord seems to be rebuking them for a failure to understand His person and mission (cf. 8:19).”[26] It is easy to make assumptions about what the disciples must have been thinking, but it is best not to speculate. This is a rather harsh rebuke on the part of Jesus, but could it be well deserved? Imagine spending three years of your life with a person day in and day out, hearing their teaching on numerous topics and still not comprehending what it was he was trying to impart. This is how Jesus felt. The word used for known and know in this sentence is the word ginosko which was mentioned briefly earlier in this paper. This word has a very wide semantic range,
know, recognize, be aware fem. (Ro 1:21); 2. LN 27.2 learn, acquire information, implying personal means (Mk 6:38); 3. LN 27.18 be familiar with, learn to know, through personal experience (Jn 17:3; 1Jn 2:3); 4. LN 32.16 understand, come to know, perceive (Ro 7:7); 5. LN 31.27 acknowledge, to indicate that one does know (1Co 8:3); 6. LN 23.61 have sexual intercourse (Mt 1:25; Lk 1:34); 7. LN 28.74 do secretly (Mt 6:3+), see also ἀριστερά (aristera), ᾶς (as), (), between 753–754[27]

  Ginosko is used 222 times in the New Testament and 57 of those times were by John in his Gospel. Even though the word has such a wide range of meanings, it does not mean that each instance would be appropriate to use in this verse.  It seems that the translators did a good job and picked the best word in this case. According to Kostenberger, “The verb “know,” in the sense of “acknowledge,” was part of Near Eastern covenantal language.”[28] Something we need to consider is ‘did Jesus originally intend for this to be a question?’ Michaels makes an astute observation that, “…some ancient manuscripts have it instead as a contrary-to-fact condition. “If you all had known me, you would have known my father too.” This reading implies that they have not known either Jesus or his Father, but that “from now on” they will.”[29] This feels more like a better reading of the statement that Jesus would have possibly been making to his disciples. They had not fully understood who he was, so they could not comprehend his relationship to the Father, but from this point on they would have a clearer understanding of it.
Exegesis verses 8-11
            In verse eight Phillip shows his clear lack of understanding of what Jesus has been explaining to the disciples, by asking Jesus “…show us the Father….” In the last two verses Jesus has been explaining how he and the Father are the same and by seeing him you have seen the father. We are not sure Phillip realizes what he was asking for; he was asking for some type of theophany like Moses witnessed on the mount. Kostenberger says,  “In keeping with OT teaching, John denies the possibility of a direct vision of God (unmediated by Jesus) in 1:18; 5:37; 6:46. Hence, Phillip’s request is utter foolishness (Bultmann 1971:608).”[30]
            Verse nine is a rather sad verse, because Jesus cannot believe that one of the few people who should have recognized who he truly was still could not see beyond the superficial. Carson spells it out like this,
Jesus’ question (v. 9) is tinged with sadness. If his opponents do not recognize who he is, it is because they have not been taught by God, they have not listened to the Father (6:45). If those closest to him still display similar ignorance of who he is, despite loyalty to him, they attest their profound spiritual blindness. Even being with Jesus such a long time—the reference is to the duration of Jesus’ ministry—does not guarantee the deepest insight, insight into the truth that all of Jesus’ actions and words have supported and which he now articulates: Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.[31]

Jesus spells it out as plainly as he possibly can this time, to all who are listening, that whosoever has seen him has seen the father. You can almost sense an aggravation in Jesus’ response in having to break it down as much as he did; in order to get through his disciples denseness. While this verse started off with a rebuke against Phillip it ended up with a teachable moment for all of the disciples that were around.
            In verse ten, he decides to question the disciples to find out where their understanding truly lied. Again he reiterates that he and the Father are one. Sproul points out, “Jesus had to go over the whole question of His oneness with the Father once again. He reiterated: to see Him is to see the Father. He is in the Father and the Father in Him. The words he taught were given Him by the Father, and the Father (who dwells in Jesus) gave miracles to corroborate his teaching. All these were implications the disciples should have drawn from the things they had heard Jesus say and seen Him do.”[32] Christ shows us here that while there is equality in the Godhead, there is still authority; seeing as how he does not speak on his own, but does what the Father wishes for him to do.  In regards to their  relationship, “No mere envoy would refer to the one who sent him as his Father, claim that whoever has seen him has seen the Father, and affirm mutual indwelling between himself and the one who sent him.”[33]
             In verse eleven the same word we looked at earlier for believe is used again. While most all-modern translations use the word believe. a good alternative for it is trust. Carson will disagree with me on this point because he says, “Believe me in this context does not simply mean ‘Trust me’, but ‘Believe that what I have just said [summarized in the next clause] is true.”[34] He really wants the disciples to come to a place where they have solidified their beliefs that he truly is God, that he and the father are one. He says if you don’t believe on account of anything else, believe on account of the works I have done.
Exegesis of verses 12-15
            As far as verse twelve is concerned it can be highly controversial; because the Lord says “…whoever believes in me will also do the works I do; and greater works than these will he do….” Imagine being one of the disciples and you just get through hearing a man tell you that he and the Father who is God are one, and now he is telling you that you are going to do the same things he has been doing, but even greater things. They had to have had a very challenging time with hearing those words! It is not clear as to where the section of interchange between Jesus and Phillip actually ends. Several commentators share the similar sentiment that the work to be done will not be the disciples work, but Jesus’ work completed through the disciples. Michaels makes a compelling argument that
The “greater” works are no less the works of Jesus than of his disciples, for it is he who makes them possible. Just as the distinction in 5:20 was not between Jesus’ works and those of the Father  but between the Father’s works “until now” (5L17) and those yet to come, so the distinction here is not between  what Jesus does and what the disciples do, but between what Jesus has done so far and what he will do through them by “going to the Father.””[35]

Notice, however, that Jesus says these things will happen “because I am going to the Father”. This can be seen as an allusion to the coming of the Holy Spirit. These works of the disciples could not take place until Christ had been crucified and resurrected.
            Verses 13-14 should be understood together since one is a reiteration of the other. Christ is telling his followers that whatever they ask in his name it will be done. These verses have lead to a lot of perversion of God’s word over the years. Treating it like a genie in a bottle. However, “It was both a guarantee, like the endorsement on a check, and a limitation on the petition; for he would grant only such petition; for he would grant such petitions as could be presented consistently with his character and purpose. In prayer we call on him to work out his purpose not to gratify our whims.”[36] To help us better understand what John is saying here, we can take a closer look at 1 John 5:14. “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14 NASB) We can see from Scripture that it needs to come from the will of Jesus that we pray and we will receive.
            Now for the final verse we will be looking at verse fifteen. He gives the disciples some instruction in a round about way. He says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” Telling them that in order to prove their love for him they must keep his commandments. “But there is one enormous difference: the command is not simply to love the God of Israel, but quite specially to “love me,” and keep “my commands,” presumably including—though not limited to—the “new command” to love one another. Jesus stands before his disciples at this last meal in the place of God, and representing God.”[37]
            I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said that “Christ is either a liar, a lunatic, or he is who he claims to be.” It is my hope as it was that of John that you believe what Jesus had to say about himself as true. Jesus truly is the Way, truth and the life. And if you claim to believe in God then you must first believe in him. Because he and the father are one, you cannot have one without the other. If however, you do have him, you have something very powerful at your disposal. You have the ear of God almighty on ready to grant you what you desire, as long as it lines up with what he desires. Lastly, he wants us to keep his commands, which are few, Love God and Love People. The best thing we can do is believe that God is who he said he is, and love one another.


Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries. John 12-21. Translated by Rev. William Pringle. Vol. 18. 22 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005.

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991.

Carson, D.A, and and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Comfort, Philip W., and Wendell C. Hawley. Opening John's Gospel and Epistles. Carol Streams: Tyndale House Publisher, 2009.

Kittel, Gerhard, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985.

Kostenberger, Andreas J. Encountering John. EBS. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1999.

—. John. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic , 2004.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010.

Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. BST. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1993.

O'Day, Gail R. "Show us the father, and we will be satisfied" (John 14:8)." Semeia no. 85 (January 1, 1999): 11-17. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed May 14, 2014).

Okorie, A M. "The self-revelation of Jesus in the "I am" sayings of John's Gospel." Currents In Theology And Mission 28, no. 5 (October 1, 2001): 486-490. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed May 14, 2014).

Sproul, RC. John. Ann Arbor: Reformation Trust, 2009.

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.

Swanson, James Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament)Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Tenney, Merrill C. John. EBC. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 9. 12 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Thomas, Robert L. New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998.

Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga: AMG Pubishers, 2002.

Vincent, Marvin Richardson. Word Studies in the New Testament. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887.

[1] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 225.
[2] Ibid., 230.
[3] Ibid., 254.
[4] Ibid., 254.
            [5] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 314.
            [6] J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John. NICNT. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010)766.

            [7] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 849.
                  [8] Andreas J.Kostenberger, John. BECNT. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic , 2004)425.
            [9] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 488.
            [10] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Jn 14:2.
            [11] Philip W.Comfort, and Wendell C. Hawley. Opening John's Gospel and Epistles. (Carol Streams: Tyndale House Publisher, 2009)181.

                  [12] Ibid., 185
            [13] Carson, John, 489.
                  [14] Comfort, Opening John’s Gospel, 186.
                  [15] Michaels, John, 771.
                  [16] Ibid., 773.
            [17] Louw Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 333.
                  [18] Kostenberger, John., 428.
            [19] A M. Okorie, "The self-revelation of Jesus in the "I am" sayings of John's Gospel." Currents In Theology And Mission 28, no. 5 (October 1, 2001): 486-490. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed May 14, 2014)486.

                  [20] Ibid., 486.
[21] R.C.Sproul, John. (Ann Arbor: Reformation Trust, 2009)264.

[22] Michaels, John, 775.
[23] Carson, John, 491.
[24] Ibid., 491.
[25] Okorie, The self-revelation, 489.
[26] Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 322.
[27] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
                  [28] Kostenberger., John, 430.
                  [29] Michaels, John, 776.
                  [30] Kostenberger, John., 431.
            [31] Carson, John, 494.
                  [32] Sproul, John. 265.
            [33] Carson, John, 494–495.
                  [34] Ibid., 495.
                  [35] Michaels, John, 780.
            [36] Merrill C. Tenney, John. EBC. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein. Vol. 9. 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981)146.

            [37] Michaels, John, 783.