Friday, September 5, 2008

The Son and the Spirit (John 14:18-31)

Icon of the Communion of the Apostles
(from the website of the Ukranian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton)

The Son’s Presence and Peace (14:18-26)

18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. 19 A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?”

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Fr. Farley: “Despite Christ’s assurance about receiving another Advocate and Friend, the disciples are still not at rest. They don’t want another helper, they want Him!” This is why he assures them that he will not leave them as orphans. The world will see him no more after his Crucifixion, but they will, and “this brief separation…will lead to a deeper mystical union after the Resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost (more on that in a little bit). (263).

In verse 21, Jesus again affirms (in different words) that if a person really loves him, that person will keep his commandments. And if we keep his commandments, he will reveal himself to us. Many people challenge God, saying “Show yourself to me, and I will believe in you and follow you.” But this is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Jesus says, rather, “believe in me—follow me; obey my commandments—and then I will show myself to you.”

As Fr. Farley says, “[The] experience of inner union with Christ is not for merely nominal adherents and casual followers. He who would know this secret union with Christ must continue to treasure His teaching and fulfill it. Only then can he be his true disciple…” (263)

Notice that Jesus states for a third time (v. 23) that if a person truly loves him, he will keep Jesus’ word. Do you think that he might be trying to drive home a point?

In verse 26, Jesus for the second time announces the coming of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at this a little more closely. The Greek word that Jesus uses here is “parakletos,” which literally means “one called alongside.” It is translated into English in a great variety of ways, including “Comforter,” “Helper,” “Advocate,” “Counselor,” and other ways. As Fr. Farley points out, “The word has a legal feel to it, like one who is called to another’s aid in a cause or a legal case” (262). But it means more than that. He goes on to say:

“The idea [behind the word “parakletos”] seems to be of a Friend, a support, someone to stand by us a time of need and come alongside to our help and defense. This is why the Spirit is described here as another Advocate. Jesus, during the days of His ministry, was the Advocate, the Friend of His disciples, the One whom they leaned on for support and encouragement (for paraklesis). Now that He is going away, they will not have his support any more. But they will have the Spirit as their support. He will do the work of helping them which Jesus did when He walked among them” (262).

Note the specific work that Jesus says the Spirit will do for the disciples: “He will teach you all things and remind you of all that I said to you” (emphasis added [why do I keep saying that?]). This is another promise that we will see again, albeit in a slightly different form. I'll have more to say about it.

The Son’s Departure (14:27-31)

27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.

29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.

One of the greatest gifts that God gives to those who follow Christ is his peace. Once my niece asked me what “peace” in the Bible means. “Is it merely the absence of war?” she asked. I explained to her that is much more than this. Christ’s peace, which St. Paul says is “beyond understanding,” is an inner peace, “a peace that is unshakable, invincible, dependent on God, not on circumstances” (Farley, 266). Because of this peace, we do not have to be shaken or fearful when trouble comes into our lives.

Finally, the very last words spoken by Jesus in this chapter are interesting: “Arise, let us go from here” (v. 31). The question is: why would Jesus speak of leaving, and then go on and speak for three more chapters. The Gospel of John Film shows Jesus and the disciples literally getting up and leaving the upper room at this point and beginning to walk toward the Garden of Gethsemane, teaching the disciples along the way (and stopping to pray at Chapter 17 before entering the Garden).

Fr. Farley has a different take on these words; he believes that they signal the conclusion of the meal: “Because it was a Passover meal, they would not respond by abruptly standing up and walking from the room. Before they could go after the meal, the post-meal cup of blessing had to be drunk, a fourth cup of wine filled, the conclusion of the Hallel sung (Ps. 115-118), and then the Great Hallel, Psalm 136, sung as well (the “hymn” of Matt. 26:30)” (269).

He goes on to say “I suggest that he mentions this word about arising and going in order to stress that this teaching had to do with the Church’s mission as it would go through all the world. The Lord’s journey through the dark streets with His disciples which would follow the meal was an image of the Church’s journey through the dark lanes of the world. Previously He had spoken mostly to reassure them. Now He must also speak of their mission to the world, and of the persecution and challenges that would accompany it” (269).

Next time: The Vine and the Branches

1 comment:

charlene said...

Father James,
In reading thus post, it struck me how beautiful and clear is Jesus' promise to us - 'the person who follows my commandments is the person that loves me', to paraphrasing His words.
It seems to me he is telling us that infatuation is not what He is asking for, bui the true love of action and obedience. And He give us the promise of the Holy Spirit to be there to guide us. Father, thank you for revealing the relevance of the scriptures for our lives.