As this chapter is really in the nature of a commentation on John 14,15, 16,17, the reader is requested to peruse it with the Bible-text beside him. Without this it could scarcely be intelligently followed.]
THE new Institution of the Lord’s Supper did not finally close what passed at that Paschal Table. According to the Jewish Ritual, the Cup is filled a fourth time, and the remaining part of the Hallel repeated. Then follow, besides Psalm 136, a number of prayers and hymns, of which the comparatively late origin is not doubtful. The same remark applies even more strongly to what follows after the fourth Cup. But, so far as we can judge, the Institution of the Holy Supper was followed by the Discourse recorded in John 14. Then the concluding Psalms of the Hallel were sung, after which the Master left the ‘Upper Chamber.’ The Discourse of Christ recorded in John 16, and His prayer, were certainly uttered after they had risen from the Supper, and before they crossed the brook Kidron. In all probability they were, however, spoken before the Saviour left the house. We can scarcely imagine such a Discourse, and still less such a Prayer, to have been uttered while traversing the narrow streets of Jerusalem on the way to Kidron.
At the outset we ought, perhaps, to remember the very common Jewish idea, that those in glory occupied different abodes, corresponding to their ranks. If the words of Christ, about the place whither they could not follow Him, had awakened any such thoughts, the explanation which He now gave must effectually have dispelled them. Let not their hearts, then, be troubled at the prospect. As they believed in God, so let them also have trust in Him. It was His Father’s House of which they were thinking, and although there were ‘many mansions,’ or rather ‘stations,’ in it – and the choice of this word may teach us something – yet they were all in that one House. Could they not trust Him in this? Surely, if it had been otherwise, He would have told them, and not left them to be bitterly disappointed in the end. Indeed, the object of His going was the opposite of what they feared: it was to prepare by His Death and Resurrection a place for them. Nor let them think that His going away would imply permanent separation, because He had said they could not follow Him thither. Rather did His going, not away, but to prepare a place for them, imply His Coming again, primarily as regarded individuals at death, and secondarily as regarded the Church – that He might receive them unto Himself, there to be with Him. Not final separation, then, but ultimate gathering to Himself, did His present going away mean. ‘And whither I go, ye know the way.’
Jesus had referred to His going to the Father’s House, and implied that they knew the way which would bring them thither also. But His Words had only the more perplexed, at least some of them. If, when speaking of their not being able to go whither He went, He had not referred to a separation between them in that land far away, whither was He going? And, in their ignorance of this, how could they find their way thither? If any Jewish ideas of the disappearance and the final manifestation of the Messiah lurked beneath the question of Thomas, the answer of the Lord placed the matter in the clearest light. He had spoken of the Father’s House of many ‘stations,’ but only one road led thither. They must all know it: it was that of personal apprehension of Christ in the life, the mind, and the heart. The way to the Father was Christ; the full manifestation of all spiritual truth, and the spring of the true inner life were equally in Him. Except through Him, no man could consciously come to the Father. Thomas had put his twofold question thus: What was the goal? and, what was the way to it? 15 In His answer Christ significantly reversed this order, and told them first what was the way – Himself; and then what was the goal. If they had spiritually known Him as the way, they would also have known the goal, the Father, and now, by having the way clearly pointed out, they must also know the goal, God; nay, He was, so to speak, visibly before them – and, gazing on Him, they saw the shining track up to heaven, the Jacob’s ladder at the top of which was the Father.
But once more appeared in the words of Philip that carnal literalising, which would take the words of Christ in only an external sense. Sayings like these help us to perceive the absolute need of another Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Philip understood the words of Christ as if He held out the possibility of an actual sight of the Father; and this, as they imagined, would for ever have put an end to all their doubts and fears. We also, too often, would fain have such solution of our doubts, if not by actual vision, yet by direct communication from on high. In His reply Jesus once more and emphatically returned to this truth, that the vision, which was that of faith alone, was spiritual, and in no way external; and that this manifestation had been, and was fully, though spiritually and to faith, in Him. Or did Philip not believe that the Father was really manifested in Christ, because he did not actually behold Him? Those words which had drawn them and made them feel that heaven was so near, they were not His own. but the message which He had brought them from the Father; those works which He had done, they were the manifestation of the Father’s ‘dwelling’ in Him. Let them then believe this vital union between the Father and Him – and, if their faith could not absolutely rise to that height, let it at least rest on the lower level of the evidence of His works. And so would He still lead us upwards, from the experience of what He does to the knowledge of what He is. Yea, and if they were ever tempted to doubt His works, faith might have evidence of them in personal experience. Primarily, no doubt, the words about the greater works which they who believed in Him would do, because He went to the Father, refer to the Apostolic preaching and working in its greater results after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. To this also must primarily refer the promise of unlimited answer to prayer in His Name. But in a secondary, yet most true and blessed, sense, both these promises have, ever since the Ascension of Christ, also applied both to the Church and to all individual Christians.
A twofold promise, so wide as this, required, it must be felt, not indeed limitation, but qualification – let us say, definition – so far as concerns the indication of its necessary conditions. Unlimited power of working by faith and of praying in faith is qualified by obedience to His Commandments, such as is the outcome of personal love to Him. 20 And for such faith, which compasseth all things in the obedience of love to Christ, and can obtain all by the prayer of faith in His Name, there will be a need of Divine Presence ever with them. While He had been with them, they had had one Paraclete, or ‘Advocate,’ Who had pleaded with them the cause of God, explained and advocated the truth, and guarded and guided them. Now that His outward Presence was to be withdrawn from earth, and He was to be their Paraclete or Advocate in Heaven with the Father, He would, as His first act of advocacy, pray the Father, Who would send them another Paraclete, or Advocate, who would continue with them for ever. To the guidance and pleadings of that Advocate they could implicitly trust themselves, for He was ‘the Spirit of Truth.’ The world, indeed, would not listen to His pleadings, nor accept Him as their Guide, for the only evidence by which they judged was that of outward sight and material results. But theirs would be other Empirics: and experience not outward, but inward and spiritual. They would know the reality of His Existence and the truth of His pleadings by the continual Presence with them as a body of this Paraclete, and by His dwelling in them individually.
Here (as Bengel justly remarks) begins the essential difference between believers and the world. The Son was sent into the world; not so the Holy Spirit. Again, the world receives not the Holy Spirit, because it knows Him not; the disciples know Him, because they possess Him. Hence ‘to have known’ and ‘to have’ are so conjoined, that not to have known is the cause of not having, and to have is the cause of knowing. In view of this promised Advent of the other Advocate, Christ could tell the disciples that He would not leave them ‘orphans’ in this world. Nay, in this Advocate Christ Himself came to them. True, the world, which only saw and knew what fell within the range of its sensuous and outward vision (ver. 17), would not behold Him, but they would behold Him, because He lived, and they also would live – and hence there was fellowship of spiritual life between them. On that day of the Advent of His Holy Spirit would they have full knowledge, because experience, of the Christ’s Return to the Father, and of their own being in Christ, and of His being in them. And, as regarded this threefold relationship, this must be ever kept in view: to be in Christ meant to love Him, and this was: to have and to keep His commandments; Christ’s being in the Father implied, that they who were in Christ or loved Him would be loved also of His Father; and, lastly, Christ’s being in them implied, that He would love them and manifest Himself to them.
One outstanding novel fact here arrested the attention of the disciples. It was contrary to all their Jewish ideas about the future manifestation of the Messiah, and it led to the question of one of their number, Judas – not Iscariot: ‘Lord, what has happened, that to us Thou wilt manifest Thyself, and not to the world?’ Again they thought of an outward, while He spoke of a spiritual and inward manifestation. It was of this coming of the Son and the Father for the purpose of making ‘station’ with them that He spoke, of which the condition was love to Christ, manifested in the keeping of His Word, and which secured the love of the Father also. On the other hand, not to keep His Word was not to love Him, with all that it involved, not only as regarded the Son, but also the Father, since the Word which they heard was the Father’s.
Thus far then for this inward manifestation, springing from life-fellowship with Christ, rich in the unbounded spiritual power of faith, and fragrant with the obedience of love. All this He could say to them now in the Father’s Name – as the first Representative, Pleader, and ‘Advocate,’ or Paraclete. But what, when He was no longer present with them? For that He had provided ‘another Paraclete,’ Advocate, or Pleader. This ‘Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, that same will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.’ It is quite evident, that the interpretation of the term Paraclete as ‘the Comforter’ will not meet the description here given of His twofold function as teaching all, and recalling all, that Christ Himself had said. Nor will the other interpretation of ‘Advocate’ meet the requirements, if we regard the Advocate as one who pleads for us. But if we regard the Paraclete or Advocate as the Representative of Christ, and pleading, as it were, for Him, the cause of Christ, all seems harmonious. Christ came in the Name of the Father, as the first Paraclete, as His Representative; the Holy Spirit comes in the Name of Christ, as the second Paraclete, the Representative of Christ, Who is in the Father. As such the second Paraclete is sent by the Father in Name of the first Paraclete, and He would both complete in them, and recall to them, His Cause.
And so at the end of this Discourse the Lord returned again, and now with fuller meaning, to its beginning. Then He had said: ‘Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me.’ Now, after the fuller communication of His purpose, and of their relation to Him, He could convey to them the assurance of peace, even His Own peace, as His gift in the present, and His legacy for the future. 29 In their hearing, the fact of His going away, which had filled them with such sorrow and fear, had now been conjoined with that of His Coming 30 to them. Yes, as He had explained it, His departure to the Father was the necessary antecedent and condition of His Coming to them in the permanent Presence of the other Paraclete, the Holy Ghost. That Paraclete, however, would, in the economy of grace, be sent by the Father alone. In the dispensation of grace, the final source from whence all cometh, Who sendeth both the Son and the Holy Ghost, is God the Father. The Son is sent by the Father, and the Holy Ghost also, though proceeding from the Father and the Son, is sent by the Father in Christ’s Name. In the economy of grace, then, the Father is greater than the Son. And the return of the Son to the Father marks alike the completion of Christ’s work, and its perfection, in the Mission of the Holy Ghost, with all that His Advent implies. Therefore, if, discarding thoughts of themselves, they had only given room to feelings of true love to Him, instead of mourning they would have rejoiced because He went to the Father, with all that this implied, not only of rest and triumph to Him, but of the perfecting of His Work – since this was the condition of that Mission of the Holy Ghost by the Father, Who sent both the Son and the Holy Spirit. And in this sense also should they have rejoiced, because, through the presence of the Holy Ghost in them, as sent by the Father in His ‘greater’ work, they would, instead of the present selfish enjoyment of Christ’s Personal Presence, have the more power of showing their love to Him in apprehending His Truth, obeying His Commandments, doing His Works, and participating in His Life. 31 Not that Christ expected them to understand the full meaning of all these words. But afterwards, when it had all come to pass, they would believe.
With the meaning and the issue of the great contest on which He was about to enter thus clearly before Him, did He now go forth to meet the last assault of the ‘Prince of this World.’ But why that fierce struggle, since in Christ ‘he hath nothing?’ To exhibit to ‘the world’ the perfect love which He had to the Father; how even to the utmost of self-examination, obedience, submission, and suffering He was doing as the Father had given Him commandment, when He sent Him for the redemption of the world. In the execution of this Mission He would endure the last sifting assault and contest on the part of the Enemy, and, enduring, conquer for us. And so might the world be won from its Prince by the full manifestation of Christ, in His infinite obedience and righteousness, doing the Will of the Father and the Work which He had given Him, and in His infinite love doing the work of our salvation.
As regards the relation of the Church to the Christ Who is about to depart to the Father, and to come to them in the Holy Ghost as His Representative, it is to be one of Union, corporate, vital, and effective. In the nature of it, such a truth could only be set forth by illustration. When Christ said: ‘I am the Vine, the true one, and My Father is the Husbandman;’ or again, ‘Ye are the branches’ – bearing in mind that, as He spake it in Aramaic, the copulas ‘am,’ ‘is,’ and ‘are,’ would be omitted – He did not mean that He signified the Vine or was its sign, nor the Father that of the Husbandman, nor yet the disciples that of the branches. What He meant was, that He, the Father, and the disciples, stood in exactly the same relationship as the Vine, the Husbandman, and the branches. That relationship was of corporate union of the branches with the Vine for the production of fruit to the Husbandman, Who for that purpose pruned the branches. Nor can we forget in this connection, that, in the old Testament, and partially in Jewish thought, the Vine was the symbol of Israel, not in their national but in their Church-capacity. Christ, with His disciples as the branches, is ‘the Vine, the true One’ – the reality of all types, the fulfilment of all promises. They are many branches, yet a grand unity in that Vine; there is one Church of which He is the Head, the Root, the Sustenance, the Life. And in that Vine will the object of its planting of old be realised: to bring forth fruit unto God.
Yet, though it be one Vine, the Church must bear fruit not only in her corporate capacity, but individually in each of the branches. It seems remarkable that we read of branches in Him that bear not fruit. This must apparently refer to those who have by Baptism been inserted into the Vine, but remain fruitless, since a merely outward profession of Christ could scarcely be described as ‘a branch in’ Him. On the other hand, every fruit-bearing branch the Husbandman ‘cleanseth’ – not necessarily nor exclusively by pruning, but in whatever manner may be requisite – so that it may produce the largest possible amount of fruit. As for them, the process of cleansing had ‘already’ been accomplished through, or because of [the meaning is much the same], the Word which He had spoken unto them. If that condition of fruit-bearing now existed in them in consequence of the impression of His Word, it followed as a cognate condition that they must abide in Him, and He would abide in them. Nay, this was a vital condition of fruit-bearing, arising from the fundamental fact that He was the Vine and they the branches. The proper, normal condition of every branch in that Vine was to bear much fruit, of course, in proportion to its size and vigour. But, both figuratively and really, the condition of this was to abide in Him, since ‘apart’ from Him they could do nothing. It was not like a force once set in motion that would afterwards continue of itself. It was a life, and the condition of its permanence was continued union with Christ, from Whom alone it could spring.
And now as regarded the two alternatives: he that abode not in Him was the branch ‘cast outside’ and withering, which, when ready for it, men would cast into the fire – with all of symbolic meaning as regards the gatherers and the burning that the illustration implies. On the other hand, if the corporate and vital union was effective, if they abode in Him, and in consequence, His Words abode in them, then: ‘Whatsoever ye will ye shall ask, and it shall be done to you.’ It is very noteworthy that the unlimitedness of prayer is limited, or, rather, conditioned, by our abiding in Christ and His Words in us, just as in John 14 v 12-14 it is conditioned by fellowship with Him, and in John 15 v 16 by permanent fruitfulness. For, it were the most dangerous fanaticism, and entirely opposed to the teaching of Christ, to imagine that the promise of Christ implies such absolute power – as if prayer were magic – that a person might ask for anything, no matter what it was, in the assurance of obtaining his request. In all moral relations, duties and privileges are correlative ideas, and in our relation to Christ conscious immanence in Him and of His Word in us, union and communion with Him, and the obedience of love, are the indispensable conditions of our privileges. The believer may, indeed, ask for anything, because he may always and absolutely go to God; but the certainty of special answers to prayer is proportionate to the degree of union and communion with Christ. And such unlimited liberty of prayer is connected with our bearing much fruit, because thereby the Father is glorified and our discipleship evidenced.
This union, being inward and moral, necessarily unfolds into communion, of which the principle is love. ‘Like as the Father loved Me, even so loved I you. Abide in My love. If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in the love that is Mine.’ We mark the continuity in the scale of love: the Father towards the Son, and the Son towards us; and its kindredness of forth-going. And now all that the disciples had to do was to abide in it. This is connected, not with sentiment nor even with faith, but with obedience. Fresh supplies are drawn by faith, but continuance in the love of Christ is the manifestation and the result of obedience. It was so even with the Master Himself in His relation to the Father. And the Lord immediately explained 46 what His object was in saying this. In this, also, were they to have communion with Him: communion in that joy which was His in consequence of His perfect obedience. ‘These things have I spoken to you, in order that the joy that is Mine (may be in you, and your joy may be fulfilled [completed].’
But what of those commandments to which such importance attached? Clean as they now were through the Words which He had spoken, one great commandment stood forth as specially His Own, consecrated by His Example and to be measured by His observance of it. From whatever point we view it, whether as specially demanded by the pressing necessities of the Church; or as, from its contrast to what Heathenism exhibited, affording such striking evidence of the power of Christianity; or, on the other hand, as so congruous to all the fundamental thoughts of the Kingdom: the love of the Father in sending His Son for man, the work of the Son in seeking and saving the lost at the price of His Own Life, and the new bond which in Christ bound them all in the fellowship of a common calling, common mission, and common interests and hopes – love of the brethren was the one outstanding Farewell-Command of Christ. And to keep His commandments was to be His friend. And they were His friends. ‘No longer’ did He call them servants, for the servant knew not what his lord did. He had now given them a new name, and with good reason: ‘You have I called friends, because all things which I heard of My Father I made known to you.’ And yet deeper did He descend, in pointing them to the example and measure of His love as the standard of theirs towards one another. And with this teaching He combined what He had said before, of bearing fruit and of the privilege of fellowship with Himself. They were His friends; He had proved it by treating them as such in now opening up before them the whole counsel of God. And that friendship: ‘Not you did choose Me, but I did choose you’ – the object of His ‘choosing’ [that to which they were ‘appointed’] being, that, as they went forth into the world, they should bear fruit, that their fruit should be permanent, and that they should possess the full privilege of that unlimited power to pray of which He had previously spoken. 50 All these things were bound up with obedience to His commands, of which the outstanding one was to ‘love one another.’
But this very choice on His part, and their union of love in Him and to one another, also implied not only separation from, but repudiation by, the world. For this they must be prepared. It had come to Him, and it would be evidence of their choice to discipleship. The hatred of the world showed the essential difference and antagonism between the life-principle of the world and theirs. For evil or for good, they must expect the same treatment as their Master. Nay, was it not their privilege to realise, that all this came upon them for His sake? and should they not also remember, that the ultimate ground of the world’s hatred was ignorance of Him Who had sent Christ? And yet, though this should banish all thoughts of personal resentment, their guilt who rejected Him was truly terrible. Speaking to, and in, Israel, there was no excuse for their sin – the most awful that could be conceived; since, most truly: ‘He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also.’ For, Christ was the Sent of God, and God manifest. It was a terrible charge this to bring against God’s ancient people Israel. And yet there was, besides the evidence of His Words, that of His Works. 54 If they could not apprehend the former, yet, in regard to the latter, they could see by comparison with the works of other men that they were unique. They saw it, but only hated Him and His Father, ascribing it all to the power and agency of Beelzebub. And so the ancient prophecy had now been fulfilled: ‘They hated Me gratuitously.’ But all was not yet at an end: neither His Work through the other Advocate, nor yet theirs in the world. ‘When the Advocate is come, Whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of the Truth – Who proceedeth from the Father [goeth forth on His Mission as sent by the Father], this Same will bear witness about Me. And ye also bear witness, because ye are with Me from the beginning.’
The chapter appropriately opens by reflecting on the predicted enmity of the world. Christ had so clearly foretold it, lest this should prove a stumbling-block to them. Best, to know distinctly that they would not only be put out of the Synagogue, but that everyone who killed them would deem it ‘to offer a religious service to God.’ So, no doubt, Saul of Tarsus once felt, and so did many others who, alas! never became Christians. Indeed, according to Jewish Law, ‘a zealot’ might have slain without formal trial those caught in flagrant rebellion against God – or in what might be regarded as such, and the Synagogue would have deemed the deed as meritorious as that of Phinehas. 60 It was a sorrow, and yet also a comfort, to know that this spirit of enmity arose from ignorance of the Father and Christ. Although they had in a general way been prepared for it before, yet He had not told it all so definitely and connectedly from the beginning, because He was still there. 61 But now that He was going away, it was absolutely necessary to do so. For even the mention of it had thrown them into such confusion of personal sorrow, that the main point, whither Christ was going, had not even emerged into their view. 62 63 Personal feelings had quite engrossed them, to the forgetfulness of their own higher interests. He was going to the Father, and this was the condition, as well as the antecedent of His sending the Paraclete.
But the Advent of the ‘Advocate’ would mark a new era, as regarded the Church 64 and the world. It was their Mission to go forth into the world and to preach Christ. That other Advocate, as the Representative of Christ, would go into the world and convict on the three cardinal points on which their preaching turned. These three points on which all Missioning proceeds, are – Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment. And on these would the New Advocate convict the world. Bearing in mind that the term ‘convict’ is uniformly used in the Gospels 65 for clearly establishing or carrying home guilt, 66 we have here three separate facts presented to us. As the Representative of Christ, the Holy Ghost will carry home to the world, establish the fact of its guilt in regard to sin – on the ground that the world believes not in Christ. Again, as the Representative of Christ, He will carry home to the world the fact of its guilt in regard to righteousness – on the ground that Christ has ascended to the Father, and hence is removed from the sight of man. Lastly, as the Representative of Christ, He will establish the fact of the world’s guilt, because of this: that its Prince, Satan, has already been judged by Christ – a judgment established in His sitting at the Right Hand of God, and which will be vindicated at His Second Coming. Taking, then, the three great facts in the History of the Christ: His First Coming to salvation, His Resurrection and Ascension, and His Sitting at the Right Hand of God, of which His Second Coming to Judgment is the final issue, this Advocate of Christ will in each case convict the world of guilt; in regard to the first – concerning sin, because it believes not on Him Whom God has sent; in regard to the second – concerning righteousness, because Christ is at the Father’s Right Hand; and, in regard to the third – concerning judgment, because that Prince whom the world still owns has already been judged by Christ’s Session at the Right Hand of God, and by His Reign, which is to be completed in His Second Coming to Earth.
Such was the cause of Christ which the Holy Spirit as the Advocate would plead to the world, working conviction as in a hostile guilty party. Quite other was that cause of Christ which, as His Advocate, He would plead with the disciples, and quite other in their case the effect of His advocacy. We have, even on the present occasion, marked how often the Lord was hindered, as well as grieved, by the misunderstanding and unbelief of man. Now it was the self-imposed law of His Mission, the outcome of His Victory in the Temptation in the Wilderness, that He would not achieve His Mission in the exercise of Divine Power, but by treading the ordinary path of humanity. This was the limitation which He set to Himself – one aspect of His Self-examination. But from this His constant sorrow must also have flowed, in view of the unbelief of even those nearest to Him. It was, therefore, not only expedient, but even necessary for them, since at present they could not bear more, that Christ’s Presence should be withdrawn, and His Representative take His place, and open up His Cause to them. And this was to be His special work to the Church. As Advocate, not speaking from Himself, but speaking whatsoever He shall hear – as it were, according to His heavenly ‘brief’ – He would guide them into all truth. And here His first ‘declaration’ would be of ‘the things that are coming.’ A whole new order of things was before the Apostles – the abolition of the Jewish, the establishment of the Christian Dispensation, and the relation of the New to the Old, together with many kindred questions. As Christ’s Representative, and speaking not from Himself, the Holy Spirit would be with them, not suffer them to go astray into error or wrong, but be their ‘way-leader’ into all truth. Further, as the Son glorified the Father, so would the Spirit glorify the Son, and in analogous manner – because He shall take of His and ‘declare’ it unto them. This would be the second line, as it were, in the ‘declarations’ of the Advocate, Representative of Christ. And this work of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, in His declaration about Christ, was explained by the circumstance of the union and communication between the Father and Christ. And so – to sum up, in one brief Farewell, all that He had said to them – there would be ‘a little while’ in which they would not ‘behold’ Him, and again a little while and they would ‘see’ Him, though in quite different manner, as even the wording shows.
If we had entertained any doubt of the truth of the Lord’s previous words, that in their absorbedness in the present the disciples had not thought of the ‘whither’ to which Christ was going, and that it was needful for them that He should depart and the other Advocate come, 71 this conviction would be forced upon us by their perplexed questioning among themselves as to the meaning of the twofold ‘little while,’ and of all that He had said about, and connected with, His going to the Father. They would fain have asked, yet dared not. But He knew their thoughts, and answered them. That first ‘little while’ comprised those terrible days of His Death and Entombment, when they would weep and lament, but the world rejoice. Yet their brief sorrow would be turned into joy. It was like the short sorrow of childbearing – afterwards no more remembered in the joy that a human being had been born into the world. Thus would it be when their present sorrow would be changed into the Resurrection-joy – a joy which no man could ever afterwards take from them. On that day of joy would He have them dwell in thought during their present night of sorrow. That would be, indeed, a day of brightness, in which there would be no need of their making further inquiry of Him. All would then be clear in the new light of the Resurrection. A day this, when the promise would become true, and whatsoever they asked the Father, He would give it them in Christ’s Name. Hitherto they had not yet asked in His Name; let them ask: they would receive, and so their joy be completed. Ah! that day of brightness. Hitherto He had only been able to speak to them, as it were, in parables and allegory, but then would He ‘declare’ to them in all plainness about the Father. And, as He would be able to speak to them directly and plainly about the Father, so would they then be able to speak directly to the Father – as the Epistle to the Hebrews expresses it, come with ‘plainness’ 74 or ‘directness’ to the throne of grace. They would ask directly in the Name of Christ; and no longer would it be needful, as at present, first to come to Him that He may ‘inquire’ of the Father ‘about’ them. For, God loved them as lovers of Christ, and as recognising that He had come forth from God. And so it was – He had come forth from out the Father 75 when He came into the world, and, now that He was leaving it, He was going to the Father.
The disciples imagined that they understood this at least. Christ had read their thoughts, and there was no need for anyone to put express questions. He knew all things, and by this they believed – it afforded them evidence – that He came forth from God. But how little did they know their own hearts! The hour had even come when they would be scattered, every man to his own home, and leave Him alone – yet, truly, He would not be alone, because the Father would be with Him. Yet, even so, His latest as His first thought was of them; and through the night of scattering and of sorrow did He bid them look to the morning of joy. For, the battle was not theirs, nor yet the victory doubtful: ‘I [emphatically] have overcome [it is accomplished] the world.’
We now enter most reverently what may be called the innermost Sanctuary. For the first time we are allowed to listen to what was really ‘the Lord’s Prayer,’ and, as we hear, we humbly worship. That Prayer was the great preparation for His Agony, Cross, and Passion; and, also, the outlook on the Crown beyond. In its three parts it seems almost to look back on the teaching of the three previous chapters, and convert them into prayer. We see the great High-Priest first solemnly offering up Himself, and then consecrating and interceding for His Church and for her work.
The first part of that Prayer 86 is the consecration of Himself by the Great High-Priest. The final hour had come. In praying that the Father would glorify the Son, He was really not asking anything for Himself, but that ‘the Son’ might ‘glorify’ the Father. For, the glorifying of the Son – His support, and then His Resurrection, was really the completion of the work which the Father had given Him to do, as well as its evidence. It was really in accordance (‘even as’) with the power or authority which the Father gave Him over ‘all flesh,’ 88 when He put all things under His Feet as the Messiah – the object of this Messianic Rule being, ‘that the totality’ (the all, pan) ‘that Thou hast given Him, He should give to them eternal life.’ The climax in His Messianic appointment, the object of His Rule over all flesh, was the Father’s gift to Christ of the Church as a totality and a unity; and in that Church Christ gives to each individually eternal life. What follows seems an intercalated sentence, as shown even by the use of the particle ‘and,’ with which the all-important definition of what is ‘eternal life’ is introduced, and by the last words in the verse. But although embodying, so to speak, as regards the form, the record which St. John had made of Christ’s Words, we must remember that, as regards the substance, we have here Christ’s own Prayer for that eternal life to each of His own people. And what constitutes ‘the eternal life?’ Not what we so often think, who confound with the thing its effects or else its results. It refers not to the future, but to the present. It is the realisation of what Christ had told them in these words: ‘Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.’ It is the pure sunlight on the soul, resulting in, or reflecting the knowledge of Jehovah; the Personal, Living, True God, and of Him Whom He did send, Jesus Christ. These two branches of knowledge must not so much be considered as co-ordinate, but rather as inseparable. Returning from this explanation of ‘the eternal life’ which they who are bathed in the Light possess even now and here, the Great High-Priest first offered up to the Father that part of His work which was on earth and which He had completed. And then, both as the consummation and the sequel of it, He claimed what was at the end of His Mission: His return to that fellowship of essential glory, which He possessed together with the Father before the world was.
The gift of His consecration could not have been laid on more glorious Altar. Such Cross must have been followed by such Crown. And now again His first thought was of them for whose sake He had consecrated Himself. These He now solemnly presented to the Father. He introduced them as those (the individuals) whom the Father had specially given to him out of the world. As such they were really the Father’s, and given over the Christ – and He now presented them as having kept the Word of the Father. Now they knew that all things whatsoever the Father had given the Son were of the Father. This was the outcome, then, of all His teaching, and the sum of all their learning – perfect confidence in the Person of Christ, as in His Life, Teaching, and Work sent not only of God, but of the Father. Neither less nor yet more did their ‘knowledge’ represent. All else that sprang out of it they had yet to learn. But it was enough, for it implied everything; chiefly these three things – that they received the words which He gave them as from the Father; that they knew truly that Christ had come out from the Father; and that they believed that the Father had sent
Him. And, indeed, reception of Christ’s Word, knowledge of His Essential Nature, and faith in His Mission: such seem the three essential characteristics of those who are Christ’s.
And now He brought them in prayer before the Father. 93 He was interceding, not for the ‘world’ that was His by right of His Messiahship, but for them whom the Father had specially given Him. They were the Father’s in the special sense of covenant-mercy, and all that in that sense was the Father’s was the Son’s, and all that was the Son’s was the Father’s. Therefore, although all the world was the Son’s, He prayed not now for it; and although all in earth and heaven were in the Father’s Hand, He sought not now His blessing on them, but on those whom, while He was in the world, He had shielded and guided. They were to be left behind in a world of sin, evil, temptation, and sorrow, and He was going to the Father. And this was His prayer: ‘Holy Father, keep them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me, that so (in order that) they may be one (a unity, en), as We are.’ The peculiar address, ‘Holy Father,’ shows that the Saviour once more referred to the keeping in holiness, and what is of equal importance, that ‘the unity’ of the Church sought for was to be primarily one of spiritual character, and not a merely outward combination. Unity in holiness and of nature, as was that of the Father and Son, such was the great object sought, although such union would, if properly carried out, also issue in outward unity. But while moral union rather than outward unity was in His view, our present ‘unhappy divisions,’ arising so often from wilfulness and unreadiness to bear slight differences among ourselves – each other’s burdens – are so entirely contrary not only to the Christian, but even to the Jewish, spirit, that we can only trace them to the heathen element in the Church.
While He was ‘with them,’ He ‘kept’ them in the Father’s Name. Them whom the Father had given Him, by the effective drawing of His grace within them, He guarded and none from among them was lost, except the son of perdition – and this, according to prophecy. But ere He went to the Father, He prayed thus for them, that in this realised unity of holiness the joy that was His, might be ‘completed’ in them. And there was the more need of this, since they were left behind with nought but His Word in a world that hated them, because, as Christ, so they also were not of it [‘from’ it]. Nor yet did Christ ask with a view to their being taken out of the world, but with this ‘that’ [in order that] the Father should ‘keep them [preserve] from the Evil One.’ And this the more emphatically, because, even as He was not, so were they not ‘out of the world,’ which lay in the Evil One. And the preservative which He sought for them was not outward but inward, the same in kind as while He had been with them, only coming now directly from the Father. It was sanctification ‘in the truth,’ with this significant addition: ‘The word that is Thine is truth.’
In its last part this intercessory Prayer of the Great High-Priest bore on the work of the disciples and its fruits. As the Father had sent the Son, so did the Son send the disciples into the world, in the same manner, and on the same Mission. And for their sakes He now solemnly offered Himself, ‘consecrated’ or ‘sanctified’ Himself, that they might ‘in truth’ 100 – truly – be consecrated. And in view of this their work, to which they were consecrated, did Christ pray not for them alone, but also for those who, through their word, would believe in Him, ‘in order,’ or ‘that so,’ ‘all may be one’ – form a unity. Christ, as sent by the Father, gathered out the original ‘unity;’ they, as sent by Him, and consecrated by His consecration, were to gather others, but all were to form one great unity, through the common spiritual communication. ‘As Thou in Me, and I also in Thee, so that [in order that] they also may be in Us, so that [in order that] the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.’ ‘And the glory that Thou hast given Me’ – referring to His Mission in the world, and His setting apart and authorisation for it – ‘I have given to them, so that [in order that] [in this respect also] they may be one, even as We are One [a unity]. I in them, and Thou in Me, so that they may be perfected into One’ – the ideal unity and real character of the Church, this – ‘so that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and lovedst them as Thou lovedst Me.’
After this unspeakably sublime consecration of His Church, and communication to her of His glory as well as of His Work, we cannot marvel at what follows and concludes ‘the Lord’s Prayer.’ We remember the unity of the Church – a unity in Him, and as that between the Father and the Son – as we listen to this: ‘That which Thou hast given Me, I will that, where I am, they also may be with Me – so that they may gaze [behold] on the glory that is Mine, which Thou hast given Me [be sharers in the Messianic glory]: because Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world.’
And we all would fain place ourselves in the shadow of this final consecration of Himself and of His Church by the Great High-Priest, which is alike final appeal, claim, and prayer: ‘O Righteous Father, the world knew Thee not, but I know Thee, and these know that Thou sentest Me. And I made known unto them Thy Name, and will make it known, so that [in order that] the love wherewith Thou lovedst Me may be in them, and I in them.’ This is the charter of the Church: her possession and her joy; her faith, her hope also, and love; and in this she standeth, prayeth, and worketh.