Knowing the Father - John 14 The Father's Primacy - Obeying the Father vs 27-31
We come now to the last part of this great chapter, John 14 the theme of which is, Knowing the Father. We have considered the Father’s House vs 1-7, the Father’s Visibility vs 8-14 and the Father’s Gift vs 15-26. In this message we are looking at the Father’s Primacy vs 27-31.
As we think about the Father’s Primacy, a title based upon v 28, we will consider it under two headings:
1. The Legacy of the Lord’s Farewell Ministry to His Disciples vs 27-29 2. The Testimony of the Lord’s Obedient Love to His Father vs 30-31
1. The Legacy of the Lord’s Farewell Ministry to His Disciples vs 27-29
The Lord through His farewell ministry in the upper room wanted to impart two primary things to His apostles as He was soon to leave them for the Cross and then ultimately heaven. One was the gift of peace (v 27) and the second was reasons for faith (v 29). He wanted to leave them with the blessing of peace in their hearts and He wanted to give hem reasons to believe in Him.
The Lord Jesus wants you and me also to enjoy the peace He gives and the faith He engenders. Without the stability of these two things our Christian experience will be unsettled and insecure.
The Blessing of Peace v 27 In Jewish culture not only did they greet one another with Shalom, they also used it as a farewell or parting word. It was their way of saying goodbye. That is the case here. The Lord is bequeathing peace to them as He says farewell. His whole discourse is His farewell ministry and through it He wanted them to enjoy His peace. Thus we read at chapter 16 v 33:
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.
Both times, the Lord speaks of His peace in contrast to the world. He gives peace “not as the world gives” and he tells them that tribulation is what they could expect in the world, rather than peace. His peace is not like the peace the world offers nor is it about making peace with the world, but it is knowing peace in Him while in living in the world. The world of course is not a natural environment for the flourishing of peace, it is a place of hostility for His followers which readily persecutes the believer in Him, but like their Lord, the disciples and all believers must overcome the world. Not an easy thing to do, but the true child of God is called to be an overcomer.
John writes in his first epistle:
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5).
And there are the seven promises to the overcomer in the seven addresses to the seven churches – Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; the last one reads:
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in his throne”.
As this latter reference shows and as the Lord states at chapter 16 v 33, He Himself overcame the world which hated Him and opposed Him (John 15:18, 24-25). He is our example. The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us:
‘Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb 12:2 NASB).
Not only do we look to Him as the author and finisher of our faith, but also, and this is more probably the meaning of the text, as the great example of the complete life of unwavering faith.
When the Lord Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you” He is leaving them with the legacy of His peace. As we have observed previously, to know this peace and avoid falling prey to anxiety and fear, we must believe His word. The point is that His peace comes through the assurance of His word and the experience of His presence. In this very chapter at vs 1-3 and referred to again at v 28 there is the promise of His coming to take them and all believers to the Father’s house; then there is the promise of the Holy Spirit (vs 16-17, 25-26), as well as the promise of the Father and Son dwelling with the believer (vs 21-23), the connection between these two realities we explored in the last message, and also there is the promise of His return after His resurrection (vs 18-20). Their faith should have been resting on all of these promises and they should have had peace in their hearts knowing that everything Christ was promising and doing was for their good. The plan of God centred in the Son was being worked out by the very persons of the Godhead. In time they came to realize and appreciate His words.
When He appeared to them in the upper room after His resurrection He greeted them with, “peace be unto you” (John 20:21, 26). Again His person and presence brought its reality to their circumstances. As John comments: ‘Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord’ (John 20:20).
The Lord’s peace is not “as the world gives”. The world evidently gives its own kind of peace in its own way. Yet, we know God is merciful and in His mercy the world and parts of it have had and continue to know times of relative peace when war is absent, prosperity flourishes, good government and the rule of law along with freedom exist and, as has been the case in the United Kingdom, for example, there has been the influence of Christianity and the Bible, however imperfectly. Paul wrote that believers should pray for leaders in authority to the end ‘that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty’ (1 Tim 2:2). He never told us to pray for persecution, only how to endure it. But as the nation abandons its heritage we can see clearly the kind of peace the world gives. While the legacy of the past to whatever extent lives on in its constitution, institutions and laws, we’re all too well aware of the march of godless and strident secularism which wants to and continues to eradicate the past, destroy the foundations upon which an ordered society stands and, as it has been doing, replace them with a ‘culture of death’. That is why marriage and family have been the first pillars attacked over recent decades; destroy them and the rest is easy. This is the character and these are the terms of peace offered by a world submitted to its prince. The world ruled by the prince of darkness and submitting to him will never be at peace. There is no peace to the wicked because they are characterized by hate, malice, cruelty and antagonism. The Bible defines the wicked as those who outright reject God and His truth (Rom 1:28-32). Like Cain, they are of ‘the wicked one’ (1 John 3:12) and take their character from him. They are ever like the ‘troubled sea whose waters cast up mire and dirt’ (Isa 57:20-21).
It’s significant that Lord Jesus spoke these words against the background of the Roman Empire which dominated the civilized world including the land. Jerusalem, where He was with His disciples and where He was soon to be crucified, would in over three decades play out a history that Christ Himself with tears foretold was coming (Luke 19:41-44). The siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 cost the lives of 1.1 million Jews according to Josephus.
Peace for the world broadly speaking, as already pointed out, means, among other things, the absence of war, economic prosperity and the ability to live freely and peaceably however achieved. But, one place that exposed the volatility of the Pax Romana was the kingdom of Judaea which came under Roman authority in 63 B.C. By A.D. 66, over a century later, tensions were at ‘boiling point’. When Gessius Florus, Roman procurator in Judaea from 64-66 A.D., ordered his soldiers to take seventeen talents of silver from the treasury of the temple in Jerusalem in May of 66 to collect needed funds for the extravagant emperor Nero and his regime he caused an uproar in Jerusalem. Florus on news of the uproar dashed from Caesarea himself to Jerusalem with cavalry and infantry to restore order and make sure he got his money. There in his anger he set up a tribunal to deal with agitators. The apologies of the moderate priests, Josephus and the high priest Hanan, were to no avail with him and he sent in the cavalry who plundered houses, killed over 3000 innocent people and crucified the rioters. This was just the first bloodbath and a second soon followed resulting in retaliation by Jewish nationalists who put the Romans in retreat and slaughtered the cohort of soldiers left in the city. So began the Jewish revolt across the regions of Judaea and Galilee that climaxed with the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In between times in 69 A.D. there was a bloodbath in Rome itself, the result of a power struggle after the death of Nero which saw Vespasian rise to become emperor (See Ancient Rome, the Rise and Fall of an Empire, Simon Baker BBC Books).
This was how the world gives and achieves peace, by brutal subjugation and forced submission. As the Lord Jesus says later: “If you were of the world, the world would love his own” (John 15:19). Go along with the spirit of the age, celebrate what the world celebrates and do what the world does and a person will have the kind of peace it offers which of course, isn’t peace at all.
The peace of Christ is true peace. It is an inner peace. It is not the result of subjugation and surrender, but of faith and trust. It is, as the Lord is showing His disciples, peace through knowing Him and believing Him. It is peace from understanding that God is always in control. It is peace that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But, in a world of hate (John 15:18-25; 16:1-3), in a world of agitation, in world of wickedness and cruelty, how do we enjoy peace? It’s not easy to maintain and it’s so easy to lose. There is much to work against it and ruin its enjoyment. We only have to look at the news for a few minutes on any given day to know that. According to our Lord, we will know it in Him. We will know it by believing His word and trusting His person. We will know it by being overcomers as He was. Therefore, the way of gaining, maintaining and enjoying His peace is to know His truth, listen to His word, spend time in His presence and be prepared to trust Him in and with everything.
In times of darkness and distress, He still whispers to us: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (v 27).
The Fullness of Faith vs 28-29
“If you loved Me” The Lord now challenges the disciples at v 28 with what really seems like a mild rebuke. They are so focused on themselves and their feelings instead of understanding the plan of God and role of the Lord Jesus in that plan. They are not thinking at this point about His glory and return to the Father, rather they are anxious about what His departure means for them. When we look at these men we are made aware of just how like them we are. How easy it is to be focused on our own needs and feelings sometimes instead of what brings joy to the Lord. There was of course no malice in these dear disciples, but self-centeredness or self-pity is something to be avoided and removed from our thinking.
The beginning of v 28 seems to point us back to vs 2-3 in light of the next statement – “because I said unto you ‘I go unto the Father:’ for My Father is greater than I”. If the Lord is mildly rebuking the disciples it’s in order to ‘jerk’ them into reality – “If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice”. Notice He says “if”. Is the Lord questioning their love for Him because of their attitude? They weren’t showing much love. Instead of rejoicing they’re mourning, not for Him, but for themselves. They should have rejoiced that He was returning to His Father and to the glory that was eternally and rightfully His. They should have had joy in His glorification, they should have been so very glad that the plan of the Father was reaching fulfilment. They would not have intentionally grieved Him and neither would we. But, surely our lack of joy in Him and failure to rejoice in His glory must be a cause disappointment to Him. Could it be the case that a lack of joy among the saints toward the Lord is because of a diminished appreciation for His person and the result of being too focused on ourselves? The Lord goes on to say to them: “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
“Greater than I” The Lord Jesus reminds His apostles that “My Father is greater than I”. Here is a statement of the Father’s primacy. Obviously, as we read the gospel of John, there is no doubt about the equality of the Son and the Father in nature and attributes; the Son of God, the Lord Jesus shares with His Father the fullness of deity. So the Father being greater does not mean that the Son is less than the Father; there is no thought of superiority over inferiority. The primacy of the Father points to the fact of His authority and that everything proceeds from Him, He is the source and reason of the plan of redemption the Lord Jesus is fulfilling. There is an order in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is God, the Father who gave His Son and sent Him into the world (John 3:16-17). It is the Father’s will and work the Son is doing (John 4:34; 17:4) and it is the Father to whom the Son is submitted and obedient (John 18:11; Luke 22:42; Phil 2:5-8). Also, as the Lord Jesus told the woman at the well, it is to the Father that worship is offered (John 4:21-24). And so, the primacy of the Father in the relationship of divine persons and in great work of redemption, both in its accomplishment and extent is clear as is their equality. The Lord Jesus said with regard to His sheep:
“My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:29-30). And Paul writes in 1st Corinthians:
‘Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all’ (1 Cor 15:24-28).
“You might believe” It has often been said that ignorance breeds fear. The Lord didn’t want His disciples to be afraid. He imparted to them what they needed to know so that they would have an informed faith. He wanted them to have a strong and stable faith resting on the foundation of truth. When His return to the Father would begin with His arrest in the garden and all that would transpire until the day when they would watch Him ascend to the Father, He desired for them to reach the point of full understanding and absolute belief in Him. As He said with regard to Judas: “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he” (John 13:19). He wanted them to emerge from the events He foretold with a greater faith in and a greater appreciation of His person and He wanted them to go forward on their mission with joy and in faith knowing the plan of God and experiencing the power of Christ. Luke tells us of how it was on that day of His ascension:
‘And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen’ (Luke 24:50-53).
May our faith in Him be strengthened and may our appreciation of His person grow as we learn more from Him and about the glory of His person from the scriptures, and may the result be that we rejoice in Him.
2. The Testimony of the Lord’s Obedient Love to His Father vs 30-31
The moments were passing and destiny was calling. His time with His own would soon be over as He tells them: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (v 30 NKJV). Indeed, in light of the approaching hour and the need to move toward it, the Lord’s instruction: “Arise let us go from hence” (v 31) seems appropriate and as has been mentioned in a former message, it’s very likely they left the upper room at this point.
We can sense the intensity of this scene from the perspective of the disciples. Goodbyes are never easy. Particularly when it’s someone we love. When they’re leaving whether for a faraway trip or returning to their home on the other side of the world you become very conscious of both time and occasion. As the moment of goodbye nears the sense of tension and the power of emotion rises. So it must have been for these men. In fact soon, rather that enjoying the serenity of peace, they were frightened and scattered sheep forsaking the Lord and fleeing away at His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:31, 56).
Prince of Darkness As has been revealed to us in chapter 13, Satan was on the move. He had operated by stealth in the ranks of the apostles with a ‘plant’ among them. This was known of course to the Lord. The Devil energized the Jewish sects and leaders to oppose Christ all throughout His ministry (John 8:39-47), but they could never stop Him in His Father’s work. The Lord had previously faced the Devil in the wilderness at the commencement of His ministry when, to borrow the Lord’s own words, He bound ‘the strong man’ to enter into his ‘house’ to ‘spoil his goods’ (Matt 12:25-29). Now, the Cross was nearing and under divine sovereignty Satan, like ‘a roaring lion’ was about to launch his ferocious all-out attack against the Son of God. He had entered Judas, incited the hatred of the leaders into a murderous rage and serving him was the might of pagan Rome who became the lawless hands that pierced the Lord Jesus to the Cross. The pieces of Satan’s master plan seemed to be in place. There was only one problem; he wasn’t in control, God was. Moreover, in this one statement the Lord announced the futility of the Devil’s attempt to destroy Him – “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me”. He could not touch or tarnish the reputation of the sinless man. Yes, even Pilate had to declare more than once: “I find no fault in Him” (John 19:6). The soul and spirit of Jesus was beyond the reach of the false accuser and tempter. The glory of the Son had been demonstrated by His faithfulness in the wilderness temptation and throughout His life and ministry.
The Devil knew who exactly the Lord Jesus is. He knew all through the centuries that the promised seed was coming and he knew the line through which this Son would be born. He heard from the LORD God himself in the garden after the fall of his ultimate defeat and he would have known the many prophecies that foretold the coming of Christ. But, none of this was going to stop this irredeemable being of implacable hatred from doing his worst to destroy the Lord Jesus. It didn’t stop him then, it doesn’t now and it won’t in the future. He had ‘nothing in’ the Lord. As has been said, he could not accuse or tempt the sinless Son. Also, the Lord Jesus was not of this world (John 17:14, 16) therefore the ruler of this cosmos had no jurisdiction, power or control over Him; He was moving in His Father’s will and the Devil and all the powers of darkness couldn’t change, stop or thwart that will, rather they actually served to fulfil it.
What an encouragement for us. Just as the Lord is not of this world neither are we (John 15:19; 17:14, 16). The Devil can raise up hatred and persecute Christians. He can shoot ‘the fiery darts’ of doubt and discouragement. But, he cannot touch or destroy the soul redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. We are not in his kingdom or under his power. Still, trial and opposition is not easy and the ‘Lord’s prayer’ which He taught to the disciples says: ‘deliver us from the evil one’ (Matt 6:13 NKJV) and the Lord prayed to the Father: “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one]” (John 17:15). We too need to pray for preservation from the evil one’s attack, something the disciples failed to do before Christ’s arrest in Gethsemane (Matt 26:38-41). He prays for us now as He did for the disciples, and Peter (Luke 22:32). As our Great High Priest in the presence of God He represents us before the Father and sustains us in this hostile world. But, perhaps we too can be like the disciples? Sleeping when we should be watching and praying.
The Devil was making his move which would prove to be his complete undoing. The promised Conqueror of Genesis 3 v 15 would crush his head. The Lord Jesus had come the seed of the woman being born uniquely of Mary, now the time had come to defeat the inveterate foe. The Lord had already proclaimed: “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31) and was about to remind the disciples: “Of judgment because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:11), a judgment that would be complete and absolute.
As we look at an evil world and witness the constant agitation of the nations and the wickedness of men under the rule of the prince of darkness and see the spirit of antichrist abounding and as we understand from scripture what lies ahead for this Christless world, how glad we should be that we’re saved. How thankful that we belong to God and know Christ as Lord and Saviour. I’ve no doubt we are and how we long and pray that others too would turn to Him and know the blessing of salvation and the assurance of eternal life in Him.
In crushing the head of the serpent, the Lord Jesus knew venom of his bite. Deep, so unfathomably deep were His sorrows and His sufferings. He triumphed through suffering and He suffered to triumph. The cost to Him is beyond our comprehension and the extent of His love a cause of wonder to our hearts. One of my favourite hymns is:
Lord when I think upon the love Which Thou to me hast shown, To die upon the Cross, that Thou Mayest claim me for Thine own. I cannot tell why Thou didst show Such love to one like me, Save that it is, that I might know I owe it all to Thee. Albert Midlane (1825-1909)
Prince of Peace I use this beautiful title by way of contrast to the prince of darkness. He who is the Prince of Peace was indeed the Son given: 'For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace' (Isa 9:6).
In this gospel of ‘the Son given’, He is about to show the world that His Cross was the supreme demonstration of the obedience of His love to His Father. As He went through the experience of the Cross in all that it meant, His love and devotion to His Father never dimmed, never diminished as He fulfilled His will and glorified Him through His perfect obedience (Phil 2:8). The Spirit would come and did according to the Lord’s words to convict the world concerning His person and the meaning of His Cross (John 16:8-11). He wants the world to know of His love for the Father, just as He wants the world to know the Father’s love for the world’ (John 3:16). The world, its people, will come to know the truth of the Son’s love for the Father, either by grace or in judgment for ultimately every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord to the glory of the Father (Phil 2:9-11).
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from the King James Version.