How goes it with your soul as you sit here today? I mean it when I ask you this, how are you doing? Are any of you anxious, troubled, or ashamed this morning? Maybe you’re anxious because you’re someone who likes to be in control and life currently feels out of control? Maybe you’re troubled because of past wounds you’ve received from others? Maybe you’re ashamed because you’re haunted by past wounds you’ve given others? Whatever it may be, and whether you admit you’re anxious, troubled, or ashamed, I think we can all agree that we all feel these things to varying degrees in this life. I say this because life in a fallen world feels very fallen, but one place where this fallen world brightens up a bit is when we glimpse the faithfulness of God. His faithfulness in a fallen world refreshes, reinvigorates, and revives our souls. But let’s ask another question: where do we see God’s faithfulness the clearest? Answer: in His promises.
This thought alone is plenty encouraging as is, but we can be more specific. In fact, our passage today gets very specific about these very things.
Continuing our journey through the gospel of John, this morning John 14:18-24 is in view for us. And in aiming to explain and apply this text God would like to draw your attention to His promises in Christ presented here. Promises, specifically about Jesus’ resurrection and what that means for you and I.
A Promised Resurrection (v18-19)
It seems trouble has surrounded this upper room conversation as soon as it began. Jesus washed their feet, they didn’t understand. Jesus said one of them would betray Him, they didn’t understand. Jesus said He’d soon leave them, Peter didn’t understand and spoke up. Jesus clarified His meaning, telling them He’d soon prepare a place for them in His Father’s house by going to the cross. Thomas didn’t understand and spoke up. Jesus clarified His meaning, telling them He was the true and living way to the Father. Philip didn’t understand and spoke up. Jesus clarified His meaning, telling them of His unity with the Father and that the Helper would soon come to make this clear. They ought to be encouraged at this, they’ve learned much about the nature of the Father and the permanent presence of the Spirit, but perhaps they’re still wondering, ‘Jesus, what about you? Will you really leave us?’Into their anxiety Jesus makes the first great promise in this passage. v18-19, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.Yet a little while and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live.”
Jesus is aware of the plight of orphans, He’s aware of the pain of being destitute with no where to turn, and He’s also aware that His disciples will likely feel something of this pain when He dies and enters the tomb. So, just before He is about to be abandoned by them in the hour of His deepest need see the love of Christ displayed for us here in full color as He encourages them by saying He will not abandon them in the hour of their deepest need.No, He will come to them and ensure that they are not left to wander the world as orphans.
This is a promise surely, but a promise of what? He said He’d come to them, but is He speaking of His second coming at the end of all things like we just read of v3? Or is He speaking of the coming of the Spirit we’ve just read of in v16-17 and will read of again in v25-26? Those are options in view, certainly, some people believe those are in view here. But while God will truly come to His people in the Person of His Spirit, and while God will truly come again to take us to Himself at the end of all things, I don’t think this is what Jesus means here. Rather, when Jesus says in v18 “I will come to you” the promise in view is the promise of His resurrection from the grave. v19 makes this clear. “Yet a little while…” points to something near and close not something far off. When He comes again in a “little while” notice Jesus says there will be a contrast as to what the world can see and what the disciples can see.After the crucifixion the world will no longer be able to see Him physically. He will be taken away from them because they didn’t want Him to be near to them. They killed Him and they placed Him in the tomb no longer to be seen. But with the disciples it will be different. For a time, like the world, they also will not be able to see Him physically after the crucifixion, for He will be truly dead and truly in the tomb. But He won’t stay dead, He will live, then the discipleswillsee Him again. It’s as if Jesus was already looking through the pain and agony of the cross to the resurrection and encouraging them on what that day would mean for them.
This contrast between seeing and not seeing has rung true throughout history. It has always been the Church that has seen Christ in His resurrection glory and it has always been the world that is blinded from seeing Christ in His resurrection glory. It’s this way still today, and it will be this way until the end. So the promise in v18 of Jesus not leaving them as orphans but coming to them again, in a little while, is about His resurrection as v19 shows. Once the disciples see Him again, they’ll see that His living has implications for their living, that His life has implications for their life. That death couldn’t hold Him means death died when He rose. So when death comes knocking on their door they can be confident that death won’t be able to hold them as well. Or as v19 says, “Because I live, you also will live.”
See how v20 begins? “In that day…” When the promised resurrection occurs in that day their lives will change! How will they change? “In that day…” they will know 1) a promised resurrection union in v20, and 2) a promised resurrection love in v21. This is how their lives will change, and this is how our lives change too. Let’s see these one at a time.
A Promised Resurrection Union (v20)
In v20 we see the second promise in this passage. Jesus has already promised He would resurrect and come to them, not leaving them as orphans. Now, He promises that after His resurrection His disciples will know something they have only been able to wonder at so far. After His resurrection He promises the disciples will finally know what He had been teaching them all along was true. What will they know? v20 says it, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
Yet again in John 14 we hear some of the most significant teaching on the Trinity in the whole Bible. We’ve gotten this before in 14:6-7 and 14:9-11. See it again here in our passage but see it expanded. Jesus says before that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, but here He adds something else to this. He really is in the Father, the Father really is in Him, and more (here’s the expanded part) “…that you will be in Me, and I in you.” In other words, by believing in Jesus they themselves don’t just believe in Jesus, they also enter into the fellowship, joy, life, and community of the Holy Trinity. We could say, the better they know Jesus, the more Trinitarian they become.But it’s not just knowledge being promised here. It is knowledge for sure, but more is in view. Occasion after occasion we remember seeing the disciples miss the point or misunderstand Jesus’ teaching about Himself. This revealed their great spiritual blindness and need for a spiritual of their own. They were dead in sin and needed to be raised to new life.Well, v20 teaches that it is Jesus’ resurrection to new life that causes the disciples to experience this very thing, to be raised themselves, and once they are raised they will see and know the Christ they once misunderstood.
This is not just for the disciples. This mystical Trinitarian union between God and man will (key word) be the reality for all who similarly embrace the gospel. And what happened to the disciples when they were raised happens to us as God raises us from death to life. The Christ who once perplexed us now enthralls us! The Christ who once confused us now speaks spoke and by His Spirit we’re able to truly, not fully, understand them and feast on Him in them. But there’s more.
A Promised Resurrection Love (v21)
Jesus has promised He would resurrect and come to them, not leaving them as orphans. He has promised that after His resurrection His disciples will know a Trinitarian union and now He promises they will also know a resurrection love.
v21, “In that day…whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”
Once again we see love to Christ expressed in terms of obedience as we saw earlier in v15 and will see again in v23-24. The one who loves Christ will show that love in their lives by obeying and keeping Christ’s commands. This refutes the idea that Christians don’t need to live obediently because God’s already accepted us, and this refutes the idea that the obedience pleasing to God is a cold or disinterested obedience. One commentator described the real thing like this, “There are two motives for keeping commandments – one because they are commanded, and one because we love Him that commands. The first is slavery, the other is liberty. One is cold as the Artic – chilly and barren, the other is like the tropics – warm and inviting.”True faith always shows love and obedience as inextricably tied and united fueling and enlarging one another.
See then what follows this obedience in v21. “And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Not might be loved, or may be loved, but will be loved by the Father. A loving obedience pleases the Father. Just as the Father was pleased with the Son’s obedience, so too, He is pleased by those who believe in the Son and show it by obeying the Son. But there’s more, because of the unity between Father and Son whoever loves and obeys the Son will also be loved by the Father andthe Son. And more so (!) whoever is loved by Father and Son will learn more of the Son because the Son will reveal or manifest more of Himself to them day by day so that their love toward Him, their knowledge of Him, and their obedience to Him will grow and grow. This all means that growth and joy and delight and love to God will exponentially expand in the hearts of those who love and obey God.
The pattern of the promises in v20-21 is new resurrection life producing new love to God, which produces new obedience to God, which produces a newer and deeper knowledge of God, which produces newer and deeper love and obedience to God…and on and on and on and on into eternity forevermore. Jesus promises that this will be the experience of all who truly know Jesus. So if we find that our love for God has faded, is fading, or if we find our souls dry, cold, and barren it is probably because we’ve stopped obeying Him in one or multiple areas of life. If we want a spiritual climate like that of the tropics we must turn back to Him, love Him, obey Him, and enjoy how He continually reveals Himself to us day by day by His Word.
Now, all of this leads to a question. The fourth question from a disciple in the upper room in fact. Recall Peter’s question 13:36, Thomas’ question in 14:5, and Philip’s question in 14:8, here is Judas’ question. John the apostle is careful for us to understand this isn’t Judas Iscariot the traitor, this is another Judas present. His question is in v22, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Perhaps this Judas, like the rest of most Jews, expected the Messiah to make a very visible entrance or physical manifestation when He comes. How then, would Jesus reveal Himself to them only, and not to the whole world?Jesus answers, and in His answer we find the fourth promise in our passage…a promised resurrection home.
A Promised Resurrection Home (v23-24)
“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.Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.”
This fourth promise is put positively in v23 and negatively in v24. Positively, those who love Jesus will keep His Word, just as v18 says. And they will not remain orphans in the world but will gain a true home in and with both the Father and the Son. This word ‘home’ is the same Greek word we saw earlier in v2 translated as rooms or dwelling places. Back then the meaning was an eternal home after Jesus returns at the second coming, here in v23 the meaning is a post resurrection home where God comes to us to dwell within us by His Spirit beginning a communion or fellowship of love with each believer that anticipates, or is a foretaste of, the eternal communion or fellowship of love we’ll enjoy with Him for all eternity.In a true sense this is describing the Christian life. We are raised from the dead the moment we place our faith in Christ, and at this moment of our conversion we begin walking with God here in this life. v23 reminds us that we’re now at home with God wherever we are in the world. The reverse comes into view in v24 and it is as horrific as v23 is wonderful. Those who do not love Jesus will not keep His words. Words that aren’t just the Son’s but the Father’s as well. The meaning is clear. By turning away from and not loving the Son, this person will not have a home with both Father and Son. All those within this group will remain orphans in the world, lost and without hope. See another contrast: those who believe in Jesus are at home with God while being at odds with the world. Those who refuse to believe in Jesus are at home with the world while being at odds with God. One feels like the tropics – warm and inviting, the other feels like the Artic – cold and barren. One is a true knowledge of God in the fullest sense of the term, while the other lacks any real knowledge of God at all.This is Jesus’ fourth promise in this passage to His anxious and troubled disciples.
Once you pile up these four promises back to back (a resurrection, a union, a love, and a home) they feel like a tide of divine light rushing over our anxious and troubled hearts doesn’t it? Taking these four promises together begs us to one last question.
I began with is, now I’ll end it with us: how goes it with your soul? If you’ve never come to Christ, if you’ve never embraced the gospel, this passage says you’ll ever feel like an orphan in this life: lost, cold, barren, left alone to wander in this world without hope or home. Rejecting God in this life only to find Him rejecting you for all eternity. Eternal orphans is what some of you will be if you don’t repent of sin and turn to Christ here this morning. But would you believe that God would adopt you right here and now if you turned away from sin and looked to Him in faith? That’s the promise of the gospel. That Jesus became like us, bore our sin, died the death we deserve, and rose to share His resurrection life with all who believe in Him. These things, felt and seen in these promises today will cause your orphan ways will fall off of you as you enter into the household of God and enjoy a never ending fellowship with this God.
For those of you who don’t believe I pray this text, full of promises toward those who believe, would be something of a wake up call for you this morning. Opening your eyes to see the reality of your lost orphan state versus the state of the adopted children of God. Would you loose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then take heed of this passage, eagerly jump into it, and you shall come forth as from rest.
For those of you who do believe, I pray this text and the promises in it would be a reminder that regardless how anxious, troubled, hurt, ashamed, or fearful you may be, God has made our heart His home, and He has begun renovation. May His renovation mightily rush over you and reinvigorate your soul anew.
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John – PNTC (Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans, 1991) page 502.
Richard Phillips, John 11-21 – Reformed Expository Commentary(Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2014) page 262.
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John – NICNT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971) page 652.
The Gospel Transformation Study Bible, The Gospel of John – study note on 14:16-31 (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013) page 1434.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scriptures, 17 vols. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1982) 11:347, quoted in Phillips, page 266.