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John 14:23-29

The Gospel of John is something of an enigma. Scholars believe it was probably written by a community of writers in conversation with the compilers of 1-3 John and Revelation. The text’s cohesive theological structure and good-but-not-great Greek grammatical construction point to a late-first or early-second century authorship date, making it perhaps the latest of the four surviving gospels.

Clement of Alexandria (150-215 CE) once famously described John as “the spiritual gospel.” This observation reflects the work’s apologetic emphasis on the cosmic, theological importance of discourses and ideas rather than a more straightforward, chronological recording of natural (and supernatural) events.

The Gospel of John is clearly divided into four parts. The first 18 verses comprise a theological and philosophical Prologue that confirm Christ’s oneness with God as the embodied Word (Gr., Logos) of God preexistent to creation. Chapters 2-12, sometimes referred to as the “Book of Signs,” describe Christ’s earthly ministry, centering on a series of seven “I Am” statements affirming Christ’s messianic identity and mission. Chapters 13-20 make up the “Book of Glory” and relate the Passion narrative; in fact, nearly ¼ of the entire gospel takes place at the Last Supper.[1]

Chapter 14 appears in the middle of Christ’s Final Discourse, which represents both a sort of Q & A session with his closest followers and a promise of further revelations to come. Even as Christ explains (again) to his disciples that he is one with the Father, and that together they will send another Comforter and Advocate (Gr., Paraclete) to further reveal the truth, Judas the son of James insists, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Our text begins with Christ’s answer to this important question.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’”

The Greek word emphanizien, translated here as “reveal,” is the same one used in Greek translations of the Old Testament to describe Moses’s theophany on Mt. Sinai. Like his fellow disciples, Judas (called Jude in some English translations) seems to anticipate a supernatural show of divine power. Instead, Christ promises to reveal his oneness with God by building a new kind of community amongst his loving followers.

The Greek root word mone, translated here as “home,” echoes Christ’s earlier reassurance to his disciples: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Thus, the promise of the Holy Spirit points to a realized, holistic eschatology of love and mutuality: the beloved community to come has already begun in the here and now. “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”