Jesus Christ, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life, exhorts his disciples to find through faith in his person and his work their true rest, their true home, and their true vocation.
Jesus begins this section (14:1–4) by exhorting his disciples to trust him as he explains what is soon to take place.
The verb “frighten” refers to an inward turmoil or confusion. Since the imperative mood is addressing an emotional state, it is best taken as a command to “be in control of yourself”.
After commanding them to remove fear from their heart, Jesus commands them to receive in its place the confidence that comes from faith in God. Jesus commands them to believe in God, the one made known and accessible by Jesus Christ, demanding that their belief in God be fully established in him.
(Twice “believe” as imperative).
Jesus then begins to describe the foundation upon which belief in God is built.
The term “house” is a special metaphor referring to a building where one dwells (cf. 11:31; 12:3). The term “my Father’s house” was used in John 2:16 referring to the physical temple in Jerusalem.
There are three other ways the term “house” can be used.
The term “rooms ” is also a spatial metaphor and gives further expression to the “house” metaphor. It generally refers to a dwelling place or room.
Jesus here tells the disciples of their inheritance and invites them, heirs of the eternal house of God (8:35), to visualise and embrace even now the bountiful blessings offered to the children of God.
Jesus depicts how every Christian will have a place to dwell with God - the stress is on being with God in the Father’s house.
At Christmas, God came to dwell with us, but at the new creation we are going to be taken to God and dwell with Him (cf. 1 These 4:13–18).
It is also worth nothing that Jesus speaks about “rooms” in the “upper-room”.
“Prepare the place”. The cross, resurrection, and ascension to the Father is the preparation of permanent dwelling with God.
The term “going” has become a technical term in the Gospel for the final journey of the mission of the Son.
“The place” is not an end in itself but an expression of the reality of life in and with God.
Jesus’ departure is intended to provide a departure for his disciples as well.
The completion of Jesus’ departure - the death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father - serves as a guarantee of his return for his disciples, the people of God.
And when he comes he will take his disciples for this one purpose: that they “may be” where “I am”. God’s ultimate purpose is for us to “be” with the one who simply “is”!
This is the clearest example of a statement by Jesus regarding his second coming in all four Gospels. That is what we proclaim as “the mystery of faith” during the Eucharist. But, we should not only wait for it, but also live for it!
The promise of Jesus is not to leave the disciples and then wait for them at the other end, but to come back to them, to receive them, and to take them to the place where he is.
The disciples should know the place where Jesus is “going”, which is through the cross (and resurrection/ascension) to the Father. The “way” leads to the “place”.
The “way” is a metaphor for the way of life, a certain kind of life that leads to the goal of human life.
But, Thomas’ question indicates that the disciples do not know neither the “where - place”, nor the “way”.
The knowledge of the one is the knowledge of the other. The question gives Jesus the opportunity to provide a precise statement of that faith, of that “way” by which the disciples have access to the Father.
Jesus defines that “the way” is not something but someone - He himself. But Jesus also links the truth and the life to himself.
Jesus is going to the Father, and his disciples are to follow him. Jesus is the only way to the Father.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life”, is the sixth of seven formal “I am” with a predicate, but it is not easy to define with precision the meaning of this threefold statement.
The definition of each of these nouns - way, truth, life - must be grounded in Jesus. The entire Gospel is needed to explain Jesus.
Jesus is “the way”. Jesus is the (only) mode by which the Christian existence and participation in God are made possible and accessible. Jesus fulfils this by means of his death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father. While “the way” for Jesus is quite literal and physical - entailing suffering and death - for the Christian “the way” is less a road or path and more a “way of life”.
Jesus is “the truth”. Jesus is the reality through which Christian existence and participation in God find their meaning. Jesus fulfils it by being the supreme revelation of God (1:18). Jesus, the Son of God, says and does exclusively what the Father has given him to say and do (5:19; 8:29). He is ultimately the perfect expression of God (1:14). Jesus is the lens through which the world is to be interpreted and by which it must be judged. He is the gracious extension of light (reality) into a world confined by darkness (distortion).
Jesus is “the life”. Jesus is the source through which Christian existence and participation in God are founded and given their origin. Jesus fulfils this by being the supplier of life and existence, the Creator of all living things - without whom nothing would exist (1:3). Jesus is life itself (1:4), he is the one who has life in himself (5:26), he is “the resurrection and the life” (11:25).
So, to put it simply: Jesus is the way to the Father; He is the truth of the Father God, and He is the life of the Father God.
Jesus destroys the wall that divides humanity from God (He is the way);
Jesus destroys the falsehood that distorts humanity in relation to God (He is the truth);
Jesus defeats the last and greatest enemy of humanity, death (He is the life).
Jesus is the totality of what God has done, is doing, and will do.
“No one comes to the Father except through me”
Some see the word “except” as restrictive; others as a window that lets the light into a closed room. The word “except” indicates access to God. This is the “Gospel”.
The disciples’ knowledge of the Father in the future is directly connected to their experience of and relationship to Jesus in the present. But, they have already known and seen the Father in the person and work of the Son. So “from now on” everything should be different. Jesus has revealed the Father (1:18) to them - because knowing and seeing Jesus is knowing and seeing the Father.
Philip enters in with a request that separates the Father from the person of Jesus. The statement does not only misunderstands how the children of God “see” the Father but also how the children of God relate to the Father through his unique Son, Jesus Christ. Philip’s request misses the inherent unity between the person of the Father and the person of the Son.
Philip’s request reminds us of Moses’ request “show me your glory” (Ex 33:18). But, it also indicates that Phillip, who was with Jesus from the beginning, misunderstands how Jesus “shows” the Father.
Jesus’ question could be translated more like a statement: ’I have been with you for so long a time and still you do not know me!“. Which means that they should have known who Jesus is and the one He represents (cf. 1:18). Philip should have also ”known" the connection between Jesus and the Father.
In between these two questions addressed to Philip is the statement: “The one who has seen me has seen the Father” (cf. 12:45; 13:20). Jesus is the ultimate expression of God and the visible manifestation of God (1:18). Therefore what was “sufficient” for Philip was actually an expression of his ’insufficient" vision of God. In the person of Jesus, the Father could not have been more fully made known or shown.
The statement in 14:9 emphasised the manifestation of the Father by the Son, whereas here the emphasis is upon the relational unity between the Father and the Son.
The twice used of the preposition “in-ἐν” - “ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί” - speaks of the mutuality of the Father and the Son, rooted in the Trinitarian mystery of God.
Both the words of the Word as well as His actions reflect the abiding presence of the Father (cf. 12:49; 5:19–20; 8:28).
Jesus concludes his focus on the inherent unity of the Father and the Son (14:9–11) by commanding belief in this unified presence and activity of the Father and the Son.
The imperative verb “believe” (πιστεύετέ) demands that Christians submit to this truth.
Jesus suggests the “works” of God as an alternative object of belief beyond the word of God. In this Gospel the “works” of Jesus act as “signs”. The works of Jesus point beyond themselves to their true subject matter, the person and work of God made known through Jesus Christ. The works made clear that the Son is “in the Father and the Father is in” the Son (cf. 5:36; 10:25, 38).
This incredible statement begins with the authoritative “Amen, amen”. Jesus transitions from the works of the Son of God to the works of the children of God (14:12–14).
The statement, “the works I do he will also do” is dependent on their belief in Jesus. It transitions the believer from being a witness of the works of God to being a participant in the works of God.
“And greater works than these he will do”. This statement is interpreted as referring to missionary success of the disciples. In the first few months after Jesus’ death and resurrection many more men and women became his followers through their witness than had been so during Jesus’ personal ministry in Galilee and Judea.
But, it seems that such comparison between the works of Jesus during his earthly ministry and then the missionary works of the Church is not the point of this statement.
The meaning of “greater works” is provided by statement that immediately follows: “Because I am going to the Father”. Thus, these “greater works” would still be his own works, accomplished no longer by his visible presence among them but by his Spirit within them. It is only in him and through him that these works find their source and power.
Thus, the comparison was never between the works of Jesus and the works of the disciples, but between the pre-glorification works of Jesus and the post-glorification works of Jesus, with the disciples simply participating in the works of the risen and exalted Lord.
Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus said that the Father will show the Son “works greater than these” (5:20; cf. 1:50; 5:22–27). The “greater works” are connected to the time when Jesus is established and ruling as “the Son of Man” (cf. 1:50).
Christ’s disciples are invited to participate in the ongoing and powerful ministry of God the Father, the exalted Christ, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The ministry of the Church is truly the work of God in the world.
The believer is the one doing the “asking”, placing himself beneath the primary agency of God. In the same way that the Father is working in and through Jesus (14:10), so Jesus is doing in and through his disciples.
The believer is asking “in my name”, that is, by means of the authority that resides and belongs to Jesus alone. Just as the Father has given authority to the Son, so the disciples of Jesus work not by means of their own authority but under the authority of the Son (1:12; 5:27).
Since the concept of a “name” in the ancient world is the character of a person (cf. 1:12), by asking in the name of Jesus the disciples are seeking not themselves but Christ, and their “prayer is to be in accordance with all that that name stands for”.
To ask in the name of Jesus is to deny one’s own person and adopt the character of another person - in this case, the Son of God.
“Glory” means honour. The purpose of such prayer is the glory of the Father in the Son. So, it is not for the purpose of the glory of the disciple but of God (cf. 3:30).
Jesus ends this pericope with a final statement that is intended to make certain the future works of the believers. By this final statement Jesus holds himself accountable for the works of his disciples.
Does God give us whatever we ask?
It is unfortunate that many use 14:13–14 (and 16:23) as an unconditional pledge that every believer’s prayer, (of whatever content), will be heard and answered by God. Yet the language must be understood in its immediate context. Two things can be stated in this regard.
First, Jesus is not withdrawing from them by his departure but by means of his departure is even more present - and more powerful so!
Second, the believers should pray in a manner befitting the mission of God (denoted by the “works” the believer will do in 14:12) and the character of God (denoted by the use of “in his name” in 14:13). Prayers expecting results outside of these parameters are not prayers at all but commands and they do not befit the disciple of Jesus Christ.
This final promise is not about the pursuit of self-seeking permission from God but is an invitation to participate in the fulness of life in God through Christ and by the Spirit.
When Christians pray then, they are agreeing to trust not only in God’s sovereign and authoritative resources but also in God’s perfect and providential results. What makes the prayer a Christian prayer and not a pagan prayer is that God is not used to fulfil the desires of the person who prays, but rather the person who prays submits his or her will to both the power and purpose of God.
A Christian prayer is a paradox in that it seeks from God what one simultaneously surrenders to God. Asking from God therefore is also a letting go. It is letting God be God over all things (Rom 11:36), even the things we want (or need) the most.