Brian P. Stoffregen Exegetical Notes at

John 14.23-29 (other option: John 5.1-9)
6th Sunday of Easter - Year B

Other texts: 

Be aware also that the assigned text for The Day of Pentecost C (two weeks from now) is John 14:8-17 [25-27], which includes part of this text.

An optional reading for this day is John 5.1-9.


John 14:1-16:33 is Jesus' Farewell Discourse. This discourse is different then others in this gospel. The others are given to interpret and explain a preceding event (e.g., chs. 5, 6, & 9), this speech is given in preparation for the coming events of his death, resurrection, and ascension. James G. Somerville in "Who Will Take Care of Us?" in The Christian Century, p. 471, suggests the following dialogue -- questions from the disciples that Jesus answers in this section.

"Where are you going?"

"I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am there you may be also." [14:3]

"Can we go with you?"

"Where I am going you cannot come." [13:33]

"How long will you be gone?"

"A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while and you will see me." [14:19]

"Who will take care of us?"

"I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever." [14:16]

Another question from the disciples which I think Jesus addresses in this section is: "Why are you leaving?"

On the literary level, this speech is given to the disciples in the upper room. However, the issues raised in this discourse apply more to those disciples living on the other side of the ascension -- including us.


Verse 23 begins with, "Jesus answered and said to him." Jesus is answering the question raised in v. 22 by Judas, not Iscariot: "Lord, how is it that you will reveal (emphanizo) yourself to us, and not to the world?" This question comes because Jesus has just said that he would love and reveal himself to those who have and keep his commandments -- those who love him (v. 21).

Contrasts are given:

The two related answers to the question given in our text are (1) through the Word and (2) through the Paraclete.


Note: the NRSV has changed many of the singular pronouns into plurals.

The conditional statement:

"If anyone is loving me, that one will keep my word (logos)."

This conditional construction in classical Greek denotes something that is more likely to take place. Loving Jesus and keeping the word are intrinsically connected.

What does it mean to "keep" (tereo) Jesus' word?

The basic meanings of this word in BAGD are:

1. keep watch over, guard
2. keep, hold, reserve, preserve someone or something
3. keep = not lose
4. keep = protect
5. keep, observe, fulfill, pay attention to

NOTE: that "obey" is not one of the meanings (although perhaps implied by "observe"). My paraphrase of this word is "hold dear" or perhaps, "consider important".

This interpretation goes beyond mere obedience. One may detest the words that one is hearing and obeying. One may detest the one giving the orders, but to avoid punishment, one obeys them. In contrast to this, phrasing it, "Holding Jesus' word dear," implies having a positive attitude towards that Word and the Word-giver. That is, wanting to hear and obey it out of love for the speaker.

Loving Jesus and "holding dear" what Jesus said and did are inseparable. In ch. 14-15, twice "love" comes before "keep" (14:15 & 23) and twice "keep" comes before "love" (14:21; 15:10). In addition, "keeping" is used with "commandments" (entole) (14:15, 21; 15:10) and with "word" (logos) (14:23, 24; 15:20). Loving Jesus and "holding dear" his word and commandments are inseparable.

In another meeting, there has been some discussion concerning people who say, "I am saved" or "I am a Christian," yet do not think it important to "do this in remembrance of me." It is as if they believe, "I love Jesus, and I might keep his commandments -- as long as they don't interfere with my own (Sunday) plans."

The connection between love and keeping (i.e., holding dear) the commandments is illustrated by Jesus himself in v. 31. He is doing what the Father has commanded him, so that the world might know that he is loving the Father. The purpose of Jesus' obedience is witnessing.

The results of loving Jesus and keeping his word in v. 23 are:

  1. The Father will love that one

  2. The Father and Son will come to that one

  3. The Father and Son will make a dwelling with that one

The promise we have from Jesus is that he (and his Father) will be present to those who, out of their love for Jesus, keep (i.e., hold dear) his word. These are those to whom Jesus will reveal himself.

The word for "dwelling" (mone) occurs twice in the NT. The other occurrence is 14:2, where Jesus goes to prepare "many dwelling places." This noun is related to the verb meno = "to remain, to abide," a word that occurs frequently in the Farewell Discourse (14:10, 17, 25; 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16) -- often referring to the relationship between God and Jesus or God and us. At the same time Jesus is telling the disciples that he will leave them to prepare a place for them to come to, he also offers the promise that he will remain with them and prepare a place where they are at.

In contrast to these who love Jesus and keep his word, Jesus next talks about "The one who is not loving me is not keeping (i.e., holding dear) my words." (v. 24)

I'm not quite sure of the significance, but "words" is plural in this phrase and singular in the following phrase and in v. 23.

Presumably these non-lovers and non-keepers do not receive the Father's love or the abiding presence of the Father and the Son. This is understandable if the love and presence comes through the Word that one "holds dear" or "considers valuable," those who do not have this relationship with the Word will not have the presence of the divine in their lives.

The subject changes in the next phrase: "The Word which you are hearing is not mine, but from the Father who has sent me."

"Keeping the word(s)" in the previous phrases is now phrased "hearing the word." This phrase elucidates the "we" in v. 23 -- the Word that brings the presence comes from both Father and Son. The three cannot be separated: Word, Father, and Son.


I find it best not to translate the Greek word paraclete because there are too many possibilities. While the literal meaning of the related verb (parakaleo) means "to call to one's side" -- usually asking the other for help -- the noun took on a legal meaning as "helper in court". Thus we have translations like "counselor," "advocate," or "one who speaks for another" as well as the (too) general translation of "helper".

Besides, keeping the word untranslated lends itself to some fun puns. The Paraclete is not a little yellow bird. Paracletes are not those things on the bottom of football and baseball shoes.

This word occurs five times in the NT. It is used in 1J 2:1 to refer to Jesus; and four times in John's Farewell Discourse (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

If the Paraclete is a "helper in court," whose helper is it? I had thought of it as our helper; but there are also indications that it is Jesus' helper. The Paraclete comes to speak to us for Jesus. In 14:26, it will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has said to us. In 15:26, it will testify on Jesus' behalf. The Paraclete comes to speak to us on behalf of Jesus.

In our text, the Paraclete will teach us "everything" and remind us of "all" that Jesus has said to us. (In 16:8; its topics are more specific: the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment.) I don't think that it is too much of a stretch to say that the Paraclete "helps" us to hear Jesus' word -- which, as I noted above, brings the continuing presence of Jesus and his Father to us. The Paraclete reveals Jesus to us, but those without the help of the Paraclete will not properly hear or remember the word of Jesus' presence.

In the Christian Century article mentioned at the beginning of my notes, James Somerville presents a unique illustration of the Paraclete:

When my wife puts her hand on the doorknob, her coat over her arm, my children look up from what they are doing to ask: "Who will take care of us?" and she gives them the name of one of their regular babysitters. All of them are capable, and my children enjoy the attention, but if my wife gives them one name -- "Brittain" -- my children leap up from what they are doing and rejoice. Brittain reads to them, romps with them, acts out plays and makes chocolate chip cookies; she nurtures their young lives like a loving parent, and as long as she is with them they are not afraid.

I don't know that the Holy Spirit has ever been compared to a babysitter. But if you can imagine Jesus as a mother, then it may not be so hard to imagine the Spirit in this other role, as one who cares for the church in the interim between Jesus' departure and return, as one who comforts, teaches, reminds and, yes, sometimes even romps with the sons and daughters of God.

In the words of Jesus then, "Rejoice!"


Whenever I see the word "peace" (eirene), I think that it needs to be interpreted first in a communal aspect -- the way people get along with one another, rather than in an individual sense of inner tranquility. However, the inner sense might be implied in this verse which goes on with the command, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." So it may have a sense of the inner feelings (of the community) in this verse.

There are a couple of contrasts presented:

Another contrast occurs later in the farewell speech (16:33 -- the next time eirene is used):

Another use of "peace" that may apply here is that it is the mark of the reign of God. I quote from Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North American, edited by Darrell L. Gruder:

A definitive answer to the question, What is the reign of God? cannot be given. But we can at least sketch some of its contours by listening to the Old Testament's prophetic forecasts of the coming day of God and the prophets' expectations of God intended future for the world. In lectures given in the early 1980s, philosopher Arthur Holmes summarized that prophetic vision as shalom. It envisions a world characterized by peace, justice, and celebration. Shalom, the overarching vision of the future, means "peace," but not merely peace as the cessation of hostilities. Instead, shalom envisions the full prosperity of a people of God living under the covenant of God's demanding care and compassion are rule. In the prophetic vision, peace such as this comes hand in hand with justice. Without justice, there can be no real peace, and without peace, no real justice. Indeed, only in a social world full of peace grounded in justice can there come the full expression of joy and celebration. [pp. 90-91]

Jesus gave the same command about not having troubled hearts in 14:1. There the contrast was between "troubled hearts" and "believing in God and in Jesus." At the same time that Jesus commands us not to have troubled hearts, we read that Jesus "troubled himself" (11:33 -- "was deeply moved" in NRSV); and was troubled in his soul (12:27) and in his spirit (13:21).

What would be troubling our hearts? In our passage, I think it most directly refers to the death and departure of Jesus. In the verse following his comments about "troubled and fearful hearts," he again talks about his going away and coming (v. 28). Both verbs are present tense! We might expect that if Jesus were speaking to the disciples in the upper room, he would have used the future -- he will go away and he will come. However, the present tense, I think, places these words after the ascension. John's readers and we experience Jesus sometimes going away from us and sometimes coming to us -- at times feeling that Jesus is gone and at other times feeling that Jesus is close -- certainty of faith and being uncertain.

I've already talked about Jesus being present to us through the Word and the Paraclete who teaches and reminds us of that Word. Sometimes the Presence can seem very close and other times we may feel forsaken. It is to be noted that our feelings do not determine the reality of the Presence in our lives, but they do affect our perception of reality, which is what we believe to be true.


This conditional statement about loving Jesus is grammatically different than the one in v. 23. In v. 28 "to love" is imperfect, suggesting a contrary to fact or unreal condition: "If you were loving me, you would rejoice." The implication is that they are not presently rejoicing (or that they are not really loving Jesus). This is supported by the other two uses of "rejoice" (chairo) in the farewell discourse (16:20, 22). The disciples are described in these verses as weeping and mourning and in pain, but those feelings will give way to joy. The illustration given in 16:23 is that of a woman in labor. She is in pain. "But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish (thlipsis -- remember this word?) because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world."

The joy of the future benefits and blessings overshadow the present pains and "anguish" or "persecution".

In our text, it is the realization that Jesus is going to the Father who is greater than he that should bring joy (and peace) to our present lives. Related to this is the realization that Jesus and the Father come to us through the Word and Paraclete -- and as an earlier quote suggests, the Paraclete may "romp" with us!

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, Habit 2 is "Begin with the End in Mind." Or, in other words, determine where you want to end up in the future, and plan the present in light of those goals.

The Missional Church book I mentioned earlier contains this sentence: "The church is defined by its origins in a gospel that casts a vision of its destiny that always draws it forward." [p. 86] I think that this is saying something similar to Covey, except that the "End in Mind" for the Church is created by Gospel -- not our wishful thinking or "personal mission statements". Related to this is the wonderful word "eschatology" = "a study of the eschaton or the end". It should be the future picture of shalom that is promised in the reign of God that determines our actions and even our emotions (joyful) in our present circumstances.

In The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, by Barbara Rossing, I think that she present a similar pull from the exchaton in her comments (and exercise) about the new Jerusalem (part of the Second Lesson):

I like to ask people to say the name of their own town or city out loud. Then I invite them to re-phrase the vision of New Jerusalem in terms of their own city's renewal, like King's vision of the New Philadelphia, the New Los Angeles: 'I saw the holy city, God's New (Name of Your Town) coming down out of heaven ...' What would your 'new' city look like, envisioned in light of God's vision of hope? This is an exercise in 'borrowing the eyes of God,' as the German theologian Dorothee Soelle describes our mystical sight. We see our world as God sees it. This is what happens in Revelation's New Jerusalem vision." [p. 166]

Similar thoughts from the Missional Church:

Eschatology is not only about the end of the world. It is about the future breaking in today with an alternative order known as the reign of God. The announcement of Jesus that in his coming the kingdom of God had drawn near (Mark 1:14-15) was a declaration that God's future -- the eschaton -- was present in the world.

Or, perhaps in other words, "The baby has been born." It is time to rejoice. Yet, the baby is certainly not fully grown or mature (cf. the Greek word teleioo). The infant is fully present, yet we are waiting for it to become what it will become.

Another application of being pulled by the end picture is congregational planning. There are two basic ways of planning: problem-based and potential-based. Generally, problem-based planning looks at problems (that began in the past) and seeks to fix them. Potential-based planning looks at where we want to be, and takes steps to reach that vision.

Frequently in creating new budgets, the planners just look at what was spent last year, and add a bit for inflation to keep doing what has been done. Budget planning could also begin by looking at what they want the congregation to be like one or five years from now, and investing in people, programs, materials, to help it become what has been foreseen.

Jesus is going to the Father. The Father is greater than Jesus. Jesus and the Father will come to and make a dwelling with the ones who love Jesus and keep his word. We should rejoice in this, because the other option for the disciples was to have Jesus stay with them. Then they would miss out on having Jesus and the Father (who is greater than Jesus) and the teaching Paraclete come to them -- and who knows, maybe the divine comes to "romp" with us. Perhaps we should change the name in our buildings from nave to romper room!

Brian Stoffregen
Faith Lutheran Church, 1000 D St., Marysville, CA 95901