(John 14:21 ESV) 21 “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.”
Jesus is not so much repeating himself as tying concepts together now.
You can’t claim to love Jesus and yet refuse to honor his commandments. Very, very true. But notice the context. Peter would deny Jesus three times in just a few hours. The other apostles would all abandon him at Calvary. Only the women and the disciple Jesus loved would remain at the foot of the cross. The apostles’ faith would be shaken to its core. They’d be devastated — by the loss of Jesus and their own cowardice.
And yet, to whom did Jesus manifest himself? Well, these very same miscreants. That’s grace upon grace. That’s grace unimaginable.
Further, consider just what commandments Jesus issued while on earth. In John, hardly any at all. John does not report Jesus’ issuing a list of demands or imposing a new moral code. He doesn’t teach a soul how to “do church” other than “in Spirit and in truth.”
Rather, he repeatedly, intensively, and with all possible gravity urges his disciples and all others to believe. He urges that his disciples love each other. He repeatedly promises that he’ll return and work things out in a good way. He offers faith, hope, and love. And that’s pretty much it.
(1Co 13:13 ESV) 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
(1Th 1:2-3 ESV) 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Gal 5:5-6 ESV) 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
I don’t know. Maybe that’s wishy washy liberalism. But John’s Gospel just doesn’t have much in the way of commands. And the original readers didn’t have the epistles of Paul to turn to. They didn’t have cross-references in the center column taking them to the other three Gospels. The books of the New Testament weren’t bound together and thumb indexed together. It’s likely that they weren’t even all written when John was written.
No, John’s Gospel circulated as a standalone work, intended to be read as such. The commandments that Jesus refers to are especially and most importantly the commandments we find in the text of John.
(John 14:22 ESV) 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”
“Judas” is an English transliteration of the Greek version of “Judah.” The Greeks insist on putting an “s” at the end of their singular nouns. Hence, the Betrayer was named after the son of Jacob from whom Jesus is descended.
This “Judas,” however, is likely Thadeus. He asks a most intelligent question. Why does Jesus intend to only show himself to the disciples? Why not show himself to the world?
(John 14:23-24 ESV) 23 Jesus answered him, “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. 24 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.”
To see Jesus manifested, you much keep Jesus’ “word” (logos). This is plainly parallel with “keep my commandments,” but “word” in John is the gospel, that is, God’s message that is and is about Jesus. You must follow Jesus. You must be true to the nature of Jesus. You must seek to imitate him. You must enter into the path of theosis — becoming like God by becoming like his image, that is, Jesus.
Jesus says that those who do this will find both God the Father and Jesus making their home with them! Again, “them” is plural. The church is the temple of the Spirit and bride of Christ.
Obviously, Jesus is not preaching some kind of perfectionism. You don’t gain theosis by becoming sinless. No, God’s grace is such that he is actually looking at your hearts. The disciples abandoned Jesus, but their hearts were so sensitive, so filled with love that they quickly repented and dedicated their lives to sacrificial service in the name of Jesus.
God looks for us to have the heart of Jesus, not the sinlessness of Jesus. Those with Jesus’ heart will not be cold-hearted sinners, but neither will they be perfect.
You see, it was the Pharisees who sought to please God by scrupulous rule keeping via scrupulous rule finding. The more concerned with the Sabbath you are, the more concerned you are to know the exact boundaries of the rules — so you can obey them and so please God. At some point, however, you’re just guessing because God did not tell you not to heal or walk on the grass on a Saturday.
Is this wrong? Well, it’s wrong when your desire to keep rules causes you to impose man-made rules on your brothers and so to look down on those you are called to love. It’s wrong when it becomes an idol, when scrupulous boundary drawing becomes an end to itself in preferences to having a heart for the hurting.
(John 14:25-26 ESV) 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Jesus now turns to the Spirit again. He is not changing subjects. He was just speaking of himself and the Father making their homes with believers. He’s now adding the Spirit to the mix.
Now, “teach you all things” is a promise to all Christians.
(1Jo 2:20-21 ESV) 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
(1Jo 2:27 ESV) 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie– just as it has taught you, abide in him.
In 1 John, John is not promising omniscience. Rather, “knowledge,” “truth,” and “everything” speak to the gospel, the truth about Jesus, that is, everything that truly matters.
As Jesus spoke only to the disciples present (we weren’t there), the second part of the promise would seem particular to them, but it remains true that the Spirit equips believers with a special, spiritual understanding —
(1Co 2:12-16 ESV) 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Paul plainly declares that some things may only be understood by believers. Some knowledge is given solely by the Spirit.
We miss this. We lack faith. Moreover, we spend so little time in the text, so little time in prayer, so little time walking the path of Jesus, that our worldliness gets in the way. We struggle to escape our Modern, Western worldview. But the promise remains available to be grasped.