John 14:28
You have heard how I said to you, I go away, and come again to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father: for my Father is greater than I.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBVWSWESTSK
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(28) Ye have heard how I said unto you.—Better, Ye heard how I said unto you. (See John 14:19-20.)

If ye loved me, ye would rejoice.—True love seeks another’s good and not its own. Their sorrow at His departure was at its root selfish, as all sorrow for those who depart to be with God is, however little we think so. His departure would be the return to the glory of the Father’s throne, and was matter for joy and not for sorrow. For them also it was expedient. (Comp. Notes on John 16:6-7.)

For my Father is greater than I.—These words have naturally formed the subject of controversy in every period of the Church’s history, between those who deny and those who accept the truth that the Son is “very God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before all worlds.” And, as in all controversies, statements have been made on either side which cannot be supported by the words themselves. On the part of those who assert the divine nature, it has been contended that the Father is greater than the Son only as regards the human nature of the Son; but this is not here thought of. In this passage, as in others of the New Testament, it is plainly asserted that in the divine nature there is a subordination of the Son to the Father. (See, e.g., John 14:16; John 17:5; 1Corinthians 3:23; 1Corinthians 11:3; 1Corinthians 15:27-28; Philippians 2:9; Philippians 2:11; and especially Note on John 5:19 et seq.) On the part of those who deny the divinity of our Lord, it has been contended that this text asserts the inferiority of His nature to that of the Father, whereas the words could only have been uttered by one who meant in them to assert His own divine essence. If we try to imagine a man saying, “God is greater than I,” we feel at once that He who really said them claimed for Himself that He was truly God.

John

JOY AND FAITH, THE FRUITS OF CHRIST’S DEPARTURE

John 14:28 - John 14:29
.

Our Lord here casts a glance backward on the course of His previous words, and gathers together the substance and purpose of these. He brings out the intention of His warnings and the true effect of the departure, concerning which He had given them notice, as being twofold. In the first verse of my text His words about that going away, and the going away itself, are represented as the source of joy, which is an advance on the peace that He had just previously been promising. In the second of our verses these two things-His words, and the facts which they revealed-are represented as being the very ground and nourishment of faith.

So, then, we have these two thoughts to look at now, the departed Lord, the fountain of joy to all who love Him; the departed Lord, the ground and food of faith.

I. The departure of the Lord is a fountain of joy to those who love Him.

In the first part of our text the going away of Jesus is contemplated in two aspects.

The first is that with which we have already become familiar in previous sermons on this chapter-viz., its bearing upon the disciples; and in that respect it is declared that Christ’s going is Christ’s coming.

But then we have a new aspect, one on which, in His sublime self-repression, He very seldom touches-viz., its bearing upon Himself; and in that aspect we are taught here to regard our Lord’s going as ministering to His exaltation and joy, and therefore as being a source of joy to all His lovers.

So, then, we have these thoughts, Christ’s going is Christ’s coming, and Christ’s going is Christ’s exaltation, and for both reasons that departure ought to minister to His friends’ gladness. Let us look at these three things for a little while.

First of all, there comes a renewed utterance of that great thought which runs through the whole chapter, that the departure of Jesus Christ is in reality the coming of Christ. The word ‘again’ is a supplement, and somewhat restricts and destroys the true flow of thought and meaning of the words. For if we read, as our Authorised Version does, ‘I go away and come again unto you,’ we are inevitably led to think of a coming, separated by a considerable distance of time from the departure, and for most of us that which is suggested is the final coming and return, in bodily form, of the Lord Jesus.

Now great and glorious as that hope is, it is too far away to be in itself a sufficient comfort to the mourning disciples, and too remote to be for us, if taken alone, a sufficient ground of joy and of rest. But if you strike out the intrusive word ‘again,’ and read the sentence as being what it is, a description of one continuous process, of which the parts are so closely connected as to be all but contemporaneous, you get the true idea. ‘I go away, and I come to you.’ There is no gap, the thing runs on without a break. There is no moment of absolute absence; there are not two motions, one from us and the other back again towards us, but all is one. The ‘going’ is the ‘coming’; the solemn series of events which began on Calvary, and ended on Olivet, to the eye of sense were successive stages in the departure of Jesus Christ. But looked at with a deeper understanding of their true meaning, they are successive stages in His approach towards us. His death, His resurrection, His ascension, were not steps in the cessation of His presence, but they were simply steps in the transition from a lower to a higher kind of that presence. He changed the limitations and externalities of a mere bodily, local nearness for the realities of a spiritual presence. To the eye of sense, the ‘going away’ was the reality, and the ‘coming’ a metaphor. To the eye enlightened to see things as they are, the dropping away of the visible corporeal was but the inauguration of the higher and the more real. And we need to reverse our notions of what is real and what is figurative in Christ’s presence, and to feel that that form of His presence which we may all have to-day is far more real than the form which ceased when the Shekinah cloud ‘received Him out of their sight,’ before we can penetrate to the depth of His words, or grasp the whole fullness of blessing and of consolation which lie in them here. In a very deep and real sense, ‘He therefore departed from us for a season that we might receive Him for ever.’

The real presence of Jesus Christ to-day, and through the long ages with every waiting heart, is the very keynote to the solemn music of these chapters. And again I press upon you, and upon myself, the question, Do we believe it? Do we live in the faith of it? Does it fill the same place in the perspective of our Christian creed as it does in the revelation of the Scripture, or have we refined it and watered it down, until it comes to be little more than merely the continuous influence of the record of His past, just as any great and sovereign spirit that has influenced mankind may still ‘rule the nations from his urn’? Or do we take Him at His word, and believe that He meant what He said, in something far other than a violent figure for the continuance of His influence and of the inspiration drawn from Him, ‘Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world’? ‘Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend up into heaven? that is, to bring Christ down from above, the Word,’ the Incarnate Word, ‘is nigh thee, in thy heart,’ if thou lovest and trustest Him.

Then, again, the other aspect of our Lord’s coming, which is emphasised here, is that in which it is regarded as affecting Himself. Christ’s going is Christ’s exaltation.

Now observe that, in the first clause of our verse, there is simply specified the fact of departure, without any reference to the ‘whither’; because all that was wanted was to contrast the going and the coming. But, in the second clause, in which the emphasis rests not so much upon the fact of departure as upon the goal to which He went, we read: ‘I go to the Father.’ Hitherto we have been contemplating Christ’s departure simply in its bearing upon us, but here, with exquisite tenderness, He unveils another aspect of it, and that in order that He may change His disciples’ sadness into joy; and says to them, ‘If ye were not so absorbed in yourselves, you would have a thought to spare about Me, and you would feel that you should be glad because I am about to be exalted.’

Very, very seldom does He open such a glimpse into His heart, and it is all the more tender and impressive when He does. What a hint of the continual self-sacrifice of the human life of Jesus Christ lies in this thought, that He bids His disciples rejoice with Him, because the time is getting nearer its end, and He goes back to the Father! And what shall we say of the nature of Him to whom it was martyrdom to live, and a supreme instance of self-sacrificing humiliation to be ‘found in fashion as a man’?

He tells His followers here that a reason for their joy in His departure is to be found in this fact, that He goes to the Father, who is greater than Himself.

Now mark, with regard to that remarkable utterance, that the whole course of thought in the context requires, as it seems to me, that we should suppose that for Christ to ‘go to the Father’ was to share in the Father’s greatness. Why else should the disciples be bidden to rejoice in it? or why should He say anything at all about the greatness of the Father? If so, then this follows, that the greatness to which He here alludes is such as He enters by His ascension. Or, in other words, that the inferiority, of whatever nature it may be, to which He here alludes, falls away when He passes hence.

Now these words are often quoted triumphantly, as if they were dead against what I venture to call the orthodox and Scriptural doctrine of the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it may be worth while to remark that that doctrine accepts this saying as fully as it does Christ’s other word, ‘I and My Father are one,’ I venture to think that it is the only construction of Scripture phraseology which does full justice to all the elements. But be that as it may, I wish to remind you that the creed which confesses the unity of the Godhead and the divinity of Jesus Christ is not to be overthrown by pelting this verse at it; for this verse is part of that creed, which as fully declares that the Father is greater than the Son, as it declares that the Son is One with the Father. You may be satisfied with it or no, but as a matter of simple honesty it must be recognised that the creed of the Catholic Church does combine both the elements of these representations.

Now we can only speak in this matter as Scripture guides us. The depths of Deity are far too deep to be sounded by our plummets, and he is a bold man who ventures to say that he knows what is impossible in reference to the divine nature. He needs to have gone all round God, and down to the depths, and up to the heights of a bottomless and summitless infinitude, before he has a right to say that. But let me remind you that we can dimly see that the very names ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ do imply some sort of subordination, but that that subordination, inasmuch as it is in the timeless and inward relations of divinity, must be supposed to exist after the ascension, as it existed before the incarnation; and, therefore, any such mysterious difference is not that which is referred to here. What is referred to is what dropped away from the Man Jesus Christ, when He ascended up on high. As Luther has it, in his strong, simple way, in one of his sermons, ‘Here He was a poor, sad, suffering Christ’; and that garb of lowliness falls from Him, like the mantle that fell from the prophet as he went up in the chariot of fire, when He passes behind the brightness of the Shekinah cloud that hides Him from our sight. That in which the Father was greater than He, in so far as our present purpose is concerned, was that which He left behind when He ascended, even the pain, the suffering, the sorrow, the restrictions, the humiliation, that made so much of the burden of His life. Therefore we, as His followers, have to rejoice in an ascended Christ, beneath whose feet are foes, and far away from whose human personality are all the ills that flesh is heir to. ‘If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father; for My Father is greater than I.’

So then the third thought, in this first part of our subject, is that on both these grounds Christ’s ascension and departure are a source of joy. The two aspects of His departure, as affecting Him and as affecting us, are inseparably welded together. There can be no presence with us, man by man, through all the ages, and in every land, unless He, whose presence it is, participates in the absolute glory of divinity. For to be with you and me and all our suffering brethren, through the centuries and over the world, involves something more than belongs to mere humanity. Therefore, the two sources of gladness are confluent-Christ’s ascension as affecting us is inseparably woven in with Christ’s ascension as affecting Himself.

Love will delight to dwell upon that thought of its exalted Lover. We may fairly apply the simplicity of human relationships and affections to the elucidation of what ought to be our affection to Him, our Lord. And surely if our dearest one were far away from us, in some lofty position, our hearts and our thoughts would ever be going thither, and we should live more there than here, where we are ‘cribbed, cabined, and confined.’ And if we love Jesus Christ with any depth of earnestness and fervour of affection, there will be no thought more sweet to us, and none which will more naturally flow into our hearts, whenever they are for a moment at leisure, than this, the thought of Him, our Brother and Forerunner, who has ascended up on high; and in the midst of the glory of the throne bears us in His heart, and uses His glory for our blessing. Love will spring to where the beloved is; and if we be Christians in any deep and real sense, our hearts will have risen with Christ, and we shall be sitting with Him at the right hand of God. My brother, measure your Christianity, and the reality of your love to Jesus Christ, by this-is it to you natural, and a joy, to turn to Him, and ever to make present to your mind the glories in which He loves and lives, and intercedes, and reigns, for you? ‘If ye love Me, ye will rejoice, because I go unto the Father.’

II. And now I can deal with the second verse of our text very briefly. For our purpose it is less important than the former one. In it we find our Lord setting forth, secondly, His departure and His announcement of His departure as the ground and food of faith.

He knew what a crash was coming, and with exquisite tenderness, gentleness, knowledge of their necessities, and suppression of all His own feelings and emotions, He gave Himself to prepare the disciples for the storm, that, forewarned, they might be forearmed, and that when it did burst upon them, it might not take them by surprise.

So He does still, about a great many other things, and tells us beforehand of what is sure to come to us, that when we are caught in the midst of the tempest we may not bate one jot of heart or hope.

Why should I complain Of want or distress, Temptation or pain? He told me no less.’

And when my sorrows come to me, I may say about them what He says about His departure-He has told us before, that when it comes we may believe.

But note how, in these final words of my text, Christ avows that the great aim of His utterances and of His departure is to evoke our faith. And what does He mean by faith? He means, first of all, a grasp of the historic facts-His death, His resurrection, His ascension. He means, next, the understanding of these as He Himself has explained them-a death of sacrifice, a resurrection of victory over death and the grave, and an ascension to rule and guide His Church and the world, and to send His divine Spirit into men’s hearts if they will receive it. And He means, therefore, as the essence of the faith that He would produce in all our hearts-a reliance upon Himself as thus revealed, Sacrifice by His death, Victor by His resurrection, King and interceding Priest by His ascension-a reliance upon Himself as absolute as the facts are sure, as unfaltering as is His eternal sameness. The faith that grasps the Christ, dead, risen, ascended, as its all in all, for time and for eternity, is the faith which by all His work, and by all His words about His work, He desires to kindle in our hearts. Has He kindled it in yours?

Then there is a second thought-viz., that these facts, as interpreted by Himself, are the ground and the nourishment of our faith. How differently they looked when seen from the further side and when seen from the hither side! Anticipated and dimly anticipated, they were all doleful and full of dismay; remembered and looked back upon, they were radiant and bright. The disciples felt, with shrinking hearts and fainting spirits, that their whole reliance upon Jesus Christ was on the point of being shattered, and that everything was going when He died. ‘We trusted,’ said two of them, with such a sad use of the past tense, ‘we trusted that this had been He which should have redeemed Israel. But we do not trust it any more, nor do we expect Him to be Israel’s Redeemer now.’ But after the facts were all unveiled, there came back the memory of His words, and they said to one another, ‘Did He not tell us that it was all to be so? How blind we were not to understand Him!’

And so ‘the Cross, the grave, the skies,’ are the foundations of our faith; and they who see Him dying, rising, ascended, henceforth will find it impossible to doubt. Feed your faith upon these great facts, and take Christ’s own explanation of them, and your faith will be strong.

Again, we learn here that faith is the condition of the true presence of our absent Lord. Faith is that on our side which corresponds to His spiritual coming to us. Whosoever trusts Him possesses Him, and He is with and in every soul that, loving Him, relies upon Him, in a closeness so close and a presence so real that heaven itself does not bring the spirit of the believer and the Spirit of the Lord nearer one another, though it takes away the bodily film that sometimes seems to part their lives.

We, too, may and should be glad when we lift our eyes to that Throne where our Brother reigns. We too, may be glad that He is there, because His being there is the reason why He can be here; and we, too, may feed our faith upon Him, and so bring Him in very deed to dwell in our hearts. If we would have Christ within us, let us trust Him dying, rising, living in the heavens; and then we shall learn how, by all three apparent departures, He is drawing the closer to the souls that love and trust.John 14:28-31. If ye loved me — With a wise and rational affection, it would allay your sorrows in the mean time, and howsoever you might have a mournful sense of your own loss; you would rejoice on my account, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father — Whose servant I am, as Mediator; is, in this respect, greater than I — Consequently, it must be my honour and happiness to be in a state of greater nearness to him than the present world will admit. “These words,” as Dr. Macknight justly remarks, “afford a strong argument for the proper divinity of our Lord. For had he been a mere man, or even a mere creature of the highest order, the comparison would have been foolish and impertinent.” And now I have told you before it come to pass, &c. — I have foretold my sufferings and death, in order that, when they happen, your faith, instead of being shaken, may be confirmed. Hereafter I will not talk much with you — I shall not have much opportunity to talk with you after this; for the prince of this world cometh — To make his grand assault. The devil will stir up wicked men to kill me; but he hath nothing in me — No right, no claim, no power. There is no guilt in me to give him power over me; no corruption to take part with his temptation. Be assured, therefore, that I shall undergo the punishment of death, not because I deserve it; but that the world may know — On the most substantial evidence; that I love the Father — I suffer Satan thus to assault me, and I undergo death, to show the world how much I love the Father: for it is the Father’s will that I should thus act; and as the Father gave me commandment — Or, commission; (see John 10:18;) even so I do — Because I can refuse no act of obedience to him, (how painful or expensive soever it may be,) whereby his glory may be advanced. Arise, &c. — And therefore, that we may be prepared for this hour of trial that is coming upon us, let us go hence — And retire to a place where we may more conveniently give ourselves to prayer, and where I may be ready, when my cruel enemies shall come to apprehend me, to yield myself into their hands, and to submit to what my Father has appointed for me. 14:28-31 Christ raises the expectations of his disciples to something beyond what they thought was their greatest happiness. His time was now short, he therefore spake largely to them. When we come to be sick, and to die, we may not be capable of talking much to those about us; such good counsel as we have to give, let us give while in health. Observe the prospect Christ had of an approaching conflict, not only with men, but with the powers of darkness. Satan has something in us to perplex us with, for we have all sinned; but when he would disturb Christ, he found nothing sinful to help him. The best evidence of our love to the Father is, our doing as he has commanded us. Let us rejoice in the Saviour's victories over Satan the prince of this world. Let us copy the example of his love and obedience.Ye have heard ... - John 14:2-3.

If ye loved me - The expression is not to be construed as if they had then no love to him, for they evidently had; but they had also low views of him as the Messiah; they had many Jewish prejudices, and they were slow to believe his plain and positive declarations. This is the slight and tender reproof of a friend, meaning manifestly if you had proper love for me; if you had the highest views of my character and work; if you would lay aside your Jewish prejudices, and put entire, implicit confidence in what Isay.

Ye would rejoice - Instead of grieving, you would rejoice in the completion of the plan which requires me to return to heaven, that greater blessings may descend on you by the influences of the Holy Spirit.

Unto the Father - To heaven; to the immediate presence of God, from whom all the blessings of redemption are to descend.

For my Father is greater than I-- The object of Jesus here is not to compare his nature with that of the Father, but his condition. Ye would rejoice that I am to leave this state of suffering and humiliation, and resume that glory which I had with the Father before the world was. You ought to rejoice at my exaltation to bliss and glory with the Father (Professor Stuart). The object of this expression is to console the disciples in view of his absence. This he does by saying that if he goes away, the Holy Spirit will descend, and great success will attend the preaching of the gospel, John 16:7-10. In the plan of salvation the Father is represented as giving the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the various blessings of the gospel. As the Appointer, the Giver, the Originator, he may be represented as in office superior to the Son and the Holy Spirit. The discourse has no reference, manifestly, to the nature of Christ, and cannot therefore be adduced to prove that he is not divine. Its whole connection demands that we interpret it as relating solely to the imparting of the blessings connected with redemption, in which the Son is represented all along as having been sent or given, and in this respect as sustaining a relation subordinate to the Father.

28. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I—These words, which Arians and Socinians perpetually quote as triumphant evidence against the proper Divinity of Christ, really yield no intelligible sense on their principles. Were a holy man on his deathbed, beholding his friends in tears at the prospect of losing him, to say, "Ye ought rather to joy than weep for me, and would if ye really loved me, "the speech would be quite natural. But if they should ask him, why joy at his departure was more suitable than sorrow, would they not start back with astonishment, if not horror, were he to reply, "Because my Father is greater than I?" Does not this strange speech from Christ's lips, then, presuppose such teaching on His part as would make it extremely difficult for them to think He could gain anything by departing to the Father, and make it necessary for Him to say expressly that there was a sense in which He could do so? Thus, this startling explanation seems plainly intended to correct such misapprehensions as might arise from the emphatic and reiterated teaching of His proper equality with the Father—as if so Exalted a Person were incapable of any accession by transition from this dismal scene to a cloudless heaven and the very bosom of the Father—and by assuring them that this was not the case, to make them forget their own sorrow in His approaching joy. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you; they had heard our Saviour saying so, John 14:3. It is of the nature of true love, to rejoice in the good of the object beloved, as much as in its own, nay, before its own.

Saith our Saviour,

if ye loved me, that is, as ye ought to love me, (for our Lord had before owned that they did love him, giving it as a reason why he rather revealed himself and manifested himself to them, than to the world, John 14:23), you would not have been so unreasonably disturbed at my telling you that I shall leave you; because I not only told you that I would come again to you, but because I told you that I was going to my Father, John 14:2; from whom though I was never separated, as I am God over all blessed for ever, yet my human nature was yet never glorified with him; so that I shall be there much happier than here; being highly exalted, and having a name given me above every name, Philippians 2:9.

For my Father is greater than I; not greater in essence, (as the Arians and Socinians would have it), he had many times before asserted the contrary; but greater,

1. Either as to the order amongst the Divine Persons; because the Father begat, the Son is begotten; the Father is he from whom the Son proceeded by eternal generation: in which sense, divers of the ancients, amongst whom Athanasius, Cyril, and Augustine, and some modern interpreters, understand it. Or:

2. As Mediator sent from the Father, so he is greater than I. Or:

3. In respect of my present state, while I am here in the form of a servant; and in my state of humiliation:

which seemeth to be the best interpretation, if we consider the words before, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father; for the true reason of that joy must have been, because Christ in his glorious state of exaltation would be much more happy than he had been in his state of humiliation, while he was exposed to the scoffs, reproaches, and injuries of men, the temptations of Satan, &c. Ye have heard how I said unto you,.... Christ had not only told his disciples that he should depart from them in a little time, but also that he should return again to them, and comfort them with his presence, and receive them to himself, to be with him in his Father's house for ever: and this he again suggests,

I go away, and come again unto you; so that they had not so much reason to be troubled and afraid, as they were: had he only said to them that he should go away, without giving any hint of his coming again, they might well have been uneasy; what made the friends of the Apostle Paul so sorrowful at his departure, was most of all, because he had signified to them they should see his face no more; but Christ assured his disciples that in a little time they should see him again, to their unspeakable joy and comfort:

if ye loved me, adds he,

ye would rejoice; not but that the disciples did truly love Christ, and their concern for the loss of his bodily presence is a proof of it; nor was their love unknown to him, nor does he call it in question, only corrects it, or rather uses means to increase it, to draw it forth aright, that it might move and run in a proper channel; they loved him, and therefore were unwilling to part with him, but this was not a pure expression of love to him, it showed too much a regard to themselves, than to the object loved; whereas had they considered things aright, since it was to his greater advantage to remove, they should rather have discovered a willingness to it, and have rejoiced at it; this would have shown pure love and unbiased affection to him: two reasons our Lord gives why they should have rejoiced at his departure; one is,

because, says he,

I said, I go unto the Father; who was not only his, but their Father also; at whose right hand he was to sit, an honour which no mere creature ever had; where he was to be glorified and exalted above all created beings; and besides, his glorification would secure and bring on theirs; as sure as he lived in glory, so sure should they; yea, they should immediately sit down in heavenly places in him, as their head and representative, and therefore had good reason to rejoice at his going away: the other is,

for my Father is greater than I: not with respect to the divine nature, which is common to them both, and in which they are both one; and the Son is equal to the Father, having the self-same essence, perfections, and glory: nor with respect to personality, the Son is equally a divine person, as the Father is, though the one is usually called the first, the other the second person; yet this priority is not of nature, which is the same in both; nor of time, for the one did not exist before the other; nor of causality, for the Father is not the cause of the Son's existence; nor of dignity, for the one has not any excellency which is wanting in the other; but of order and manner of operation: these words are to be understood, either with regard to the human nature, in which he was going to the Father, this was prepared for him by the Father, and strengthened and supported by him, and in which he was made a little lower than the angels, and consequently must be in it inferior to his Father; or with regard to his office as Mediator, in which he was the Father's servant, was set up and sent forth by him, acted under him, and in obedience to him, and was now returning to give an account of his work and service; or rather with regard to his present state, which was a state of humiliation: he was attended with many griefs and sorrows, and exposed to many enemies, and about to undergo an accursed death; whereas his Father was in the most perfect happiness and glory, and so in this sense "greater". That is, more blessed and glorious than he; for this is not a comparison of natures, or of persons, but of states and conditions: now he was going to the Father to partake of the same happiness and glory with him, to be glorified with himself, with the same glory he had with him before the foundation of the world; wherefore on this account, his disciples ought to have rejoiced, and not have mourned.

{10} Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is {l} greater than I.

(10) We should in no way be sorry for the departing of Christ from us according to the flesh, but rather we should rejoice in it, seeing that all the blessing of the body depends upon the glorifying of the head.

(l) This is spoken in that Christ is mediator, for in this regard the Father is greater than he, in as much as the person to whom request is made is greater than he that makes the request.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 14:28. Instead of being terrified and alarmed, you should rejoice, that I, etc. ἠκούσατε, κ.τ.λ. (John 14:18) prepares for this.

εἰ ἠγαπ. με] intended by Jesus to be understood in its ideal sense, of true, complete love, which consists simply and solely in entire self-surrender to Him, so that all other interests are subordinated to it.

ὅτι ὁ πατήρ μου μείζων μου ἐστί] Statement of the reason for the joy which they would have felt (ἐχάρητε): since my Father is greater, as generally, so particularly, more powerful (comp. John 14:12; John 8:53; John 10:29; 1 John 4:4) than I; since I, consequently, through my departure to Him, shall be elevated in the higher fellowship with Him, to far greater power and efficiency for my aims, for victory over the world, etc. Comp. Melanchthon. In this gain, which is awaiting me, how should not he rejoice who loves me? Others find the motive to joy indicated by Christ in the glory and blessedness which awaits Him with the Father. So Cyril (τὴν ἰδίαν δόξαν ἀναληψόμενος), and several, including Tholuck, Olshausen, Kling, Köstlin, Maier, Hilgenfeld, Hengstenberg, Baeumlein, comp. Godet. But thus the motive would lie only in the departure to the Father generally (with which the attainment of the δόξα was necessarily associated), not to the Father’s superior greatness of being, irrespective of the fact, that on this view the reference which Jesus would be giving to the love of the disciples would contain something selfish. Others render: the occasion of joy lies in the more powerful protection which the μείζων πατήρ would assure to the disciples, beyond what He, during His presence on earth, was able to do (Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, and several others, including Kuinoel, Lücke, De Wette). But this does not apply to the condition of love to the person of Jesus, for the above explanation changes it rather into love towards His work. Others, as Luther, Beza, Grotius, Bengel, Lampe, mingle together in the determination of the cause of joy, the interest of Christ and of the disciples; comp. Calvin: “quia haec ultima est meta, ad quam tendere vos oportet.”

The μειζονότης of the Father (formerly the point of controversy with the Arians, see Suicer, Thes. II. p. 1368) does not rest in the pre-eminence of the unbegotten over the begotten (Athanasius, Faustinus, Gregory Nazianzus, Hilarius, Euth. Zigabenus, and many others, including again also Olshausen), for which special expedient the text offers no occasion whatever, nor again in the temporal humiliation of Christ (Cyril, Augustine, Ammonius, Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, Beza, Aretius, and many others, including De Wette, Tholuck, and Luthardt), since God is also greater than the exalted Christ (see John 14:16, ἐρωτήσω, John 17:5; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Php 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3, and generally throughout the N. T.), as He was also greater than the pre-existent Logos (John 1:1-3); but in the absolute monotheism of Jesus (John 17:3), and of the whole N. T. (see on Romans 9:5), according to which the Son, although of divine essence,[157] and ὉΜΟΟΎΣΙΟς with the Father (John 1:1; Php 2:6; Colossians 1:15-18, et al.), nevertheless was, and is, and remains subordinated to the Father, the immutably Highest One, since the Son, as Organ, as Commissioner of the Father, as Intercessor with Him, etc., has received His whole power, even in the kingly office, from the Father (John 17:5), and, after the complete accomplishment of the work committed to Him, will restore it to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:28). The remark of Hengstenberg is incorrect: Only such a pre-eminence of greatness on the part of the Father can be intended, as came to an end with the departure of Christ to the Father.

[157] This forms the previous assumption of the declaration, which otherwise would be without meaning and relevancy. Comp. on John 10:30. In truth, from the mouth of an ordinary human being it would be an utterance of folly.John 14:28. On the contrary quite other feelings should possess them: joy in sympathy with Him in His glorification and in expectation of the results of His going to the Father: ἠκούσατεπατέρα. “If ye loved me,” an almost playful way of reproaching their sadness. There was no doubt of their love, but it was an unintelligent love. They failed to consider the great joy that awaited Him in His going to the Father. This going to the Father was cause for rejoicing, ὅτι ὁ πατήρ μου [μου is not well authenticated and should be deleted] μείζων μου ἐστί, “because the Father is greater than I”; and can therefore fulfil all the loving purposes of Christ to His disciples. “The life which He has begun with them and for them will be raised to a higher level.” They had seen the life He had lived and were disturbed because it was coming to an end: but it was coming to an end because absorbed in the greater life He would have with the Father. The theological import of the words is discussed by Westcott, who cites patristic opinions and refers to Bull and Pearson. In all that Jesus did, it was the Father’s will He carried out, and with powers communicated by the Father: the Father is the Originator and End of all His work in the world. Throughout the ministry of Jesus the Father is represented as “greater” than the Son. That it should require to be explicitly affirmed, as here, is the strongest evidence that He was Divine.28. Ye have heard, &c.] Literally, Ye heard that I said to you, I am going away and I am coming unto you: comp. John 14:1-2; John 14:18.

because I said, I go, &c.] Omit ‘I said,’ which is wanting in all the best authorities: If ye had loved Me, ye would have rejoiced that I am going unto the Father. The construction is the same as in John 4:10, John 11:21; John 11:32, John 14:28. Their affection is not free from selfishness: they ought to rejoice at His gain rather than mourn over their own loss.

for my Father is greater than I] Because the Father is greater than I. Therefore Christ’s going to Him is gain. This was a favourite text with the Arians, as implying the inferiority of the Son. There is a real sense in which even in the Godhead the Son is subordinate to the Father: this is involved in the Eternal Generation and in the Son’s being the Agent by whom the Father works in the creation and preservation of all things. Again, there is the sense in which the ascended and glorified Christ is ‘inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.’ Lastly, there is the sense in which Jesus on earth was inferior to His Father in Heaven. Of the three this last meaning seems to suit the context best, as shewing most clearly how His going to the Father would be a gain, and that not only to Himself but to the Apostles; for at the right hand of the Father, who is greater than Himself, He will have more power to advance His kingdom. See notes on 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Mark 13:32, [John 16:19].John 14:28. Ἠκούσατε, ye have heard) On other occasions His wont is to say, εἶπον, I have said; but this which He has said, concerning His departure, His disciples eagerly had attended to, and that, too, with sorrow.—ὑπάγω, καὶ ἔρχομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, I go away, and come unto you) In relation to the world He saith, I came and depart [“I leave the world”], ch. John 16:28 : Καὶ, and forthwith.—ἐχάρητε ἂν) ye would rejoice, or rather, ye would have rejoiced. As to the Pluperfect, we have slightly touched upon the subject in John 14:2.[353] Ye would have rejoiced for My sake, as I am setting out upon a wished-for journey of departure, and for your own sakes, as love makes you capable of perceiving that My departure is advantageous even to yourselves. Love begets joy, both of itself, and also because it keeps the word of Christ, which opens out all the most joyful prospects to us.—μείζων μου, greater than I) Many and various were the former disputations and treatises on this passage, which Dion. Petavius has collected, Tom. ii. Theol. Dogm. l. 2, de Trin. cap. 2; G. Bullus Def. Fid. Nicæn. Sect. iv.; Jo. Casp. Suicer. Thes. Part ii. coll. 1368, Reinecc. ad N. T., fol. 387. Not a few of the Greeks and Latins have answered the Arians, and laid it down, That the Father, not as God, but as the ἀγέννητος Father (not-begotten), is said to be greater than the Son, not regarded in His character as God, but as the Son, begotten of the Father; and that this fact does not do away with His unity of essence (τὸ ὁμοούσιον) or consubstantiality with the Father. To these is to be added G. Arnold. Evang. Bottschafft, p. 697. Others affirm, that Christ is inferior to the Father in respect of His human nature;[354] which phrase of comparison has in it nothing inept; comp. 1 John 3:20, “God is greater than our heart.” Jesus both had in His most holy soul, at one time, a greater feeling of His glory, at another time of His humility, and expressed that feeling accordingly in His words. Comp. note on Mark 13:32, “Of that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels, etc., neither the Son, but the Father” [spoken in relation to His human nature, and His humiliation]. In this passage He speaks under the feeling of His ταπεινότης, lowliness: language such as was best adapted both to the capacity of understanding which the disciples had at the time, and to the present (existing) time and circumstances, when He was treating of His departure to the Father. Before His actual departure, He had been lower even than the angels, Hebrews 2:9; after His departure, He became greater than His own self [i.e. the Worker, through His disciples, of greater miracles than even He Himself had performed in the days of His flesh. “He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father”], John 14:12, and equal to the Father, ch. John 17:5, “O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” Nor yet does He speak of His Humiliation alone, but speaks as the Son of God in the flesh, directing His aspirations (longing to go) to the Father. Greater than I; that is to say, more blessed. Comp. this term as it occurs in ch. John 4:12, “Art Thou greater than our father Jacob?” John 8:53, “Art Thou greater than our father Abraham?” 1 Corinthians 13:13, “The greater of these is charity;” John 14:5, “Greater (more useful) is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues;” and as to the thing itself, comp. Mark 10:18.[355] This consideration especially made the departure of Jesus out of the world to the Father a thing to be desired.

[353] See note ch. John 4:10. If John had meant ye would rejoice, he would have written the Imperfect, ἐχαίρετε ἂν, rather than the Aorist.—E. and T.

[354] So the Nicene Creed, “Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.”—E. and T.

[355] “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” He rested not in Himself, but referred Himself wholly to God, acting the part of a traveller and pilgrim on earth, “not knowing Himself after the flesh” (Augustine), but aiming towards the eternal good. At the same time His answer to the youth does not ignore His Godhead, but is adapted to his comprehension. He refuses the title of goodness when unaccompanied with the ascription of Godhead.—E. and T.Verse 28. - Now, however, he leads them a step further. The disciples are to dismiss their trouble and fear, because

(1) of the many mansions that he is going to prepare;

(2) because he was the "Way" to the Father;

(3) because they have had a theophany in him;

(4) because they shall carry on the work of Christ and fulfill all the prophecies,

(5) and do all this under the power of another Advocate or Helper;

(6) because he, the Holy Spirit, will indeed reveal him as he (Christ) had revealed the Father; and

(7) because the Father and Son would come and take up their abode in the loving and obedient heart. But the Lord does more - he bids them not only to dismiss their fear and harassment, but even to "rejoice." Ye heard that I said, I am departing, and, in that very act, I am coming to you. If ye loved me, ye would have rejoiced - a supposition involving uncertainty with a prospect of decision. Perfect love would cast out fear. But why? Because I go to the Father, the theme of the whole discourse. But why should this cause you to rejoice? Because the Father is greater than I! It is not easy adequately to explain this memorable saying. The Arians made use of it to prove, from bur Lord's own lips, that his Person, even his pre-existent Divinity, was less than the Father's; that his essence, admittedly generated by the Father, was created by him, and was not the same as that of the Father. The same view has been held by the rationalistic school. The Socinians and modern Unitarians have insisted on the entire dependence and purely human character of our Lord. The Son of man and Son of God are to many merely the self-chosen titles of the greatest of the sons of men, who thus is supposed to put himself on a level with ordinary men who may learn to call God their Father. But is it? Could any man, unconscious of a far closer relation with God than that of the greatest saint, dare to say, as if to relieve anxiety on that head, "My Father is greater than I"? Is there not in the very phrase a suggestion of Divine sufficiency and relation to the Father which altogether precludes the purely humanitarian position?

(1) A theological view which has largely prevailed among those who have held the homoousia of the Father and the Son, is that the Lord was here speaking of his human nature only. The Athanasian symbol says," Equal to the Father as touching his Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood." But the "I" is here used of his whole Personality, as in John 8:58; John 10:30, and throughout the discourse he is speaking of himself in the Divine-human Person in which the eternal and temporal, the infinite and finite, are indissolubly blended.

(2) Others have supposed that he referred to himself as in a state of humiliation. Hengstenberg says the Lord was speaking of the pre-eminent greatness of the Father, which came to an end at his departure. Cyril, Luther, Melancthon, De Wette, Tholuck, Luthardt, and Alford think that Jesus spoke these words of the humiliated Christ in his condition of a servant - obedient unto death. The Son, the Logos of God, was that Mode or Personality of Deity by which "God" created the universe, governed mankind, and proceeded by special manifestation - incarnation, life, and death - to redeem the world. Calvin had said, while the Arians have abused this testimony, the orthodox solution of the Fathers was neither harmonious nor sound; the true signification of the passage, according to him, being found in the mediatorial office of the Christ, and in his status exinanitionis. But this would not exhaust the meaning, for in this very passage he does describe the Father as greater even than the exalted Christ; and in John 1:1-3 as greater even than the pre-existent Logos. And so

(3) we are led to see that there is indeed a subordination of rank and order in the Son, involved in the very notion even of an eternal generation; and compatible with the equality of Being and of essence which he shared with the Father. This is undoubtedly confirmed by John 17:3, 5; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Philippians 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3; and has been through the whole history of Christological speculation conceded (Bishop Bull, in his three chapters on the "Subordination of the Son," has shown, by abundant proof, that before and after the Council of Nicaea, the Fathers held "that the Son has indeed the same Divine nature in common with the Father, but communicated by the Father in such sense, i.e., that the Father alone hath the Divine nature from himself, but the Son from the Father; that the Father is the Fountain, Origin, and Principle of the Divinity which is in the Son"). This is abundantly, needful to avoid at once the errors of tritheism, and to maintain the real unity of the Divine Being. Christ's going to the Father was a ground of rejoicing, because his exaltation through death and resurrection to the position of power and majesty unutterable, and the lifting up of his Divine-human Personality to the midst of the throne, gives to him, in his relations with his disciples, the efficacy of the greatness of that Divine nature which, by its own characteristics, could not have become incarnate. The unrevealed God is greater than the revealed. The lifting up of perfect humanity into the glory which the Son had with the Father before the world was, should have been the cause of joy to the disciples. It is the wellspring of joy to the Church (see Suicer, 'Thesaurus,' art. Μειζονότης; Bull's 'Defense of the Nicene Creed,' bk. 4; Westcott's catena of passages in 'Additional Note to John 14;' Lange and P. Schaff, 'Comm. on John'). Isaid

Omit, and read, ye would have rejoiced because I go unto the Father.

Links
John 14:28 Interlinear
John 14:28 Parallel Texts


John 14:28 NIV
John 14:28 NLT
John 14:28 ESV
John 14:28 NASB
John 14:28 KJV

John 14:28 Bible Apps
John 14:28 Parallel
John 14:28 Biblia Paralela
John 14:28 Chinese Bible
John 14:28 French Bible
John 14:28 German Bible

Bible Hub






John 14:27
Top of Page
Top of Page