1. Let not your heart be troubled — you believe in God, believe also in me. 2. In my Father’s house are many dwellings, and if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you. 3. And if I go away and prepare a place for you, I will return again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be also. 4. And whither I go you know, and you know the way. 5. Thomas saith to him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way? 6. Jesus saith to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me. 7. If you had known me, you would have known my Farther also; and henceforth you know him, and have seen him.
1. Let not your heart be troubled. Not without good reason does Christ confirm his disciples by so many words, since a contest so arduous and so terrible awaited them; for it was no ordinary temptation, that soon afterwards they would see him hanging on the cross; a spectacle in which nothing was to be seen but ground for the lowest despair. The season of so great distress being at hand, he points out the remedy, that they may not be vanquished and overwhelmed; for he does not simply exhort and encourage them to be steadfast, but likewise informs them where they must go to obtain courage; that is, by faith, when he is acknowledged to be the Son of God, who has in himself a sufficiency of strength for maintaining the safety of his followers.
We ought always to attend to the time when these words were spoken, that Christ wished his disciples to remain brave and courageous, when they might think that every thing was in the greatest confusion; and therefore we ought to employ the same shield for warding off such assaults. It is impossible for us, indeed, to avoid feeling various emotions, but though we are shaken, we must not fall down. Thus it is said of believers, that they are not troubled, because, relying on the word of God, though very great difficulties press hard upon them, still they remain steadfast and upright.
You believe in God. It might also be read in the imperative mood, Believe in God, and believe in me; but the former reading agrees better, and has been more generally received. Here he points out the method of remaining steadfast, as I have already said; that is, if our faith rest on Christ, and view him in no other light than as being present and stretching out his hand to assist us. But it is wonderful that faith in the Father is here placed first in order, for he ought rather to have told his disciples that they ought to believe in God, since they had believed in Christ; because, as Christ is the lively image of the Father, so we ought first to cast our eyes on him; and for this reason, too, he descends to us, that our faith, beginning with him, may rise to God. But Christ had a different object in view, for all acknowledge that we ought to believe in God, and this is an admitted principle to which all assent without contradiction; and yet there is scarce one in a hundred who actually believes it, not only because the naked majesty of God is at too great a distance from us, but also because Satan interposes clouds of every description to hinder us from contemplating God. The consequence is, that our faith, seeking God in his heavenly glory and inaccessible light, vanishes away; and even the flesh, of its own accord, suggests a thousand imaginations, to turn away our eyes from beholding God in a proper manner.
The Son of God, then, who is Jesus Christ, [“Le Fils de Dieu done, qui est Jesus Christ.”] holds out himself as the object to which our faith ought to be directed, and by means of which it will easily find that on which it can rest; for he is the true Immanuel, who answers us within, as soon as we seek him by faith. It is one of the leading articles of our faith, that our faith ought to be directed to Christ alone, that it may not wander through long windings; and that it ought to be fixed on him, that it may not waver in the midst of temptations. And this is the true proof of faith, when we never suffer ourselves to be torn away from Christ, and from the promises which have been made to us in him. When Popish divines dispute, or, I should rather say, chatter, about the object of faith, they mention God only, and pay no attention to Christ. They who derive their instruction from the notions of such men, must be shaken by the slightest gale of wind that blows. Proud men are ashamed of Christ’s humiliation, and, therefore, they fly to God’s incomprehensible Divinity. But faith will never reach heaven unless it submit to Christ, who appears to be a low and contemptible God, and will never be firm if it do not seek a foundation in the weakness of Christ.
2. In my Father’s house are many dwellings. As the absence of Christ was a cause of grief, he declares that he does not, go away in such a. manner as to remain separate from them, since there is room for them also in the heavenly kingdom. For it was proper that he should remove the suspicion from their minds, that, when Christ ascended to the Father, he left his disciples on earth without taking any farther notice of them. This passage has been erroneously interpreted in another sense, as if Christ taught that’ there are various degrees of honor in the heavenly kingdom; for he says, that the mansions are many, not that they are different or unlike, but that there are enough of them for a great number of persons; as if he had said, that there is room not only for himself, but also for all his disciples.
And if it were not so, I would have told you. Here commentators differ. Some read these words as closely connected with what goes before: “If the dwellings had not been already prepared, I would have said that I go before you to prepare them.” But I rather agree with those who render it thus: “If the heavenly glory had awaited me only, I would not have deceived you. I would have told you that there was no room for any one but myself in my Father’s house. But the case is widely different; for I go before, to prepare a place for you.” The context, in my opinion, demands that we read it in this manner; for it follows immediately afterwards, If I go to prepare a place for you. By these words Christ intimates that the design of his departure is, to prepare a place for his disciples. In a word, Christ did not ascend to heaven in a private capacity, to dwell there alone, but rather that it might be the common inheritance of all the godly, and that in this way the Head might be united to his members.
But a question arises, What was the condition of the fathers after death, before Christ ascended to heaven? For the conclusion usually drawn is, that believing souls were shut up in an intermediate state or prison, because Christ says that, by his ascension into heaven, the place will be prepared. But the answer is easy. This place is said to be prepared for the day of the resurrection; for by nature mankind are banished from the kingdom of God, but the Son, who is the only heir of heaven, took possession of it in their name, that through him we may be permitted to enter; for in his person we already possess heaven by hope, as Paul informs us, (Ephesians 1:3.) Still we will not enjoy this great blessing, until he come from heaven the second time. The condition of the fathers after death, therefore, is not here distinguished from ours; because Christ has prepared both for them and for us a place, into which he will receive us all at the last day. Before reconciliation had been made, believing souls were, as it were, placed on a watch-tower, looking for the promised redemption, and now they enjoy a blessed rest, until the redemption be finished.
3. And if I go away. The conditional term, if, ought to be interpreted as an adverb of time; as if it had been said, “After that I have gone away, I will return to you again.” This return must not be understood as referring to the Holy Spirit, as if Christ had manifested to the disciples some new presence of himself by the Spirit. It is unquestionably true, that Christ dwells with us and in us by his Spirit; but here he speaks of the last day of judgment, when he will, at length, come to assemble his followers. And, indeed, if we consider the whole body of the Church, he every day prepares a place for us; whence it follows, that the proper time for our entrance into heaven is not yet come.
4. And whither I go you know. As we need no ordinary fortitude, that we may patiently endure to be so long separated from Christ, he adds another confirmation, that the disciples know that his death is not a destruction, but a passage to the Father; and next, that they know the way which they must follow, that they may arrive at the participation of the same glory. Both clauses ought to be carefully observed. First, we must see Christ, by the eyes of faith, in the heavenly glory and a blessed immortality; and, secondly, we ought to know that he is the first-fruits of our life, and that the way which was closed against us has been opened by him.
5. Thomas saith to him. Though, at first sight, the reply of Thomas appears to contradict what Christ had said, yet he did not intend to give the lie to his Master. But it may be asked, In what sense does he deny what Christ asserted? I reply, the knowledge possessed by the saints is sometimes confused, because they do not understand the manner or the reason of those things which are certain, and which have been explained to them. For example, the Prophets foretold the calling of the Gentiles with a true perception of faith, and yet Paul declares that it was a mystery hidden from them, (Ephesians 3:2, 4.) In like manner, when the Apostles believed that Christ was departing to the Father, and yet did not know in what way he would obtain the kingdom, Thomas justly replies, that they do not know whither he is going. Hence he concludes that they know still less about the way; for before we enter into a road, we must know where we intend to go.
6. I am the way. Though Christ does not give a direct reply to the question put to him, yet he passes by nothing that is useful to be known. It was proper that Thomas’ curiosity should be checked; and, therefore, Christ does not explain what would be his condition when he should have departed out of this world to go to the Father, [“Quand il seroit parti hors de ce monde pour aller a son Pere.”] but dwells on a subject far more necessary. Thomas would gladly have heard what Christ intended to do in heaven, as we never become weary of those intricate speculations; but it is of greater importance to us to employ our study and labor in another inquiry, how we may become partakers of the blessed resurrection. The statement amounts to this, that whoever obtains Christ is ill want of nothing; and, therefore, that whoever is not satisfied with Christ alone, strives after something beyond absolute perfection.
The way, the truth, and the life. He lays down three degrees, as if he had said, that he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end; and hence it follows that we ought to begin with him, to continue in him, and to end in him. We certainly ought not to seek for higher wisdom than that which leads us to eternal life, and he testifies that this life is to be found in him. Now the method of obtaining life is, to become new creatures. He declares, that we ought not to seek it anywhere else, and, at the same time, reminds us, that he is the way, by which alone we can arrive at it. That he may not fail us in any respect, he stretches out the hand to those who are going astray, and stoops so low as to guide sucking infants. Presenting himself as a leader, he does not leave his people in the middle of the course, but makes them partakers of the truth. At length he makes them enjoy the fruit of it, which is the most excellent and delightful thing that can be imagined.
As Christ is the way, the weak and ignorant have no reason to complain that they are forsaken by him; and as he is the truth and the life, he has in himself also what is fitted to satisfy the most perfect. In short, Christ now affirms, concerning happiness, what I have lately said concerning the object of faith. All believe and acknowledge that the happiness of man lies in God alone: but they afterwards go wrong in this respect, that, seeking God elsewhere than in Christ, they tear him — so to speak — from his true and solid Dignity.
The truth is supposed by some to denote here the saving light of heavenly wisdom, and by others to denote the substance of life and of all spiritual blessings, which is contrasted with shadows and figures; as it is said, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, (John 1:17.) My opinion is, that the truth means here the perfection of faith as the way means its beginning and first elements. The whole may be summed up thus: “If any man turn aside from Christ, he will do nothing but go astray; if any man do not rest on him, he will feed elsewhere on nothing but wind and vanity; if any man, not satisfied with him alone, wishes to go farther, [“Si quel qu’un ne se contentant point de luy seul, vent passer outre.”] he will find death instead of life.”
No man cometh to the Father. This is an explanation of the former statement’, for he is the way, because he leads us to the Father, and he is the truth and the life, because in him we perceive the Father. As to calling on God, it may indeed be said, with truth, that no prayers are heard but through the intercession of Christ; but as Christ does not now speak about prayer, we ought simply to understand the meaning to be, that men contrive for themselves true labyrinths, whenever, after having forsaken Christ, they attempt to come to God. For Christ proves that he is the life, because God, with whom is the fountain of life, (Psalm 36:9,) cannot be enjoyed in any other way than in Christ. Wherefore all theology, when separated from Christ, is not only vain and confused, but is also mad, deceitful, and spurious; for, though the philosophers sometimes utter excellent sayings, yet they have nothing but what is short-lived, and even mixed up with wicked and erroneous sentiments.
7. If you had known me. He confirms what we have just now said, that it is a foolish and pernicious curiosity, when men, not satisfied with him, attempt to go to God by indirect and crooked paths. [“Par voyes obliques et tortues.”] They admit that there is nothing better than the knowledge of God; but when he is near them, and speaks to them familiarly, they wander through their own speculations, and seek above the clouds him whom they do not deign to acknowledge as present. Christ, therefore, blames the disciples for not acknowledging that the fullness of the Godhead was manifested in him. “I see,” (says he,) “that hitherto you have not known me in a right and proper manner, because you do not yet acknowledge the lively image of the Father which is exhibited in me.”
And henceforth you know him, and have seen him. He adds this, not only to soften the severity of the reproof, but likewise to accuse them of ingratitude and slothfulness, if they do not consider and inquire what has been given to them; for he said this rather for the purpose of commending his doctrine than of extolling their faith. The meaning therefore is, that God is now plainly exhibited to them if they would but open their eyes. The word see expresses the certainty of faith.