Scholars think this Gospel was likely written in Ephesus in the 80s or early 90s CE. Christians met in house churches, but many individuals still attended synagogue. However, during this time the Jewish community started banning Christians from their synagogues. They also faced persecution from Roman rulers. It was important to assure the first generation of disciples of God’s continuing presence in their lives.
It is helpful to put this part of Jesus’ “farewell discourse” in the setting of the preceding verses. In John 14 Jesus offers three promises of presence. In the first promise, Jesus says the disciples will not be orphaned (v. 18). When Jesus returns to God the Father, the disciples will be comforted by a divine presence; a companion called, in Greek, the Paraclete (John 14:16–17). In Greek the noun, parakletos, means advocate or counselor. The Greek verb parakaleo offers further descriptive meanings. They include “to comfort and console,” “to encourage and exhort,” “to call on for help,” or “the one who helps,” to name a few.* The Greek reader recognizes all these ideas in the one word parakaaleo.
In the church, we say Holy Spirit. The Gospel of John writer wants the reader to know the full extent of the blessing God and Jesus are providing the disciples. Faithful disciples will not feel abandoned in the presence of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, that comforts and consoles, encourages, and helps.
The second promise of presence is that Jesus will return. This promise reminds us of Easter morning and the empty tomb. It also reconnects us to Jesus’ visits to rooms with locked doors, and sharing fish on the shore. Jesus’ promise is for believers of all generations—those who knew and touched him and those who believe the stories of the encounters with Jesus. His promise of presence is for each of us, no matter when and where we live.
The third promise is about living in love and keeping Jesus’ word. Faithful disciples follow the example of Jesus. They teach about God’s love, and have the Holy Spirit to remind them of Jesus’ words and deeds. The Paraclete offers encouragement and help. The strongest evidence of faithfulness to Jesus happens in community, rather than as individuals. God, Jesus, and the Paraclete are interconnected. They model mutual care and love. As a triune community they offer love and continuing care for faithful communities of disciples.
Verse 27 introduces the word peace. This is a special peace that Jesus gives. It comes from the way Jesus lived his life with joy, hope, love, and peace. The promise of God’s peace does not mean we live without pain, conflict, loss, or distress. Rather, it assures us Christ’s peace comforts us even when our lives are distressed. We live peacefully when our lives reflect the life of
*George Johnston, “The Spirit-Paraclete in the Gospel of John” (Cambridge University Press, 1970) cited in Interpreters Bible: Luke, John; vol. 8, 747.
Jesus Christ. When we live and love as Jesus, our lives are filled with God’s peaceful presence.