Encouragement from Jesus
There are many great commentators on the Gospel of John. My personal favorite is Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John by J. C. Ryle. Ryle’s set of Expository Thoughts series devotes approximately one volume to each Gospel. However, when he gets to John’s Gospel, he expands this commentary on that single book to the three volumes. The difference is that following his normal devotional comments (originally intended to be read around tables at family worship—thus, very simple and straightforward), he includes the insights of over 80 other commentators from all periods of church history. This volume is a gold-mine.
In an earlier devotional on Lazarus, I referred you to one German commentator that Ryle introduced (https://midwaypca.org/from-your-pastor-april-30/). Below is an introduction to another fine commentator.
William Hengstenberg (1802-1869) was a traditionalist German Lutheran, who sought to defend the Bible against the skeptical attacks of the early Nineteenth Century. He received an excellent education in German universities and spent much of his life teaching theology in Berlin. In addition, he edited a church magazine that contended for the orthodox faith during large-scale changes in society and universities.
Encyclopedia Britannica summarized his work below (And check out his sideburns if you look his picture up!):
He defended orthodoxy also by his many biblical commentaries, chiefly on the Old Testament, and by his Christologie des Alten Testaments, 3 vol. (1829–35; “Christology of the Old Testament”). These works opposed the growing reliance upon historical-critical interpretation and followed the traditional method of reading the Old Testament as a Christian book filled with prophecies of the Messiah fulfilled by the coming of Christ. Hengstenberg’s influence was extended to Great Britain and the United States through his books, most of which were translated into English during his lifetime.
William Hengstenberg provides the following list of grounds of comfort which the 14th chapter of John contains, in systematic order, which deserves our attention:
a) The first encouragement is, that to the disciples of Christ, heaven is sure (2-3);
b) The second encouragement is that disciples have in Christ a certain way to heaven (4-11);
c) The third encouragement is that disciples need not fear that with the departure of Christ, his work will cease (12-14);
d) The fourth encouragement is that in the absence of Christ, disciples will have the help of the Spirit (15-17);
e) The fifth encouragement is that Christ will not leave his people forever, but will come back again (18-24);
f) The sixth encouragement is that the Spirit will teach the disciples and supply their want of understanding when left along (25-26):
g) Finally, the seventh encouragement is that the legacy of peace will be left to cheer them in their Master’s absence (27). (Cited in Ryle, op. cit., p. 54).
This is one of those sure guides to right interpretation. He clearly grasped this: Jesus intended to give his disciples encouragement and comfort in his closing hours of teaching. Our Lord still wants to encourage his people and goes so far as to refer to the Holy Spirit as the “Encourager” in John 14:16 and 16:7.
That’s a pattern worth following.