John 14:31: Understanding the Enigma

The Farewell Discourse (FD heron) is popularly known as being 13:31 – 14:31 of John’s Gospel. D.A. Carson concludes[1] that the discussion concerning the FD encompasses a portion of scripture that has been both a “favorite passage for Christians” for “study and meditation” as well as “considerable debate.” As F.F. Bruce points out,[2] the debate has arisen from certain textual arrangements made by earlier translators of the texts, one being James Moffatt. His unique arrangements are found in his translation of the NT and possibly his commentaries on the Gospel of John. Moffatt held that chapters 15 and 16 were to be placed in the middle of 13:31.

The major challenge in textual structure relates then to the closing remarks of Christ in 14:31, “Arise, let us go from here” (NKJV). These words have proven to be enigmatic for many (hereon this phrase will be referenced as the “Enigma”). Determining the textual relevance or relationship of the data before and after that break is what remains pertinent to the minds of students. “The common response throughout the church’s history has been that the first two chapters, John 13-14, are set in the upper room, while chapters 15-17 continue the dialogue along the road to the Mount of Olives, culminating in the prayer of John 17.”[3]

Many interpret the Enigma in a way that it only has spiritual meaning; possibly akin to “arise, let us march to meet the prince of this world” (See Carson here). I do not hold this view and therefore do not see the Enigma phrase as being a pure theological statement. It is plausible “to regard the remainder of the discourse as taking place in the open air, although in 18:1 Jesus is said to have ‘left’ with his disciples, and it would be necessary to suppose that chs. 15–17 were uttered on the way to the Kidron Valley… Some have supposed that ch. 14 should follow ch. 17, but there is no evidence for such rearrangement. The only other alternative is to suppose that 14:31 implied an intention which was fulfilled some time later. On the whole the first suggestion is fraught with the least difficulties.”[4]

After uttering the Enigma it is also plausible that Jesus simply stood up (the disciples may or may not have stood with him) to finish the discourse before finally departing (in John 18:1), but the disciples lingered and conversation continued. Leon Morris “suggests it is possible that the group probably was slow in making its departure and so Jesus continued to teach them in the room. But he prefers the proposal of Lightfoot that it is a “stage in the teaching.”192I believe it plausible but unlikely that Christ was uttering a spiritual command to get up and prepare “to meet the enemy who is on the way already in the person of Judas and the soldiers with him.”[5]

Borchert states that the “view of speaking en route offers a difficulty that a walking band is hardly a conducive setting for communicating major segments of teaching.” He goes on to advocate that, “total rearrangement theories make the contemporary restructuring person wiser than the original writer and means that the present order is a purposeless collection of writings. However one seeks to solve the problem, I refuse to accept any theory that proposes that the logic of this tightly knit argument is to be disturbed by rearrangement.”[6]

My conclusion seems to be shared, at least in part, gree with that of Carson when he states, “it is possible that Jesus and his disciples did not in fact leave until after John 17. Anyone who has frequently invited home ten to twenty graduate students knows how common it is, after someone has announced it is time to go, for another half hour to slip past before anyone makes a serious move to leave.”

Good reason for this delay could stem from Christ’s earlier statements. Consider:

“before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1 NKJV)


[1] Carson, D.A. Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John. © 1991 Eerdman Publishing pg. 476

[2] F. F. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983, reprint 2004) pg. 292

[3] Carson, D.A. Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John. © 1991 Eerdman Publishing pg. 477

[4]Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Jn 14:1). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

[5] THE NET BIBLE®, New English Translation Bible Notes, John 14:31

[6]Borchert, G. L. (2002). Vol. 25B: John 12-21. The new American commentary, New International Version (136). Nashville: Broadman & Holman.


The Miraculous Messiah of the Fourth Gospel:

The ministry of Christ is very much concerned with the miraculous, supernatural events. People were often "amazed" by the acts of Christ. In fact, “the Gospels record a total of thirty-five separate miracles.”[1] In the Gospel of John, the very first miracle was the turning of water into wine, as recorded in 2:1–10. John wrote that the miracles performed by Christ, were “miraculous signs” (2:11) or just “signs” (NKJV). The Fourth Gospel has no deficiency in the presence of the miraculous. The miraculous happenings of Christ are only further evidences of an authentic Messiah. These evidences serve to identify Him as the Christ or "anointed one" in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah 35:5–6; 61:1).

As John begins his prologue he reminds us of the most important Christological miracle—the Incarnation (John 1:1; 14, 1 Timothy 3:16). As John reminds us of the Creation story (John 1:1), the Incarnation of the Logos lays the context in which the rest of Jesus’ miracles will be performed.

Turning Water into Wine: Jesus the Creator

In the Gospel of John, the very first miracle was the turning of water into wine (2:1–10). This miracle was performed at a marriage. It is likely that the marriage took place in the home of some friend or relative of either Jesus or Nathanael. As in many ancient weddings, the most favored of wine was usually held until the end. It is possible that many withheld the best wine for last because many would have stopped drinking or would be very full at that time. In this particular wedding, however, the wine runs out. Mary, the mother of Jesus, asks that He do something about the apparent need of more wine. With only a few words and the heeding of the servants, suddenly the situation went from drought to inundation. Jesus had truly turned the water into wine. John claims this time, in 2:11, as the “beginning” (archē) of Jesus’ signs.

Creative miracles express a very special part of deity. The eternal God of the scripture is also the creator of all things. Jesus demonstrates that He has these very same creative powers. It should be mentioned as well, that this miracle occurs just after the Gospels record Christ being tempted by Christ. That which satan solicited with power Jesus gave to those who had genuine needs.

Healing of the Nobleman’s Son: Jesus the Healer

The second miracle performed by Christ is the healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46–54). Two chapters and one year after the first miracle Christ finds Himself, once again, at the very same place—Cana of Galilee. Here a nobleman, possibly an official for Herod, has heard of the miracles of Christ. He simply sees Christ and implores Him to heal his son. Contrary to probably the majority of His miracles, Jesus did not need to physically see or touch the boy to heal him. It was by the faith of this nobleman that his son was raised to life, with Christ never touching him and being about 20 miles away. In this instance we see that our Creator is even our healer.

Healing of the lame man at Bethesda: Jesus is God

Not only does this miracle include the lame being made to walk again, it involves a miracle performed on the Sabbath—even further statement of deity. There was a feast going on simultaneously as well, this caused even more crowds and attention. To heal on the Sabbath involved insanity or a statement of a higher authority. This miracles is positioned to gain the attention of the Jewish leaders by violating their ideas of the Sabbath. Essentially, this miracle gave Christ’s claims to deity broad publicity in the nation's capital. It also positioned Him to testify of His deity in the Sanhedrin. This publicity, however, brought about the decision to kill him (v. 18).

Ironically, the man by the pool did not even know who He was. This stands in contrast to the nobleman prior, who had previously heard of Christ’s powerful acts. The pool of Bethesda would have been busy and crowded. The pool was also used to wash animals for use in sacrifice as well. According to the text, an angel would visit and people would be healed. A custom developed that only one could be healed with each visit of the angel. Jesus interacts with the man and simply tells him to stand and walk. By healing this man Jesus demonstrates that He possessed powers that transcend all human intervention—He was God in the flesh.

Feeding of 5,000 men: Jesus the Bread of Life

This massive supper is the only one of Jesus' miracles that is told in all four Gospels (c.f. Matthew 14:13–33; Mark 6:32–52; Luke 9:10–17). Scholars are undecided as to exact location of this particular miracle, but it was probably not far from the northern side of the Sea of Galilee.

A crowd had gathered and no doubt many were present due to the nearness of the Passover. Once the crowd had spent time with Christ they grew hungry. Financing the meal was out of the question, but miraculous provision from a small boy’s lunch pack would suffice. With two fishes and five barley loaves Jesus fed what John records as 5,000 men. As most prudent cultures indicate, all leftovers are to be gathered at the end of mealtime. The disciples began to take up the leftovers and were able to accumulate 12 baskets full!

John records later comments of Jesus that give us insight into the fuller meaning of this miracle:

“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (34) Then they said to Him, Lord, give us this bread always. (35) And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:33-35 NKJV)

Christ tells us, above, that the “bread of God” is “He” who has come down from heaven. Ironically, Christ reveals to them that He is the bread of life. Coming to Christ ensures one that they do not hunger and he who “believes” on Christ shall not thirst.

Walking on water: Jesus Lord over Nature

After the miracle of feeding 5,000 Jesus ascends into the mountains to be alone. The text indicates Christ sought this solitude because his growing followership might force Him to be king. By a night’s sky the disciples sailed towards Capernaum, obviously Christ would tarry long to pray. Mark 6:48 indicates that the time was around 3 a.m. As they sailed a storm blew that caused rough sailing. About three or four miles out the disciples see Jesus walking towards them, on the water. This miracle plainly reveals that the Creator of all things can and even will exercise His sovereign control over the forces of nature.

Healing of the man born blind: Jesus the Light of the World

Once again Jesus performs a miracle (Chapter 9) on the Sabbath day. In fact, Wescott indicates that the Greek is quite emphatic and literally reads, “It was a sabbath on the day on which,”[2] On this day Christ brings light to the darkened eyes of a blind man. Christ’s violation of the Sabbath though, by restoring the sight of this man, angered the Pharisees. In fact, even the parents were called to testify which later gave testimony that this blind man had been so since birth. After intensely interrogating the ex-blind man they conclude that the blind man was born “completely” in sin; thereby condemning this man, by their power, into spiritual darkness—so they said.

Jesus came to bring light into the world, to illumine the hearts and minds of believers. Just prior to the healing of this blind man Christ had just told those following near that He was the “light of the world” (9:5). Indeed, what better way to prove this by bringing light to eyes that has never seen a mere glimpse of light itself?

Lazarus Raised from the dead: Jesus the Resurrection and life

This is a miracle (John 11) situated in irony. It can be determined that this miracle, involving the raising of the dead, probably occurred about a month before Jesus' own death. In fact, this was the third time Christ raised someone from the dead (Jairus's daughter, Mark 5:21–43; the son of the widow of Nain, Luke 7:11–17; and now Lazarus). Ironically, all of these miracles, especially this one, would climax in His own death and resurrection. Even more, this miracle was the very one which brought about a Sanhedrin decision to kill Jesus (John 11:53 ).

After being dead 4 days Lazarus was raised from the dead by Christ. Ironically, in verses 17-27, Christ had just prophesied of His future resurrection, albeit different from being raised from the dead, it does have great affinity.

Miraculous catch of 153 fish: Jesus the Provider

In John 21, the disciples had returned to Galilee, as Jesus had previously told them to do (Matthew 28:7, 10; Mark 16:7). Jesus went away into a certain mountain, for probably a set time. As is typical of the disciples, they resumed their old business and forgot the affairs of the spiritual. Some scholars attest that this location may have been at, or near, the same spot where two or three years before He had first called them to become fishers of men (Luke 5:1–11).

Besides giving them the call to feed the spiritually hungry, Christ gives them a miraculous catch of fish, as He had also done several years before. This particular miracle is actually the third time Christ has appeared to the disciples since His resurrection. He continues heavenly provision just prior to His ascension by providing for them once again.

Christ is our redeemer, our miracle worker. He is God in flesh.



[1] Charles C. Ryrie, The Ryrie Study Bible (nasb) (Chicago: Moody, 1978), 1973.

[2] The Gospel according to St. John Introduction and notes on the Authorized version. 1908. Greek text and "Revised version" on opposite pages.; Edited by Arthur Westcott. (B. F. Westcott & A. Westcott, Ed.) (146). London: J. Murray.

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)