You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
These words of Jesus have been a source of theological controversy throughout history because opponents of the full deity of Jesus have used them as evidence that Jesus himself did not make that claim. Today they are used by groups such as the Jehovah Witnesses to deny the full deity of Jesus. But it is clear even from this chapter that Jesus claims to be fully God (vv. 1, 9). The inferiority that he is describing does not refer to his person but to his role as the Father’s servant; the Father was greater in the sense that he had sent his Son to be the Saviour. Jesus was returning to heaven to be enthroned, but he would still be functioning as the Father’s servant.
There are several reasons why they should have rejoiced at the imminent departure of Jesus. First, they should have rejoiced because Jesus was going to be exalted. Love delights in the promotion of their friends. Therefore they should have been glad at the prospect that awaited their Master.
Second, they should have rejoiced because they had just been told, in several different ways, that Jesus, once he had returned to the Father, would send the Holy Spirit to them. The coming of the Spirit would result in heavenly teaching, in increased sense of the divine presence, and in enjoying the Saviour’s peace.
Third, they should have rejoiced because Jesus was going back to the Father in order to prepare a room for them in the Father’s house. He was going there as their Representative to ensure that they would eventually live with him for ever.