Monday, March 12, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #5 (13-17)

JohnIn this post we continue reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. Chapters 13-17 contain Jesus' last instructions to His disciples. The main theme of the passage is the love and unity of Jesus' people that comes from being centered and grounded in Christ through the enablement of the Spirit. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Jesus begins his teaching of the disciples with a graphic demonstration of what he means by love. Love means the humble giving up of one's own life to serve others and give them life. Jesus gives up his dignity and privilege as a leader to serve the disciples as he will give up his life on the cross to provide life to all the world. He commands the disciples to follow this example. This makes Judas' betrayal the ultimate act of evil. Even though Jesus has loved him, and given him the place of honor at dinner, Judas turns against Jesus for his own selfish reasons and ends up doing the work of Satan. God will work through this to the ultimate revelation of God's glory, the cross, as Jesus loves the disciples and the world to the max by giving up his life to save them and provide a way that all can have a relationship with the Father life Jesus does.

John’s introduction to the event ensures that we understand God’s glory is revealed in Jesus in this sign. This is what God himself is like—he washes feet, even the feet of the one who will betray him! Thus, the footwashing is a true sign in the Johannine sense, for it is a revelation of God. John 13.1-20, 328–329

We are all quite capable of the worst sin. If we think otherwise, we are deluded and have no real idea how much we owe to the grace of God. John 13.21-30, 334

The disciple, therefore, is one who is characterized by love, which is the laying down of life. The disciple, like the Master, reveals the Father...John is quite clear that this divine love, in which the disciples are to share, is for the whole world. Indeed, their love for one another is part of God’s missionary strategy, for such love is an essential part of the unity they are to share with one another and with God. John 13.31-35, 343–344

In chapter 14 Jesus begins his teaching by telling the disciples that he must go away to the Father. This is not a bad thing because he will enable the disciples, and the world, to go to the Father as well. Jesus is the revealer of the Father and, through his death and resurrection makes the way to the Father, and eternal life available. In addition, he will not really leave because the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, will minister connection to the Presence of Jesus and the Father within the community of believers and join them to the fellowship contained within the Trinity. The church will be a witness to this community. This manifestation of God within human relationships is far beyond the theophanies of the previous age.

This verse brings out how Jesus’ fulfillment of the roles of revealer and life-giver is unique. Jesus’ unity with the Father means he is not just a law-giver, prophet or sage who conveys God’s truth, but, like God, he is the truth. Similarly, he is not simply one through whom God rescues his people. Rather, he was the agent of the creation of all life, and the Father has given to him to have life in himself, like God himself. Here Jesus, like God himself, is truth and life, and yet he remains distinct from God and is the way to God. John 14.1-7, 351–352

Praying “in Jesus’ name” does not refer to some magic formula added to the end of a prayer. It means to pray in keeping with his character and concerns and, indeed, in union with him. The disciples, through their union with Christ, are taken up into his agenda. This agenda, as throughout his ministry, is to bring glory to the Father (v. 13) John 14.8-21, 355

The peace Jesus is talking about is not the cessation of hostilities from enemies, but rather the gift of calmness and confidence that comes from union with God and faith in him and his purposes. The world’s idea of peace is something that comes through destroying of enemies and consists of physical and emotional comfort. The peace that Jesus gives is grounded in God and not in circumstances. John 14.22-31, 365

Chapter 15 moves into the center of what Jesus is teaching the disciples as he describes the nature of eternal life. Eternal life begins now as the Spirit connects the believer intimately with the Father and Son, as a branch is connected to a vine and draws sustenance from it. As believers remains connected to God, they experience union with the love and mission of Jesus and are connected to each other. They being to "bear the fruit" of intimacy with God and grow to resemble and image God to the world. This will draw some to God, but it will also cause opposition because believers will be at odds with the values of the world.

Remaining is not simply believing in him, though that is crucial, but includes being in union with him, sharing his thoughts, emotions, intentions and power. In a relationship both parties must be engaged. The divine must take the initiative and provide the means and the ability for the union to take place, but it cannot happen without the response of the disciple. John 15.1-6, 376

The obedience Jesus is talking about is an obedience not to societal rules, but to the Father who is all love. To obey him is to conform one’s life to the very pattern of God’s own life. Such obedience shares in his life, which is characterized by harmony, grace, goodness and beauty. We are in intimate union with him and swept up into his dance for which we were created and which brings the deepest fulfillment and deepest joy to our lives. John 15.7-17, 378

Many Christians are indeed undergoing the most horrid persecution and suffering for the Name. Jesus’ words of encouragement here speak directly to his disciples in such situations. He gives them the larger perspective, helping them understand that what they are going through is part of the world’s rejection of the Father and the Son. John 15.18-27, 383–384

Chapter 16 describes the persecution that this opposition will bring. The Paraclete will give the disciples deep insight into who Jesus is and what his teaching is all about and will create a community that represents Jesus. This means that often the church will be rejected the same way Jesus was. The 1st century church, including the disciples and like Jesus, pointed out the exclusiveness of Jesus' revelation of God and thus were rejected and killed like Jesus. A church that refuses to live like the world will always be persecuted to some degree. However, the believers' grief in persecution will be temporary. The disciples grief at Jesus’ death changed to joy after the resurrection. Our grief, likewise, is changed to joy through the intimacy we experience with the Father now, despite persecution, and will be complete when we are resurrected with Christ in the coming age. 

More generally speaking, it is primarily the community’s life together that witnesses to Jesus and, by the same token, exposes and condemns the world, in particular by their love (13:35) and unity (17:21). Such love and unity reveal that they are sharing in God’s own life, and, consequently, their rejection and persecution show that the opponents are acting against God. The very judgment that Jesus brought into the world continues through his disciples and elicits the same hatred (7:7). John 16.1-15, 391

Until death itself becomes a revelation of God the disciples can be troubled in the world, the place of death. Their joy cannot be stable and secure until they see him again (v. 16, 19) and he sees them (v. 22). Then will they reap the benefits of his conquest by becoming one with him as he pours out the Spirit. They will not ask him, but rather they will be one with him, asking the Father in his name. So their joy will be full—the joy of union with God in Christ by the Spirit. They will know God’s glory and will manifest his glory as they, in union with the living Christ by the Spirit, bear fruit as Jesus did, asking for what Jesus did. Their focus and source will be God, and thus they will have peace no matter what the world may throw at them. John 16.16-33, 401–402

Chapter 17 concludes Jesus' teaching of the disciples with a prayer for the continued glorification of the Father through the love, unity and ministry of the church, founded on relationship with Jesus, beginning from the disciples and extending throughout the world. Jesus begins by thanking the Father, in anticipation of his death and resurrection, that his mission is complete. He has fully revealed the Father. He then prays for the disciples. He thanks the Father that they have responded with faith and they are now united with him. He prays for their continued growth in that relationship (sanctification), protection from the opposition of the evil one and their continuing mission to glorify the Father by revealing Jesus. He then prays for the world, the people who will come to believe in the message the disciples will bring. He prays for a unity, based on relationship with the Father through Christ, that will draw the whole world into relationship with the Father. He, thus, closes the loop on the teaching session by going back to the self-sacrificing love he shows by giving himself on the cross, that produces a unity of being and mission and glorifies the Father as God intended for the creation of the world. 

The Son will glorify the Father through giving eternal life to those the Father gives him. And the Father’s glorification of the Son is in keeping with his having given him authority over all flesh. Thus, the flow is from creation to new creation. In both cases the Father is the ultimate source, and the Son is God’s agent. The Son has given life to all creation, and now it is time for him to give eternal life to those within creation given him by God. John 17.1-5, 405

Here is the fundamental truth of this Gospel—the oneness of the Father and the Son—expressed in terms of possession. The disciples’ very relations with the Father and Son bear witness to this foundational truth. They have been given to the Son and yet remain the Father’s because of the divine oneness. Here, as throughout this Gospel, Jesus’ deeds and words make no sense unless one realizes he is God. John 17.6-19, 410–411

The love of God evident in the church is a revelation that there is a welcome awaiting those who will quit the rebellion and return home. Here is the missionary strategy of this Gospel—the community of disciples, indwelt with God’s life and light and love, witnessing to the Father in the Son by the Spirit by word and deed, continuing to bear witness as the Son has done. John 17.20-26, 420

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