Ascension: the commission

 All power…all nations… all that I have commanded you…with you always – One should be struck by the repetition of the word “all” in this passage:

  1. Jesus has been given all power (v.18).
  2. Disciples are to be made of all nations (v.19).
  3. Disciples are to obey all that Jesus commanded (v.20).
  4. Jesus will be with the disciples always (literally “all the days”; v.20).

The universality of Jesus’ power and his continuing presence provide the dynamic for the universal discipleship mandate. The disciples will be able to make disciples of all the nations only as they recognize that Jesus has been given all authority and that he will be with them all the days until the end. The universal task is daunting, but it can be done because of the continuing power and presence of Jesus. Continue reading

Ascension: but they doubted

Commentary – Jesus was from Galilee and since the beginning of his public ministry had moved from the northern most reaches of Israel to its center in Jerusalem – the locus of the confrontation and rejection by the leaders of Israel. But now the “Galilean” has triumphed against all odds and it a manner none had foreseen.   The preparation of the “twelve” was not lost in their abandoning Jesus at the Passion. They are now restored to their positions of trust and responsibility and given final instructions for fulfilling the mission to which they had already been called (cf. 10:1-15) – but the scope is now far wider than Israel and included all the nations (28:19) Continue reading

Ascension: context

 Matthew 28:16-20 16 The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. 18 Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Continue reading


When I was missioned in Kenya, one my principal responsibilities was ministering to the Rwandan refugees who lived in our parish. There were about 1,000 children, women and men. It seemed to me the majority of them were children. So many. And too many of them were orphans having lost parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, and more in the genocidal killing in their homeland located 750 miles away and a lifetime ago. It was a time Death seemed to hold such a firm grip in our part of the world. Continue reading

It comes back to love

Holy-Face-of-Jesus-23I will not leave you…I will come to you. The second promise of continuing presence is Jesus’ promise of his own return (vv. 18-20). “Orphan” (orphanos) was a common metaphor to describe disciples left without their master but the use of the meta­phor here has a special poignancy in the light of the familial and domestic imagery that runs throughout Jesus’ words to his own (e.g., 13:33; 14:2-3, 10-14; 15:9-11; 16:21-24, 27). Jesus’ promise that he will not leave the disciples or­phaned recalls his use of the address “little chil­dren” in 13:33 and is an assurance that the intimacy of that familial relationship is not under­cut by Jesus’ departure. His promise to return (v. 18b) thus immediately counters any possible per­ception of Jesus’ death as his abandonment of his own. Continue reading

Love and holding dear

gospel_of_john_logo3Keeping His Commandments. If we now have some hint at what we mean by “commandments,” what does it mean to “keep” (tereo) them? The basic meanings of this word [TDNT 1:21 ff] are:

  1. keep watch over, guard
  2. keep, hold, reserve, preserve someone or something
  3. keep = not lose
  4. keep = protect
  5. keep, observe, fulfill, pay attention to

NOTE: that “obey” is not one of the meanings (although perhaps implied by “observe”).

Brian Stoffregen’s paraphrase of tereo as “hold dear” or perhaps, “consider important” seems to capture the sense of the passage. This interpretation goes beyond mere obedience. One may detest the words that one is hearing and obeying. One may detest the one giving the orders, but to avoid punishment, one obeys them. In contrast to this, phrasing it, “Holding Jesus’ word dear,” implies having a positive attitude towards that Word and the Word-giver. That is, wanting to hear and obey it out of love for the speaker.

Loving Jesus and “holding dear” what Jesus said and did are inseparable. In chapters 14-15, twice “love” comes before “keep” (14:15; 23) and twice “keep” comes before “love” (14:21; 15:10). In addition, “keeping” is used with “commandments” (entole) (14:15, 21; 15:10) and with “word” (logos) (14:23, 24; 15:20). Loving Jesus and “holding dear” his word and commandments are inseparable.

The connection between love and keeping (i.e., holding dear) the commandments is illustrated by Jesus himself in v. 31. He is doing what the Father has commanded him, so that the world might know that he is loving the Father. The purpose of Jesus’ obedience is witnessing. The results of that witnessing are given in v.23:

  1. The Father will love that one
  2. The Father and Son will come to that one
  3. The Father and Son will make a dwelling with that one

The promise we have from Jesus is that he (and his Father) will be present to those who, out of their love for Jesus, keep (i.e., hold dear) his word. These are those to whom Jesus will reveal himself.

In contrast to these who love Jesus and keep his word, Jesus next talks about “Whoever does not love me does not keep (hold dear) my words” (v. 24). Presumably these non-lovers and non-keepers do not receive the Father’s love or the abiding presence of the Father and the Son. This is understandable if the love and presence comes through the Word that one “holds dear” or “considers valuable,” those who do not have this relationship with the Word will not have the presence of the divine in their lives.

The Advocate. This is the first occurrence of the noun parakletos in the Fourth Gos­pel. This word occurs five times in the NT. It is used in 1 John 2:1 to refer to Jesus; and four times in John’s Farewell Discourse (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

Perhaps it best not to translate the Greek word paraclete because there are too many possibilities. While the literal meaning of the related verb (parakaleo) means “to call to one’s side,” usually asking the other for help, the noun took on a legal meaning as “helper in court”. Thus we have translations like “counselor,” “advocate,” or “one who speaks for another” as well as the too general translation of “helper”.

If the Paraclete is a “helper in court,” whose helper is it? Clearly the Paraclete has a role as helper to the disciples (and, now, our helper); but there are also indications that it is Jesus’ helper. The Paraclete comes to speak to us for Jesus. In 14:26, it will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has said to us. In 15:26, it will testify on Jesus’ behalf. The Paraclete comes to speak to us on behalf of Jesus. In our text, the Paraclete will teach us “everything” and remind us of “all” that Jesus has said to us. (In 16:8; its topics are more specific: the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment.) It is not too much of a stretch to say that the Paraclete “helps” us to hear Jesus’ word, which, as noted above, brings the continuing presence of Jesus and his Father to us. The Paraclete reveals Jesus to us, but those without the help of the Paraclete will not properly hear or remember the word of Jesus’ presence.

What the Paraclete does is not new, but is a continuation of the work of Jesus. This can be seen clearly in the description of the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth in v. 17. To call the Paraclete the “Spirit of truth” is to identify the Paraclete as more than a true—i.e., truthful—Spirit. As the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete shares in the work of Jesus, because Jesus is the truth (14:6). The work of the Paraclete is thus to keep the truth of Jesus present to the world after Jesus’ departure (cf. 16:7-11). As with the unity of the Father and Jesus in their work, the relationship between Jesus and the Paraclete is also defined by the unity of their work.

The response of the world to the Paraclete’s presence echoes the response of the world to Jesus, a division between those who receive and those who do not (cf. 1:10-13). Yet the focus of vv. 16-17 is not ultimately on this division, but on the assurance that the presence of the Paraclete gives to Jesus’ “own.” Knowledge of the Paraclete is defined as the Paraclete’s abid­ing with the believing community (v. 17b). The Paraclete is repeatedly described in ways that emphasize its presence in and relationship with the faith community: “will be with you forever”; “abides with you”; and “will be in you.” The Paraclete ensures that the revelation of God in the incarnation does not end with Jesus’ death and return to God.


John 14:16 another Advocate: Jesus is the first advocate (paraclete); see 1 John 2:1, where Jesus is an advocate in the sense of intercessor in heaven. The Greek term derives from legal terminology for an advocate or defense attorney, and can mean spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, consoler, although no one of these terms encompasses the meaning in John. The Paraclete in John is a teacher, a witness to Jesus, and a prosecutor of the world, who represents the continued presence on earth of the Jesus who has returned to the Father. another: There are two Greek words meaning “another”, allos and heteros. It is sometimes argued that the first means another of a similar kind, the second another of a different kind, and because allos is used in v.16 the other Advocate is of the same kind as Jesus himself. However, the way allos and heteros are used in the Fourth Gospel and the NT as a whole does not support this distinction.

John 14:17 the Spirit of truth: The Advocate is described as “the Spirit of truth” here and in two other places in this Gospel (15:26; 16:13). In this respect, the Advocate is like Jesus, who revealed the truth (8:31–36, 40, 45–46; 16:7; 18:37) and embodied the truth of God (1:14, 17; 14:6). This expression was also used at Qumran community (Jewish), where it is a moral force put into a person by God, as opposed to the spirit of perversity. The Spirit of truth is more personal in John; it will teach the realities of the new order (14:26), and testify to the truth (14:6). While it has been customary to use masculine personal pronouns in English for the Advocate, the Greek word for “spirit” is neuter, and the Greek text and manuscript variants fluctuate between masculine and neuter pronouns. it remains with you, and will be in you: the manuscripts are not consistent on the tenses of the two verbs in this verse, while remains is always present tense, is/will be varies from present to future tense (differing only by an accent mark) in otherwise consistent manuscripts. Without repeating the myriad of explanations, perhaps it is no more complicated that the “former” Paraclete (Jesus) is now with them while “another Advocate” (v.16) will be in them – always realizing that “another Advocate” takes place after and because of the departure of Jesus. In you:The expression en hymin is also validly translated as “among you” and is perhaps indicated given that “you” is plural. But it should also be noted that the promise will become individualized in vv.21-23.

Love and Commandments

gospel_of_john_logo1Commentary. Jesus’ discourse (at this point) begins to move in a new direction by focusing on the ways in which belief in Jesus empowers the believing community (v.12 ff). Jesus has emphasized that the works he does are not his own but are the Father’s; now Jesus begins to emphasize the link between his works that of the believing community. Our gospel text describes two dimensions of the believer’s relationship with Jesus: (1) the inseparability of one’s love of Jesus and the keeping of his commandments (vv.15, 21, 23-24) and (2) the abiding and indwelling of the presence of God, even after Jesus’ death and departure with those who love him (vv.16-20, 22-23). Continue reading

Pericopes and Context

Gospel-of-John-logo2One of the topics most (if not all) students of the Bible should be familiar with is exegesis. Simply put, it means to give your best effort to let the text tell you what it had to say without trying to place your meaning on top of the words. Part of that training is to begin to gain a sense of when the context changes – e.g., when has Jesus changed locations, changed audiences, or perhaps has begun to specifically address a small group within the larger group of people. You have to know when one pericope (pe-ric-o-pe) ends and the next one begins; pericope being a section, a part of the larger narrative. [Sorry, I just had to use the word. It is from the Greek peri- + kopē, the act of cutting.] Continue reading

Build with Living Stones

SH modernThis church of ours has seen a city grow and change. Our parish has been here since 1860 with this church structure our home for worship since 1905. The church has been it fair share of the change. The street out front once had hitching posts; now there are parking spaces. The Hillsborough Hotel and its grandeur marked the property across Florida Ave.; now it is a parking lot. Next door we are watching the federal courthouse become Le Meridien, an exclusive hotel. All the while our church has stood like a silent sentinel and a place of prayer. Continue reading

Farewell: show us the Father

in my fathers houseShow us the Father. Jesus statement in v.7 is cast is the light of a deep human desire: to see and know God. Jesus tells the disciples – in knowing me, in seeing me, in my words, and in my deeds, you have seen and come to know the Father. But Phillip is essentially asking for a theophany (v.8) – the visible manifestation of God – which raises the question of Phillip’s understanding of who Jesus really is. What comes next in Jesus’ reply is somewhat obscured by the translation of singular/plural second person pronouns, i.e., “you.” While not clear in English it is quite clear in Greek.

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