Vine and branches: bearing fruit

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2Bearing Fruit. The OT prophets envisioned a time when Israel would “bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit” (Isa. 27:6; cf. Hos. 14:4–8). What is the “fruit” that the gardener expects from the branches? When chapter 15 is read in context of John 14 it is evident that loving Jesus (vv.15, 21, 23) forms part of the answer. When read in the context of John 13, loving each other (vv.34-35) forms another part of the answer. In the light of the what is understood as the two greatest commandments, “love” is the expected fruit. If so, then the unproductive branches of 15:2 are the people who are in Jesus, in the community of faith, who are not loving, who are not seeking the good of the whole body. Continue reading

Vine and branches: the grower

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2The Vine Grower. Like the song of the vineyard in Isaiah 5, John 15:2 depicts the role of God as the grower who spades, clears, plants and takes care of the vineyard only to be rewarded with wild/sour grapes (Isa. 5:1–7; cf. Ps. 80:8–9). According to 15:2, the vinedresser does two things to ensure maximum fruit production (“he takes away … he prunes”; cf. Heb. 6:7–8): (1) in the winter he cuts off the dry and withered branches, which may involve pruning the vines to the extent that only the stalks remain; (2) later, when the vine has sprouted leaves, he removes the smaller shoots so that the main fruit-bearing branches receive adequate nourishment Continue reading

Vine and branches: true vine

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2The ancient Old Testament allegory of Israel as Yahweh’s vine becomes deeply Christianized at this point. Jesus is the true vine of which the Father takes personal care, pruning the barren branches, trimming clean the fruitful. These latter are the disciples who have accepted Jesus’ life-giving word. They are invited, encouraged to live on, to abide in Jesus. The Greek word for “abide/remain,” menō, occurs eleven times in these few verses, a repeated insistence on the return of Jesus by indwelling. The other all-important word is “love.” Just as “abide/remain” is the essential word of verses 1–8, so “love” becomes essential in vv.9–17. Consider how the “Vine and Branches” metaphor concludes: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” (John 15:16-17) Continue reading

Vine and branches: context

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine…”

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. 2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. 3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. 4 Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. Continue reading

When it is revealed

ssn685-300I spent last weekend away. I joined several of my US Naval Academy classmates for a weekend in Ormond Beach at one of their homes. And as it is always likely to happen, when we get together, there were lots of sea stories. Daring tales of iron men and wooden ships braving the deep waters – and some of the stories were even true. It was also interesting hearing all the details of my friend’s assignments and their encountering other classmates in those assignments. Several of the men at the gathering had made careers of the Navy; several of us had not. Continue reading

About being pastor…

The man who would be popeDriving around Florida last week, I mused on this upcoming Sunday, “Good Shepherd Sunday.” I wondered about this column, my homily, and other things along the way. I am assigned as “pastor” of the parish – a shepherd of sorts – and I wonder what the sheep think of all this. I sometimes joke that 25% of the people think I am “OK,” another quarter think I am less than OK on the job, another part have no opinion, and the final 25% think I am Fr. Andrew. Continue reading

The Good Shepherd: summary

Christ the Good ShepherdVerses 17-18 form the conclusion to the discourse. In these verses, the shepherd meta­phor is abandoned completely and Jesus speaks directly about his death and relationship with God. These verses focus on three theological themes that are essential to understanding the death of Jesus in John.

First, these verses place Jesus’ death fully in the context of his relationship with God. Verse 17 contains the first linkage of “love” (agapaō) with Jesus’ death in the Fourth Gospel. God’s love for the world (3:16) and for Jesus (3:35) are already known to the reader, and this verse adds a new dimension to that love. God loves Jesus because Jesus lives out God’s commandment fully (v.18). In the Fourth Gospel, the core commandment that Jesus gives his disciples is that they love one another just as he has loved them (13:34). The sign of Jesus’ love for them is that he is willing to lay down his life for them (cf. 13:1; 15:13). Jesus thus obeys the same commandment from God that he passes on to his disciples, to live fully in love. It is wrong to read the these verses as saying that Jesus wins the Father’s love through his death; rather, his death is the ultimate expression of the love relationship that already exists and defines who he is and how he enacts God’s will for the world. Continue reading

The Good Shepherd: Jesus

Christ the Good ShepherdThe Good Shepherd. At v.11, the focus shifts to Jesus’ self-revelation as the good shepherd. The identifi­cation of Jesus as the shepherd was implicit in the figure of speech in vv.1-5, but it is made explicit for the first time here. As before, the positive image of the good shepherd (vv.11, 14-16) is contrasted with a negative image, that of the hired hand (vv.12-13). Continue reading

The Good Shepherd: the flock

Christ the Good ShepherdThe Sheep. The latter part of v.3 (the sheep hear his voice) literally translates as “the sheep the sounds (phōnēs) his hear.” While voice might be part of the range of calls the shepherd might use, perhaps when one considers the use of whistles, “sounds” is the better translation. In any case, the key is the link between recognition of the proper phōnēs and the resulting movement: lead-follow. The movement is also twinned: call-answer, lead-follow, stranger-run away. In one, the movement it towards intimacy (v.4); in the other, the movement is towards separation (v.5). Continue reading

The Good Shepherd: contrasts

Christ the Good ShepherdCommentary. Moloney [301]outlines this narrative by the following schema:

  • 9:39-41: Introduction. Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees (among whom there is a division) and he condemns them for their blind ignorance
  • 10:1-6: Jesus tells a parable about entering the sheepfold and the Pharisees cannot understand. This section is marked with the unique, “Amen, Amen…
  • 10:7-13: Jesus contrasts himself, the door and the Good Shepherd, with others who are thieves, robbers and hirelings. This section is also introduced with “Amen, Amen…
  • 10:14-18: Jesus the Good Shepherd, out of union with the Father, lays down his life for the sheep
  • 10:19-21: Conclusion: A division among “the Jews.”

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