Remain in my love: context

deeplyrooted-cr9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 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. 17 This I command you: love one another. Continue reading

Pruning, Cutting, Being Connected

I grew up in the College Park section of Orlando. It has been around for a while. The first resident, John Ericsson, built his home in 1880.  In the 1920s there was a huge upswing in new homes and many of the neighborhoods east of Edgewater Drive were constructed. The area west of Edgewater was built in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.  College Park was the home to people as diverse as astronaut John Young and beat-generation writer Jack Kerouac. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s when I was growing up there, everybody knew folks; you certainly knew everyone on your street and one or two streets in each direction.  You could mostly walk up and down the street in the early evening and meet and greet most folks.  They were on the porch when the afternoon humidity had lifted and you could catch a bit of coolness from the evening breeze. Then some darn fool went and made air conditioning popular. Continue reading

True Vine: remain

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2Remaining. Another word with a double meaning is meno — translated “remain” in our text, but it also carries meanings of “abide, stay; live, dwell; last, endure, continue.” Sometimes this verb refers to the branch staying connected to the vine and sometimes it refers to disciples staying connected to Jesus. This word occurs 11 times in 15:1-17. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine, neither can disciples bear fruit if they are disconnected from Jesus. Continue reading

True Vine: 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

True Vine: 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

True Vine: I AM

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

True Vine: 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

50 Years Ago

Depending on your age, this column is either a walk down memory lane or a “history” lesson — 50 years in the making. So, if you look over at someone reading this column and nodding their head up and down in phantom agreement, you can take a guess at their age.

The Year 1968 was a year in which a manned spacecraft first orbited the moon, the Boeing 747 made its first commercial flight, average monthly house rent was $130, gas was $0.34/gallon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, Intel Corporation was founded, the Beatles released the “White Album,” the first Big Mac went on sale (…for $0.49), Ziplock sandwich bags were introduced, the “hip” products of the year were bean-bag chairs and lava lamps, and you will want to burn any remaining Polaroid pictures of what you thought was high fashion. Continue reading

The Voice: 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