This coming Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter in Lectionary Cycle A. “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” (14:20) The expression “on that day” is a standard Johannine expression pointing to the “hour” when Jesus is glorified in the events surrounding the passion, death and resurrection [Brown, 640]. Jesus promises that the events of Easter will be the catalyst for them to realize two things. First, they would understand what they had not previously been able to comprehend (7–11), that Jesus and the Father are one and to see Jesus is to see the Father. Second, they would understand something new: with the coming of the Spirit they would be ‘in’ Jesus, and Jesus ‘in’ them.
This concept of (mutual) indwelling is found in several places in the Fourth Gospel (6:56; 14:17, 20; 15:4–6, 7). What it means for Christ to dwell in believers has already been made clear: their love for Jesus is evident by their “holding dear” his commandments. However, what it means for believers to dwell ‘in’ Christ is more difficult to grasp. Perhaps a key text is John 15:4–10, where, describing the disciples’ relationship to him in terms of branches in the vine, Jesus says the disciples (branches) ‘remaining’ in him (the vine) is associated with allowing his words to ‘remain’ in them (15:7). While some commentators attempt to make a distinction, perhaps it is best to think of vine/branches somewhat literally. Externally one might be able to point to “this place” as a vine while “that part” is a branch. However, internally, the distinction is less clear as the biological reality becomes a “metaphor” for the love relationship between Christ and the believer.
The final verse in this passage where the first promise of the Paraclete is found, returns to the theme of love and obedience with which the passage begins: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (v.21)
Love for Christ does involve heartfelt appreciation of him (cf. 21:15–17; Luke 7:36–50) and should express itself in concern for his pleasure, but what Jesus himself stressed was that those who love him are those who obey his commands. This means responding to his teaching with obedience and faith.
Jesus promised that He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. Our love for Jesus, imperfect though it is, is rewarded in two related ways. First, we become the objects of the Father’s own love, and second, we become the objects of Jesus’ love and self-revelation. Love for Jesus does not end in stoic obedience to his will. Obedience is involved, but it leads to an experience of the love of the Father and the Son, and the revelation of the Son to the believer—surely the greatest incentive to express our love for Christ by obedience to his will.
Image credit: Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255–1319), “Jesus taking leave of his Apostles,” ca. 1310 | Panel 4 of the Maestro, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena | Public Domain