Word and Spirit: context

This coming Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter in lectionary Year C.  On the 2nd and 3rd Sundays after Easter, the gospel was taken from the end of the Gospel of John – all post-Resurrection scenes. And then we jumped back to John 10 for Good Shepherd Sunday (4th Sunday after Easter), a scene that occurs well before Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem. Last week and this Sunday coming, we are in the middle of Jesus’ farewell discourse from John 13-17, a scene immediately following the Last Supper. We have but a few verses which are an integral part of a much larger passage. Accordingly, the Discourse can be outlined in a number of ways, though three main parts are fairly clear: Continue reading

The Focus of the Commandment

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. In yesterday’s post we explored a possible understanding of Jesus’ command to love each other. Today continue to read O’Day  reflection (734):

To interpret Jesus’ death as the ultimate act of love enables the believers to see that the love to which Jesus summons the community is not the giving up of one’s life, but the giving away of one’s life. The distinction between these prepositions is important, because the love that Jesus embodies is grace, not sacrifice. Jesus gave his life to his disciples as an expression of the fullness of his relationship with God and of God’s love for the world. Jesus’ death in love, therefore, was not an act of self-denial, but an act of fullness, of living out his life and identity fully, even when that living would ultimately lead to death. …

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The Commandment to Love

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. In yesterday’s post we explored a possible understanding of Jesus’ departure reference. Today we explore the last of the three parts of this very short reading: the Commandment to Love. 34 I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 35 This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Continue reading

A room in the house

In today’s gospel we find Jesus with his apostles and disciples. It is a time that finds the followers of Jesus confused, worrying, and wondering what is unfolding? It the evening of Holy Thursday, the traitor Judas has left the scene to initiate the betrayal of Jesus and those who remain have just been told that Jesus is going,..and they’re not coming along. But they are not to worry because the Father in Heaven has prepared a house (mansion in the Kings James translation) that has many rooms. The New American translation says that “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” (Verse 2)

Verse 2 also has some translation options: “In my Father’s house [oikia] there are many dwelling places [monai].”Should oikia be translated “house,” i.e., a physical structure (as in 11:31 & 12:3); “household,” i.e., a community of people (as in 4:53 & 8:35)?; or even “family” – all of which are valid translations [EDNT 2:495]. Often people immediately think of the King James’ translation: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.” – which immediately moves one thoughts and reference to heaven. Is this the intention of this passage?

If one is convinced that house [oikia] refers to heaven alone (v.2) then the prepare a place (v.2) and the where I am (v.3) refer to a place in heaven where Jesus is. The I will come back speaks to the parousia – although that is not a topic the Gospel speaks about elsewhere. But clearly oikia has other meanings: household, community, family. If one lends credence to those understandings, then the reference can be heaven and earthly life.

Some of this should sound familiar to those who would study the Gospel According to John. The encounter with Nicodemus (ch. 3) and the Samaritan Woman at the well (ch. 4) hinge of the ambiguity of words. And there is more. The same ambiguity exists with mone (singular). It means a “place where one may remain or dwell,” It can mean a physical structure – and often in secular use it refers to a transient or overnight lodging [TDNT 4:574] – rather than the fixed “mansions” of the KJ translation.

Then again, all the focus on the “where” might be a diversion from the more important element. Many argue that here in v.2 the context (because of v.3) lends itself to a permanent dwelling – but is it physical? The only other NT use of mone is John 14:23, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling [mone] with him.” The use there seems to imply an abiding relationship between people and God – and one in which the Father and the Son come to the human person!

This noun is related to the verb menō meaning “to remain, stay, await” [EDNT 2:407]. The verb occurs often in the Farewell Discourse (14:10, 17, 25; 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 16) most often referring to the relationship between God and Jesus or God and us. Another reference with this meaning of menō is 8:35 (where oikia also occurs): “ A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.” Do the words “remain” and “house” refer to a physical place or to a relational state? Our children remain our children forever, even though they may not be living in our house. The relationship remains even while the physical presence may not.

Fr. Raymond Brown (627) writes:

This special house or household where the son has a permanent dwelling place suggests a union with the Father reserved for Jesus the Son and for all those who are begotten as God’s children by the Spirit that Jesus gives. Thus there would be some precedent for reinterpreting “many dwelling places in my Father’s house” parabolically as possibilities for permanent union (mone/meno) with the Father in and through Jesus.

Why mention all this? Jewish traditions that identify the ‘Father’s house’ with a heavenly dwelling place clearly lie behind the imagery of v. 2a (e.g., Pss 2:4; 66:1; 113:5-6; 123:1; Is 66:1), but it is critical to the interpretation of Jesus’ words in this gospel that “my Father’s house” not be taken as a synonym for heaven. This needs to be read first in the context of the mutual indwelling of God and Jesus, a form of indwelling that has been repeatedly stressed from the opening verses of the Gospel (e.g., 1:1, 18). And that indwelling is the critical relationship for the disciples in the post-Resurrection era.

The Departure

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. In yesterday’s post we explored a possible understanding of Jesus’ reference to “glorification.” Today we explore the second of the three parts of this very short reading. Referring again to his imminent departure, Jesus said to his disciples, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you” (v.33). Continue reading

The Glorification of God and Jesus

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. In yesterday’s post we explored what was meant by the word “glory” in the Old Testament Scriptures as a way of considering what the apostles and disciples might think when Jesus says to them: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.”  The term is more robust than a single one-line definition. May it can be best said as the revelation of God’s godliness to people in the events of their lives – at least as far as humanity can experience such things. But when experienced, one’s thoughts and being turn to encounter God. Continue reading

The Glory of God

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. In yesterday’s post we placed the Sunday gospel in content vis-a-vis the flow of events of Holy Week, as well, in the content of John’s larger project that is the whole Gospel. We are no longer in the “Book of Signs” but since John 12:23 are in the following section known as the “Book of Glory.” Our short gospel is from John 13:31-35 and can be divided into three parts: Continue reading

5th Easter Context

This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Easter in Year C of the Lectionary Cycle. While it appears after Easter, the gospel reading is taken from the evening of what we call Holy Thursday. So, perhaps we should place this short gospel passage in context. The public ministry of Jesus has drawn to a close with John 12.  Here in Chapter 13 begins the “private ministry” of Jesus preparing his disciples for his impending death.  Continue reading


This coming Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Easter . In yesterday’s post we considered membership in the flock, but from Jesus’ perspective, as we focused on knowing, being given, and following. Today we consider the oneness of Jesus and the Father which is at the heart of our Christian confession – there is a unique relationship between Jesus and the Father (and the Holy Spirit).  That oneness is expressed in Scripture as a oneness of nature, of will, of knowledge, and many things, all the while being a distinct persona.  Some Christians point to v.30 (The Father and I are one.) are a simple proof text of the uniquely Christian confession.  While this verse is part of the confession, this verse is actually quite limited in what it claims.

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