John 15:9-17

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
(John 15:9-17 NIV)

Jesus has just finished instructing His disciples to remain or abide in Him, just as the branches depend on the vine for nourishment and life.  As we learned yesterday, the goal of remaining in Jesus is not just to survive, but to thrive spiritually and produce spiritual fruit.  By producing spiritual fruit, we glorify God.

In today’s passage, Jesus further develops this idea of remaining in Him.  In verse 9, Jesus says to remain in His love.  And how do we abide in Jesus’ love?  By obeying His commands (v. 10).  Jesus points to His obedience to His Father’s commands as our example.

In verse 11, Jesus gives us the “why” – the purpose of remaining in His love: that His joy may be in us, and our joy may be complete.  This “joy” that Jesus talks about may also be described as “delight” – sensing God’s favor and pleasure.  Joy is not tied to our circumstances or our feelings, but rather, entirely independent of our situations and emotions.

Joy is a gift given by one person to another, and must also be received as a gift from the giver.  We can’t create joy for ourselves, nor can we collect or otherwise obtain it on our own.  It is a gift, to be given and received.

Going back to verse 10, what is Jesus’ command to us?  Verses 12 and 17 are clear:  Love one another.  Again, Jesus sets the example by reminding them (and us) to love each other as He has loved us.  For Jesus’ disciples, the fresh memory of having their feet washed by Messiah only an hour or so ago was burned into their minds forever.

In verse 13, Jesus defines the ultimate example of friendship – to lay down one’s life for a friend.  Jesus knew He was about to live out this example for His disciples (and for us) and did so willingly.  Jesus goes on to tell His disciples that He considers them friends – not just “servants” or “minions”, and as friends, has shared everything He learned from the Father with them.

In verse 16, Jesus commissions His disciples, reminding them that He chose them and appointed them (gave them purpose), not the other way around.  And what was their commissioning?  The same as yesterday – to bear spiritual fruit.

Jesus ends this section by again repeating His command:  to love each other.  The disciples are not in competition for God’s favor, as they were arguing about a few hours ago.  In telling His disciples to love one another, Jesus was reminding them to build community just as He had a vibrant community with the Father, and had developed community with them over the last three years.

And Jesus’ command to love one another still applies to us in our day, just as it did to His disciples on that walk to Gethsemane some two thousand years ago.  Jesus set the example of inviting us into the community with the Trinity.

He now instructs us to do the same with one another.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 15:1-8

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
(John 15:1-8 NIV)

As we begin Chapter 15 today, we must set the context by looking at the last five words of Chapter 14:

“Come now; let us leave.”

Jesus shares His final thoughts with His disciples while on the move.  They are walking from the upper room where they had their last meal together, across the Kidron Valley, to the Garden of Gethsemane.   There is an urgency in Jesus’ walk and talk.  This walk is not a leisurely stroll.  In a matter of minutes, Judas Iscariot will set in motion a series of events that will forever change history.

Many people lump chapters 13 through 17 together, often labeling them the “Upper Room Discourse.”  In fact, Jesus only teaches His disciples in the Upper Room during chapters 13 and 14.  Chapters 15 through 17 are on the walk to Gethsemane.

With this context in mind, Chapters 15 through 17 should be read and studied as a whole.  While this would be ideal with no limits on time and space, we will tackle these three chapters in smaller chunks and reference prior teachings as needed for proper context.

Jesus begins by reminding His disciples about the necessity of remaining connected to Him by the visual image of a vine and its branches.  We don’t know what would prompt Jesus to use that illustration; did they walk past the Temple, with its columns decorated with vines, branches, and fruit?  Or did they walk past a vineyard on their way to Gethsemane?  Whatever triggered this illustration, it was certainly meaningful to Jesus’ disciples as well as us today.

Notice that the goal of the branches remaining connected to the vine is not to live well and have great foliage.  The goal is to bear fruit.  And what is the purpose of bearing fruit for the kingdom of God?  Because it brings glory to God (v. 8).

The ultimate “yield” of our lives is not what we know, what we have said, or what we have done.  The final product of our lives is what glory we give to God.  Don’t misread the previous statement – what we learn, say, and do is important and commanded by the Lord, part of His design to be more like Him.  But the “why”, the motivation for what we do is even more important.  If we learn, say, and do things (even things Scripture commands)  for our glory rather than God’s glory, we have missed the point.  We’re growing foliage, and not bearing fruit that brings glory to God.

Jesus stressed the necessity of remaining in Him.  Only in Jesus can we survive and thrive and bear fruit.  Yes, there will be pruning as well (v. 2).  Pruning is no fun, and often painful, but the result is a life that produces even more fruit (v. 2).

Jesus repeats His promise from chapter 14 (verses 13 – 14) to answer our prayers if we love and obey Him (v. 7).

Is there any better reason to love and obey the Lord than to know we can give glory to the God of the universe (v. 8), that we can bear fruit that honors Him?

It’s not about us – it’s all about Him.  And we find our peace, satisfaction, and ultimate fulfillment in giving our lives and heart to Him and Him alone.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 14:22-31

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me,31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.
(John 14:22-31 NIV)

From our last study (verses 15 – 21), we noticed how Jesus shifted the conversation topic to love and obedience.  Jesus promised the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, who would come after He was gone.  Jesus did not give His disciples an abstract idea to implement; He set Himself as the example of love and obedience.  Jesus had just washed the disciples’ feet, showing humility and service toward one another.  Jesus was now telling His disciples about what would soon happen to Him, and how this was the most radical obedience and love that He would demonstrate.  His disciples would not understand His example at the time, but would remember and comprehend later.

Judas (not Judas Iscariot) interrupts Jesus with a question:  “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Judas’ question was legitimate – he knew the Messiah was to save all humanity.  So why was Jesus saying he would only show Himself to His disciples?  What about everyone else?  Little did Judas (and the rest of the disciples) know that this would become his role (and ours) – to share the Good News of Christ with those around them.

Jesus essentially ignores Judas’ question and continues talking about love and obedience.  While seemingly ignoring Judas’ question, Jesus is both directly and indirectly answering it.  Love of Christ and obedience to His commands are the direct ways that Jesus said others would see Christ in them.  Jesus would show Himself indirectly to others through the radically changed lives of His disciples (and you and me).

In verses 25 – 26, Jesus reminds His disciples that He had taught them many things, and He would send the Holy Spirit to remind everyone of all of His teachings and commands.

In verse 28, Jesus likely sees the worried and confused looks on His disciples’ faces.  Jesus reassures them with words of peace and comfort.

In verses 28 – 31, Jesus tells His disciples that He is going to the Father, and they should be glad for this to happen.  They don’t understand right now, but they will later.  Jesus is referring to His steadfast love for them and His radical obedience to the Father through what was about to happen – His death on the cross.

Jesus ends this time with His disciples in a sense of urgency.  The events that will change the world are already in progress.  It’s time to go.

Looking at Jesus’ life from the other side of the cross, we see what Jesus’ disciples could not have seen or imagined as positive (Jesus’ death on the cross) as being the greatest news we could ever know.

And what is our part?  How can we share the Good News of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with others?  Jesus made His teaching simple and clear in today’s passage.  Love for Christ and obedience to His commands are the ways to show Jesus to the world around us.  When His love works powerfully in and through us, it bursts forth like a fountain to bless and point others to Himself.

It’s not about us – it’s all about Him.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 14:15-21

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
(John 14:15-21 NIV)

Jesus has told His disciples that He is going away, and they cannot go with Him this time.  Jesus has answered the interruptions of Thomas and Philip, giving Himself as the reply (“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” – v. 6).  Jesus reiterates that everything is focused on and emanates from the relationship between the Father and the Son (“Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” – v. 9).  Jesus then makes four promises to His disciples.

As we look at today’s passage, Jesus now switches gears and instructs His disciples.  Notice how Jesus begins His instruction:  “If you love Me…”.  Jesus did not say, “If you want to go to heaven” or “To secure your salvation.”  Jesus’ teaching is not about earning our way to heaven – salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone.  Jesus’ teaching is about obedience out of love and gratitude for Him and the Father.

And what does Jesus ask us to do?  Obey His commands.  And what order did Jesus give to His disciples (and us) just a few minutes prior?  “Love one another.” (John 13:34-35).  Love is the distinguishing difference between Jesus’ followers and everyone else, demonstrating God’s presence with them (and us).

In verses 16 – 17, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit while He is away.  The NIV translates this Greek work as “advocate”; some versions translate this word “Helper”; the KJV translates this word “Comforter”.  The Greek word here is “paraklētos“, which is a compound word meaning “alongside” (“para”) and “console or comfort” (“kletos”).  Putting these two words together, it means “one who comes alongside another and consoles or comforts them”.

This same Greek word is also used in a legal setting, where it indicates a legal advocate who stands with the accused and argues on their behalf.  Both translations of this Greek word are correct – the question is which one fits the context here.  Considering the context of the evening’s events, with Jesus saying in verse 1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” and “I go to prepare a place for you”, the first definition of “Comforter” seems much more applicable than “Advocate”.

Notice that Jesus promises “another” Comforter.  Jesus is the first Comforter; that is why He is telling His disciples all the details about what is going to happen in the next few hours and days.  Nothing is a surprise; this is all according to God’s plan.  The Holy Spirit is promised when Jesus is no longer physically with them.

Notice that Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in the future.  As long as Jesus is still with His disciples, they have God living among them.  When Jesus leaves earth, that is when the disciples will need God with them again (as we do).

In verse 18, Jesus comforts His disciples again.  Remember when Jesus referred to His disciples as “My children” (John 13:33)?  Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, a bunch of rough, tough grown men, not to insult them, but to care for their hearts and souls. Jesus knew they would soon feel like little children orphaned from their Daddy and would miss Him deeply, heartbroken beyond words.  Now Jesus reiterates His care for them, to let them know they will not be on their own like street urchins.

In verses 20-21, Jesus says that one day His disciples will realize what Jesus is saying.  Jesus is promising that His disciples will see that they are part of the community of the Trinity, welcomed by the Father and introduced by Jesus Himself.

Isn’t that what all of us want at the core of our being – to have the God-shaped vacuum in our lives filled by God Himself, and to have a personal relationship with Him?  Community with God is precisely what Jesus is offering to His disciples as well as to you and me.

Blessings,
~kevin

John 14:5-14

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
(John 14:5-14 NIV)

Jesus has just promised His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them, and would come back to take them with Him.  Jesus finished with “You know the way to the place where I am going.” (v. 4)

Jesus had hardly finished speaking when Thomas interrupted and asked for more specifics.  Jesus gave Himself as the answer:  “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (v. 6)  Jesus again tells His disciples of the unity between Himself and the Father.

Jesus had barely answered Thomas’ question when Philip interrupted:  “Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus replied, with His tone more of a disappointment than of a chastisement.  “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”  Jesus then recaps His previous teachings and reminds Philip of the unity between Himself and the Father.  To see and experience Jesus is to see and experience the Father.

Jesus begins verse 12 with His familiar “pay attention” phrase:  “Very truly I tell you” (KJV, “Verily, verily I say unto you”).  Jesus then makes His disciples four promises:

  • whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing (v. 12)
  • they will do even greater things than what I have done (v. 12)
  • I will do whatever you ask in My name (v. 13)
  • You may ask me for anything in My name, and I will do it (v. 14)

This is quite the list of promises!  These promises were made to Jesus’ disciples, and they apply to us today as well.  These promises are obviously not for self-promotion or self-indulgence or any other selfish motives.  Our motives for asking must be pure and God-honoring for Jesus’ promises to apply.

Will we take Jesus up on His offer?  Will we choose to live our lives so that we are all about Him, offering ourselves as available to Him for whatever works He would do through us?

Blessings,
~kevin

John 14:1-4

14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
(John 14:1-4 NIV)

As we begin chapter 14, the mood in the room is somber.  Jesus has told the disciples that someone will betray Him.  Jesus said He is leaving, and they cannot go with Him.  Jesus has just told Peter that he will disown Jesus three times.

John slows down his clock again.  The events taking place have gone from years to months to days to hours and now have moved to minutes.

Jesus senses the angst in His disciples.  They don’t understand what Jesus is saying, and they don’t want to lose their best friend and teacher and Messiah.  What are the disciples going to do if Jesus leaves them?

Jesus quietly says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  The word “troubled” (Greek – “tarassō“) means “to strike one’s spirit with fear or dread”.  Jesus is saying, “don’t be terrified by what I am telling you.  You believe in God; believe also in Me.”

Jesus then moves to familiar language in the Jewish culture.  Jesus uses the language of love and preparation, the voice of the bridegroom engaged to his bride and is now going off to build a place for them to live.

In the same conversation, Jesus mentions the Father’s house having many rooms.  In Jewish housebuilding fashion, the father (the patriarch) would build his house in the center of the compound, with the area in front of his house being the center of all family activity.  The sons would then build their houses next to the father’s house, with common walls between them  Each son would build his house next to his father’s house, laying the stone, crafting the wooden door, gathering the thatch for the roof.  Each construction step was a labor of love, often with the father and the son working together to complete the project.

The father had the final say as to when the project was complete, and thus when the son could call for his bride.  The building process often took six to eighteen months, depending on the size of the house and the availability of building materials.  The bride still lived with her parents and did not know when the groom would come for her.  She had to trust that the bridegroom was working hard to make a home for them and would come when everything was ready.

In verse 3, Jesus reminds His disciples that if He is leaving, that He will come back to get them, just as the bridegroom returns for his bride so they can spend the rest of their lives together.  A few days earlier, Jesus had alluded to heaven when He told His disciples the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).  Now Jesus is saying it’s time for Him to leave to build the house.  The location of the house?  Heaven.

As we’ll see in the rest of the chapter, the disciples still have considerable fear and uncertainty about everything.  They just don’t understand what Jesus is saying.   But they trust Him, so they have to see how the events play out.

From our point in history, we have the advantage of seeing the “other side of the story” from the empty tomb and resurrected Savior.  Think about it for a moment – if a typical house building project took a maximum of eighteen months for a grand place, how fabulous and magnificent must heaven be since the Son and the Father have been building for over 2,000 years?  They created the heavens and the earth and populated it with plants and animals and people in only six days.

Prepare to be wowed when we arrive at our new home.

Time to worship in thankfulness now for our future provision and look forward to the Bridegroom’s call!

Blessings,
~kevin

John 13:31-38

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
(John 13:31-38 NIV)

John has just recorded in detail Judas’ contempt for Jesus and his impending betrayal of Jesus.  Judas wandered off into the night to set the wheels of betrayal into motion.

As we begin today’s passage, Jesus’ mood changes from the dark topic of betrayal to the brighter subject of God’s glory (v. 31).

In verse 33, John records Jesus using a term of endearment for His disciples:  “My children” (Greek, “teknion” – “little children”).  This verse is the only time that Jesus uses this term in John’s Gospel.  John must have been impacted deeply by Jesus’ phrase, as John uses this same Greek word seven times in his first letter (1 John).

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, a bunch of rough, tough grown men, not to insult them, but to care for their hearts and souls.  Jesus knew they would soon feel like little children orphaned from their daddy and would miss Him deeply, heartbroken beyond words.

Jesus uses this tender moment to set the tone going forward – “Love one another.”  This phrase will be Jesus’ theme and John’s captivating thoughts over the next four chapters.  Jesus knew the disciples’ impending feelings of loss and was instructing them to serve and care for one another as He had served and cared for them.  Caring for and loving one another was to be their trademark going forward, the distinguishing characteristic that would identify them as Jesus’ disciples.

John records that Peter completely misses the point of loving one another.  Peter is still stuck back on the earlier fact that Jesus said He was going someplace where they could not tag along (v. 36).

Peter, with all his passion and heart, feels hurt and vows to go with Jesus, even laying down his life for Jesus (v. 37).  Jesus, knowing what was about to take place, questions Peter’s allegiance.  In a sobering moment, Jesus uses His “pay attention” phrase (“Very truly I tell you”) and foretells Peter’s denial three times.

What is our takeaway, our faith lesson from this passage?  Jesus’ command to love one another is still in effect today, and will be until He returns to earth.  His clothes still likely damp from washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus set the example of humble service to one another as our example.

May we love others with such acts of service, bringing glory to God in the process.

Blessings,
~kevin