John’s Farewell Discourses 2

6 05 2008

“I am the vine and my Father is the vine-grower. I am the vine and you are the branches.” (John 15)

The second and innermost circle of the Farewell Discourses is John 15, where Jesus uses the image of the vine to describe his relationship to the Father and to his disciples, which includes us, for we are to imagine that Jesus is speaking with us as well as to the 11.

Jesus calls himself the vine and the Father is the vine-grower. The Father removes from the vine all the branches that do not bear fruit, and those that do bear fruit are pruned so they may be more abundant. Even now, the pruning has begun with the disciples because one of their own has been lost (Judas) and will not be replaced until much later in the person of Matthias.

We are encouraged to live in and with Christ and remain connected to the vine for just as a branch cannot bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine, we can do nothing apart from Jesus. Without him we will only wither and die just as surely as those who have been removed will die. Indeed, Jesus desires for us to continually remain in him so we may bear fruit.

Notice something that he doesn’t say. Notice it is the Father who is doing the tending. Jesus gives life to the branches and the branches grow forth from the vine. He does not break anyone off. The vine doesn’t even break anyone off. The pruning hooks are in the hands of no one else but the Father. It is not our perogative to cast anyone out or cut anyone off and never has been our perogative.

We are joined to Christ in an intimate and organic relationship, so we may be sure that whatever we ask God will be heard and acted upon, just as we can be sure the vine-grower will diligently care for his crop.

In the last chapter, Jesus gave to us his peace, and now he gives us another … his joy. The desire of Christ is that we may know the joy of being in and with the Father. By being connected in such an intimate and organic way, we can know the fullness of God’s joy as Jesus does.

How do the branches become a part of the vine? Do they put themselves their on their own? No, they grow from the vine itself and sometimes they are grafted to the plant and are tended by the vine-grower. The following verse in this chapter have resonated with me for a very long time and actually what caused me to fall in love with the Gospel of John

You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I appointed you to go any bear fruit, fruit that will last.

God chooses us.  Being a Christian, then, is not necessarily completely a choice, but a calling .. a vocation. Think of a gift.  If someone gives us a present, wrapped up all pretty, whether or not we choose to open it, use it, play with it, whatever, it is still a gift given to us.  We did not choose to be the recipient of the gift, but we may choose whether or not to accept it….but it is still a gift.  So it could be with being a Christian.

Not only does Jesus choose us as recipients of this gift, but he also calls us friends … friends of Jesus, friends of the Father, friends of God.  And God’s love is so great for us, his friends, that he lays down his life for us.  He gives his very self to us so that we may know peace and joy and love.

Jesus then turns to talking about love and hate.  The world does not have a tendency to love “the other.”  In fact, the powers and systems and institutions of the world hates and fears the other because it is not like itself, and it does everything in its power to stamp it out.  Even in the Episcopal Church, as welcoming as it is, I have found a tendency for those in power to say, “Of course we want to be all inclusive, but we really want to include everyone just like us or make them into our own image.”  That is the corruption of the world speaking, and this is something we are all guilty of.

Taking another example, the rich and the elite of the world are basically not feeling the effects of the weakened economy.  They will at times make half-handed gestures to keep people quiet (cue the cut in the gas tax for the summer), but the reality is they don’t want to address the root of the problems.

Most importantly, says Jesus, the world acts this way because regardless of what it might say, it doesn’t know Jesus like it says it does, and therefore it doesn’t know the Father.  But Jesus kept coming back and speaking truth and love to the earthly powers-that-be, and they ultimately rejected him, so we shouldn’t be surprised that we are rejected at times when we are staying on message. Sadly, again, it seems that we in the Church are little better than our secular counterparts.

Again, Jesus mentions the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, our Friend and Guide, who is also the Spirit of Truth, who will confirm the things that Jesus said, cause our hearts and minds to remember them, and give us encouragement to keep going when it seems hopeless — just as Jesus did.

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m hoping the last bit of the discourses, John 16, ends on a happier note.

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6 responses

7 05 2008
RFSJ

RB –

In John there is the whole concept of “the world” which is that outside the community of believers. So here, John seems to be explaining his unique perspective on why everyone isn’t getting it, especially since “God so loved the world” and “In my father’s house are many mansions” etc. Don’t stop your reading at John 16 – you have to go on to John 17 to get the full effect here.

BTW, I must not be getting something, because I am unlcear on how the Strong Theory reconciles 14:2 and 14:6. It seems like, “It’s in Jesus” ducks the question a bit. There is a contradiction, or at least disparate POVs, in the two verses, both on its face and in the Greek. It’s not a probalem of transaltion, but of interpretation. Now I can extend the salvation of Jesus “no one comes to the Father except through me” to mean that even if i don’t/can’t see it, I know that even Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., somehow can provide salvation that is not apparently in Christ but is through him anyway. That’s one way to look it at, and a way I sort of lean to at the moment. But I think you were suggesting something else that I didn’t quite get 🙂

Bob

7 05 2008
Reverend boy

Bob,

I’m afraid I can’t say too much more on the topic because I feel like I’m missing something as well, which is why 90% of that post is taken from (either directly or by paraphrase) from my rector. If there is any further point to be made at my very limited understanding then I guess it would be that we should just explore the ideas and the tensions/contradictions in John 14:2 and John 14:6 further, just as the scientific community has done with string theory, even though it’s sooooo last year per the Mad Priest

But then to Anthony’s point, it’s a “nice theory” but since John has undergone a few revisions prior to publication, for lack of a better word, such an exercise might be irrelevant except in academic circles.

And thank you for the book suggestions! I shall add them to my list of things to read. More than one person has recommended them to me.

10 05 2008
Doorman-Priest

“God chooses us. Being a Christian, then, is not necessarily completely a choice, but a calling .. a vocation. Think of a gift. If someone gives us a present, wrapped up all pretty, whether or not we choose to open it, use it, play with it, whatever, it is still a gift given to us. We did not choose to be the recipient of the gift, but we may choose whether or not to accept it….but it is still a gift. So it could be with being a Christian.”

I used the “gift” analogy in the classroom this week. The topic was life after death. They all seemed to get it. Lets pray seeds have been sown…….

11 05 2008
theoldadam

RB,

Here’s how I interpret that verse, “No one can come to the Father except through me.”

I believe Jesus is saying that He will be the one who makes the decision. What criterion will He use to make his decision? It looks like (from the totality of scripture) that He will use the faith test. Do you trust in Him, Jesus…or not.
Will He take other factors into account? Who knows? He is God after all and can and will do whatever He darn well pleases.

But I believe He was revealed in the form of Christ for a reason. He told us that many wouldn’t have Him. He Himself said that “He didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword.” There would be division in families over Him. Division in the world. He is after faith, pure plain and simple. He wants it so much that He even gives it to those that He calls and chooses to be His own.

Christ is the end of the law for everyone who believes.(Romans 10:4) Everyone else will be subject to the law and no will will be made righteous in the sight of the law.

I pray that no one will have to go to hell…because I deserve to go there too!

Who goes and who doesn’t is ultimately God’s business. But if you take scripture even halfway seriously, you have to admit that having faith in Christ certainly seems to be what God is after.

That’s my 2 cents. Thanks very much!

– Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

11 05 2008
Anthony

Are you sure the Spirit of Truth is to be the end or the beginning, or just as in evolution, was it one week, or is it a process in which we are still participating? I have never been one accept the closing of anything spiritual, that’s one of our faults as humans.

12 05 2008
Reverend boy

theoldadam,

By and large I agree with you in the sense that salvation is totally in the hands of God. For me, the point of being a Christian is not to go to heaven or to escape hell, but to live in a relationship with God and put Gospel teachings into action.

Anthony,

I’m not really sure about anything and I’m the first to admit i have MUCH MUCH MUCH to learn. My tendency is to think that we are still participating in the revelation of truth which is guided by God through the Holy Spirit.

Loving all these comments! I’m glad this exercise is sparking discussion. Thank you to all! I hope to have John 16 up later tonight ….

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