Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dealing with the Doing | Reflections on John 15 | Part 1


Would you consider the last words of a dying man important? You might say it depends on who and for whom. Absolutely right!! The last words of my father mean a lot to me but not of a stranger.


Connection gives weight and meaning to words. Those words can affect the rest of our lives for example, if it’s the last will and testament bequeathing everything to long-lost relative or son.

The chapter divisions in the Bible are not always helpful as I find in this case. As I was reading John 15 I realized there are RED letter words preceding John 15. Therefore, this is a continuation of a talk Jesus is having with His disciples.

Where did it begin? I trace it back to John 13, which is another pivotal chapter: the great chapter on servanthood and it ends in chapter 17 with what we call Jesus’ great “High priestly prayer”.  Soon after that he goes to the garden of Gethsemane and is then arrested. So the last words of Jesus to his disciples start in chapter 13 and end with chapter 17. These must be very, very important things that he is talking about. These are Jesus' last instructions His disciples before He goes to the cross.

To summarize:

Chapter 13 is a very important chapter because it’s about the Passover meal Jesus shares with his disciples before his crucifixion; commonly referred to as the “Last Supper”. He talks to them about serving each other, Judas’s betrayal, Peter’s denial. This is heavy stuff.

 He goes on in Chapter 14 to comfort them with the future hope of being with him forever. Once again he is telling them is  HE the only way to the Father. He is now being more clear about who He is. He is giving them the promise of the Holy Spirit.

We then come to Chapter 15 where he transitions from talking about the intense union between the Father and himself to the intense union between Jesus and us and then with each other.

Therefore when we are in close union with Jesus, we are in close union with the Father ( because the Father is in Jesus, and Jesus in the Father ( John 14:10). 

 Chapter 16 He explains more about the working of the Holy Spirit and what they can expect to happen after his death, resurrection, and ascension.

Chapter 17 is the great high priestly pray once again praying for his disciples and all of us who were yet to come to faith. He is praying for our protection and the unity (John 17: 20- 23)



CHAPTER 15
Jesus tells us who the actors are in this story. The Father is the Gardner, The Vine is Jesus, We are the branches. He is now getting more specific about how we ought to relate to himself, one another; and how this threesome are supposed to work together.
As I was reading this, I was struck by a few verses that made me stop to think. Here are some of my reflections.

verse 1. “I am the true vine”. This opening statement is a bullseye shot. It means there are many vines that I could be a part of and they are not the true vine. However, the only true vine is Jesus.  A good question for all of us to ask is  "am I in the true vine? Do I belong to Jesus? Have I made Him the center of my life, my Lord, my Saviour?"

Verse 5“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
No branch can have life without being connected to the main branch. All the branches draw their sap, sustenance from the main branch. It gets its nourishment, strength, fruit-bearing ability, it’s very DNA from the main vine.

 A branch on an orange tree does not look like a branch from a coconut tree. They have a distinct identity and characteristics unique to their species. Therefore it looks like, behaves and produces fruit like the rest of the vine.

 Here the Vine is Jesus. Therefore, if I am well connected to Him; I should behave, look like and produce fruit that is Jesus like!

Therefore staying in connection is crucial. Fruitfulness is linked to my relationship with Jesus.  It is not about how well I administer or create programs; it is not connected to my slick Sunday service. None of those trappings of modern day Christianity have anything to do with my connection to Jesus.

It’s so simple to the point that we actually ignore it or miss it altogether. It’s about me “being” and not “doing”.

In this picture, the only one working is the Father. He is doing all the vine dressing, the cutting and pruning. The branch has one job: stay connected. It sounds too simple we would argue. For a Martha like me, I find this very hard. My hands need to be doing something all the time. Sitting down in silence is not second nature to me.

This verse tells me that I bear fruit from abiding. I bear fruit as my relationship with Jesus grows. The more I draw from the main branch, the more fruit I bear. This means my relationship with Jesus is really important. In a world where fruit/success is measured by performance, this is so hard to understand. I also get my Identity from being connected. Why is this important?

I stop to think: Can my relationship with Jesus become a religious duty? Obedience alone that is dry and faithless won’t produce healthy fruit. 

Jesus says that “Apart from me you can do nothing”. That seems like a strong statement. Some might even say an exaggeration. Well since these are Jesus word I would be wise to pay close attention. What is this nothing! I think he goes on to explain himself further down this passage. We can’t do anything that Jesus is looking for ,i.e which is of eternal consequence or significance if we are not firmly connected to HIM.

Verse 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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”
Here Jesus tells us about the Father’s love for him and His own love for us. Jesus says obedience in an indication of love. What kind of obedience and to what?

The Pharisees were obedient. Was that an indication of love? Jesus spells out what this obedience is about in verse 12 and 13. ( for PART 2 click here)