Day 294 “God at Work” John 15 -17
October 21, 2021, 9:59 AM

Day 294 “God at Work” John 15 -17

John’s gospel is just so meaty. Each chapter, each story, every parable seems to carry such weight and has such rich possibility for discussion.

First, the idea of the vine is important on two levels, what I might call metaphoric and literal/symbolic. I know that seems like three, but Jesus manages to do both things when he speaks to his disciples in a loonnngggg farewell discourse. Jesus is preparing them for what is ahead, and he’s giving them their final lessons in what his purpose is, and in what their purpose will be once he has gone to the Father.

 The first—metaphoric—Israel considers itself the true vine. In several places in the Old Testament, the chosen people are referred to as ‘the vine’. I did not know this when I first started reading the Bible. My energies were focused on the New Testament and the words of Jesus and the literal/symbolic meaning of the vine. Literally, the picture of a growing, climbing, fruit producing vine helps us understand what God requires of us—to bear fruit! Symbolically Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. We are connected to him and that’s where we draw our spiritual energy from, the energy we need to bear fruit.

So back to Israel. The vine was everywhere. It was most beautifully represented around the door into the Temple, a huge golden vine that the Jews walked under to go into the Temple. The vine was imprinted on their coins as a symbol of Israel. But the people of Israel have failed at the task of being the nation which is a light to all nations. Psalm 80 tells us this (read the whole psalm for a better, fuller picture of this):

16Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
at your rebuke your people perish.
17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you;
revive us, and we will call on your name.

But we don’t remain there. Because Jesus also claims that he, himself, is the true vine. He is the source of life and growth, and the disciples, which includes you and me, are responsible for “bearing much fruit, because apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing,” (15:5) This is an enormous paradigm shift for the disciples, who are all Jews, but it is an easy lesson to absorb because of its literalness. Jesus is a genius, isn’t he? Pruning, burning—we may be horrified to read this, but it would have been completely explicable for the disciples because vineyards were everywhere in Israel. Wine was perhaps the safest and most commonly available thing to drink besidees water, which was scarce. Nope. No Gatorade or Diet Coke or kombucha.

I want to stay here, but I can’t. Too much more in this reading today.

Jesus speaks again about the Spirit coming to be with the disciples. Remember that the Spirit was always present, as Jesus is always present, as God the Father is always present, but the power of the Spirit had not yet been given to the disciples. That happens at Pentecost. He speaks to them about this Presence that will guide us the ways of truth and righteousness, but once again, even the Spirit will once “speak whatever he hears…he will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you,” (16: 13). [I stuck with ‘he’ pronouns because that’s what our translation says, but I don’t tend to think of the Spirit as having a specific gender.]

The disciples are pretty excited because they think they get! Finally, they say to Jesus, you are speaking clearly! We believe you, we believe IN you! And then Jesus says, “The hour is coming…when you will leave me alone,” (16:29-32). The foreknowledge and heartbreak in that pierces me. Jesus was so darn realistic about the followers he chose. He knew one would betray him. He knew the rest would leave him on the cross to die alone. If we knew our friends would abandon us at the time we most needed them, how would we treat them? I bet we would cut ourselves off from them, or cut them out of our lives. Our own forgiveness is so limited and conditional, isn’t it? Jesus already knows what is going to happen, and he stays with them, strengthening them for the journey ahead.

And then…and then…Jesus prepares for his death by praying for his disciples, out loud, straight to the Father on their behalf, 26 solid verses of prayer for them and for the disciples to come—you and me!—just before he is about to be betrayed by Judas.

The verses that stand out for me:

“Holy Father, protect them…so that they may be one, as we are one.” (11b).

“I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” (13).

“I am not asking you to take them out of the world” (15).

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth,” (17).

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,” (20).

That last one, verse 20, that’s about you and me. Jesus prayed for US right before he died. As believers, we are included in this magnificent, farewell prayer in which Jesus connects us like a transformer to the power and love of the Father. Jesus is our direct conduit, our direct access, our pathway, our journey, our guidepost. Jesus is our way, and Jesus is the way.

So people of The Way, let’s keep journeying together, led by Jesus and empowered by the Spirit to keep going. It is hard work some days, and other days we barely think about it.

I learned something fascinating about Christians and human beings in general while doing my reading for the DMin program and I just might write a whole blog about that soon. People in Western cultures are so careful about joining ‘a group’, whether that’s a church or a family reunion or a social club,  and we have become afraid of true, sacrificial commitment.

Jesus committed and sacrificed everything for his disciples and for everyone who calls on his name. So let’s look into this as we follow Jesus, shall we? It may just transform our whole lives, and that is the point.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,



Post a Comment