The Gospel text for this Sunday continues Jesus’ words from John 15. The text this time is the section of verses 9-17, and, as always with texts from that account, there is a LOT within that text to talk about.
I thought it would be nice to begin by focusing on a new word that Jesus had not mentioned for a while. Jesus brought up the ‘C’ word, ‘commandment’. That word usually has very negative connotations. How are we to understand that word?
It may be helpful to know that there are different words for commandments or commands, and all of them have a slightly different emphasis on that big—and important—topic.
Obviously one of the emphases is a focus on what is commanded. There is even a word that is used when one should pay close attention to the details of those commands. And I do not think you would be too surprised to learn that there is a word used for a command with the implication of a threat involved if the commands are not followed. (It is interesting that the text uses this word when Jesus commands the wind and the waves to be still.)
The emphasis that occurs within this text from John 15—and many others within the Gospel accounts—is an emphasis on the one who is giving the commands. That is something that is all too often passed by quite quickly.
Commands are not simply something that we do. Commands are not simply something that God says we should do. These commandments were given by the very special One who laid down his life for his friends (see verse 13). That puts things in a significantly different perspective.
It is a different perspective because it is essentially a new definition to the word ‘love’. Earlier within the discourse, Jesus said that this was a NEW commandment to love one another, but that command was already in the Old Testament—to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). Jesus is new, and so his love is new. But how will that love show or remain?
This point ties into the topic that I brought up last week. If Jesus is about to leave, how is it that he will remain? If the disciples keep his commands, it sounds like Jesus’ love will remain (see verse 10). But what would that look like?
If he is about to lay down his life, if he is eventually to be raised to life again, if he is eventually to ascend into heaven, how will he ‘abide’? In John 1:14, the writer promised that Jesus would only be here a short while, in a ‘tent’.
Obviously a close reading of the texts is important. Jesus, especially in this account, seems like he knows everything that is going on and is not bothered by anything. In the Gospel according to Mark, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus falls on the ground and asks his Father to find another way (Mark 14:35). In the Gospel according to John, Jesus’ enemies are the ones who are falling on the ground (John 18:6)! Jesus has this salvation stuff all under control.
We will stay in this gospel account for at least two more weeks, so I hope, within these writings, to bring this topic of “Jesus’ remaining—and loving (perhaps commanding?)—presence” to an adequate resolution.