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Friday, December 20, 2013

John 15-The Gardener

The end of John 14 speaks of leaving the Upper Room, so I believe that this passage continues the conversation as they walk to Gethsemane or after they arrive. John makes no mention of the private prayer in which Jesus commits to see the Father's will executed on Calvary. In Chapter 15 he speaks of the vine and the branches and the work of the Father as a vine dresser. 

The image of a farmer is prevalent throughout the Bible. The farmer is understood by all societies as the source of sustenance and renewed strength. Here Jesus is careful to list the requirements of the gardener, the vine and the branches.
  
The fruit does not have any duties, but the branches bear fruit. We being the branches, are expected to bear fruit. Bearing fruit means continuing the work Jesus commands--We are to proclaim the gospel and allow it to be exhibited in our lives. We should be deliberate in our practice of love and integrity.  

Some people interpret this to mean that God will destroy those who do not follow Jesus closely. "such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."(John 15:6) This is a harsher treatment than Jesus has proclaimed before, but we must remember that this is an analogy, a metaphor, not a judgment. Jesus may have been referring to Judas who did not remain in him, but chose another path and cut himself off from the vine. Other paths never lead to the joy or glory found in the Son.

Jesus focuses on fruit in verse 8. Bearing fruit brings glory to the Father and proves discipleship. Matthew 7:15-20 discusses other aspects of fruit and the trees that produce them. In John 15 I find the focus to be on the fruit, and that fruit must be a result of the believer's connection to Jesus. All the efforts that are dependent on our striving, our plans, our systems will produce no fruit and be wasted labor when it does not flow from Jesus.

In John 15:9 the focus shifts to love. Keeping and the commandment equates with abiding in the love. In other places we are commanded to love one another, but the command to love is no where more insistent than here. Jesus uses himself and his obedience to the Father as their example. "Just like my Father has loved me, so I have loved you. If you do what I have commanded, you will remain in my love. That's what I have done--I kept his commandments and remained in his love. Love each other as I have loved you." (Paraphrase)

In this statement Jesus raises the Disciples from servants to members of the board. When they were servants these things were not revealed to them. Jesus elevates them to confidantes. Now they are more than just associates, they are part of the management team. But the instructions are still the same: Love one another. They were expected to understand more and do more and be more, but there is just one new rule: Love one another as I have love you.

Now he shifts to a new focus: You will not be loved by the world. It hates me, and you will be like me in this. It will hate you too. The world has an agenda that excludes you. and it will not accept your message. I have chosen you and I love you, but the world won't.

Don't delude yourselves believing that you will escape persecution. You are not better or wiser or more well-liked than me. If they hated me, they will hate you. and it will be because of your love. Those who you will preach to will treat you like they treated me. There may be some who will receive you and love you for my sake, but some will attack you and kill you for my sake. 

Chapter 15:26-27 Jesus promises the support and comfort of the Holy Spirit. This will be an event to anticipate, though as yet there is only a vague hint of the power and resource he will provide. He will bring them testimony of Jesus and the Father.