October 3, 2015.
Daily Reading: John 13-15.
Background: John 9-12.
Concepts and Connections.
Jesus’ passover meal with the disciples: As Jesus’ time before the cross is quickly coming to an end, John records one of the last suppers that He and His disciples would experience together before He was delivered over to the Jews. He knew that His hour had come, and He chooses to give them a lesson of humility and servitude before He would make the ultimate sacrifice in servitude to the human race (see Philippians 2:5-8). He, the Teacher, the One that they looked up to and followed, took the basin, filled it with water and began to wash the disciple’s feet. Note that none of the disciples had done this for each other when they first came in the room, though the equipment was present, because it was a servants job to wash feet, and none among them placed themselves in the role of a servant. Jesus, however, showed them the true meaning of following Him and His true purpose of coming to the world: to serve (see Matthew 20:28). He did this even in the middle of supper, indicating the importance of the lesson. From other gospels, we learn that the disciples had arguments about who was the greatest among them; here, Jesus shows how they had missed the point when they had these kind of arguments. It is interesting that when Jesus gets to Peter, he doesn’t seem to grasp what Jesus is trying to teach right away. Often, Peter got himself in trouble by speaking too quickly, as he does here when he tells Jesus not to was his feet, and then asks for too much when Jesus corrects Him the first time. After washing the disciple’s feet, Jesus returns to the table and asks them if they understood what He had just done. The point wasn’t necessarily about Him washing their feet (though His point could certainly be displayed through this action), but that if He, their Lord and Teacher, had washed their feet, and thereby humbling Himself before them, they too should be humble before one another and serve one another, they who did not indeed hold a position above each other as the Lord did.
It is interesting that as Jesus is teaching this lesson, He speaks of the one who was to betray Him, one of His own disciples, quoting from Psalm 41:9 to show that the scriptures would be fulfilled in this action. Though the disciples understood the gist of what He was saying, they likely did not understand it to the full extent, and they certainly could not figure out who He was talking about, apparently even after Jesus showed who it would be. The text said that Satan had already put it in Judas heart to betray Him, and after Jesus dipped the morsel and gave it to Judas, He says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Judas immediately goes out, but the rest of the disciples don’t know the intent. After Judas goes out, Jesus gives them a new commandment, that they love one another, as He had loved them. It was not a new commandment in the sense that they had never been told to love one another (see Leviticus 19:9-18), but it was new in the sense that they had not yet seen what Jesus was going to to for them, as He was going to lay down His life as a ransom for the world, that any who would come could be cleansed from their sins in His blood (see Romans 6:1-11). They were to love one another in the way that He loved them, and this was new. They were to put each other first, making sacrifices for each other and perhaps even laying their lives down for each other. This was a difficult teaching, as it remains today. But this is how the world will know that we are His disciples, that we love one another as Christ loved us. It is difficult, and that’s precisely what sets us apart. That is what makes the world take notice. After giving this teaching, Jesus foretells of Peter’s denial.
1. “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Light”: In this discourse of Jesus to His disciples, He gives the sixth I AM statement that John records: “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Light…” He says this specifically to Thomas when he ask how the disciples would know the way to the place that He was preparing for them if they did not know where they were going. Jesus’ answer was that He was the way. Once again, the disciples were confused of the message that Jesus was trying to teach them. He was certainly going to prepare a place for them, but the way to get there was through Him, and only Him. We cannot go to the Father except though Jesus- there is no other way. This statement is similar to His “I AM the gate” statement (see John 10), but seems to go into more depth, as not only is Jesus the entrance to the Father, but He is the very way. While Jesus was on earth with His disciples, many of His teachings were not understood fully by them. He had been with them for three years, but they still did not understand His teaching that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father, because He and the Father were one. Now He was going back to the Father, but He would Segway into the coming Holy Spirit with His discussion about prayer, telling the disciples that whatever they asked in His name, He would do it for them.
2. The Holy Spirit: After explaining that He was the way to the Father and telling His disciples that He was going to the Father, Jesus tells them that He would not leave them abandoned, but would rather send them a Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would come after to dwell in His disciples (see Acts 2:37-41). Though the world would no longer see Him, His disciples would see Him, for anyone who keeps His commands, the Father and the Son would make their abode with them. The Holy Spirit would come and teach them all things and bring to their remembrance the things that He had said to them. Jesus would give them peace, no the peace of the world, but the peace that passes understanding (see Philippians 4:7). Jesus was going to the Father, to a better place, a place that His disciples would follow when the time comes.
The true Vine and the hatred of the world: Here Jesus gives the seventh I AM statement that John records in his gospel: “I AM the true vine.” This statement comes with an explanation that the disciples of Jesus are expected to bear fruit, as they are connected to the vine, who is Christ, which is pruned by the vinedresser, who is the Father. There is an element of similarity with the previous two I AM statements, in that Jesus says that any branch that is not attached to the vine cannot bear fruit, noting that His disciples must abide in His words and commandments if the love of the Father was to dwell in them and they were to bear fruit. Those who do not bear fruit will be pruned by the Father, so that the vine can grow and flourish. This should not be taken lightly by us, as Jesus says that this is the way that we will prove to be His disciples. Again they are given the commandment to love one another as He had loved them, and drives home the point of His coming sacrifice by saying that there was no greater love that mortal man has than to lay down his life for his fellow man. Note that Jesus calls His disciples here friends, in which He places them on a different level than the relationship of a servant and master.
After the discussion about the true Vine and bearing fruit, He warns His disciples to not be surprised if the world hated them, but rather to expect it because the world hated Him first. If the world hated Him, it would only follow that the world would also hate His disciples. We are not to be of the world, not to do the same things that they do. By our very lives, the world will find us offensive, because we are not like them. We should expect to be persecuted, for the world persecuted Him. It is interesting to note that Jesus said that if He had not come to the world, they would not have been able to be held guilty of sin, for they would not have been shown who He was, and if He had not done the works that He had done, they would not have been held guilty of not believing in Him. This shows that Christianity is not an unreasonable faith, and the Father does not expect us to blindly accept just anything. It also gives the concept that where there is no law, or rather no revelation of what sin is or what righteousness is, there is no sin (see Romans 5:13). However, because the Lord is a righteous God and merciful, He revealed what sin was through the Law, and He revealed His plan of salvation and redemption for the whole world (we who had fallen and brought sin and death into the world, see Genesis 3) through His son, being glorified in His works. But not all would believe, however, and Jesus quotes either Psalm 35:19 or 69:4 to show that those who didn’t believe would hate Him with without a cause, for they had been clearly shown that He had the power of God. They were without excuse, just as all are without excuse, for the glory of the Father has been manifested since the beginning (see Romans 1:18-23), and furthermore in His son. And now, though the Helper, we bear witness of Him to the world.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Hebrews 1-4.
Grace and peace.