Easter 6, Alternate Reading A
May 26, 2019
Read the passage at the bottom of this post: John 14:23-295, The Message or John 14:23-29, The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Once again we have a small excerpt selected from a much longer, richer, and more complex lesson which is the whole of John, Chapter 14.
These verses are part of an address by Jesus to his followers (then and now) on why they should not let their hearts be troubled (Verses 1 and 27) even though he is about to leave them.
The Chapter consists of three exchanges in the pattern:
- Jesus explains why they should not let their hearts be troubled;
- one of the disciples (Thomas, then Philip, then Judas (not Iscariot)) misunderstands;
- Jesus adds further clarifications.
The text for today follows the question / misunderstanding by Judas (not Iscariot) who asks, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?"
In his response Jesus repeats the theme of Verse 21:
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.
This response needs to be understood as John trying to describe the organic unity - the interconnected relatedness - of Jesus and his followers.
To be a follower is to have and keep Jesus' commandments / teachings; to keep Jesus' commandments is to love him; to love Jesus is to also be loved by Jesus; to be loved by Jesus is to also be loved by the one who loves Jesus - his Father; to be loved by Jesus and the Father is to abide in them; to abide in them is to keep Jesus' commandments. (And remember that here "love" means fully devoted compassion.)
There are probably at least 3 ways to misunderstand John.
One is to treat each of the above (following, loving, abiding) as if they were separate and distinct pieces. These things are all of a whole; you cannot selectively choose only one part: "I'll have the love of Jesus please, but hold the keeping the commandments."
Another is to treat these as a linear progression: first you follow, then you love, then you abide. In John, the organic, inter-connected relatedness of our relationship with Jesus means that these things are fully present at all times. It's true that one may be more prominent at any given time, but all are always present and operative.
Another is to focus on "keeping my commandments" in a blind obedience, totalitarian way. The holistic, organic unity of inter-connected relatedness is total, but it is not totalitarian. Our freely voluntary participation is essential to John's vision.
Another (I think this actually makes 4 ways to misunderstand John), is to focus on John's polarizing, either/or language. Either you love me or you don't. Either you are fully and completely my follower or you are fully and completely estranged.
This aspect of John's vision is partly result of his circumstances in which his community was under attack and persecution; you either were a fully devoted, loyal participant of John's community or you were a danger to the community. This historical context does not need to be repeated, and does not have any theological significance for understanding John.
And the polarizing language is also partly a result of the organic vision of John; an egg is either fully and completely part of the batter or it isn't. But again, this holistic vision should not be interpreted in totalitarian, hostile ways.
A better way to understand this aspect of John is to ask, "What part of me / our community is not fully participating in the way of Jesus? What healing / correction / guidance would help to deepen greater participation?"
Inter-connected, organic relatedness may have a certain cache in these days of concern about global climate change, but for anyone considering joining the community of Jesus' followers, it also presents the somewhat daunting reality that this is not a part-time, weekend commitment.
Everything comes as a complete package and so our experience of any part will only be as rich as our experience of the part we least participate in.
The response to Judas (not Iscariot) ends with the promise in verse 26, that after Jesus is no longer with them, the Holy Spirit will be sent to continue to teach and remind them of everything.
This assures them that they will not be abandoned and left on their own for the crucial aspect of "having and keeping my commandments." (Interestingly, this is also given as the reason John has written his gospel. See John 20:30-31.)
Verses 27-31 conclude the Chapter with final comments by Jesus on "do not let your hearts be troubled."
First, Jesus leaves and gives his peace; leaves and gives all that they need for their total well-being: truth, light, love, teachings, his way.
Second, we should be happy that Jesus is going to be with his Father.
Third, by telling us what is going to occur in advance, we may be confident that the ruler of this world actually has no power over Jesus; what is about to happen is because Jesus is keeping his Father's commandment (and thereby showing his love).
In other words, Jesus will be living the organic unity - the inter-connected relationship he has with his Father. And therefore we should not be troubled, but rather, be confident and loyal and live the organic unity - the inter-connected relationship Jesus offers his followers.
Historical background information in this post is drawn primarily from Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, see link below, pages 228-233.
* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce Malina, Richard Rohrbaugh, et. al., Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
John 14:23-29 (NRSV)
23 Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, 'I am going away, and I am coming to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
John 14:23-29 (The Message)
23 "Because a loveless world," said Jesus, "is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we'll move right into the neighborhood! 24 Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn't mine. It's the message of the Father who sent me.
25 "I'm telling you these things while I'm still living with you. 26 The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. 27 I'm leaving you well and whole. That's my parting gift to you. Peace. I don't leave you the way you're used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don't be upset. Don't be distraught.
28 "You've heard me tell you, 'I'm going away, and I'm coming back.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I'm on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.
29 "I've told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me.
Scripture quotations from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
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