"There are probably at least 3 ways to misunderstand John. One is to treat each of: following, loving, and 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.'"
Season of Easter
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Click here, John 14:23-29, for an easy to print or email Adobe PDF version of this note.
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.