9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17 This I command you: love one another.
Context. This gospel continues the pericope begun last week (John 15:1-8) that begins “I am the true vine…” The gospel is part of the larger “Farewell Discourse” that occurs during the evening when Jesus gathered with his apostles for the “Last Supper” before his passion and death. Some point from last week’s notes are:
- When Jesus speaks of himself as the vine, then, his words are not only self-revelatory, but are revelatory of the interrelationship of God, Jesus, and the community in the life of faith as well. All three elements—gardener, vine, and branches—are essential to the production of fruit.
- The disciples are cautioned to always remain in Jesus (v.4) where the vine grower can prune (purify, cleanse) so that the branch may bear more fruit.
- The “tools of the trade” for cutting and pruning are “the words that I spoke to you” (v.3)
- The emphasis is on the bearing of fruit. That is the only reason for growing a vine; as Ezekiel pointed out long before, a vine does not yield timber (Ezek 15). In a vineyard fruitfulness is not simply desirable; it is imperative; that is the whole point of the vineyard; it is what the vineyard is for. Pruning is resorted to [in order to] ensure that this takes place. Left to itself a vine will produce a good deal of unproductive growth.
- Those who so remain in Christ and have Christ remaining in them keep on bearing fruit in quantity. Verse 5 concludes with an emphatic declaration of human helplessness apart from Christ. In isolation from him no spiritual achievement is possible.
- In the v.8 Jesus makes it clear that “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – For the greater glory of God
There are many commentators who do not divide the reading (John 15:1-7) in the way the Lectionary does for the 5th and 6th Sundays of Easter. Gail O’Day sees a strong linguistic connections that should stay together and proposes these verses always be kept together
7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. 8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.
It is the linguistic continuity provided by the words “remain” (meno), “bear much fruit” (karpos polys) both leading to “love” (agapē). All of this points to a connection between the branch and the vines, between believers and Jesus, Jesus’ word, and Jesus’ love.
On a final language note, throughout these verses, the “you” is plural –always referring to the community of believers.