To hold dear

Christ-sending-His-ApostlesMemory is an interesting thing.  There are many physiological and psychological theories around the topic, but lots of folks seem to agree we have memory for facts and memory for context.  Sometimes the memories are general and sometimes explicit. We tie memory to specific events, personal experiences, semantic categories and more. Then whatever the memory, we have to “register” the memory, store it and then recall it. Continue reading

It comes back to love

Holy-Face-of-Jesus-23I will not leave you…I will come to you. The second promise of continuing presence is Jesus’ promise of his own return (vv. 18-20). “Orphan” (orphanos) was a common metaphor to describe disciples left without their master but the use of the meta­phor here has a special poignancy in the light of the familial and domestic imagery that runs throughout Jesus’ words to his own (e.g., 13:33; 14:2-3, 10-14; 15:9-11; 16:21-24, 27). Jesus’ promise that he will not leave the disciples or­phaned recalls his use of the address “little chil­dren” in 13:33 and is an assurance that the intimacy of that familial relationship is not under­cut by Jesus’ departure. His promise to return (v. 18b) thus immediately counters any possible per­ception of Jesus’ death as his abandonment of his own. Continue reading

Love and holding dear

gospel_of_john_logo3Keeping His Commandments. If we now have some hint at what we mean by “commandments,” what does it mean to “keep” (tereo) them? The basic meanings of this word [TDNT 1:21 ff] are:

  1. keep watch over, guard
  2. keep, hold, reserve, preserve someone or something
  3. keep = not lose
  4. keep = protect
  5. keep, observe, fulfill, pay attention to

NOTE: that “obey” is not one of the meanings (although perhaps implied by “observe”).

Brian Stoffregen’s paraphrase of tereo as “hold dear” or perhaps, “consider important” seems to capture the sense of the passage. This interpretation goes beyond mere obedience. One may detest the words that one is hearing and obeying. One may detest the one giving the orders, but to avoid punishment, one obeys them. In contrast to this, phrasing it, “Holding Jesus’ word dear,” implies having a positive attitude towards that Word and the Word-giver. That is, wanting to hear and obey it out of love for the speaker.

Loving Jesus and “holding dear” what Jesus said and did are inseparable. In chapters 14-15, twice “love” comes before “keep” (14:15; 23) and twice “keep” comes before “love” (14:21; 15:10). In addition, “keeping” is used with “commandments” (entole) (14:15, 21; 15:10) and with “word” (logos) (14:23, 24; 15:20). Loving Jesus and “holding dear” his word and commandments are inseparable.

The connection between love and keeping (i.e., holding dear) the commandments is illustrated by Jesus himself in v. 31. He is doing what the Father has commanded him, so that the world might know that he is loving the Father. The purpose of Jesus’ obedience is witnessing. The results of that witnessing are given in v.23:

  1. The Father will love that one
  2. The Father and Son will come to that one
  3. The Father and Son will make a dwelling with that one

The promise we have from Jesus is that he (and his Father) will be present to those who, out of their love for Jesus, keep (i.e., hold dear) his word. These are those to whom Jesus will reveal himself.

In contrast to these who love Jesus and keep his word, Jesus next talks about “Whoever does not love me does not keep (hold dear) my words” (v. 24). Presumably these non-lovers and non-keepers do not receive the Father’s love or the abiding presence of the Father and the Son. This is understandable if the love and presence comes through the Word that one “holds dear” or “considers valuable,” those who do not have this relationship with the Word will not have the presence of the divine in their lives.

The Advocate. This is the first occurrence of the noun parakletos in the Fourth Gos­pel. This word occurs five times in the NT. It is used in 1 John 2:1 to refer to Jesus; and four times in John’s Farewell Discourse (14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).

Perhaps it best not to translate the Greek word paraclete because there are too many possibilities. While the literal meaning of the related verb (parakaleo) means “to call to one’s side,” usually asking the other for help, the noun took on a legal meaning as “helper in court”. Thus we have translations like “counselor,” “advocate,” or “one who speaks for another” as well as the too general translation of “helper”.

If the Paraclete is a “helper in court,” whose helper is it? Clearly the Paraclete has a role as helper to the disciples (and, now, our helper); but there are also indications that it is Jesus’ helper. The Paraclete comes to speak to us for Jesus. In 14:26, it will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has said to us. In 15:26, it will testify on Jesus’ behalf. The Paraclete comes to speak to us on behalf of Jesus. In our text, the Paraclete will teach us “everything” and remind us of “all” that Jesus has said to us. (In 16:8; its topics are more specific: the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment.) It is not too much of a stretch to say that the Paraclete “helps” us to hear Jesus’ word, which, as noted above, brings the continuing presence of Jesus and his Father to us. The Paraclete reveals Jesus to us, but those without the help of the Paraclete will not properly hear or remember the word of Jesus’ presence.

What the Paraclete does is not new, but is a continuation of the work of Jesus. This can be seen clearly in the description of the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth in v. 17. To call the Paraclete the “Spirit of truth” is to identify the Paraclete as more than a true—i.e., truthful—Spirit. As the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete shares in the work of Jesus, because Jesus is the truth (14:6). The work of the Paraclete is thus to keep the truth of Jesus present to the world after Jesus’ departure (cf. 16:7-11). As with the unity of the Father and Jesus in their work, the relationship between Jesus and the Paraclete is also defined by the unity of their work.

The response of the world to the Paraclete’s presence echoes the response of the world to Jesus, a division between those who receive and those who do not (cf. 1:10-13). Yet the focus of vv. 16-17 is not ultimately on this division, but on the assurance that the presence of the Paraclete gives to Jesus’ “own.” Knowledge of the Paraclete is defined as the Paraclete’s abid­ing with the believing community (v. 17b). The Paraclete is repeatedly described in ways that emphasize its presence in and relationship with the faith community: “will be with you forever”; “abides with you”; and “will be in you.” The Paraclete ensures that the revelation of God in the incarnation does not end with Jesus’ death and return to God.

Notes

John 14:16 another Advocate: Jesus is the first advocate (paraclete); see 1 John 2:1, where Jesus is an advocate in the sense of intercessor in heaven. The Greek term derives from legal terminology for an advocate or defense attorney, and can mean spokesman, mediator, intercessor, comforter, consoler, although no one of these terms encompasses the meaning in John. The Paraclete in John is a teacher, a witness to Jesus, and a prosecutor of the world, who represents the continued presence on earth of the Jesus who has returned to the Father. another: There are two Greek words meaning “another”, allos and heteros. It is sometimes argued that the first means another of a similar kind, the second another of a different kind, and because allos is used in v.16 the other Advocate is of the same kind as Jesus himself. However, the way allos and heteros are used in the Fourth Gospel and the NT as a whole does not support this distinction.

John 14:17 the Spirit of truth: The Advocate is described as “the Spirit of truth” here and in two other places in this Gospel (15:26; 16:13). In this respect, the Advocate is like Jesus, who revealed the truth (8:31–36, 40, 45–46; 16:7; 18:37) and embodied the truth of God (1:14, 17; 14:6). This expression was also used at Qumran community (Jewish), where it is a moral force put into a person by God, as opposed to the spirit of perversity. The Spirit of truth is more personal in John; it will teach the realities of the new order (14:26), and testify to the truth (14:6). While it has been customary to use masculine personal pronouns in English for the Advocate, the Greek word for “spirit” is neuter, and the Greek text and manuscript variants fluctuate between masculine and neuter pronouns. it remains with you, and will be in you: the manuscripts are not consistent on the tenses of the two verbs in this verse, while remains is always present tense, is/will be varies from present to future tense (differing only by an accent mark) in otherwise consistent manuscripts. Without repeating the myriad of explanations, perhaps it is no more complicated that the “former” Paraclete (Jesus) is now with them while “another Advocate” (v.16) will be in them – always realizing that “another Advocate” takes place after and because of the departure of Jesus. In you:The expression en hymin is also validly translated as “among you” and is perhaps indicated given that “you” is plural. But it should also be noted that the promise will become individualized in vv.21-23.

Farewell: I will come back again

 I will come back again…and show you the way.  Jesus’ coming back (v.3) has been variously interpreted:

  • his coming to the disciples following his resurrection (cf. 20:19–29);
  • his coming in the person of the Holy Spirit (cf. 14:15–21);
  • his second coming at the end of this age (cf. 14:28; 21:22–23; parousia); and
  • his ‘coming’ to take his disciples to be with him when they die. (This suggestion, comforting though it is to think of Christ ‘coming’ for us when we die, is not something that receives any support in this passage.)

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Farewell: troubled hearts

Troubled-Heart Commentary. The opening words of the gospel are straight forward: “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (14:1). These same words will be repeated in v.27 when Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will accompany them after Jesus returns to the Father.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Though deeply troubled by the prospect of his own betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus concerned himself with his disciples’ distress. He said to them, Do not let your hearts be troubled [tarassō]. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. Their faith in God, and in particular their faith in Jesus, would enable them to calm their hearts as they faced what lay ahead. There are some scholars who argue that the expression in the Greek is in the imperative, something we would more naturally translate as “Stop being troubled.” It seems that in either case Jesus is not talking to trouble-free people and telling them not to begin to worry. Jesus knows he is talking to people whose hearts are far from serene. Continue reading

Farewell: context

John 14:1–12 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. 4 Where (I) am going you know the way.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. Continue reading

The Peace of God revealed…

6th Sunday of Easter, Year C: John 14:23-29

23 Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. 25“I have told you this while I am with you. 26 The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. 28 You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.

Introduction

Our passage today is taken from the “Farewell Discourse” of Jesus contained in five chapters of John (13:1-17:56). In other words, we have but a few verses which are an integral part of a much larger passage. Accordingly, the Discourse can be outlined in a number of ways, though three main parts are fairly clear: Continue reading