The Forty-Seventh in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Their time together is apparently over. Jesus has ended the Passover celebration, he has revealed to his disciples that he is leaving them, and he has told them that he will send the “Helper” to be with them after he departs. Then he pronounced his word of “peace” upon the disciples. But the disciples are still confused. They have so many questions. And so when Jesus gets up to leave, the conversation continues on. To help the disciples understand what is about to happen both to him and to them, and to prepare them for what is soon to come, Jesus takes the familiar metaphor of a vine and its branches (one, which he has used several times earlier in his messianic ministry), and now uses it to describe his relationship to his people after his departure. To bear fruit (to believe the promises Jesus is making and then strive to obey his commandments) one must abide in Jesus, the true vine, who gives fruit-bearing life to those who abide in him. In using a familiar metaphor in a decidedly different way than he has previously, Jesus is revealing to the disciples that redemptive history has come to a major turning point, and that through abiding in him (the true Israel), the disciples will bear fruit. In fact, Jesus has chosen them to do this very thing.
As we continue with our series on the Gospel of John, we come to John 15 and yet another of the extended discourses given by Jesus found through this Gospel. This particular discourse–Jesus’ use of the vine and the branches metaphor to explain his relationship to his people–is itself found within a larger discourse (the Upper Room Discourse of John 13-17). As we saw last time, in the first half of chapter 14 of John, Jesus introduced the person of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, when he tells them of another Helper who will come and indwell them, after Jesus departs to go to his Father to prepare a place for them. In John 14:16-17, Jesus told them “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
The disciples readily accepted that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah–he had performed countless miracles, and it was clear to them that Jesus was the coming one promised throughout the Old Testament. But the disciples were struggling to understand how both YHWH and Jesus could be the one true God. And now, in their few remaining moments together, Jesus reveals to them that there are three divine persons who are the one true God, each of them sharing the divine nature. The Trinity is a difficult doctrine in many ways, but one well-known to Christians across the ages. Yet to the disciples, this is all new information which they must now immediately process. It is precisely because Jesus has so little time left, and the disciples need to know in advance what Jesus is about to do for them, that Jesus reveals to them the person of the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete or “Helper”) who is the third person of the Holy Trinity, and who will be with them after Jesus departs.
The Father has revealed to Jesus that his hour has come. This means that the Passover celebration, as well as Jesus’ time with the disciples, has come to an end. With the hour getting late, in John 14:27, the disciple tells us that Jesus pronounces his word of “peace” (his “shalom”) upon those from whom he is about to depart. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” This is goodbye. At the end of verse 31, Jesus tells the group, “Rise, let us go from here.”
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