Week Commencing 4th November 2018
On Sunday we began a 4-week series entitled: “That’s from the Bible!?” Here’s the outline:
|4th Nov (Noosa triathlon)||Run the race set before us||Hebrews 12:1-3|
|11th Nov (Remembrance Day)||Greater love has no one than this||John 15:1-17|
|18th Nov||Led like a lamb to the slaughter||Isaiah 53:7|
|25th Nov||Eat, drink and be merry||Luke 12:19; 1 Cor 15:32|
Next Sunday is Remembrance Day. We will recall that it is 100 years since the end of World War 1. In many remembrance ceremonies, John 15:13 will be quoted: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. Sadly, this will be used by many people who have no idea where this phrase has come from, no idea of the context and no idea that it is actually talking about Jesus laying down his life for us. So during this week in these reading notes, and next Sunday, we’ll explore this verse in its context so that we might see it’s true meaning and significance.
DAY 1: Read John 15:1-4
I am the true vine. In John’s Gospel, Jesus uses “I am” on a number of occasions: I am – the bread of life (6:53), the living bread (6;51), the light of the world (8:12), the gate (10:7), the resurrection and the life (11:25), the way, the truth and the life (14:6). Jesus is picking up the “I am” we read in Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush when God identified himself to Moses as “I am who I am”. The Lord told Moses to tell Israel “I AM has sent me to you (Exodus 3:14). We understand therefore, that by using “I am” language, Jesus is identifying himself with God.
The vine imagery would have been familiar to Jesus’ disciples. The Old Testament frequently pictures Israel as a vine or vineyard with God himself as the one who planted and took care of Israel. In addition, the disciples would have seen many vineyards as they walked from place to place. Some of them may have owned or worked in a vineyard. They would know that pruning in a necessary part of taking care of the vineyard. Useless vines drain the plants’ strength and leaving them in place serves no purpose.
Jesus tells us that he is the fine and that his father is the gardener. If a branch is not productive, it is removed. If productive, it is nonetheless pruned, to enhance its future productivity. This speaks of the trials that faithful believers will sometimes endure, in the certain knowledge, that the Lord is using them to transform us into the people he would have us be and make us more fruitful in his service.
As Jesus addresses his disciples at the last supper, he proclaims them as already clean (pruned) because of the words he has spoken to them. But they must remain in him and he in them. Jesus makes it clear that our relationship with him – our abiding in him – is the key both to our fruitfulness and our destiny. The Christian finds strength and purpose through relationship with Christ. The weak person becomes strong when grafted into the Christ-vine and the strong person becomes vulnerable when detached from it. What steps are you actively taking to ensure you remain in Christ?
DAY 2: Read John 15:5-8
Fruitfulness starts and finishes with us abiding in Jesus. As long as we remain in him, his strength is ours. As soon as we turn our backs on him, our strength begins to drain away.
We are tempted to believe otherwise. Our prayer life is swallowed up by busyness. Our true values are revealed in the way we set our priorities. Prayer all too easily gets lost in the rush – even for clergy. We hope that a quick cry for help is enough, but Jesus says “remain in me”.
What is the fruit to which Jesus refers? It will be love and obedience and joy which we see in this chapter, but it will also be all the fruit of the spirit we read of in Galatians 5:22. And it will also be more people coming into relationship with Jesus as our transformed lives tell the story of what it means to be in relationship with Jesus.
Apart from me, you can do nothing. Rather than becoming simply mediocre when not connected to Jesus, we become absolutely powerless. Rather than the value of our work and witness being just diminished, it becomes completely worthless. We can no more function spiritually when unconnected to Jesus than we can function physically when cut off from the air that we breathe. Being unconnected to Jesus is being cut off from the source of life. Without our connection to Jesus, we are completely dependent on our own resources, which will bear little or no fruit. Our own resources might produce growth, but that growth is likely to be malignant (Ridderbos, The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, p517).
So brothers and sisters, let us make our life priority, exploring all that it means to abide in Jesus!
DAY 3: Read John 15:9-13
What does it mean to remain in Jesus’ love? The Greek word meno – means dwelling in a particular place—remaining there—abiding there. It suggests to me the kind of peace and stability that we associate with being at home—or at the home of a hospitable friend. When used of relationships, as it is here, meno suggests steadfast relationship—heart and soul unity. To remain in Jesus’ love, then, suggests being immersed in Jesus’ love—surrounded by Jesus’ love—comforted by Jesus’ love—empowered by Jesus’ love.
The emphasis is love. Love begins with the Father and flows through the Son to the disciples (v. 9). It is contingent on obedience—“If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (v. 10). Jesus provides us with a model of obedience. He has come to do the will of the one who sent him (4:34; 6:38; 8:29). He keeps the Father’s word (8:55). He does the Father’s will so that the world might know that he loves the Father (14:31). The Father loves Jesus because he lays down his life in obedience to the Father’s command (10:17-18). Jesus promises to love the disciples if they obey his commandments. So love and obedience are the key to ‘remaining’ in Jesus.
But what does such love look like? V12 makes clear that is it love as he has loved us. Then v13 spells out the nature and the extent of Jesus’ love for us. It is seen with crystal clear clarity in the laying down of one’s life! At this point, the disciples do not understand that Jesus will soon die for his friends. After the resurrection, they will finally understand the significance of these words. Jesus’ love will require him to go to the cross for his friends. Our over for each other, flows from his loving sacrifice for us. 1 John 3:16 makes this explicit: “By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters”.
Next Sunday, we will pause and remember those who gave their lives in WW1. Their sacrifice for their nation was great indeed and we must remain grateful. It is true though, that often when this verse is quoted in remembrance ceremonies, few know that the verse is actually talking about Jesus’ loving and costly sacrifice for the world. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are saved from the greatest perils of all time – sin, death and Satan! That sacrifice won our eternal freedom and brought us from darkness into light! Jesus’ sacrifice not only defines who are – we are God’s new people – but must become the pattern for own loving service of others!
DAY 4: Read John 15:14-17
There is no shame attached to being God’s servant. The people identified in the Bible as God’s servants include Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5), Joshua (Joshua 24:29), David (Psalm 89:20), Paul (Titus 1:1), and James (James 1:1). Jesus acted as servant to the disciples at the foot-washing (John 13:13-16). But now Jesus refers to the disciples as friends, saying, “but I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you” (v. 15b). A master gives servants orders, but a friend communicates with friends, sharing intimacies and trust. But Jesus and the disciples have not become equals, and their friendship is not a democracy. Jesus is Lord, and expects obedience (v. 14).
From that close and abiding friendship, arising from the ‘greater love’ – Jesus’ sacrifice – will come fruitfulness – changed lives which will impact others and bring change in their lives – all to God’s glory!
By Mark Calder with the resources of www.sermonwriter.com