John 15 – The Departing Jesus Teaches His Disciples about Life in Him
“It must occur to all who read these discourses preserved by John how simple the text looks, and yet how transcendent is the thought when it is even dimly understood. John is sailing sky-high: are we? It is the strongest food in the Bible.” (Trench)
A. Relating to Jesus when Jesus departs.
1. (1-3) Jesus as the true vine.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
a. I am the true vine: This was a familiar symbol. God repeatedly used a vine as a symbol of His people in the Hebrew Scriptures (one example is Psalm 80:8-9). Yet it was often used in a negative sense (as in Isaiah 5:1-2, 7 and Jeremiah 2:21). Just in the previous week Jesus publicly taught about Israel being like a vineyard in the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44).
i. Jesus spoke this to His disciples, probably as they stood in the upper room and prepared to leave. He used the picture of the vine because there were grapevines everywhere in ancient Israel. Also, there was a large golden vine set as a prominent decoration on the front of the temple communicating the idea that Israel was God’s vine. As well, “The vine was a recognized symbol also of the Messiah.” (Dods)
ii. In contrast, Jesus is the true vine. We must be rooted in Him (not in Israel) if we will bear fruit for God. In the New Covenant community, our first identification is in Jesus Christ Himself, not in Israel or even in the church as such.
iii. Of the many pictures of the relationship between God and His people, the vine and branch picture emphasizes complete dependence and the need for constant connection. The branch depends on the vine even more than the sheep depends on the shepherd or the child depends on the father. As Jesus was about to depart from His disciples, this was important encouragement. He would remain united to them and they to Him as truly as branches are connected to the main vine.
b. And My Father is the vinedresser: In the Old Testament use of the vine as a picture of Israel, God the Father was also presented as the One who cultivated and managed the vine. God fulfills this role also for the believer under the New Covenant.
i. The New Covenant participant has relationship with both the Father and the Son; with both the vine itself and the vinedresser.
c. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away: The branches that are taken away were never properly abiding in the vine, demonstrated by the fact that they did not bear fruit.
i. There is an alternative understanding of this passage that bears some consideration. James Montgomery Boice (among others) believes that the ancient Greek verb airo, translated, takes away is more accurately translated lifts up. The idea is that the Father lifts up unproductive vines off of the ground (as was common in the ancient practices of vineyard care). Those caring for ancient grape vines made sure to lift them up off the ground that they might get more sun and bear fruit better.
ii. “The verb translated ‘cut off’ (aireo) means literally ‘to lift up’ or ‘to take away’; the second, ‘trims clean’ (kathaireo), a compound of the first, means ‘to cleanse’ or ‘to purify.’” (Tenney)
d. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes: This word for prunes is the same word translated cleanse in other places. The same word could apply to either “pruning” or “cleansing” in ancient Greek. The vinedresser cleans up the fruit-bearing vine so it will bear more fruit.
i. “Left to itself a vine will produce a good deal of unproductive growth. For maximum fruitfulness extensive pruning is essential.” (Morris)
ii. “Dead wood is worse than fruitlessness, for dead wood can harbor disease and decay…God removes the dead wood from his church and disciplines the life of the believer so that it is directed into fruitful activity.” (Tenney)
iii. “And if it be painful to bleed, it is worse to wither. Better be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” (Trapp)
e. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you: The work of pruning, of cleansing, had already begun in the eleven disciples Jesus spoke to. They had heard and received much of His teaching and were in some sense already clean because of the word.
i. In saying you are already clean, Jesus repeated an idea from earlier in the evening: that there is an initial cleansing, and then a continuing cleansing (John 13:10).
ii. The word of God is a cleansing agent. It condemns sin, it inspires holiness, it promotes growth, and it reveals power for victory. Jesus continues to wash His people through the word (Ephesians 5:26).
iii. “The means by which pruning or cleaning is done is by the Word of God. It condemns sin; it inspires holiness; it promotes growth. As Jesus applied the words God gave him to the lives of the disciples, they underwent a pruning process that removed evil from them and conditioned them for further service.” (Tenney)
2. (4-5) The vital relationship between the branch and the vine.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
a. Abide in Me, and I in You: Jesus emphasized a mutual relationship. It isn’t only that the disciple abides in the Master; the Master also abides in the disciple. Something of this close relationship is described in Song of Solomon 6:3: I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine.
i. Jesus used this picture to assure His disciples of continued connection and relationship even though He was about to depart from them. Yet He spoke this in a way that also indicated an aspect of choice on their part. Abiding was something they must choose.
ii. “When our Lord says: Abide in me he is talking about the will, about the choices, the decisions we make. We must decide to do things which expose ourselves to him and keep ourselves in contact with him. This is what it means to abide in him.” (Boice)
b. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine: It is impossible for the branch to bear grapes if it isn’t connected to the vine. The disciple can’t do true good for God and His kingdom if they do not consciously connect with and abide in Jesus.
i. “All our sap and safety is from Christ. The bud of a good desire, the blossom of a good resolution, and the fruit of a good action, all come from him.” (Trapp)
c. I am the vine, you are the branches: Jesus perhaps spoke so perhaps because they were so accustomed to thinking of Israel as the vine and thought mainly in terms of their connection to Israel. They now had to think of Jesus as the vine, and emphasize their connection to Him.
d. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: Fruit bearing is inevitable with abiding. The quality and quantity of the fruit may differ, but the presence of fruit will be inevitable.
i. The purpose of the branch is to bear fruit. Though there are uses for grape leaves, people don’t raise grape vines to look at the pretty leaves. They take the trouble to cultivate, plant, water and tend the vines so that fruit can be enjoyed. In this sense, we can say that fruit represents Christian character (such as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5). God’s work in us and our connection to Him should be evident by fruit, and perhaps by much fruit.
ii. Fruit also implies inherent reproduction. Virtually every piece of fruit has seeds within it, seeds that are meant to reproduce more fruit.
iii. The concept of abiding is not restricted to our abiding in Jesus; it also includes His abiding in us (and I in him). It is a mutual dynamic that expects our life to be spiritually and practically in vital connection with Jesus, and that expects Him to indwell us in an active, real way. In no way is the responsibility for abiding only upon the believer.
e. Without Me you can do nothing: It isn’t that they disciples could do no activity without Jesus. They could be active without Him, as were the enemies of Jesus and many others. Yet they and we could do nothing of real, eternal value without Jesus.
i. “The ‘I am’ comes out in the personal word ‘me,’ and the claim of all power unveils the Omnipotent. These words mean Godhead or nothing.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “It is only by union with Him that any branch can bear fruit: once that union is broken, the sap no longer flows; and fruit in that branch is no longer possible, though the remains of the sap that lay in it may be enough to bear leaves and so for a time give semblance of life.” (Trench)
iii. “Paul does not use the Johannine idiom but he expresses the same truth when he says, ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20), and ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13).” (Bruce)
iv. “‘Without me ye can do nothing;’ if this be true of apostles, much more of opposers! If his friends can do nothing without him, I am sure his foes can do nothing against him.” (Spurgeon)
3. (6-8) The price of not abiding and the promise to those who do abide.
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
a. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered: Jesus warned His disciples that failing to abide means that life fails. A branch only has life as it is connected to the stock of the vine; a disciple only spiritually lives as they are connected to the Master.
i. These verbs describe a progression for the one who doesn’t abide: cast out, withered, gathered, thrown, and burned. Like other parables, the picture Jesus used here was not meant to describe a whole theological system. Yet the progression described is a sober and significant warning of the danger of not abiding.
ii. The phrasing Jesus used here was important. He didn’t say, If anyone does not bear fruit he is cast out. He said, if anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out. He knows who abides and who does not, and this can’t be perfectly discerned by our outward estimation of fruit.
b. They gather them and throw them into the fire: The lifeless branch bears no fruit and even its wood is good for nothing but burning. This reference to burning and fire raises the association of punishment in the life to come and warns of the great consequences of failing to abide.
i. We think of how these words would impact the eleven disciples who first heard them. Jesus told them He would depart; yet they would not be disconnected from Him. The work of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, would be to keep them connected to Jesus. If they were disconnected from Him, they would be ruined – perhaps as Judas was.
ii. This passage is interpreted at least three ways regarding the security of the professed disciple’s position in Jesus.
· The first view believes cast out branches are ones who, though once true believers, end up in hell for lack of abiding and fruit. They were once disciples, but are now cast out.
· The second view is that the cast out branches are ones who only appeared to be disciples, and who never really abided in Jesus, and therefore go to hell (like Judas).
· The third view sees the cast out branches as fruitless disciples who live wasted lives that are in effect burnt up, and this passage doesn’t refer to their eternal destiny (like Lot, Abraham’s nephew).
iii. The emphasis seems plain: there are no true disciples who do not abide. The branch must remain connected to the vine or it has no life and is of no lasting good.
iv. Are burned: “Not, ‘is burned,’ in any sense of being consumed; ‘and must burn,’ as Luther renders it.” (Alford)
c. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you: Jesus connected the principle of abiding to two ideas previously mentioned in this upper room talk.
· My words abide in you: Jesus connected abiding to the idea of faithfulness to His words, as previously mentioned in John 14:23-24.
· You will ask what you desire: Jesus connected abiding to the idea of answered prayer, as previously mentioned in John 14:13-14. “Prayer comes spontaneously from those who abide in Jesus… Prayer is the natural outgushing of a soul in communion with Jesus.” (Spurgeon)
i. Abiding in Jesus means abiding in His words, and having His words live in the disciple. “We should not overlook the importance of the reference to ‘my words’. The teaching of Christ is important and is not lightly to be passed over in the interests of promoting religious feeling.” (Morris)
ii. “The connection is maintained by obedience and prayer. To remain in Christ and to allow his words to remain in oneself means a conscious acceptance of the authority of his word and a constant contact with him by prayer.” (Tenney)
iii. This faithful, abiding disciple should expect answered prayer as part of their relationship with Jesus. A failure to see prayer answered means something is not right in the disciple’s relationship. Perhaps something is not right in the abiding, and prayers are amiss and unanswered. Perhaps something is not right in the asking and there is no perception of what Jesus wants to do in and through His disciple.
iv. It shall be done for you: “It becomes safe for God to say to the sanctified soul, ‘Ask what thou wilt, and it shall be done unto thee.’ The heavenly instincts of that man lead him right; the grace that is within his soul thrusts down all covetous lustings and foul desires, and his will is the actual shadow of God’s will. The spiritual life is master in him, and so his aspirations are holy, heavenly, Godlike.” (Spurgeon)
d. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit: The purpose of fruit bearing is to bring glory to God, not to the disciple. A branch that bears much fruit brings honor to one who cares for the vine, and a disciple who bears much fruit in a spiritual sense brings honor to God.
i. “Branches and clusters have no self-seeking, no aim outside the Vine and the Husbandman’s glory: all other aims are cast out as unworthy.” (Trench)
ii. By this My Father is glorified: “Or, honoured. It is the honour of the husbandman to have good, strong, vigorous vines, plentifully laden with fruit: so it is the honour of God to have strong, vigorous, holy children, entirely freed from sin, and perfectly filled with his love.” (Clarke)
iii. Real fruitfulness is only determined over an extended period of time. “Genuine conversion is not measured by the hasty decision but by long-range fruitfulness.” (Erdman) This principle is displayed in the Parable of the Soils (Matthew 13).
4. (9-11) The link between love and obedience.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
a. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you: Jesus deliberately loved His disciples according to the way God the Father loved Him. We know that Jesus loved His disciples by teaching them, protecting them, guiding them, sacrificially serving them, and using His power and authority to do these things. In some way, the Father also did all those things for Jesus and Jesus did them for the disciples after that pattern.
i. The love of Jesus for His people is so remarkable, that this is the analogy or illustration that He must make. He didn’t say, “I love you as a mother loves her baby” or “I love you the way a husband loves his wife” or “I love you the way the soldier loves his buddy” or even “I love you the way an addict loves his dope.” The only way He could paint the picture was to use the love of the Father for the Son.
ii. As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you: “This surely is Christ’s superlative word concerning His love for His own. It leaves nothing more to be said. What the love of the Father is for the Son, who can tell? The very suggestion fills the soul with the sense of profound depths which cannot be fathomed.” (Morgan)
iii. “Beloved, you do not, dare not, could not, doubt the love of the Father to his Son. It is one of those unquestionable truths about which you never dreamed of holding an argument. Our Lord would have us place his love to us in the same category with the Father’s love to himself. We are to be as confident of the one as of the other.” (Spurgeon)
iv. The Father loved the Son with a love:
· That has no beginning.
· That has no end.
· That is close and personal.
· That is without measure.
· That is unchanging.
b. Abide in My love: There is no single way to describe the nature and character of Jesus. He is filled with power, wisdom, truth, holiness, devotion, submission, sacrifice, and dozens of other qualities. Of all these to emphasize, Jesus said abide in My love. When the disciple stays connected to the love of Jesus the relationship stays strong.
i. You will abide in My love: “Notice that this is done as an explanation of the means of abiding in His love. This is not some mystical experience. It is simple obedience. It is when a man keeps Christ’s commandments that he abides in Christ’s love.” (Morris)
c. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love: Again, Jesus connected true discipleship with obedience to His command and honoring His word. Jesus fulfilled this in regard to His Father; the disciple must fulfill it in regard to Jesus.
i. As noted previously (John 14:15) what Jesus did and taught that evening in the upper room emphasized the commandments of Jesus mainly in love for fellow disciples, sacrificial service for fellow disciples, and trusting love for God the Father and Jesus the Son.
d. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full: When the disciple fails to abide in the love of Jesus and thereby fails to keep His commandments, that disciple will not experience the fullness of joy Jesus promised to those who do abide in His love and obedience.
i. “No one is more miserable than the Christian who for a time hedges in his obedience. He does not love sin enough to enjoy its pleasures, and does not love Christ enough to relish holiness. He perceives that his rebellion is iniquitous, but obedience seems distasteful. He does not feel at home any longer in the world, but his memory of his past associations and the tantalizing lyrics of his old music prevent him from singing with the saints. He is a man most to be pitied; and he cannot forever remain ambivalent.” (Carson)
e. That My joy may remain in you: The joy of Jesus isn’t the same as what is commonly understood as happiness or excitement. The joy of Jesus is not the pleasure of a life of ease; it is the exhilaration of being right with God, and consciously walking in His love and care. We can have that joy – we can have Hisjoy – and have it as an abiding presence.
i. My joy: “Not ‘joy concerning Me,’ nor ‘joy derived from Me,’ nor ‘My joy over you,’ but My joy, properly speaking…His own holy exultation, the joy of the Son in the consciousness of the love of God.” (Alford)
ii. When Jesus spoke of His joy, “Nobody ever asked Him what He meant. They did not look at each other in perplexity. To them it seemed entirely natural that the Master should make reference to His gladness. From this we gather that the joy of Christ was something they were perfectly familiar with.” (Morrison)
f. That your joy may be full: This is the result of abiding in Jesus’ love, and obedience flowing from that abiding relationship.
i. That your joy may be full: “Or, complete-plhrwyh, filled up: a metaphor taken from a vessel, into which water or any other thing is poured, till it is full to the brim. The religion of Christ expels all misery from the hearts of those who receive it in its fulness. It was to drive wretchedness out of the world that Jesus came into it.” (Clarke)
ii. “God made human beings, as he made his other creatures, to be happy. They are capable of happiness, they are in their right element when they are happy; and now that Jesus Christ has come to restore the ruins of the Fall, he has to bring back to us the old joy, — only it shall be even sweeter and deeper than it could have been if we had never lost it.” (Spurgeon)
B. Relating to each other when Jesus departs.
1. (12-15) Jesus speaks of the extent of His love that they are to imitate.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
a. That you love one another as I have loved you: As Jesus spoke these words to the disciples as they stood in the upper room, having risen from the table, we sense the emphasis created by repetition. Jesus really cared that His disciples love one another, and that they do so according to the measure and quality of His love for them.
i. “Perhaps they expected minute, detailed instructions such as they had received when first sent out (Matthew 10). Instead of this, love was to be their sufficient guide.” (Dods)
ii. “We are sent out into the world to love one another. Sometimes we live as if we were sent into the world to compete with one another, or to dispute with one another, or even to quarrel with one another.” (Barclay)
iii. As I have loved you: “His love was at once the source and the measure of theirs.” (Dods)
iv. “Unity instead of rivalry, trust instead of suspicion, obedience instead of self-assertion must rule the disciples’ common labors.” (Tenney)
v. This is My commandment, that you love one another: “So deeply was thus commandment engraved on the heart of this evangelist that St. Jerome says, lib. iii. c. 6, Com. ad Galat., that in his extreme old age, when he used to be carried to the public assemblies of the believers, his constant saying was, Little children, love one another. His disciples, wearied at last with the constant repetition of the same words, asked him, Why he constantly said the same thing? ‘Because (said he) it is the commandment of the Lord, and the observation of it alone is sufficient.’” (Clarke)
b. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends: Jesus described the measure and quality of His love for them, to use as a pattern for the way they should love each other. His love is complete and of surpassing greatness, laying down its life.
i. “No man can carry his love for his friend farther than this: for, when he gives up his life, he gives up all that he has. This proof of my love for you I shall give in a few hours; and the doctrine which I recommend to you I am just going to exemplify myself.” (Clarke)
c. I have called you friends: Jesus descried the measure and quality of His love for them as a love that treats servants as friends. In the relationship between a disciple and his rabbi of that time, it wasn’t expected to be a friendship. Yet Jesus the rabbi called His disciples, His servants friends.
i. In the thinking of the ancient world a slave could be a useful and trusted tool but could never be thought of as a partner. It was possible that a slave and a friend might be of similar help, but a friend could be a partner in the work in a way a slave never could.
ii. “John Wesley, looking back on his conversion in later years, described it as a time when he exchanged the faith of a servant for the faith of a son.” (Bruce)
d. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you: They were friends because they were obedient (though not perfectly so). Friendship with Jesus can’t be disconnected from obedience to His commands.
i. “It must be active obedience, notice that. ‘Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.’ Some think it is quite sufficient if they avoid what he forbids. Abstinence from evil is a great part of righteousness, but it is not enough for friendship.” (Spurgeon)
e. I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you: They were friends because Jesus didn’t keep secrets from them, but openly revealed what He had received from God the Father.
i. “The friend is a confidant who shares the knowledge of his superior’s purpose and voluntarily adopts it as his own.” (Tenney)
2. (16-17) Chosen to bear fruit and to love one another.
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.”
a. You did not choose Me, but I chose you: Jesus just spoke of great privilege for the disciples – friendship with the Master, answered prayer, bearing much fruit, knowing things from the Father. The disciples should rightly treasure these without becoming proud as if they had earned them. They were all rooted in the fact that Jesus chose them, not that they chose Him.
i. “We are in Christ, not because we hold Him, but because He holds us.” (Meyer)
ii. “It was not they who chose Him, as was normally the case when disciples attached themselves to a particular Rabbi. Students the world over delight to seek out the teacher of their choice and attach themselves to him. But Jesus’ disciples did not hold the initiative. On the contrary it was He who chose them.” (Morris)
iii. That you should go and bear fruit: “The word go probably merely expresses the activity of living and developing principle; not the missionary journeys of the Apostles, as some have explained it.” (Alford)
b. Appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain: Jesus chooses disciples not simply so they would have the thrill of knowing they are chosen, but so that they would bear fruit that remains, to the glory of God the Father.
i. “Much of their fruit will be necessarily the winning of others to Christ: but that is not the prominent idea here.” (Alford)
c. That whatever you ask: Again, Jesus connected fruit bearing with answered prayer. When He departed from them their experience of asking and receiving would not end but would change, and Jesus prepared His disciples for this.
d. That you love one another: Again, Jesus commanded love among the disciples. When He departed from them they must not disband or turn against each other, and Jesus prepared them to stay together and love one another.
C. Relating to the world when Jesus departs.
1. (18-20) The world may reject the disciples because of who they are.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
a. If the world hates you: Jesus told the disciples that the world would often hate them. As wonderful as Jesus was and His message was, they should expect to be rejected when Jesus departed, just was much as they were often opposed while Jesus was with them.
i. The disciples Jesus spoke to that night would know the hatred of the world. They were persecuted and all of them died as martyrs in Jesus’ name, except for John — whom they tried to kill, but he miraculously would not die at their hands.
ii. The earliest Christians would know the hatred of the world. “Tacitus spoke of the people ‘hated for their crimes, whom the mob call Christians.’ Suetonius had spoken of ‘a race of men who belong to a new and evil superstition.’” (Barclay)
iii. “It is an odd fact that the world soon justified its hostility to them by imputing to them the initiative in hatred. The earliest extant reference to Christians in pagan literature charges them with ‘hatred of the human race’.” (Tacitus, Annals, 15.44.5) (Bruce)
iv. Christians through the centuries have known the hatred of the world, and millions have died for Jesus. It is said that more died as martyrs for Jesus in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined.
v. “It is not without significance that the disciples are to be known by their love, the world by its hatred.” (Morris)
b. You know that it hated Me before it hated you: Jesus hoped to comfort the disciples with the knowledge that the world’s hatred was first directed toward Him. Jesus attracted attention from great multitudes and devotion from individuals of all kinds; yet as a whole, the world hated Jesus.
i. You know: “Ye know can also be read as an imperative know ye. The sense is therefore either ‘Ye are aware’, or ‘Be very sure’, so that (on either interpretation) the hatred of the world for them will not take them by surprise.” (Tasker)
ii. It hated Me: “The perfect tense of the verb ‘hate’ (memiseken) implies that the world’s hatred is a fixed attitude toward him — an attitude that carries over to his disciples as well.” (Tenney)
iii. When Jesus spoke to Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, He asked Saul: Why do you persecute Me? (Acts 9:4) “The Lord who was personally persecuted on earth continued to be persecuted, even in his exultation, in the person of his persecuted followers.” (Bruce)
iv. It hated Me: “He and the world are antagonistic. The world is glad to forget God: He came to bring men back to God.” (Trench)
c. Because you are not of the world: Jesus said this both as a fact and an explanation. This further explained why the world would hate the disciples of Jesus. It was also to be a factual description of the disciples – that in many ways they were different than the world.
i. But I chose you out of the world: “The hatred of the world, instead of being depressing, should be exhilarating, as being an evidence and guarantee that they have been chosen by Christ.” (Dods)
d. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you: Jesus was mostly persecuted by the religious establishment, which mainly reflected the values and goals of the world in opposition to God. One may be religious and very much part of the world.
i. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also: “The force of the last clause in this verse is well brought out by Knox ‘they will pay the same attention to your words as to mine; that is, none’.” (Tasker)
2. (21-25) The world may reject disciples because of who Jesus is.
“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”
a. Because they do not know Him who sent Me: If people do not know God as He really is, they often attack and persecute those who represent God in some way. This should cause sympathy in the persecuted for their persecutors.
i. “Men may prefer to evolve an idea of their universal Father, but that idea of theirs will take their own colour and the colour of their Age. The only true idea of Him is to be got from The Son.” (Trench)
b. Now they have no excuse for their sin: Because Jesus did come to and speak to the world, they knew something of God that they did not know before. This made them without excuse for hating and rejecting Jesus and His Father in heaven. Jesus did among them the works which no one else did, and they still hated and rejected Him.
i. Spoken to them… done among them the works: “By both his life and his words he rebukes human sin and condemns it. He uncovers the inner corruption and hypocrisy of men, and they react violently to the disclosure.” (Tenney)
ii. Spoken to them… done among them the works: “So then He puts before us two forms of His manifestation of the divine nature, by His words and His works. Of these two He puts His words foremost, as being a deeper and more precious and brilliant revelation of what God is than are His miracles.” (Maclaren)
c. They hated Me without a cause: Jesus quoted this line from Psalm 69:4 (and possibly Psalm 35:19) to show the Scriptural precedent and prophetic fulfillment that there was no just cause for the world to hate Jesus and His Father as they did.
i. “Their unreasonable hatred both of Himself and His Father is inexplicable except as a corroboration of the truth of the Psalmist’s words They hated me without a cause (Psalm 35:19; 69:4).” (Tasker)
ii. “The irony of his quotation is clear: the men who posted as the champions of the Law were fulfilling the prophecy concerning the enemies of God’s servant.” (Tenney)
iii. As the disciples of Jesus expect some measure of hatred and rejection from the world, they should live in such a way that it is also without a cause. Peter communicated some of this heart in his letter: If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (1 Peter 4:14-16)
3. (26-27) The witness of the Holy Spirit and the disciples.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
a. When the Helper comes: Jesus previously spoke of the sending of the Helper (John 14:16, 14:26). The departing Jesus knew the disciples would need the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit to face the opposition the world would bring.
i. Who proceeds from the Father: This line is one source of a historic controversy between the eastern and western branches of Christianity, debating if the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or from the Father and the Son.
ii. “Although the coming of the Advocate is clearly stated to be dependent upon the initiative of the Son, He is only said to ‘proceed’ from the Father. Hence the long controversy between East and West over the filoque clause in the Nicene Creed.” (Tasker)
iii. “The western expansion of the clause, ‘who proceeds from the Father and the Son’ (filioque), could be justified by the fact that the Son as well as the Father is said to send the Spirit; the basic objection to it was that it was unwarranted for one part of the church to make such an alteration in the wording of the ecumenical creed without reference to the rest of the church.” (Bruce)
b. He will testify of Me: Jesus had told them that the Helper, the Holy Spirit, would continue the teaching work of Jesus (John 14:26). Here He explained that the Helper would speak of and about Jesus.
i. Everything the Holy Spirit does is consistent with the testimony of the nature of Jesus. His job is to tell us, and to show us, who Jesus is. If spiritual things happen that are not consistent with the nature of Jesus, it isn’t the Holy Spirit doing it. He is the One who will testify of Jesus in all that He does.
c. And you also will bear witness: The disciples were not left in the world merely to endure the world’s hatred. Empowered by the Helper and His testimony about Jesus, they will bear witness of who Jesus is and what He did to rescue the world.
i. “The witness of the Advocate and the witness of the apostles are in effect a single witness.” (Tasker)
ii. “Their witness is linked with that of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Christ to whom they bear witness, and it is the same salvation of which they bear witness. At the same time it is their witness. They cannot simply relax and leave it all to the Spirit.” (Morris)
iii. This bearing of witness may have had special application to the apostles. “This verse alludes to the historical witness which the Holy Ghost in the ministers and eye-witnesses of the word, Luke 1:2, should enable them to give, — which forms the human side of this great testimony of the Spirit of truth, and OF WHICH OUR INSPIRED GOSPELS ARE THE SUMMARY: the Divine side being, His own indwelling testimony in the live and heart of every believer in all time.” (Alford)
d. Because you have been with Me: The disciples were qualified to bear witnessof Jesus because they trusted Him, had the Holy Spirit, and had simply been with Jesus – they were part of His life and He was part of their life.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission