In John, we still find ourselves on the Thursday evening before Jesus’ death on Friday. Jesus is also teaching His disciples any truths they need to know. Jesus speaking about the vine and branches make perfect sense. For the disciples were (or had been) drinking wine during the Passover and the first Lord’s Supper, a product of the vine.
Jesus is the true vine (15:1-16:4a)
Read John 15:1-6
- What happens to unproductive branches? What does this mean for those in the Church?
- – What does God do with the productive branches? What does this mean for those in the Church?
- How do we remain in Jesus? What is the implication of Jesus teaching this on the night He instituted His Supper for His Church?
Read John 15:7-11
- What does Jesus mean when he refers to His word abiding in us?
For verse 7: “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Lesson 14 covered that in an excursus.
Excursus: Word Study on Genasthe (Form of Ginomai)
In John 15:8, we find the Greek verb genasthe being using in relation to being a disciple of Jesus. Most translations add to what Jesus says in the Greek because what He says, at first, does not seem to make sense. So, we find translations adding words like “show” or “prove.” The verse then reads that by producing much fruit, a person shows or proves that he is a disciple of Jesus.
A more literal translation reads: “In this is my Father glorified: That you produce much fruit and you become my disciples.
Other New Testament uses of genasthe are as follows:
- Matthew 5:45: may be
- Matthew 18:3: become
- John 12:36: may become
- Philippians 2:15: may be
- Hebrews 6:12: become/be
- 1 Peter 3:13: are
- 2 Peter 1:4: may become
Now, these other uses of genasthe do not prove its meaning in John 15:8. Those uses, however, help show us the natural range of meanings for genasthe. Genasthe carries the idea that something will happen or is happening.
Thus, Jesus says in John 15:8 that by bearing much fruit, someone may become/or becomes a disciple of Jesus. Most translations (the product of Protestant translators) balk at this. For it “smacks” of works righteousness, for it is by bearing fruit that one becomes a disciple. But such fears over “work righteousness” are unfounded.
Didn’t Jesus just say that “without me you can do nothing”? That means that someone cannot produce any fruit apart from Jesus. More than that, Jesus is even the cause and the source of such good works, where God the Father is glorified.
So, besides glorifying God the Father, what is the value of producing fruit? Through Jesus being the vine, enabling you to produce fruit (good works), you become/or are becoming His disciple. This shows the continuing reality that being a disciple is an on-going process.
Like the Christian faith, being a disciple is not static. You remain in the vine (Jesus). By being “Jesused,” that is, by receiving Him in Word and Sacrament and remaining in Him, you then produce fruit, that is, good works that glorify God the Father.
In receiving Jesus and the living out of the faith, you continue to be and become His disciple. Jesus is not saying that your good works prove you are His disciple. Instead, through those good works that you do, which Jesus also produces by being the source of those works, He continues to shape and mold you into His disciple.
- Vs. 10 uses the Greek tereo. We covered the meaning of tereo in the last lesson. Explain Jesus’ point?
- Why did Jesus say what He did in these verses (vs.11)?
- Discuss Jesus’ joy in the Christian and the non-static nature of receiving Jesus, living out the faith, and producing good works, etc.
Read John 15:12-17
- What is a central expression of the Christian faith?
- In verses 13-14, what Is Jesus saying He is going to do for His “friends”?
- What can you call what Jesus made known from the Father that He made known to His disciples/Apostles?
- Why did Jesus choose and appoint His own?
- Jesus says that the works of a Christian “should abide.” How does this happen?
Read John 15:18-25
- Why is the Christian message often reviled?
- If one does not receive Jesus, whom is he also rejecting?
- What is Jesus’ point in verse 22?
Read John 15:26-16:1
- What is the Holy Spirit’s “job”?
- What does that have to do with not falling away? (16:1)
- Jesus told His disciples/Apostle that they would witness about Jesus because they were with Him from the beginning? We haven’t been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. So, what does that mean for us?
Excursus on Confessing, not Witnessing
Jesus told His disciples/Apostles, “You also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:15). We have not been with Jesus from the beginning, or even seen Him as a human being. That means we can’t bear witness to Him.
After that first generation, those being brought into the Church were no longer told to witness but, instead, to confess. The source of what they were given to speak had changed. What they were to speak was not based on what they had experienced but on what they had received. Faith changed from a seeing thing to a hearing thing.
- Jesus pointed forward to this when He told Thomas, “Do you believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
- The Apostle Paul said, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
Witnessing involves speaking of something based on your our experiences, that is, what you have seen. Since you have not directly seen Jesus like the Apostles did, you cannot witness about Him.
That is why, after the first generation, the New Testament speaks primarily of confessing, not witnessing. In his later epistles, St. John says, “. . . the one who confesses the Son also has the Father” (1 John 2:23). This confession is to agree with the truth of who Jesus is. “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4: 2-3).
Scripture also tells us to confess the Christian faith (1 Timothy 6:12), the Christian hope (Hebrews 10:23), and the Gospel (2 Corinthians 9:13). These are objective truths that Scripture bids the Christian to confess to others. Notice that this idea of confessing is in the later epistles, written to those who had never seen Jesus. Such a situation remains true for us this day.
Each Christian should be always poised and ready to homologeo, that is, to say the same thing, which is what “confess” means. Our talk of Christ is to repeat what God the Father had revealed to Jesus, which He had made known to His Apostles (John 15:15). This is “the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (Jude 3).
Because of this, today, we confess:
- pointing to Jesus, not witnessing about ourselves and our experiences. Through such a confession, we speak the content of the Christian faith in a particular setting, which points to Jesus and what He did and does to save us.
- by echoing what we have learned. Most confessions of faith are spontaneous and unplanned. By being able to recall “the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all,” one is ready to confess, only awaiting the opportunity.
- what the Church has always confessed. In this way we do not go off on our own, “reinventing the wheel,” often introducing crazy ideas. We same-say what the Church has always taught and believed.
Confessing Christ and the Christian faith are what God has given us to do. Through such, we not only combat false teachings, but also speak the faith, so others may be saved and brought into life everlasting.
Read John 16:2-4a
- What Jesus says in this passage is specifically for His Apostles. Yet, what can we learn from Jesus’ words?
- Today, what major religion of the world can view killing Christians (and others) as “worship to God”? What does that say about their status with God the Father or Jesus?
This is our last lesson on John until into the Epiphany season.