In Summary: John 15 continues the teaching from the last week of Jesus’ life. This teaching is happening probably in discussion on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, though it’s tough to place it exactly. In this chapter, Jesus teaches about two relationships.
First, the relationship of believers to God. Believers are those who remain in God. The method? Obedience. There are several good books that dig into the idea of remaining Christ and abiding in the vine. Fundamentally, the idea is that we must remain connected to God to do anything, and obedience to the person of Jesus Christ is the path to that.
Second, the relationship of believers to one another. It should suffice to note that we are branches on the same vine and have to survive together, but it seems like it does not. We too easily copy the natural, wild vines that compete with each other rather allowing ourselves to be tended, pruned, and guided to work and live well together, producing much fruit.
In Focus: John 15:18-19 are verses we would do well to remember. Jesus expresses that we disciples should expect to be treated like He was treated by this world. How is that?
First, He was respected as a teacher. Then, He was demanded as a healer. Then, He was executed for being obedient to God instead of pleasing to the world.
So, we should expect the same thing. The world will hate us in the end stages, and if our strategies of life always need us to be loved and adored by the crowds, it’s a bad strategy.
In Practice: What are some things we can do about it?
First of all, we need to know God’s Word, so that we can know God’s will, so that we can obey God. That is the loop that is “abiding in Him.” Know, serve, obey, repeat. Constantly. Not like Lather, Rinse, Repeat, and then bail out when the hot water’s gone. It’s a constant cycle. The more we serve, the better we understand our connection, the better we understand what we should do.
So we do it.
Second, we need to trust God’s Word to guide our relationships with others. Rather than being wild vines that try to choke out our brethren, we need to realize that there is enough light from the Son for us all to grow.
So we sacrifice and share.
Third, we need to realize that the world’s approval is fleeting. One day, they like us for our help in crisis. One day, they appreciate the feeding the hungry or the development of a hospital or the educational system. The next day? If you are not with the latest, then you are out the door—and be grateful to be allowed to keep your ideas and faith to yourself rather than being examined, exiled, or executed for it.
So we lean hard on Jesus, because no other kings will back us up when it matters.
In Nerdiness: What kind of details can be found here that are more nerd-oriented?
There’s a great discussion to be had about where the disciples and Jesus are when this teaching goes on. One suggestion is that this is around the table at the Last Supper.
Another suggestion is that it occurs after they have left the Upper Room, and perhaps as they are progressing through the Temple Courts. The Beautiful Gate had levels of ornamentation, and perhaps in the scenery there Jesus was able to point out pictures of vines and draw the illustration.
A third possibility puts the group coming out of Jerusalem and passing through olive groves or vineyards.
What do you think? Does it matter where this happened?