Saturday, May 5, 2012


John the Apostle (also called John the Evangelist and John the Beloved) wrote a gospel, three epistles (1st John, 2nd John and 3rd John) and the book of Revelation, though a few scholars think the last 2 epistles might be written by a different author. The epistles were probably written shortly after Revelations.

In John 15 (no starting number means it’s the Gospel of John), it’s after the resurrection, and Jesus has told the apostles he’s leaving them, but will send the Holy Spirit. 

John 15:1-7
Then Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.  You are already clean because of what I have told you. Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me.

“I am the vine. You are the branches. Those who live in me while I live in them will produce a lot of fruit. But you can’t produce anything without me.  Whoever doesn’t live in me is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Branches like this are gathered, thrown into a fire, and burned. If you live in me and what I say lives in you, then ask for anything you want, and it will be yours.  You give glory to my Father when you produce a lot of fruit and therefore show that you are my disciples.

“I have loved you the same way the Father has loved me. So live in my love.  If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in his love. I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. Love each other as I have loved you. This is what I’m commanding you to do. The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends. You are my friends if you obey my commandments. I don’t call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends because I’ve made known to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you. I have appointed you to go, to produce fruit that will last, and to ask the Father in my name to give you whatever you ask for. Love each other. This is what I’m commanding you to do.”

1)    Why a vine? What are vines like? How do you picture them?

2)    What are Jesus’ commandments?

3)    What’s the difference to you whether we are God’s servants or Jesus’ friends? In what sense do we know what God is doing?

Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote about this passage: “There’s not a lot of agency for us in this text. God prunes us. We have already been cleansed by Jesus’ word. We cannot bear fruit without abiding in Jesus. Apart from him we can do nothing. The only thing that Jesus seems to think is ours to do is to: a) abide in him and, if we do, b) we can then ask for what we wish and it will be done for us. The getting all my wishes part sounds great. That is more like it. But I have yet to meet anyone who has had all their wishes granted but I’ve really been hoping Jesus will become my magic Genie. All I have to do is abide in him!?!
So, how do I do that?”

4)    What do you think? How do we do that?

In his first epistle, John wrote:
1 John 4:7-21
Dear friends, we must love each other because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love. God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins. Dear friends, if this is the way God loved us, we must also love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. We know that we live in him and he lives in us because he has given us his Spirit.

We have seen and testify to the fact that the Father sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God lives in those who declare that Jesus is the Son of God, and they live in God. We have known and believed that God loves us. God is love. Those who live in God’s love live in God, and God lives in them.
God’s love has reached its goal in us. So we look ahead with confidence to the day of judgment. While we are in this world, we are exactly like him with regard to love. 18 No fear exists where his love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn’t have perfect love.

We love because God loved us first.  Whoever says, “I love God,” but hates another believer is a liar. People who don’t love other believers, whom they have seen, can’t love God, whom they have not seen. Christ has given us this commandment: The person who loves God must also love other believers.

5)    Both of these readings have a lot of “we live in Him” and “He lives in us.” How does that work? How do you think about it?

6)    There are several different words for love in Greek and other ancient languages. Which of these would you use for some of the times John says love in this letter?
  • Agape – idealized, spiritual love; unconditional love or charity

  • Eros – romantic, passionate love

  • Philia – love of friendship, comradeship

  • Storge – fondness, affection

7)    Is ‘we love God because God loved us’ like your relationship with a parent? How does that work?

8)    What does this letter tell us about what it is to abide in Jesus?

9)    Jot down one thing you want to remember from this lesson.
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis
The Hardest Question, Easter 5B by Nadia Bolz-Weber

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