John 15:7-13

Image for Cal Staggers's blog post on John 15: 7-13 - a focus on interpreting and analyzing the textI’ll be covering a few more verses of Jesus’s parable about the vine and branches that he discusses with his disciples in this post.

v7: Christ reiterates that the disciples must “remain in Him” in order for His “words to remain” in them. He then states that they may ask whatever they wish and “it will be done” for them. Jesus is telling the disciples the positive results of remaining faithful to him and how when they ask for something that is “in Jesus” (according to what He approves), what they ask will be delivered. While he says these desires will be fulfilled, Christ does not specify how or when. Everything Jesus’ followers ask for “in Him” will be granted, but maybe not in the way or timing that they envision, but in accordance with the way that God knows is best.

v8: God’s desire is that the disciples grow in their faith and others realize that they are disciples of Christ.

v9: Christ goes on to talk about love, stating He loves his disciples as His father loves Him, which focuses on the emotional connection between them and the need to be loving. He ends this verse with another reminder about the necessity of remaining “in” one another, in order to keep this love front and center in their lives.

v10: Jesus moves on to repeating His theme of to “remain”. If the disciples remain with Him, He’ll remain in them, blessing them and showering them with His love. Christ also compares the disciples’ relationships with Him to his relationship with God.

v11: Moving on from love, Christ discusses the “joy” He feels in regards to His relationship with His disciples. He highlights another benefit they will receive from their relationship with Him, mainly that of having complete joy from their relationship with Him and the Father.

v12: Once again, Jesus stresses the importance of love, commanding the disciples to love each other as He loves them. This type of love is meant to be unconditional and forgiving, which goes beyond normal human love and requires Jesus empowering them. Jesus wants the disciples to practice the ideal kind of divine love He presents and to show that love to the rest of the world.

v13: Finally, Christ states what is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” This verse has been referenced countless times and is a defining factor of modern Christianity – to show others kindness and grace while practicing the type of love Christ has toward other people in the world.

John 15: 5-6

 In this passage it’s helpful to remember that Jesus is not speaking to unbelievers here – but that His audience is the 11 disciples and by extension all believers seeking to live in discipleship.

 v5: At first I thought this was just a restatement that we can do nothing of worth without the power of Jesus, and I suppose it is, but it also clarifies for the first time that THE disciples (and  all believers seeking to live in discipleship) are represented by the branches.  This verse also repeats and emphasizes that disciples have a choice to continue to abide or not to abide.

v6:  Jesus gave two classes of believers in v2 – those that dry up because they’re not abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit; and those that do abide and bear fruit. Jesus now switches from talking about the second group and talks about the first group.

If a believer stops abiding, that branch is thrown away – which is a picture of being outside of fellowship with Jesus.  The branch/believer stops abiding in fellowship first, then the vine/Jesus follows through by removing fellowship.  When that branch is then thrown away, it dries up – a loss of spiritual vitality.  These branches are now not good for anything, so they’re gathered up and cast into the fire of discipline.

 This whole picture has been so misunderstood as talking about unbelievers going to hell because of the knee-jerk reaction to think that every reference to fire is a reference to hell – most times the Bible is referring to discipline here on the earth in this life.

John 15: 1-4

Where:  Jerusalem – they just arose from being in the Upper Room for…
When:  The Last Supper/First Lord’s Supper during Jesus’ last Passover and just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane to be betrayed
v1+: This continues the discussion of Jesus telling the disciples to not be fearful that He is leaving, because as they and any believer loves Him and keeps His commands, Jesus and the Father will abide with us (along with the Holy Spirit who is with us regardless of our obedience) and we will be able to do great works, such as exhibit love.
You explained the meaning of the word fruit well – as you say, in the Bible sometimes it refers to words and sometimes it refers to works and we have to determine which by the context.  Here it is the works that Jesus discussed in Chapter 14.
So we are the branches that receive our source of power from Jesus the vine.  The Father is the vinedresser Who deals with us according to what He sees that we need.
v2: I was taught that “He prunes it” is better translated as “He cleans it” (which is indeed given as the alternate translation in my NAS Bible).  So there are two classifications of branches:  those that do not bear fruit, which the vinedresser takes away; and those that do bear fruit, which the vinedresser cleans – or disciplines in order to stimulate growth – so that these branches may bear even more fruit.
Hmmm, there’s no classification of believer that does not receive some sort of discipline.  I don’t know why I’m always surprised to read that – I know it’s true that we’re to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials, and that we definitely will have trials to make us more Christ-like – however, some part of me must think there’s an escape clause.  But there’s not during this lifetime.
I guess it’s helpful to point out (I just looked this up in the dictionary) that “discipline” is not only “punishment for the sake of enforcing obedience and perfecting moral character,” BUT also “to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self-control.”  So this is a good synonym for cleaning the vine because God allows trials to happen to people even when they’re not disobedient for the purpose of making us better vines.
v3: The alternate translation of “He cleans it” flows well with v. 3 when Jesus tells the 11 disciples that “You are already clean” – and He says that’s because of the word which He spoke to them.  So it appears that words are discipline for sensitive hearts.  His words pointed out their sin and pointed them to Jesus – and His word/Bible does that for us if we’re sensitive to Him.
v4 : So we have to be at home with/stay in fellowship with Jesus in order to have good works – seemingly good works are not fruit at all if they’re not done in His strength.

JOHN 14:27-31

v27 Jesus is talking about leaving His peace with the disciples as He leaves them and goes to the Father.   But this is given as part of the context of Him speaking about believers who love Him and keep His Word, so He’s speaking to all faithful believers.  This is hugely encouraging and it’s taken me until my later years to really believe it.  I didn’t consider myself a fearful person in my younger years, but now looking back I see that I’ve been fearful during many times.  I sure don’t think that, now, “I’ve arrived,” but by necessity I’ve learned to rely more on God and less on myself and, gee, guess what?… peace has increased greatly.

The power of God’s peace comes from the fact that He’s infinite and can do anything He wants and, thankfully, He wants what’s best for us.  Even if our immediate circumstances look less than best, God sees the bigger picture and we can trust Him with what we don’t see or haven’t even considered.

v30 I wonder if the angel Gabriel was keeping Satan at bay until God decided it was time to let him kill Jesus’ body?

John 14:18-26

v18  I once thought that this verse referred to Jesus coming back in the 2nd Coming, but in context I now see that Jesus is referring to our daily living here and now in the church age.  It seems odd at first that He would say that we’re not fatherless orphans due to the fact that Jesus, the Son is coming to us – I’d think that he would say that it’s because the Father is coming to us; but a few verses earlier (v10), Jesus says that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, so this ties nicely.
Going back to v16, we see that the only condition to receive the Holy Spirit is to become a believer (“the world cannot receive” Him).  Afterward, the Holy Spirit is with all believers “forever” and without condition – we don’t have to be obedient to have Him in us.  However, in v.21 & 23 we see that the Jesus and the Father disclose Themselves, come to, and make Their abode/home only to those believers who love Jesus, learn his commandments and keep them.  If we do that, then we will have the Big 3 – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – all living in us! Wow, what an incentive to learn & live His Word!
v19 Jesus is predicting His death but that He will continue to live.  He’s giving the disciples information that they don’t have to be afraid when Jesus is crucified because He will defeat death.  Because Jesus will raise Himself from the dead, He will prove that He can raise them and all believers from the dead as He promises He will do.  After all, if Jesus can’t raise Himself from the dead, how can we expect Him to be able to raise us?  But, of course, the disciples still don’t understand that truth yet.
v24 Now that’s convicting.  We can SAY that we love Jesus, and might even have gushy feelings for Him; but, if we don’t keep His words, we do not love Him.  Thankfully that’s not a permanent condition, at anytime we can increase in our living for Him and loving Him.
v25 Jesus is physically abiding with and making His home with the disciples – highlighting the significance of His just saying in v23 that He and the Father will spiritually abide with all faithful believers.
26  I take this verse literally.  Before reading the Bible, I try to remember to ask the H.S. to teach me as I read.  And there have been times that I need to remember something –  and have asked the H.S. to please bring it to mind.

John 14: 13-17


v13-14 Many people end their prayers in “in Jesus name I pray, Amen,” and it’s because of verses 13 & 14. This practice has the appearance of passing a magic wand over our prayers to make sure Jesus will do what we want.  However, asking: “Make me a lottery winner, in Jesus name I pray, Amen.” likely won’t make us lottery winners, so there’s something wrong with this thinking.

Instead, these two verses are placed in the context of Jesus telling us to love one another in the church and telling us to keep Jesus’ commands.  So our asking Jesus to do something in His name refers to asking Him to empower us to do something that He already commanded us to do.  He has given us His “power of attorney” in these areas.

For example, He commands husbands to love our wives.  So if we honestly ask Jesus to give us love for our wife, He has promised us to do it – no ifs or buts – it’s a guarantee.  And we are commanded to control our tongue.  Paul says that is the most difficult thing in the world to do, but if we ask Jesus to empower us to do it, He guaranteed us He will!  How cool is that?

v15  This is a helpful verse showing that love is an action not a feeling.

v16-17 Looking ahead to v26, we see that the Helper is the Holy Spirit; meaning we also get help from the Holy Spirit, too!  What an amazing verse.  I tend to think about the love it took for Jesus to leave His throne to come to earth as a man and to suffer and die – all for us.  But I don’t give enough thought to the fact that the Holy Spirit is just as much God as Jesus – and He, too, sacrificed by coming to dwell in each believer.  His main location is described as seven flames before the heavenly throne.  Now for all eternity, He will also dwell in church-age believers.  Now that’s sacrificial love from a God who didn’t even have to create us, but did so and also sacrifices Himself in these ways for us.

John 14: 1-12

cal staggers Preach-Bible-John

v1 is a continuation of 13:38 (which is obscured by the later-inserted, man-made chapter break), so after Jesus tells Peter that he’s going to deny Him, he doesn’t berate Peter – instead He encourages Him!  I was about to type that some of the denominational churches I’ve visited would tell Jesus He’s wrong for that, but then I would be just as judgemental as they were (hmmm… I still managed to work that in).

v2 We’re only in heaven for a snap, and then the 1000-year reign of Christ will wrap up the Old Testament era that got put on hold when the Jewish nation didn’t believe – so I think we should take this verse as a reference to the New Heaven and Earth when all believers will be in the New Jerusalem.  The city will be a 1,500-mile cube and that’s where our dwelling place will be (that’s a really quick draw from Revelation).

v3 Jesus is pulling out the stops on encouraging Peter and us.  And when you have an eternal perspective, you can describe Rapture through the New Jerusalem in one sentence.

v5  You’d think that Thomas would see that our Father’s house is in heaven – however now that I type that, I realize that, eternally speaking, it isn’t in heaven – it’s in the New Jerusalem.  So maybe Thomas is more honest than most of us in saying that he doesn’t get it.  The Father’s House is in a different time not in a different place, since Thomas is standing in the right place (after creation is remade) just not in the right time.

v6 I love straight-forward statements like this that let other “ways” know that they’re not the way at all.

v9 One benefit to Philip and the other disciples asking questions like this is that it gives Jesus opportunities to explain things to them that we all need to hear.

v11 Again we see that the purpose of Jesus’ miracles is to lead people to believe that He’s the Father’s son and to believe His promise of eternal life.

v12 Now this is a cool verse: “…the works that I do shall he do also” – it doesn’t say that our physical works will be as good as His, but just that we shall have physical works. “And greater works than these shall he do” – What we can do is even greater than the miracles that Jesus did, which means that the love we have one for one another (as He just explained in 13:35) is greater than His miracles.  That’s hard to imagine!

JOHN 13 18-38

cal staggers peter6

v18-19 & 21 are talking about Judas.  v20 seems out of place.  Is it an indirect way of saying that whoever receives Judas, sent by Satan, receives Satan?  Perhaps not eternally, but in a given situation when someone like Judas is being influenced by Satan?

v23-25 John is the youngest of the disciples and he’s hanging on Jesus like a kid – great picture of how intimate we can be with Him – and Peter, who’s older, is saying “pssst, get Jesus to tell us who it is” instead of asking himself.

v26-29  Jesus tells them He’s going to show them who it is, then He shows them – and nobody gets it. I know we get the benefit of reading this a jillion times so we do get it, but the disciples are really coming across as doofuses here.  I guess what it shows is how much respect they had for Judas, seemingly a really good guy (the most trusted person is assigned to keep the money), so it went over their head.  Maybe it also warns us how bad people can be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

v30 I love the double poetic meanings that John gives:  just a blunt, “and it was night” – both in time of day and spiritually.

v34-35  The old commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself.  Now Jesus increases the threshold greatly:  we’re to love with a perfect love just as Jesus loves perfectly.  We cannot do that in our own strength, which is why I guess God waited to “up the ante” until He gave us the Holy Spirit.

And THIS is how He says men will know we belong to Him, NOT by doing miracles.  Later we’re told that loving one another is a bigger work than miracle.  That’s counter-intuitive since it seems that miracles would be a better sign; but I suppose loving some of the people we know IS a true miracle!

v36-38  Just before going up the mountain for Jesus’ transfiguration, He told the disciples that Peter is a rock on which the church will be built – but now He foretells Peter’s denials.  That should encourage us that we can fail and still be used by God to accomplish great things.

John Ch. 13: 1-17

cal staggers Gospel_of_John_Chapter_13-1

You may have noticed that I’ve been skipping over what seems to be straight-forward and obvious in order to try and dig out what isn’t.  That’s probably not the best way to write out a study, but we’re going so fast that’s what I’m focusing on.

V1. Nice double meaning: “loved them to the end,” meaning both: loved them to the end of His life on earth, and He loved them to the utmost.

V4. On a practical basis, after walking in sandals down dirty roads to someone’s house, washing feet needed to be done before entering (which the host or his servant usually did, or someone who didn’t mind lowering himself to that menial chore – and which, apparently NONE of the disciples wanted to do for the others in this incident) and especially before eating – because who wants to recline at a low table with the next guy’s nasty feet in your face?  But, of course, Jesus has a bigger purpose in mind, an object lesson.

Peter is so impulsive – he’s my next favorite disciple after John.

V6. Jesus says that what He’s doing, Peter (and probably all the disciples) does not understand – which means it’s something OTHER than serving one another (which is the usual explanation of this passage).  But apparently He’s not teaching us to serve, so what is the lesson?  We get a hint in…

V10. So “bathing” also means “completely clean” and is different than “washing feet”.  We can figure out what “bathing” means because in v.2 we read that Satan is influencing Judas, who is not a believer.  In this verse Jesus says the group is completely clean, but not everyone is clean. Someone is not saved and is still dirty in their sins which must refer to Judas.  Dirt is a picture of sins.  Therefore, having taken a bath means to believe in Jesus for eternal life and for forgiveness of sins.  Once we do that we’re completely clean of our sins and never need to bathe again.

But we still need to figure out what washing feet means.  In verse 8 we see that Jesus tells Peter that if He doesn’t wash Peter’s feet, Peter can have “no part” with Jesus.  “No part” is a synonym for fellowship.  And we saw that dirt is a picture of sins.  So it appears that as we walk through life, our feet get dirty with daily sins.  Jesus must forgive us of our ongoing sins on an ongoing basis so that we can have continued fellowship with Him.  This is true even though our one-time bath cleansed us of our “positional” sins and gave us eternal life.

V14-15. Jesus tells the disciples that they should wash each other’s feet just as Jesus washes our feet.  Meaning that we should forgive each other as He has forgiven us.

V16. We shouldn’t think that we’re better than Jesus and that we don’t have to forgive someone, anyone, else.  Jesus has forgiven us of a life-time of sins that killed Him, so how can we be so arrogant as to not forgive someone else of what may seem to be the worst offense possible against us, but which is in reality a speck compared to what Jesus forgave us for (pretty convicting!).

But does Jesus just automatically wash our feet?  No.  We have to confess our sins to Him first.

We see in this concept spelled out in Matthew 6:12, the part of the Lord’s Prayer in which we ask, on a daily basis, our Father in heaven to “forgive us of our sins.”

And this also ties into one of my favorite promises in the Bible – I John 1:9:  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”  Which lets us know that all we have to do is to confess the sins of which we’re aware, and then God will forgive us of ALL our sins, even the ones of which we don’t know.  And Jesus promises in John 13 that our fellowship with Him will continue.  Pretty cool.

V17. If we do this, we’ll be “blessed,” also translated as “happy!”

John Chapter 12

cal staggers Gospel_of_John_Chapter_12-3

How swell – v1 gives us the when and where:  just before Jesus’ fourth (and last) Passover in Bethany, which is just outside Jerusalem.

v3. I was wondering why the “therefore” is present just after saying that Martha was serving and Lazarus was reclining – and then realized, that IS the reason. It was custom in those days that whenever a guest showed up that a hospitable host (or if rich, their servant) would clean a guest’s feet of the dust and dirt accumulated from walking to their house.  However, neither Martha nor Lazarus did that. Similar to the Luke 7:37 passage when Mary did this for Jesus early in His ministry, she again cleans his feet with nard and with her hair.

v7. I’ve always assumed that Mary used the entire amount of perfume and that Jesus is saying in this verse to let her “keep it” meant to let Mary keep this custom right then, which would be a mystical reading.  But I see now – it’s not that at all – it’s very literal.  Jesus is telling Judas to let Mary keep the perfume (what’s left) instead of giving it for the poor because she will need it when Jesus dies.  I looked around and found that indeed Mary did this, as described at Luke 23:56.

I’m finding that with more and more study of the Bible, that literal meanings come alive and there’s no need to assume or create a mystical meaning as a way to explain what I or anyone else does not understand.

v10.  It’s amazing that God chose this people group, knowing how they would treat Him. However, He also knows the end and that they will turn back to Him one day.

v13.  Regarding football, I forget which famous coach said that, One year, a town will name a street after you and the next they’ll run you down it.  Seems human nature doesn’t change.

v20. This verse about the Greeks’ request and:

v23. This verse about Jesus’ reply don’t seem to match

I suppose Jesus reply means that He has more important work to do, which is getting on with His dying for sin, so that He doesn’t have time for a gawking-meeting with these Greeks.

v26. Maybe this is a more direct answer to the Greeks and to all who want to see Jesus – they and we need to follow His instructions given here.

v31. Sin & Satan are judged at the cross.

v32. Jesus must be lifted up on the cross to draw everyone to Himself.

v35-36. Jesus seems to be telling these people that if they don’t respond and believe now while Jesus was there, that their heart may become so hard that they’ll never believe.

v42. Nicodemus still falls in this group.

v47. Jesus is referring to sayings of eternal life (as we will see in v50).

v48.  Just like the ideal courtroom judge today does not use his opinion or emotion, but instead enforces the law before him – at the Great White Throne Judgement of unbelievers, Jesus perfectly enforces the rules that are already in place.

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