November 1: John 15:9

John 15:9-11

Verse 9

“Just as the Father (has) loved me, I also (have) loved you—you must remain in my love.”

The next portion (vv. 9-11) of the exposition of the Vine illustration introduces a new theme—love (a)ga/ph, vb a)gapa/w). This is a central Johannine theme, though one that has only been dealt with occasionally, up to this point, in the Gospel (prior to the Last Discourse). The love-terminology, involving the noun a)ga/ph and related verb a)gapa/w, is also distinctively Johannine in its emphasis. The noun occurs 7 times in the Gospel (compared with just 2 in the Synoptics), and 21 in the Letters (18 in 1 John). The verb occurs 37 times in the Gospel (compared with 26 in the Synoptics combined), and 31 in the Letters (28 in 1 John). Of the 37 occurrences of the verb in the Gospel, only 7 are prior to chapter 13, and only 1 of the 7 occurrences of the noun. Thus, the love-terminology and the love-theme are most prominent in the Last Discourse (13:31-16:33), the preceding narrative in chap. 13, and the following Discourse-Prayer of chap. 17.

The references to the noun a)ga/ph in the Vine illustration (vv. 9-10, 13), are framed, within the literary setting of the Last Discourse, by the key statements in 13:35 and 17:26:

    • “In this all (people) will know that you are my learners [i.e. disciples]—if you hold love among (one) another.”
    • “And I made known to them [i.e. the disciples] your name, and I will make (it) known, (so) that the love with which you (have) loved me might be in them—and I (also) in them.”

These two references are essential for an understanding of the central importance of love as a defining characteristic of the disciple/believer in Christ. In particular, 17:26 is relevant for the statement in v. 9 here, with love being a fundamental part of the dynamic and abiding relationship between Father and Son. Consider the similarity of wording:

    • “that the love with which you (have) loved me
      might be in them”
    • “Just as the Father (has) loved me, I also (have) loved you—
      you must remain in my love.”

The verb a)gapa/w is used more frequently than the noun, both throughout the Gospel, and here in chapters 13-17. It is used to establish love as a theme for the Passion narrative from the beginning, in 13:1:

“Now before the festival of the Pesaµ, (with) Yeshua having seen that his hour (has) come, (and) that he should (soon) step across, out of this world, toward the Father, (ha)ving loved his own th(at are) in the world, unto completion [i.e. unto the end] he loved them.”

Even before the start of the Last Discourse, this love-theme is developed in the narrative in several important, though subtle, ways:

    • Jesus demonstrates his love for the disciples through the symbolism of the foot-washing—vv. 4-11, and the instruction that follows in vv. 12-17.
    • The loving bond between Jesus and his disciples is represented by the figure of the ‘beloved disciple’ (“the [one] whom Yeshua loved”) reclining in the lap of Jesus (v. 23)
    • The true disciples, who share this bond of love, represented by both the ‘beloved disciple’ and Peter (vv. 6-9, 24, 36-38), are intentionally contrasted with the false disciple (Judas) who departs from their circle (vv. 2, 10b-11, 18-19, 21-30).

This sets the stage for the Last Discourse, with its opening section (vv. 31-35) that climaxes with Jesus’ declaration to his disciples regarding the duty (e)ntolh/) to love (vv. 34-35). In the First Discourse-division, this same specific theme is developed, in 14:15-31, with the duty to love being repeatedly emphasized (the verb a)gapa/w occurs 10 times in 14:15-31). This is the immediate context for the love-references here in the Vine-illustration. The duty (e)ntolh/) of believers to show love to each other is an essential and fundamental component of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus.

In the next daily note, we will look in detail at each of the three statements in verse 9:

    • “Just as the Father (has) loved me”
    • I also (have) loved you”
    • you must remain in my love”