November 2: John 15:9 (continued)

John 15:9, continued

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

Continuing our examination of the next portion (vv. 9-11) of the exposition of the Vine illustration, we will be looking at verse 9 in more detail (cf. the previous note). There are three distinct statements, which are related, both in the context of the illustration, and in terms of the Johannine theology. We will consider each component, as well as the relationship between the three.

“Just as the Father (has) loved me…”
kaqw\$ h)ga/phse/n me o( path/r

The first statement emphasizes the Father’s love for the Son (Jesus). This is an important aspect of the love-theme in the Gospel of John. Love (a)ga/ph, vb a)gapa/w) is a natural part of the Parent-Child relationship, particularly with regard to the love that parent has for his/her child. A father will naturally have love for his son—and so does God the Father have love for His Son. The identification of Jesus as the eternal Son of God is central to the Johannine theology, and to the Gospel, being established from the beginning, in the Prologue (1:14, 18). The Father’s love for His Son is declared in a number of places in the Gospel:

    • 3:35— “The Father loves [a)gapa=|] the Son, and has given all (thing)s in(to) his hand.”
    • 5:20— “The Father is fond of [filei=, i.e. loves] the Son, and shows him all (the thing)s that He does…”
    • 10:17— “Through [i.e. because of] this, the Father loves [a)gapa=|] me, (in) that I set (down) my soul, (so) that I might take it (up) again.”
    • 17:23-24, 26—At the climax of the Discourse-Prayer in chap. 17, Jesus requests/expects that the Father will love his disciples (believers), even as He has loved him.

The Father’s love for the Son is also clearly implied in 8:42; 14:21, 23; 16:27, where it is indicated that the Father loves the disciples (believers) because of their love for the Son.

The compound comparative conjunction (kaqw/$, “just as”) at the beginning of verse 9, establishes the Father’s love for the Son as the pattern for the Son’s love for believers (cf. below).

“…I also (have) loved you—”
ka)gw\ u(ma=$ h)ga/phsa

The compound ka)gw/ (conjunction kai/ plus pronoun e)gw/) means “and I”; however, here, in connection with the comparative kaqw/$ in the first statement (cf. above), it must be translated “I also”, or “so I (also)”. Jesus’ love for his disciples (“you” plur.) follows the example and pattern of the Father’s love for him. The form of the verb in both statements is in the aorist, which usually corresponds to the past tense in English. Here, it is practically necessary to translate the verb as though in the perfect tense—i.e., the Father has loved the Son, and the Son has loved the disciples/believers. The aorists do essentially correspond with perfects, in that the action or state (love) continues into the present; the continuous aspect of the Father’s love is expressed by the present tense of a)gapa/w (and file/w) in the Gospel references cited above.

Jesus’ love for his disciples (and all believers) is rarely stated explicitly in the Gospel, though it is implied throughout. Apart from the specific references to Lazarus and his family (11:3, 5, 36), and to the ‘beloved disciple’ (“the [one] whom he loved”, cf. 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20), the entire thrust of the Son’s mission on earth is rooted in the love for God’s own, throughout the world (3:16). The theme of love is tied to Jesus’ death, as a self-sacrifice, more explicitly in 10:17. The same thematic emphasis comes into special prominence in the Last Discourse, with the anticipation of Jesus’ death. The narrative setting of chapter 13 establishes this most clearly, from the beginning:

“…Yeshua, having seen that his hour (has) come, (and) that (soon) he would step across, out of this world, toward the Father, (hav)ing loved [a)gaph/sa$] his own th(at are) in the world, unto completion [i.e. to the end] he loved [h)ga/phsen] them.” (v. 1)

This sacrificial love is demonstrated through the symbolism of the foot-washing (vv. 4-11, followed by the teaching in vv. 12-17), which sets the stage for the introduction of the ‘love command’ (vv. 34-35)—i.e., the duty (e)ntolh/) of the disciples/believers to love one another, following Jesus’ own example (cf. 15:13). This love is the theme of 14:15-21, the section of the Last Discourse that immediately precedes the Vine illustration; see especially the teaching in 14:21:

“The (one) holding my e)ntolai/ and keeping watch (over) them—that (one) is the (one) loving me; and the (one) loving me shall be loved under [i.e. by] the Father, and I (also) [ka)gw/] will love him and will shine forth myself in/on him.”

The same thematic emphasis—on love and the e)ntolai/ (i.e., the duties required of the disciple/believer)—prevails here in the exposition of the Vine illustration (vv. 9-11ff).

“—(so) you must remain in my love.”
mei/nate e)n th=| e)mh=|

The first two statements provide the basis for the directive (or command) Jesus gives here to his disciples. The key-verb me/nw (“remain, abide, stay”), so important in the Johannine writings, is used again. It occurred 7 times already in vv. 4-7 (cf. the previous notes), and is clearly central to the exposition of the illustration. The exposition begins with a similar imperative:

“You must remain [mei/nhte] in me, and I in you…”

In verse 4, the directive was to remain “in me” —that is, in Jesus (the Son) himself. Here, it is to remain “in my love” —that is, in the love that the Son has for believers, and for the Father, and which is at the heart of the union between Father and Son. The love is shared by Father and Son, similar to that shared by a parent and child—the love is mutual and reciprocal.

This is the first time in the Gospel that love (a)ga/ph) was associated directly with the verb me/nw. However, there is an important parallel, in this regard, between Jesus’ love (a)ga/ph) and his word (lo/go$/r(h=ma). Here, remaining in the Son’s love is essentially the same as remaining in the Son himself; similarly, having the Son’s words (r(h/mata) remaining in the believer (v. 7) is comparable to having the Son himself remain in the believer. The parallel is even closer when we compare the wording in 8:31:

“If you should remain [mei/nhte] in my word [e)n tw=| lo/gw| tw=| e)mw=|], (then) truly you are my disciples.”

Thus, there is a dual-aspect to what it means to “remain” in Jesus, which can be illustrated by the following diagram:

This will be discussed further as we continue through the exposition.