“These (thing)s I have spoken to you, (so) that my joy might be in you, and (that) your joy might be (made) full.”
This statement by Jesus concludes the expository unit vv. 9-11, but it also holds an interesting structural position within the exposition as a whole. Brown (p. 667), following the lead of earlier commentators, notes that verse 11 is transitional between vv. 7-10 and 12-17, joining the two sections thematically. In fact, one may discern a series of inverse parallels within these units:
- Jesus’ words ‘remaining’ in the disciples, implying their faithfulness in keeping his words (vv. 7a, 17)
- The promise that the Father will give the disciples what they request (vv. 7b, 16b)
- The motif of “bearing fruit” (vv. 8, 16)
- Being disciples (chosen ones) of Jesus (vv. 8, 16a)
- What Jesus has received (love) from the Father (vv. 9a, 15b)
- Jesus’ love for the disciples (vv. 9b, 15a)
- The disciples “remaining” in love and keeping the duties given to them by Jesus (vv. 10, 12/14)
The key motif in verse 11 is joy (xara/). There are three other places where this noun occurs in the Gospel of John. The first is in 3:29, part of John the Baptist’s closing witness concerning Jesus (vv. 27-30)—his Messianic identity and heavenly origin. The Baptist identifies himself as a “dear (friend)” of the bridegroom, rather than the bridegroom (the Messiah) himself:
“The (one) holding the bride is (the) bride-groom; but the dear (friend) of the bride-groom, the (one) having stood (by) and hearing him, rejoices [xai/rei] with (great) joy [xara/] through [i.e. because of] the voice of the bride-groom. So this joy [xara/] of mine has been made full [peplh/rwtai].”
With Jesus having embarked on his ministry, John the Baptist realizes that the time of his own mission has come to an end. He has “heard the voice” of the Messiah (the ‘bridegroom’), and feels complete joy. The Baptist’s own joy, related to his mission and calling by God, is made complete (fulfilled, vb plhro/w) through the coming of the Son (Jesus).
The second passage occurs in the Last Discourse, but in the third Discourse-division (16:4b-28), and following the Vine-illustration. The context is the impending departure of Jesus, which is understood on two levels: (1) his immediate death, and (2) his return to the Father. Both departures will bring feelings of sadness to the disciples (v. 20a), but this will only be temporary, for their sorrow will soon turn to joy (v. 20b). At the first level, this joy relates to the resurrection of Jesus and his immediate return to his disciples; on the second level, the joy refers primarily to the coming of the Spirit (cf. the context of the Paraclete-saying[s] in vv. 7-15), when Jesus will be present with them in a new and abiding way. This is illustrated by the human example of a woman giving birth to a child:
“When the woman would produce (her child), she holds sorrow, (in) that her hour (has) come; but when she should cause to be (born) the little child, she no longer remembers the distress, through [i.e. because of] the joy [xara/] that a man [i.e. human being] has come to be (born) into the world.” (v. 21)
The use of the term “distress” (qli/yi$) tends to have eschatological significance for early Christians, referring to the end-time period of distress, which begins with the passion and death of Jesus. This allows for a further level of meaning to the ‘departure’ of Jesus (back to the Father); the disciples will experience joy with the coming of the Spirit, but they will also find joy with the final return of Jesus. There are thus three ways of understanding the ‘return’ of Jesus, when he will see his disciples again (v. 22): (i) his appearance after the resurrection, (ii) his presence in the Spirit, and (iii) his final/eschatological return. Given the importance of the Spirit-Paraclete statements in the Last Discourse, I would say that the second (ii) of these aspects is primarily in view. Jesus’ abiding presence will be with the disciples (and believers) through the Spirit; and their joy also will abide:
“…your heart will rejoice [xarh/setai], and no one takes (away) your joy [xara/] from you.” (v. 22b)
The final reference is in the chap. 17 Discourse-Prayer that follows the Last Discourse. Again, the impending departure of Jesus is in view, and he (the Son) addresses God the Father in preparation of his exaltation (v. 1)—that is, his death, resurrection, and return to the Father. In verse 11, at the heart of the passage, the ultimate goal of the unity/union of believers, together with the Son and the Father, comes into prominence:
“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, while I am com(ing) toward you. Holy Father, keep watch (over) them in your name that you have given to me, (so) that they may be one, just as we (are).”
The Son (Jesus) was able to keep watch over the disciples while he has been present on earth (v. 12), but now that he is going away, he asks the Father to take over this role, which ultimately will be fulfilled with the coming of the Spirit. And, indeed, the promise of the Spirit was at the heart of Jesus’ message to the disciples in the Last Discourse, and we should probably understand it as the focus of his words here in v. 13 as well:
“Now I come toward you, and (so) these (thing)s I speak in the world, (so) that they might hold my joy [xara/] made full [vb plhro/w] in themselves.”
The Son’s joy is made complete (lit. made full, fulfilled) when he is reunited with the disciples (and all believers) through the Spirit. The disciples will hold this joy within themselves, through the abiding presence of the Spirit.
The language in 17:13 resembles that of 15:11, with the phrase “these (thing)s I speak…”. It also echoes his earlier statement in 14:25, toward the close of the first division of the Last Discourse (and immediately prior to the second Paraclete-saying, vv. 26-27): “These (thing)s I have spoken to you (while) remaining [vb me/nw] alongside you”. The expression “these things” (the demonstrative neuter plural pronoun tau=ta) can be understood on several levels: (a) all of Jesus’ teaching to his disciples (i.e, his “word” in a general/collective sense), (b) the Last Discourse as a whole, or (c) the immediate Discourse-unit (such as the Vine illustration and exposition). All three ways of understanding the use of the comprehensive pronoun are valid.
“Until now you have not asked (for) anything in my name; ask and you shall receive, (so) that your joy may be made full.”
The italicized phrase is similar to the one in 17:13 (cf. above); both use a perfect passive participle of the verb plhro/w (“make full, [ful]fill”) as a qualifying verbal adjective. This syntax is difficult to translate literally in English: “that your joy may be (something) having been [i.e. that has been] made full”.
How should we understand the joy-motif as it is used here in the Vine exposition? There are three phrases in verse 11:
1. “These (thing)s I have spoken to you…” The demonstrative pronoun “these (thing)s” (tau=ta) refers comprehensively to all of Jesus’ teaching during his ministry, but particularly (in the narrative context) to the Last Discourse, and specifically to the instruction he gives to his disciples here in the Vine passage.
2. “…(so) that my joy might be in you” This phrase is quite similar to the statement by Jesus in 17:13 (cf. above), expressing his wish that his joy would be in the disciples. The joy of the Son (Jesus) is best understood in terms of his return to the Father, following the completion of his mission. Recall that in 17:11 (just prior to v. 13), Jesus’ request was that the disciples (and all believers) would be one, just as he and the Father are one; the abiding union the Son has with the Father will be realized in and among believers as well.
3. “…and (that) your joy might be (made) full” As discussed above, the disciples’ joy is experienced when they see Jesus again, and are reunited with him. In the context of the Last Discourse, this refers primarily to the presence of Jesus, in and among believers, through the Spirit. The significance of the verb plhro/w (“make full”) in this regard is an emphasis on the abiding presence of the Spirit, through which the Son remains in believers.
The thrust of the Vine-illustration was the importance of believers remaining (vb me/nw) in the Son, and the Son in believers. Here in verse 11, we see the purpose of his teaching is “so that” (i%na) by “remaining” in Jesus—in his word and in his love—believers will be able to experience an abiding union with the Son, and in so doing, share also in the abiding union between Father and Son.
In the next daily note, we will turn to the next unit of the exposition (vv. 12-15), in which Jesus further expounds for his disciples (and for us as believers) the nature of the duty (e)ntolh/) to love.