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Sermon Notes 5-27-2018

Pericope: John 3:1-17

Focus Statment: Jesus came to bring about a change in the hearts and lives of everyone in the world; not to judge but to save.

Word Study:  https://www.blueletterbible.org/niv/jhn/3/1/s_1000001


There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”

4 Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”

5 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 God’s Spirit[b] blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”

10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things?

11 I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One.[c] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One[d] be lifted up 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. 16 God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. 17 God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]

9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born from above.’[e] 8 The wind[f] blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you[g] do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.[i]

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

  • In verses 3 and 5, we see a phrase translated three different ways.  CEB, "born anew," NIV "born again," NRSV, "born from above."  Which is it?  As with most of these word choices, the meaning is yes, all of them.  This phrase is a two word phrase.
    • γεννάω gennáō, ghen-nah'-o; from a variation of G1085; to procreate (properly, of the father, but by extension of the mother); figuratively, to regenerate:—bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of, gender, make, spring.
    • ἄνωθεν ánōthen, an'-o-then; from G507; from above; by analogy, from the first; by implication, anew:—from above, again, from the beginning (very first), the top.
    • In other words, I interpret this to mean that we must start life over with a new focul point; one towards Godly things.  We must become a new person, more like Christ.
  • In verse 13, we have another familiar phrase.  CEB, "Human One," or NIV, NRSV, "Son of Man."  Again, two word phrase.
    • υἱός huiós, hwee-os'; apparently a primary word; a "son" (sometimes of animals), used very widely of immediate, remote or figuratively, kinship:—child, foal, son.
    • ἄνθρωπος ánthrōpos, anth'-ro-pos; from G435 and ὤψ ṓps (the countenance; from G3700); man-faced, i.e. a human being:—certain, man.
    • In other words I interpret this to be child of humanity.  I think it is important to note that even though anthropos is often translated as "man," it is generally gender nutral. 


  • This scene takes place in Jerusalem, not long after Jesus turns the tables over at the temple.  In John's gospel, Jesus turns the tables over at the beginning of the gospel, where the synoptics turn the tables over at the end.
  • V. 1.  Nicodemus was a Jewish leader and Pharisee.
    • According to the CEB Bible Dictionary, "The Pharisees were a Jewish sect in the time of the NT; Paul was a Pharisee.  The Pharisee's are repeatedly described as people who trasmit, preserve, and develop the tradition of the Instruction in the written and oral form."  pg. 300
  • V. 2.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night.  I have heard some suggest this is because he didn't want to be seen.  I think it is interesting that Nicodemus says, "we know."  Does this mean he is speaking on behalf of the other Pharisee's?  I am not sure if his praise of Jesus is honest or flattery intended to get Jesus to speak honestly in the hopes of trapping him into saying something that could get him arrested.  
  • V. 3.  Jesus says that we must be changed into something completely knew if we are ever going to enter God's kingdom.  Since God is love, and God's reign is built on who God is, then our sinful, selfish, and unloving character (see 2:24-25), would need to change if we were to be compatible with the world God is in charge of. 
  • V. 4.  Nicodemus takes Jesus' words literally and doesn't understand what Jesus is getting at.
  • V. 5.  Jesus trys again.  But this time says born of water and Spirit.  Maybe this is alluding to baptism and the manner in which we are reborn.  We are not reborn through human flesh, but through the work of God's Spirit.  
  • V. 6.  Flesh of flesh and Spirit of Spirit.  Where your heart is, is where your life will follow.  If you are of the flesh (of this world), then your actions will follow suit.  If you are of the Spirit, then your actions will follow those of God.
  • V. 8.  Not sure what this means.
  • VV. 9-10.  Nicodemus is confused, and Jesus seems to chastise him.  As a leader of the faith and keeper of tradition, Jesus believes he should know these things.
  • VV. 13-15.  Jesus seems to be suggesting here that he must be the one whom we look to as an example for our lives.
  • V. 16.  Jesus came for a specific purpose.  That we will have eternal life thorugh him.
  • V. 17.  Judgment is not his purpose, but salvation and life.

Commentary on John 3:1-17

by: Judith Jones

Jones, Judith. “Commentary on John 3:1-17.” Working Preacher. Accessed May 22, 2018. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3673.


Judith Jones, “Commentary on John 3:1-17,” Working Preacher, accessed May 22, 2018, http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3673.

  • "in this encounter Jesus challenges Nicodemus to move from theory to practice, from knowledge to faith, from curiosity to commitment."
  • "The narrator portrays Nicodemus as a learned man with impressive credentials, describing him not only as a Pharisee but as “a ruler of the Jews.” Jesus refers to him as “the teacher of Israel” (verse 10)."
  • "By speaking in the first person plural (“Rabbi, we know…”), Nicodemus presents himself as a representative of the religious leaders."
  • "Jesus seems to acknowledge Nicodemus’ representative status as well, telling him, “we testify to what we have seen; yet you (plural) do not receive our testimony” (verse 11)."
  • "Lacking both courage and commitment, he has come to visit Jesus by night. Far from being a follower of Jesus, he is unwilling even to be seen with him."
  • "Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ opening statement cuts straight to the heart of the matter: no one can see God’s reign without being born again/from above (the Greek word anothen means both “again” and “from above,” and both senses are important here). Unless Nicodemus allows God to change his whole way of being in the world, he will not be able to perceive God at work."
  • "God sends the Son not to condemn the world and its inhabitants, but to rescue and restore them (the Greek word translated as “save” or “saved” in John 3:17 is sozo, which means save in the sense of rescue, heal, and make whole)."
  • "Like the serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness (see Numbers 21:4–9), Jesus will be lifted up both to expose human sinfulness and to save people from its deadly effects."
  • "Like the breath of God in Genesis 2, the Spirit gives life to believers."
  • "Like the wind, God’s Spirit blows wherever it wishes, and though observers may perceive its presence, they neither comprehend it nor control it. Strikingly, Jesus says that those who are born of the Spirit share in the Spirit’s mysterious freedom (John 3:8)."
  • "Jesus refers to God’s gift of new life both as eternal life (John 3:15, 16) and as the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5 -- the only occurrences in John of a term that is central to Jesus’ teaching in the Synoptic Gospels). Both phrases refer to the same reality, though they emphasize different aspects of it. Eternal life is life shaped by and utterly dependent on God’s love. It is not simply life in heaven after death. It begins now, in the moment that believers entrust their lives to Jesus. When believers receive eternal life, they enter into God’s reign in the here and now."
  • "Believers are reborn into God’s new family."
  • "Rebirth into God’s reign comes not by knowledge or doctrine, but by faith."
    • We must experience God through action inorder tounderstand God's reign.  Knowledge isn't enough.

Lent 2(A): Push Through the Pain

by Dani Scoville

Scoville, Dani. “Lent 2(A): Push Through the Pain.” Modern Metanoia. Accessed May 22, 2018. https://modernmetanoia.org/2017/02/27/lent-2a-push-through-the-pain/.


Dani Scoville, “Lent 2(A): Push Through the Pain,” Modern Metanoia, accessed May 22, 2018, https://modernmetanoia.org/2017/02/27/lent-2a-push-through-the-pain/.

  • "I used to think of being born of the Spirit as “born again” — my beginning evangelical theology where praying a prayer made the soul cross some mystical threshold from “not saved” into “saved.” A one and done kind of transformation"
  • "When I think of birth, actual childbirth, I think of incredible pain and then joy, hope, and possibility of new life. Contractions and ripping, blood and piss, and then this tiny being who arrives, the epitome of beginning. So what if being born of the Spirit is something more like that? But not just one and done. In my experience, being born anew—the pain and the beginning—is an ongoing series of births: repeatedly over the years, multiple instances of ripping pain and rushes of joy, hope, and possibility."
  • "My “wanting to know and understand it all right now” ego is frustrated by Jesus saying “[t]he wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Being born of the Spirit is a liminal space — something is forming, but until it bursts into the world, it remains something of a mystery."

John 3:1-17

Author: Scott Hoezee

Hoezee, Scott. “John 3:1-17.” Center for Excellence in Preaching. May 21, 2018. http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/trinity-sunday-b-2/?type=the_lectionary_gospel.


Scott Hoezee, “John 3:1-17,” Center for Excellence in Preaching, May 21, 2018, http://cep.calvinseminary.edu/sermon-starters/trinity-sunday-b-2/?type=the_lectionary_gospel.

  • "Today people parade John 3:16 around as though it were some kind of a magic formula, the mere sight of which printed on a bedsheet and displayed at a baseball game, affixed to a car via a bumper sticker, or posted on a front yard billboard will lead to some kind of conversion"
  • "The real spiritual re-birth of which Jesus spoke requires far more effort on God’s part. It requires a person to come to see the world in the upside-down terms Jesus always used when he talked about his kingdom. A person had to be re-born to the idea that humility and kindness are far more valuable than pride and brazen efforts to promote oneself, that the meek and lowly and quiet of the earth are of far more value than the bold and the lofty and the noisy of the earth."
  • "Above all one had to come to the insight—and it is not an insight human logic could ever manufacture—that when God came to save this world, he did so by depositing a humble little baby into an animal’s feedbunk out on the edge of nowhere in this world."
  • "Just as the Israelites had to look at a bronze image of what ailed them to get healed, so all people would have to look at a bloody instrument of execution to find eternal life."




Bassler, Jouette M. "Mixed signals: Nicodemus in the Fourth Gospel." Journal Of Biblical Literature 108, no. 4 (Wint 1989): 635-646. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 22, 2018).

  • "Nicodemus is a puzzling, enigmatic figure. He appears early in the Gospel with a profession of faith on his lips (3:1-21), but he is quickly reduced to con­ fused silence by Jesus' surprisingly acerbic response. At his second appear­ ance (7:45-52) he defends Jesus before his fellow Pharisees (albeit rather tentatively) and receives from them a stinging rebuke. Finally, he appears at Jesus' tomb in the familiar but (in the Johannine context) somewhat ambiva­ lent company of Joseph of Arimathea, saying nothing but bearing a truly extraordinary quantity of burial spices (19:38-42)."
  • "Indeed, Nicodemus's words contain a key insight that is missing from the other professions of faith: that Jesus has "come from God.""

Feasting On the Word 

by: various


Bartlett, David Lyon, and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting On the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008-2011. http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip085/2007047534.html.


    David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting On the Word, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008-2011), 1, http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/toc/ecip085/2007047534.html.

  • "Hence Nicodemus is a complex figure who may not be reduced to a hypocritical believer or an admirer, but may rather be seen as a work in progress, on his way from being intrigued by Jesus to believing in Jesus."
  • "However, the point at issue in this passage has to do with the way Nicodemus and the Sanhedrin know that Jesus is a teacher who has come from God, namely, by fitting Jesus into what they already know from their interpretation of the Law of Moses."
  • "Jesus does not have his origin as teacher from Moses, but from God, for he has descended from God in order to declare what he knows of God, before he returns to God (3:11–13). Jesus therefore responds to Nicodemus by telling him that he cannot see the kingdom of God without being born again, without being born from on high."
  • "Contrary to Nicodemus’s attempt to fit Jesus into his previous understanding of the world, the birth from above is beyond anyone’s control and is subject to the mysterious freedom of the Spirit. Those who think in earthly categories do not know where the lives of those born from above come from or where they go, even as Nicodemus does not see Jesus as the teacher who has come from God in order to return to."
  • "The description of the new birth as “of water and Spirit” has been interpreted by the church to mean baptism. However, as Zwingli rightly pointed out, this would actually frustrate the whole point that Jesus is making, namely, that the new birth of the Spirit is not subject to human control and cannot be coordinated with the rest of what we know of this world."
  • "Thus the birth from above will take place by faith in the death of the Son of Man, which is even more paradoxical than birth by the freely given wind of the Spirit. Faith receives eternal life from the death of the Son of Man, because in it is found the self-giving love of God for the world."
  • "Like Nicodemus, we discover that some of our most profound understandings about life come from conversations and consultations with people we talk to “at night,” people we are often afraid to be seen associating with."
    • Who are we afraid to be seen with?
  • "Rebirth is a spiritual experience available to all, but perhaps most needed by religious people who might think they do not need it."
  • "Christ descends from above to bring the truth from heaven to humankind. He is indeed truth incarnate. He comes to be a source of healing and salvation, much as Moses’s bronze serpent, lifted up on a pole in the wilderness (Num. 21:8–9), brings healing to anyone who looks up at it in faith. Jesus too is to be lifted up on the cross, so that whoever looks up at him in believing faith will be saved. This is no coincidence. It is in the will and purpose of the loving God who wishes all to have eternal life."
  • "God’s desire in sending God’s Son is not condemnatory. Rather, it is redemptive. The whole mission and purpose of God in Christ is to rescue and recover humanity, from being deeply embedded in self-defeating pursuits in a physically absorbed life."
  • "Today’s Gospel story presents Nicodemus as one who is trying to make up his mind about Jesus."
  • "In John, Nicodemus comes to Jesus near the beginning of his ministry, defends him in the middle, and is with him at the end. Is this not what a disciple would do?"
  • "For John, Jesus affirms that entering into God’s reign is not a manipulation of the flesh (i.e., of humans shaping forms of religious experience). It is a gift of God’s Spirit, unshaped by human hands but “blowing” where it will “from above.”"
  • "In John, “eternal life” is not only a quantity of life beyond death, but a quality of life already lived out of God’s gift of love."
  • "God’s intention is never to condemn but to save, that is, to make life whole. Salvation language is health language, God’s health for all the world in all of life’s relationships. That love is ever constant, but never coercive. It is invitational and hopes for a response, to complete the circle of love and share in the interconnectedness of the creating, liberating, healing Holy Trinity."
  • "The kingdom of God is not some far-off goal to be attained, for there is nothing we can do to attain it. The kingdom is present now, as a gift from God. Only God can gift us, can beget us as a totally new being in a new world."

Sermon Notes 5-6-2018

Pericope: John 15:9-17
Personal Commentary:

9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.
9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruitfruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

  • Today's passage comes after John's account of the last supper.  13:31 says they got up and left the location of the last supper, but we don't know where they are at this point.  They don't appear in the garden until chapter 18.
  • This passage is in the middle of Jesus' farewell discourse.  The time is coming when Jesus will be arrested and he is giving some of his final commands and teachings.  The primary teaching, of course, is to keep Jesus' life and teaching close to the heart and to love each other.  
  • In today's pericope, Jesus talks about remaining in his love.  This comes immediately after Jesus talks about the vines and branches in 15:1-8.  V. 4, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  A branch can't produce fruit by itself but must remain in the vine.  Likewise, you can't produce fruit unless you remain in me."  
  • Our pericope today seems to be an explanation or another way of saying what he was trying to get across through the vine and fruit analogy.
  • Each verse fulfills the one before it.  Verse 10 fulfills verse 9, 11 fulfills 10, and so forth.
  • V. 9 - Love begins with God, we must remain in, or abide in, God's love.  
  • V. 10 - We remain in Christ's love by keeping his commands.  When we do what he told us, we are staying true to he calls us to be.
  • V. 11 - It isn't that Jesus is filled with Joy when we do these things.  Jesus is already filled with Joy, and by remaining in him, by following in his way, we too will be filled with joy.  Our happiness is incomplete without the joy of God in our hearts.  We will only be complete when we live out the will of God in our lives.
  • V. 12 - When we love each other, we will fulfill the requirement of verse 11.
  • V. 13 - Self-sacrifice for others, is the greatest example of love.
  • VV. 14-15 - We are now called friends.  Is Jesus' argument from an authoritarian leadership style perspective.  Masters/bosses/leaders, in this style, they don't share what they are thinking.  They tell them what to do and they do it.  Jesus is no longer withholding his reasons.  He is sharing with us what is required of a faithful life, and now it is up to us.  What might be a good analogy for this?
    • As parents, we must be authoritarian to our children while they are at home and we are responsible for them.  Once they move out of the house, they are on their own.  We hope we have given them the tools they need.  It is at this point that parents and children can become friends.  
  • V. 16 - Jesus chose us.  This relationship begins and ends with God.
  • V. 16 - When we remain in God, and God in us, God will give us what we ask for, because what we ask for will be in line with God's will and not our own.  
  • V. 17 - Reiteration of the command to love.

The New Interpreters Bible

Gail R. O'Day, “The Gospel of John: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” in The New Interpreter's Bible: General Articles and Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections for Each Book of the Bible, Including the Apocryphaldeuterocanonical Books (Nashville: Abingdon Press, ©1994-2004), 9:491-865.

  • "John 14:1-16:33 is the centerpiece of the three units that compose the Johannine account of the farewell meal (13:1-38; 14:1-16:33; 17:1-26)." pg. 735
  • "Jesus' teachings in John 14-16 do indeed draw out themes that are introduced by the foot washing and the dialogues that follow it." pg. 735
  • "In John 14-16, Jesus explains the significance of his departure to his disciples and points them toward the life that they will lead after his hour."  pg. 735
  • O'Day also notes the glaring contradiction found in 14:31 which has Jesus telling his disciples that they need to leave this place, yet 15:1 just continue as though they never left.  Many theories have been put forth, including the one I put forth above about their conversation continuing on the way to the garden, but two others are mentioned by O'Day.  pp. 735-736
    • One theory suggests that there were two separate farewell discourses put together as though they are one.  The call to depart in 14:31 is viewed as the end of the first discourse and 15:1 the beginning of the next.
    • Another theory suggests that over the years, the order to the stories in John has been put together in the wrong order.  Theologian Rudolph Bultmann has suggested an alternative order to John which he believes is how John was originally put together.
  • O'Day also suggests that maybe we put too much emphasis on one short verse 14:31. pg. 736
  • "The Farewell Discourse can be divided into four broad units: (1) 14:1-31, "I will not leave you orphaned"; (2) 15:1-17, "Abide in my love"; (3) 15:18-16:4a, "I have chosen you out of the world"; (4):16:4b-33, "It is to your advantage that I go away." pg. 738
  • "Verse 12 is a direct restatement of the love commandment of 13:34 and sets the theme for all that follows." pg. 758
  • "Verse 13 is the most explicit statement in the Gospel of what it means to love as Jesus loves."  pg. 758
  • "the English noun 'friend' does not fully convey the presence of love that undergirds the Johannine notion of friendship." pg. 758
  • The disciples are called friends because Jesus hasn't withheld anything from them about the nature of God and involved them in the intimacy Jesus shares with the Father. pg. 758
  • "Jesus reminds the disciples (including the readers) that their place with him is the result of his initiative, not theirs; relationship with Jesus is ultimately a result of God's grace (cf. 6:37-39, 44)." pg. 759
  • "Jesus describes the disciples' works as 'fruit that will last,' suggesting that their works, too, will attest to the abiding presence of and union with God and Jesus." pg. 759

Commentary on John 15:9-17
by Meda Stamper

  • "The commandment-keeping emerges from abiding love and is an expression of it."
  • "So the joy offered in John 15:11 and John 17:13 is a deep and enduring creative gladness that, even when it seems most unlikely, will inevitably come to Jesus’ own. And they are perhaps also joy-bearers and midwives of joy for the world into which they, like Jesus, have been born of God (John 1:1-18) and will be sent."
  • "Jesus’ own are no longer slaves but friends, not on the basis of anything that they have done for him but on the basis of what he has done for them. He has made known to them everything that he has heard from the Father."

Easter 6B: On Being Chosen
by DJL

  • ""it occurs to me that perhaps that’s because happiness isn’t, finally, something you can pursue and catch and possess in the first place. Rather, perhaps happiness is the by-product of worthy activities."
  • "Perhaps happiness is the feeling you get from a job well done, or from achieving a goal, or from being honest and trustworthy, or from helping someone out."
  • "In this sense, happiness is less a commodity to be pursued and possessed than it is a by-product of noble efforts or, even more, simply a gift to be received."
  • "I regularly remind myself of just how many times I actually do indeed have a choice about how I view something, react to something, focus on one thing or another, knowing that each of these things can be an instance of “choosing joy” over frustration, anger, hopelessness, and more."
  • "Keep in mind that this conversation takes place on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion."
  • "But that action will not only witness to Jesus’ love for the disciples, it will also leave them feeling bereft, alone, and frightened. Which is why Jesus both urges them to abide in him and reminds them that what is more important is that they know he will abide in them. And so he tells them that they did not choose him; rather, he chose them."
  • "knowing that God has chosen us, loves us, and will use us gives us the courage to face the challenges and renews our strength to do something about them."

Choose Joy
by: Karoline Lewis

  • "Joy is elusive. True joy is hard to come by and seems simply impossible when one starts down the road of real life."
  • "joy is hard. It takes work. It takes effort. It takes intention."
  • "Joy is that indescribable sense when you find yourself experiencing abundant grace."

John 15:9-17
by: Scott Hoezee

  • "There is far too much moralistic preaching afoot in the land as it is, we tell students, so resist the trend of preaching what my friend Meg Jenista called “shouldy” sermons that always end with long “To Do” lists that tend to prop up the latent legalism that altogether too many people harbor in their hearts already as it is. Too often people tend to believe that what gets them in good with God—or at least what keeps them in good with God—is the sum total of all their morally good deeds."
  • "It’s the “if” part that nettles. Is salvation conditional after all? Is it up to us? If we don’t behave well, will Jesus diss us? Will he stop being our friend? Stop loving us? Obviously a good deal of what makes the gospel GOOD news would cease to be so good if, as a matter of fact, we are constantly being evaluated and graded by God."
  • "Above all we need to be students of God’s Word so that the words of Jesus can abide in us."
  • "Christ is indeed our true vine but a vine without branches produces no grapes. It is our holy calling to produce fruit for God–fruit which can be turned into the sweet ambrosia of a love distilled, decanted, and delighted over to the complete joy of all God’s people."
  • "It is clear here that “love” means service, means action, means a life of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others."
  • "But, of course, you have to be pretty favorably inclined toward others to do that. You maybe don’t need to feel love a la romantic love or the kinds of fierce feelings of affection a parent has for a child but you have to BE and FEEL something very positive to extend yourself into the lives of others (even all the way to the extreme point of giving up your very life for those others)."
  • "You can’t come up to some surly, self-centered narcissist of a human being and COMMAND that he start living like Mother Teresa or something. No, Jesus’ words in John 15 make sense only if, as a matter of fact, you are already a branch living off the true vine that just is Jesus."

Abiding Love
by: William Brosend

Brosend, William. "Abiding love." The Christian Century 117, no. 16 (May 17, 2000): 565. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed May 1, 2018).

  • "So when I read, "Every branch that bears fruit [God] prunes to make it bear more fruit," I think of my wife, whose approach to pruning is to "whack it down to the ground and see what happens." Sometimes it works out, sometimes not."
  • "the language of abiding is at the Gospels core."
  • "the Gospel of John is very much about abiding—where Jesus abides and how we who believe in Jesus shall abide."
  • "while I take Jesus to be talking about being present to the presence of God in our midst wherever and everywhere we are."
  • "...practice the presence of God, to abide with Christ."
  • "Learning to be who you are where you are, seems a prerequisite to being present to anyone else, including Christ."
  • "I imagine myself "reclining" like the beloved disciple, sitting with Jesus and leaning on his shoulder, abiding in his love."
  • "Love is not burdensome? What does John know that we don't? Maybe this: we tend to treat love as a kind of goal-oriented affection."
  • "We do not love as a means to bring about some holy end. We love because God first loved us."


  • You may have noticed some differences in the translations. 
    • V. 15 - CEB and NRSV say, "I heard from my Father," but the NIV says, "I learned." Do you think there is a difference between hearing and learning?  It would seem in this context at least, that Jesus is saying, "the knowledge I have from my Father, I have given you."
    • V. 17 - The biggest difference between these three appears here.  CEB and NRSV seem to suggest that Jesus is saying, "I have told you all these things in order for you to love one another."  But NIV seems to dismiss everything that came before and just gives the direct command, "Love each other."  One is a cause and effect, the other is a direct command.  Not much of a difference in meaning, the point being that we love each other, but none-the-less a difference in how the translation was approached.
  • Servants don't know what their master is doing.  But as Jesus notes in verse 15, this is no longer the case, how does this make us friends rather than servants?
  • Thinking about joy from verse 11, what are some of the things that bring us joy?
  • There is a danger of works righteousness in this passage, especially when you look at the if passages.
  • Karoline Lewis talks about how Joy is elusive. It's not always easy to find.  What do you think about that?  Do you think this is true?  
  • Hoezee talks about in order to show love to others, the kind where we lay down our lives for them, you almost have to feel some good towards them, not necessarily warm fuzzies, but something in order to be able to help.  Do you agree?  Why?  How might we feel something for those we maybe don't like or have negative feelings for?