Simon and Jude Apostles 28.10.12 John 15 17-end

20 10 2012

Instructions for Living

To help us commemorate two of Jesus’ friends and apostles, Simon and Jude, we have gone to John’s gospel. The preacher’s challenge is to connect what Jesus said to them – according to John – with what God might be saying to us today.

John 15.17-end

Jesus said to his disciples, I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

18 ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.


To help give shape to the reflection I am going to suggest three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response.  I hope that you will want to work at all three levels. You might prefer to stay in one area. But beware of staying in your comfort zone. That’s rarely where profound preaching comes from.

Head Questions

Notice how often the word ‘if’ is repeated in this passage.
Do you think it is really a matter of if’ or ‘when’ with all these things?
What does Jesus mean when he uses the word ‘advocate’? (You may prefer to think of the ‘comforter’.  That works as long as you think of it in the literal sense of ‘the one who strengthens and supports’ rather than the softer sense of ‘the one who calms and placates’.)
What does the word ‘sin’ mean here?

Heart Questions

What is it like to be on the receiving end of hatred?
How do you typically react?
Can you say anything about being on the giving end of hatred?
Have you ever despised the followers of Jesus?

Hand Questions

The practical outcome of this seems to be a requirement to testify. Well here is your opportunity:
What do you have to say about Jesus?
Where do you say it?
Where are you going to say it?
How will you be an advocate for the advocate?


These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up – working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.

Sixth Sunday of Easter 13.5.12 John 15. 9-17

1 05 2012

Father, Friends and Fruit

The passage develops themes introduced in the previous verses – which were also last week’s Gospel reading.  It is about profound and spiritual relationships, and the consequences (fruitfulness) of them.

John 15.9-17

Jesus said, ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Keep Yourselves in God's Love

Keep Yourselves in God's Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant 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. 16You 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. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’

Reflections and Questions

‘abide in my love’ v 9 The idea is to stay, to remain, to dwell in God’s love. That, as Augustine learnt, is the cure for spiritual restlessness.

Does this feel a little static to you, lacking dynamism?  If so, might it be because of your restlessness?

‘so that my joy may be in you and your joy complete.’ v 11. No half measures here. Nothing but the deepest, most delightful, time unlimited joy. 

What do you make of the idea of ‘completeness of joy’? How else might that be expressed? Fullness? Plenitude? Abundance?  Many people confuse joy and happiness – how can you help them make the distinction between these realities?

‘I have called you friends’ v15  A rich and powerful word, ‘friends’. It speaks of fellowship, companionship and intimacy.  ‘Friend’ is a good word in any language and a surprising one when a master is addressing disciples, pupils, apprentices.  But it can also be an overused and cheapened word.  A few verses earlier, the passage suggests that friendship is a relationship which might just develop into self-sacrifice. Now that is serious – and costly.

What sort of connection can you make with the idea of laying down your life for your friends? Do you have a story that speaks of the truth and cost of self-sacrificial love?

‘You did not choose me, I chose you’ v16  I am making no comment on this. Just repeat the words to yourself for a few minutes and see what they come to mean.

Do you like these words, or would you prefer it if you were the chooser?