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What Does Discipleship Look Like in the Context of "Abiding"?

Updated: May 27

Jesus' Farewell Address

John 13 – 17


If you knew that your death was just a few hours away, what would you want to say to those closest to you? Jesus knew, and our context contains His words in that setting.


Often referred to as Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, these were His parting words to those who would be left behind. Unlike other biblical farewell discourses (cf. Jacob in Gen. 49; Moses in Dt. 33, Joshua in Joshua 23 & 24, and David in 1 Chron. 28 & 29), Jesus’ discourse is unique in that His is not a permanent death or departure (Jn. 14:1 – 6)!


Borchert states, “If readers can conceptualize these chapters in this target fashion, they should be able to recognize that the evangelist is not simply jumping aimlessly about in the presentation of his materials.[1] Borchert has done us a service by putting the ancient literary device of chiasm into a more modern, western depiction by using a target example as illustrated.[2]

As you can see, this “abiding” opportunity that we are invited and called into is the center or main point of Christ’s Farewell Discourse. Considering the context of John’s 7th and final “I am…” statement of Christ (15:1), let us dig a little deeper to gain from what surrounds it.


…when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father…knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands…” (John 13:1 & 2 NKJV) reveals that Jesus knew the authority over all that the Father had given Him and His going to the Father through the cross and the resurrection. He would privately struggle with the call to the cross while in the Garden as His men were separated from Him by a short distance (Luke 22:39 – 46). In our context, even knowing what was ahead for Him, He shows His concern and love for what His disciples would go through when He left them in such a violent fashion as the crucifixion. That concern is shown in the outer white circle by His love revealed in humble servanthood as He washes their feet (13:1 – 16) and in His parting prayer for them (17:1 – 26).


In the flow of the discourse the Lord promises that, with Him leaving, His Spirit will come and indwell them (14:16 – 18), will bring everything He said to their remembrance (14:26), and will testify of Him (15:26 & 27). His gift of the Spirit is for their good as the Spirit will tell them of the things that are to come even as He brings glory to Christ (16:7 – 15).


Jesus is letting them know that He will continue with His ministry post- resurrection through the Spirit. Not only will He still be present with them, but the Spirit will “…enable them to continually reapply the teaching of Jesus to ever new situations…”[3] as He addresses the persecution they will face: the world’s hatred (15:18 – 25; 17:13 – 15), their possible loss of life (16:1 – 4), and much sorrow (16:19 & 20).


Jesus promises that His post-resurrection ministry also grants them, “…My peace…” (14:27; 16:33), “…My joy…” (15:9 & 10; 16:20 – 23; 17:13), even as it is “bookended” by His love (13:1; 17:26) and interspersed by the promise of that love (14:21 – 24; 15:9 – 13).


What is the center of all of this? ABIDING IN HIM (John 15)! Leaning into the One Who first loved us in our world governed by hate and conflict. Experiencing His joy even in suffering, His shalom even in the chaos that surrounds us.


Here our Lord offers the opportunity to be His “…friends…” (15:15)! Imagine, a friend of God! Where would the Hebrew mind go with that? It would go to not just any patriarch, but THE patriarch, Abraham (Is. 41:8; 2 Chron. 20:7; c.f. James 2:23). Abraham, the father of Israel and “…our father of faith…” because he “…believed God…” (Gal. 3:6 – 9) as Jesus moves their status from servants to friend. The Hebrew memory would also go to the great Law - Giver and Deliverer Moses, who stood for God before Pharaoh for the freedom of God's people (Ex. 33:11)!


All of this is about bearing “…fruit…” as He mentions eight times in five verses (John 15:2, 4, 5, 8, and 16). These are the values of the disciple lived out in action: “The acts of men, as their fruits, are signs by which to know (ἐπιγνώσεσθε) their inner nature, Mt. 7:16f. As the value of a tree is estimated by its products, so the righteousness displayed in acts is a decisive standard for divine judgment…”[4]


Are we abiding or are we striving? There is no in between! Abiding will sustain us as we do His will, striving will exhaust us as we battle it! Is there anyone that ever won that fight?


In closing, think of the theologies presented here:


·       A theology of discipleship – the cruciformed (cross – shaped) life (Lk. 9:23ff).

·       A theology of suffering as that is where Christ is walking and is concerned for these followers as they follow Him into it.

·       Theologies of love, joy, and shalom lived, taught, and modeled by our Master/Rabbi Jesus as He called us to live these out.

·       What other theologies come to your mind from this passage?

[1] Borchert, G. L. (2002). New American Commentary: John 12-21. (Vol. 25B, p. 74). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Borchert, G. L. (2002). New American Commentary: John 12-21. (Vol. 25B, pp. 71–75). Broadman & Holman Publishers. 

[3] Keener, Craig S. (2003). The Gospel of John: A Commentary. (Vol. 2. p. 982). Hendrickson Publishers.

[4] Hauck, F. (1964–). καρπός, ἄκαρπος, καρποφορέω. In G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 3, p. 615). Eerdmans.

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