6th Sunday of Easter – 17th May 2020 — Gospel: John 14, 15-21
Love builds up Quaternity
In this brief but powerful passage, Jesus reiterates his favourite theme of Love (14,15.21). He also promises the Holy Spirit (15,16-17). Finally he emphasizes the intimate unity of Jesus, God, the Spirit and the believer (15,18-20). We can do greater works than Jesus (14,12), if we obey God’s commandments out of love, depend on the indwelling Holy Spirit, and live in union with the risen Lord. Christians are familiar with the Trinity, but can we say the fourth gospel brings out the most stunning feature of Quaternity (i.e., ultimate intimacy of God, Christ, Spirit, and believer)?
This passage begins and ends with love. The word love (agapao, phileo) is used fifty-seven times in this Gospel. Jesus gives a single commandment to love, which is said to be a new commandment (13,34). This love commandment is anticipated in the previous chapter (13,34-35) and reiterated in the following chapter (15,12-13). Therefore we see the overwhelming, repetitive, circular emphasis on love. As a sandwich, Jesus declares that if his disciples love him, they will keep his commandments (14,15). Keeping the commandment is so important that Jesus repeats it in verse 21 & 23, and states the negative side of it in verse 24. Love for Jesus will result in a life of obedience to Him. All those who love Jesus seek constantly to obey his commands. If you claim to love Him, but do not keep His commandments, you’re either lying or self-deceived. Note the fact that Jesus refers to these commandments as “My commandments” (twice in v.15 &v.21), which signals that He is God and has authority to command how we should live. To do the works of Jesus, that includes spreading the gospel, we must obey His commandments because we love Him.
John insists that the Holy Spirit will come only after Jesus himself departs. Here, Jesus’ refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘another’ Paraclete, which means Jesus was the first helper. The Spirit to be active among the disciples while Jesus was there would be redundant since they each serve the same revelatory function. While on earth, Jesus’ ministry was limited to one locale and one person. Upon his departure, his disciples are given the Spirit that moves all levels of people, from beginners to fully matured persons. And this happens not just to the first disciples, but to all those who would come later, who never saw the historical Jesus. Everything the first believers were taught and experienced is now available in the same degree and with equally rich texture to the present believers.
In John, Jesus insists that the intimate relationship that exists between him, God, and the Spirit also includes believers. The believer does not stand close to this Trinity and admires its majesty, rather becomes part of it. John repeats this idea using the words ‘abide’, ‘love’, which expresses the language of being “in” (14,17 &20), which is emphasized as “oneness” (17,21-23) in later discourse. Therefore believers don’t ‘imitate’ Jesus, but they participate in him wholly. By participating in the divine, we become partakers of God’s being. The Spirit also reveals this union (14,20). This truth is made evident in Paul’s understanding of Christian life. God chose us “in Christ” (Eph 1,4). “In him we have redemption … forgiveness … an inheritance” (Eph 1,7.10-11). ‘‘In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge… we have been made complete in him’’ (Col 2,3.10).