Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 15

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John 15

Supplemental Commentary:


1.  The Last Supper  13, 1 -- 17, 26 (continued)

15, 1-17:  Union with Christ.  The theme of this figure is the corporate union of Christ with His disciples in the wider sense, as in the "Mystical Body" of St. Paul.  It is a parable-allegory, somewhat in the manner of the Good Shepherd.  The figure is familiar from the Old Testament.  Cf. Gen. 49, 22; Pss. 79, 9; 127, 3; Ecclus. 24, 16.23; Isa. 5, 1-6, 27, 2 ff; Jer. 2, 21; 12, 10 ff; Ezech. 15, 1 ff; 17, 5 ff; 19, 10 ff; Os. 10, 1; also Matt. 21, 33 and parallels.

1.  The true vine: i.e., in the highest sense of the figure, communicating real life, so true light, 1, 9; true bread, 6, 32.  Thus Christ is the source of grace.  The image prescinds from the relation of the divine persons.    2.  In Greek the verbs of this verse are in present time.  The fruitless branches are those not united to Christ in charity; those which bear fruit are capable of still closer union and richer yield.  Take away expresses permanent separation.  Cleanse: by removing obstacles to greater fertility.    3.  Cf. 13, 10; Acts 15, 9.    4.  The lesson of the imagery is their complete dependence upon Christ for success; they are also warned of the possibility of falling from grace.  Cf. Col. 1, 18; Eph. 2, 20-22.    5.  Cf. 10, 9.14.  Repeating the image for the sake of emphasis, our Lord offers a motive to continued union: without Him they can do nothing of supernatural value.    6.  Another motive is that separation must mean destruction.  Cf. Matt. 13, 36-43.  Dead branches and chaff were commonly used as fuel; cf. Ezech. 15, 1-5.    7.  Cf. Mark 11, 24 and parallels.  The warning is now repeated as a motive for adherence to Him in whom their prayers will be efficacious.    8.  Cf. 14, 13; 1 Pet. 2, 12.  The end of this fruitful union is that of Christ's mission, the glory of the Father.

9-17:  The lesson of the image of the vine: union with Christ.    11.  These things: the exhortation to union with Him and its condition.  True happiness can be had only through union with Christ; cf. 1 John 1, 4; Acts 13, 52; Rom. 15, 13.    12.  Cf. 13, 34; Mark 12, 31 and parallels.    13.  The example of His love for them; cf. Rom. 5, 6-10; 1 John 3, 11 f.    14.  Cf. Matt. 12, 50 and parallels; Luke 12, 4.    15.  Cf. 16, 12.  The relation of master to disciple at the time was like that of lord and servant; whereas the revelation of intimate knowledge is a token of friendship; cf. Prov. 25, 9.    16.  Cf. 6, 70; 13, 18.  The student usually chose the teacher under whom he would study; this was not the case with Christ and His Apostles.  Appointed you: i.e., destined you; cf. Acts 13, 47; 1 Thess. 5, 9; 1 Pet. 2, 8.  That whatever, etc.: co-ordinate with the two preceding clauses, and dependent on appointed.    17.  These things I command you, namely, that you love, etc.: cf. 13, 34; 15, 12.  The precept of charity is thus the sum of Christ's teachings; all can be reduced to the commandment: Love one another.

15, 18-27:  The World's Hatred.  United with Christ, the Apostles share His fate in the world.  The thought is more appropriate at the Last Supper, and we find no difficulty in accepting this passage as delivered on that occasion.    18.  World: men of worldly desires.  Cf. Matt. 10, 22; 24, 9; Mark 13, 13; Luke 21, 17; 1 John 3, 13 f.  If the world hates you: implying that it will.    19.  The cause of the world's hatred; cf. 7, 7.    20.  This emphatically predicts the persecution of the Apostles and the rejection of their teachings.  In 13, 16 the proverb is somewhat differently applied.  Their fate will be the future fate of Christ in the world.    21.  This is because the world is ignorant of Christ's mission.  The same division of men into two groups, so evident in this Gospel, will continue into the future.  Cf. Matt. 10, 22.  The fulfillment will be seen in Acts 4, 17; 5, 40 f; 9, 21; 12, 1 ff; cf. 1 Pet. 4, 14-16.    22-25.  This persecution is inexcusable, for, like the Jews, all others could know Christ if they would.  Refusal to accept the evidence of His miracles makes their offense fully voluntary.  The quotation in 25 is from either Ps. 68, 5 or Ps. 34, 19.  This fulfillment of a prophecy is further support for the Apostles' faith.    26 f.  Cf. Matt. 10, 20; Mark 13, 11; Luke 12, 12.  In spite of the world's hostile reception, the Apostles with the Advocate will bear witness to their Lord.  Who proceeds from the Father: the Catholic interpretation refers this to a divine emanation; this has been controverted by the Greeks, who understand it of the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit.  You will bear witness: the verb in Greek is present in form, but in the sense "are about to bear witness."  Cf. 1 John 1, 1; Acts 1, 21 f; 10, 40 f.  From the beginning: i.e., of the public ministry.

Confraternity Bible:

Union with Christ  1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser.  2 Every branch in me that bears no fruit he will take away; and every branch that bears he will cleanse, that it may bear more fruit.  3 You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  4 Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me.  5 I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.  6 If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn.  7 If you abide in me, and if my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done to you.  8 In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples.  9 As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you.  Abide in my love.  10 If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.  11 These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  13 Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends.  14 You are my friends if you do the things I command you.  15 No longer do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master does.  But I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  16 You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and have appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  17 These things I command you, that you may love one another.

The World's Hatred  18 "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before you.  19 If you were of the world, the world would love what is its own.  But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  20 Remember the word that I have spoken to you: No servant is greater than his master.  If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.  21 But all these things they will do to you for my name's sake, because they do not know him who sent me.  22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin.  But now they have no excuse for their sin.  23 He who hates me hates my Father also.  24 If I had not done among them works such as no one else has done, they would have no sin.  But now they have seen, and have hated both me and my Father; 25* but that the word written in their Law may be fulfilled,
'They have hated me without cause.'
26 "But when the Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me.  27 And you also bear witness, because from the beginning you are with me."


25: Pss. 34, 19; 68, 5.