(7) The parable of the vine and its branches. Incorporation of the disciples into one personality with himself. The image of the vine may have been suggested by some visible object. Either of the hypotheses of place would furnish a reminder of the nature and culture of the vine. Thus around the windows of the guest-chamber the vine may have thrown its tendrils, or on the slopes of Olivet the vineyards may have been prominent objects, or the burning heaps of vine-prunings may have suggested the idea. Again, if they were pausing in some apartments of the temple-court, the golden vine, the image of Israel, upon the gates may have supplied the point of departure. But our Lord needed no such help to his imagination, and it is by no means necessary to find an occasion for his imagery. The fact that he had the fruit of the vine before him, and had already made it symbolic of his sacrificial death, may have brought the thought nearer to the disciples. But the most simple explanation is that the vine was the image of Israel. The prophets and psalms abound with this reference (Isaiah 5:1, etc.; Ezekiel 19:10; Psalms 80:8-19), so that our Lord was giving a new meaning to a familiar figure. "The vine" was the beautiful image of that theocratic and sacramental community, which had its center in the altar and ark of testimony and the holy place; and the fruit of the vine was conspicuous in all the symbolic relations which, through priesthood and ritual enactments, brought individual Israelites into relation with the reconciled God. Here Christ says, "I" but we see from John 15:5 that the branches, which by reason of relation to him have and draw their life from him (or, to use his own words, "I and the branches," and "the branches in me"), constitute the veritable "vine" of the covenant.
The vine of the Lord of hosts (Psalms 80:1-19.) brought forth wild grapes (Isaiah 5:1-30., Ezekiel 19:10); Israel became "an empty vine" (Hosea 10:1). The failure of Israel to realize the ideal leads our Lord, as the true Israel of God, to say, I am the veritable (or, ideal) vine, including (as the context shows) in the idea of his complete Personality all the branches that derive their life from him. I with the branches, I involving my relation to the branches, and theirs to me—I as the Life-principle of humanity, together with those who are living in me—constitute and are the veritable vine of prophecy, the true Israel of God. So that this passage, from John 15:1-10, denotes and expounds with all detail the idea elsewhere expressed by the head and the members of a body. Sometimes the idea of the parts predominates over the idea of the unity, and sometimes the unity triumphs over the parts; but in the relation between Christ and the people of his love they are often lost sight of in him, and he becomes the only Personality. The "I" of this passage is not that of the eternal Loges, nor is it the mere humanity, nor is it simply the Divine-human Personality, but the new existence which, by union with him, formed one personage with him,—the believer being united to him as he to the Father. My Father is the Husbandman, not simply the ἀμπελουργός, or vinedresser, but also γεωργός, the owner of the land as well. It is a term applied in connection with the traditional significance of the vine to the head of the theocratic family. In Isaiah 5:1-30. it is the "Lord of hosts;" in 2 Chronicles 26:10 and in the parable of the vinedressers it is applied to the rulers of the people. The Arians were wrong in concluding from this a difference of essence between the Father and Son. The vine dearly includes the branches; and the owner of the vineyard, who is also the dresser of the vine, deals here with the whole reality. All, however, which the Husbandman is said in 2 Chronicles 26:2 to effect is the taking away of the fruitless though proud branch, and the cleansing and gentle pruning of the branch that beareth fruit. Now, Christ, as the Son, has all judgment committed to him, and, as the great Organ of Divine providence and rule in the Church, he is the Administrator of discipline. Christ is not disclaiming the operations which he in other places assumes, nor representing his own Personality as perfectly passive in the matter, but he is claiming for Jehovah of hosts the same relation to the true vine as he sustained to the degenerate vine of the old covenant; but he calls him "my Father." Alford says, "The material creations of God are only inferior examples of that finer spiritual life and organism in which the creature is raised up to partake of the Divine nature" (see Hugh Macmillan, D.D., 'The True vine').
Every branch in me; i.e. this unity of life between me and mine is graciously handled by the Father—my Father! The branches are of two kinds—unfruitful and fruitful. The indefinite statement, in nominative absolute, calls great attention to it. "Every branch in me that beareth no fruit." Then it is possible to come into this organic relation with the true vine, to be in it and to be a part of it, and to bring forth no fruit. If it were not for John 15:5 we might say that these branches were nations, customs, institutions, and the like; but the context forbids it. The relation to him must therefore be one that is insufficient to secure life, or fruit, or continuance. Baptized, communicating, professing, partially believing Christians there may be in abundance, who, though in him, yet cannot continue in him. (See stony ground, thorny ground, and unripe ears, of the parable of the sower; and the bad fish caught in the net (Matthew 13:1-58.; 1 John 2:19, etc.). He taketh away (cf. John the Baptist: "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down," Matthew 3:10; and Deuteronomy 32:32; Micah 7:1). What is done with the valueless prunings is said afterwards. Every branch that beareth fruit, he pruneth (or, cleanseth), that it may bring forth more fruit. Let the non-reappearance of ἐν ἐμοὶ be observed. The suavis rhythmus of Bengel is a mere accidental touch. The words αἴρει and καθαίρει rhyme with each other; but the latter word is not connected with καθαίρεω, a compound of αἵρεω, nor is it equivalent to καταίρει, the true compound of κατὰ with αἴρω; but it is derived from καθαρός, clean, and means "to cleanse with libations," and perhaps "to prune with the knife." The Husbandman aims at more fruit, more of meekness, gentleness, love, and faithfulness, in fact, all those fruits of the Spirit enumerated in Galatians 5:22,Galatians 5:23. The word κλῆμα, used for "branch" in these verses, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The word κλαδὸς, elsewhere used, means the smaller "branches" of a tree. The term means here vine-branch, the essential constituent elements of the vine itself, and is so used in Aristophanes, AEschines, and Theophrastus (see LXX., Ezekiel 15:2).
Now ye are clean—pruned, purged, cleansed, of the Divine Owner—by reason of the word ( λόγον) which I have spoken to you. The Father has been operating this cleansing process upon you by the whole of the ῥήματά (see John 15:7), which are gathered together into one mighty, quick, and active Loges. As we find in Hebrews 4:12, the Word is sharper than a two-edged sword, and capable of dealing summarily with "thoughts and intents of the heart." Augustine, on this passage, admits that it is the Loges which gives all its value to the water of baptism. "This purifying, sanctifying process has been performed upon you," says Christ. Then since "he who sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one," this continuance remains as the gracious possibility. The vital sap proceeds from Christ alone, and not from our corrupted nature, which must be grafted into his life and become part of him. Many may seem to be a part of Christ, to be sacramentally or outwardly united to him, and even to be drawing some real advantages from the contact, and yet their end is fruitlessness, rottenness, removal, fire. The branches which bear fruit never bring forth all they might produce, never realize their ideal. The pruning, cleansing process must pass over every soul, that it may more adequately fulfill its destiny. The cleansing, searching power of the Word will be freely exercised by the Divine Husbandman.
But there is a continuance of most intimate relations to be sustained between Christ and his disciples. If the two clauses are "imperative," or rather concessive, as many suppose, the finest meaning is evolved. Let these be the reciprocal conditions, let it be that you abide in me, and I in you. (Meyer and Lange add to the second clause μενῶ, "I will abide in you," making it into a promise following a command, and involving a very strong synergistic thought.) There is a mutual abiding or indwelling. The life-principle circulates through the branches, just as they perpetuate the living connection between the branch and the center of the life. The mutual relations show that human nature is in infinite need, and, apart from the new life-principle, will perish. The abiding of the branch in the vine suggests the continuance of vital connection' with the living stem, and supposes that connection kept up by constant faith, so that the believer is in a position to draw life from the legitimate source. The abiding of the vine in the branch—"I in you"—is the perpetual inflow into the subordinate life, of the living grace which makes the believer's life one with his Lord's. As he said (John 14:19), "Because I live, and ye shall live;" so now, As the branch cannot bear fruit from itself—from its own inherent vitality—except it abide in the vine—except this connection is maintained—in like manner no more (or, so neither) can ye, except ye abide in me. The affirmation does not cover, as Augustine implies, the impotence of the natural man, but it asserts the unfruitfulness of the disciple in his own strength. Some have found here revindication of the place of the human will in the work of grace. Let it be seen, however, that it is the "good will," the new nature, which has been wakened into normal activity, and which wills the thing most pleasing to the Divine Source of the life.
Christ returns to the main theme of the previous verse, but here discriminates more forcibly the vine from the branches, and yet holds and binds them into a unity. I am the vine, ye are the branches; which shows that he treated the disciples themselves as the organs of his earthly fruit-bearing; and then draws a larger circle and makes a complete and comprehensive statement on which the very existence of the "true vine," the "body of Christ, including the Head," depends, viz. He that abideth in me, and I in him—i.e. whenever the conditions of which I have spoken to you are fulfilled; wherever there are human souls deriving from their connection with me the full advantage of the life ever streaming forth from me—the same beareth much fruit; the entire end of their new life is secured. He beareth "much fruit." In other words, many of those blessed fruits of the supernatural life appear, which the great Husbandman desires to receive. And this strengthens the position of the previous verse, which threatened excision from the vine to such as bear no fruit. Such, though in one sense "in the vine," do not abide in him. Because apart from £—severed from—me ye can do nothing. The ὅτι suggests the question—Can the negative result justify the positive assertion? It does in this way. There are two premises: the first is," I am the vine, and ye are the branches," and the second is, "Severed front me a branch can effect nothing," having no independent fruitfulness or stability. All its powers are derived from this supernatural source, and depend on Christ's faithfulness to his own nature and functions; therefore, "He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit." The language here does not repress the endeavor of the human will after righteousness, nor pronounce a judgment on the great controversy between Augustinians and Pelagians. These words are not addressed to unconverted men, but to disciples, who have to learn their constant need of spiritual contact with their invisible Lord. Let a believer, let an apostle, sever himself from Christ, and live on his own past reputation or his supposed strength, on the clearness of his intellect, the vigor of his body, the eminence of his position, he can and will do nothing.
If any one abide net in me, he is cast forth as the branch—perhaps away from the vineyard, as well as from proximity to the vine—and is withered. The two aorists, ἐβλήθη and ἐξηράνθη, are simply cases of a common daily experience. These are the inevitable consequences of not abiding in the vine. We may imagine two ways in which this non-abiding in Christ, this severance from him, may be effected:
In this verse he returns once more on the principle of union with himself, and of what will come out of it. The disciples may be sorely distressed at this possible doom, for whatever may be the lot of those who do not obey the gospel and are ignorant of the Law of God, the curse here uttered fails heavily upon those who have been once enlightened, etc., and have apostatized (Hebrews 6:4-6). The anxiety of the apostles ]s grievous, and they desire deliverance from this doom. And our Lord next unfolds the principle of prayer which laid such hold on the mind of the Apostle John: If ye abide in me (and then, instead of adding, "And I abide in you," he says); and my words abide in you; i.e. if my teaching so abide with you as to control your thoughts and ideas, remain in you as your guide and inspiration, then ask £ whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done to you. A timid interpretation of this promise limits the "whatsoever" to deeds of service in the kingdom of God, and fears, with Augustine, to trust the sanctified will of the believer. But in such harmony with Christ as these words supply, all the conditions of acceptable prayer are present. The believer in Christ, full of his words, evermore consciously realizing union with Christ, charged with the thoughts, burning with the purposes, filled with words of Jesus, will have no will that is not in harmony with the Divine will. Then faith is possible in the fulfillment of his own desire, and prayer becomes a prophecy and pledge of the answer. The apostle, after many years of pondering and of putting these principles into practice, confirms the truth of them (1 John 5:14-16). This is the true philosophy of prayer. The psalmist had gone a long way in the same direction (Psalms 37:4, "Delight thyself in the Lord; and he shall give thee thy heart's desire").
Here the Lord shows what he knows will be and must be the dominant desire of the man who abides in himself, in whom his own word abides. Such a man will seek, yearn, ask, that he should bear much fruit. This prayer will be heard, and in this sublime synthesis between Christ and his disciples, says Christ, was my Father glorified. "In the fruitfulness of the vine is the glory of the husbandman," and in the answer of your prayers, and the regulation of all your desires, so ye shall become my disciples. £ "Discipleship" is a very large word, never altogether realized. Just as faith leads to faith, and love to love, and light to light, so does discipleship to discipleship. As Bengel says, discipleship is the fundamentum et fastigium of Christianity. On earth the vine reveals itself in the branches, and thus conceals itself behind them. "This explains why the diffusion of spiritual life makes such slow progress in the world—the vine effects nothing but by means of the branches, and these so often paralyze instead of promoting the action of the vine" (Godet). If the other text be maintained, Herein was my Father glorified, so that ye might bear much fruit, and that ye may become my disciples, the "herein" points back to the previous verse, and then the contemplated result of the arrangement, rather than the purpose of the glory, is the matter referred to.
Two ways of explaining this verse: Even as—inasmuch as—the Father hath loved me, and as I have loved you, abide in my love; i.e., as Grotius has put it, the first clause suggesting accordance with the mystery of the Trinity, and the second the mystery of redemption: "So do ye continue, or so do ye abide, in the amplitude of this double love which is mine, dwell in it as in a holy atmosphere, breathe it and live by it." But there is another and more satisfactory way of translating the passage: Even as the Father loved me, I also loved you; a fact of stupendous interest and transcendent claim. Heaven had opened over the incarnate Word, and other ears as well as his own had heard the Father say, "Thou art my beloved Son," etc. The Lord was conscious of being the Object of this infinite love before the foundation of the world (John 17:24), and of reciprocating and responding to it; and this love of the Father to him on his assumption of his mediatorial functions was the well-spring of his obedience unto death and after it (see John 10:17, note). Now, if the κἀγὼ is to be translated as above, Christ declares that even as the Father has loved him, he has' loved his disciples. Again and again he has emphasized this love to them (John 13:34), but here he asserts a loftier claim, viz. that his love to them corresponds with the eternal Father's love to himself. The one great fact is the ground on which he commands them to abide in his love. This is obviously a more explicit and more intelligible form of the commandment to abide in him. With Olshausen and Westcott, "The love that is mine "is not the love to Christ, nor the love of Christ exclusively, but a blending of the active and passive idea in "the love that is mine"—in the "love" lavished upon me from eternity, and to which I have eternally responded, which I have made known to you and expended on you and received back again from you. Abide in that love that is mine.
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love. This is the method and secret, the stimulus and proof, of abiding in the love of Christ. This is not exactly the converse (Westcott) of "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Doubtless there is a love which dictates obedience to the loved One's will. Our Lord here avers, however, something further, viz. that obedience issues in a higher love. The obedience here described is the outcome of love, but the power is thus gained to continue, dwell, in the Divine love, to abide, that is, in the full enjoyment and fullness of my Divine love to you. This is obvious from the confirmatory clause: Even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. The Lord kept the Father's commandment always, doing those things which please him, offering up his precious life, laying it down that he might take it again; and the consequence is that he then and there knew that he was filled with all the fullness of the Divine love. The very impressive line of thought pervades this passage, that what the Father was to him, that he would prove to his disciples. What the love of God was to the Christ, the love of Christ was to his disciples.
(a) To themselves. The Lord moves into another and wider development of the union between himself and his disciples. He drops the metaphor of the vine and the branches, and comes to the essence of the relation between them; that is, he does much to explain the meaning and nature of his abiding in them, and the character of the fruit which they were expected by the great Husbandman and Father to bring forth and ripen. A connection between the second section and the first is revealed in the new beginning.
These things I have spoken, and am still speaking, to you (perfect, not aorist) with this purpose, that the joy that is mine may be £ in you. This is variously explained. Augustine, "My joyfulness concerning you," which is scarcely the burden of the previous verses; Grotius, "Your delight in me," which would be somewhat tautologous; Calvin and De Wette, "The joyfulness capable of being produced in you by me, might be in you." But the words are more simply explained by Lange, Meyer, Lucke, Westcott, Alford, and Moulton, as the communication to his disciples of his own absolute and personal joy. "The joy that is mine," like "the peace which is mine," is graciously bestowed. A joy was set before him, the joy of perfect self-sacrifice, which gave to his present acts an intensity and fullness of bliss. It was this, in its motives and character and supernatural sweetness, which would be in them. If they receive his life into them, it will convey not only his peace, but that peace uprising and bursting into joy; and he adds, in order that your joy may be fulfilled, i.e. perfected, reach its highest expression, its fullness of contents and entire sufficiency for all needs. 1 John 1:1-4 is the best commentary on this last clause. The Old Testament prophets had often spoken of Jehovah's joy in his people, comparing it to the bridegroom's joy, and the bride's (Isaiah 62:5; Zephaniah 3:17). This entire idea is linked with 1 John 1:10; where the keeping of his commandments, from motives of love, will enable the disciples to "abide in his love." He now passes the whole law of the second table into the light of his joy and the power of his example.
This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I loved you. This (John 13:34) was given as a "new commandment;" now he gathers the many commandments into one, as though all were included in it (1 John 3:16). This thought is further vindicated by an endeavor to explain in what sense and way he was loving them.
Greater love than this (love) no one hath, namely ( ἵνα), that one should lay down his life for his friends. Meyer and Lange endeavor to maintain even here the telic force of ἵνα, "The love to you is of so consummate a character, that its object and purpose is seen in my laying down my life for my friends;" and Hengstenberg thinks so because probably a reference here is made to Isaiah 53:10, that our Lord was pointing to his atoning death—to a death needed alike by enemies and friends. Such an interpretation supposes the lofty purpose of the greatest love. To me, however, it seems more probable that the translation given above places the argument upon a surer; because more common, human, experience. The disposition to die for ungodly and for enemies is exalted by St. Paul (Romans 5:8) above the self-sacrifice involved in dying for the good. Still, which may be shown, and has often been shown in self-sacrificing death for those who are beloved, whatever other and wider ends may be discerned afterwards and spoken of in other connections, he is here asserting that the love of friendship is quite strong and intense enough to secure such a sacrifice. And he adds—
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you—just because I command you. So the natural conclusion will be, "I am showing you the highest possible fruit of my friendship—I am laying down my life for you. This is how I have loved you; therefore after this manner you are to love one another" (1 John 3:16; Ephesians 5:1, Ephesians 5:2). Our Lord then explains more and more to them how they can and do claim this glorious designation.
No longer do I call you servants, bond-slaves. True, he had in this very discourse spoken of them as his δοῦλοι, (John 13:13, John 13:16). Again and again in his parabolic teaching he had spoken of his disciples as servants of a Lord (Matthew 13:27; Matthew 22:4; Luke 12:37; and John 12:26, where another word is used). And moreover, later on in this very chapter (John 15:20), the word and thought return, so that this relation to him, gloried in by St. Paul (Philippians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 7:22), St. James (James 1:1), Jude (Jud Jude 1:1), and even St. John (Revelation 1:1), could be sustained in its integrity, even after it had been transfigured, and penetrated through and through with the light of love. Because the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. The slave is an instrument, doing by commandment, not from intimate knowledge, his Lord's behests. But you I have called ( εἴρηκα)—on previous occasions (see Luke 12:4; and cf. John 11:11, "Our friend Lazarus")—friends, for whom it is joy to die, and I have effected the transfiguration of your service into love. I have raised you by the intimacy of the relations into which 1 have drawn you from the position of slave to that of friend. You may be, you must be, my servants still; I am your Master and Lord; but you will be servants from a higher motive and a more enduring link and bond of union. For all things which I heard of my Father. Notice the source of the Savior's teaching. He was sent from God, trained and taught, as a man; he chose thus, humanly, to learn step by step, thing by thing, what to reveal of his own nature, of his purpose and plan in redeeming men, concerning the essence of the Father himself, and the entire significance of his self-manifestation. That which I heard I made known unto you. This is only in apparent contradiction with John 16:12, where he implies that there will be more for them to learn in the future, when the mystery of his death, resurrection, and ascension shall have been accomplished. The limitation of the πάντα ἂἤκουσα does not consist in doctrines as opposed to practical duties, nor in the plan of salvation for individuals as antithetic to principles of his kingdom, nor in principles as distinguished from what may ultimately be found in them, but in the capacities and circumstances of the disciples themselves (John 16:12 is a corollary of this solemn assurance). The reason of the present assertion is the proof that it thus supplies of their dearness to him. "Ye are my friends." He had told them all that they could bear. He had lifted the veil high enough for their truest joy and noblest discipline. He had bared his heart to them. He had kept back nothing that was profitable. He had proved his own friendship, and thus given a conclusive reason for his complete self-devotion on their account.
From the thirteenth to the fifteenth verse, our Lord, in a brief digression, has justified a portion of the great commandment of mutual love. That love is to correspond with his love to the disciples, and to explain his self-sacrifice to them; tie proves to them that they are his "friends," and therefore the objects of his dying love. Then the appeal is still further clenched by showing the origin and purport of his friendship for them. Ye did not choose me ( ἐξελέξασθε … ἐξελεξάμην are middle, "you chose … I chose … for yourselves or for myself"), but I chose you. I selected you as individuals, not excluding thereby a gracious choice of other souls; I destined you to accomplish work dear to me and essential to my kingdom. Christ has already told them that he must "go away" from' them to the Father, and that they "cannot follow him now, but afterwards;" and he has also convinced them that, though he go away, he will "come again, and abide with them," and also that "severed" from him they can "do nothing." Consequently when he adds, I appointed you (see 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 1:2; Acts 20:28, for similar use of τιθέναι) as my apostles and representatives, to do work in my Name, there is no contradiction in his adding, that ye should go forth, depart into the world with my message and in my Name, as I am "departing" to the Father, to rule over you from a higher and more august position. And bear fruit. A passing reference to the imagery of the first part of the chapter, showing that their "going forth or away" upon this mission would not separate them from his Spirit, or divide the link without which they could bear no fruit at all. The "fruit" may here, in its issues, suggest another class of ideas. In the first case the "fruit" was the "fruit of the Spirit," but here it would seem to be the abiding consequence of the "greater works" which they would be called upon to do. This rich fruit includes all the victories they were to win over souls, and all the effects of their ministry. "Fruit" in either case is only valuable when it is utilized by the Husbandman and according to his purpose. "Fruit" is a Divine self-exhaustion of the living organism; it does no good to the branch nor to the stem; it is the sacred property of the husbandman, whether for his own joy or for fresh seed. In this case your fruit will abide for ever, not in the branch, but in the Father's hands, that ( ἵνα) whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my Name, he may give it you. It now becomes a question whether the second ἵνα introduces a clause which is co-ordinate with the former or one logically depending on the preceding. Meyer concludes the first, viz. that the granting of prayer brings about the fruit and its continuance (so De Wette, Lucke, Stier, Godet); and Olshausen maintains the second, viz. that by going and bringing forth fruit we enter into that relation with God from which proceeds the prayer in the name of the Son which the Father will grant, thus bringing the passage into close relation with John 14:13 and John 16:23. Hengstenberg says, "By their fruit they would show themselves to be true disciples of Christ, and to such the Father can deny nothing." But Westcott and Lange endeavor to combine both ideas. The co-ordination of the two clauses requires the inversion of their order, or the introduction of καὶ before the second ἵνα. Moreover, the thought that Christ chose and appointed them in order that whatsoever they should ask God would give, is out of harmony with "the conditions of acceptable prayer" elsewhere insisted on; while the bearing of fruit—in both senses,
(a) that of Christian grace and
(b) Christian usefulness
—completes the idea in a concrete form of abiding in Christ and having his words abiding in them. Surely the view that the second clause is conditioned by the first, is far from obscure, as Luthardt says, while he virtually accepts the same interpretation: "If they cause themselves to be found in the right service of Jesus, then will be granted to them what they ask in the name of Jesus." Moulton confirms the same interpretation. (On the clause, "in my Name," see John 16:24.)
(b) The results of this union with Christ to the unbelieving world.
These things do I command you—clearly pointing back to John 15:12—that ye may love one another. This entire meditation culminates where it began. The digression comes back to the main theme Westcott regards it as the starting-point of a new theme, but our Lord did not return upon the idea of mutual love, but discusses the effect upon the world of that love to each other and to him which blended their personalities into one mystic unity. This verse shows how the new topic links itself with the previous discussion. His dying for them, thus proving his friendship for them, and all the other signs of his interest and confidence, have been set before them to this great end; for while the world is full of outrage and mutual animosities, the motive of his own entire self-manifestation is to awaken a new and higher type and model of humanity. Well may the familiar legend of St. John in the churches of Ephesus confirm this sublime truth. From this point to the end of the chapter (verse 27) Christ unfolded the consequences, to the unbelieving world, of the sacred union between himself and his disciples, and he discussed the reciprocal relations between his own disciples and the world, seeing that they are united with him in such a close incorporation.
You need net be surprised if the world hate you. "The world," κόσμος (five times used in strongly emphatic manner), is humanity apart from grace. This world will despise and hate your mutual love, will scorn your love to itself for my sake; will detest the higher and unworldly standard which you will set up. But here is some consolation. Know ( γινώσκετε imperative, as μνημονεύετε in John 15:20) that it has hated me before (it hated) you. "Me first, me most" (Lange). "The superlative contains the comparative" (Tholuck). "This hatred is a community of destiny with me" (Meyer). You know how it has hated me, and hunted me from Bethlehem to Egypt, from Nazareth to Capernaum, from Gergesa to Jerusalem. Be not surprised if it hate you.
If ye were of the world—i.e. still a part of it, deriving your life, maxims, and pleasures from it; if you could sympathize with its vulgar passion, and its temporary fleeting excitements, partisanships, and bigotries—the world would be loving ( ἐφιλεὶ, notice the form of the conditional sentence, a supposition contrary to fact, therefore anticipating the negative clause that follows, "but ye are not of the world;" notice also that φίλεω, the love of affection, not ἀγαπάω, the love of reverence and profound regard, which you are to show to one another and to me)—would be loving its own. The world loves its priests and mouthpieces, its own organization ("Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and Judas, and all devils," Luther); the world loves its own offspring. But because ye are not of the world, but I chose you, withdrawing you for my service, out of the world (the two meanings of ἐκ here differ; the first ἐκ denotes origin, the second corresponds with the compound ἐκ in ἐκλέγομαι), therefore the world hateth you. I have caused you to break with it, and you are no longer "its own." Just in proportion as you are one with me, you draw upon yourself its hatred of me. "The offence of the cross" is not ceased. Thoma comments on the harmony between this statement and that of the Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse, whose colors and features are here, as he thinks, drawn upon. It is profoundly interesting to trace the fulfillment of the Lord's prescient words in earlier Scripture (1 Peter 4:17; Romans 8:17; Galatians 6:17; Philippians 3:10; Hebrews 12:3).
Remember the word which I spake to you (see Matthew 10:24, but especially John 13:16, where Christ used the proverb), The servant is not greater than his lord. In John 13:16 the idea was used to enforce the spirit of humility and mutual service; it applies also here, but in another sense. The disciples are not to expect better treatment from the world than their Lord met with. If they (used of "the world 7, in its special concrete manifestations; "they" of Nazareth and Capernaum and Jerusalem correspond with the "they" of Lycaonia, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Rome) persecuted me, they will persecute—drive away from them—you also. The "if" is remarkably explicit; there is no doubt about it in Christ's case, and the supposition is one of definite and acknowledged fact, and the conditional sentence most positively assures them of antagonism and persecution. It is probable, though not certainly known, that these disciples all endured a living martyrdom, if not a cruel death in his cause. Then follows a sentence which has by some unwisely been supposed to be ironical, and by others to refer to another subject. If they—others, or many, or some—kept (i.e. "observed," "obeyed," not as Bengel supposed, "laid in wait," or "kept maliciously") my word, they will keep yours also £ Why should irony be interpolated here? Surely the whole con[act with the world was not an utter failure. Christ did win persons from all classes, and they loved him, with a passionate love; and so the apostles, and all who "go forth to bear fruit," may hope for some victories, and will travail in birth with the souls of men.
But all these things will they do unto you £. By way of consolation, he added, in view of the antagonism which the world would deliberately pursue towards them, For my Name's sake. Many suppose that the consolatory element is emphasized in this clause. However, the idea contained in the διὰ τὸ ὀνομά μου has been already expressed in the previous verses, and the whole of the verse so far merely gathers it up for a new and suggestive explanation. For the Name of Christ these disciples will not only pray, labor, suffer, and die, but in the power of it they will transmute their sorrows into raptures, their tribulations into glory. Because they know not him that sent me. If they had known the heart and nature of the Sender, they would have understood the mission of the Savior, and would neither have hated him nor his representations. (Here Lucke, Hengstenberg, Luthardt, and Lange are preferable to Meyer and Godet.) It is utter grief to Jesus that the world has been ignorant of the Father. This ignorance explains its antagonism to the representatives of Christ, and is the most appalling witness to its own depravation. No fact is more patent in the entire history of human thoughts about God than this, that "the world by wisdom knows him not," nay, it travesties his Name, misrepresents his character, distrusts, fears, and flees from the face of God. It was left to Christ to reveal the Father. In many different mental tendencies even Christendom has obscured or denied the Fatherhood.
If I had not come, as the incarnate Word of God, if I had not fulfilled the promises and come forth from God into the world to reveal the Father, and spoken to them, made known to them the thought and Spirit of God, made it possible for them to know the essence of the only true God, they had had £ no sin; they would not have resisted the highest love, their alienation in this respect would not have been a violation of the most solemn and gracious demands of the Father. The greatest sin is the refusal of the most complete revelation, and by the side of this all other sin becomes comparatively trivial. Our Lord could not have spoken of the hatred of himself or his disciples (so Lucke and Meyer) as this sin, because it would have been obviously impossible to hate a non-existent revelation or revealer. It is the deeper fall which is consequent upon a deliberate rejection of the highest love. Formerly, they would have been in the condition of those whose sins of ignorance God overlooks (Acts 17:30), and to whose ἁμαρτήματα in the past God has exercised πάρεσις, in anticipation of the coming grace. But now (Luke in numerous places uses this expression to form a strong contrast) they have no excuse or pretext for their sin, or concerning their sin. They can plead no justification. The word πρόφασις is an λεγόμενον, and is not "cloak or covering," but "palliation or excuse" for manifest sin. So long as men have seen no deeper into the nature of God than they can go with the aid of mere phenomena or ratiocination on the details of creation, their fears and even their hatreds formulated into grim legend, or uncouth idols, or repellent hypothesis, are a natural outcome of a nature so corrupt; but they ought to have found in Christ a deeper revelation, a summons to service and adoring love. In rejecting the idea of God which I have set before them they have no excuse. St. Paul (Romans 1:20) declares that those who have defamed the great characteristic of God which may be learned from nature are without excuse. Certainly our Lord does not say this here.
He that hateth me, and by implication will hate you, hateth my Father also. The hatred of goodness in me, the refusal to accept my representation of their Father and mine, becomes a distinct hatred of God himself as I have revealed him. A God of war, a God of partisan jealousy for the honor of Israel, a God who would palliate fratricidal feud, and overlook blasphemous indifference to his true character, they might have tolerated; but the Father-God, whom they might have heard and seen in Christ, is hated by them.
If I had not done among them works which none other did £ Here he comes down from "Word" to "work," and indicates the lower agency, that of works, which are neither inoperative nor valueless, and which transcend all other similar deeds. They are works of the Son of God, works of creation and of healing, triumphant conflict with the forces of nature and the malice of the devil, of a kind which may be compared with, but which exceed all human and angelic ministry. They had not had sin, but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. The works as well as the words of Christ might have softened their hearts, but the Divine claims, which were thus pressed home upon the conscience, provoked their malice. "They took counsel to kill him;" "They took up stones to stone him." They hated God as God, and goodness and truth just because they were goodness and truth. The awful condemnation is here pronounced, "that men loved darkness rather than light." They positively saw their Father, and hated him. This is the most terrible condemnation that can be pronounced on moral beings.
Strange is it that even here the ancient psalmist, in portraying the ideal Sufferer (Psalms 69:4; Psalms 35:19), bad seized this feature, and thus anticipated the treatment of the Son of God. But this cometh to pass (some clause of this kind must be introduced to give true force to ἀλλὰ and ἵνα) that the word might be fulfilled that has been written in their Law. Not only here but elsewhere Jesus speaks of the Psalms as a part of the Law (see note, John 10:34). Other passages may, from their similarity, have been in Christ's mind, as receiving fulfillment or abundant illustration in their conduct. The use of the expression, "the Law," has been pressed by many as proof that the writer of this Gospel did not regard himself as a Jew at all. Such numerous indications occur of the opposite conclusion, that this expression must receive the more rational interpretation—the Law in which they pride themselves, the Law which is ever in their mouths, the Law which itself contains the portraiture of their spirit: They hated me gratuitously; causelessly. The true Christ was, when he came, the object of reason-less, causeless hate and opposition. Jesus knew, when he claimed to be the Christ, that he would have to complete and fulfill the solemn portraiture of the suffering, burden-bearing, and rejected Christ, as well as that of the triumphant Christ and King.
John 15:26, John 15:27
A new source of consolation now appears. Already twice over he has spoken of the Paraclete (John 14:16 and John 14:26),
The vine and the branches.
This discourse of our Lord had relation to the new position of the disciples that would be created by his departure.
I. THE NATURE OF THE NEW SITUATION CREATED BY PENTECOST. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the Husbandman."
1. Christ is the true and essential Life of his people. He lives in his people by his Spirit. He is at once the Root and the Stock from which the branches derive their sap and nourishment.
2. The Father is the Husbandman, at once Proprietor and Cultivator. He engrafts the plants into the vine, as he supports and guards the vine itself, that it may bring forth fruit abundantly. Christ is "the Plant of renown;" "the Branch thou madest strong for thyself."
3. The operations of the Husbandman.
(a) God knows the inner character of every man.
(b) Fruit, as the result of growth, is the end of the plant. Therefore a fruitless man has lost the end of his being.
(c) God takes away the fruitless man
( α) by death,
( β) by judgment.
(a) by afflictions and
(b) temptations, that they may not be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ.
4. The instrumentality of this purging process. "As for you, ye are clean already because of the Word which I have spoken unto you? The Word of Christ is sharper than any two-edged sword for this severe discipline; it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. It thus enables the believer to see the plague of his own heart.
II. THE NECESSITY OF A PERMANENT FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me."
1. The union of the branch with the vine is the very law of its life and fruitfulness. "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20).
2. The union is continuously sustained in the believer's soul by constant acts of faith and love.
3. The absolute dependence of the believer upon Christ for all his power. "Apart from me ye can do nothing."
III. THE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF LIVING OUTSIDE THIS FELLOWSHIP. "If a mall abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they burn."
1. The man who rejects Christ is himself rejected.
2. The faculty that is disused loses its vitality, and is ultimately extirpated.
3. There is final judgment which ends in unquenchable fire.
IV. THE GLORIOUS PRIVILEGE OF THOSE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
1. The privilege is the abundant answer to prayer. Those who abide in Christ receive of his fullness; for all that is in Christ Jesus is theirs, through federal relationship and vital identification with him.
2. The condition of the privilege.
V. THE RESULT OF THIS CHRISTIAN FRUITFULLNESS. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and ye shall become my disciples."
1. The Father's glory is identified with the fruit-bearing vitality of the believer. It displays the glory of his power, grace, and mercy. All the fruits of righteousness are by Christ, to the praise and glory of God.
2. Christ is honored by a fruitful discipleship.
The condition of abiding under the power of Christ's love.
I. THE SPHERE AND CONDITION OF UNION. "As the Father hath loved me, I have also loved you: abide in my love."
1. The relation between the Father and the Son is the absolute type of the union between Christ and believers.
2. The love of Christ is the sphere or atmosphere in which the disciple lives. "We love him, because he first loved us."
3. The disciple is under no other condition than that to which the Son is subject with the Father. "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Our obedience is the proof of our love to Christ, while our love in turn assures our obedience.
II. THE ISSUE OF UNION—JOY. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy' might be in you, and that your joy might be full."
1. The joy of Christ is the joy. of stir-sacrifice, in constant obedience to his Father. This he desires his disciples to enjoy. Thus he guarantees their true blessedness.
2. Their joy will grow in power and depth by their obedience, as they will thus be drawn closer to Christ.
3. The obedience to which they are called is concentrated in brotherly love. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you."
(a) It is a new commandment (John 13:34).
(b) It is an old commandment (2 John 1:5).
(c) It commends itself to the moral nature of man.
(d) It is the mainspring of social happiness.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
III. INTIMACY OF THE RELATION WHICH CHRIST HAS ESTABLISHED BETWEEN HIMSELF AND HIS DISCIPLES. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. I no longer call you servants; because the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you."
1. The relation of God to his people under the Law was that of Master and servant. But Jesus establishes a new relation, which heightens the dignity of discipleship.
2. The condition of the new relation was a free, unrestrained confidence between Christ and his disciples respecting the full knowledge of Divine things.
3. This fuller knowledge would of itself enhance the intensity of love.
IV. THE DIVINE CHOICE, WITH ITS BLESSED DESIGN AND EFFECTS. "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you."
1. Whether the election is to salvation or apostleship, the ground or cause was not in man. The blessed initiative was taken by Christ.
2. Design of the election. "And appointed you, that ye should go and bear fruit." These words imply
3. Encouragement to labor. "That whatsoever ye ask the Father in my Name, he may give it you." A fruitful obedience has its reward in gracious answers to prayer.
The disciples and the world.
Our Lord turns to a new thought—the relation of his disciples to the world.
I. THE SCOPE OF ALL CHRIST'S TEACHING IS TO DEVELOP LOVE. "These things I command you, that ye may love one another."
1. This love is to be the characteristic of the new kingdom, and thus the strong attraction of the gospel.
2. Yet, essentially noble as it is, it will challenge the hostility of a world out of all sympathy with Christ.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE WORLD'S HATRED TO BELIEVERS. "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you."
1. It is a terrible indictment against the Jews that they should represent in their relations to Christ the overt hatred of" the world."
2. The hatred in question is a proof of the union between Christ and his disciples. He is the Head, they are the members of the persecuted body.
3. The thought of this union ought to strengthen the disciples in view of the world's hatred.
4. The principle of this hatred. "If ye were of the world, the world would love its own."
5. The world's hatred traced to its true source. "But all these things will they do unto you for my Name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WORLD FOR ITS HATRED. It had no excuse for its hostility.
1. There was the testimony of Christ's teaching, making the Father known, which would judge the world. "If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin: but now they have no excuse for their sin."
2. There was the testimony of his miracles. "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated me and my Father."
IV. THE NEW POWER THAT IS TO SUSTAIN THE DISCIPLES IN THEIR CONFLICT WITH THE WORLD—THE HOLY GHOST.
1. The mission of the Comforter. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me."
(a) He proceeds eternally from the Father. His witness, therefore, will be that of the Father himself.
(b) He will be sent by the Son. This implies the approaching departure of Christ to another world.
(c) He possesses, communicates, and applies the truth; for he is the Spirit of Truth.
(a) To the apostles, who will thenceforth understand the truth;
(b) to the world, in the dispersion of its darkness, in the new light thrown upon the Person and work of Christ, and in all the blessings of an understood gospel. "He witnesseth with our spirits that we are the children of God" (Romans 8:16).
2. The testimony of the apostles themselves. "And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The vine and the branches.
If these words were spoken in the house, they may have been suggested by a creeping, Clinging vine trained against the wall; if upon the footpath, by the vineyards on the slope of Olivet; if in the temple, by the golden vine wrought upon the gates.
I. THE VINE IN ITSELF IS A SUITABLE EMBLEM OF CHRIST. Its beauty, as planted, trained, or trellised; its grateful shade; its fruit, whether fresh and luscious or dried; its wine," that maketh glad the heart of man;"—all render it not only interesting, but suitable to set forth in symbol the excellence of the Redeemer, his nobility, beauty, preciousness, and use to man. Palestine was a land of vineyards: witness the grapes of Eshcol; Judah binding his foal to the vine, etc. Hence most naturally the vine was used in Old Testament Scripture as an emblem of the chosen nation, and hence Jesus in his parables put the noble plant to the same use. No wonder that our Lord applied to himself and to his people a designation so instructive.
II. THE VINE IS AN EMBLEM OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY AS THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE.
1. He is the divinely appointed Root and Stem upon which the branches depend; the Superior with which they, the inferior, are related in dependence. The vine-stock survives even if the branch be cut off and left to die. We are dependent upon Christ; he is not dependent upon us.
2. A close and vital union joins the branches to the vine, and Christians to their Lord. The life which is naturally Christ's becomes ours through our union by faith with him.
3. Yet it is a mutual indwelling. As Jesus himself has said, "I in you; you in me." What condescension and kindness in this marvelous provision of Divine wisdom!
III. THE BRANCHES ARE INDEBTED TO THE VINE FOR THEIR FRUITFULLNESS; SO ARE CHRISTIANS TO THEIR LORD. The branches of the living vine evince the life and health of the plant first by their vigor, their verdure, their luxuriance, their comeliness; signs of spiritual life are manifested in the Church of God by the peace, the cheerfulness, the spiritual prosperity, of its members. But the great aim of the husbandman's care and culture is that fruit may be yielded in abundance. What shall we understand by spiritual fruit, the fruits of the Spirit?
1. Perfection of Christian character.
2. Abundance in Christian usefulness.
IV. THE TREATMENT OF UNFRUITFUL AND FRUITFUL BRANCHES FIGURES THAT OF THE NOMINAL AND THE REAL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.
1. The cause of unfruitfulness is stated. "Severed from me ye can do nothing."
2. The doom of unfruitfulness is anticipated. To be cast out and burnt, like the vine-parings in the Kedron valley.
3. The condition of fruitfulness is mentioned. Close union with Christ.
4. The means of increased fruitfulness is also explained. Divine pruning and discipline, i.e. affliction and trouble tending to spiritual strength and fertility.
V. THE MOTIVES TO CHRIST-ABIDING AND FRUIT-BEARING ARE URGED. Stress is laid here upon two.
1. Thus the heavenly Husbandman, the Divine Father, is glorified.
2. Thus Jesus secures for himself true and worthy disciples. What powerful motives to induce Christians to be "neither barren nor unfruitful"!—T.
John 15:1, John 15:2
The Divine vinedresser.
This is one of several passages in our Lord's discourses in which he designates his Father a Husbandman, a Householder, a vine-dresser. Such similitudes are helpful to us in arriving at an understanding of the relations of the Father both to our Savior and to ourselves.
I. THE DIVINE HUSBANDMAN'S CARE OF THE VINE AND THE VINEYARD.
1. He plants the vine. That is to say, he appoints that his own beloved Son shall assume our human nature, and shall introduce into this world the principle of spiritual life, with all its fruitful and blessed results.
2. He watches over the vine which he plants. "I the Lord do keep the vineyard; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day" (Isaiah 27:3). As Jehovah cared for and tended the vine which was brought out of Egypt, for which he prepared room, and which he caused to take deep root, so that it filled the land; so he watched over and blessed "the true vine" which he with his right hand planted in the soil of earth.
II. THE DIVINE HUSBANDMAN'S TREATMENT OF THE VINE-BRANCHES.
1. Of those which are unfruitful. As the worthless branches of the vine are removed, cast into the fire, and burned, so is it with the lifeless and only apparent members of the organism constituted in the Person and ministry of Jesus Christ. The fate of the Jews is the best illustration of our Lord's meaning; they were like a branch that brings forth wild grapes, bitter clusters.
2. Of those which are fruitful. It might be supposed that for such, seeing that they are the occasion of satisfaction, there can be no severity. But as the vine is always carefully, closely, and unsparingly pruned by the skilful gardener, so is it with the faithful and fruitful Christian. Divine discipline is a fact, and it is the best and indeed the only explanation of much of human suffering. Religion does not make the sorrows of life, but it explains them, and it gives strength to bear them, and wisdom to profit by them.
III. THE DIVINE HUSBANDMAN'S ULTIMATE PURPOSES.
1. The fruitfulness of all the living branches of the living vine.
2. The promotion of his own glory; for the result is such as to bring out clearly the wisdom and the power of the Lord of all.—T.
Apart from Christ.
Our Lord does not say, "Apart from my doctrine ye can do nothing;" important though it is that Christian people should apprehend and receive his truth. Nor does he say, "Apart from my Church ye can do nothing;" though, if we understand the term "Church" aright, this would be manifestly true. But he says, "Apart from me." Christ is, then, himself everything to his people. He is the Power, the Wisdom, the Salvation, of God, and consequently, could we be sundered from him, we should be rendered poor and powerless.
I. TO BEAR FRUIT, IS THE END OF TRUE RELIGION, AND THE RESULT AND PROOF OF SPIRITUAL LIFE. When substituted for faith, "doing" is bad; but when it is the effect of faith, it is good and precious. Where do we look for evidence of the goodness of the tree? Is it not sought in fruit, good fruit, much fruit? The doing, or fruit-bearing, here commended by the Lord Jesus, is the performance of the will of God, is the imitation of the Master's own example, is the fulfillment of the behests of an enlightened conscience. It comprises personal holiness and active usefulness.
II. SEVERANCE FROM CHRIST RENDERS MEN POWERLESS FOR GOOD WORKS. The conduct and service which are distinctively Christian are only possible through personal union with the Savior.
1. This assertion places in a clear light the unequalled dignity of the Lord Jesus. This is a declaration which none but he could make. Yet, being the Son of God and the Source of spiritual life to men, he could justly advance a claim so vast. The disciple is nothing without his master, the servant nothing without his lord, the soldier nothing without his commander, the hand nothing without the head, the Christian nothing without Christ.
2. This assertion brings out into clear light the absolute dependence of Christians. Without our Lord's teaching and example, we, should have no conception of the highest moral excellence. Without his love, we should not feel the mightiest motive that can influence the soul to consecration and service. Without his mediation, we should not enjoy the favor of God, our Ruler and Judge. Without his Spirit, we should be strangers to the spiritual power which alone can enable feeble man to do the will of God. Without his promises, we should lack the encouragement and inspiration we need to cheer us amidst the difficulties, perplexities, and trials from which no earthly life is ever exempt. Without him, there would be no deliverance from the bondage of sin, and no prospect of what is truly the eternal life. "Neither," says Peter, "is there salvation in any other."
III. UNION WITH CHRIST IS THEREFORE UNSPEAKABLY PRECIOUS, AND FOR THE CHRISTIAN ABSOLUTELY NEEDFUL. As to the nature of this connection, there should be no misunderstanding. External privileges and professions are all insufficient. A spiritual and vital union is necessary, such as in the vegetable kingdom joins the branch to the vine-stock, such as in architecture unites the temple to its foundation. This union is effected on the human side by a believing reception of the gospel of Christ; on the Divine side by the impartation of the quickening Spirit of God. Such union is capable of increase in degree; a closer spiritual fellowship with the Divine Redeemer is the means of increased fitness for holy and acceptable service. The experience of the Apostle Paul was an illustration of this principle. He could say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me." He who would work more diligently, and wait more patiently, must come nearer to Christ, and so obtain the spiritual power he needs.
1. If this union with the living vine be not formed, let it be formed at once.
2. If it be suspended or enfeebled, let it be renewed.
3. If it be existing and vitally active and energetic, let it be prized and cultivated.—T.
It seems at first sight singular that our Lord's conversation, just at this solemn and pathetic crisis of his ministry, should be of joy. It seems as if consolation and peace were timely and appropriate themes, but as if the contrast between Christ's approaching sufferings and the joy which he claims to possess and to impart were too marked. This, however, is a glorious paradox.
I. THE ELEMENTS OF OUR SAVIOR'S JOY. His was:
1. The joy of self-sacrifice, which is unknown to the world, but of which Jesus has given us the one sublime example.
2. The joy of benevolence. He lost himself in those for whom he lived and died; their salvation was the inspiration of his endurance and the joy of his anticipation.
3. The joy of harmony with the Father's purpose and of securing the Father's approval.
II. THE IMPARTATION OF OUR SAVIOR'S JOY.
1. It comes through the identification of the disciples, through faith, with the Master.
2. It consists in living sympathy with his mind and purposes.
3. It increases and is fulfilled through their active employment in his service. The joy of the Lord is commenced in fellowship of labor, and consummated in the vision and recompense of heaven.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF OUR SAVIOR'S JOY. If it is contrasted with the joy of the worldly and sinful, such a comparison will bring out its immeasurable superiority.
1. For it is joy dignified and worthy of a moral and spiritual nature, whilst worldly joy is largely that of the inferior part of our being.
2. It is satisfying, whilst he that drinketh of the springs of earth thirsts again.
3. It is eternal, being not only progressive upon earth, but consummated in heaven. "Earth's joys grow dim, its glories fade away." But Christ's joy is the joy which is immortal.—T.
Christ's friendship for his people.
Human friendship is both beautiful to perceive and precious to enjoy. If affection and sympathy were thrust out of life, and if interest alone bound men together, how uninteresting and dismal would this world of humanity become! Every instance of friendship has its charm. The young, who share their pursuits and confidences; the middle-aged, who are guided by the same tastes, or principles, or occupations; the old, who interchange their recollections of bygone years;—all furnish examples of the power and the beauty of friendship even amongst faulty and imperfect beings. Who is not grateful for friends? Who would be without them? Who has not found friendship a charm, a stimulus, a power, in life? But whether earthly friends are few or many, faithful or unkind, there is a Divine, a heavenly Friend, whose love is declared to us by his own language, and proved by his own acts and sufferings. Christ deigns to call his disciples friends!
I. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP TOWARDS HIS PEOPLE IS A WONDERFUL FACT, DECLARED BY HIMSELF. The wonder is apparent when we consider who we are; when we reflect that we are poor, sinful, and helpless beings, who could not, apart from his assurances, venture to claim or to hope for the friendship of Christ. For who is he? Jesus is not merely the best of beings; he is the Son of God. It is hard for us to realize that "God is Love." But in the Person of Christ the eternal and supreme Lord comes down to our level, walks our way, dwells on our earth, reveals to us his love. He is the friend, the Well-wisher, of sinners; he is the Friend, in a fuller sense, of those who know and love him. If this is a wonderful truth, it is also a delightful truth.
II. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP IS PROVED BY HIS INTIMACY AND HIS CONVERSATIONS. Men's talk with one another often indicates their relationship. There is conversation which is ordinary and casual, and there is conversation which is confidential and intimate. There is the speech of acquaintances, upon common subjects; there is the speech of the master to the servant, conveying orders; there is the speech which is distinctive of close and affectionate friendship, upon matters of personal interest and concern. Now, the intimacy between the Divine Father and the Divine Son is of the most confidential and unreserved nature. The Son is "in the bosom" of the Father, i.e. is in possession of the counsels and feelings of his mind; he is "one" with the Father. it is very observable that, according to our Lord's own declaration, he, having perfect knowledge of the Father's thoughts, communicates those thoughts to his people. As the Father has no secrets from the Son, so the Son has no secrets from his disciples. This is a conclusive proof of our Lord's friendship for us. He makes known to us "all things" which the Father purposes that bear upon our salvation and eternal life. This accounts for the unexampled power of our Lord's language, its sublimity, its tenderness, fits authority. The words of the Redeemer are the communications of his friendship, the tokens of his brotherly love. To the unspiritual and unsympathetic, Christ's words are now, as they were when they were first spoken, uninteresting and without value. But the true friends of Jesus feel their sweetness and their might; applied by the Spirit of God, they are the lessons, the counsels, the promises, of a Divine and faithful Friend. How could he better prove his friendship than by revealing to us in his words the thoughts and the purposes of the Father's heart? There is one way even more effective, and this our Lord describes.
III. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP IS FURTHER PROVED BY HIS SELF-SACRIFICING BENEVOLENCE. Self-denial is a recognized element in true love and friendship. Men are found willing to give up money, time, rank, etc., for the benefit of their friends. But it is the highest proof of love when one is found ready to resign life to secure the life of a friend. "Peradventure for a good man one would even dare to die." This is the proof of self-sacrificing friendship which the Lord Jesus was resolved to give. He laid down his life for the sheep. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus not only gave us knowledge by his teaching; he gave us salvation by his death. This willing sacrifice was in order to win our hearts, to make us his friends indeed, to bring to bear upon our nature a spiritual, principle and power, to bind us to himself for ever by the chains of gratitude and devotion.
IV. CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP IS PROVED BY HIS WHOLE DEMEANOR AND HIS WHOLE TREATMENT OF US NOW THAT HE HAS ASCENDED. In his ministry he taught us, by his death he saved us, in his mediatorial life he blesses us. He is a sympathizing Friend, touched with a feeling of our infirmities. He is a forbearing and patient Friend, who is not repelled by the imperfect response he meets with on our part. He is a practical and helpful Friend, who expresses his friendship in deeds and spiritual ministrations. He is an unchanging and eternal Friend. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"—T.
Our friendship for Christ.
Friendship is a relation between two parties. On both sides it is voluntary. It is mutual and reciprocal. We have seen how Christ shows his friendship towards us. We have to consider how we prove our friendship towards Christ, what he justly expects and requires from us.
I. OUR FRIENDSHIP FOR CHRIST IS SHOWN IN THE FEELINGS OF OUR HEARTS TOWARDS HIM.
1. We admire his character. In varying degree we admire the principles, the dispositions, the conduct, of our earthly friends. But inasmuch as there is no imperfection in the character of Immanuel, there is no qualification in our love towards him.
2. We are attracted by the congeniality of his nature. There is a "drawing" of heart towards him, which originates in some sympathy of disposition, and which issues in a more complete sympathy.
3. We delight in his society. Great was the privilege of the chosen twelve, who were permitted to enjoy the company of their Lord during his earthly ministry. But this fellowship is a privilege open to us, who, not having seen Jesus, yet love him. The above are ordinary manifestations of friendship. But the relation between Jesus and his people is unique, and evokes feelings altogether special. Thus:
4. We revere his Divine dignity and glory. This is growingly apprehended with growing knowledge of Christ and with growing conformity to Christ. As we approach a mountain we realize its magnitude; the nearer we draw to Christ, the more majestic and venerable does he appear to our spiritual vision.
5. We are grateful for his love and sacrifice. Gratitude does not enter as an element into ordinary human friendship, which is rather interfered with than promoted by obligations. But our indebtedness to the Lord Jesus is immeasurable, and gives its own color to the friendship subsisting between him and us.
6. We cherish devotion to him. As Christ is infinitely the superior in this spiritual kindred, it is natural that he should receive from us the consecration of heart and life.
II. OUR FRIENDSHIP FOR CHRIST IS SHOWN IN OUR OBEDIENCE TO HIM
1. This is a paradox. It seems at first sight altogether incongruous that obedience should be required of friends. The master commands his servant, but he does not command his friend. And in this very passage Jesus says, "I call you not servants, but friends"
2. Yet Jesus makes this service and submission a proof of his disciples' friendship. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." Our Lord cannot divest himself of his authority. Our Friend is a King, and he does not cease to be a King even when he toils and suffers for us.
3. The Divine law is this: Love is the best motive to obedience, and obedience is the best proof of love. A forced, mechanical service is not what Christ wants, is not what Christ will accept. It is a willing, cheerful, cordial service which he asks, and without which no worthless words and formal acts can satisfy him. It is the part of the Christian to serve his Master, but not in the spirit of a bondman; rather in that of a grateful and affectionate friend.
III. OUR FRIENDSHIP FOR CHRIST IS THE BASIS OF OUR MUTUAL FRIENDSHIP AMONG OURSELVES.
1. Here we find the motive to the friendship which is appointed as the mark of true discipleship. It is our Lord's new commandment that his disciples love one another. In this love all is comprised; it is the fulfilling of the Law. The true Church of Christ is the society which is cemented by reciprocal confidence and by brotherly love.
2. Here, too, we find the model of Christian friendship. "As I loved you." Such is the rule, such is the appeal, of our Savior. The powers that tend to separation, to distrust, to enmity, are many and mighty. ' A great, comprehensive, constant power is needed to counteract and vanquish these. This power we have in the manifested love and the uttered commandment of our redeeming Lord.—T.
Choice and appointment.
That these words refer in the first place, and indeed, in their complete application, altogether to the apostles, seems unquestionable. Yet there is a great principle embodied in them which has its working out in the experience of all Christ's people in every place and through the whole dispensation.
I. THE DIVINE SELECTION. Notwithstanding that the Lord Jesus had just expressly repudiated speaking of and treating his disciples as servants, and had just designated them his friends, it is plain that nothing could be further from his thought than any intention to place them upon an equality with himself. They were given clearly to understand that, if they were his friends, it was because he had chosen and designated them to this position. This relation is indeed not arbitrary, being, like every Divine act, the expression of perfect wisdom. Yet it is impossible for us to comprehend the reasons why Jesus chose those whom he did choose in preference to others. Not all were worthy of his choice, and amongst those who adhered to him there were degrees of attachment, degrees of merit, degrees of usefulness. Considering the case of the twelve, we observe:
1. Their call. This took place early in the Lord's public ministry. And it was by the presentation of his own Person, by the utterance of his own voice, that Jesus called his apostles. There was not only the outward call; there was the inner, the spiritual summons, which they felt in their souls, and the authority of which they readily recognized.
2. Their appointment or ordination. This was a gradual choice, but it was formally completed when, after our Lord's resurrection, he expressly commissioned them to go among Jews and Gentiles, proclaiming the gospel of salvation by faith and of obedience unto life eternal.
3. There is what corresponds to this gracious election in the experience of all Christ's friends and servants. It is his summons which bids them forsake their sins and their self-confidence, and follow him. Thus their spiritual life begins by a holy and an effectual calling. He calls, and the souls of his people respond to the voice from heaven. And whilst Jesus calls his people to the privileges, he calls them also to the consecrated service of the new life. There is a ministry, a mission, though not an apostleship, for every true Christian. Our work for Christ is only authorized by Christ himself.
II. THE PURPOSE OF THE DIVINE SELECTION. The first apostles were chosen and ordained for a purpose. The design of the Lord was that they should "go and bear fruit." This involves:
1. Effort and activity. To go, when sent, is to acknowledge the authority of the Sender, and to put forth endeavors to do his will. Religion does not consist in simply receiving truth and enjoying privilege; it comprises what is done in response to truth received and privilege enjoyed.
2. Fruitfulness, as may be learned from the earlier verses of the chapter, consists in a holy character and life, and in benevolent and Christ-like labors for the welfare of our fellow-men. Divine choice and ordination have respect to the Church universal and to the world. Men are elected to posts of honor, of service.
3. The permanence of this fruit is the sign of a veritable election by God. Some work is only apparent and temporary, but that which God blesses and approves is real and lasting. The life which is rooted in God issues in fruit which remains in time and eternity. The fruits of the Spirit endure forever.
III. THE PRIVILEGE INVOLVED IN THE DIVINE SELECTION. This is the assured answer to prayer. The connection appears to be this: the purpose of election being that fruit may be borne to the Divine glory, grace is obviously needed in order that this purpose may be realized, that a blessing may rest upon faithful toil; and Christians are assured that whatsoever they may need in order to this end is within their reach. The wonderful language in which our Savior assures us of this privilege demands our careful attention.
1. On God's side the promise is unlimited. "Whatsoever ye shall ask" shall be given. This corresponds with the munificent provision of Divine bounty assured in the statement, "All things are yours."
2. On man's side there is a stipulation and condition imposed by Christ as of indispensable necessity; what is asked must be asked in Christ's Name. That is to say, requests must be in accordance with his will, must be presented in reliance upon his advocacy, and will be granted for his sake.—T.
The world's hatred.
Our Lord enjoined that within the Church there should prevail love and brotherhood. But at the same time he foretold that from without Christians should meet with hatred and opposition, enmity and persecution.
I. EVIDENCES OF THE WORLD'S HATRED OF CHRISTIANS.
1. We are constrained by facts to rank with the world, in this respect, the adherents of the Jewish system. As his own countrymen were our Lord's opponents and in truth his real murderers, so were the Jews the earliest opponents of the Church of Christ. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles exhibits the hostility of the leaders of Israel to the society which was called by his Name whose crucifixion they had brought about. The Jews attempted to silence the first preachers of Christianity. And this they did under the influence of hate towards Christ himself. They regarded the new religion—for such it seemed to them—as subversive of their own, not discerning that it was the fulfillment of what was Divine in Judaism. And they hated a doctrine which, by laying stress upon the personal and spiritual elements in religion, imperiled their own rulers' authority, and the whole system of form and ceremony with which they were associated.
2. Our Lord doubtless looked forward to the time when the vessel of the Church should quit the narrow straits of Judaism, and should sail out into the open seas of the world, there to encounter fiercer storms. Then he foresaw the hatred of the world should take a more formidable, though not a more virulent, shape. In the Roman empire, Christianity, we know as matter of history, encountered fierce hostility mainly because of its exacting, exclusive claims, because of its open hostility to all that savored of idolatry, and because of its rapid, and (to the heathen) unaccountable progress. Hence the several persecutions which arose under successive emperors, verifying the predictions uttered by the Divine Founder of our faith. Hence the long roll of confessors and martyrs who sealed their testimony with their blood.
3. But it must not be overlooked that, where persecution is impossible, hatred often prevails, and manifests its presence and power in many distressing forms. There are at the present time, even in the midst of professedly Christian communities, not a few who are suffering from that hate which our Lord here foretold.
II. EXPLANATIONS OF THE WORLD'S HATRED OF CHRISTIANS.
1. The world knows not God, and hence hates the Church which is in possession of this knowledge. Had the world known God, it would have recognized among Christians the tokens of the Divine presence and operation.
2. Christians are not of the world. The world loves its own, but hates that which is out of harmony with it. If Christians do not adopt the world's spirit and language and habits, this singularity and nonconformity naturally excites dislike and provokes to ill treatment.
3. It cannot but be that the world must be rebuked by the presence of the Church, confronting and reproving it. Whether by a public protest against the world's sins, or by the silent protest of a pure and upright life, Christians are bound to a course of action which will bring down upon them, now and again, the enmity and the anger of the world.
III. CONSOLATION FOR CHRISTIANS UNDER THE WORLD'S HATRED. All true comfort comes from that personal relation to the Lord Jesus upon which such stress is laid in these discourses recorded by St. John, and which is exhibited as the inspiration not only of consecrated activity but also of patient endurance.
1. The hatred which besets Christians was first directed against Christ himself.
2. The servant must expect to follow in his Master's steps, and to meet with the same treatment.
3. When Jesus says, "For my Name's sake," he presents to us a motive to patience which is divinely fortifying and persuasive.—T.
It is significant and affecting to find that in the last deliberate discourse which our Lord Jesus addressed to his disciples, he not only administered comfort to his friends, but uttered words of sad rebuke to his enemies. He knew full well that the attitude which was taken towards him by the Jewish leaders was typical of the regard and treatment of multitudes besides; and his reproaches have a scope far beyond their immediate application.
I. THE MANIFESTATION OF UNBELIEF. This is to be seen in the open rejection and persecution of the Lord Jesus.
II. THE CAUSE OF UNBELIEF. This is not intellectual difficulty, but moral repugnance. The Jewish enemies of Jesus hated his holy character, his denunciations of their worldliness and hypocrisy, his lofty and spiritual standard of teaching, his claims to supreme authority.
III. THE GUILT OF UNBELIEF. This is especially to be recognized in what unbelief of Christ involves. Hatred of the Father, God, and consequent hatred of his holy Law and his benevolent purposes,—such is the charge which Jesus brings against his foes. In rejecting Christ, they were showing themselves to be out of sympathy with the mind and will of him who is eternal righteousness and goodness. This was their sin and condemnation.
IV. THE INEXCUSABLENESS OF UNBELIEF. As powerfully set forth by Jesus Christ in this passage, this is to be observed in three respects.
1. Christ s words, his incomparable teaching, were a witness to his authority, and should have been received with reverence, gratitude, and faith. It should have been an all-sufficient witness to him who spake as never man spake. The truths he revealed, the laws he imposed, the promises he gave, were all such as would have commanded the respect of those morally prepared to appreciate the utterances of One who came from heaven.
2. Christ's marvelous works were well fitted to second the impression produced by his words. They, indeed, appealed to an inferior faculty of human nature, but they were necessary in order to the completeness and justice of the impression to be made upon the minds of our Lord's contemporaries. His enemies did not deny the reality of our Lord's miracles, but they misinterpreted them, attributing them, by an absurd ingenuity, to an infernal source.
3. The hatred, enmity, and unbelief of the Jews were inexcusable because they were "without a cause." By this we must understand, not that there was no motive in the minds of his foes, but that there was no justification for their conclusions or for their conduct.—T.
John 15:26, John 15:27
Witness, Divine and human.
The work of God in the world, so far as it is spiritual, is effected by human agency. Upon man's heart the Author of life and salvation works by means of truth and love, embodied in human language and human actions. The Word, in acting as "the faithful and true Witness," "became flesh." And in this dispensation, whilst Christ is the Savior and the Lord of men, Christ is revealed by the Spirit to human hearts, and it is through human agency, thus called into action, that the kingdom of God is advanced, and the gracious purposes of God fulfilled.
I. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD TO CHRIST.
1. This is a Witness Divine in origin and nature. He proceedeth from the Father, and all his acts and operations are Divine.
2. This is a Witness possessing the very highest qualifications. This appears even from the appellations by which he is here mentioned: "The Spirit of truth," whose special office it is to make the Word of God, the gospel of salvation, real, living, and powerful over the nature of man; "the Comforter," or Advocate, who comes to the feeble and helpless disciple of Christ, and pours into him celestial strength and wisdom.
3. This is a Witness commissioned by Christ to testify of himself. What authority does the Lord Jesus claim, when he says, "Whom I will send unto you;" and how distinct is the declaration of the purpose of his mission in the promise, "He shall testify of me"!
II. THE WITNESS TO CHRIST BORNE BY HIS OWN DISCIPLES.
1. Their qualifications.
2. The method of their testimony. The apostles and other disciples of Jesus bore witness to him:
3. The matter of their testimony. Chiefly, if not exclusively, their witness was to relate to Christ himself.. This was an appointment of Divine wisdom; for the Lord Jesus was incarnate Wisdom, Truth, Pity, and Benevolence. It has ever been found in human experience that those who have received the inspired witness to Immanuel, have received with him all the spiritual and immortal blessings which God made him the Medium of carrying to human souls.
APPLICATION. The Holy Spirit is still witnessing in the Church to him who is its Savior and Lord; and it is the part of all who receive this witness in the power of the same Spirit to repeat and extend the testimony.—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
The vine and the Husbandman.
I. CHRIST AS THE TRUE VINE. We have here:
1. The idea of an importation. It is a foreign vine, and not indigenous to this soil; for it is the "true vine," and whatever is absolutely true must come from the other side, from the sphere where all is absolutely true and real. This world lost its truth when it severed itself by sin from heaven. Then this plant withered, and would not grow; but God left not the earth, but opened a new communication between it and heaven, and proceeded to create a new earth and a new heaven, and make all things new, a new life, a new vine, a new man—the germ of a new and true vegetation altogether. Jesus. as the true vine, is evidently not entirely the produce of this world, but the produce of another clime and a Diviner Soil; but still the produce of a Diviner soil is transplanted and wedded to this, so as to make it most natural and real. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." The Divine vine was planted in the soil of humanity, so as to make it true, whether looked upon from the Divine or human point of view.
2. The fulfillment era natural symbol.
II. THE FATHER AS THE HUSBANDMAN. "And my Father," etc. We have here:
1. Divine ownership. The husbandman is not always the owner of the vine; but in this case he is. He is the Owner and the Husbandman. Christ, the true vine, confesses this with delight. The vine owns the branches and the fruit; but the Divine Husbandman owns the vine altogether. "We are Christ's but Christ is God's."
2. Divine and closest relationship. "My Father," etc. There is more than mere ownership here—the closest and dearest relationship. The Son and the Father are one, in nature, essence, life, purposes, and will; so that between Jesus as the vine and his Father as the Husbandman there is the closest unity, and a relationship which cannot exist in any other 'husbandry.
3. Divine cultivation. Much depends upon proper cultivation with regard to the prosperity and fruition of the vine. This requires a good husbandman. If left to itself, undressed and uncultivated, deterioration and even barrenness will soon follow. The "true vine" will not suffer on this account; it has not been left to strangers and to the fortunes of mere self-interest, but is under the constant and tender and most efficient care of the Divine Father. No one knows but Christ himself what he owes, in his mediatorial life and work, to the Father; to him he attributes his all—his life, his success, his support, triumph, and glory. He refers here to his union with the Father as a most important fact. "My Father is the Husbandman." The true vine has a true Husbandman; this will ensure for the vine and the branches the highest cultivation and the most glorious results.—B.T.
The union of Christ and believers.
Notice this union—
I. IN ITS NATURE AND SOME OF ITS LEADING FEATURES.
1. It is spiritual It is not physical and material, neither is it based on the same principles as the unions of this world, which are carnal and corrupt; but the principles of this union are spiritual, such as love, faith, and hope. It is the union of the human with the Divine, the spirit of man with the great Father of spirits—the union of life with life—the life of the soul with the life of the Savior, by faith and a Divine birth. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power," etc.
2. It is vital and real. It is not the union of a stone with a stone in a building, nor the union of an atom with an atom in a material body, but the union of life as that of the vine and the branches, the union of believing souls with the Almighty Savior, and that of living spirits with the ever-living Christ. It is real, though on the part of believers at best imperfect. It is not imaginary, but a fact—as real in spiritual growth as the union of the vine and branches in natural growth.
3. It is mutual. As the vine and the branches. Mutuality underlies and conditions every union. There is mutual affinity, adaptation, and willing consent. There is in this union a willing blending of Divine and human life and energies. It is mutual, and mutual conditions must be observed. Both are dependent on each other; but with this difference—the branches are more dependent on the vine than the vine on the branches; a branch may wither and fall, or be lopped off, but another will grow instead. The disciples are more dependent on Christ than he on the disciples. He will have other disciples, but they will never have another Savior.
4. It is natural. It is the natural consequences of things; as natural as the union of the vine and branches. The vine is in the branches, and the branches are the natural outgrowth of the vine. Christ is the Life and Support of believers, and they are the natural outgrowth of Christ. The union is not arbitrary, but according to the laws of spiritual growth. A vine without branches, and the great Teacher without disciples, would be unnatural; but the vine and the branches, and Christ and believers in real union, is most natural and beautiful.
5. It is very near. No union can be nearer than that between the vine and the branches. It is apparently and more permanently near than that of parents and children. The children may leave the parents and form other connections, and still go on in prosperity. But this can never happen with regard to the vine and the branches. Such is the union between Christ and believers. It is so near that they are ever in him and he in them, imparting to them his grace and Spirit in a continual flow, and through them carries on his grand purposes of love and salvation.
II. IN ITS IMPORTANCE. This will appear if we consider:
1. That this union is essential to fruit-bearing. "As the branch cannot bear fruit, except it abide," etc.; "Without me ye can do nothing."
2. Fruit-bearing is the essential consequence of vital union with Christ. "The same beareth much fruit." Let the condition be faithfully observed—abiding in him—and the consequence will inevitably follow. It would be as easy for the stream to cease to flow while the fountain springs, or for the earth to be in darkness while the sun is in its meridian splendor, as for believers to be barren while in living union with Christ. And this is all-important. If the branches fail in fruitfulness, they fail in all that is valuable; and so with regard to man.
3. Discontinuance of this union is attended with the most terrible consequences. "If any man abideth not in me, he is cast forth," etc. This implies:
III. IN ITS HAPPY RESULTS. Consider these:
1. In relation to believers.
(a) It is visible and practical. It is fruit, the visible evidence of a Divine union and life, and is embodied in a useful form, in holy thoughts, devotional aspirations, and noble deeds—deeds of faith and charity; self-sacrificing deeds, which glorify God and benefit man.
(b) It is genuine in quality. It is fruit, the real outgrowth of the soul in union with Christ, and the same in quality as the fruit of Christ himself, and fit for use.
(c) It is great in quantity. "Much fruit." The soul is developed into its utmost capacities, and this is genuine fruition, the highest end of life, and the happy result of union with him who is the Life.
2. In relation to the Father. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye," etc. The vinedresser is glorified, honored, and satisfied by the fruitfulness of the vine; his heart is gladdened at the time of vintage. The Father, as the Husbandman of the "true vine," is specially glorified when the branches bear fruit, and much fruit. The greater the fruit, the greater is his glory and joy; he is infinitely happy to see his labor not in vain, his fatherly love, watchfulness, and expense are not for naught, hut return with interest in fruitful branches. He rejoiceth over one sinner that repenteth, over one branch bearing a single fruit; what must be his over the "much fruit "? Our greatest good is inseparably connected with his greatest glory.
3. In relation to Christ. "So shall ye be my disciples." Complete discipleship is a great honor and blessing to the believer; fruitful discipleship is a great satisfaction and joy to Jesus. The branches bear fruit through the vine, and the vine through the branches. The disciples bear fruit through Christ, and Christ bears fruit through them; their fruit is really his. It is through them chiefly he blesses and saves the world; they are the mediums of his love and life, and in them he sees the travail of his soul, and is satisfied. They are proud of him, and he is proud of them, and refers to them with delight as his disciples; so that the Husbandman, the true vine, and the branches together reap the benefit of, and are highly satisfied with, the happy results of the happy union.
1. This union on the part of Christ is perfect. Its bases are perfect, and its conditions are perfectly fulfilled. Its discontinuance will never happen on account of any lack in him as the true vine, or in his Father as the Husbandman.
2. On our part it is as yet imperfect. It is at best and of necessity so. We are imperfect beings, and perfection under the best conditions and advantages is not attainable at once.
3. To make this union perfect is our most solemn duty, and demands our best effort. For it is all-important, involves our highest interest, and by neglect is in danger of being destroyed. In vain we attempt to realize the end of our existence—fruit-bearing—apart from him. Our solemn duty is, by diligent faith, watchfulness, and prayer, to abide in him, and all besides will follow.—B.T.
The joy of the Master and the joy of the disciples.
I. THEIR DIFFERENCE.
1. One is the fountain; the other is the stream. All the joy of the disciples sprang from his. Apart from his joy there would be none for them. Although there is an inseparable connection between the fountain and the stream, between the cause and effect, between the sun and its light and heat, between the joy of Jesus and that of his disciples, yet there is a distinction, and such a one that the fountain will ever be a fountain, and the stream will ever be a stream. The joy of Jesus will ever be his own, and that of the disciples will ever be theirs as the stream from the fountain of joy.
2. One is independent; the other is not. The joy of Jesus, which was specially his own, was independent of that of his disciples; but theirs was dependent on his, as the stream is dependent on the fountain, and the branches on the vine. The sun would be a sun if all the planets were blotted out and all the stars fell. So much cannot be said of the planets and stars if the sun were extinguished. Jesus had a joy which was absolutely his own. As he had a glory with the Father before the world began, so he had joy which he could not but experience apart from human consequences and relationships. But the disciples had no such joy; theirs was dependent on, as it was derived from, his.
3. One is infinitely capacious; the other is not. It is finite. Jesus' joy, like himself, was infinite. No vessel can hold more than its fill. Thus the joys of men differ in degree according to their different capacities. The Divinity of Christ, the greatness and vastness of his work, the glory and dignity of his Person, and the perfection of his character, made him capable of infinite and boundless joy, compared with which the greatest joy of the most perfect disciple would be but a drop to the ocean, a ray to the sun, and an atom to the universe.
4. One is ever full; the other is not. The joy of Jesus was absolutely full and complete—a continual flow with- out an ebb. True, he was "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." But this was not his own. "Surely he bore our griefs," etc. His soul was continually joyous, and his nature continually happy. And now, when his earthly work was not actually completed, with the terrible battle and more than human pain before him, his soul was full of joy. The sorrow and grief were only waves on the surface, and dashing on the human side of his being; but down in the depths of his nature there was only joy in all its serenity, purity, and fullness. But not so the joy of the disciples. It was essentially incomplete. Only a spark, a flickering flame, already threatened with extinction by his departure.
II. THEIR SAMENESS. Although distinct, so as to be spoken of separately as "my joy" and "your joy," yet there is a similarity and a sameness.
1. They are the same in nature. The stream is of the same nature as the fountain, the drop as the ocean, the fruit as the tree. The joy of the disciples is of the same nature as that of Jesus.
2. They are the same in effect. Joy as an emotion is, pleasant, buoyant, happy, and inspiring. These were its effects in Jesus, and in a degree in his disciples. In the degree they experienced it, it made them happy in trouble, hopeful in sorrow, buoyant in depressed circumstances, and joyous even in tribulation. Pure joy is the same in its effects in the heart of the creature as in that of the Creator, in the heart of the disciple as in that of his Master.
3. They are the same in their sources. What were the sources of Jesus' joy, or what joy was his?
III. THE PERFECTION OF THE DISCIPLES' JOY.
1. The perfection of their joy was not yet attained. This could not be expected. They were young disciples, ignorant and imperfect. Their training was as yet only partial, and there were intervening severe trials. Their Master was about to leave them by death; and their permanent Teacher and Sanctifier, the Holy Spirit, had not yet fully come. Between his departure and the coming of the Spirit there was sadness. They were doubtless greatly surprised at his speaking of his joy and theirs at such an hour; still they had the elements of spiritual joy to an extent they had not yet realized. The development of these was necessarily gradual, and as yet incomplete.
2. The perfection of their joy was attainable. "That my joy may be in you, and that," etc. This was to be attained:
3. The perfection of joy, although partially attained now, is fully attained in the future. Christians of all ages have experienced this joy in a high degree; and even the sorrowful disciples, a short time after this, left the Sanhedrin with bleeding flesh, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ's Name. They sang in prisons, and even in the most painful death. But this joy cannot reach perfection here, for its perfection wilt be the perfection of religion, and the crown of life, which cannot be fully attained but under heavenly and fixed conditions; when the union between Christ and the believing soul will be complete; when the tortuous stream shall at last reach the ocean, and the joyous disciple shall enter into the joy of his Lord.
4. The perfection of their joy now was Jesus' chief concern. "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy," etc. lie was specially anxious, not merely that they should enjoy him, but that they should enjoy him in the highest sense, in the fullest measure, and in the most inspiring, cheering, and effective way. "That my joy may be in you." He does not bequeath unto them sorrow. He takes that upon himself, and gives them his joy. He makes an exchange—gives his disciples his joy, and bears their grief. They have the advantage. All he said and did was that they may realize his happiness, and make it practically their own, and fulfill it in their own experience, even to perfection.
1. There is no pure and lasting joy apart from Jesus. Every other joy is false, empty, and transient, unworthy of man as an immortal being, and will end in sorrow. In union with him alone there is real joy.
2. The religion of Jesus is a religion of pure joy. To charge it with being melancholy is utterly false. The religion of man is a melancholy one, but that of Jesus is ever joyous. The new birth is a circumstance of joy. The marriage of the soul to the merciful Savior is a source of ecstatic delight. Its sorrow is only accidental and for a season, its joy is essential and eternal. And there is joy even in its sorrow, songs in its sighs, and heaven in its tears. If it begins in a sigh, it ends in an eternal song.
3. Let us make our life joyous by a living union with the ever-joyous Savior. Let us abide in his love, appropriate his joy; then duty will be delightful, and life ever musical, and will naturally melt at last to that fullness of joy which is at his right hand, and the everlasting pleasures of his presence.—B.T.
The sin of neglecting the Savior.
With regard to the Jewish nation, this is referred to by our Lord—
I. AS A SIN OF THE GREATEST ENORMITY. There are degrees in sin as in virtue. The sin of rejecting the Savior is the greatest. It stands alone in the black category. "If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not," etc. What does this mean? Whether that they would not have that particular sin? or that, in comparison with this, ethers are small, and almost fade into nothingness? Its enormity will appear if we consider:
1. It is the greatest insult to the greatest and best Being. Who is disbelieved and rejected? The eternal Son and the eternal Father—the supreme Being whom they professed to acknowledge and worship. For the rejection of the Son involves the rejection of the Father. "He that hateth me," etc. No one can so insult and grieve the Father as by insulting his Son; and the greatest insult to the Son is the rejection of his Person, Word, and redemptive grace. Thus the Divine truth and honor are impugned. "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not," etc.
2. It is the greatest insult to the supreme Being while in the nearest contiguity to them. The Father was in the Son; and the Son was in the flesh, in their very nature; therefore God was in their nature, speaking and acting among them. He was never so near before. They never had such a vision of him. He was face to face with them. He could not come physically nearer, neither could they have a clearer physical vision of him. So clear it was that our Lord could with propriety say, "They have seen me and my Father." In him the Father was seen, and yet they rejected him. Thus the insult was most direct and daring. They insulted him to his very face.
3. It is the greatest insult to the supreme Being, under circumstances which were calculated in the highest degree reproduce different effects. The circumstances we have already indicated, and they are quite unique. Even in the wonderful history of the Jewish nation, and in the history of the nations of the world, they were such as they alone enjoyed, and involved such Divine light and evidence as were calculated in the highest degree to produce the readiest faith in and the warmest reception of the Son of God. It was the natural conclusion of the Divine Father: "They will honor my Son." Although they have maltreated my prophets, yet they will honor my Son. In his life and actions they saw the Father, yet rejected him, and sinned against the greatest light.
4. It is the greatest insult against the supreme Being in the very attempt of conferring upon them the greatest benefit. And this involved the exercise of the greatest condescension and love. The object in view and the love manifested are set forth in the familiar but matchless words," God so loved the world, that he gave," etc. Can imagination conceive of a greater sin and insult than the rejection of the manifestation of such Divine love, whose object is to save from the most inevitable and terrible ruin, and the bestowment of the greatest and most undeserving gift? Sin against the truth, justice. and holiness of the supreme Being, separately considered, is nothing to the sin against Divine and self-sacrificing love. Jesus was the incarnation of Divine love, manifested to bless and to save; but while in the very act of salvation he was most insultingly rejected.
5. It is the greatest insult to the supreme Being, assuming the most malignant form. "And hated both me and my Father." While this indicates the cause of their rejection, the enmity of the carnal mind against God, it also reveals its extreme malignity. It is not merely negative and defensive, but most malignantly aggressive and decided. And hatred is the most virulent form of rejection, the most daring form of unbelief, the most insulting resistance to the supreme Being, and the most fatal defiance to Divine love, which in this case resulted in the cruel crucifixion of the Son of God.
6. The greatest insult to the supreme Being, which resulted in the most fatal consequences. By their malignant rejection they made the greatest general blessing the greatest personal curse, turned the greatest boon into the greatest bane; so that it would be infinitely better for them if the Son of God had not come to them at all—their sin would be less, and their fate less disastrous. They attempted to stem and poison the river of life in its flow to fallen humanity, and succeeded as far as they were concerned. They set an unparalleled example of unbelief and moral obduracy to all succeeding ages, the result of which was social and spiritual ruin.
II. AS A SIN OF THE GREATEST ENORMITY WITH THE LEAST EXCUSE. What excuses are supposable in this case?
1. If he had not come to them at all. This would be a complete excuse. But he came, appeared to them, and dwelt among them.
2. If he had no right to come. They would have a perfect right to reject an intruder and an impostor, who had no right to their faith and acceptance. But Jesus was not such. He had an absolute right to come. He came in accordance with the Divine will, as well known to him, and well known to them as revealed in their Scriptures. He came in the way and at the very time and for the purpose indicated. And his coming was absolutely right and essential in order to fulfill the Divine plan and satisfy human need.
3. Want of adequate knowledge of him. This would be a valid excuse. But this they could not plead. He not only sent the Baptist to herald his immediate coming, but came himself in person, and spoke to them, taught daily in their streets and synagogues, availed himself of every opportunity to address them in the most homely and clear language as to his Divine origin and mission as the Son of God and their Messiah. And he taught "as One having authority;" and it was the testimony of all his unprejudiced hearers, "Never man spake like this Man."
4. Want of adequate proofs of his claims. Although his teaching was full, clear, and Divine, yet, without the further evidence of miracles, there would be a legitimate excuse. Jesus allows this. "If I had not done," etc. They demanded a sign. This demand was most fully and readily granted:
5. Want of natural ability to comprehend the evidences of his claims. The deaf have a sufficient excuse for not hearing, and the blind for not seeing. The want of common intelligence and natural ability would be an excuse for intellectual and moral unbelief. But they could not plead this, neither did they. And when our Lord hinted at their moral blindness they were greatly insulted, and asked with contempt, "Are we also blind?" Our Lord tacitly accepts their explanation, but pointed them to the inevitable consequence, "Your sin remaineth." They were entirely responsible, and claimed it. It was not because they could not, but because they would not.
6. Any really objectionable qualities in his character or conduct. They would be justified in rejecting a cruel tyrant, a vile impostor, or a vicious teacher; but they had none of these excuses in the least degree. Not only they had no reason to hate him, but the strongest reasons possible to love and welcome him with delight. His character was divinely transparent, and his life absolutely pure. His discourses were pregnant with life and light, and his words and actions full of grace and truth. His conduct towards all was invariably respectful and tenderly kind, and even to his most inveterate foes he was most patient, indulgent, and forgiving. There was no cause for hatred in him. It must have been entirely in them; and his experience was that of the psalmist, recorded in their Scripture, "They hated me without a cause." They could not find an excuse for their sin, neither could Jesus find one. In spite of his terrible indictment against them, he seems to be in search of an excuse for them. "If I had not come," etc.; "but now," etc. As far as they were concerned, he almost wished he had not come and spoken to them. He who prayed on the cross, "Father, forgive," etc., was ever ready to find the least legitimate excuse for sinners, and even for his most inveterate foes; but in this case could find none. There was none, and there is none.
1. The gospel, with regard to the rejecters of Christ, reveals a terribly corrupt state of the heart. The gospel does not cause sin, but reveals it, and in relation to the disobedient occasions the greatest guilt. It would be better for them not to have enjoyed its light.
2. With regard to its rejecters, it reveals a terrible Tower of the corrupt will to resist the Divinest evidence and refer the most loving overtures of Heaven, as well as its own highest good.
3. Although it would be far better for the disobedient if Christ had not come and spoken to them, yet those who sigh for and are ready to receive him are not deprived of him on this account. Shall not the sun rise because many evil-doers prefer darkness, and may avail themselves of but little of its light? And shall Jesus keep away because many will disobey, and even hate him? No; let him come and save.
4. The world's awful responsibility under the gospel. The responsibility of increasing light and grace. Our destiny hangs upon our receiving or not receiving Christ. Beware of rejecting him. Beware of the excuseless sin.
5. Our great Advocate can find an excuse for every sin but this. For this there is no defense; for he is rejected for whose sake God alone can forgive. There is in him no cause of hatred or rejection; but there is in him an infinitely extending pardon to the vilest penitent. Some of his murderers availed themselves of this. And it is ever available and infallible: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord," etc.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
The vine and the branches.
I. THE STATEMENT OF CONNECTION BETWEEN JESUS AND HIS PEOPLE. The connection is neither nominal nor artificial; it is a living union. The life of our Lord goes out to us every day. He is full of the noblest life—that which is nourished and developed by Divine love; and because he lives, we are to live also. There is to be the most entire community of life between Jesus and us; his affairs are our affairs, and our affairs are his affairs. He is interested in all of us. No step we take but he regards it with anxious eye; no true success we gain but what gladdens him as much as it gladdens us. He loves us all, the worst as well as the best. The true mother has a tender heart for all her children; for the stubborn, headstrong boy as much as the docile and yielding one; for the vain and giddy daughter as much as the quiet and gentle. All are in the family, and so are we. Sometimes we play sad havoc with the profession of believers in Christ Jesus. Some very sour grapes appear on our particular branch. But Christ will be very patient with us. He who is long-suffering with the fruitless fig tree will be long-suffering with the fruitless branch.
II. WE MUST LABOR TO CONTINUE IN THIS CONNECTION.
1. We are to receive Jesus altogether. It will not do to take what we like and reject what we like. We must receive him in every relation which he declares himself to sustain to us. We are not to say, when we come across any hard saying, that it must be practically expunged because we cannot understand it. The real hardness is not in the sayings; it is in our own heart. Time and a change of experience make a difference in many of our impressions; and we alter, while Jesus and the Scriptures remain the same. There is a softening of the stony heart, a susceptibility to the powers of the world to come. When we feel the need of Jesus, there is no difficulty about taking him just as be is.
2. There must be constant communion. The first act of real prayer makes the first step towards this. A prayerless life means a life without Christ, without faith, without work, without consistency. On such a branch the husbandman looks with suspicion. Christ wants to shine out in the life, so that people may say the branch is worthy of the trunk. He cannot bless us without our consent, or without our active approach to him.
III. THE ULTIMATE RESULT OF THIS UNION. The more we abide in Christ the more he abides in us, and then the constant and powerful influx of his energy causes a great putting out of fruit. Just as the sap from the trunk makes every day a difference in the branch, causing it to shoot forth twigs, and buds, and leaves, and flowers, so the presence of Christ in our souls makes us to grow and to manifest the fruit of that presence.—Y.
Abiding in the love of Jesus.
I. PAST SATISFACTION. How Jesus here lifts up his disciples by a recognition of the good thing in them! The Father loved the Son; found in Jesus of Nazareth what he could not find in any other being of flesh and blood. And so the Son loved his disciples, finding in them a spirit of obedience and recognition of himself which promised great results in due season. To us it may seem as if Jesus must have been painfully impressed with the faults of his friends. In many things they were so ignorant and slow of heart; in many things their motives were so narrow and unworthy. But, with all their faults, they were fundamentally true; better far than Pharisees; better far than the common run, who as yet followed Jesus only when they could get the loaves and be filled. And so Jesus loved them for this. What a view this gives us of the aspect of Jesus towards men! All are sinners and need salvation; they are loved with the love of pity; they have their share in that great declaration concerning God's love to the world (John 3:16). But, so far as inclination towards God is concerned, all are not equally loveless; some are near the kingdom, like that man on whom, when Jesus looked, he loved him. These disciples still had far to go and many difficulties to overcome; but surely it was no small matter to have reached the happy stage when Jesus could say that, as the Father loved him, so he loved them. Look into the expression, and you will see it is a very strong, encouraging, appreciative one.
II. PAST MINISTRY OF JESUS TO HIS LOVED ONES. The love of the Father to the Son was not an empty sentiment. The Son being what he was, he became the Agent of a compassionating omnipotence to do good to men. The Father's love to the Son was proved by what he did for him and through him. But the Father could not have done these things for and through anybody. He could not have done through a Moses, or an Elijah, or a John the Baptist, what he did through a Jesus. And as the Father found what he wanted in the Son, so the Son found what he wanted in his disciples. As the Father loved the Son, so the Son loved the disciples; and as the Father ministered to the Son, so the Son ministered to the disciples. The Son was willing and able, to the full, to receive the fatherly ministry; and in like manner the disciples were sufficiently able to receive the ministry of Jesus, to make it possible for him to speak with such complacency of them. They listened to his teaching; they left their home and work and went about with him; and so Jesus had been able to do something for and in them, more indeed than as yet distinctly appeared to any one but himself.
III. THE CONDITION OF CONTINUED AND RICHER MINISTRY. What good the disciples would get out of Jesus in new and altogether different circumstances depended upon themselves. Jesus would be the same, in disposition and in power; the question remained, would they give him the opportunity? What a thought, that the overflowing love of Jesus, meant to direct so much power and wisdom, should be serviceable to us just as we choose to make it so! A spirit of docility, obedience, and constant expectation would open up to us treasures of heavenly loving-kindness beyond anything we at present possess. The key, so to speak, is with us, yet we notice it not; and meanwhile the lock is getting all stiff for want of frequent use. To know the full riches of Divine love, we must live as Jesus would have us study to live.—Y.
Servants and friends.
Not at all infrequently one who begins as a servant advances in regard till he becomes a friend. Opportunities arise for friendship, and both parties make the most of them. It is a poor business to make service a mere matter of commercial contract. Jesus must have noticed again and again this beautiful absorption of the servant in the friend; his disciples, too, would know of like instances. Jesus and his disciples had been constantly together, and thus the way was made for friendly feeling. As the season of separation drew near, Jesus sought to set before his friends the responsibilities and opportunities of friendship.
I. JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES FRIENDS, BUT NONE THE LESS WERE THEY SERVANTS. Jesus wanted these very men for special service. Many true and loving friends he must have had besides them—men like that Lazarus whom Jesus once described as "our friend." But these few were wanted for special service; not that a few were enough, but Jesus began with a few that there might be all the more afterward. While Jesus was in the limitations of the flesh he could only have companionship with a few. But Jesus needs all the servants he can get. The idea of ample and efficient service underlies the parable at the beginning of the chapter. The branches are the servants of the vine-trunk. Note that those who are called friends do not therefore feel at liberty to speak of themselves as such. Paul, beginning his Epistle to the Romans, does not say, "Paul, the friend of Jesus Christ," but "Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ." The apostle's mind is full of the work he has to do as a servant of Jesus. Whatever names we have the right to bear, whatever privileges we enter into, never let us forget that we are here for service. He who is not the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, he who is not conscious of something in his life that is work for Jesus, never can be the friend of Jesus.
II. JESUS CALLS HIS DISCIPLES FRIENDS THAT THEY MAY BE BETTER SERVANTS, The work needs the best qualities in the highest degree. He who would do the best work for Christ must be likest him. He serves Jesus best who serves the neediest of men in their greatest need, and this can only be done when the heart is purged of self-seeking in all its forms. In all the work these disciples had hitherto been doing, they were thinking of themselves rather than of Jesus and others. That is the way of service according to a worldly spirit. We must learn to act as Jesus himself would act if he were one of his own servants; and that can only be done when we give Jesus full opportunity of opening himself' to us as a man opens himself to a friend.
III. THOSE WHOM JESUS CALLS FRIENDS HE REALLY TREATS AS FRIENDS. All this concluding discourse proves the depth and tenderness of the feeling. He could not so have spoken before. Partly such words were best with a farewell flavor in them. Partly the disciples had to grow into fitness for hearing them. And even when they did hear, much was appreciated in a very imperfect way. Still, Jesus treats them as friends; for all things he has heard from his Father he makes known to them. His disciples shall be sharers in his purposes and plans as far as they are able. It is as if the person for whom a great house is being built should call together all who are to be concerned in the erection, and show to them the plan and explain the purpose. Apostles and prophets lay the foundation-stone. Thousands of those whom Jesus honors with the title and treatment of friend are joined in building it, and then, when all is done, Jesus and his friends are to dwell in it together.—Y.
Jesus, the Decider and Provider.
We have here the statement of a plain historical fact. Jesus, from the general body of his disciples, did pick out a special company for special work. No doubt they also had to choose, but their choice simply amounted to recognition; they could not put any one else in the place which Jesus held. And he invites them here to a retrospect of the hour in which he had chosen them. They would have liked in most things, practically in all things, to get their own way; and this was just what they could not do. Jesus did not visit the world to fall in with the wishes of ignorant and short-sighted men. Underneath all our choices, and all the changes of our moods, there is the purpose, the choice, and the expectation of Jesus. We have—
I. JESUS DECIDING. It was all the doing of Jesus. These men were to be stamped with his sending. They were in his employment. The call of the Lord Jesus constituted their authority and their claim. And the essence of this choosing still remains. Every one trying to do work for the sake of Jesus and in the Name of Jesus must have something of this feeling that he has been chosen; that a constraining hand has been upon him, first of all arresting his footsteps in the old way, and then pointing them into a new one. In ranging ourselves under Jesus, we indeed cannot escape a great decision, but it will be made with a feeling that we could not help making it; and this feeling will only deepen as the years of service and devotion roll on. Christians never have any misgivings about the right of Jesus to grasp and direct. If any profess themselves never to have felt that Jesus wanted them, never said "Follow me," such must be asked whether the truth does not lie here, that they are fertile in the spirit of excuses. There will at least be an indubitable picking out, by-and-by, of the sheep from the goats. Effort and self-denial are required to find out what Jesus has a right to claim, and what he really wants. There is such a thing as having ears and yet not being able to hear.
II. JESUS PROVIDING. As Jesus claims the right of deciding, so he also takes the responsibility of providing, lie has so situated and surrounded his servants, that they may bring forth fruit, and abiding fruit. Every branch in the vine has its own place, but all are provided for in a common life and a common growth. The decision and the provision go together. Jesus is not really Decider unless he is also allowed to be Provider. Each soldier of the army is not allowed to make provision for himself. If he had this to do, his fighting would be of little use. The king who sends the army out makes provision for the sustaining of the army. Christians have to be more than others, do more than others, and thus their resources must exceed those of others. How is the grape of the wilderness to become the grape of the vineyard, unless it is planted in the vineyard? Wild fruit, growing as it will, can never become like the fruit that is cultivated and watched.
III. JESUS EXPECTING. The disciples were full of vexation because of hopes and imaginings overthrown; but Jesus knew what would come. Jesus is above all clouds that darken the present and prevent a right view of the future. These very men, so troubled now, would before long be joying and rejoicing abundantly that they were counted worthy to suffer for their Master. What great things may be expected, what usefulness and happiness are at the dawn, when once self gets an effectual crippling! The branches of this vine will be as the stars of the sky for multitude, and as the sand, by the sea-shore innumerable.—Y.
The world hating the servants of Jesus.
Jesus speaks here of love and hate, and of no third thing lying between them, and being neither one thing nor another. What looks like indifference is only sleeping love or sleeping hate. There are those who only need sufficient stirring up in order to become devoted lovers of Jesus and his cause. And so with the stirring up of hatred to Jesus. Character and disposition must in due season come out to the full light of day. The sleeping tiger is none the less a tiger for being asleep.
I. THOSE WHO POSSIBLY MAY BE HATED. Christians may be hated because of their Christianity. Private malice is not at all in the question. Some of these disciples may have had enemies already; if not, they were very likely to have them in abundance soon. Observe how Jesus puts the thing hypothetically. Much depends on ourselves. If we are consistent, resolute, lively, energetic, perfectly uncompromising and open in our attachment to Jesus, we must make ready for hatred; but if, professing to love Jesus, we do not love him with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, the world will not trouble to hate us. It may despise us and laugh at us, but it will not hate. Why should the world hate us, if we do nothing to inconvenience it, nothing to peril its aims, its possessions, and its pleasures? This is a very astonishing thing, that the world should hate us the better we are. If our hearts are filled with the spirit of love, if we desire only the good of everybody, why should we be hated? The truth is, Jesus understands human nature far better than the shrewdest of us. He, the best that ever trod the earth, was treated as if the worst. And similar experience, in a less conspicuous way, happened to his servants, e.g. Paul at Philippi and at Ephesus. And, underlying all these illustrations, there lies one common cause for the hostility in this—that Jesus must, by the very nature of his light-bringing work, interfere with the vested interests of men in darkness.
II. THE PECULIAR DESCRIPTION OF THE HATERS. They are described compendiously as the world. They are not to be singled out in their individual capacity. Individuals are constantly passing over from the world to the side of Jesus, but the spirit of the world remains unchanged, unchangeable. And this spirit is to be dealt with indirectly for the most part. Argument, expostulation, and entreaty are not the main weapons of success. The victory that overcometh the world is mainly to be gained in our own character. Jesus wants opposition to be swallowed up in reconciliation to him and to his truth. What we want to bear up against the world's hatred is:
1. Faith. We live amidst an unbelieving world, as it were amidst east winds and north winds, and all sorts of unfavorable climatic conditions. The colder the weather is, the more must we look after everything that will keep up vital heat. When earth is dull and stubborn to us, we must refresh ourselves from heaven.
2. Courage. We must go on. So we shall find out what a poor, foundationless thing the opposition of the world is. Its first appearance is its best appearance. It may hurt the outer skin, but cannot touch the heart and citadel of life. We must needs know the worst of the world in order that we may know the best of Jesus.
3. Meekness. Faith and courage, bathed and penetrated with gentleness—this is to win the world. The world has no gentleness, unless fair-spoken craftiness be so called. Our main spirit must be that of Jesus on the cross: "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."—Y.
John 15:26, John 15:27
The joint witnessing.
Christianity is not a religion to be propagated by force or by sedulous tradition. Nothing but the force of truth planted Christianity; and only the force of truth preserves it, extends it, and ensures the prospect of its universality. Not without significance is this constant reference to witnessing found in the New Testament. Jesus submits his gospel to the keenest examination. He comes before the world as a well-equipped suitor goes into a court of justice, sure that he has witnesses ample for the success of his cause. Christianity presents phenomena that shirk no scrutiny. It has no weak and treacherous places to be kept as much as possible from view. A witness, to be all a witness ought to be, must have nothing to conceal, nothing to avoid.
I. THERE MUST BE THE RIGHT SPIRIT IN THOSE WHO LISTEN TO THE TESTIMONY. The minds of men may be set against truth and the search for truth, and then where will the witnesses be? The gospel presumes on the part of man an awakening to the need of reality, stability, and continuance in all that he may rightly aim to make his own. Men have believed the world and believed their own hearts, and they have been disappointed; and now, if they seek Jesus, it is with the assurance meeting them that they shall not be disappointed again. If men fail to be attracted by Jesus or profess to be disappointed with him, it is because they are disinclined to take the trouble of seeking deep enough.
II. EACH WITNESS HAS HIS OWN TESTIMONY. There is a witnessing by the Spirit of Jesus which cannot be effected by any multiplication of human witnesses. And similarly a testimony comes by reading the evangelists and Epistles, which is felt to be something independent of the force which comes on us by the operation of the Spirit. How many, reading the New Testament just with thoughtful earnestness, have said to themselves, "Here is something to be searched into. Here is a part of some great possibility, and I must seek for the other part "! Careful and repeated reading of what apostles have written is very likely to drive a man to his knees, seeking to have the full body of testimony completed, by what the Holy Spirit will impress on his heart. We should ever be on the outlook for testimony to Jesus and his truth. The more we expect it the more it will come, fortifying us against our own doubts, cheering us with hopes of coming certainties, and making us more ardent in persuading others to like precious faith.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY THUS LAID ON US. Unbelief deludes itself with the plea that there is lack of evidence. Nay, in its more arrogant forms it will even maintain that the evidence is the other way. What if we be in the position of those who clamor for more, and will not use what they have? If we are not to be persuaded by the joint witnessing of the Spirit and the apostles, neither shall we be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
IV. OUR OWN WITNESS-BEARING. We may and ought to be joined to the cloud of witnesses. If Jesus told the first company of disciples that they were to be witnesses, then assuredly there must be something of the witness-bearing faculty in us.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 15". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany