Sixth Sunday of Easter

by Crossings

Incomplete Joy
John 15:9-17
Sixth Sunday of Easter
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Sabbatarians,
I did not send a Crossings matrix in Sabb. theol. 62 and today a complaint comes in. Next Sunday’s Gospel, quoth the plaintiff, is so easily distorted, that a text study in the old format would be helpful to many. Prone to hear any sort of request as a Macedonian call, I herewith propose the following for John 15:9-17, the Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter in the RCL. 
Peace & Joy! Ed 

STAGE 1. 
(Externally) A distinctively Christian malady: incomplete joy. Christ’s joy not “in” us. Defective fruit-bearing, i.e., no fruit that will last. “One-another-love,” “ping-pong love” [Greek: AGAPATE ALLELOUS] is absent. (See Stage 6 below for excursus on this “new commandment” sort of loving.)

STAGE 2.
(Internally) Not abiding (important Johannine term) in Christ’s Love. Being slaves, but not friends, of Jesus. Not keeping his new commandments.

STAGE 3.
(Eternally) Dis-connected from Jesus and his Father. Not in conversation with Jesus’ Father in Jesus’ own name (16c). “In my name” is an expression of ownership. Not to be “in Jesus’ name” is not to belong to him, not to be his own, and therefore not the Father’s own, but owned by someone else. Synonymous is not to know the master’s business (15a), not to know everything Jesus heard from his Father (15b).

STAGE 4.
(Good news for Stage 3) Jesus obeys his Father’s commandments and abides in his Father’s love. How so? In loving sinners the same way as his Father loves him. And how is that? By laying down his life for just such “friends” as us. The costly character of this love for him to “choose us as friends” in just this way.

STAGE 5.
(Good News for Stage 2) Our own abiding/remaining in his love (10). Call it faith. The intimate nature of the bond that as friends (no longer slaves) we “know what the master is doing,” i.e., comprehend what Stage 4 and its consequences are all about. Self-perception as ones chosen, not ones choosing. Obeying his new command: Love one another.

Excursus A. OBEDIENCE. Obedience is ob-audience, “listening toward” someone or thing. The NT specifies two different sorts of obedience, the difference being made by the “word of God” that is being “audienced.” If the word audienced is a law command, then obedience is doing what you’re required to do. If the word audienced is a Gospel-gift, then obedience is holding hands/hearts open to receive what’s being offered. From this new sort of Gospel-obedience, come the contours of Christ’s new commandment.Excursus B. NEW COMMAND(MENT) Hereafter NC. “Love one another” is the core of the NC. It is a command in that it is always in the imperative mood. But even so it is a Grace-imperative, and that makes all the difference. Qualitatively different from God’s law commands (i.e., the decalogue), the NC:

  1. is always in the second person plural throughout the NT. Thus it is addressed to the community: “Y’all love each other.”
  2. is always second in the sequence. The first piece of the process always is Christ’s love for his friends that puts them in a love relationship with him. The NC is a consequence of that primary love action of Christ.
  3. is always reciprocal: you (plural) do this kind of loving back-and-forth to each other. It’s like table tennis, ping-pong. What Christ has “pinged” to each of his friends, these friends he now commands to “pong” back and forth to each other.
  4. is always normed by a new criterion. Not “love neighbor as yourself,” but “love one another as I have loved you.” Those differences are as different from the “old” decalogue as the new creation is from the old one.

STAGE 6.
(Good News for Stage 1) Completed joy. Joy in John’s theology is the new “friend” relationship sinners have with Christ and thus with his own Father. Completed joy is such friendship now concretized in our relationship with our own selves (internal), and with all the world around us (external). John’s other metaphors for Stage 6 in this pericope are: Appointed by Christ to go (mission/witness) and bear fruit that lasts (words and actions that have God’s own lasting life imprinted upon them), conversing with God “in Jesus’ name,” laying down one’s life for one’s friends (who also count as Jesus’ friends), in the never-ending game of ALLELOUS AGAPE, ping-pong love.

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