John 13-15
(I Call You Friends!)
November 7th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

- John 15:12-13 (KJV)

Summary of Chapters

These chapters record many details of the Last Supper, and are full of important scriptures that summarize the ministry and purpose of Jesus.

Chapter 13 begins with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as an example of servant leadership. Jesus then predicts the near-term behavior of selected disciples: He said one will betray him and he said that Peter, his rock, will disown him three times before the rooster crows. He also gave them a new command:

    “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

    - John 13:34-35 (MSG)

Notwithstanding his predictions of betrayal and abandonment, Jesus tells the disciples not to be troubled, for they will join him in heaven one day. They don’t know how to get there, so Jesus reminds them:

    “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."

    - John 14:6-7 (KJV)

Jesus also assures them that while they remain on earth they can do what he did, “ ‘even greater things than that’ (John 14:12 - NIV)” and for his part, he “ ‘ will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father’ (John 14:13 - NIV).”

Jesus encourages the Disciples by telling them that they will be given the Holy Spirit, for Jesus’ time on earth is now very short. Then they left the Upper Room.

Jesus continued his talk with the disciples in chapter 15 from some other location. Perhaps they reconvened in a garden because he compared himself to a vine, explaining that the disciples are the branches, receiving life from him as long as they are attached. He also promotes the disciples from the level of servants to friends:

    My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

    - John 15:12-15 (NIV - emphasis added on verse 15)

However, the world may not be their friends. Jesus explained that the world will hate them because of him.

Reflection and Application

The Last Supper was like a Spiritual Pep Rally, as Jesus gave his team their final instructions before his death. He would see them again after his Resurrection, but he needed to give them instructions now to carry them through the interim period. These instructions also served as a foundation of knowledge for their longer term learning.

The preparation of the Upper Room could be considered as a symbolic preparation for the time in heaven when Jesus would again welcome his disciples. But until that time they were reminded to serve and love another. The Last Supper was also a Passover meal in celebration of the first Passover when the Jews prepared to leave their life of slavery in Egypt. In the same way, Jesus was preparing his people for escape from slavery to sin. The commandments he spoke of at the Last Supper were not entirely new as they are consistent with the Law given to Moses after the exodus from Egypt. The core of the 10 Commandments, for example, is for us to love God and love one another. Therefore Jesus was reinforcing those words by commanding us to love one another and he was fulfilling the words of the Prophets by sacrificing himself for those he loved.

I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the meaning of the verse in John 14:6 (“I am the way and the truth and the life.”) The Life Application Study Bible notes that this verse “is one of the most basic and important messages in Scripture…Jesus is the way because he is both God and man. By uniting our lives with his (Jesus) we are united with God (1).” It is a narrow gate, but wide enough to allow entry for all 7 billion people in the world – if they accept Jesus.

This verse is so significant that an anonymous person or group of people decided to make cards that featured the verse and placed them on telephones and presumably other locations around NYC as shown in the picture to the right. They knew that each placement would be temporary, but had faith that it would be seen by many eyes.

We also have in this section one of the most befuddling verses of Scripture: “ ‘I will do whatever you ask in my name’ (John 14:13 - NIV).” Does this mean that Jesus will give us whatever we ask for, like a genie in a bottle who grants three wishes? Other passages seem to indicate the answer is no. Our own experiences confirms that the answer is no. Then what did Jesus mean? Perhaps we need to be sure to look at the whole verse, particularly the phrase that says “in my name.” If we are truly praying in his name, then we will not be asking for things that satisfy our own selfish desires, but only for those things that serve the kingdom. This is a challenging passage and one worth further discussion with Christian friends and trained theologians.

The vine and the branches is one of the most beautiful illustrations of Jesus relation to us. It was very appropriate for those who lived in a countryside surrounded by vineyards, but the rest of can picture a grape vine or an apple tree with branches and fruit at the ends of each branch (or perhaps we can imagine a soy bean plant). We are attached to Jesus like the branches of a vine or tree. We receive life from the trunk of the vine or tree and can bear fruit because of him. But if we become detached because we are torn off by the storms of life then we will not bear anything. Partial detachment may result in inferior or incomplete fruit and will eventually fall off or be trimmed by the gardener who removes weak branches and throws them into the fire or compost pile.

The verse in John 15:15 is one of my favorites, as Jesus says he call us friends. What a friend we have in Jesus! What better friend can we have? One who laid down his life and can provide life. One who understands what it is like to be human but also has the wisdom of the ages. Why wouldn’t we want to be in constant conversation with a friend like that?

Maybe because we are afraid the world will hate us? That’s a risk worth taking. We might even find that our part of the world respects us for carrying a constant dialogue with Jesus.

    What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
    O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

    Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

    Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
    Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
    In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

    Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
    May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
    Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
    Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

    - Lyrics by Irish poet Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819 - 1886)
    - Music by American Musician and Attorney Charles C. Converse (1834-1918)

”What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” performed by the Oak Ridge Boys

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Who have been some of your best friends during different parts of your life?
    2. Which of the verses in today’s study resonate most closely with your relationship with Jesus?
    3. How do we ensure that we remain connected to the vine of Jesus?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you will grant whatever we pray for in Jesus' name. Help us to understand what we should pray for.

    Prayer Concern
    Vineyard Workers


    (1) Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1991 p.1911

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: John 16-17 (In a Little While You Will See Me No Longer)

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