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John 13:8-11

Context
13:8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet!” 1  Jesus replied, 2  “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 3  13:9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, wash 4  not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” 13:10 Jesus replied, 5  “The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, 6  but is completely 7  clean. 8  And you disciples 9  are clean, but not every one of you.” 13:11 (For Jesus 10  knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, “Not every one of you is 11  clean.”) 12 

John 13:16

Context
13:16 I tell you the solemn truth, 13  the slave 14  is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger 15  greater than the one who sent him.

John 15:1-17

Context
The Vine and the Branches

15:1 “I am the true vine 16  and my Father is the gardener. 17  15:2 He takes away 18  every branch that does not bear 19  fruit in me. He 20  prunes 21  every branch that bears 22  fruit so that it will bear more fruit. 15:3 You are clean already 23  because of the word that I have spoken to you. 15:4 Remain 24  in me, and I will remain in you. 25  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, 26  unless it remains 27  in 28  the vine, so neither can you unless you remain 29  in me.

15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains 30  in me – and I in him – bears 31  much fruit, 32  because apart from me you can accomplish 33  nothing. 15:6 If anyone does not remain 34  in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, 35  and are burned up. 36  15:7 If you remain 37  in me and my words remain 38  in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. 39  15:8 My Father is honored 40  by this, that 41  you bear 42  much fruit and show that you are 43  my disciples.

15:9 “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain 44  in my love. 15:10 If you obey 45  my commandments, you will remain 46  in my love, just as I have obeyed 47  my Father’s commandments and remain 48  in his love. 15:11 I have told you these things 49  so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. 15:12 My commandment is this – to love one another just as I have loved you. 50  15:13 No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life 51  for his friends. 15:14 You are my friends 52  if you do what I command you. 15:15 I no longer call you slaves, 53  because the slave does not understand 54  what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything 55  I heard 56  from my Father. 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you 57  and appointed you to go and bear 58  fruit, fruit that remains, 59  so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. 15:17 This 60  I command you – to love one another.

John 16:21

Context
16:21 When a woman gives birth, she has distress 61  because her time 62  has come, but when her child is born, she no longer remembers the suffering because of her joy that a human being 63  has been born into the world. 64 

1 tn Grk “You will never wash my feet forever.” The negation is emphatic in Greek but somewhat awkward in English. Emphasis is conveyed in the translation by the use of an exclamation point.

2 tn Grk “Jesus answered him.”

3 tn Or “you have no part in me.”

4 tn The word “wash” is not in the Greek text, but is implied. Here it is supplied to improve the English style by making Peter’s utterance a complete sentence.

5 tn Grk “Jesus said to him.”

6 tn Grk “has no need except to wash his feet.”

7 tn Or “entirely.”

8 sn The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet. A common understanding is that the “bath” Jesus referred to is the initial cleansing from sin, which necessitates only “lesser, partial” cleansings from sins after conversion. This makes a fine illustration from a homiletic standpoint, but is it the meaning of the passage? This seems highly doubtful. Jesus stated that the disciples were completely clean except for Judas (vv. 10b, 11). What they needed was to have their feet washed by Jesus. In the broader context of the Fourth Gospel, the significance of the foot-washing seems to point not just to an example of humble service (as most understand it), but something more – Jesus’ self-sacrificial death on the cross. If this is correct, then the foot-washing which they needed to undergo represented their acceptance of this act of self-sacrifice on the part of their master. This makes Peter’s initial abhorrence of the act of humiliation by his master all the more significant in context; it also explains Jesus’ seemingly harsh reply to Peter (above, v. 8; compare Matt 16:21-23 where Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan”).

9 tn The word “disciples” is supplied in English to clarify the plural Greek pronoun and verb. Peter is not the only one Jesus is addressing here.

10 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

11 tn Grk “Not all of you are.”

12 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author.

13 tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”

14 tn See the note on the word “slaves” in 4:51.

15 tn Or “nor is the apostle” (“apostle” means “one who is sent” in Greek).

16 sn I am the true vine. There are numerous OT passages which refer to Israel as a vine: Ps 80:8-16, Isa 5:1-7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1-8, 17:5-10, 19:10-14, and Hos 10:1. The vine became symbolic of Israel, and even appeared on some coins issued by the Maccabees. The OT passages which use this symbol appear to regard Israel as faithless to Yahweh (typically rendered as “Lord” in the OT) and/or the object of severe punishment. Ezek 15:1-8 in particular talks about the worthlessness of wood from a vine (in relation to disobedient Judah). A branch cut from a vine is worthless except to be burned as fuel. This fits more with the statements about the disciples (John 15:6) than with Jesus’ description of himself as the vine. Ezek 17:5-10 contains vine imagery which refers to a king of the house of David, Zedekiah, who was set up as king in Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah allied himself to Egypt and broke his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar (and therefore also with God), which would ultimately result in his downfall (17:20-21). Ezek 17:22-24 then describes the planting of a cedar sprig which grows into a lofty tree, a figurative description of Messiah. But it is significant that Messiah himself is not described in Ezek 17 as a vine, but as a cedar tree. The vine imagery here applies to Zedekiah’s disobedience. Jesus’ description of himself as the true vine in John 15:1 ff. is to be seen against this background, but it differs significantly from the imagery surveyed above. It represents new imagery which differs significantly from OT concepts; it appears to be original with Jesus. The imagery of the vine underscores the importance of fruitfulness in the Christian life and the truth that this results not from human achievement, but from one’s position in Christ. Jesus is not just giving some comforting advice, but portraying to the disciples the difficult path of faithful service. To some degree the figure is similar to the head-body metaphor used by Paul, with Christ as head and believers as members of the body. Both metaphors bring out the vital and necessary connection which exists between Christ and believers.

17 tn Or “the farmer.”

18 tn Or “He cuts off.”

sn The Greek verb αἴρω (airw) can mean “lift up” as well as “take away,” and it is sometimes argued that here it is a reference to the gardener “lifting up” (i.e., propping up) a weak branch so that it bears fruit again. In Johannine usage the word occurs in the sense of “lift up” in 8:59 and 5:8-12, but in the sense of “remove” it is found in 11:39, 11:48, 16:22, and 17:15. In context (theological presuppositions aside for the moment) the meaning “remove” does seem more natural and less forced (particularly in light of v. 6, where worthless branches are described as being “thrown out” – an image that seems incompatible with restoration). One option, therefore, would be to understand the branches which are taken away (v. 2) and thrown out (v. 6) as believers who forfeit their salvation because of unfruitfulness. However, many see this interpretation as encountering problems with the Johannine teaching on the security of the believer, especially John 10:28-29. This leaves two basic ways of understanding Jesus’ statements about removal of branches in 15:2 and 15:6: (1) These statements may refer to an unfaithful (disobedient) Christian, who is judged at the judgment seat of Christ “through fire” (cf. 1 Cor 3:11-15). In this case the “removal” of 15:2 may refer (in an extreme case) to the physical death of a disobedient Christian. (2) These statements may refer to someone who was never a genuine believer in the first place (e.g., Judas and the Jews who withdrew after Jesus’ difficult teaching in 6:66), in which case 15:6 refers to eternal judgment. In either instance it is clear that 15:6 refers to the fires of judgment (cf. OT imagery in Ps 80:16 and Ezek 15:1-8). But view (1) requires us to understand this in terms of the judgment of believers at the judgment seat of Christ. This concept does not appear in the Fourth Gospel because from the perspective of the author the believer does not come under judgment; note especially 3:18, 5:24, 5:29. The first reference (3:18) is especially important because it occurs in the context of 3:16-21, the section which is key to the framework of the entire Fourth Gospel and which is repeatedly alluded to throughout. A similar image to this one is used by John the Baptist in Matt 3:10, “And the ax is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Since this is addressed to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were coming to John for baptism, it almost certainly represents a call to initial repentance. More importantly, however, the imagery of being cast into the fire constitutes a reference to eternal judgment, a use of imagery which is much nearer to the Johannine imagery in 15:6 than the Pauline concept of the judgment seat of Christ (a judgment for believers) mentioned above. The use of the Greek verb μένω (menw) in 15:6 also supports view (2). When used of the relationship between Jesus and the disciple and/or Jesus and the Father, it emphasizes the permanence of the relationship (John 6:56, 8:31, 8:35, 14:10). The prototypical branch who has not remained is Judas, who departed in 13:30. He did not bear fruit, and is now in the realm of darkness, a mere tool of Satan. His eternal destiny, being cast into the fire of eternal judgment, is still to come. It seems most likely, therefore, that the branches who do not bear fruit and are taken away and burned are false believers, those who profess to belong to Jesus but who in reality do not belong to him. In the Gospel of John, the primary example of this category is Judas. In 1 John 2:18-19 the “antichrists” fall into the same category; they too may be thought of as branches that did not bear fruit. They departed from the ranks of the Christians because they never did really belong, and their departure shows that they did not belong.

19 tn Or “does not yield.”

20 tn Grk “And he”; the conjunction καί (kai, “and”) has been omitted in the translation in keeping with the tendency in contemporary English style to use shorter sentences.

21 tn Or “trims”; Grk “cleanses” (a wordplay with “clean” in v. 3). Καθαίρει (kaqairei) is not the word one would have expected here, but it provides the transition from the vine imagery to the disciples – there is a wordplay (not reproducible in English) between αἴρει (airei) and καθαίρει in this verse. While the purpose of the Father in cleansing his people is clear, the precise means by which he does so is not immediately obvious. This will become clearer, however, in the following verse.

22 tn Or “that yields.”

23 sn The phrase you are clean already occurs elsewhere in the Gospel of John only at the washing of the disciples’ feet in 13:10, where Jesus had used it of the disciples being cleansed from sin. This further confirms the proposed understanding of John 15:2 and 15:6 since Judas was specifically excluded from this statement (but not all of you).

24 tn Or “Reside.”

25 tn Grk “and I in you.” The verb has been repeated for clarity and to conform to contemporary English style, which typically allows fewer ellipses (omitted or understood words) than Greek.

26 sn The branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it remains connected to the vine, from which its life and sustenance flows. As far as the disciples were concerned, they would produce no fruit from themselves if they did not remain in their relationship to Jesus, because the eternal life which a disciple must possess in order to bear fruit originates with Jesus; he is the source of all life and productivity for the disciple.

27 tn Or “resides.”

28 tn While it would be more natural to say “on the vine” (so NAB), the English preposition “in” has been retained here to emphasize the parallelism with the following clause “unless you remain in me.” To speak of remaining “in” a person is not natural English either, but is nevertheless a biblical concept (cf. “in Christ” in Eph 1:3, 4, 6, 7, 11).

29 tn Or “you reside.”

30 tn Or “resides.”

31 tn Or “yields.”

32 tn Grk “in him, this one bears much fruit.” The pronoun “this one” has been omitted from the translation because it is redundant according to contemporary English style.

sn Many interpret the imagery of fruit here and in 15:2, 4 in terms of good deeds or character qualities, relating it to passages elsewhere in the NT like Matt 3:8 and 7:20, Rom 6:22, Gal 5:22, etc. This is not necessarily inaccurate, but one must remember that for John, to have life at all is to bear fruit, while one who does not bear fruit shows that he does not have the life (once again, conduct is the clue to paternity, as in John 8:41; compare also 1 John 4:20).

33 tn Or “do.”

34 tn Or “reside.”

35 sn Such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire. The author does not tell who it is who does the gathering and throwing into the fire. Although some claim that realized eschatology is so prevalent in the Fourth Gospel that no references to final eschatology appear at all, the fate of these branches seems to point to the opposite. The imagery is almost certainly that of eschatological judgment, and recalls some of the OT vine imagery which involves divine rejection and judgment of disobedient Israel (Ezek 15:4-6, 19:12).

36 tn Grk “they gather them up and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

37 tn Or “reside.”

38 tn Or “reside.”

39 sn Once again Jesus promises the disciples ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. This recalls 14:13-14, where the disciples were promised that if they asked anything in Jesus’ name it would be done for them. The two thoughts are really quite similar, since here it is conditioned on the disciples’ remaining in Jesus and his words remaining in them. The first phrase relates to the genuineness of their relationship with Jesus. The second phrase relates to their obedience. When both of these qualifications are met, the disciples would in fact be asking in Jesus’ name and therefore according to his will.

40 tn Grk “glorified.”

41 tn The ἵνα (Jina) clause is best taken as substantival in apposition to ἐν τούτῳ (en toutw) at the beginning of the verse. The Father is glorified when the disciples bring forth abundant fruit. Just as Jesus has done the works which he has seen his Father doing (5:19-29) so also will his disciples.

42 tn Or “yield.”

43 tc Most mss (א A Ψ Ë13 33 Ï) read the future indicative γενήσεσθε (genhsesqe; perhaps best rendered as “[and show that] you will become”), while some early and good witnesses (Ì66vid B D L Θ 0250 1 565 al) have the aorist subjunctive γένησθε (genhsqe; “[and show that] you are”). The original reading is difficult to determine because the external evidence is fairly evenly divided. On the basis of the external evidence alone the first reading has some credibility because of א and 33, but it is not enough to overthrow the Alexandrian and Western witnesses for the aorist. Some who accept the future indicative see a consecutive (or resultative) sequence between φέρητε (ferhte) in the ἵνα (Jina) clause and γενήσεσθε, so that the disciples’ bearing much fruit results in their becoming disciples. This alleviates the problem of reading a future indicative within a ἵνα clause (a grammatical solecism that is virtually unattested in Attic Greek), although such infrequently occurs in the NT, particularly in the Apocalypse (cf. Gal 2:4; Rev 3:9; 6:4, 11; 8:3; 9:4, 5, 20; 13:12; 14:13; 22:14; even here, however, the Byzantine mss, with א occasionally by their side, almost always change the future indicative to an aorist subjunctive). It seems more likely, however, that the second verb (regardless of whether it is read as aorist or future) is to be understood as coordinate in meaning with the previous verb φέρητε (So M. Zerwick, Biblical Greek §342). Thus the two actions are really one and the same: Bearing fruit and being Jesus’ disciple are not two different actions, but a single action. The first is the outward sign or proof of the second – in bearing fruit the disciples show themselves to be disciples indeed (cf. 15:5). Thus the translation followed here is, “that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.” As far as the textual reading is concerned, it appears somewhat preferable to accept the aorist subjunctive reading (γένησθε) on the basis of better external testimony.

44 tn Or “reside.”

45 tn Or “keep.”

46 tn Or “reside.”

47 tn Or “kept.”

48 tn Or “reside.”

49 tn Grk “These things I have spoken to you.”

50 sn Now the reference to the commandments (plural) in 15:10 have been reduced to a singular commandment: The disciples are to love one another, just as Jesus has loved them. This is the ‘new commandment’ of John 13:34, and it is repeated in 15:17. The disciples’ love for one another is compared to Jesus’ love for them. How has Jesus shown his love for the disciples? This was illustrated in 13:1-20 in the washing of the disciples’ feet, introduced by the statement in 13:1 that Jesus loved them “to the end.” In context this constitutes a reference to Jesus’ self-sacrificial death on the cross on their behalf; the love they are to have for one another is so great that it must include a self-sacrificial willingness to die for one another if necessary. This is exactly what Jesus is discussing here, because he introduces the theme of his sacrificial death in the following verse. In John 10:18 and 14:31 Jesus spoke of his death on the cross as a commandment he had received from his Father, which also links the idea of commandment and love as they are linked here. One final note: It is not just the degree or intensity of the disciples’ love for one another that Jesus is referring to when he introduces by comparison his own death on the cross (that they must love one another enough to die for one another) but the very means of expressing that love: It is to express itself in self-sacrifice for one another, sacrifice up to the point of death, which is what Jesus himself did on the cross (cf. 1 John 3:16).

51 tn Or “one dies willingly.”

52 sn This verse really explains John 15:10 in another way. Those who keep Jesus’ commandments are called his friends, those friends for whom he lays down his life (v. 13). It is possible to understand this verse as referring to a smaller group within Christianity as a whole, perhaps only the apostles who were present when Jesus spoke these words. Some have supported this by comparing it to the small group of associates and advisers to the Roman Emperor who were called “Friends of the Emperor.” Others would see these words as addressed only to those Christians who as disciples were obedient to Jesus. In either case the result would be to create a sort of “inner circle” of Christians who are more privileged than mere “believers” or average Christians. In context, it seems clear that Jesus’ words must be addressed to all true Christians, not just some narrower category of believers, because Jesus’ sacrificial death, which is his act of love toward his friends (v. 13) applies to all Christians equally (cf. John 13:1).

53 tn See the note on the word “slaves” in 4:51.

54 tn Or “does not know.”

55 tn Grk “all things.”

56 tn Or “learned.”

57 sn You did not choose me, but I chose you. If the disciples are now elevated in status from slaves to friends, they are friends who have been chosen by Jesus, rather than the opposite way round. Again this is true of all Christians, not just the twelve, and the theme that Christians are “chosen” by God appears frequently in other NT texts (e.g., Rom 8:33; Eph 1:4ff.; Col 3:12; and 1 Pet 2:4). Putting this together with the comments on 15:14 one may ask whether the author sees any special significance at all for the twelve. Jesus said in John 6:70 and 13:18 that he chose them, and 15:27 makes clear that Jesus in the immediate context is addressing those who have been with him from the beginning. In the Fourth Gospel the twelve, as the most intimate and most committed followers of Jesus, are presented as the models for all Christians, both in terms of their election and in terms of their mission.

58 tn Or “and yield.”

59 sn The purpose for which the disciples were appointed (“commissioned”) is to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains. The introduction of the idea of “going” at this point suggests that the fruit is something more than just character qualities in the disciples’ own lives, but rather involves fruit in the lives of others, i.e., Christian converts. There is a mission involved (cf. John 4:36). The idea that their fruit is permanent, however, relates back to vv. 7-8, as does the reference to asking the Father in Jesus’ name. It appears that as the imagery of the vine and the branches develops, the “fruit” which the branches produce shifts in emphasis from qualities in the disciples’ own lives in John 15:2, 4, 5 to the idea of a mission which affects the lives of others in John 15:16. The point of transition would be the reference to fruit in 15:8.

60 tn Grk “These things.”

61 sn The same word translated distress here has been translated sadness in the previous verse (a wordplay that is not exactly reproducible in English).

62 tn Grk “her hour.”

63 tn Grk “that a man” (but in a generic sense, referring to a human being).

64 sn Jesus now compares the situation of the disciples to a woman in childbirth. Just as the woman in the delivery of her child experiences real pain and anguish (has distress), so the disciples will also undergo real anguish at the crucifixion of Jesus. But once the child has been born, the mother’s anguish is turned into joy, and she forgets the past suffering. The same will be true of the disciples, who after Jesus’ resurrection and reappearance to them will forget the anguish they suffered at his death on account of their joy.



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