29 May 2011

John 14:15-21

"They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." (v. 21)


The writing style found in John's Gospel often seems like a piece of closely woven tapestry. Different ideas and images are discussed, put to one side - and then picked up again as the developing pattern is formed. In today's passage, John is exploring the relationship between love and obedience and the ways in which these two aspects of Christian discipleship relate to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual. It's a complicated pattern to weave - but John holds all these ideas together within the condensed thought and argument presented in these verses.

The reading is set in context by the opening verse, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (v. 15). It is clear that, for John, these two aspects of discipleship are not opposed to each other, but are to be seen as complementary. Love, in this context, is not about emotion or sentiment, but about making the daily choice to love God and others by the way we live our lives.

Making the right choice is one thing - living lives that are actually shaped by God's love can sometimes be another. In our own strength we so often fail to be obedient to God and to reveal his love to others. The good news in this situation is that we are not alone, because, writes John, the "Advocate" will be with us (v. 16). This term for the Holy Spirit is printed as 'paraclete' in some English translations. This is a transliteration of the Greek word used by John. The word's primary meaning links with the idea of a legal assistant who will be alongside us and who will support us and speak on our behalf when required. The Advocate (also called "the Spirit of truth" in verse 17) is promised to the believers and will enable love and obedience to be the marks of a living relationship with the Father and the Son.

It's a complicated pattern that John is weaving here - but the picture he creates is an important one for all who are followers of Jesus.

To Ponder

How do you understand the relationship between love and obedience in Christian discipleship?

In what ways does the idea of the Holy Spirit as an 'Advocate' speak to you today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Chris Blake

Chris Blake is a Methodist minister and principal of Cliff College in Derbyshire. His background is as a biochemist, and he has previously served in Barking and Dagenham as an industrial chaplain, in Dorset in the Wimborne Circuit and as chair of the Cornwall Methodist District.