Sixth Sunday of Easter
Gospel: John 15: 9-17
Today’s Gospel continues from last week’s and is part of the “Last Discourse” in John’s Gospel. John sets this just before Jesus’ Passion and has crafted it to form a summary of Jesus’ teaching and commissioning of his disciples.
He urges them to stay in his love by keeping his commandments. In the light of the events to come, he speaks paradoxically of joy. His words seem kindly and reassuring - and yet within them are the realities of his death and an uncertain future for the disciples.
Their security will come, not from material things, but from the knowledge that, in loving one another, they remain in the love of Jesus and the Father. This love is so great that it will lead Jesus to lay down his life for them - and for us.
Jesus again emphasises that the relationship between those first disciples and himself has moved beyond master and servants - they are vine and branches - they are now friends. This distinction sets Jesus’ ministry apart from the norm of the day - and in many instances in our day - where the teacher and the student maintain a professional distance. In Jesus, all authority is found - but it is not an aloof authority - but one which is not afraid to draw people into friendship and which will happily take a bowl and wash the feet of those some would call his inferiors.
Jesus has walked and talked with these people. He has heard the petty squabbles - and seen the jostling for position. He knows the strengths of these people - and also their weaknesses. He knows too that all too soon, they will betray him - deny him and desert him. And yet, he does not withdraw his choice of them as friends. In fact, he confirms it - reminding them that, unlike the custom of the day where the disciple chose the rabbi - he had chosen them.
Jesus saw beyond the failures - past and future - and commissioned this motley crew to be his witnesses - to bear fruit that will last. It must have seemed a charged moment - and, even when it all seemed to have collapsed, the essence of it survived and gave Jesus a way in remind them that they were called to be witnesses to his resurrection and to proclaim the good news of God’s forgiveness.
This same commission is laid upon us...
What does this mean for me?