If Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.
~Walter Wink

#3 – Most Overlooked in John’s Gospel: Where Are You Staying?

No Comments »

This is the third in a series of undetermined length where I’ll be looking at passages that I feel often get “skipped over” when considering the gospel according to John.  If you haven’t read the previous posts, please, please read at least the first one as this will continue to build off of that one.  You can find previous articles here:

  1. Only Son of God?
  2. Born Again?

Here, we consider:

John 1:  38 When Jesus turned and saw [two of John the Baptizer’s disciples] following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying [literally abiding]?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. (NRSV)

John 6:56  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.

John 14:  18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 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.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (NRSV)

John 15:  Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. (NRSV)

John 17:  20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.(NRSV)

It sounds like a pretty innocuous question.  It seems that the question is answered pretty innocuously.

“Where are you staying, rabbi?”

“Come and see.”

They saw where he was staying.

I was surprised, then, when biblical scholar Jaime Clark-Soles drew our attention to these verses in the DVD of the Invitation to John
Short Term Disciple Bible Study.  She pointed out what often happens in the attempt to make for “good” or “easy” English when making a translation from Greek: we fail to realize that in this passage is a word that gets used numerous times throughout the rest of the book – abide.  We find the word in 6:56 and multiple times in 15:4-11.  I was really excited.

And yet, it seems like the innocuous question of verse 38 is answered in verse 39.  Is it really significant?

Well, then I began to take notice of how sometimes, when asked a question in the gospel according to John, Jesus either changes the subject or answers a very literal question with a highly metaphorical answer.

For instance, Nicodemus asks in John 3, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”  Ever notice that Jesus doesn’t answer his questions of how and can?  He just says you have to.  You have to be born of the Spirit, born from above.  To really get the answer, you have to read the rest of the book.

Likewise, when told about living water in John 4, the Samaritan woman at the well requests, “Where can I get this water?  I’m tired of lugging water back and forth!”  Jesus ignores the request and says, “Go get your husband. . . ”  You have to keep reading.

So, what happens if we consider that maybe the answer the two disciples were looking for, “Where are you staying?” is not really answered by Jesus until later in the gospel?  How does Jesus answer this question, “Where are you abiding?” as they continue on the way, the journey, of faith?

“I abide in God, in God’s love,” says Jesus in 10:38; 14:10-11, 20; 15:10; and 17:21.  We see in 14:10-11 that Jesus says what he says and can do what he does because of this relationship of Jesus being in God and God being in Jesus.

“I abide in you and with you,” says Jesus in 6:56; 14:19, 23; 15:4; and 17:23.

And yet, the Jesus of John does not leave it at that.  “You,” he says, “must abide in me, in my love, as I already abide in you!” (vss. 15:4, 9)

Why?  Why does Christ abide in us and want us to abide in him?  So that we will be Christ’s disciples AND bear fruit (vss. 15:5, 8).

“Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Jesus?  People keep telling me it ain’t what I do but that I believe!”

Jesus’ response in John 14:12 is, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” Believing and doing go hand-in-hand.  What we see here is that we can’t have one without the other – kinda like James 2:26: faith without works is dead.

But, there is an important distinction that we often overlook.  We can only do the same (and greater) works as Jesus if we abide in Christ, for apart from Christ we can do nothing (vs. 15:5).  Just as Jesus only says what God says to say and can only do what he does by God being in him and him in God (vss. 14:10-11), when we are in Christ as Christ is in us, we only say what Jesus says and do what Jesus does by Christ who is in God and God who is in Christ.  If God is in Christ and Christ is in us, God is in us.  If we are in Christ who is in God, we are also in God.  In fact, that is Jesus’ prayer in chapter 17 of John, that we be one with God and Christ as they are one with each other – all intermingled.  We are the next step, if we are willing, in the incarnation of God to this hurting world.

Notice all the present-tense-ness of this abiding?  Being in Christ and in God (and them in us) is not something that is supposed to happen later.  The purpose is our bearing fruit, our doing works – our being the incarnation of God as Jesus was – NOW!  It’s not something to wait for God to do by God’s self someday.  It is not something that happens when we die.

If all this abiding is happening now, don’t we have relationship with God and Christ NOW?  And that, that relationship – that knowing – is what eternal life is.  If you don’t believe me, read John 17:3:

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Maybe, then, when Jesus talks of going to prepare a place for us in God’s house in John 14:1-4, he’s really talking about here and now, not heaven someday in the future.  It says he’ll bring us to him, but isn’t that the invitation of John 15 – abide in me as I abide in you?  And notice the shift in John 14:23.  It isn’t simply that Jesus will draw us to him.  No.  Now it says that God and Jesus will come to dwell with us.

We are drawn to them.  They come to dwell with us.  We are to abide in them as they already abide in us.  Togetherness.  Relationship.  Give and take.  Becoming one.  Journeying together.  Incarnation.

Where am I abiding?  Where are you abiding?  Where are we abiding?  Hopefully in Christ who is in God who is in Christ who is in us.  For if this is the case, we will bear much fruit for God’s kingdom, doing the same and greater works as Jesus.

Here are other verses I plan to cover in this series (though not necessarily in this order):

  • John 4:34 & 10:9
  • John 5:19-20, 14:12, & 15:12-17
  • John 10:38-39, 1:12, 14:12, & 17:20-23
  • John 14:15, 12:49-50, & 13:34
  • John 17:3 & 12:49-50

Post a Comment