The article in Vietnamese and in French:
May 26, 2014
II. Reasons of faith’s crisis in Jesus
1. Because of Jesus’ teachings
2. Because of belonging to darkness
3. Because of ignorance
4. Because of Jesus’ absence
5. Because of the world’s hatefulness
III. What to do to consolidate the faith in Jesus?
1. Practicing Jesus’ teachings
2. Mutual indwelling of Jesus and the disciples
3. Being with Jesus, his Father and the Paraclete
4. Living in the peace and joy of Jesus
5. Receiving the activities of the ParacleteI. Introduction
The theme of “pisteuô” (to believe) is very important in the Fourth Gospel. This matter is analysed in the article “Believe (pisteuô) in the Gospel of John.” In this paper, we will talk about the crisis of faith and the solution to overcome it in the Gospel of John. The biblical text in this article is taken from Revised Standard Version - Second Catholic Edition, 2006.
II. Reasons of faith’s crisis in Jesus
There are many elements in the Fourth Gospel to show the crisis of the disciples. We can mention five reasons of faith’s crisis: (1) Because of Jesus’ teachings, (2) Because of belonging to darkness, (3) Because of ignorance, (4) Because of Jesus’ absence, (5) Because of the world’s hatefulness
1. Because of Jesus’ teachings
The crisis of faith that occurs from the teachings of Jesus is presented in Jn 6. This chapter is composed of four episodes. First, Jesus realizes the sign of multiplication of the loaves to feed more than five thousand persons (6:1-15). Second, Jesus manifests his power by walking on the Sea of Tiberias and coming to the disciples (6:16-21) who are on the boat when “The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing” (6:18). Third, Jesus reveals his identity and his ministry in the bread of life discourse (6:22-59). Fourth, the disciples react upon Jesus’ revelation (6:60-71).
Through the conversation and query of the crowd and the Jews, Jesus reveals in the bread of life discourse (6:22-59) many theological topics about his origin and ministry. In the context of narrative, Jesus’ disciples are present in these events. They saw two signs: Multiplication of the loaves (6:1-15) and walking on the Sea (6:16-21) and they heard the bread of life discourse (6:22-59). From what they had seen and heard, many of his disciples exclaimed: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Then the narrator indicates the withdrawal of many of disciples in 6:66: “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him [Jesus].” The decision to withdraw of these disciples is a crucial crisis of faith in Jesus. They are no longer disciples of Jesus. They fall down because of Jesus’ teachings. Why many of his disciples withdraw from discipleship?
The disciples who decided to leave Jesus are those who believed in him, because they are called “disciples” (mathêtês) of Jesus (6:16,60,61,66). They have just seen two signs (6:1-15; 6:16-21) and heard the bread of life discourse (6:22-59), in which Jesus reveals who he is, where he comes from, who has the ability to give eternal life to human beings, what do people need to do to have eternal life, etc... However Jesus’ revelation is full of paradoxes. His origin is paradoxical, because Jesus is both the son of Joseph (6:42) and the One who came down from heaven (6:38). Jesus’ mission is also paradoxical, because Jesus will die on the cross to give eternal life to believers. Why must he die to give life? Could a dead person give life? The paradox is described through the expression: “To eat my [Jesus] flesh and to drink my blood.” Jesus says in 6:54: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Thus, according to the theology of John’s Gospel, only those who believe in Jesus and associate with him in his death and resurrection can receive eternal life.
Many of the disciples succumb to Jesus’ word, they murmur that “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (6:60). The term “saying” in this verse which its literal translation is “this word” (ho logos houtos), refers to entire Jesus’ bread of life discourse (6:25-59). After the disciples’ murmur in 6:60, the narrator tells in 6:61: “Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, ‘Do you take offense at this?’” Many disciples stumble because of Jesus’ teachings. In other words, the revelation of Jesus himself leads many disciples to the faith’s crisis. They trip up because they understand Jesus’ word in the sense of “flesh”, but “the flesh is of no avail” (6:63). Jesus says to his disciples: “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (6:63). These disciples stumble because they do not open their heart to receive the teachings of God as a condition to come to Jesus and to believe in him. In the bread of life discourse, Jesus says about this theme in 6:44a and 6,45b: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (6:44a); “Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (6,45b).
The passage 6:60-71 relates the reaction of Jesus’ disciples in two units. In the first one (6:60-66), Jesus talks to many of his disciples, and in the second (6:67-71) Jesus talks to the Twelve. So, beside the Twelve, there are other disciples. Many disciples already stumbled. How about the Twelve? When Jesus asks them: “Do you also wish to go away?” (6:67), Simon Peter professes the true faith in Jesus on behalf of the Twelve in 6:68-69: “68 Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” This profession of faith shows two opposite interpretations related to Jesus’ revelation. In 6:60, Jesus’ teachings are considered as “a hard saying, no one can listen to”, whereas in 6:68, Jesus’ teachings are considered as “the words of eternal life.” So, the manner and the attitude of listening to Jesus, lead people to believe or not in Jesus. In other words, if the disciples do not know how to listen to and understand Jesus’ teachings, his revelation may become the cause of a crisis of faith until a loss of faith. In the passage 6:60-71, the group of disciples has a division: on the one hand, many disciples decide to leave Jesus, on the other hand, the Twelve decide to stay with him. In 6:70, Jesus warns another crisis even in the Twelve, because one of them belongs to darkness.
2. Because of belonging to darkness
After Simon Peter professed the true faith in Jesus on behalf of the Twelve (6:68-69), Jesus does not praise them, but he foretells the crisis of loyalty of one of the Twelve. Jesus says to them: “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (6:70). The speech of Jesus to the Twelve ends here. In the narrative, the saying: “One of you is a devil” can be understood as a factor causing the crisis among the Twelve, because the declaration of faith in Jesus in 6:68-69 cannot reconcile with the idea “one of them is a devil” (6:70b). It means that one of the Twelve is of the darkness, of the devil, and he does the work of the devil. In 8:44a Jesus says to the Jews about their connection with the devil: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (8:44a). In the passage 8:31-59, the Jews not only refuse Jesus’ teachings, but also seek to kill him (8:37,40). This hostile action makes them belong to the devil, whose father is the devil, and they are doing the work of the devil (8:44a). In this scenario, Jesus’ saying to the Twelve: “One of you is a devil” in 6:70 portends the crisis of a disciple and of the whole group, because “one of the Twelve” will lend a hand to kill Jesus.
Who is the devil in 6:70? The group of the Twelve is a character in the story; they do not know who the devil is among them, because Jesus does not explain more to them in 6:70. This situation causes a crisis among the Twelve, because no one knows who the devil is, but there is a devil in the group. Jesus will allude to his disciples who he is at the Last Supper in 13:26. However, from 6:71 the readers already knew who the devil is, because the narrator explains to the readers in 6:71: “He [Jesus] spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.” In this verse, the narrator talks to readers not to the Twelve who do not know this information.
The character Judas in John’s Gospel is a serious factor of crisis for Judas himself and for the other disciples. The passage 13:1-32 offers some traits about Judas. The character Judas is determined by four correlations: (1) Family correlation: He is called “Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot” (6:71a). (2) Correlation with Jesus: Judas is called “who was to betray Jesus” (6:64; 13:2,11,21), its literal translation is “who was to deliver (paradidômi) Jesus up.” (3) Correlation with the Twelve: Judas is called “one of the Twelve” (6:71). (4) Correlation with the forces of darkness: Judas is a devil (6:70). This fourth correlation is accentuated in 13:1-32. The narrator says about Judas at the beginning of the passage 13:1-32: “The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him [Jesus]” (13:2). Then when Jesus dipped the morsel and gave it to Judas as a sign to make known to the disciples who is going to betray him (13:26), the narrator relates: “After the morsel, Satan entered into him [Judas]” (13:27a).
According to John’s Gospel, the story about Judas develops in four stages: First, Jesus presages Judas is a devil in 6:70. Second, the devil instills in Judas the intention to betray Jesus in 13:2. Third, after receiving the morsel, Satan enters into Judas in 13:27. Finally, Judas goes out to do the work of devil in 13:30. The narrator says about Judas: “After receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night” (13:30). Judas will appear again upon Jesus’ arrest (18:1-3), but he will completely set on the side of those who seek to kill Jesus.
Therefore, Judas allows himself to belong to the devil and he carries out the work of the devil (cf. 8:44). The character Judas in the narrative (13:1,32) does not utter a word neither he expresses his feeling. The silence and the indifference of Judas make him to become an instrument of the devil and Satan. Judas, one of the Twelve, is the representation of a disciple who is in a severe crisis of faith. Why does Judas let himself belong to the devil? Perhaps because he did not really know who Jesus is. For the Twelve, the presence of Judas as well as his absence become a factor of crisis in this group, since he is a member among them. Judas has left in the Twelve a question about the consolidation among them as well as the loyalty of each disciple toward Jesus.
3. Because of ignorance
The ignorance of the disciples about Jesus and his mission is the element that causes a crisis of faith in Jesus. If the disciples do not understand Jesus and his revelation; they do not know the sense of the events which are happening, they can fall into an embarrassing and frightening situation. The crisis of ignorance is emphasized in Jn 13–16.
In the last supper of Jesus and his disciples (Jn 13), Peter does not understand the meaning of the foot washing. Peter asserts Jesus: “You shall never wash my feet” (13:8a). In the worldly point of view, Peter’s reaction expresses his respect to Jesus. Because Jesus is the Master and the Lord, logically he does not wash the feet of his disciples. Nevertheless, after hearing Jesus says: “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me (13:8b), Peter wants the opposite thing in relation to his first speech. At the beginning, he wants to wash “nothing”, now he wants to wash “everything”: feet, hands and head. Peter answers Jesus, asking: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head” (13:9). It seems at all costs, Peter wants “to have part in Jesus” and to have it as much as possible. The story holds irony and humor, because Peter thinks that he understands Jesus’ word and he controls the situation. But in fact, he knows nothing, he totally misunderstands Jesus’ saying as well as the meaning of foot washing. Indeed, Jesus does not realize both Peter’s requests (washing nothing and washing everything). In this context, Peter is in a confused situation of ignorance, it is the crisis of ignorance, because he does not understand Jesus’ action and word.
The narrative Jn 13–16 shows that the disciples are ignorant of a lot of things. For example, in 13:21-22, they do not know who is going to betray Jesus. When Jesus says to his disciples in 13:21b: “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me”, and the narrator relates in 13:22: “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.” In 13:26 Jesus had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas in oder to show to the disciples know who the betrayer is, however it is strange that they have no reaction and again they fall into another ignorance: The narrator says that the disciples do not know the meaning of what Jesus said to Judas in 13:27b: “What you are going to do, do quickly”. Indeed, the narrator relates the disciples’ misunderstanding about Jesus’ saying (13:27) in 13:28-29: “28 Now no one [the disciples] at the table knew why he [Jesus] said this to him [Judas]. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the feast’; or, that he should give something to the poor.” One of the Twelve goes out to deliver Jesus, but nobody knows where Judas go and what he do! These unknowing and misunderstanding inform that the disciples are in a situation of crisis. This plight will explode when the event occurs as Jesus warned to them in 16:32: “The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”
The theme of the disciples’ ignorance about the identity of Jesus and his teachings is presented through many questions in Jn 13–16. For example, Peter asks Jesus: “Lord, where are you going?” (13:36a); “Lord, why cannot I follow you now?” (13:37a). Thomas questions Jesus in 14:5: “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” etc… Just before Jesus enters in his Hour (the Hour of lifting up from the world) even then his disciples do not know where Jesus is going to go and which road will they follow. This disconcerting situation of the disciples is a severe crisis of faith in Jesus.
At the same time, the disciples’ questions in the narrative are also a technical writing of the narrator. Through the formula of disciples’ questions and Jesus’ answers, the narrator presents Jesus as the one who reveals, who knows all things, he is a knower, a revelator. For readers, the questions of the disciples also figure the questions of John’s community at the end of the first century and the questions of readers of all time as well. By the technical literature of “question – answer”, Jesus reveals his identity, his mission and he makes known the will of God, the Father. Thus, knowing Jesus’ teachings help the disciples, the community and the readers to overcome the crisis in their lives and to strengthen their faith in Jesus.
4. Because of Jesus’ absence
In Jn 13–16, the disciples confront a severe ordeal because Jesus will depart from this life. He will fulfill his Hour of death and resurrection. The disciples are sad, disturbed and troubled. Jesus encourages them at the beginning of ch. 14: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me” (14:1). At the end of ch. 14, after giving his peace to his disciples, Jesus says to them: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (14:27). The fact that Jesus will to the Father makes “the trouble overwhelms disciples” (cf. 16:6), but Jesus promises that he will to meet them soon. He says to his disciples in 16:22: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
The sadness and fear of the disciples before Jesus’ passion also refer to the crisis encountered by John’s community is due to the absence of Jesus. While the community is facing challenges, it seems that Jesus could not present with the community and he does not intervene to resolve the difficult situation. The community feels abandoned and is living in an orphan state. In this context, what Jesus says to his disciples in John’ Gospel, also addresses the community at the end of the first century: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (14:18). In this verse, the word “desolate”, in Greek: “orphanos”, means “orphan”. Until now, the feeling of Jesus’ absence always exists. Jesus’ silence can waver the trust of the believers and they may lose their faith in Jesus. Many of them who wonder if God is present, why so many tragic and unfair situations exist in the world. To recognize the presence of Jesus in every situation of life is a great challenge of the disciples. How to discover Jesus’ presence in the believers? Before exposing some suggestions to answer this question, we will talk about another crisis. The disciples can be troubled by the hatefulness and persecution of the world.
5. Because of the world’s hatefulness
In the passage 15:18–16:4a, Jesus tells his disciples that they are hated and persecuted by the world. What is this world? To answer this question, it is necessary to determine the meaning of the term “world” in the theology of John’s Gospel. The Greek term “kosmos” (world) appears 78 times in John’s Gospel and it can carry one of these five meanings:
(1) “Kosmos” describes “cosmic world”, the universe. With this meaning, Jesus says to His Father in 17:5: “Now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made”; and in 17:24 Jesus says: “Father, I desire that they [disciples] also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world.” According to John’s Gospel, Jesus has the glory “before the world was made” (17:5) and the Father loves him “before the foundation of the world” (17:24). This theological revelation affirms that the existence of Jesus is before the existence of universe (cf. 1:1).
(2) “Kosmos” describes “earth world”, the globe, the Earth. With this meaning, Jesus describes his departure to the Father by saying to Him: “Now I am no more in the world, but they [disciples] are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (17:11). Jesus is “no more in the world” that means he goes to the Father through his death on the cross. The disciples “are in the world” means they still live on Earth. So the word “kosmos” (world) here describes the planet earth, the house of human beings.
(3) “Kosmos” describes the humanity, the “human world”. Jesus’ revelation in 3:16 refers to human beings, he declares: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). “The love of God for the world” in this verse refers to humanity, human beings, because the love of God through his Son aims to give everyone who believes the eternal life and to save them from perdition.
(4) “Kosmos” describes as “the world does not believe in Jesus yet”. Jesus’ disciples belong to the “human world” and Jesus sends them to another world that they do not belong to. Jesus says to his Father in the disciples’ presence: “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (17:18). The term “kosmos” (world) in this verse determines the world which does not believe in Jesus yet, this world is the goal of the disciples’ ministry.
(5) “Kosmos” describes “the hatred world”, that is the world which hates Jesus, his Father and his disciples. Jesus says to his disciples in 15,18-19: “18 If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
These five meanings of “kosmos” (world) are used to build the theology of John’s Gospel. They describe the relationship between the reality of this world and the mission of Jesus. The hatred world is defined by its relation to Jesus and his disciples. In fact, because this world hates Jesus and his disciples, it is called “the hatred world.” That is a group of people who listened to what Jesus said and who saw the signs Jesus did, but they still did not believe in Jesus (15:22,24). In the Gospel of John, “the hatred world” alludes to those who oppose Jesus during his public ministry. They are the Jews, the Pharisees and the high priests who do not believe in Jesus and seek to kill him. The hatred world also refers to the persecutors of John’s community at the end of the first century as well as the persecutors of all time.
The world hates the disciples because they do not belong to the world and they are chosen by Jesus. He says to his disciples: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own” (15:19a), it means if the disciples are of the world, they will be loved by the world, not be hated. Nevertheless if they are of the world, they do not belong to Jesus. In this case, the consequence is described in Jesus’ saying: “If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned” (15:6). So the disciples are in a state of a horny dilemma. If they believe in Jesus and belong to him, they are loved by Jesus and have the eternal life, but they run the risk of being hated and persecuted by the world. If they are of the world, they are loved by the world, but they will be perished and do not have eternal life.
This circumstance of dilemma persists throughout history. Concretely, John’s community at the end of the first century is facing difficulties and challenges, even the life of believers were threatened. Jesus forewarns his disciples in 16:2: “They [the hatred world] will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” The goal of these warnings is an invitation to keep faith, as Jesus says to his disciples: “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away” (16:1). In this context of persecution, the denial of the faith in Jesus may happen. Some members of John’s community may fall away, even belong to the devil and realize the work of the devil like Judas (6:71; 13:2,27,30). The denials of Peter are foretold by Jesus (13:38) and related in detail by the narrator (18:17,25,26-27), this story suggests the crisis of John’s community. In a difficult situation, some members can secretly or openly deny Jesus like Peter.
The Gospel of John shows to readers many types of faith’s crisis and the Gospel also gives the solution to overcome it. Facing the challenges coming from inside and outside of the community, Jesus encourages his disciples in this Gospel. Especially the last words of Jesus addresses to his disciples in the farewell discourse (Jn 13–16) is of great comfort. Jesus says to the disciples in 16:33: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” This assurance is also addressed to John’s community and to disciples of all time. With a close approach to Jesus’ revelation in Jn 13–16, we can identify some other solutions to overcome the crisis and to keep from falling away.
III. What to do to consolidate the faith in Jesus?
The Gospel of John offers a guideline to consolidate the faith in Jesus, however they can be summarized in one important work: To listen and practice Jesus’ teachings, that means to live and abide in his word. The following sections will present five solutions to strengthen one faith in Jesus: (1) Practicing Jesus’ teachings, (2) Mutual indwelling (between Jesus and the disciples), (3) Being with Jesus, his Father and the Paraclete, (4) Living in the peace and joy of Jesus, (5) Receiving the activities of the Paraclete.
1. Practicing Jesus’ teachings
Confronted with the difficulties and challenges due to believing in Jesus as stated above, Jesus comforts and encourages his disciples to reinforce their faith. So, the best way to build an intimate relationship with Jesus is to learn and practice his teachings. According to the theology of John’s Gospel, Jesus has already given all the revelation to his disciples. He says to them at the end of his public ministry in 15:15: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Therefore, all things that Jesus had heard from his Father, he has made known to his disciples. The entire revelation is given, no need to go elsewhere looking for the revelation.
All the revelation has been given, but it does not mean the disciples completely understand the content of the revelation. Indeed, the context of crisis in Jn 13–16 indicates that the disciples do not understand the revelation yet. They are living in sorrow, perplexity and fear; they could not carry Jesus’ teachings. Jesus says to the disciples in 16:12: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Only after Jesus went to the Father and the Paraclete – the Spirit of truth – was sent to, the Paraclete will guide the disciples in all the truth (16:13) and teach them all things that Jesus said (14:26).
So, listening, learning and understanding Jesus’ teachings under the guidance of the Paraclete are the lifetime work of each disciple. In the light of the Paraclete, the disciples can understand the teachings of Jesus in particular circumstances. Thanks to the revelation of Jesus and the guidance of the Paraclete, the disciples will recognize the greatness of the choice to believe in Jesus and belong to him; because Jesus’ word is the bread of life, the water of life and the true light for the disciples. In next studies, some concrete solutions to strengthen the faith in Jesus will be presented.
2. Mutual indwelling of Jesus and the disciples
In the Gospel of John, many times Jesus offers invitations to mutually abide between him and the disciples. According to the theology of John’s Gospel, this reciprocal dwelling describes the deep relationship between him and the disciples, from both sides: “Jesus is in the disciple,” and “the disciple is in Jesus.” Jesus says to the disciples in 14:20: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” The reciprocal abiding is a crucial condition to exist and to bear fruit (cf. 15:1-8). Jesus invites his disciples in 15:4: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
The topic of “the reciprocal dwelling” between Jesus and the disciples refers to important revelation about “the reciprocal dwelling” between Jesus and his Father. In the passage 14:8-11, Jesus emphasizes this relationship. When Philip asks Jesus in 14:8: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied”, Jesus says to Philip in 14,10a: “Do you not believe (indicative singular) that I am in the Father and the Father in me?” then Jesus invites all the disciples to believe in the mutual abiding between him and his Father. Jesus says to them in 14,11a: “Believe (imperative plural) me that I am in the Father and the Father in me.” Thus, the reciprocal abiding: “to be in Jesus” and “Jesus in the disciple” is the entrance into a deep communion with Jesus. The disciples join the intimate relationship between Jesus and his Father.
“Abiding in Jesus” is a vital question of the disciples. “To abide in Jesus” leads to life, “Not to abide in Jesus” leads to death, to perdition, “he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned” (15:6). As shown in the analysis above, “abiding in Jesus” means to belong to him. This option includes the risk to be hated and persecuted by the world. Therefore, the choice of “abiding in Jesus” brings real life and eternal life to the disciples, but also requires the courage to accept difficulties and challenges. In short, Jesus invites his disciples to remain in him and let him stay in each of them. The mutual abiding is an invitation to hold a deep communion with Jesus. This is one of many solutions to overcome the crisis of faith.
3. Being with Jesus, his Father and the Paraclete
In the passage 14:15-24, Jesus reveals to his disciples what they can do to inherit the house of the Father, Jesus and the Paraclete in them. The promise of the indwelling of the three divine persons (Father, Jesus and the Paraclete) will be given to the disciples
In the passage 14:15-24, Jesus reveals to the disciples what they can do to inherit the dwelling of the Father, Jesus and the Paraclete in them. The promise of the habitation of three divine persons (the Father, Jesus and the Paraclete) will be realized for the disciples on condition that they love Jesus and keep his commandments. Jesus says to the disciples in 14:15-16: “15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [the Paraclete], to be with you for ever.” In 14:21, Jesus promises that: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (14:21). The important revelation is developed in 14:23. Jesus says to Judas (not Iscariot): “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23).
These quotations show that the Father, Jesus and the Paraclete will come and stay inside the disciples if they “love Jesus” (14:15,23), “keep his word” (14:23); “have his commandments” (14:21) and “keep his commandments” (14:15,21). These factors are closely linked together. It means “loving Jesus” is “keeping his commandments” (14:15) and vice versa “keeping commandments of Jesus” is “loving him” (14:21). In other words, loving implies obeying and the act of obedience always implies love.
“The commandments of Jesus” in 14:15,21 parallels with “his word” in 14:23. In this context, “the commandments” (plural noun) refer to all Jesus’ teachings presented in the Gospel of John. Who wants to know how “loving Jesus” is and what the commandments are, one just reads the whole Gospel. Hence, hearing, learning and studying Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel help the disciples to recognize and live the promise of Jesus. Inside of the disciples, they already have the presence and the habitation of the Father, Jesus and the Paraclete. This mysterious dwelling of three divine persons is a great source of comfort and encouragement for the disciples, especially in the period of hardships and challenges.
4. Living in the peace and joy of Jesus
While the disciples are in a state of fear and trouble (14:27), Jesus promises to offer his peace and joy to them. The theme of “peace” and “joy” in Jn 14–17 emphasizes the characteristic of Christology, because it is “the peace of Jesus” and “the joy of Jesus”, it is neither of the world nor of God. Jesus says to his disciples in 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
In 15:11, Jesus wants his joy to become the joy of his disciples, he says to them: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (15:11). The phrase “these things” in this verse refers to what Jesus said to his disciples before. In the nearby context, “these things” (15:11a) refer to Jesus’ sayings in 13:1–15:10; and in the wide context, they allude to all Jesus’ teachings in the Gospel. For the readers, the goal of “these things of Jesus” (his revelation) is the transformation of “the joy of Jesus” to “the joy of the disciples.” Thus, understanding Jesus’ revelation in the Gospel helps the disciples to receive the joy of Jesus and be able to transform Jesus’ joy into theirs. The “joy” in Jn 14–17 is full (15:11; 17:13) and durable (16:22), because no one can take this joy out of the disciples. Jesus says to them in the farewell discourse: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (16:22).
The last word of Jesus, addressing to his disciples in ch. 13–16, is an encouragement to be with Him in order to have peace. He says to the disciples in 16:33: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” So Jesus’ joy and peace gift can help the disciples to deepen their faith in Jesus. They can overcome the trouble and fear (14:1,27) and they have the courage to bear witness to the faith in tribulations.
The topic of “peace” and “joy” in Jn 14–17 can be contemplated in two ways: “horizontal reading” and “vertical reading”. The horizontal reading describes the course of time (before and after an event). This reading accentuates the historical context of narrative. The disciples are sad, afraid and troubled when Jesus’ Hour is close. But they will rejoice in the future, when Jesus will see them again after his resurrection. Understanding the theme of joy and peace in horizontal way allows underlining the fundamental event of faith: The passion and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ Hour brings true peace and joy to the disciples.
However, after Jesus’ resurrection, John’s community still faces tribulation and persecution. Understanding the topic of “joy” and “peace” in a “vertical reading” can help the community to survive and strengthen the faith in Jesus. Indeed, “the vertical reading” (downward) of the topic of “joy” and “peace” corresponds to John’s community at the end of the first century and to the readers of all time as well. In the narrative of Jn 14–17, not only does Jesus give the disciples the joy and peace “in the future” (after his resurrection), but he also gives the joy and peace “in the present” (before his passion). The disciples receive the peace of Jesus (14:27a) and his joy (15:11) when they are troubled and afraid (14:27b). This situation is suitable for the community of John, because at the end of the first century, this community is in crisis due to many reasons presented above.
Theology of John’s Gospel allows us to understand the joy and peace in the relation of two worlds as Jesus’ saying to the Jews in 8:23-24: “23 You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this worlds. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” Between these two worlds: the world of God (above) and the world of man (below), we can understand that Jesus’ peace and joy are the realities which come from above. The disciples who live in this world (below) receive the gift of peace and joy from above to overcome the challenges in their lives. This vertical reading helps the disciples of all time to fully live these two conflicting realities: “joy and sorrow”, “peace and crisis”. These realities are placed on the different levels: Sorrow and crisis are from below (from this world); joy and peace are from above (from the world of God). With these realities from above, the disciples can courageously journey in this world below.
Reading the theme of joy and peace in the horizontal and vertical direction is a particularity of Johannine theology. This interpretation is significant because on the one hand, the joy and peace in “the horizontal direction” allows highlighting Jesus’ passion and resurrection; on the other hand, the joy and peace in “the vertical direction” allows the believers of all time to overcome challenges in this world by the gift of joy and peace from above. In Jn 14–16, Jesus reveals another important solution facing a crisis situation; that is the role and activities of the Paraclete.
5. Receiving the activities of the Paraclete
After Jesus went to his Father, the Paraclete was sent to the disciples (16:7). Therefore, after the passion and resurrection of Jesus, the disciples throughout the ages are living in the period of the Paraclete who is present and operational in them and in their community. The role and activities of the Paraclete is an important revelation in Jn 14–16. The disciples can only receive the Paraclete if they “love Jesus and “keep his commandments” (14:15). Many activities in Jn 14–16 show the relationship between the Paraclete and the disciples. The mission of the Paraclete can be recapitulated on three fields: (1) The Paraclete stays with the disciples and guides them; (2) The Paraclete teaches the disciples about Jesus’ teachings; (3) The Paraclete bears witness to Jesus “before” and “inside” the disciples.
(1) First, the Paraclete dwells with the disciples and guides them. The habitation of the Paraclete in the disciples is emphasized in 14:16-17. Jesus says to his disciples: “16 I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [Paraclete], to be with (metha) you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with (para) you, and will be in (en) you” (14:16-17). In 14:16-17, two verbs: “to be” (eimi), “to dwell” (menô) and three prepositions: “with” (metha), “beside” (para), “in” (en) are used to describe the habitation of the Paraclete in the disciples, there is not shadow of a doubt about that. The Paraclete is with the disciples “for ever” (14:16b) and guides them into all the truth. Jesus says this to his disciples in 16:12-13a: “12 I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13a When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” Thus, according the Johannine theology, everyone who loves Jesus and keeps his commandments already has the habitation of the Paraclete in himself (14:15-17). It is not worth to ask the arrival of the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit. The important thing to wish is to be aware of the presence and the activities of the Paraclete.
(2) Second, the Paraclete teaches the disciples all things that Jesus had said, and makes the disciples recall Jesus’ teachings. Jesus says to his disciples in 14:26: “The Counselor [the Paraclete], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” In 16:13, the Paraclete declares to the disciples the things that are to come (16:13). The Paraclete takes what is of Jesus and declares it to the disciples (16:14). In the passage 16:8-11, the Paraclete informs the disciples of the truth about “the world” and “the ruler of this world”. The world has sinned because they do not believe in Jesus (16:9) and the ruler of this world is judged (16:11). The Paraclete instructs the disciples the truth about Jesus and the sense of Jesus’ passion. Historically, Jesus died on the cross, but theologically, he went to his Father (16:10). Historically, Jesus was dishonored on the cross; but theologically Jesus was honored on the cross, because this is the hour of his glorification (13:31-32; 17:1). Jesus says about his death: “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified” (13:31b).
(3) Third, the Paraclete keeps the role of bearing witness to Jesus. Jesus says to his disciples in 15:26b-27: “26b He [the Paraclete] will bear witness to me; 27 and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.” The Paraclete bears witness to Jesus “before” and “inside” the disciples. Indeed, “before the disciples”, the Paraclete bears witness to Jesus by teaching them about Jesus and his revelation. “Inside the disciples”, the Paraclete bears witness to Jesus by guiding and enlightening inside the disciples when they bear witness to Jesus before the world. In short, if the disciples understand and receive all the activities of the Paraclete, they can overcome all kind of crisis in their lives; and their faith will be strengthened more and more.
Through the Gospel of John, the narrator presents many factors of crisis in the community of the disciples. These crises allude to today crises of the believers. The disciples of all time may be in crisis because of Jesus’ teachings (Jn 6); because of belonging to the darkness (Judas in 6:60-71 and 13:1-32); because of ignorance and misunderstanding Jesus’ word (Jn 13–16); because of thinking that Jesus is absent (Jn 14); because of hatred and persecution of the world. These elements of crisis can unsettle the disciples’ faith in Jesus and make them falling away. Although believers confirm that anyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life, the journey of discipleship in this world still has many hardships and challenges. In some circumstances the believer has to sacrifice his life to preserve “love”, “loyalty” and “true life” that Jesus offered. So what can we do to cope with our faith’s crisis? The Gospel of John shows some specific solutions to strengthen the faith in Jesus as follows.
(1) In general, the most effective way to overcome the crises of faith is constantly learning Jesus’ teachings and establishing an intimate relationship with him.
(2) Jesus invites each disciple to abide in him and let him abide in the disciple. This is the mutual correlation with Jesus as he says to the disciples in 14:20b: “You in me, and I in you.” This is a profound communion between Jesus and the disciples. This relationship is described in the same way as the profound communion between Jesus and his Father. Jesus says in 14:11a: “I am in the Father and the Father in me.” The believer who abides in Jesus as the branch abides in the vine, bears fruit and is strengthened by the spiritual vitality.
(3) Jesus promises the habitation of three divine persons: the Father, Jesus and the Paraclete inside the believers. The condition to inherit this habitation is “to love Jesus” and “to keep his commandments.” According the Johannine theology, it is not worth to ask the coming of the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of truth. It is better to realize these two conditions. For John’s Gospel, the commandments of Jesus refer to the whole teachings of Jesus in the Gospel. The habitation of the three divine persons is a great encouragement for the disciples when they are tempted to think that Jesus is absent or he leaves them orphaned (cf. 14:18).
(4) Despite all the hardship in the world, the believers still have the joy and peace of Jesus inside of them. The characteristics of the joy and peace are full and tenacious. They can be horizontally or vertically interpreted. The horizontal reading of the joy and peace underlines the event of passion and resurrection of Jesus. This fundamental event gives the disciples the joy that no one can take away. However, this event happened nearly 2,000 years ago, but for today’s believers, do they still have this great and durable joy and peace inside of them? The vertical reading of the topic of the joy and peace is interesting, the gifts of joy and peace do not take away tribulations and challenges in this world, but the joy and peace of Jesus are the gifts from above, they help the believers master difficulties and obstacles in this world below.
(5) One of the features of the Johannine theology is the revelation about the presence and activities of the Paraclete. In John’ Gospel, the Paraclete (14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7) is identified as the Spirit of truth (14:17; 15:26) and Holy Spirit (14:26). The diversity of the Paraclete’s activities is summarized in three sections: (1) The Paraclete abides in the believers (14:16-17) and guides them (16:13); (2) The Paraclete teaches the believers about Jesus’ revelation (14:26; 16:8-11); (3) The Paraclete bears witness to Jesus “before” and “inside” the believers (15:26-27). Hoping that the believers could confirm the presence and activities of the Paraclete in their daily lives, because the abiding and guidance of the Paraclete are the source of spiritual strength to cope with difficulties.
In short, with the theme of “the crisis of faith and solution to overcome”, the Gospel of John has contributed an important part to the readers of all time. Thanks to Jesus’ revelation in this Gospel, those who are in the state of faith’s crisis, in the situation of a sterile faith, even loss of faith in Jesus, can regain the vitality of faith. Despite all the difficulties and challenges encountered anywhere and at any time, the believers can still learn and apply Jesus’ teachings through the Gospel of John to overcome the crisis of faith and be able to live the joy and peace of Jesus in their lives./.
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