John 15 and Mission: Preview 1 of my New Book on Missional Hermeneutics

During my sabbatical in 2015-2016, I am working on a new book in missional hermeneutics, this time (unlike Becoming the Gospel) focusing on the non-Pauline NT literature. I will be posting occasional excerpts of that work, in draft form, on these pages from time to time. Since I am beginning “in the beginning,” to so speak (that is, with the Gospel of John), the first posts will be about that gospel. Here is something on John 15:

In John 15 we find a creative and significant paradoxical tension within the text between the main verb, “abide” (menein; eleven times), on the one hand, and the verbs “do” (poiein; v. 4) and especially “go” (hypag?te; v. 16), on the other. Semantically, the former has to do with resting, staying put; it connotes, or could connote, spiritual ease or even apathy. The latter, however, has to do with moving, acting. This tension is expressed in, but not fully resolved by, the image of an abiding, fruit-bearing branch, for although healthy vines and branches naturally grow and bear fruit, they do not naturally move from place to place. The disciples, however, have been appointed to go. They constitute, in other words, a mobile vine, a community of centripetally oriented love that shares that love centrifugally as they move out from themselves, all the while abiding in the vine, the very source of their life and love, the source of their power to do.

Here is perhaps the most powerful symbiosis of spirituality and mission in the New Testament. This chapter, rooted in John 13-14 and further developed in John 16-17, is the quintessence of a participatory missiology. But it is even more than that; it expresses a profound theology of missional perichoresis and theosis (mutual indwelling of Christ and the disciples leading to transformation into Christlike Godlikeness). Fruit bearing is participating in the missio Dei embodied in Christ—to bring God’s light, love, and life to the world—and truly is the way we become more fully what we already are: Jesus’ disciples (15:8).

8 Responses to “John 15 and Mission: Preview 1 of my New Book on Missional Hermeneutics”

  1. Frank Hankins says:

    Michael, indeed John 15 brings spirituality and mission together within these chapters (13-17) on continuing the mission of Jesus. I await your further work and book on missional hermeneutics in John. As I have studied John, my conclusion has been that it is a contemplative Gospel in mission.

    Frank Hankins
    Affiliate Assistant Professor of Leadership
    School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary

  2. MJG says:

    Thanks, Frank.

  3. Frank Hankins says:

    Michael, when might your commentary on John be forthcoming? Frank Hankins

  4. MJG says:

    Sorry, Frank–I was out of the country. It is a monograph, not exactly a commentary; I expect it to be out about this time next year (I hope!).

  5. Frank Hankins says:

    Hi Michael, I’m glad to see that your monograph on John is to be released. I look forward to going through it. Incidentally, I’m on sabbatical. I began with reading through Raymond Brown’s A Retreat with John the Evangelist. Currently, I’m at a Jesuit Retreat House and my spiritual director, Father Vince Hovley, has distilled his approach to spirituality from the Gospel of John. Indeed, it’s about “abide and go,” as you have put it.
    Grace to you,
    Frank Hankins

  6. MJG says:

    Thanks, Frank. John is full of good things! I think the book will be out in mid-August.

  7. Frank Hankins says:

    Michael, my copy of Abide and Go arrived today. I’m already enjoying the chapter on Missional Theosis in John 13-17! I’ve been working on the perichoresis imagery of the Son at the Father’s side (kolpos 1:18) and John reclining on Jesus (13:23, 25 kolpos) and what it says about spirituality and mission. Have you read Thomas L. Brodie’s Commentary on John? He writes about “abiding restful union” (1993: 55) and the imagery of John reclining on Jesus. There are implications of an invitation “to become a beloved disciple” ourselves (ibid: 60).

  8. MJG says:

    Hi, Frank. I’m glad you are reading and (hopefully) profiting! I’ve had a few conversations with Tom Brodie, but I don’t think I have read his commentary, though I like his words.

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