John 15:7-17. Joy

A chiasm is a literary device used to artistically structure a passage so that greater attention is drawn to the central idea. Ideas or words are paired together and arranged such that a singular idea or word in the middle of the structure has no counter-part, thus giving it emphasis. For example, a chiastic unit of writing may be structured A1 – B1 – C – B2 – A2, where the two A-units correspond and the two B-units correspond, but C has no counter-part in order to emphasise this as the central and controlling idea of the chiasm.

It seems that Jesus uses this kind of device in John 15:7-17, as set out here:

A1. Asking

7 If you remain in me  and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

B1. Bearing fruit

8 This is to my Father’s glory,  that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

C1. Love

9 “As the Father has loved me,  so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands,  you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

D. Joy

11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

C2. Love

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends  if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

B2. Bearing fruit

16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—

A2. Asking

and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Jesus uses this chiastic structure to draw attention to Joy. All that he has told his disciples has been for their joy; that they might truly experience his joy in the completion of his mission. But this joy arrives as the culmination the previous steps. The disciples are to prayerfully ask God for fruitfulness. The primary fruit they are to bear is love: they are to love as the Father loves the Son, and as the Son has loved them. They are to exhibit their love for God by obeying his commands and by metaphorically laying down their lives for one another. The culmination of this kind of discipleship-life will be joy. Joy of the kind that is in Jesus and joy which endures.

Joy is more than happiness. It endures through hard times and challenges. It sustains hope.  Joy includes elation and but it also comes with the satisfaction of knowing it has all been worthwhile. The joy of Jesus– the kind that he gifts to us from himself– is born of completion. It is full. And it completes us.

Dear God and Father, please make me fruitful and overflowing with the kind of love that you have shown me in Jesus Christ. And as I delight to love others in this way, may I delight in the joy that you give. Amen.