The Good Book Club | Week of February 10
This week: John 12:12—15:17

We begin this week with celebration. All four gospels include Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem for the Passover festival. It’s no accident that the crowds are waving palm fronds. Considered a patriotic symbol in those days, the palm leaves are a sign that people see Jesus as a possible king—but not the King, at least not yet.

But the festivities soon give way to Jesus’ consternation. Despite his signs and wonders and teachings, many still do not believe in him. And those who do (even some religious leaders) are too afraid to publicly confess their belief. In his last public teaching, Jesus again explains who he is and what it means to be a believer. Common motifs surface: the idea of new growth with the grain of wheat and contrast between the light of Christ and the darkness of the world.

Chapter 12 can be seen as a bridge between the first part of Jesus’ life and ministry and the last week before his death and resurrection. These verses compel us to understand “believing” as a verb, not a passive emotion but one that requires an active response and engagement. Jesus urges us to see him not as a mere messenger but as the Message.

In chapter 13, we move to familiar territory for most readers: the Last Supper. Interestingly, the Gospel of John does not mention the eucharistic action that we find in the other three gospels. Further, it is only in John that we hear the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. What are we to make of these editorial choices?

Scholars offer any number of reasons for the omission of the eucharist. Perhaps one of the easiest to understand is the simplest: Since John is believed to be the last gospel that was written, the author may have assumed readers already knew about the eucharist. So instead the writer offers a new and important story: Jesus washes the feet of the disciples as a tangible example of a lived faith, one committing to serving others. The embrace of servanthood as a hallmark of the faithful is reiterated by Jesus with his words: “Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”

While the gospel accounts of the Last Supper differ in some ways, all four mention the betrayal by Judas. It is easy for us to condemn Judas, confident that we would never forsake our savior in such a way. Yet we are all guilty of turning our back on Jesus: failing to care for the poor, mistreating our neighbors, letting racist comments slide, and indulging in juicy gossip. Even Simon Peter, who has faithfully followed Jesus, will deny him when the going gets rough. We might not literally turn Jesus into the authorities, but each time we fail to emulate our Lord, we turn our backs on him. Jesus is clear what it looks like to follow him as he gives the disciples and all of us a new commandment to love one another: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

While his disciples can’t imagine the events of the next few days, Jesus knows. And so he offers comfort for his friends. Do not be afraid , he says. I leave you with peace. And soon, you will have an Advocate—the Holy Spirit—to be a teacher and reminder of my words.

We end our readings this week with the last of the I Am statements. Jesus tells us, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” In this agrarian metaphor, Jesus invites us to see that we all grow from one root but are many branches, bearing fruit in different ways.
It’s interesting to note that the word “abide” appears eleven times in the first seventeen verses. Abide isn’t a word we use very often these days—and when we do, it’s mostly in a negative sense: “I can’t abide that.” But here Jesus calls us, implores us, to abide in him. To abide—to reside—in him, knowing that we shouldn’t go through life alone and that change will come, but “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.”

1.    Reading through these verses this week might seem like emotional whiplash: We move from triumphant celebration to heart-wrenching betrayal. Compare the entry story of John with the other gospels. Which details of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem help you understand the story in a new way?

2.    Why do you think the Gospel of John features the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples? Why do you think John leaves out the eucharist?

3.    What does Jesus’ new commandment to love one another mean to you in practical ways? How do you succeed in living out the commandment? In what ways have you failed?

4.    What does the word “abide” mean to you?
 Partner Spotlight

Families and young people across the church are reading the Bible together as part of the Good Book Club. Grow Christians offers several blogs on ways children, teens, and adults are delving into the Gospel of John. Grow Christians is an online community of disciples focused on the practical details of life at home. Gathering reflections, stories, images, and recipes, this group blog inspires generations to come together as they celebrate the presence of God through the Christian year.

El Club Bíblico es  un grupo de Facebook  que congrega a personas hispanohablantes interesadas en el mensaje de la Biblia. Durante Epifanía varios miembros del grupo van a publicar mensajes y videos para explorar el Evangelio de Juan.

El Club Bíblico is a  Facebook group  that gathers Spanish-speaking people interested in the message of the Bible. During Epiphany, several group members will post regular messages and videos exploring the Gospel of John.
Participant spotlight

We love hearing from Good Book Club participants and how God’s Word is working in their lives. Here’s a note from Maggie Khaja, who starts with an honest confession: “I had actually forgotten what I had signed up for: I am 75 and confused it with other subscriptions.

What I just read didn’t just touch my heart it entered my heart. My father was a Methodist minister, I studied divinity at university, but although I have attended both Anglican and now United Church, I have never been satisfied….My faith demands more. First, I commit to work on myself and then at the right time, maybe share your message with other friends.”

Writes Agnes Paseda: "I participate in a Bible study group at St. Mary Episcopal Church in High Point,  North Carolina. We meet once a week to discuss the readings and the reflections. When we share our reflections, I realize how the deeper study of this Gospel of John both strengthens and affirms my faith. I'm encouraged to be mindful of how these long-ago stories help me in my present situation, particularly my health. The miracles in John' s Cana and the healing at the pool...the Lord Jesus Christ heals. Praise the Lord!”

And from Paul Gennett: “Last year I began an interim ministry at Immanuel Episcopal Church in Wilmington, Delaware, to guide through their transitioning time. This support will continue into early 2020. As I began with them last year, I used the Good Book Club study of Romans as a “starter” for renewed adult education/Bible study. It was so well received that we continued with other books of the Bible throughout the year, and in the fall, used the Way of Love as a disciple-making conversation. As we ended this just prior to Advent, the group asked ‘When will the Gospel of John Good Book Club be ready for Epiphany?’ Most grateful to see this faith rebuilding happening.”

How are you participating in the Good Book Club? Share your story with us (and send pictures too, if you have them!). We’ll highlight participants from across the church. Send the information to Richelle at .

Let’s learn from and be inspired by each other!