The last words

First a small but telling comment to do with the title. In French the title is Le dernier entretien; the word translated into “entretien” would normally be rendered in English as “discourse”, but the French could actually be translated as “chat”, and that’s really much of where Daniel’s focus is as he looks at John 14-16, where Jesus speaks to his close disciples and calls them (us) his friends. The “chat” is foundational to the church —and, says Daniel, it is as a chat rather then the frequent idea of a farewell address that the passage should be read— and, as a chat, has very largely to do with relationship, not doctrine, certainly in the way Daniel presents it. Before calling the disciples “friends”, Jesus first calls them “little children”; here is a typical paragraph presenting Daniel’s interest:

“Little children”: this puts Jesus in the position of father, not biologically of course, but spiritually. He shows us the way of genuine spiritual paternity, not arrogating to himself the title of father which he systematically reserves for God, the one true Father, before whom he always situates himself as Son. Using the term “little children” rather than “my little children” indicates his wish not to have any hold over his disciples, but without abdicating his responsibility as a spiritual father. The whole of the discourse in fact demonstrates his concern for his children, to comfort, strengthen, teach and build them up in love. He reveals himself as the perfect model of a spiritual father, to the point of giving his life for them.

The second chapter is entitled simply The Holy Spirit. Daniel makes the coming of the Holy Spirit very personal, stressing particularly that it was a strong personal concern of Jesus for his friends, for whom he wishes maximum comfort. To say that Daniel strongly and consistently emphasizes the highly personal nature of all Jesus says is probably a sufficient summary – but of course he does this in depth under the heading of each of Jesus’ statements about the Holy Spirit. (Perhaps one of the most outstanding chapters in any of his books.)

Chapter 3 is Lord, where are you going? He is going to the Father (not heaven) . . . to prepare a place; and this place where the Father is is “with you”; not the oikos, the temple; no the oikia, a house; but mone, a humble dwelling. “With this in mind, I believe that mysteriously the dwelling place of the Father is alongside the Son and the Holy Spirit in the disciple. How humble and extraordinary is the Trinity, preferring the heart of the disciple to the Jerusalem Temple and the celestial temple. It’s a miracle of divine love, God coming humbly to inhabit the heart of the disciple.” The key words here are humble and humility, the emphasis of this section.I’m sorry not to have space to do more than hint at this.

Ch 4 is titled Love and examines what Jesus says in the discourse about the love that subsists between all the parties involved, the Father, the Son, (not the Holy Spirit), and you and me, dealing with each relationship individually. Suffice to say that it’s great and here are a couple of paragraphs:- Let’s look closely at this final discourse — what is the love that is spoken about? Well, the love of the Father for Jesus, and his love for his Father, never the love of the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit is never in the New Testament the subject of the verb ‘love’!); Jesus also talks about the love of the Father for the disciples, and of his own love for them; and finally, he discusses the disciples’ love for him and love among themselves, but without mentioning the disciples’ love for the Father! . . . The verb for “love,” used here twice, is not agapaô but philéô; not, that is, the verb which magnificently speaks of the way God loves without expecting anything in return, gratuitously, but the verb which speaks of reciprocal love and even God’s friendship, which itself is also magnificent. . . . . This statement from Jesus is absolutely extraordinary, and a most surprising revelation for the disciples; never, in fact, had they thought of being friends of God, not so much as having the pretension. Perhaps they had never even spoken to God of their love for him? . . . No, Jesus is telling them; God has found in your heart whereof to make you his friends! What grace this is for those who knew themselves to be so little worthy of what they were hearing from Jesus’ lips! How humble is this God who binds himself in friendship to a bunch of Galilee fishermen!

The fifth chapter is simply titled More on Love and continues the same themes but tending to focus on obedience, on love in action as demonstrated in John 13, Jesus washing the disciples feet. It’s obedience that leads to humility, Daniel says, and to an increasing experience of Jesus’ love in us. There is a great deal in this chapter; I will just briefly mention the take on ‘a new commandment I give you, that you love one another’ which Daniel says is the commandment of a physician – go and do this and you will get well!

This great book closes with an Afterword which sends us to Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

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