Over the last few years, I have had my head and heart in the Gospel of John, and I must confess it is my favorite of the four Gospels. One of the powerful ways to explore John’s masterpiece is by doing a word study. There are at least seven key words that appear in just the first eighteen verses (typically called the Prologue) that can be traced throughout the Gospel.
This is significant, because the Prologue (John 1:1-18) forms a kind of thematic table of contents for what John will unfold over the next 20 chapters. These seven words are life (1:4), light (1:4), witness (1:7), believe (1:9), truth/true (1:14), glory (1:14) and Father (1:14). To give you a sense of how important they are, the term Father will be used nearly 120 times and belief/believe 98 times in the Gospel!
But today, I want to turn our attention to a little, often overlooked word in the Gospel of John: abide (Greek, menó). It will be used over forty times in John and nearly thirty times in his three epistles (1/2/3 John). That represents half of all of the times it appears in the entire New Testament. It obviously was a very significant term for John the Beloved.
Though it can simply indicate dwelling or staying in a place (John 11:6), John will often use it to speak of a deeper spiritual indwelling and sharing of life. Jesus will use menó to describe the mysterious inner life he shares from all eternity with his Father (John 14:10) and the future indwelling of the Spirit of Truth within his followers (14:17).
It can also connote a shared commitment. By standing firmly and faithfully in the gospel, Christ remains in us (Tweet this): “All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us.” (1 John 3:24).
It’s the word that John will use to describe fruit flourishing and growing because it abides (menó) in the vine (John 15:4-7). This led me to pray, “Lord, I want to be a fruitful disciple for you and abide in you more and more. How can I cultivate and keep that mutual indwelling and sharing of life you promise?”
Abiding in Jesus
May I suggest two ways the Lord spoke to me in my Lectio Divina on abiding in him? These certainly don’t exhaust the mystery of abiding in Christ, but I was directed to two verses of Scripture: John 8:31-32 and John 6:56.
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (8:31)
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (6:56).
Sound familiar? It’s the two main parts of the Mass! In these verses we can discern the two tables from which we are fed – the table of the Word and the table of the Eucharist. They are the primary ways Jesus comes to abide in us and we can abide faithfully and fruitfully in him. We serve a generous God whose “divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:4).
Consider looking up other references to abiding in Christ and ask the Lord to help you “abide” more deeply in this profound invitation. Here’s some verses to begin: John 6:27; 12:24; 15:9-10; 1 John 2:6, 19, 24; 3:14-15; 4:12-13; 2 John 1:2. Be aware that sometimes the verse will use a different English word like “remain” “continue” “endure” but the Greek verb menó or its forms are behind it.
This Gospel has been my favorite to draw from since my high school days…I also, was drawn to the use of certain words repeatedly in John’s writings. It has been my experience, that when one searches God’s Word honestly and earnestly, He will teach you from where you are…and John was a good place for me to start, (though I didn’t know it at the time)as it was encouraging, loving, and expressed Jesus’ personhood as the Son of God…and that is just what I needed at that time. Have returned to it many times during my life for encouragement and consolation.
The Gospel of St. John is my favorite which is not Synoptic. St. John takes us way above the clouds with an eagle, the symbol of John’s Gospel. Life and light are words that prevail in this Gospel.