Compensatory benefits of discipleship in the Gospel of John
Zhakevich, Mark Brian
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This thesis offers a focused study on the benefits of discipleship in the Gospel of John (GJohn). While previous research has considered the meaning of the terms disciple and discipleship, characterization of the Johannine disciples, and various characteristics of discipleship, in the current study I investigate certain themes that can be understood as compensatory benefits of discipleship in GJohn. I argue that these benefits can be grouped under three primary benefits that John deploys to promote discipleship. These three primary benefits are: membership in the divine family, the Father and the Son abiding in the believer through the Spirit, and royal friendship with Jesus. I have identified these three primary benefits based on either the benefit’s strategic placement in the text, or prominence in the Gospel, or peculiar meaning in GJohn. In addition to the three primary benefits, I argue that John features corollary benefits that appear in the surrounding narrative of the three key benefits. The corollary benefits of membership in the divine family are life, love, knowledge of God and of the truth, freedom from sin, walking in the light, salvation, avoidance of judgment/destruction, resurrection, protection, performance of great works, affirmation of genuine discipleship, honor, glory, and unity/oneness of the Father and the Son with the other disciples. The corollary benefits to abiding—which are contingent upon the disciples’ abiding in Jesus—are the presence of the Paraclete, love, peace, joy, avoidance of judgment, answered requests, the ability to perform great works, fruit, and affirmation of genuine discipleship. The corollary benefits to royal friendship with Jesus are love, knowledge of the Father, fruit, joy, and answered requests. The corollary benefits that are constituent of more than one primary benefit—love, affirmation of genuine discipleship, avoidance of judgment, joy, knowledge, answered requests, fruit, and performance of great works—are examined in the context of the primary benefit that develops the accompanying benefit most thoroughly. My study is rooted in a close reading of the text, with an exegetical and a narratival analysis of John’s presentation of discipleship. In chapter 1, I frame my argument in light of the existing literature on discipleship. In chapters 2 through 4, I investigate the three primary benefits and the affiliated corollary benefits. In chapter 2, I argue that followers of Jesus are integrated into the family of God by divine initiation. The disciple is then granted eternal life that enables him to relate to God, Jesus, and other members within the divine family, which results in the aforementioned additional benefits. In chapter 3, I argue that the theme of abiding with God and Jesus has a present and a future dimension in GJohn. In chapter 4, I argue that John depicts Jesus as a royal figure who invites his disciples into a friendship in which they experience the privilege of being members of his royal circle. In chapter 5, I suggest that John presents the benefits of commitment to Jesus against the general backdrop of the hostility of “the Jews” and the world toward Jesus and his followers. This opposition might have been a factor in the then-current experience of Johannine believers, or it might be reflective of the experience of a prior time which continued to form part of the outlook of the Johannine believers. In light of the potential cost of following Jesus, we can understand certain Johannine themes as compensatory benefits that are deployed in GJohn to promote continuous discipleship. In chapter 6, I synthesize my findings.