Gospel According (kata) to John
GOOD NEWS: REAL LOVE IS SERVICE c. 125 A.D.
Commentary by Philip G. Roets STL, SSL
The Greek title uses the preposition “kata” which means “according to” rather than the preposition “dia” which means “by.” The word choice was deliberate. The “Gospel According to John” tells us the ideas go back to John as the source of their authority but he did not necessarily say or write them exactly as they are gathered here.
DIVISION OF GOSPEL. (See also End Note Four)
John 1:1-18. Jesus is the Creative Word of the New Creation: (BARA).
Chapter 1:19-2:12. First week: Precursor: Faith in Jesus Begins.
Chapters 2:13-4:54: Second week: Temple Cleansed;
Nicodemus Comes; Samaritans Believe.
Chapters 5:1-6:71: Third week: Lord of Sabbath;
Bread of Life; Peter Believes.
Chapters 7-8-9: Fourth week: Light of the World.
Chapters 10-11: Fifth Week: Good Shepherd;
Lazarus Raised from the Dead.
Chapters 12-19: Sixth Week: Love Is Service: Courage Is Demanded.
Good Fruit: Father’s Love: Our Father: It is Complete! (“TETELESTAI”)
Chapters 20-21: Seventh Week: I Send You!
Receive the Breath of the New Creation.
PROLOGUE: FROM THE BEGINNING. John 1:1-18.
This part of the Gospel should be read after the whole Gospel has been carefully read. It is the prologue or preface and, like any good preface, was written after the whole work was finished. Then the authors knew exactly what they had written and the particular slant they stressed.
This preface gives the basic notion that the creative Word of Yahweh is the source of all creation, and Jesus Christ is the personification or manifestation of this Word in all its fullness. Yahweh is known as the Father throughout this Gospel. Jesus Christ is known as the Son of God.
This phrase is the opener for both John and Genesis. In Genesis, it means at the first moment of time. In John, the phrase means before all time, a starting point.
The Word Was. The Word Was with God. The Word Was God.
Here we have a clear statement of the distinction between the Father and His Word, and the equality between them. The Gospel story as it unfolded, made this mysterious introduction clearly understood. Jesus Christ was this Word. Jesus was this human being who lived, taught and died here on earth in a given time. He was the person who embodied this Word so perfectly that he established the second creation and left it as a heritage for all people to come. The Prologue did not intend to explain this statement. It merely stated the most basic truth of the life of Jesus Christ as John presented it.
Through this Word all creation came into being, and not a thing was made apart from it. Through this Word as manifested in the ideas, ideals, and actions of Jesus, the second Creation, would be established. And the world would reach its “TELOS” (Greek word) or completion.
John the Baptist is singled out as a person SENT by God, as a WITNESS to LIGHT, so that everyone might BELIEVE through him. John was not the light itself but a witness to the light.
In general, people did not accept what Jesus offered. But to all who accepted him, he gave the power to become the real children of God. That is, he established the BROTHERHOOD of MANKIND in the FATHERHOOD of GOD. This great blessing started the moment that Jesus was conceived and born. This Word became flesh and “pitched his tent among us.” Then we can look on the favor and plan of the Father because Jesus was the full personification of both.
Jesus would give only one command and that was “Love each other and share with each other!” The whole concept of love permeates the Joanine writings. Jesus’ whole message is summed up in these words: “By this shall all men know that you are my followers in the love that you have for each other.” (J.13:35)
FIRST WEEK OF NEW CREATION. John 1:19-2:12.
The 7 weeks of the new creation parallel the 7 days of the old creation. This first week gives us a story about John the Baptist as the Forerunner of Jesus, the calling of the first of the twelve apostles, and the wedding feast in Cana where the groundwork for the faith of the apostles was laid.
MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD. John 1:19-34.
“THE JEWS” --In John’s gospel, the “Jews” were the religious authorities among the Jewish people who were hostile to Jesus from the beginning. They are called the “Jews” because this is a translation of “Judaei,” the members of the tribe of Juda. It was the tribe of Juda who had control of the southern part of Palestine and especially Jerusalem. They were despised and hated in the time of Jesus because they controlled all the money that was received by offerings and tithes. They in turn looked upon all other members of Israel as second-class citizens. They had a special dislike for the people of Galilee and Nazareth.
In this passage, John says that the leaders sent their representatives, the priests and Levites, to John the Baptist, across the Jordan, where he was preaching and baptizing.
They had one big concern: Who was this John to whom all the people were flocking and about whom they were all raving? Was he the Messiah? Was he Elijah returned, as was a popular expectation? Was he The Prophet, the special one who was to come just before the Messiah? To all these questions, John gave a firm “NO.” He was not any of these special people.
The delegates of the leaders were frustrated. They could not return empty-handed so they tried to put pressure on John. “Who are you then? We have to have an answer to take back to the people who sent us! What do you have to say about yourself?”
John answered this last part: “I am as Isaiah said, ‘A voice crying in the desert: Make straight the way of the Lord’.” This may not seem like much of an answer but it is filled with meaning. First of all, John said he was the FORERUNNER or precursor. This was a particular role that had to be carried out in the life of any important person.
There were no real roads in the area. When an important person came, he was usually carried on the shoulders of some of the men in a sort of sedan chair. If the roads were crooked, filled with dips and hills, the person would be bounced from side to side in an undignified manner. It would certainly not be in keeping with his importance.
The forerunner (precursor) went to all the villages along the route and told them to send out their road crews to level off the hills, fill in the low spots, and straighten out the sharp curves. Then the road would somewhat befit the dignity of the person coming.
John said he was this precursor. He was out in the desert telling everyone to prepare the “WAY OF YAHWEH,” “Yahweh’s road.”
The men who had come to John were sent by the Pharisees and they did not have an idea as to what he was talking about. So they asked again, “If you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor The Prophet, then why are you baptizing?”
To understand the import of the question, remember that baptism was a complete submersion of a person in water. The meaning was that the person was removing all connection with his/her former life and becoming a totally dedicated follower of this particular person.
So, if John was not one of these important people, why was he attaching all these people to himself? John explained himself clearly. He pointed out that he was baptizing people only in water. There was an important person living among them, far more important than John. In fact, says John, I would not even be allowed to be the servant at the door who washed the feet of the guests who were coming to the banquet. Such a servant was considered the lowest in the household. John said that he could not even hold this position in relation to the important person who was already here.
Remember: this is not an exact time sequence as we would have in our writings in the western world. It means simply that the second action or event logically follows the first.
Jesus approached John. John called out “Look! THE LAMB OF GOD, he who is taking away the sin of the world. This is the one of whom I said: ‘There is a man coming after me who is greater than I because he existed before me. And I did not know him but in order that he be manifested to Israel, I have come baptizing in water.’ ”
How did John the Baptist know Jesus and know that he was coming? We know this from Luke’s account. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John, were cousins and close friends. Both boys were bright and deeply instructed in the Law. They had discussed their ideas many times. John started his work six months in advance of Jesus and knew that Jesus was coming soon.
In this first part of John’s testimony there are points of importance:
1: Lamb of God,
2: take away sin of the world,
3: pre-existence and greater rank,
4: manifest to Israel,
5: baptize in water.
1. Lamb of God.
In the Bible, the lamb is always a sacrificial victim. So John was saying that Jesus was the special sacrificial victim to be offered to God.
2. Take away the sin of the World.
This sacrifice was an atonement sacrifice but it would be different in that it was offered to remove the guilt of all sin. This was clearly a reference to the sin of mankind as committed by the parents of mankind in the Garden of Eden. In some way, the guilt of this sin would be removed once and for all by this sacrifice offered by Jesus.
3: Preexistence and Greater Rank.
Jesus outranked John in dignity because his mission existed before John's and gave meaning to the mission of John. John's mission was truly preparatory.
4: Manifest to Israel.
John was to point out Jesus and his mission to the people of Israel. He did this by calling for complete loyalty to himself and his teaching that lead them to the teaching of Jesus. John's teaching was basically one idea - “METANOIA,” Greek word for “a complete change of outlook or mentality” - turning from the path of sin and destruction to the path of holiness.
5: Baptize in Water.
John continued: “I saw the Breath come down upon him from heaven in the form of a dove and remain on him. I did not know him myself but he who sent me to baptize in water said to me: ‘The one on whom you see the Breath descending and remaining on him, he is the one who is to baptize in the Holy Breath. And I heard and I have testified that this is the Son of God.”
I did not translate “To Pneuma” as the “Spirit” yet. This is deliberate. I think the parallel with the first creation story continues. We have the description of the origin of the First Man or Adam. He was a lump of clay, molded by God, and then God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” and he became a living being. Then Jesus came. He would be the new Adam. His life would be publicly inaugurated shortly. This inauguration would be manifested in the appearance of the “Holy Breath.” This meant, as I see it, the Father would “breathe” into Jesus, and this Breath would remain permanently with him. This Breath would make him the New or Second Adam and he would recover the heritage lost by the first Adam. Then Jesus would “baptize in this Holy Breath.” This means he would carry on the work of the new or second creation for all who would accept him.
Secondly, there was a DOVE as a symbol. This took us back to the Noah story. When Noah wanted to know if it was safe to leave the Ark, he sent out the Dove and it returned with the olive branch in its beak. Noah knew the waters were almost subsided and soon they could be back on dry ground.
John concluded with the words that Jesus was the “Son of God” or the “Chosen of God.” The phrase varied in the manuscripts and both ideas have strong merit. “Son of God” would stress that God was Father and wanted to establish the brotherhood of mankind in Jesus. “Chosen of God” would stress that Jesus was fulfilling this aspect of Israel. They were the people specially chosen to prepare for the coming of Jesus. Jesus was the fulfillment of this quality of “CHOSEN.”
YOU ARE THE BEDROCK. ANYTHING GOOD FROM NAZARETH? John 1:35-51
John the Baptist had referred to himself as a forerunner. His role was to point out Jesus and then John was to disappear.
Two of John's followers were with him. Jesus passed and John looked pointedly at Jesus and said: “Look, there is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples caught the implications. Jesus was someone they were looking for. In some way he was the atonement victim, or the lamb of sacrifice. They were curious and so they started to follow Jesus.
Who were these two men? One was Andrew, brother of Peter. The other was John, the apostle. As they followed behind Jesus, suddenly he turned and said, “What do you want?”
The question seemed to have startled them. They blurted out the first idea that came into their heads. “Rabbi, (which means Teacher), where do you live?” Jesus answered, “Come and see.” John said it was about 4:00 in the evening and they stayed with him the whole night.
There is no doubt about the impression that Jesus made on these two. Andrew went immediately and got his brother Simon. Andrew told Simon that they had found the Messiah and took Simon directly to Jesus. When Jesus saw Simon, he gave him the new name, Kephas, which means Bedrock. It is translated into Greek as “Petros” and comes to us in English as “Peter.” Jesus recognized from the very start the kind of man to be found in Peter, and immediately pointed out that he would help in his work as Messiah.
The next day, Jesus saw Philip. Jesus said simply, “Follow me.” Philip was from the same town as Peter and Andrew, Bethsaida. It would have been easy for him to follow along and listen. Philip had a close friend, named Nathanael. He told him that they had found the person whom Moses and the Prophets were talking about. He was Jesus, son of Joseph, of Nazareth. Nathanael's reaction was one of disdain. “Can anything worthwhile come from Nazareth?” Philip didn't know how to answer so he said simply, “Come and see for yourself.” (Nathanael was probably the Bartholomew of the Synoptics)
Philip and Nathanael walked up to Jesus. When Jesus saw them, he says of Nathanael, “Now here is a real Israelite in whom there is nothing of deceit.” Nathanael was amazed. “How do you know me?” he asks. Jesus answers, “Before Philip came to call you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael was caught up with this statement. He said in amazement, “Rabbi, you are really the Son of God, the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “Don't make too much of the fact that I saw you under the fig tree. You are going to see a lot more than this. You will see the heavens opened and the messengers of God ascending and descending above the Son of Man.”
This was a reference to Genesis and the story of Jacob when he was on his way to find a wife. (Gen. 28:10-17) This incident in the life of Jacob was seen as the foundation point of himself as Israel, the founder of the Chosen People. By referring to this Old Testament scene that every Israelite would know by heart, Jesus was clearly referring to himself as the founder of the New Israel, the new People of God.
Following the format of the first week of the New Creation, we are told that the next incident took place three days later. We come to the Wedding Feast In Cana. We are told that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was there. Jesus also had been invited. Joseph was not mentioned. This leads us to believe that Joseph had already died.
A wedding feast usually lasted for eight days. People were invited and needed to bring nothing along. They could expect the host to provide the place to live, the clothes, the food and all the necessities for the entire week. The greatest disaster in a person's social life was to have a shortage of anything so that the guests had to do without.
It is important to note that John brought Mary, the mother, into the public life of Jesus, twice. At the beginning here in Cana, she drew the attention of Jesus to what was needed and took it for granted her son would help out in the situation. At the foot of the cross, at the end of his life, Jesus entrusted John to Mary as a son, and Mary to John as his Mother. However, he addressed her in both cases as “WOMAN.”
This was really unusual until you recalled the parallel with the story of the first creation. Eve was the first “WOMAN.” As such, she had been instrumental in the introduction of the first sin or failure. Jesus was presented as the Second Adam and Mary was addressed as the Second Eve. She would cooperate in the plan of salvation and thereby, compensate for the failure of the first woman.
This comparison, so clearly made John, is the basis for all the recognition that Mary has received among Christians since that time. It is true, some of the so-called devotions have gotten carried away, but the basic respect for Mary in the plan of salvation, is simply a carry-over from the example of Jesus and the practice of the first Christians.
Now read this incident at Cana. Jesus and his first apostles were present. There was a good possibility that the couple did not know that these men would be coming with Jesus. They could have been part of the cause for the shortage of wine because they were not counted ahead of time. Mary walked up to Jesus and said: “They are running out of wine.” Jesus’ response sounded abrupt. “Woman, what is that to me and to you? My hour has not yet come.”
It certainly sounds surly. It surely sounds like a refusal to do anything because he had no obligation. But Mary knew her son. She went right over to the servants and said: “Whatever he tells you to do, do it.” Mary did not know what he would do but she was sure he would do something to alleviate the embarrassment.
There were six stone water jars standing there, intended for the ritual washings that went with the celebration. Each would hold from 20 to 30 gallons. Jesus told the servants to fill them with water. They did as told. Then Jesus told them to take some of it to the steward of the feast. He was the man in charge of the whole celebration.
The steward tasted the water that was now wine. He had no idea where it came from but the servants did. When he tasted the wine, the steward proclaimed: “Usually, people serve their best wine first. Then, when people have been drinking and their taste buds are a bit dulled, he serves the cheaper wine. But you have kept the best wine until now.”
Now John summed up the main reason for his telling the story. He said: “This the first of his SIGNS Jesus worked in Cana, Galilee. He began to manifest his glory in order that his disciples (the apostles) would begin to believe in him.”
It is true that the action of Jesus saved the young couple from social embarrassment. But in the plan of Jesus, his purpose was to inaugurate or engender the faith of his apostles in him. John said the apostles began to believe in him.
Then John said they left the feast and went back to Capernaum with his mother and relatives and stayed a few days. That is the first week of the new creation.
1. John the Baptist was presented as the last of the prophets of the
Old Law and the first of the prophets of the New.
2. John was the bridge between the Old Israel and the New Israel
who was Jesus and he pointed out Jesus as the New Israel.
3. Jesus gathered the first of his special followers, the
twelve apostles. The number twelve was a special
fulfillment of the 12 tribes in the old Israel.
4. Jesus was clearly pointed out as a sacrificial lamb in
some kind of atonement sacrifice.
5. The importance of Mary in this work of Jesus was as
the new Eve who made amends for the failure of
first Eve at the beginning of time.
6. The faith of the apostles in Jesus began at this time.
SECOND WEEK OF THE NEW CREATION. John 2:13-4:54.
“MY FATHER’S HOUSE!” John 2:13-25.
Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. This was the greatest commemorative feast of the Old Law. Its liturgy and ritual were to recall and commemorate the deliverance of the Old Israel from the slavery of Egypt. The Egyptian firstborns were dead after the angel of death passed, but the children of the Israelites were safe and sound. Pharaoh urged the Israelites to get out of the country and take anything they wanted with them. The Passover referred to the angel of death passing over the houses of the Israelites, and the Israelites passing from the land of slavery to the Promised Land.
Jesus came to Jerusalem for the feast. As he got to the Temple he was disgusted with what had happened. The courtyard had been turned into a sales barn. All the animals used in sacrifices were gathered together and people were dickering over the prices. The money changers were there with their coin tables to change the currency of the Roman empire into the money of the Temple. Naturally, the money changers were trying to make an “extra shekel.”
Jesus became truly angry. This desecration of the Temple disgusted him. He made a whip and used it in every direction. He drove all of them out of the Temple and overturned the money tables in the sandy floor. He followed that action with these words: “Take all this stuff out of here. Stop turning my Father's House into a sale barn.” The apostles remembered what had been said: “Zeal for your house will devour me.” (Psalm. 69:9)
The leaders of the people were furious at what had happened and yet they were afraid. Jesus had shown how fearless he really was. Yet they knew he came from Nazareth, was a carpenter by trade, and had no formal education. So they braced Jesus with what seemed an unanswerable question: “What sign are you going to give us that proves you have the right to do these things?”
Jesus’ answer was enigmatic to say the least. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up again.” The leaders figured they had caught him in his own words. “Forty-six years this temple has been in building and you are going to build it in three days?” John says, Jesus was talking about the temple of his body. When Jesus rose from the dead, they remembered what he had said and believed more strongly.
John added a comment on the reaction of the people to Jesus and of Jesus to the people. As the people saw how he flaunted the so-called authority of the Jewish leaders, they began to follow him. They accepted him - not so much because of what he was teaching and what this entailed in their lives. Rather, they saw him as a possible deliverance from the rough tyranny of these narrow-minded leaders.
Jesus was too skilled in reading the attitudes of people to be duped by this seeming acceptance. He knew how easily they could and would turn against him if he lost in popularity, or if the leaders suddenly got the upper hand. Jesus played to the crowd in the sense that he taught them and urged them to change their lives and, above all, to beware of the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees. However, he was not about to mistake popularity for sincere acceptance.
NICODEMUS COMES BY NIGHT. John 3:1-21.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee who had heard and seen the actions of Jesus. He knew the antagonism that his party felt against Jesus. Yet, he was inclined to accept Jesus. But he did not want to get left holding the bag. So he paid Jesus a visit at night. Very few people would see him, and if someone saw him, he could easily work out an explanation.
Nicodemus says, “Rabbi, (Teacher) we know that you are a teacher that comes from God. For no one could perform the signs you do unless God is with him.”
Jesus’ answer was immediate and to the point. John pointed out that it was an important statement by introducing it with the “Amen, Amen, I tell you...” This was a form of oath to emphasize what was being said. John uses the double “Amen” whereas the other gospels use only one “Amen.” A good strong equivalent in the vernacular would be: “Now get this straight!” or “Let me put it right on the line for you.” In other words, this was a formal oath but the same strong language in English would be something put it in the clear vernacular of every day.
Jesus told Nicodemus: “Unless a person is born FROM ABOVE (or again), he cannot even see the Kingdom of God.” The Greek word used “anothen” means either “from above” or “again.” Nicodemus took the meaning “again” and pointed out that the statement of Jesus was absurd. An adult cannot crawl into his mother's womb and be born “again.”
Jesus did not waste time correcting this silly interpretation by Nicodemus. He simply went on with his explanation. “Unless a person is born of WATER and the BREATH, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” This was clearly a reference to the first creation of mankind again.
We are told in Genesis that water was flowing over the land and Yahweh took this moistened soil, i.e. clay, and fashioned the body of man. Then he breathed into it the “BREATH WHICH IS LIFE.” The lump of clay became a living being. Here Jesus said that people must be born again “of water and the Breath.” Birth into the plan of salvation would be a new creation of each person. This birth or rebirth is called Baptism.
The greatest and most complete description of this Spirit and its relationship to Jesus as Messiah is given in Isaiah 11:1-9. This entire passage should be read and studied carefully because it was so well known and often used by the first Christians.
According to this passage in Isaiah, the Spirit (Breath) has 7 qualities:
1. WISDOM: the ability of a leader to make wise judgments
in the face of the events of daily life;
2. SHREWDNESS: keen insight into the very heart of every matter;
3. RESOLUTENESS: decision, the ability to make up your mind
and stick with the decision.
4. STRENGTH: the power necessary to carry out these convictions;
5. A SENSE OF TRUE VALUES: the ability to dig through to the real
and permanent value of any event or thing;
6. FAMILY RESPECT: a sense of community as is established
in a close and well-knit family;
7. FEAR OF THE LORD: a reverence or respect for self and all others.
These are the gifts of the Spirit that the Messiah and all his followers will have. The gifts will insure that followers with the Spirit do not judge by appearances or hearsay. They will care for the weak and the oppressed but will have a heavy hand for the wicked and overbearing. Integrity and fidelity will be the trademarks of all their actions.
The result will be peace and harmony at its best. This is described in concrete terms. Ferocious animals shall live in perfect harmony with all the tame and helpless ones. Children will be able to play with the most poisonous of snakes and never fear being bitten or stung. All these animals will be together and a little child shall lead them.
We have all seen the artistic presentation of these ideas. We have heard the words that describe them. Jesus applied these words to himself and to all those who accepted his teaching and lived by it.
Nicodemus was stunned by what he had heard from the lips of Jesus. He cried out in dismay. “How is this possible?”
The answer of Jesus was stern: “You are a teacher in Israel and you do not understand?” Now Jesus applied these ideas to himself in a very special way. First he used the title “Son of Man.” Strictly speaking, the phrase “Son of...” in Hebrew, merely stressed whatever quality was mentioned. So this phrase stressed that it is a man. However, this phrase was given special meaning in the visions of Daniel (7:13). The Son of Man was going to achieve a universal victory in the face of great odds.
Secondly, Jesus referred to the BRONZE SERPENT that Moses held aloft in the desert. All the Israelites who looked on this serpent and truly believed were healed and saved. Jesus said the Son of Man, himself, must be lifted up and all who looked on him and believed will be saved. The whole plan of salvation will be carried out by the Son of Man.
The Son of Man had come - not to condemn the world but to SAVE THE WORLD if they truly BELIEVED IN HIS NAME. The teaching of Jesus is LIGHT and everyone who believes comes into and lives by this light, and the light spreads to the whole world.
Application to today:
It goes without saying that we are almost totally bereft of this belief and salvation in our world today. The important point is that this world of peace and love is the responsibility of each person. It is not a gift but depends on the stability and depth of personal faith as we have described it before. These points will be developed at great length in the course of the Gospel.
JOHN BAPTIST: LINK BETWEEN OLD AND NEW! John 3:22-36
John the Baptist was a man well-known and revered among the first Christians. His was the tremendous responsibility of introducing Jesus to the world and then slipping into the background. He was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets but the least in the New Testament. Such a statement is misleading. As a member of the Old Covenant, he was in the period of preparation and was less than anyone in the fulfillment. But he also belonged to the New Covenant and as such ranked well above many that would come later.
It is important not to distort the meaning of these comparisons. It is like comparing the seed and the apple. We discard the seeds without a second thought after we have eaten the apple. However, that tree on which the apple grew would never have come into existence except for the seed that was planted. In that sense the fruit is impossible without the previous seed. In that sense, the seed is more important than the tree or the apple. All this has to be kept in mind when we speak of the greatness or importance of the Forerunner, John the Baptist.
The whole issue was occasioned by the conduct of a few of John Baptist’s followers. They came up to him and said that the man whom he had baptized on the other side of the Jordan, was baptizing and making more disciples than John. John’s disciples were shaken and wanted him to do something immediately to set the records straight.
John’s answer was beautiful. He stressed that each of us received our work in this plan of God from God himself. We came into the world at a certain time and place and had a certain work to do.
Then John used the example of a wedding. There was only the bride and bridegroom. The best man, in their society, had an important role in the wedding ceremony. He was the center of attention in all the preparations and ceremonies right up to the introduction of the groom to the bride. Then the best man disappeared and the groom came front and center. People might forget who the best man was but the groom they would always remember.
John Baptist claimed the role of best man in this plan of salvation. His job was to make sure that Jesus was known and came into contact with the world that he was to save. When this work was done, Jesus was to grow and John Baptist was to slide into the background.
John Baptist was not forgotten. His fidelity, humility and sacrifice for the sake of Jesus and his work will always be a major part in the salvation of the world. John started public teaching first and Jesus followed as soon as he was of age. John introduced Jesus to the world. John died for the expression of his convictions and Jesus praised John for the great man that he was. Jesus continued and expanded the work that John had begun.
SAMARITANS MEET AND ACCEPT JESUS! John 4:1-42.
POLITICAL DIVISION OF PALESTINE.
To understand this selection, it is necessary to remember the political division of Palestine in the time of Jesus. Originally, Palestine was a country of many small groups of people, each warring with the other. Then, under David, in the 11th century B.C., David’s army conquered the whole area and the natives were either killed, run off, or made into slaves. David built his palace and ruled for a lifetime. Then his son, Solomon, took the reins and the Temple was completed in all its splendor in 968 B.C. The Kingdom reached the heights of its glory under Solomon who was a tyrant, powerful and clever enough, to hold it all together. With Solomon's death in 929 B.C., the kingdom split into the North and South and went downhill fast. In 722 B.C., the northern kingdom was captured by the Assyrians. In 587 B.C., the southern kingdom was beaten down by the Babylonians.
From that time on, there were three parts to the Promised Land: Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Judea had Jerusalem and the Temple and the palace of David and Solomon. Their people were the descendants of Juda and the small tribe of Benjamin. They always thought themselves a peg above all other Israelites and the Chosen People came to be known as the “Jews,” following on the name of Juda.
The Galileans were the northern third of the country. They came down to Jerusalem for all the feasts and were tolerated by the Judeans because their tithes paid much of the expense of ruling. They would were looked upon as the “hillbillies” of the society. They had a different way of talking and certainly did not have the refinements that the Judeans pretended they had. In fact, Nathanael’s reaction to Nazareth was typical of the times: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
In between Galilee and Judea was Samaria. Samaritans were totally despised by the other two groups. They were Israelites who had intermarried with the native population and were a mixed race. There was a saying popular in the time of Jesus, “It would be better to have a pig in the house than to tolerate the presence of a Samaritan.”
To go from Galilee to Jerusalem, travelers went through Samaria. This was a dangerous trip unless there were several in the group and they were well armed. Now, Jesus had occasion to go through the territory of Samaria.
Jesus was informed that the Pharisees had learned that he had made and baptized more disciples than John the Baptist. As a parenthesis, John added, Jesus was not doing the baptizing. This was done by the apostles. However, because of the attitude of the Pharisees, Jesus decided to go north to Galilee. On the way they went through the territory of Samaria.
They came to a town called Sychar and Jesus was tired and hot. He sat down by the public well. The apostles went off into the village looking for food. It was about noon at the time.
A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus said, “Give me a drink.” The woman was amazed and she said, “You are a Jew and you are asking me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” Samaritans and Jews did not even talk to each other, ordinarily.
Jesus said, “That’s right! And if you were aware of what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: ‘Give me a drink,’ you would be asking him and he would give you fresh running water.”
“But you don’t even have a bucket, sir,” she answered, “and this well is deep. How could you get this running water? Are you greater than our father, Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, himself with his family and cattle?”
Jesus replied, “If you drink of this water, you’ll get thirsty again. Anyone who drinks the water that I have to give will never thirst again. The water that I will give will become a spring inside him, bubbling up into eternal life.”
“Sir,” said the woman, “give me that water so that I may never thirst again and never have to come back here to fill the jugs.” Jesus answered her: “Go, get your husband and come back here.” The woman replied, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said “You are right to say, ‘I have no husband’. The five men you have had were not your husbands and the one you have now is not your husband. In that, you are really telling the truth.”
“I see you are a prophet, sir,” said the woman. “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” She had changed the topic to a popular point of discussion to divert the attention from herself.
Then Jesus said explicitly to the Samaritan woman that he was the Messiah. How much more he might have revealed at the time is not known because at that moment the apostles returned. They were amazed to see Jesus talking to a woman. Women were treated much like children at that time. They were not spoken to in public.
The Apostles did not ask Jesus why he was talking to the woman. Meanwhile, the Samaritan woman set her jug down and went running off to the village. We can see how excited she was when she left her water jug behind and that was the whole purpose for her coming to the well. As she got to the village she cried out, “Come, see this man who has told me everything I ever did. Is he the Christ?” This roused the curiosity of the people and they came out toward Jesus.
Meanwhile, the apostles were trying to get Jesus to eat something. He replied, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Now, the apostles were really puzzled. First, he was talking with this Samaritan woman in public. Then he had been getting food from someone. They couldn’t make it out.
Jesus gave an explanation that certainly did not make any sense at the time. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Don’t you say it is four months until the harvest? I tell you: Look around! Look at the fields! They are white for the harvest! I am sending you to reap a harvest that you have not sown. Others toiled to do the sowing and now you come in for the harvest.”
Jesus was talking about the conversion of the world. The first people to truly accept Jesus was this crowd of Samaritans. All of this was prepared by the prophets and teachers who have gone before them. The seed has been firmly sown. Now they can begin the harvest.
The Samaritans came out to see Jesus and listened to him carefully. They turned to the lady who had called them. They assured her they had come because of what she said. But they now accepted Jesus and his teaching because of what Jesus said. The first people to follow Jesus were not Judeans, but the despised Samaritans.
There is no doubt that the secret of leading people to accept the values and teachings of Jesus Christ was explicitly stated in this passage. The person who was instructing had to be so convinced of what he was offering that it became his food - his source of sustenance. It clearly could not become a collection of dry questions and answers arranged in a kind of Catechism or book of instruction. The message of Jesus had to reach the whole person - not just his mind.
A ROMAN NOBLEMAN BELIEVES. John 4:43-54.
Jesus stayed in Samaria a few days and then left for Galilee. Jesus did not put much trust in the Galileans because they thought of him as just one of them. However, when he arrived in Galilee this time, they gave him a hearty welcome. They had seen what he had done in Jerusalem at the feast, and they liked the prestige it gave them.
Jesus went on to Cana and there he met a court official whose son was ill. He came to Jesus and asked him to cure his son. Jesus seemed almost harsh. He decried the shallowness of his faith. However the man persisted and Jesus told him to go home. His son was cured. The official turned for home. While he was on the way, his servants came to meet him. They said he need not bring Jesus because the boy was already cured. The official asked when the cure took place. They said it was one o’clock in the afternoon. The official knew that was the exact time Jesus had spoken to him. He and his whole family began to believe in Jesus.
THIRD WEEK: BREAD OF LIFE. John 5:1-6:7.
This section of the Gospel contains the cure of the man at the pool of Bethzatha and the claim of Jesus to be the fulfillment of the expectations of the Jews. It has the story of the feeding of the crowds with the five loaves and two fish. Then, Jesus walked over the waters of the lake and calmed the storm. Finally, he explained how he was the Bread of Life.
SOMEONE BEATS ME TO THE WATER EVERY TIME. John 5:1-18.
It was the time of a Jewish feast, possibly Pentecost or Tabernacles. No name is given. Jesus came to Jerusalem and entered the city near the Sheep Pool. There was a building at that spot, called Bethzatha. In Hebrew, this means the “house with five porches.” The water in the pool was supposed to have healing powers. Naturally, large crowds of sick and lame people gathered here. The water would move from time to time. The belief was that the first person in the water after the stirring would be healed of any ailment.
A man had been trying to get in the pool first for 38 years. Someone always beat him to the water. Jesus walked up to this man and said, “Do you really want to get well?” The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone to put me into the water and somebody always beats me to the pool.” Jesus said, “Get up, pick up your pallet, and walk.” The man was cured and jumped up, picked up his pallet, and walked away.
Now, said John, it happened on the Sabbath. The leaders saw this man carrying his pallet, not allowed on the Sabbath, and recognized him for the man who had been sick for so long. Anybody else would have asked about the cure or some such question. The leaders said “You are breaking the law.” The man said, “He that cured me told me to do this.”
Again, we see the perversity of the leaders. They did not ask about the cure. They simply wanted to know who it was that told him to break the law. The man pointed out Jesus and they began to pester him again. Jesus answered them simply, “My Father is working all the time and now I am working.” Then the leaders were more anxious to put him to death because he not only broke the Sabbath, but he called God his Father and so made himself an equal of God.
That whole incident showed how the antagonism and hatred for Jesus was more and more the message that John was recounting.
MOSES ALREADY TALKED ABOUT ME. John 5:19-47.
As you read these orations or speeches in John, remember - this is the written edited version coming to us about 100 years after the events. The original incidents are for real. The deeper insight into their significance in the lives of the first Christians was constantly growing. This is an important point because it shows how the life of Jesus is to be updated and kept present in the lives of his followers in each generation.
Jesus made open and clear claim to being the real Son of the Father. The Father was Yahweh as he had been known for centuries among the Jews. He was presented as the Father of the Chosen People and the whole people was the Son of Yahweh. Later, the Kings as the rulers of the Chosen People, were known as the Son of the Father in a special way. Then the truly Wise Person was called the Son of Yahweh. Now Jesus laid claim to the title in a special way and for several reasons.
JESUS, SON OF THE FATHER.
First of all, Jesus had at his disposal all the power that belonged to the Father. Not only could he cure all manner of sickness, he would even be able to raise the dead to life. All judgment is entrusted to the Son, and the Son is to be given the same honor as the Father. In fact, any dishonor to Jesus is a dishonor to the Father. Anyone who believes in Jesus will have eternal life - exactly as those who believe in Yahweh. The reason for this power of Jesus is that he does the will of the Father perfectly. His OBEDIENCE makes him and the Father one.
Jesus called on the testimony of John the Baptist again. He told them to recall how the Father had spoken at John’s baptism so that all could hear.
The people made a big profession of studying the Scriptures. Yet the Scriptures spoke of Jesus constantly. In fact, Moses was looking forward to Jesus' coming. And, if they do not accept Jesus, then Moses himself would be their accuser before the throne of the Father. Not to believe in Jesus was to reject Moses.
This, of course, was very strong talk and the rankest heresy for the Jews. There was no doubt that Jesus must die. However, they always had to be sure they did not make him a martyr and a national hero. The people followed Jesus closely, listened to everything he had to say, and eagerly accepted all his favors.
THE CROWDS WERE HUNGRY; JESUS FED THE CROWDS. John 6:1-15.
Jesus felt sorry for the people out in the desert area with nothing to eat for their evening meal. He took the loaves and dried fish that a shepherd boy carried for his lunch. He blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples to spread among the people. When the people finished eating, the apostles gathered up the food that was left over and they gathered 12 baskets full. They had started with only a few loaves and fish.
This story is told in each gospel - twice in some of them. The details are never exactly the same. Sometimes, there were four thousand men plus the women and children. At other times, there were five thousand men plus the women and children. The reference to 200 denarii is important. One denarius was considered a good wage for one day. Here we are talking about a salary for almost a year. The apostles said that even with that much money they could buy only a tiny morsel for each one.
Here is the parallel between Moses in the desert leading the Israelites, and Jesus in the desert leading the people. Jesus was the new Moses.
The people grumbled and complained against Moses because they were out in the desert of Sinai and they were hungry. They threatened to kill Moses, and turn around and go back into the slavery of Egypt. It was better to be a live slave than to be a freed person, dying of starvation in the desert. Moses fed the Israelites with the quail that were migrating through the desert and with the mysterious food produced by the insects in that section of the desert. Moses knew of these foods because of his long stay in that desert as a shepherd.
Jesus, as the new Moses, fed the crowds in the desert. His approach was also mysterious and difficult to explain. Was it a miracle in the strict sense of the word? That is the easiest way to explain the event and go on to the meaning drawn out of it. We can also see a different explanation. All the people had brought along a little bit of food. Each could feed himself and a few others. However, they did not want to share. Jesus got them to share and everyone had a full meal. When they were finished eating, they gathered up the scraps and there were far more than the initial small amount that each person had.
The main significance of the event would be that Jesus got all of them to share with each other. As a result of this incident, the people were going to take Jesus by force and make him their king. Jesus saw what was shaping up, so he escaped back into the hills, alone.
Evening came. The apostles went down to the shore of the lake and got in a boat to go over to the other side. They were out about three or four miles when the lake got rough. They looked up, and there was Jesus walking across the water toward them. He reassured them. They asked him to get into the boat with them. Then suddenly they were at the western shore.
The next day, the people were in a real dither. They had seen the apostles leave in the boat and Jesus was not with them. But Jesus was not among them either. Other boats came to the eastern shore, the people boarded and went across to the western side. The first person they saw was Jesus. They knew he had not been in the boat with the disciples when it left the eastern shore. They go up to him. What they want to know is “HOW did you get over here?” What they actually ask is, “WHEN did you get here?”
Jesus used the occasion to describe the true Bread of Life. He told the people they had not asked the question that was really bothering them. They wanted to know “how” did he get there - not “when.” Jesus said they were following him because he gave them food in the middle of the desert. They wanted more of the same. Jesus told them not to be duped into seeking the wrong kind of food. They were to “search for the food that gives eternal or unending life.” This was the food that Jesus offered because the Father has set his seal on him as his son.
The people cry out for this kind of bread all the time. Such food meant that they would never have to work again and Jesus would take care of them. They asked Jesus for the condition on which they could get this bread. Jesus said: “Believe sincerely in me!” They agreed but they asked for a sign that he was authentic. They asked for a sign like the one Moses gave the Israelites in the desert when he fed them with manna.
Moses fed the people in the Sinai desert. First, remember that Moses spent several years as a shepherd in the desert of Sinai. He learned many secrets of the desert. He knew where he could find water for his flocks and enough grazing for these same flocks.
In these wanderings Moses learned that the quail migrate across the desert regularly each year. He knew the times and locations that they could be expected. So he made sure the people were on hand to get the meat they needed.
The “manna” was the product of an insect, called a cochineal. The insects eat the leaves of desert trees and then produces this sweet, thick substance which drops to the ground in small balls. Moses had eaten it often. He led the people to this area. They cried out “Man hou?” In Hebrew, this means “What is this?” Gradually, the two words were rendered in an Aramaic form, “Manna,” and this word was adopted as the official title for this food.
Moses had been providentially prepared for his work as leader of the Israelites, through the desert of Sinai. He knew the vagaries of the desert and how to live off the desert because he had done it before. Over the years, these stories were told again and again. The farther the story tellers got away from the desert itself, the more fantastic and miraculous this food seemed to be. Now the Israelites asked for a comparable sign from Jesus. (cf. Ex. 16; Num. 11)
Jesus now told the Israelites how he was going to fulfill this request. He will not feed them as Moses did in the desert. Instead, he said that the bread that the Father would give through him was the true or real bread from heaven. This bread gave life to the world.
“I am the Bread of Life.”
The people were really excited and they asked for this special bread always. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.” Then he explained clearly that his words or teachings were the source of true life. Anybody who accepted his teachings, that is, BELIEVED in him and lived according to this teaching, would have a life that never ends and he/she was guaranteed resurrection from the dead on the last day.
The people complained to each other about what he was saying. They understood where his teaching was headed. However they also knew his earthly origins and he was no greater than they were.
Jesus chided them for this negative reaction. He stressed that this was exactly what the prophets were talking about in the past. He repeated that he was the bread of life. He reminded them that the people who ate the manna in the desert were all dead. Jesus said that he was the “living bread from heaven.” Anybody who ate this bread would live forever. This bread would be the life of the world.
The people understood what he was talking about and it really threw them into a dither. Two things are important here. This bread that he was offering was his “flesh which he will give for the life of the world.” The people did not grasp this at all. However, in the light of later events, we know that he was referring to his death on the cross and that he was doing that for them and all people of all times.
Then Jesus added further words of explanation that cleared up the whole matter. The people listening to him would not have had a clue as to the meaning. When these words were written down and read, the Christians understood them clearly, and understood they were the rock-bottom foundation of the whole Christian way of life. Jesus was talking about the Eucharistic meal as it was carried out by Jesus with the apostles and as the first Christians lived it.
The Eucharist is supposed to be a meal that expresses fellowship, friendship, exchange of ideas and ideals. It is supposed to be an event of growth and enjoyment in each community.
The people listened to Jesus at that time, did not know what he was talking about, and many of them turned away and left.
This should not really surprise anyone because Jesus had not yet fully revealed his plan. However, it does show that the Eucharistic meal is at the very heart of the Christian life - either as a stumbling block or a means of community, strength and sharing.
In the original incident in John’s Gospel, after many of the people leave, Jesus turned to the twelve and challenged them. He asked them if they wanted to join those leaving.
Peter spoke up immediately. “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life and we believe.” Jesus was pleased but not fooled. He was already aware of the weakness of Judas and he referred to him at this time, but not by name.
FOURTH WEEK: OPPOSITION AT ITS WORST.
Jesus: Light of World. Jesus Sees Plan Clearly.
Jewish Leaders Say They Are Not Blind.
Therefore, They Are Guilty! John 7-8-9.
The gospel picture proceeds. The hostility and opposition of the leaders of the Jews were becoming stronger and stronger. It could explode at any moment. Jesus revealed more and more about himself and his message and how these truths were to change the lives of his followers and through them, the world.
In chapters 7 and 8, there are TEN explicit references to the antagonism, opposition and hatred of the leaders towards Jesus. Here is the list: 7:1, 13, 20, 25, 30, 32, 44; 8:37, 40, 59. Rather than copy all the statements here, I’ll take them in context as we go along. However, if you want to read them all as a group and get a sense of building momentum, pick up your Gospel and read.
JESUS TEACHES IN JERUSALEM. John 7:1-24.
This passage starts with the explicit statement about the opposition of the leaders. John said Jesus stayed in Galilee. He could not stay in Judea because the leaders were out to kill him.
Next, we are told of the attitude of Jesus’ relatives toward him. The Gospel said they urged him to go down to Jerusalem and do all these works and all this preaching. The reason they gave was that a man who was doing such great things did not want to remain hidden but wanted the world to know about him and his work. The gospel writer said that they were talking in this way because they did not believe in him or accept him for what he truly was.
The gospel seems to indicate that they wanted him to go to Jerusalem and be tested. If he was accepted there, they could claim him and join in the glory. If he was rejected in the capital, they could shake their heads and say, “We told you so!” Either way, they took care of themselves.
Jesus understood their thinking perfectly. “My time has not yet come but you go on up to the feast because any time is your time. The world cannot hate you but it does hate me because I showed that its works are evil. I am not going up to this feast.” And he stayed there in Galilee.
After everyone else had gone, Jesus left for Jerusalem. He went up alone and called no attention to himself. The people were all talking about him. Some thought he was a good person and praised him highly. Others were afraid of him and his influence. They were sure that he could easily lead the people away from the shaky peace they enjoyed with the Roman authorities. However, all this discussion was carried on quietly because of fear of the Jewish leaders.
Half way through the feast, Jesus appeared and went to the Temple to preach and teach. The leaders stood back in amazement. “How did he learn to read? He didn’t go to our rabbinical schools,” they grumbled.
Jesus faced them openly with strong words. He emphasized that he did not learn his ideas from any books or schools but from God. He claimed the same source as the prophets in the past and even Moses, himself. In fact, said Jesus, “Moses gave you the Torah and yet not one of you keeps it.”
Then he stopped with the question: “Why do you want to kill me?” The crowd did not know what he was talking about. Jesus continued because he wanted to reach the leaders where it hurts. “You circumcise on the Sabbath and you do not consider that breaking the law. Now, I cure the whole man, and you are out to kill me. Stop thinking according to accidentals and judge according to what is right.”
It is important to notice how the gospel writers depict Jesus in his own mind. He had no doubt about the certainty, the meaning, and the value of what he was teaching. Yet he knew how much the people hesitated to accept him and how much the leaders opposes him. He was aware that his work was not yet finished and so he could not provoke an open confrontation in which he would die with his work unfinished.
Jesus stressed that he got his ideas and convictions from Yahweh in exactly the same way that the prophets did. The ideas were not some special internal illumination. Rather, Jesus knew what the goals of the Law actually were. He knew how far the Rabbis had strayed from the pristine ideals. He felt compelled to set the people back on course.
This compulsion was a sense of duty born of justice and love. The closest parallels among the prophets would be Jeremiah and Isaiah. Jeremiah lived in the 6th century B.C. He saw the downward skid on which the teachers and leaders were bent. He felt compelled to oppose this error openly and yet he knew the consequence for himself. Jeremiah would take physical punishment and excessive ridicule. He decided to keep quiet and then his own conscience drives him into a frenzy.
Jesus had the same sense of urgency as Jeremiah and the same clear picture of what should be. However he did not waver. In this, he was more like Isaiah I, who lived the century before Jeremiah. He had the same clear convictions of righteousness but had no hesitancy about speaking up. He could out-maneuver the intrigue of the leaders.
The Gospel goes on to say that some of the people listened to Jesus speaking. He was not being arrested. They wondered if perhaps the leaders had decided that Jesus was the Messiah.
As Jesus heard their doubts and murmurings, he faced them directly and openly. He said they did not really understand where he was coming from. All they could see was that he was from Nazareth and they knew his family and relatives. The Messiah, according to the thinking of the times, was to be some sort of mysterious person.
They wanted to arrest him but it was not a good time and they did not lay a hand on him. The leaders were strongly opposed to Jesus and they truly wanted to get rid of him. However, they had to be concerned about the people who really believed in him and about the Roman authorities who would turn on them if there were any open trouble.
Jesus took the matter in hand and spoke openly. He said he would be with them for only a short while. Then they would be looking for him but they would not find him. The leaders ridiculed him again but Jesus used the occasion to talk about his mission. He referred to himself as a well of fresh running water which anyone could receive if there was true faith.
This was the feast of Tabernacles or Tents, commemorating the years the Israelites spent in the desert. There were prayers for rain, rites which commemorated the water-miracle of Moses (Ex.17:1-7; 1 C. 10:4) and readings from the Bible foretelling the life-giving water of Zion. (Zach.. 14:8; Ez. 47:1; cf. J. 4:1)
The Gospel goes on to say that Jesus was talking about the “Spirit” which did not exist yet because he had not been glorified. There will be much more about this Spirit later in the Gospel. This is part of the picture imagined by the theologians that gave rise to the “Trinity.”
As a matter of fact, Jesus was talking about the “spirit of community” that the first group of Christians would develop when they finally saw what Jesus was talking about. It would fill them with zeal, courage, and power and they would go out fearlessly to tell the whole world about Jesus and his message. This spirit cannot be given or rise in the group until it was truly a community that lived life as Jesus lived life.
The Temple police go back to the leaders empty-handed. The Pharisees wanted to know why they did not do their job of arresting Jesus. Their answer showed that they had listened carefully to Jesus and they were convinced of what he said. The Pharisees ridiculed them. Had they seen any of the leaders accepting him? The crowd was a mindless rabble. They would buy anything put before them.
Then, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader among the people, spoke openly. He had come to Jesus quietly as we read earlier in chapter 3. Now he came out in the open and cautioned the rest of the Pharisees that they should think long and hard about their actions. The other Pharisees pounced on him. They ridiculed him and asked him if any of the prophets had ever come from Galilee. Then they went home.
Woman Is Brought Before Jesus.
The next morning, Jesus was in the Temple again. He sat and began to teach. The scribes and Pharisees came with a woman who was taken in the act of committing adultery. They reminded him that Moses ordered that such a one be stoned to death. What did he have to say about this?
They didn’t care about the woman or the law. They merely saw this as an opportunity to put Jesus on the spot. If he failed to keep the Law, they could point this out openly to the people. If he commanded the Law to be kept, they could turn him over to the Roman authorities.
Jesus did not say a word. He bent down and began to “doodle” in the dust. The Scribes and Pharisees figured they had Jesus trapped and they insisted he give an answer. Jesus looked up and said: “Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone!” Then Jesus bent down and began to doodle in the dust again. The accusers realized the tables were turned, and they began to slink away from the oldest to the youngest. When they were all gone, Jesus looked up and asked the woman,
“Where are they who were accusing you?”
“They are gone, sir,” she answered.
"Then neither will I accuse you. Go and sin no more. ”
Thus Jesus exposed the phony accusers and got rid of them. He forgave the woman but reminded her to get out of the path of sinning.
Jesus added: “I am the Light of the World. Anyone who follows me will not be walking in darkness but will have the light which is life.”
Again, the Pharisees paid no attention to the content of what Jesus said. They tried another technicality of law. They said Jesus was bearing witness to himself and therefore his witness was not valid.
Jesus replied. “You miss the point again. I am not bearing witness to myself. The Father is bearing witness to me because it is he who sent me. You do not know the Father and therefore you do not recognize me.”
Here is that emphasis on Sonship once again. The notion that the Israelites were supposed to be the “Son of God” was uppermost in Jesus’s mind. He was the personification of this Sonship and therefore Yahweh was his Father in a special way. The Pharisees and Scribes would understand this easily if they understood what Yahweh had taught through Moses and the prophets.
Jesus became very forceful in his condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees. He said they could not possibly understand what he was saying because they do not live according to the plans of Yahweh. They claimed Abraham for their father. But Abraham would disown them. They have only one father, and that is the DEVIL, and they do exactly what the devil wishes. (This idea is clearly a reference to Wisdom 2:23-24; 6:23.)
Jesus threw the supreme challenge in their faces: “Can anyone of you convict me of sin?” There is no doubt they tried but were helpless because they could find nothing to condemn. They tried to besmirch his name by calling him a Samaritan and possessed by a demon.
Then Jesus made his most meaningful claim. If anyone accepted his ideas and lives by them, he would never die. This was an open invitation to the Pharisees. They said he was making himself greater than Abraham because Abraham had died.
Jesus made his strongest identity statement: “Before Abraham was, I Am.” This was sure heresy and blasphemy - if it was not true. So they picked up stones to kill him and Jesus left the Temple and hid.
CURE OF MAN BORN BLIND. John 9:1-41.
This is the last incident in this fourth week of the New Creation. Everything in this segment of the Gospel has stressed the deliberate blindness of the leaders of the Jews and the clarity of the vision of Jesus as he grew from day to day. This last event was the cure of a man born blind and would stress that same basic notion.
Jesus and the apostles were walking along and they saw a man who had been born blind. It was common belief that such an affliction was a punishment, and the apostles wanted to know who was at fault, the blind man or his parents.
Jesus said this affliction was not a punishment for anyone's fault. But he was going to use it to bring Light to the World. He made some mud and smeared it over the eyes of the blind man. Then he sent the blind man to the pool of Siloam to wash off the mud. The man did as he was told and his sight was restored.
The people saw him and some said it was the same man. Others said it was just someone who looked like the blind man. The blind man assured them he was the same person. They asked how he could see after all these years. He told them what Jesus had done and summed it up thus: “I went, I washed, I see!”
They brought the man to the Pharisees. The first thing they noted was that it was the Sabbath when Jesus made that mud. Some of the Pharisees looked right at the cured man and said Jesus could not be from God because he had broken the Sabbath. Others of the group said that they had better be careful because you cannot perform these signs without God on your side.
The Pharisees were still not convinced it was the same person. They called his parents. His parents realized they were really on the spot. If they backed their son, they could easily be punished for talking against the obvious will of the leaders. So they were careful in their response. “That he is our son we have no doubt. That he was born blind we are absolutely certain. How he can see now, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age and can speak for himself.”
So the Pharisees sent for the cured man again. They tried to scare him into a change of testimony. They asked him to describe exactly what happened. The cured man really irritated them with his answer. He said, “I have told you exactly what happened. Why do you want to hear every detail again? Do you, perhaps, want to become his disciples too?”
The Pharisees blasted him for this bold assumption. Then the cured man said, “This is really amazing. He opened my eyes. I can see! And you don’t know where he comes from. Does God listen to sinners? Since the world began, has anyone heard of a man born blind who received his sight?” There was no answer to these plain words so the Pharisees blasted off in their anger and drove him away.
Jesus met the man again. He asked him if he believed in the Son of Man. The cured man asked who he was and Jesus said clearly. “You are looking at him. He is speaking to you.” The man said: “I do believe” and showed him special reverence.
Then came the main points of the whole section. Jesus said he had come into the world that the blind may see, and those who see may become blind. The Pharisees were indignant. They asked “Are we blind?” Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would have no sin. But you say that you see and therefore your sin remains.”
Jesus told them they could not have it both ways. Either they accepted him as the Light of the World and lived by his teachings. Or they claimed they were not blind and lived on in their ignorance and darkness.
FIFTH WEEK: Good Shepherd. Raises Friend from Dead.
Leaders Decide He Must Die Now. Chapters 10-11.
This section of the Gospel stresses two aspects of the person and ministry of Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd and the Conqueror of Death. Neither of these ideas will be understood or appreciated unless we put them in their first century setting in Palestine.
Good Shepherd: I know Mine and Mine Know Me! John 10:1-21.
The Good Shepherd is described. It was a favorite theme of the early Christians in all their works of art. To understand the full meaning we have to recall the life of a shepherd in Palestine in those days.
A shepherd did not have a large flock. As is stated in the other gospel stories, a hundred sheep would be a lot for one shepherd. The day’s work began at first light. Each shepherd would call his sheep from the common sheepfold. This call was special to each shepherd and would be understood and followed only by his sheep. He knew each of his sheep by name and could call them individually if necessary.
Once his flock was separated, the shepherd went in front to lead. He led the sheep. He did not drive them. His goal was to have them to fresh pasture in the cool of the morning. The sheep could graze under his watchful eye. By midday, the sheep needed fresh water to get a drink. Then he would let them lie in the shade during the heat of day. When it cooled off, they would get another drink and then graze until time to start back to the fold.
As light began to fade, the shepherd led the sheep back into the sheepfold (enclosure) for the night. As the sheep entered the fold, they would walk under the shepherd’s outstretched staff - one at a time. He would examine each and give special attention to any that needed it. The shepherd knew the appearance, mannerisms and characteristics of each sheep as well as he knew himself.
That was the regular routine for each day. To carry out his work, the shepherd had a staff, a club and a slingshot. The staff was his support in walking and his means of singling out each sheep. His club and slingshot were means of defense against his enemies and his flock.
All these details would be contained in the words “shepherd” and “flock” for anyone in the area in the time of Christ. Now Jesus applied this whole picture to himself.
First, there is the sheepfold, the gate and the gatekeeper. The fold is the whole world. The Gatekeeper is the Father. The gate is the only port of entrance into the kingdom of the Father. Anyone who goes into the sheepfold by any means other than the gate is a thief and robber. Only the real shepherd will be allowed through the gate.
Jesus calls and his sheep know his voice and respond. Jesus’ call is all his teaching. Anyone who belongs to his flock will accept his teaching and follow. Jesus is a real shepherd. He is up front leading.
Jesus is the gate and anyone who is going to work with the sheep has to go through him. He is the true shepherd. He lays down his life for his sheep. A hired hand would see danger and take off. Like a real shepherd, Jesus knows each of his sheep individually and each sheep knows him.
Then comes the final point. There are many sheep that are not yet of his fold. These too he calls and gives an opportunity to join his flock. His goal is to have one flock and one shepherd in the whole world. In this project, the Father and Jesus are working together and Jesus is freely giving his life for his flock. Nobody is taking it from him.
The reaction of the leaders was mixed. Many, or even the majority, said he was possessed and raved like a mad man. So why bother even to listen to him? The others insisted these were not the words of a possessed person. And, could a possessed person open the eyes of a blind man?
MAJOR CONFRONTATION! “I AM THE SON OF GOD.”
I DO THE WORKS OF THE FATHER. John 10:22-42.
In one sense, this was just more of the same. In another sense, this incident was the beginning of the end. The leaders, in an almost frustrated tone, said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us clearly.”
As you read the statement, you can almost see the leaders wringing their hands. All their scheming and conniving had been for naught. They thought Jesus would trip himself up, as so many false claimants had done before. They thought they could trap him into a lie or some sort of deceit. This, too, had failed. Finally, they asked point blank.
Jesus’ answer was brief and to the point: “I have told you and shown you who I am. You have simply refused to see or believe.” Jesus claimed to have the same truth and authority as the Father and this was too much for the leaders. They picked up stones to attack him.
Jesus said, “Many good works have I shown you from my Father. For which of these do you wish to stone me?”
Their reply showed they understood exactly what Jesus was claiming. They wanted to kill him, not because of his good works, but because he was only a man and he made himself an equal of God.
Jesus said this was not the first time people had claimed to be sons of God. He quoted that basic notion of the Old Testament. The favorite title of the Israelites as a people was “Son of God.” Now, said Jesus, “I am doing the Father’s works. If you will not believe me, believe the works that I do.”
They wanted to arrest him right then, but Jesus escaped and left. He went over to the east side of the Jordan in the area where John the Baptist had been working. The people followed him and many felt reasonably sure that Jesus was the person they were looking for.
“OUR FRIEND IS SLEEPING.”
“IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE HE WOULD NOT HAVE DIED.”
“LAZARUS, COME FORTH.”
We come to the turning event in John’s account of the life of Jesus Christ. The event in itself is unique and extraordinary. A close friend of Jesus died and was buried and he was not even there to console the survivors or even to attend the funeral.
The people we are concerned with are Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary. They were very close friends of Jesus. Mary was the lady who anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair. Martha was constantly busy taking care of the needs of her guests. Mary, on the other hand, liked to sit and talk with or listen to the guests. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus.
On this occasion, the sisters sent a message to Jesus that Lazarus, whom he loved, was ill. Jesus’ reaction to the message was that this sickness was not terminal but for the glory of God.
He waited two days and then announced to the apostles that they would go to Judea. The apostles were amazed. They had just left because the leaders wanted to stone him. Now he was going back into the trouble.
Jesus replied that it was time for action. Then he said that Lazarus was sleeping and he would go and awaken him. The apostles tried to dissuade him. It was good for Lazarus to sleep and get rest if he was sick. So Jesus said bluntly “Lazarus is dead!” The Apostles did not know what to think. Thomas spoke for them all. “Let’s go along and die with him.”
When they arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been buried, already for four days. Martha heard that Jesus was present so she went to meet him. Mary stayed in the house, probably rather stunned by the turn of events. Martha says to Jesus: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God is granted.”
Jesus replied, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha says “I know he will rise again on the last day.”
Jesus brought the idea right to the fore: “I am the resurrection. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies, he will live. And whoever lives and believes in me, will never die. Do you believe this?”
Martha’s profession of faith was full and immediate: “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, Son of God, the one who has come into this world.”
Martha went right back to the house to get Mary. Jesus was on the edge of the village. When the people saw Martha call Mary and both of them leave, they followed along. They figured the two sisters were going to the tomb to mourn the death of their brother again.
When they met Jesus, Mary threw herself at the feet of Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” At the sight of their grief, Jesus was overcome by his own grief. He asked, “Where have you put him?” They led Jesus to the tomb and he wept.
The people commented on his deep love for the family. When they arrived at the entrance of the cave, Jesus said, “Roll away the stone!” Martha was aghast. “Lord,” she said, “by now he stinks. He has been dead four days.”
Jesus stressed their need to believe. They removed the stone. Jesus prayed aloud. He addressed the Father and expressed his confidence in the power and love of the Father for him. Then he said in a loud voice: “Lazarus, out here! Come!” The dead man came out, all wrapped like a mummy. Jesus said, “Unwrap him and set him free.”
The reaction was mixed. The majority of the people who had come, who had seen the resurrection of the corpse, began to believe. Others went flying to the leaders to tell them what had happened.
This became the turning point in the attitude and action of the leaders. Caiaphas, the high priest of that year, said: “Don’t worry about what others will think or do. It is better for one man to die than for the whole people to be lost.” From that day forward, they were on the lookout for the opportunity to put Jesus to death. Jesus knew this and no longer went openly among them. He went to a town called Ephraim, on the edge of the desert, and stayed there with the apostles.
SIXTH WEEK: THEY DINE TOGETHER.
JESUS TEACHES HOW TO LIVE TOGETHER. John 11:55-19:42.
As in all the gospel stories, this is the central section of the life of Jesus. This was the part first recalled and retold. The account in John’s Gospel is the most solemn and most complete. Some of the most outstanding teachings of Jesus are found only in this section.
“IF YOU KNOW WHERE HE IS,YOUMUST TELL US.” John 11:55-57.
We have arrived at the last Passover in the life of Jesus. If we had only the first three Gospel accounts, we might figure that the whole public life of Jesus lasted for less than a year. From the arrangement of John’s Gospel stories, we could allow for two or three years. But again, I emphasize, Semitic history is not in detailed chronology as is western history. The theme or purpose of the events is by far more important.
The Passover of the Jewish year was at hand. Many people from around Palestine were in Jerusalem for the feast. These people were standing around in clusters and their one question seems to have been: Will Jesus come to the feast or not? The leaders of the Jews had put out an order that anyone who knew the whereabouts of Jesus had to reveal it or suffer the consequences. They definitely wanted to arrest him.
BETHANY: MARY ANOINTS. JUDAS COMPLAINS. John 12:1-11.
Six days before the Passover, Jesus was in Bethany at a dinner arranged by Martha. Lazarus was there as one of the guests and Mary came in with an expensive jar of ointment. She anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair.
This anointing of the feet of Jesus may seem unusual to us. Actually, it was a part of the ritual of welcoming guests at that time. When an invited guest came to the house, he/she was met at the door by the host and a servant. The first act was for the servant to remove the guest’s sandals and wash the dust of travel off the feet. Then the feet of the guest were anointed with perfumed oil. The servant who was doing this task was considered the lowest in the household and was probably in that spot as a punishment.
In this story, Mary was performing the usual chore. The difference was that it was Mary and not a servant doing the task. She waited until Jesus was reclining at table. She used very expensive perfumed oil.
Now the actual scenario began. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, stood up and objected to this waste of expensive ointment. He said that the ointment could have been sold for 300 denarii. That was truly a costly nard since an annual wage was 200 denarii. Judas made his objection sound good. He said they could have sold the ointment and given the money to the poor. John, also one of the twelve, said Judas was the treasurer of the group and was in the habit of dipping his own hand into the till regularly. Hence he would have liked that 300 note in the “common kitty,” the group accounts.
JUDAS CONFESSES CRIME BUT TO WRONG PRIEST.
Judas should not be depicted as some kind of terrible criminal whose ways were all bad. Jesus chose him as a young man out of all his followers, to be one of the special twelve. Judas certainly did not expect his failure to be the cause of the death of Jesus.
Jesus spoke up, “Leave her alone. She was but preparing my body for the burial. The poor are always with you but I will not always be here.” John added that a large number of the people present came not only to see Jesus but also to see Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Meanwhile, the leaders decided to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus because Lazarus was drawing more followers to Jesus.
Judas left the supper table and went to sell Jesus to his enemies. When Judas saw Jesus bound over he was suddenly aware of the magnitude of his crime. So many times before, Jesus had broken away from his enemies and gone off alone. Judas expected him to do the same now. But Jesus submitted to the condemnation.
Now Judas knew what was going to happen. He saw that Jesus was bound over and he knew that Pilate would definitely kill another Jew. Judas was overcome with sorrow. John said no more about Judas but I will insert what we know from the other gospels. (cf. Mt. 27:3-10)
Judas took the 30 shekels back to the priests and elders. He made a perfect confession: “I have sinned by the betrayal of innocent blood.” But Judas made his confession to the wrong priest. Jesus could have forgiven. Their answer came back instantly, “What’s that to us? That's your problem!” Judas flung the coins on the temple floor and went out and hanged himself.
When Judas saw the magnitude of his mistake and admitted it completely to himself, he was well on the road to perfect recovery. He had only to go to Jesus, the person whom he had offended, express the sorrow he felt for what he had done, and forgiveness and a new opportunity would have been his. He saw his failure. He admitted his guilt. He confessed his sin and failure but he went to the wrong priest.
Was Judas ever forgiven? I think he clearly was as we read in the gospel according to Luke. The first words of Jesus on the cross were, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” I think Judas was included in this request of Jesus.
YOUR KING IS COMING. John 12:12-19.
The next day, the crowds heard that Jesus was on his way. So they took palm branches and went out to meet him and sang their jubilant Hosannas. Jesus mounted a young donkey, and the parade came into the city with everyone singing and dancing in a real triumph. John reminded us that Lazarus, risen from the dead, gave lots of support to this picture. The leaders, of course, were just furious and totally frustrated. More people than ever were going after Jesus.
JESUS TO DIE LIKE GRAIN OF WHEAT. John 12:20-36.
Jesus took one of his most extended parables and applied it to himself. Some Greek converts to Judaism were on hand. They wanted to meet Jesus. Andrew and Philip told Jesus about the request.
Jesus saw this as the catalyst that set in motion the last phase of his work. He saw himself as the grain of wheat about to be planted in the earth. The grain would sprout and grow a rich harvest, the new people of God.
Then Jesus revealed the agony in his soul. He realized the great good he could accomplish by his death, according to the plan of the Father. However he also saw all the suffering and rejection this was going to entail. He was torn between begging the Father to remove the ordeal and saying a fervent “Thy will be done.”
Then Jesus was filled with courage. He proclaimed his willingness to be the victim to win the salvation of the world. He would be lifted up on the cross and all eyes would be turned toward him in faith and salvation.
JESUS POURS OUT HIS INNERMOST THOUGHTS. John cc. 13-17.
John’s account of this last meal is longer than the other Gospels. He presented Jesus as talking to the apostles about several basic truths: Love, Personal Convictions, Community, Victory, and Growth in the midst of hostility. Each of these topics was now divided into a chapter.
“IF YOU LOVE, THEN SERVE.” John 13:1-38.
The first truth is CHRISTIAN LOVE or love that expresses the same love that Jesus had for all his followers. It is called a love “eis telos.” This Greek phrase means “to perfection” or “to completion.” John said that Jesus had loved his followers all along but now, as he was about to die, he showed this love in all its perfection.
The first evidence of this love was the washing of the feet of the apostles. As mentioned previously, the lowest servant in the household regularly performed this task of washing the feet of the guests. It was a demeaning task in the eyes of society at that time. Jesus washed and dried their feet. When he came to Peter, as usual, Peter had to create a disturbance. He was not going to allow Jesus to wash his feet because it was such a demeaning task. Jesus assured him that if he did not wash his feet, Peter would not eat there that night. Peter went to the opposite extreme - as usual. He exclaimed, “Not only my feet! My face, my hands, give me a bath!” Jesus said that this was not necessary. You were clean. You just needed the dust of travel washed from your feet.
There was more to this remark than met the eye, according to John. Jesus was aware that Judas was about to sell him and so he said, “You are not all clean!” The note above referred on the mistakes of Judas.
When Jesus was finished, he reclined at table again. He said, “You have seen what I have just done. Let this be an example to you. You do the same thing to each other and for the same reason. You are at the service of each other.”
Then Jesus was overcome by a wave of sadness and worry. He said openly that one of them was about to betray him - sell him out. The apostles looked at each other in dismay and wondered who it could be. They probably figured the betrayal would be through some mistake.
Peter looked at John who was next to Jesus. He signaled to John to find out who the betrayer would be. Jesus gave a public answer: “It is the one to whom I will give the piece of bread I have dipped into the wine.”
This was really no answer. In reality, Jesus was referring to a Passover custom. To denote their friendship and community, the Jews always dipped a piece of bread into a common cup and shared it together. The one presiding over the meal would pass the cup around. So, all that Jesus said was that one of those who professed to be a close friend was going to sell him out.
When Judas had dipped his bread into the cup, John said, “Satan entered into him.” “Satan” is the Hebrew word for the “Adversary” and is a term used to say that someone is hardened in his sin or failure. John said it was at that moment Judas made his unbending decision to go through with his treachery.
Jesus said, “What you intend to do, do quickly!” This looked like an open declaration of the guilt of Judas. However, Judas was the treasurer of the group and there were often last minute purchases that had to be made or an alms had to be given to the poor, or some such detail. The apostles could easily have understood the words of Jesus to mean, “Take care of whatever business is needed for the Passover Supper.”
Judas left right after he ate the bread. As soon as Judas left, the mood of Jesus lightened. He knew the others were loyal even though they might make mistakes. Then Jesus told them the secret of their love for each other. It was to be a sharing that everybody who saw them would know immediately that they were his loyal followers, his disciples.
Peter, of course, had to have a word. He wanted to know exactly where Jesus was going and why they could not go along. He insisted that he was ready to lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus looked at him and must have smiled at the irony of the picture. He said, “Before the first sign of dawn, before cockcrow, you will deny me three times.”
Peter was forewarned about his failure. He was told he would fail three times. Yet, as the events unfold, Peter did exactly what was said.
BE CONVINCED; LIVE BY YOUR CONVICTIONS.
THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL PERMEATE THE GROUP.
PEACE WILL BE YOURS. John 14.
In order to establish the dynamic love that Jesus was describing, his followers were going to need rock-bottom convictions. There could be no wavering back and forth.
Now Jesus said he was going first in order to prepare rooms for them in his Father’s house. Thomas raised a natural difficulty. They did not even know where Jesus was going, how could they know the way. Jesus said solemnly: “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.” Then Jesus claimed his relationship with the Father - the perfect son. Philip chimed in, “Just show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.”
Jesus then spoke of his unity with the Father. This was of great importance. Jesus and the Father were one because he always said what the Father wanted said, and he did what the Father wanted done. Jesus and the Father were one because Jesus was always OBEDIENT.
Jesus said “I am going to the Father, and I will ask him to send you another Advocate to be with you forever.” This special advocate was the Spirit that would bind this community of Jesus together. This Spirit was a spirit of love, peace and obedience - modeled on the example of Jesus.
“VINESTOCK - BRANCHES - FRUIT - ENEMIES.” John 15.
Live as members of one family, the courage of their convictions: these are the truths that lead into the third aspect of this new reality. There was to be a unity in community, a oneness in sharing, that all would be able to see and would lead all people to want to share.
To express these ideas, Jesus used the vinestock and the branches. Jesus is the vinestock. They are the branches. As long as the branches remain attached to the stock they share in all its life and strength. They bear fruit and their fruit remains, and it is abundant: always a bumper crop. However, a good vine must always be pruned. If any of the branches have died or produced nothing, these branches are a hazard. They must be cut off, put into a pile and burned. Then the good branches that remain attached to the stem can bear more and better fruit.
Again, Jesus stressed the fact that this would not take place in some kind of abstract world or Nirvana. There would be opposition and hostility from the world around. The vine and its branches would have to remain in this hostile world and bear fruit and bear it abundantly.
VICTORY IS ASSURED. JESUS HAS CONQUERED THE WORLD.
FAILURE OF THE FIRST ADAM IS REMOVED. John 16.
The opposition will come and come soon. They will be kicked out of the synagogues and the Temple. They will be laughed at and ridiculed. Jesus said they were not to be discouraged or afraid. They did it to him first.
Victory is threefold and assured. There will be victory concerning sin, holiness, and judgment. The victory over sin will be the establishing of Jesus as the fulfillment of the Father’s plan. They laughed at him and ridiculed him but they will see that what he said was exactly what the Father had said.
There will be a victory with regard to justice. The Greek word used is “dikaiosyne” which is more than our notion of justice. It embraces the whole picture of holiness, righteousness and justice. Jesus was going to the Father in full acceptance, and they would see that his life was exactly what the Father wanted.
Finally, there would be a victory in judgment. This concerned the victory over the prince of this world. This was primarily the restoration of mankind to a state of holiness after the failure of the first Adam. It was through the temptation of Satan or the devil personified in the serpent, that man was led away from God and happiness. Jesus restored the relationship of Father and son by his life of obedience.
Jesus said there was more to this picture but the apostles would not understand it at that moment. When Jesus sent the “Spirit of Truth” then they would understand and follow his teaching and carry out his work.
When Jesus had finished this statement, the apostles were confused and John said they started a regular hubbub of questions among themselves. Jesus told them he understood their concern but he could not explain it any more at the moment. The time was coming when it would all be crystal clear. They would ask the Father in his name and they would get everything. There would be trouble for them in the world but they were not to worry about it. Jesus had overcome the world and so would they.
THE PRIEST PRAYS. THE LORD’S PRAYER IN REAL LIFE. John 17.
This chapter has been given many titles. The basic idea is telling the followers how they are to grow in the midst of a hostile world. It is something like the parable of the grain and the weeds. Both have to grow together until the end. Then the weeds are gathered and burned and the grain is gathered into the Father’s barns. The grain refers to all those who have identified themselves as followers of Jesus and become members of the true brotherhood of man. The weeds refer to those who, through their own fault, have failed to establish an identity.
Another title for the chapter is the PRIESTLY PRAYER OF CHRIST. In the other gospels, we read of the importance of prayer. Here we learn the theology of prayer as expressed in the OUR FATHER. Yet none of this seems to have been included in John’s account. This chapter is John’s version of prayer. In many ways, it is far more complete than the other Gospel stories. The individual parts of this Prayer are introduced by the word, FATHER. Notice verses 1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25.
Verses 1-4 describe ETERNAL LIFE that Jesus was offering to all his followers in the work that he has accomplished.
Verses 5-10 talk about the Name of the Father that Jesus has manifested in all its glory by his life. Now he handed the work on to his followers. They were just beginning. They were living in the midst of a hostile world. They were willing to do the work no matter what the cost but they would need constant guidance and help.
Verses 11-20 stress the strife, tension and difficulty that his followers would face from the world around them. Jesus said explicitly that he was not asking that they be removed from the world and its difficulties. Rather he was asking for special help and guidance for them in the work they have to do. His one big plea was unity in community.
Verses 21-23 contain a special plea for unity and community in the family of God. Or perhaps it is better to use the phrase: establishing the Brotherhood of Men because of the Fatherhood of God.
Verse 24 is a plea for unity among his followers in the example they see of Jesus in the Father.
Verses 25-26 are a request that the special love of the Father for Jesus may be shared with them, and the unity and community of Jesus and his followers be established in the Father.
SECOND ADAM ATONES FOR FAILURE OF FIRST ADAM:
HE DIES AND DEATH TAKES ON POSITIVE MEANING.
THE NEW EVE IS PRESENTED BY NEW ADAM. WE ARE HER CHILDREN.
John cc. 18-19.
The Gospel story comes to the end of Jesus’ life. Like all humans, Jesus would die. Each Gospel story tells us some details about this death. Again, it is important that we do not try to read this as a modern newspaper account in our western world. The mentality is different.
The details chosen in each Gospel were described according to the particular aspect of the personality of Jesus the writers had been developing. These events may have happened exactly as they are recounted. Or they may be told in a symbolic form to bring out a particular aspect of the personality of Jesus and the way in which this community was trying to portray it in the world round about.
If Jesus Christ is to remain a true hero, if he is going to have influence in the world from generation to the next, then he must be kept real. All the talk about his divine and human nature, his divine personality, his beatific vision, his divine and human knowledge and all efforts to synchronize these in this one person are daydreamings of theologians.
Jesus was a real human being and is presented as such. He was a truly gifted person as we use the title, today. He felt strongly about the mission of his people as it had been presented to him from his first years. As he grew older, he saw how this mission of his people was failing because of the failure of the people to grasp its meaning and importance, and the hesitancy or failure to make the effort to carry out this special mission. He saw himself as the one person who could change the world into the Brotherhood of Mankind as envisioned by the prophets. Jesus set about doing just that.
These convictions put him at loggerheads with the authorities of his people at that time, and led ultimately to his death at the hands of the Romans because of the political situation of the time.
GARDEN OF FAILURE :: GARDEN OF OBEDIENCE. John 18:1-11.
The first creation story took place in the Garden of Eden, which means Happiness or Pleasure. Because of mankind’s failure to obey the plan of Yahweh, they were thrown out of the garden into a world of hardship, suffering and death.
The story of the second creation is about to restore mankind to the favor of Yahweh and bring the first creation to its fulfillment. Therefore it, too, will open in a garden. This was a garden across the Kedron valley where Jesus frequently went with the apostles to get away from the crowds and the hustle and bustle of the Temple and the city. Judas knew the place well since he had been there often.
Judas led the detachment of Temple guards and soldiers out to the garden. All carried weapons and lanterns or torches. John stressed that Jesus knew full well what was going to happen to him if he were taken, but he stepped forward to meet them.
“Whom do you seek?” he asked boldly. They answer, “Jesus the Nazarene!” Jesus said, “Ego eimi” which means “I Am.” He used the words which were used to translate the sacred name. The reaction was immediate. The whole crowd backed up quickly and fell down. Judas was among them.
A second time, Jesus says, “Whom do you seek?” They repeated, “Jesus the Nazarene!” Jesus says, “I told you ‘I Am.’ If you want me, then let these go.” He referred to the apostles.
Peter was carrying a sword and, in his impetuous way, pulled the sword and struck out. Even then, he wasn’t much of a swordsman. He struck Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, and cut off his right ear. Jesus told Peter to put his sword away and let events carry on as planned.
JESUS ON TRIAL. PETER FAILS. John 18:12-27.
Jesus was seized and bound and taken first to Annas because he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high-priest. Caiaphas was the one who suggested it was better for one man TO DIE FOR THE PEOPLE.
Peter and John followed along. The servants knew John so he went right on into the palace courtyard. Peter was left standing at the gate. John went back and spoke to the lady who was in charge at the gate and Peter was allowed to enter.
This lady took one look at Peter and asked, “Aren’t you one of the disciples of this man?” Peter denied it flatly: “I am not!” Peter should have recalled the warning of Jesus but he did not.
It was cold and the servants and guards had lighted the fire to keep warm. Peter walked over and stood near the fire. Someone else said to him, “Aren’t you one of his disciples?” Peter denies it flatly again, “I am not!” Then one of the high priest’s servants, a relative of Malchus whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Peter denied it and then the rooster crowed. Peter had done exactly what Jesus had forewarned would happen. Before dawn he denied him three times.
Meanwhile the trial of Jesus before Annas began. Why Annas was even in this picture is a question. He had been high priest and had retained an honorary title as his sons and son-in-law took the office in succession. Annas questioned Jesus about his followers and his teachings.
Jesus answered boldly “I have always taught openly in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the leaders could hear me. I taught nothing in secret. Why ask me? Ask the people who heard what I taught. They know what I said.” At these words, the guard struck Jesus in the face and claimed he was talking in a brazen and insulting manner. Jesus asked, “Did I say something wrong? If there is anything wrong, give evidence of it. Otherwise, why are you striking me?”
Annas saw that he would get nowhere so he sent Jesus, still bound, as a prisoner over to Caiaphas.
PILATE: THE JUDGE, WASHES HANDS PUBLICLY. John 18:28-19:16.
John's treatment of the Jewish trial is very short. From the house of Caiaphas, they go the Praetorium - the judicial court of the Roman procurator, Pilate. John said explicitly that it was now morning, so the previous hearings were held at night and were thus, all illegal. The Jews could not enter the building because it would defile them for the feast. They stayed outside and Pilate came out to them.
As we know from other sources, Pilate detested the Jews even more than the average Roman politician. He considered his position there as Procurator a political insult and was waiting to get out of there. Now he asks, “What charge are you bringing against this man?” They answered, “If he were not guilty we would not have brought him to you.” Pilate snapped back: “Fine! Take him and judge him according to your law!” The leaders retorted, “We are no longer allowed to put a man to death.”
These words show the prejudice of the Jewish leaders. They were not interested in a fair trial. They wanted an official condemnation. They admitted they had to come to the pagans begging. John reminded us that Jesus knew this would happen and therefore he knew the kind of death he would undergo since the Romans would be in charge.
Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called to Jesus. “Are you the King of the Jews?” he asks. Jesus responded, “Are you asking this question on your own or because others have been talking about me?”
Pilate's temper flared. “Am I a Jew? Your own people and the chief priests have turned you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus responds clearly and solemnly. “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my people would have fought to keep me from being taken by the leaders of the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.”
Pilate was impressed. “You are really a king?” Jesus answers: “Yes. I am a King. For this was I born and came into the world: to bear witness to the truth. Anyone who is seeking the truth, listens to what I have to say.”
Pilate responded with Roman cynicism: “Truth! What is truth?” Then Pilate made the biggest mistake of his life. He asked the right question of the one person who could answer it. But he did not wait for the answer. Instead, he went outside to the leaders of the Jews again.
“I find no cause in this man. According to your custom, I am to release one prisoner to you at this time of the year. Which do you prefer? Shall I release the King of the Jews to you?” The leaders shout back frenziedly: “Not this man, but Barabbas!”
Pilate had deliberately picked a public enemy #1 to contrast to Christ. He knew Jesus was being unjustly accused and given the death penalty. He also knew how much the Jews hated and feared Barabbas, a thief, a murderer, and criminal on every score.
The leaders of the Jews demanded the release of Barabbas and cried out for the death penalty for Jesus. Pilate ordered him to be taken away and scourged, Roman fashion.
Additional Information: The Jewish Law also prescribed a scourging. However, the Jewish scourging was only 39 lashes and they were not allowed to leave any lasting marks in the skin of the victim. Jewish scourging was more of an indignity than a physical punishment. Roman scourging was brutal. Ordinarily the victim died because there was no limit to the number of times they could strike the victim, and there was no limit to the amount of suffering and injury inflicted.
The Roman soldiers knew that the leaders of the Jews hated Jesus so they decided to indulge their twisted sense of humor. They made a helmet of thorns and put that on his head. They put an old purple robe on him and showed mock reverence. They bowed before him and then struck him on the crown of thorns and drove them in deeper.
Pilate came out to the leaders again. “I want you to see that I find no guilt in this man.” He brought Jesus out in his terrible plight. He stood him before all the people and said, “Behold the man!” Pilate, of course, was simply pointing to Jesus but John saw a meaning much deeper in those words. Here was the real man, the new Adam, the person who would atone for the failure of the old Adam at the beginning of time.
The leaders cried all the louder, “Crucify him!” Pilate was disgusted. “Take him and judge him by your own law,” said Pilate. “I find him innocent.”
Then the Jews make their final plea. “We have a Law. According to that law he should die because he makes himself the Son of God!” This shook Pilate right to the roots. Was Jesus in some way related to the “gods?” All the superstitions of the pagan world came flooding into Pilate’s mind to terrorize him.
Pilate demanded of Jesus: “Where are you from?” Jesus gave no answer and Pilate responded to his own fears. “Are you refusing to answer me? Don’t you know I have the power of life and death over you?”
Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me if it had not been allowed to you from above. That is why the people who handed me over to you have the greater guilt.”
Pilate was really impressed by Jesus. He sincerely wanted to set him free. The leaders of the Jews saw this. They challenged Pilate where it hurt the most. They cried out, “If you set this man free you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes himself king threatens Caesar.”
Pilate knew he was beaten. He brought out the official curule chair and at noon, he pronounced the condemnation. The curule chair was a Roman chair upon which only the highest civil officer of Rome was privileged to sit. “Behold, your king!” But this was not the sentence the Jews wanted to hear. “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him.”
Pilate could not resist the taunt, “You want me to crucify your king?” The chief priests shouted publicly, “We have no king but Caesar!” And Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified.
How the Jewish leaders must have hated themselves! They were maneuvered into rejecting Christ, the true king, and shouting their support of Caesar, whom they hated. How often John and his disciples must have reflected on the irony of the outcome. The leaders were constantly galled by the presence of Rome in their holy city, and especially the way in which they had to pay tribute to these Roman rulers. Yet, they hated Jesus so much, that they publicly expressed their preference for the pagan emperor.
WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN, I HAVE WRITTEN.
IT IS COMPLETED. “TETELESTAI” John 19: 17-37.
The leaders take charge of Jesus and head for Golgotha, the hill of skulls, a place where crucifixions were regularly carried out. There were two others to be crucified, on either side of Jesus. Pilate wrote out the cause of death to be appended to the cross of Christ. It read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” The sign was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek so that everybody could see what caused the death.
When the leaders saw this sign, they were dumbfounded. This last error was worse than the first. They wanted Pilate to change the sign to read “This man said: I am King of the Jews.”
Finally, Pilate stiffened his backbone and said bluntly: “What I have written, I have written! The writing stays. Now, get out of here.”
One of the unwritten laws of a Roman execution was that the soldiers involved received all the property of the condemned. There were four soldiers on Golgotha so they divided the property into four piles. However his undergarment was seamless. To cut it into four pieces would destroy it. So they rolled dice to see who would get it.
AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS.
Now John added a detail to the death scene that is in none of the other gospels. He said that standing at the foot of the cross was Mary, his Mother. With her were her sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Standing next to her was John, the apostle. He was referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
When Jesus saw his Mother and John, he spoke words of outstanding meaning for all times. He said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he turned to John and said, “Behold, your mother!” From that moment, Mary, Jesus’ mother, went to live with John in his home.
This scene is of the utmost importance. It does not mean merely that Jesus fulfilled his filial duties toward his mother. Rather he called her “WOMAN” as he had done at the wedding feast in Cana. In both instances, there was no doubt that John and the first Christians saw the importance of Mary’s role in the plan of the second creation.
Eve, the first woman, had failed and led Adam into failure. Now Jesus pointed out that woman has been restored to her pristine dignity. Mary, his mother, was the new Eve. She became the new mother of all mankind. She was the mother of salvation. John represented all mankind at that moment. This scene is the foundation of the special place that Mary holds in the history and liturgy of the Church since that time. It also refutes some of the nauseous devotions that have been started without solid meaning or validity.
Twice more Jesus spoke. He cried out, “I thirst!” He tasted the wine offered him to let them know he recognized what it was. He refused it to let us know that he was talking about a far greater thirst than something physical. He thirsted for the conversion and salvation of all people.
Then he cried out, “It is complete!” The Greek is “tetelestai” which means that something is brought to its full meaning. Jesus had accomplished all he set out to do. He had shown his love and offered himself as the atonement sacrifice for the whole world.
Then John said, “He bowed his head and died.” Note very carefully how this action is worded. Ordinarily a person died and then his head slumped forward. Jesus deliberately chose to die. He bowed his head and then died.
Ordinarily a person did not die from crucifixion alone. So after some hours, the soldiers would break the legs of the victim, then the body would slump down and the person would suffocate. However, when they came to Jesus, he was already dead. So they pierced his side and the last drops of blood and water ran out. This was clear evidence that he was dead but even more, it was evidence that he had given every last drop of his blood for the re-establishment of mankind. Also no bone in his body had been broken, so he was the true Paschal Lamb.
JESUS BURIED IN TOMB OF JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA .
It was now late in the day and at sunset, the Passover Day would begin. So Jesus must be buried quickly. Joseph of Arimathea had been a disciple of Jesus, but in secret because of fear of the leaders. Now he went to Pilate to get permission for the body and Nicodemus went with him. They wrapped him in spices and a winding sheet, and put him in a new tomb that was in the garden.
The saga was over. It had begun in a garden at the beginning of time. The first Adam failed in his role. The second Adam came and restored the honor that is mankind’s in the plan of the Father. Ordinarily, that would have been the end of the story, but the best was yet to come.
JESUS RISES FROM THE DEAD. John 20-21.
The Gospel according to John comes to its final chapters and events. These events were the ones that the first followers talked about the most. These were the proof of the mission of Jesus and the success of his work. The plan of salvation, the new creation was complete, and now their job was to carry it to the ends of the earth and give all people a chance to participate.
Jesus had been buried hurriedly on Friday evening just before 6:00 P.M. He had been put in a new tomb quickly, right there in the garden. He had not been properly washed and embalmed. The Sabbath of the Passover had intervened and nothing could be done on that Saturday. Now it was early Sunday morning, the first day of the Jewish week.
It was still dark and Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. As she came close, she saw that the stone was moved away from the opening. Mary came running back to Peter and John. We can almost hear her crying out, “They have stolen the body of our Master and we don’t know where they put him.”
Peter and John took off for the tomb. John was younger and could outrun Peter so he arrived first. He bent down and looked into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths all lying on the ground. But he did not go into the cave. Peter arrived and barged right in. He saw the linens on the ground and also the head cloth. This was not with the linen but was rolled up in a place by itself. Then John went in and he began to believe. Until that moment, said John, they had failed to understand the Scripture, that Jesus was to rise from the dead. John and Peter went home again, their fears removed, a bit of light shining, but still needing more explanation.
Mary of Magdala stood outside the tomb weeping. Then she entered, stooped down and looked into the tomb. She saw two men in white sitting where the body had been. John called them angels or messengers. They asked Mary: “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She answered, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.” With that she turned around and Jesus was standing there - although she did not recognize him. “Woman,” he asked, “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?”
Mary thought he was a caretaker, and said, “Sir, if you have removed him, tell me where you put him so that I may go and bring him back.”
Jesus said, “Mary!” With that word, Mary’s eyes were opened and she recognized Him. She cried out in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”, which means “My Master!” She fell down at his feet and began kissing them.
Jesus lifted her up gently and told her not to try to hold him back because he still had to ascend to the presence of the Father. She was to go and tell the rest of the disciples. Mary ran back with her good news.
That same evening, the apostles were gathered together in the supper room and had the doors closed and locked for fear of the leaders of the Jews. Jesus came and stood in the middle of the room. “Shalom aleichem” he said. “Peace be to you!”
Then he gave them their mission. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” He breathed upon them the breath of the new creation just as Yahweh had done in the first creation. He defined what that mission was in its essential form. They were to work with all people. They were to remove the sins of those who cooperated and ignore the people who refused to cooperate.
The people to whom they were sent and with whom they were to work were not different than before. Some will cooperate and accept the salvation that is offered. Some will ignore and refuse what is offered.
Thomas was not in the room when Jesus came. When he came back, they all babbled at once. “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas looked at them and said, “I'll believe that when I can put my fingers into the holes in his hands and my hand into his side and not before.”
Eight days later, the apostles were all gathered together again, Thomas with them. Jesus appeared and greeted them. Then he said to Thomas. “Come here, Thomas! Here are my hands! Put your finger into the nail holes. Be not unbelieving but believe.” Thomas said in a voice that barely came out, “My Lord and My God!”
Jesus summed it all up in a few words. In a certain sense the faith of Thomas was far more important than that of all the others. He really did not believe until he could see. Jesus' words make this clear. “You believe because you can see me. Happy the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Then John gave us the summary of his writing. “Many other signs Jesus worked and his disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These were recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and through this faith you may have life in his name.”
At one time, Chapter Twenty was the end of the Gospel according to John. Then an appendix, now called chapter 21, was added. It may have been added by John or by his immediate disciples. It is authentic.
First was the appearance of Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, another name for the Sea of Galilee. Peter and Thomas, Nathanael (Bartholomew), John and James, and two more apostles were together. Suddenly Peter says, “I'm going fishing!” They all said, “We'll go with you!” So they got into a boat but caught nothing all night.
With the first light, Jesus was standing on the shore but they did not realize who it was. “Caught anything, friends?” he asked. They answered “No!” He told them to toss their net on the right side and they would get fish. They put their net into the water. It was so filled they could not haul it in. John kept looking at this man and he said, “It is the Lord!”
Peter was quick to respond. Peter was fishing in just his underwear but when he heard what John said, he threw his cloak around him and jumped in the water and swam to shore. They were about a hundred yards off shore and the others came in with the boat.
Jesus had a fire and some bread, and he said they should bring some of the fish they had just caught. Peter went aboard the boat and dragged the net to shore. It was full of big fish, 153 of them to be exact, and the net had not broken. Jesus gave them all a good breakfast and John added: This was the third time he had appeared to them since his rising from the dead.
When the meal was over, Jesus turned to Peter. “Simon, do you love me more than all of these?” Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my Lambs!” A second time Jesus asked, “Simon, do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Pasture my sheep.” A third time, Jesus asked, “Simon, do you love me?” Peter was upset when Jesus asked the third time and he said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep!”
There is no doubt of the deep significance of this story. Peter had been told he would deny Jesus when he was under pressure. He was told exactly when it would happen. And Peter walked right in and denied he knew Jesus, three times. Now he has to protest his love publicly to show he is worthy of his mission.
Jesus Saw Himself and His Followers as Shepherds.
Jesus’ favorite figure of himself and his work for people was the shepherd and his flock. Now he handed over the care of that flock to Peter in a special way. He also told him how his life would end. He too will be led to a cross and crucified.
Tradition tells us much about the great work that Peter as leader did. He did die on the cross - upside down because he said he did not deserve to die upright as the Master had died.
As Jesus and Peter began to walk away together, Peter asked about John. Jesus said, “Now, don't bother your head about him. You follow me and take care of your work. John will do his share.”
Then John added the note that he was the one who vouched for the truth of all that was said in this Gospel.
That brings the Gospel according to John to a conclusion.
End Notes by Phil Roets:
End Note One: FIVE WRITINGS.
John has been the source of five writings in the New Testament. One is an encyclical letter addressed to the Christian communities of Asia. There were various heresies among them and they were on the verge of a break-up. The letter presented a summary of various Joannine themes: light, justice, love, and truth. John stressed that these truths had to be brought into the lives of the people in order to fulfill their faith in Jesus Christ and their love of each other. This letter is the closest to the Gospel in style and teaching. It may have been written about the same time and might even have been a sort of outline or preamble to the Gospel. This letter is followed by two short notes. (Chronologically, the two notes probably appeared first.) The fourth writing is called “The Apocalypse” or, in the Latin translation, “Revelation.” Finally, we have this Gospel.
Note: I would also add the “Letter to the Hebrews” to this Joannine tradition. This is my opinion based on the internal similarity between the teachings of this letter and the known writings of John.
End Note Two: CREATION -- NEW CREATION SEVEN DAYS -- SEVEN WEEKS.
There is no doubt that John was primarily interested in salvation and the Christian life as the NEW CREATION. The original account of creation was presented in Genesis as the SEVEN DAYS of creation. John developed a picture of the SEVEN WEEKS of the New Creation. In the first creation story, Yahweh spoke and all things sprang into being. It was the creative
Word of God that gave rise to the universe.
John started out from this point and then quickly, in a prologue or an introduction, showed how Jesus was the full manifestation of this creative word in the new creation.
End Note Three: To Understand this Gospel.
This Gospel story is traced to the teachings of John, the Apostle. He was a boy in his early teens at the time he was chosen by Jesus as a member of the select 12. The other members of the twelve were all a bit older. However, they were not old men as artists often depict them. They were all in their late teens or early twenties, just a few years younger than Jesus.
John and his brother, James, were called (in Greek) “Boanerges” by Jesus. This nickname means “sons of thunder.” They were very active persons and wanted to get things done, no matter who is stepped on in the process.
John was recognized as the favorite of Jesus from the very start but this was clearly not a matter for jealousy or envy on the part of the others.
John was also called the “beloved disciple” or “apostle of love.” This is a reference to the key point of his message about Jesus and the Christian way of life. Everything centers around the true notion of a life of total love.
John had a Semitic mind and therefore he would follow the Semitic form of history. He was interested in the facts and details of the life of Jesus only insofar as they taught or brought out a certain point. John used the Greek word “semeion” for the deeds of Jesus. This word means “sign” or “symbol.” John did not say how these actions took place. He told us what they meant and should mean in the life of every follower of Jesus.
COMPARISONS, NOT CONCORDANCES.
To say the least, John’s account of the life of Jesus is different from the other three and should be read separately. When all the gospel stories have been read independently, then the reader can make comparisons. However, a reader should never be so foolish as to try to write a Gospel CONCORDANCE in which all the Gospel stories are sandwiched together. This procedure would destroy the beauty and value of each of the four gospels. It would be like taking four masterpieces by Michelangelo, mashing them all together, and then saying we have a masterpiece. We would have destroyed all four in the attempt. A Concordance of the Gospels does the same to the four Gospels.
End Note Four: Literary form of John: PARABOLA:
Here is a short note about the literary format of much of the writing of John. It is called the “PARABOLA.” The parabola is a figure of speech that looks like an urn. Like an urn, the whole unit rests on the base and then fans out in all directions. The Prologue is composed as one of these parabolas. It would be divided in this manner.
John 1:1-2: God’s word.
John 1:3: Creative word.
John 1:4-5: Life: light in darkness.
John 1:6-8: Line of prophets to John.
John 1:9-11: Word not known, not accepted.
John 1:12-13: Power to become children of God.
John 1:14: Incarnation.
John 1:15: Baptism.
John 1:16: Death.
John 1:17: Resurrection.
John 1:18: Ascension.