John writes his gospel to show that Jesus is indeed the Messiah that the Jews had hoped for, but also the Son of God who has revealed the Father to all the world, so that all who believe may have eternal life.
John, son of Zebedee, brother of James, one of the twelve apostles writes his gospel after the other three gospels have already been written. He chooses to leave out events in Jesus’ life that have been sufficiently described by the other gospels, like Jesus’ birth, baptism, temptation, transfiguration, the last supper, Gethsemane and the ascension. But he adds detailed descriptions of personal encounters Jesus had with individuals, like the Samaritan woman at the well or the Pharisee Nicodemus. John also adds some special events that the other gospel’s didn’t report, like the marriage at Cana, the foot washing at the last supper or the raising of Lazarus from the dead in Bethany.
It seems that John writes after Matthew, Luke and Mark, at a time when all the other apostles have died martyrs’ deaths. Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and the Jewish heartlands have been forcefully depopulated. According to church tradition John has moved to Ephesus in the province of Asia Minor, where he lives to old age, till 98 AD. Churches have been planted in this area some decades ago and the church has been growing continually, producing mostly mixed Jewish-Gentile Christian communities.
By this time different types of false teachings have started to influence the church, mostly of the gnostic kind. Gnosticism is a syncretistic teaching that challenged the early church for decades, even centuries. Most of John’s writings, as well as the writings of many later church fathers, are addressing this heresy.
Gnosticism claims that some people have a divine spark in them, and that through knowledge and enlightenment they can became a gnostic, an enlightened person.
Gnosticism is therefore an elitist teaching, claiming that only few people are able to reach divinity. Everything depends on special knowledge, ‘gnosis’. Gnosticism also teaches that the divine spark within, a spirit emission from God, is trapped in the evil human body. This negative view of the body leads to either asceticism (control the body by spiritual discipline) or more frequently to libertinism (one can do as one likes with the body, because the divine spark within is not affected by what one does with the body).
Being in fellowship with God therefore has nothing to do with repentance, forgiveness or with an obedient, holy life. Gnosticism separates everything: divine spirit from evil body, knowledge from practice and divinity from morality, It fosters an attitude of pride, condescension and utter carelessness towards ‘normal humans’.
How does Gnosticism see Jesus? It claims Christ is a Spirit who came to enlighten men and who possesses the man Jesus at his baptism. But this Christ-Spirit did not sully himself with human suffering or with a death on a cross. The incarnation, Jesus’ death on the cross, the resurrection and God’s promise of a future restoration of all things physical and spiritual are not considered important in Gnosticism.
In answer to this John strongly asserts in his gospel that Jesus is both entirely God and entirely human. Jesus is God: He is the Word of God (Jhn 1:1), he is the Son of God (Jhn 1:18) the Messiah (Jhn 4:26), he is the resurrection (Jhn 11:25), he is the life God offers (Jhn 14:6), the truth, the way and the access to the Father (Jhn 14:6). To know Jesus is to know the Father (Jhn 14:7) and to have seen Jesus is to have seen the Father (Jhn 14:9).
John equally strongly asserts that Jesus is at the same time entirely human: Jesus came in the flesh, lived among us (Jhn 1:14), was a human being with normal emotions (Jhn 11:33) and weaknesses (Jhn 4:6). He was not a spirit that floated above the ground (Jhn 8:8) nor did his spirit leave before he suffered death, as some gnostics claimed (Jhn 19:30). Jesus was really and fully and bodily resurrected (Jhn 20:27). It is in believing in him that life, eternal life, life more abundantly has become available to all (Jhn 3:15, 10:10, 17:3).
How John is different from the three synoptic gospels
The three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) have many similarities in content and structure. They all are roughly geographically arranged (starting in Galilee, moving south through Samaria, and ending in Jerusalem). Most of John’s gospel happens in Judea and Jerusalem.
The synoptics are also roughly chronologically arranged, and the events are described in a way that could fit Jesus ministry into about one year. Yet John mentions at least three Passover feasts from which can be concluded that Jesus ministry lasted for more than three years.
Omissions in John
Many events in the synoptic gospels are described in very similar ways, even in similar wording. The gospel of John is very different, both in what events it does and does not tell. There are many quite surprising omissions, for example here is not a single deliverance from an evil spirit mentioned nor a parable told. Also seven important events in Jesus’ life are omitted:
Birth It is implied in Jhn 1:14, but not described. Instead John describes the deity and eternity of Jesus, his being active in creation and him being the source of life.
Baptism It is implied in Jhn 1:32-33, but not described, maybe because Gnosticism, and especially Doceticism, misinterpreted it as being the time Jesus becomes possessed by the divine Christ-Spirit.
Temptation It may be implied in Jhn 12:31 and Jhn 16:11, but is omitted.
Transfiguration John omits the transfiguration, yet he repeatedly describes the glory of Jesus and his light, a characteristic of the transfiguration.
Last Supper Would logically fall between Jhn 13 and Jhn 14, but it is omitted. The theme of people “eating his flesh and drinking his blood” is prominent in Jhn 6, however.
Gethsemane John omits it, instead he highlights incidents to show that sorrow, suffering and submission to his Father’s will were always a part of Jesus’ experience (Jhn 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 8:29, 11:33, 12:23, 17:4).
Ascension Is not recorded in Matthew or John, but Jhn 6:62 and Jhn 21:17 refer to the ascension. Revelation, also written by John, says repeatedly that Jesus ascended and is seated at the right hand of God.
Unique to John or special emphases in John
Yet John includes many things that are not found in the synoptic gospels, especially detailed one-on-one encounters or teaching moments. In total there are twenty-seven personal interviews recorded in this gospel, showing John’s concern for individuals. Unique accounts in John’s gospel are Jesus’ initial encounters with Peter, Philip and Nathanael (Jhn 1:35-51), the marriage at Cana (Jhn 2:1-11), Nicodemus visiting Jesus (Jhn 3:1-9), trying to support Jesus (Jhn 7:50) and bringing spices to bury Jesus (Jhn 19:39), the Samaritan woman at the well (Jhn 4), the raising of Lazarus (Jhn 11) and the washing of the disciples’ feet (Jhn 13).
This gospel has some key phrases which may not be entirely absent in other gospels, but are special to John: life, eternal life, light versus darkness, faith and believe (occurring twice as often in John than in any other gospel), world, abide, witness, testimony, truth, glory, glorified, Jesus as sent by God, Jesus as the Word (“logos” in Greek).
John has also some distinct imagery or metaphors: “the temple” for Jesus’ body (Jhn 2:19), “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”, which is used against Jesus at his trial); “the new birth” (Jhn 3:3), “wind” to describe the Holy Spirit (Jhn 3:8); the “bride and bridegroom” used by John the Baptist (Jhn 3:29), “the lamp” referring to John the Baptist (Jn 5:35); “the bread of life” (Jhn 6:35), “living water” referring to the Holy Spirit (Jhn 7:37-38); “night” and “day” (Jhn 9:4); “the shepherd” (Jhn 10:1-18), “the door” (Jhn 10:7-9) and “the vine” (Jhn 15:1-7).
The Author of the gospel
As with the other three gospel, the author of the gospel of John doesn’t directly state his name. In contrast to that all apocryphal gospels have a supposed author’s name. John the Baptist is called just “John”, with no distinguishing words. Yet John uses other expressions to refer to himself, without naming himself. He calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jhn 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:20); “the sons of Zebedee” (Jhn 21:2), “the two disciples” (Jhn 1:35,37), “another disciple” (Jhn 18:15), “the other disciple” (Jhn 18:16, 20:2,4) and “this disciple” (Jhn 18:15, 21:23,24).
At the end of his gospel the author leaves his mark: “the disciple whom Jesus loved… who had lain close to his breast at the supper… This is the disciple who is testifying these things, and has written them” (Jhn 21:20,24, Jhn 13:23-25). The author is an eyewitness to Jesus’ death on the cross: “He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth” (Jhn 19:35). He is also present during the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in Galilee. Those present are Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two unnamed disciples (Jhn 21:2).
At the end of his gospel, John, the only one of the twelve apostles to live to ripe old age, combats explains and combats rumors about him not dying. His brother James was the first of the twelve to be martyred. John is the only one to die a natural death, though he went through torture and killing attempts (poisoning, cooking in oil according to church history). John says he will die, in order to prevent people being thrown into doubt when he dies after all (Jhn 21:22-23).
John’s gospel has the traits of the testimony of an eyewitness. John fills in many details that the synoptic gospels didn’t mention: the four consecutive days of Jhn 1, the capacity of the water pots in Cana (Jhn 2:6), the distance rowed (Jhn 6:19), the weight and value of the ointment and the fragrance filling the house (Jhn 12:3); the blood and water at the cross (Jhn 19:34) and the number of fish (Jhn 21:11).
John together with his (older) brother James, the sons of fisherman Zebedee, are the heated disciples whom Jesus surnamed “Boanerges”, sons of thunder (Mrk 3:17). They are the ones wanting to call down fire on the inhospitable Samaritan village (Luk 9:51-54) and want to prevent another person using Jesus’ name (Luk 9:49-50). John is one of the inner circle – Peter, James and John, who sees the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration and is called on to especially pray in Gethsemane. In Jhn 18:15 John includes the detail that he was known to the high priest, and to the door keeper. This is surprising, and a bit of a mystery, how the fisherman of Galilee should be be known to the high priest. Yet only John himself cares enough about this detail to mention it. John is the only disciple mentioned to be at the cross and witnessing Jesus’ death (Jhn 19:35).
Church tradition says that John, late in life, was asked by elders of Ephesus to write down a ‘life of Christ’ as the last surviving apostle. Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon says in AD 170: “John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned on his breast, also published a gospel while living in Ephesus in Asia”. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who himself was a disciple of John; so Irenaeus’s words carry weight. He says that John lived in Ephesus until very old age, till the days Trajan becomes Roman emperor (98-117 AD).
Since John addresses the false teaching of gnosticism, that only only arises after around 50 AD, it is thought that John writes his gospel during old age, maybe 80-98 AD. According to Irenaeus John lived the latter part of his life in Ephesus, so the gospel was likely written from there.
The readers of John’s gospel
John writes to the mixed Jews-Gentile churches of Asia Minor. John, like Mark, adds explanations for the Gentile readers (Jhn 1:38,41-42, 4:9). John is more philosophical than the synoptic gospels, catering to Greek ears (Example: Christ as “logos”). But he also accommodates Jews: he builds on the Old Testament and shows fulfillments of many prophecies. The prologue (Jhn 1:1-18) harks back to Genesis 1 and Jesus’ repeated “I am” statements hark back to Exodus 3. There is also a focus on Jerusalem and the Jewish festivals
Historical background: The false teaching of gnosticism
Gnosticism claims that some people have a divine spark in them, and that through knowledge and enlightenment they can became a gnostic, an enlightened person. Gnosticism is therefore an elitist teaching, claiming that only few people are able to reach divinity. Everything depends on special knowledge (‘gnosis’), enlightenment or special spiritual experiences, proving that the person indeed has the divine spark and is redeemable.
Gnosticism also teaches that the divine spark within, a spirit emission from God, is trapped in the evil human body. This negative view of the body leads to either asceticism (control the body by spiritual discipline) or more frequently to libertinism (one can do as one likes with the body, because the divine spark within is not affected by what one does with the body). Being in fellowship with God therefore has nothing to do with repentance, forgiveness or with an obedient, holy life.
Gnosticism separates everything: divine spirit from evil body, knowledge from practice and divinity from morality. It fosters an attitude of pride, condescension and utter carelessness towards ‘normal humans’. How does Gnosticism see Jesus? This branch of gnosticism is called doceticism. Doceticism claims Christ to be a pure Spirit who came to enlighten men. It teaches that Christ floated about and did not leave footprints. Since gnosticism regards physical matter as inferior, Jesus becoming man (the incarnation) has to be explained differently, for what divine Spirit would contaminate itself by becoming a human?
Doceticism claims that a good man called Jesus is (at his baptism) possessed by the divine Spirit called Christ, going about enlightening men. But the Christ-Spirit leaves Jesus before he suffers and dies on the cross.
Gnosticism has little regard for the incarnation, Jesus’ death on the cross, the resurrection and God’s promise of a total future restoration of all things physical and spiritual.
John combats gnosticism throughout his gospel: Jesus Christ is fully human (with emotions, tiredness, joy and frustrations) and fully God. He does leave footprints and can write with his finger on the ground (Jhn 8:6). He preaches the good news that is meant for all, not just elitist, exclusive enlightened people. Knowledge cannot be separated from practice, revelation of God cannot be separated from a changed life, resulting in holiness, obedience and service to others. Jesus when dying ‘gives up his spirit’ (Jhn 19:30), which means the spirit doesn’t leave him conveniently before the suffering begins.
The structure of John’s gospel
The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are roughly chronological, whereas John arranges his material quite differently: Jesus is described attending seven Jewish feasts. He also performs seven signs. John calls the miracles of Jesus “signs”, meaning they are pointing to a reality and have a meaning.
1. sign Water into Wine at the Cana wedding Jhn 2:1-11
2. sign Healing of the Official’s son Jhn 4:46-54
3. sign Healing a lame man on the Sabbath Jhn 5:1-18
4. sign Feeding the five thousand Jhn 6:1-14
5. sign Walking on water Jhn 6:16-21
6. sign Healing a blind man Jhn 9:1-41
7. sign Life-extension for dead Lazarus Jhn 11:1-44
Jesus also utters seven “I am…” statements:
1. I am the bread of life Jhn 6:48
2. I am the light of the world Jhn 8:12
3. I am the door of the sheep Jhn 10:7
4. I am the good shepherd Jhn 10:11
5. I am the resurrection and the live Jhn 11:25
6. I am the way, the truth, the life Jhn 14:6
7. I am the true vine Jhn 15:1
Since the number seven is very prominent in the arrangement of Revelation, also written by John, many think he wrote his gospel after Revelation, retaining the number seven.
The goal of John’s gospel
John is very clear as to what his goal in writing is: “These (signs) are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (Jhn 20:31). Jesus is God. It is in his name that there is life. It is by faith in him that we become his own.
The famous prologue Jhn 1:1-18
Matthew and Luke start their gospels with Jesus birth and upbringing. Mark starts his gospel with Jesus’ ministry. But John goes back to creation, showing that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is the Word by which all things came into being: existence, light, life, truth, creation, cosmos, humans, sonship and grace all come through Jesus. This prologue is one of the most explicit passages about the Trinity. John shows Jesus to be fully God – and becoming fully man.
First testimony and first disciples Jhn 1:19-51
John then records upfront what those who encountered Jesus claimed him to be: John the Baptist calls him “Lamb of God” and “Son of God”, Andrew calls him “Rabbi” and “Messiah”, Philip calls him “Jesus of Nazareth”, Nathanael calls him “King of Israel”. Jesus identifies himself as “Son of Man”. These are massive claims and John will now substantiate them with his gospel.
Turning water to wine at the wedding in Cana Jhn 2: 1-11
John 2-12 is a description of Jesus doing miraculous signs. There is a pattern repeating: Jesus does a sign and makes a claim about who he is, then usually opposition arises and people have to make a choice as to what they want to believe.
The first sign is Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana, revealing the goodwill and generosity of God. The steward says: “You have kept the good wine until last” (Jhn 2:10), a word which has other echoes: In Isa 25:6 God describes his kingdom come as a great feast with good wine (signifying that with Jesus God’s kingdom is here) and also Jesus himself is ‘the good wine kept until last’.
Cleansing of the Temple Jhn 2: 13-22
Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Upon entering the temple court (the outer court called court of the Gentiles) he throws out the money changers and merchants. In this way Jesus asserts authority over the temple and the sacrificial system. When challenged he says “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jhn 2:19), provoking much anger. This claim, referring to Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection in three days, signifies that Jesus claims his body to be the real ‘temple’, his body is ‘God living among us’, he is God come down, Immanuel.
Nightly talk with Nicodemus Jhn 3
The Pharisee Nicodemus seeks out Jesus by night, addressing him politely as a teacher of Israel and as one in touch with God (Jhn 3:2). He probably wants to know what Jesus teaches concerning ‘becoming righteous’. Jesus challenges him by claiming that what Israel needs is not more ‘teaching’ or more Pharisaical law abiding, rather something totally different: a new birth, a new heart filled with the Spirit, something that human can will never bring about. Jesus’ is intentionally shaking up Nicodemus’ Pharisaical thinking.
Talk to the Samaritan woman at the well Jhn 4
Against all Jewish custom and perceived propriety, Jesus engages a Samaritan woman with a shady past in a conversation. Jesus says he is able to give her living water, in fact claiming to be the source of eternal life. The woman responds honestly and positively and finds through to a full recognition that Jesus is the Messiah.
Healing of the lame man on Sabbath Jhn 5
Jesus heals a lame man at a pool in Jerusalem on a Sabbath. To exacerbate things he tells him to pick up his mat and walk, which the Pharisaical traditions prohibit on a Sabbath as being work. When challenged Jesus claims that he is working because God, his Father is working – so God himself works on the Sabbath (Jhn 5:17)! This leads to further questioning of Jesus’ authority. Jesus – unpopularly – claims to be sent by God, honored by God and given representative authority by God. He claims God to be his Father (Jhn 5:19-46), provoking more anger.
Feeding the five thousand on the Passover Jhn 6
The next sign Jesus does is linked to the Passover, which commemorated Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their sustenance in the wilderness. Being in a remote place, Jesus then feeds five thousand by providing bread and fish, reminding of manna provided through Moses in the Exodus story. Jesus claims to be the bread of life (Jhn 6:35), the one people have to ‘eat’ in order to receive eternal life. Jesus will pick up this picture again in the last supper and make it a reality on the cross. Again much offense is taken, disputes ensue and many stop following Jesus at this point.
Jesus at the Festival of Booths Jhn 7-8
The festival of booths commemorated the years of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. As part of the celebration in Jerusalem there was a ceremony of lights, with four huge lamp stands illuminating the city, and also a ceremony of pouring water out at the altar. On this festival Jesus cries out publicly claiming to be the one who can give “living water” (parallel to Moses providing life-giving water in the wilderness, Jhn 7:37-38) and the one who is the “light of the world” (parallel to the illuminating pillar of fire in Exodus, which signified the presence of God, Jhn 8:12). These claims again provoke opposition and different reactions by people, from faith to murder attempts.
Jesus heals a man born blind on a Sabbath Jhn 9-10
Jesus provokes the Pharisees further by healing a man born blind, again on a Sabbath. Healing a man born blind was considered a ‘messianic miracle’ according to Pharisaical writings, so there is a great stir, even a full-on investigation of this case. Jesus further claims to be the good shepherd, the door for the sheep (Jhn 10:7, 10:11), to be loved by God (Jhn 10:17) and finally that he and the Father are one (Jhn 10:30). This provokes people wanting to stone him for blasphemy and people attempt to have Jesus arrested (Jhn 10:31). Jesus leaves Jerusalem, which has become a hotbed and death trap for him, but he keeps teaching (Jhn 10:40-42).
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead Jhn 11-12
The news of Lazarus’ sickness reaches Jesus. He doesn’t respond immediately but only goes to Bethany when Lazarus already has died. Jesus knows that this next and crowning miracle of bringing Lazarus back to life will create opposition leading up to his death. This is his last trip, he goes to Jerusalem and adjacent Bethany with his eyes wide open, laying down his life for his friend Lazarus, – and for everyone else.
In Bethany he declares himself to be “the resurrection” and “the life” to Martha (Jhn 11:25) and raises Lazarus from the dead. The news of the miracle reaches everyone, those inquiring (Jhn 12:20-26), those believing and those now feeling bound to kill Jesus. Jesus enters Jerusalem to the cries of “Hosanna” and to the plotting of the spiritual leaders.
Jesus’ final words to his disciples Jhn 13-17
John gives much room to Jesus’ last evening and night with his disciples. Jesus prepares them as well as possible for what it to come: He re-impresses on them the need for sacrificial love (washing their feet, Jhn 13:1-20), foreshadows his death on the cross by eating the last supper with them, he foretells the coming betrayals (to steady the disciples when it will have happened, Jhn 13:21-38), predicts his departure and ongoing existence (Jhn 14), teaches them how to stay connected with him anyway (Jhn 15) and prepares them for the new season when they will be lead by the Holy Spirit (Jhn 14,16), not by Jesus being with them in body. He assures them of his ongoing love, prays for them (Jhn 17) and then goes to Gethsemane, where he knows Judas will suspect him to be (Jhn 18:1-2).
Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion and death Jhn 18-19
During Jesus’ arrest, when the soldiers are looking for “Jesus of Nazareth”, he replies “I am he”, to which they all step back and fall to the ground (Jhn 18:6). This is Jesus’ last “I am”. To the Jewish council Jesus answers by referring to what he spoke in public. To Pilate he says that he is a king, but that his kingdom is of a different kind, with different values and a different definition of power and leadership (Jhn 18:36). Jesus, its true king, conquers evil by letting evil conquer him, and gains victory over the world by an act of self-giving love, the cross.
Jesus’ resurrection and appearances Jhn 20-21
John describes the events of the resurrection morning, imprinted indelibly in his memory: the upsetting report of the women about an empty grave, the race to the grave to see whether it is so, the story of Mary’s encounter with the risen Lord. And then seeing the resurrected Jesus himself: Jesus’ appearances to the twelve, to Thomas and later to the apostles in Galilee when fishing.
John records how Jesus re-affirms Peter as his follower, as an apostle and as a leader. John ends his gospel by denying rumors about him not dying, preventing people being unsettled when he will indeed die.
Introduction to Gospels
Why four Gospels? How are they different from each other?
- Are they different? How? Why? Contradicting each other? Why not written up into one document?
- Most teaching of all gospels
- Many parables
- Jewish focus
- Many OT quotes & fulfillments
- Government focus
- Birth narrative with magi & king Herod
- Most parables of all gospels
- Many individuals, groups, foreigners, poor, outcast, sinners, …
- Pharisee focus
- Roman or other nations focus
- Short, a bit more than half of Luke, Matthew
- Most miracles of all gospels
- Most on Jesus’ suffering
- No birth narrative, starts with John the Baptist.
- Most different.
- Most personal encounters & talks of Jesus (early disciples, Cana, Nicodemus, Samaritan woman, raising Lazarus, disciples before death)
- Omissions (Birth narrative, Baptism, Temptation, Transfiguration, Last supper, Gethsemane, Ascension, no deliverance of evil spirit, no parables.
- Only gospel to record foot washing
- Why these differences?
- Different author
- different readers
- addressing different needs … or explained differently:
Two levels of Gospels
- The one level is Jesus with his hearers, the other level is the Gospel writer with his readers.
- For all four gospels Jesus and his hearers is the same, but not the other level.
- Jhn 21:25 … “if all written down about Jesus, the world could not contain the books”. This is significant, the Gospel writer admits freely that what he writes is a small selection only.
- In the 3 ½ years with Jesus the disciples witnessed hundreds, maybe thousands of miracles, encounter, deliverances, parables, sayings, preaching … Jesus probably said most everything many times, in different ways, slight variations to fit different audiences.
- No gospel claims to be an exhaustive description.
- Gospel writers must choose out of a vast array of things what they include.
- Illustration: You went to a conference and now report about it to your mother, your best friend and your pastor > every report will be different, though all three are true.
- Every gospel writer must carefully select as per the needs of his particular readers, for everything can’t be mentioned.
- When reading the gospel: first hearers and first readers.
- Ask Why does the gospel writer include exactly this in his gospel? Why is this relevant to his readers?
Unique passages & special emphases
- To understand more about the readers, watch out especially for unique passages and special emphases (in this gospel versus the other three gospels)
- What overlaps? What is included only in this gospel? What is ommitted?
- Who of the four gospels was written first?
- Did all four writers write independently or do their texts ‘know about each other’?
- If there are parallels, who copied from whom? Or did they use a common source (maybe oral traditions that had developed, or an earlier written source (Q)?
- It turns out there are significant parallels between Matthew, Mark and Luke, but much less with John.
- 311 verses are found in all three synoptic gospels.
- Special attention to unique material:
- Matthew has 1071 verses, out of these 300 (33%) are only in Matthew
- Mark has 661 verses, out of these 70 (10%) are only in Mark
- Luke has 1150 verses, out of these 520 (50%) are only in Luke
- Matthew has 561v in common with Luke, 522v in common with Mark
- Mark has only 140v which are not in Matthew
- Presumably, one writer has used another writer as source, or both writers used the same source (which we don’t have any more)
- Luke 1:1-4 … Luke states clearly that he compiled many eyewitness accounts and possibly written accounts out of which he compiled his “Gospel of Luke” … so as early as 57 AD many oral or possibly written traditions are around.
Who copied from whom?
- It is usually assumed: first Mark (because it is shortest, others copied and added), but that is an assumption, a writer could well have ‘left away’ as easily as he could have ‘added’.
- Different opinions abound. My opinion:
- first Matthew, a direct eyewitness, a natural recorder, probably the earliest gospel writer … 50-60 AD
- then Luke, clearly stating that he is using earlier sources, compiling for his writing while in Ceasarea, with access to Judea and Galilee and the witnesses living there … 57-62 AD
- then Mark, cutting teaching and parables, adding other things to suit the need of his persecuted audience 64-67 AD
How John is different from the three synoptic gospels
- The three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) have many similarities in content and structure. They all are roughly geographically arranged (starting in Galilee, moving south through Samaria, and ending in Jerusalem). Most of John’s gospel happens in Judea and Jerusalem.
- The synoptics are also roughly chronologically arranged, and the events are described in a way that would fit Jesus ministry into a year or so. Since John mentions 3 (or 4) Passover feasts, we know that Jesus ministry lasted for more than three years (approximately).
Omissions in John
- Many events in the synoptic gospels are described in very similar ways, even similar wording. The gospel of John is very different, both in what it does and does not feature. There are many perhaps surprising omissions, actually 7 important events in Jesus’ life are omitted:
- Birth It is implied in Jhn 1:14, but not described. Instead John describes the deity and eternity of Jesus, active in creation and the source of life.
- Baptism It is implied in Jhn 1:32-33, but omitted, probably because baptism expresses Jesus’ humanity and not his deity.
- Temptation It may be implied in Jhn 12:31 and Jhn 16:11, but is omitted, probably because Satan made his appeal to the humanity of Jesus.
- Transfiguration John omits it, yet he describes the glory of Jesus and his light persistently (characteristic of transfiguration)
- Last Supper Would logically fall between Jhn 13 and Jhn 14, yet omitted. The theme of eating his flesh and drinking his blood is prominent in Jhn 6, however.
- Gethsemane John omits it, instead he highlights incidents to show that sorrow, suffering and submission to his Father’s will were always a part of Jesus’ experience (Jhn 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 8:29, 11:33, 12:23, 17:4).
- Ascension Is not recorded in Matthew or John. Jhn 6:62 and Jhn 21:17 do refer to the ascension, though. Revelation says repeatedly that Jesus ascended and is at the right hand of God.
- Also there are no recorded deliverances of evil spirits and no parables in the gospel.
- Yet John includes many things that are not found in the synoptic gospels, especially detailed one-on-one encounters or teaching moments. In total there are 27 personal interviews recorded in the book, showing John’s concern for individuals.. Unique accounts in John’s gospel are:
- Previous encounters with Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael Jhn 1:35-51
- The marriage at Cana Jhn 2:1-11
- Nicodemus visiting Jesus Jhn 3:1-9
- Nicodemus supporting Jesus Jhn 7:50
- Nicodemus bringing myrrh and aloes Jhn 19:39
- The Samaritan woman at the well Jhn 4
- The raising of Lazarus Jhn 11
- The washing the disciples’ feet Jhn 13
Special words or phrases in John
- Life and eternal life
- Light versus darkness John is black and white: a person is either in darkness or in the light
- World disordered fallen world
- Believe, faith the main purpose of book and highly (!) repeated
- Witness, testimony, truth
- Son of God
- Jesus as the Word (‘logos’) only found in the prologue
- glory, glorified
- Jesus – the one sent by God
- Jesus describing God as the ‘Father’
He also has a quite distinct use of imagery or metaphors
- The temple for Jesus’ body Jhn 2:19 “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jhn 2:17), which is used as an accusation against him at the trial, is only found in John.
- The new birth Jhn 3:3
- The wind for the Holy Spirit Jhn 3:8
- The bride and bridegroom Jhn 3:29 used by John the Baptist
- The harvest Jhn 4:35
- The lamp meaning John the Baptist Jhn 5:35
- The bread of life Jhn 6:35
- Living water = Holy Spirit Jhn 7:37-38
- Night and day Jhn 9:4
- The shepherd Jhn 10:1-18
- The door Jhn 10:7-9
- The vine Jhn 15:1-7
GOSPEL OF JOHN – BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The gospel as we have it is anonymous, as the other 3 gospels are. In contrast to that it is significant to note that all apocryphal gospels have the author’s name.
John doesn’t reveal himself as author. John the Baptist is just called ‘John’. But John uses other expressions to refer to himself, without naming himself:
- ‘the disciple who Jesus loved’ Jhn 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:20
- ‘the sons of Zebedee’ Jhn 21:2
- ‘the two disciples’ Jhn 1:35,37
- ‘another disciple’ Jhn 18:15
- ‘the other disciple’ Jhn 18:16, 20:2,4
- ‘this disciple’ Jhn 18:15, 21:23,24
- John John never mentions his own name ‘John’ (nor his brother’s name ‘James’), though he finds other ways to refer to himself and his brother. This is hard to explain other than that he is the writer.
- Jhn 21:20 The author leaves his mark: the disciple whom Jesus loved…who had lain close to his breast at the supper is the author, as described in Jhn 13:23. In Mrk 14:17 Jesus and the 12 were alone in the upper room, so the author is one of the 12.
- Jhn 21:24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true.
- Who are “we”? Probably the elders in the church at Ephesus, testifying to John, who possibly edited the gospel and acted as John’s secretary.
- Jhn 19:35 John as witness to Jesus’ death on the cross: ‘He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.’
- Jhn 21:2 During the post-resurrection Galilee happening are present: Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee (James and John) and 2 unnamed disciples.
- Jhn 21:22-23 John here explains and combats rumors about him not dying. Because he survived so long, his brother James being the first of the twelve to be martyred, because he survived a poisoning / cooking in oil (?), these rumors started running. John says he will die, in order to prevent people being thrown into doubt when he dies after all.
- John’s gospel has the traits of a testimony of an eyewitness. He fills in many details that the synoptic gospels didn’t mention. Many details are remembered:
- Jhn 1 The four consecutive days
- Jhn 2:6 The capacity of the water pots
- Jhn 6:19 The distance rowed
- Jhn 12:3 The weight and value of the ointment, the fragrance filling the house, a detail nobody would have asked for but shows the eyewitness account.
- Jhn 19:34 The blood and water at the cross
- Jhn 21:11 The number of fishes & nets not tearing – the incident told by a fisherman
- John together with his (older) brother James, the sons of Zebedee are the heated disciples whom Jesus surnamed “Boanerges”, sons of thunder (Mrk 3:17). They are the ones wanting to call down fire on the unhospitable Samaritan village and want to prevent another person using Jesus’ name. John was one of the inner circle – Peter, James and John, who saw the raising of Jairus’ daughter, the transfiguration and were called on to especially pray in Gethsemane. In Jhn 18:15 John includes the detail that he was known to the high priest, and to the door keeper. This is surprising, and a bit of a mystery, now the fisherman of Galilee should be be known to the high priest. Yet only John himself cares enough about this detail to mention it. John is the only disciple mentioned to be at the cross and witnessing Jesus’ death (Jhn 19:35).
- John also wrote 3 letters. Some people think that “the elder” writing 2 & 3 John is not John but another person in Ephesus. Papias, a disciple of John refers to John the elder as the author.
- The book of Revelation was only accepted in the NT in the 4th century. John’s gospel and letters are in a polished Greek style, where John probably used a secretary. Revelation is in bad Greek grammar, probably written by John himself on the island of Patmos, where he had no access to a secretary.
- Jesus is called the “Lamb” only in John and Revelation. Jesus is called “The Word” only in John, 1 John and Revelation.
- Tradition says that John, late in life, was asked by elders of Ephesus to write down a ‘life of Christ’ as the last surviving apostle. John omits much material from the synoptic gospels as those were known. John wrote extra material, supplementary to the synoptics.
- Polycarp in 190 AD says that John was buried in Ephesus
- Papias (bishop of Hierapolis, 70-145 AD) collected saying of eyewitnesses of Jesus. He wrote “Expositions of the Lord’s Oracles” in early 2nd century. He names two different Johns. One, a member of the 12, and another he calls the “elder John”. These may be two different people, or may refer to the same person. Some of the early church writers thought the elder John wrote some of the books ascribed to John.
- The author of both 2 & 3 John calls himself “the elder”.
- Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyon said in AD 170 that the gospel was written by the apostle John. ‘John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned on his breast, also published a gospel while living in Ephesus in Asia.’ Irenaeus had been a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, so Irenaeus’s words have authority on this. He says that John lived in Ephesus until very old age, till the days of Trajan becoming Emperor (98-117 AD). He says John lived in Patmos during the early 90’s under the reign of Emperor Domitian.
- Objections: The Tubingen School say that the Jesus in John’s gospel is a different Jesus, and not the historical Jesus. They assert that the lengthy theological discourses contrast with the short answers in the synoptics. They assert further that in the synoptics there is no direct claim of Jesus being God, they claim that the church developed that theology in the 2nd century, with John being written as late as that.
- Yet it needs to kept in mind that many of John’s discourses took place in Jerusalem when Jesus is addressing opponents – intellectual Jews and theologians. The discourses in the synoptics were more written for the benefit of uneducated Galileans.
Clement of Alexandria wrote that ‘John perceiving that the bodily facts have been made plain in the gospel, being urged by his friends and inspired by the Holy Spirit, composed a spiritual gospel”. (Eusebius VI.14.7)
- Tertullian mentions John to be the writer of his gospel.
Written to whom?
- John, like Mark, puts in explanations for his (mostly) non-Jewish readers:
- Jhn 1:38 Rabbi – which means teacher Explanation of Jewish words
- Jhn 1:41 Messiah – which means Christ Explanation of Jewish words
- Jhn 1:42 Cephas – which means Peter Explanation of Jewish words
- Jhn 4:9 Jews have no dealings with Samaritans Explanation of Jewish customs
- ? Explanation of Palestine geography
- John 70x John refers to “The Jews”. In contrast “the Jews” are mentioned only 6x in the synoptic gospel.
- John is more philosophical than the synoptic gospels, linking the gospel to Greek philosophy (Example: ‘logos’).
- But John caters to Jews, too:
- John builds on the OT, shows the fulfillment of many prophecies.
- When John quotes the OT, it is not from the Greek Septuagint but from the Hebrew OT or Aramaic Targum.
- There is an emphasis on how the OT themes continue
- The Prologue harks back to creation in Gen 1
- The repeated “I AM” statements hark back to Exo 3
- The focus on Jerusalem and the Jewish festivals
- With John living in Ephesus, ministering and writing to Asia Minor, being the elder for that region: probably Asia Minor, as also Revelation, 1, 2, 3 John (most likely).
- Gospel of John is clearly anti-gnostic and was most likely written at a time when gnosticism already has arisen (2nd half 1st century)
- Gospel of John knew the synoptic gospels (had a copy?) and tailored his gospel intentionally differently, filling in information, which means John wrote after Matthew (50-62 AD), Luke (57-62 AD) and Mark (64-67 AD).
- Clement of Alexandria says that John wrote as a supplement to other gospels, implying it is written later then synoptic gospels.
- Jhn 21:19 refers to Peter’s death in the past tense, which indicates a date after 64-67 AD.
- Summary: 70-98 AD, probably during the later part of that range, written after Revelation, carrying over the focal number 7.
Arguments for an earlier date:
- Jhn 5:2 talks about the pool by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem in the present form > is Jerusalem still standing?
- John there is no mention of the destruction of the temple or Jerusalem, as is common in post 70 AD writings.
- 135 AD oldest papyri (excerpt of John) found in Egypt
- 170 AD first quotes in the writings of the church fathers
Written from where?
- Probably from Ephesus, which became John’s ministry base latest after 70 AD (Irenaeus).
Historical background in general
- General idolatry, Greek philosophy, eastern occultism, mystery cults, Jewish settlements
- Generally for 70-98 AD:
- All apostles are dead except John
- Churches going into the 2nd and 3rd generation
- Rise of Emperor worship
- Kingdom wide persecution linked to Emperor worship
- Rise of false teaching, especially Gnosticism
- As before
- Prose > literal interpretation. Some OT quotations (mostly poetry > figurative interpretation.
- Gospel, the first division being arranged around 7 Jewish feasts.
- Number 7 as ordering factor. Long personal talks recorded.
Main Themes / Ideas?
- Jesus is fully and fully human at the same time
- Jesus is the promised and hoped for Messiah
- unity, closeness, identification, knowledge, representation of the Father and the Son
- faith, ensuring salvation, eternal life and being God’s child
- Character of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit
Main Goals / Reasons?
- Combat gnostic ideas (with asceticism and libertinism)
- trustworthy eye witness account of Jesus’ life, provoking to faith and obedience
- to complete the believer’s joy
- “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (Jhn 20:30-31).
Color Coding Suggestions
- who, where, when
- emotions, responses to Jesus
- Repeated themes
- faith, believe
- life, eternal life
- truth, word, testimony, witness
- judgment, condemn
- signs, miracles
- Jewish feasts
- when Jesus says “I am”
- light <=> darkness
- Father, Son, Holy Spirit, unity, oneness
GOSPEL OF JOHN – TEXT
Groups of people in John’s gospel
- John mentions ‘the world’ 79 times, in contrast to all synoptics together mentioning it 15 times. The world is the most general category of people, referring to unbelieving, sinful humanity. The mission of Jesus was to the world (Jhn 3:16-19, 6:51, 8:12, 9:5, 12:47). However, the world at large rejected him (Jhn 1:10, 3:19, 7:7, 14:17, 15:18, 16:20).
- John mentions ‘the Jews’ 71 times, in contrast to all synoptics together mentioning them 17 times. This is John’s description of the Jews who did not believe in Jesus, particularly the Jewish religious leaders and Jewish culture who reject Jesus as Messiah. It is a negative description, even though quite some Jews did believe in Jesus (including the disciples), and of course Jesus was a Jew.
The disciples of John the Baptist
- Some of Jesus’s disciples were originally disciples of John the Baptist, including the apostle John himself (Jhn 1:35). When John the Baptist pointed out the Lamb of God, they left him and began to follow Jesus. John the Baptist’s role was to prepare the way (Jhn 1:23), and then to fade out. He summarised his own position as ‘he must increase, but I must decrease’ (Jhn 3:30). However some people thought John was the Messiah (Jhn 1:20), and some of these refused to change this belief, and continued to think of John as God’s promised Messiah. They appear in the book of Acts (Acts 18:24-25, 19:1-4), and according to church writings, groups of John’s disciples continued to exist well into the first century. Later they became opponents of Christianity.
- These were those who claimed to believe, but did not confess their faith publicly. They felt under pressure by the Pharisees and feared being expelled from the synagogue (Jhn 12:42-43, Jhn 9:22). It seems Nicodemus was one of them (Jhn 3:2, 7:45-52).
People only attracted by signs and wonders
- They are often described as “many”. Their faith was based primarily on witnessing miraculous signs (Jhn 2:23, 11:45). They are happy to eat miraculous bread and fish, but were mostly not willing to accept the exclusive claims of Jesus and cease following him (Jhn 6:60-66).Jesus distrusted these people (Jhn 2:24), and did not want people to believe in him just because he performed signs. True faith depended on believing his exclusive claims, not on admitting his works of power (Jhn 20:29). There were even some Jews who are described as believing in Jesus (Jhn 8:31), but whose faith was shown to be inadequate, when they later rejected Jesus and his stark claims (Jhn 8:33-59).
Those with true faith
- These are the people who responded with faith, both after seeing the signs, but also they believed the claims Jesus made. These included 11 of the 12 disciples, and are described by Jesus as “those whom the Father had given him” (Jhn 6:67-69, 16:29-31, 17:6-10,20). It was this true faith which brought (and brings) people into eternal life (Jhn 20:31). It was these who received him and became children of God (Jhn 1:12).
THE PROLOGUE Jhn 1:1-18
- Generally The prologue forms the summary of the gospel
- The prologue shows the frame of the gospel
- The prologue introduces many of the key words / repeated occurring through the rest of his gospel.
- Comparison Matthew begins with the Genealogy, tracing Jesus’ ancestry to Abraham.
- Mark begins with the John and Jesus’ ministry.
- Luke begin with John and Jesus birth. He traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam (Luk 3:23-38)
- John begins his gospel by harking back to creation.
- Jhn 1:1 “In the beginning was …” deliberately parallel creation. Often when Paul preaches to Gentile areas he starts with God the creator (Acts 14 in Iconium, Acts 17 in Athens). John starts his gospel by a poetic and philosophical recount of the creation. The Word being the creative agent in creation is not only in Gen 1, but also passages like Psa 33:6 “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made”.
- Logos “In the beginning was the Word”. Greek: Logos. By Jhn 1:14 it is clear that this refers to Jesus. So: in the beginning was the Logos, in the beginning was Jesus.
- Logos is a most powerful and brilliant choice of word, choice of title for Jesus:
- Jews The Word of God creative agent at creation, the revered self-revelation of God (Exo 19-20, 34:6-7, voice but no depiction Deu 4:12*, Deu 5:22-27, the authoritativeness of the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s character of making humans communicators like himself, it is all resonating in this word.
- Greeks logos was a revered word, describing the power of the human mind to understand, reason, argue, communicate, logic, all things very highly valued in the Greek mind.
- To call Jesus the Logos is deeply meaningful to both Jewish and Greek background believers:
- Jews: Jesus is God’s “final word” (Michael Card), Jesus is the agent in creation, the one who holds creation together (Heb 1:3 “He is the reflection of God’s glory, and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word”, also Col 1:17 “In him all things hold together”), Jesus is truth, Jesus is the message of God, the ultimate, final revelation of who the Father is (a highly repeated theme in John).
- Greeks: Jesus is reason, Jesus is by whom we think, understand, reason. He is the basis of every healthy philosophical thought. He allows us to perceive, understand and make sense of the world around us.
- Jhn 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. Or filled in: “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God and Jesus was God”.
- > Jesus is not the same thing as the Father, but he is in fellowship and unity with the Father (“with God”).
- > This is an outright statement of Jesus’ Divinity. Jesus is 100% God. He is God, but he is also with God (the other members of the Trinity, here presumably the Father).
- Crucial ? The one crucial question in the Gospels is: Who is Jesus? > John starts his gospel by answering this. Jesus is God, he is the all-powerful co-creator of the universe together with God the Father. He is God, he is with God.
- Jhn 1:3 “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” Also Col 1:16 “all things have been created through him and for him”.
- Time element If in the beginning all things then were created by the Word. The creative agent is there before the creation of new things. God (and Jesus) were therefore there before creation. Again Col 1:17 “He himself is before all things”. The universe has a beginning. Spirits / angels have a beginning.
- Logic regression Many ask: then who created God? Well, if there was anyone who created him, we would call that creator God, not the “God” he creates. God exactly means that: the un-created first cause, dependent on nothing, by definition and necessity eternal.
- Firstborn Col 1:15 calls Jesus the “firstborn of all creation”. This expression creates confusion in our minds. This does not refer to God the Father ‘creating Jesus’ before he created the rest. Jesus would then be simply one more creature, even is the first and the best. “firstborn of creation” is a description of God himself entering his creation (incarnation). Jesus is the eternal, preexisting God who at one specific point in time enters his creation by being born into it as a child.
- Islam We agree with Islam that if Jesus was a mere man (though the very best one), to worship him would be both stupid and wrong. But what if God wants to do the unthinkable and enter his own creation? Who are we to prevent him from doing so? Incarnation is an unparalleled, never repeated, unique, nobody-expected-it act of God.
- Jhn 1:3-4 “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”.
- This seems to refer to the creation of all things: In Jesus, in the Word was life, and from his life he has brought into existence and given life to all things created. He is the Source of life. All life comes from him, through him … and for him (Col 1:16). There is no God-independent life. There is a foundational dependence of all existing or living things on God at all times.
- It also refers to the incarnation: Jesus is the life that came into being (as a human, the incarnation) and is the light of all people. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness and that darkness couldn’t overcome.
- Life, Light John introduces more key words, which run all through his writings. Jesus brings life, sin and Satan bring death. Jesus is light, sin and Satan are darkness. He uses these keywords (and their opposites) both in their literal sense and also metaphorically. See Jhn 13:30 about Judas, at the point he goes through with the betrayal “after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And is was night.”
- As light immediately dispels darkness by its very presence (physics), so here also metaphorically.
- Jhn 1:6-9 “There was a man sent (apostello) from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” World here is ‘cosmos’. Jesus enters the cosmos (the incarnation).
- John referring to John the Baptist by just “John”, and to himself by other terms “the disciple whom Jesus loved” and other ones. All gospels mention John the Baptist with importance, but John has a special focus on John, starting here in the prologue.
- John Remember that it seems Asia Minor had reference for John (see Acts 19:1-7) and its seems there were preachers and believers who only had the beginning of the gospel.
- Witness Another keyword is introduced in this context: John is a witness to the light. The term “witness” is heavily repeated in John’s writings, as noun or verb (32x total, 3x in Rev, 1x in 3 Jhn, 7x in 1 Jhn, 21x in John, which is more than the other three gospels combined).
- John is a witness to Jesus, Jesus works are a witness to Jesus (Jhn 5:36), the Spirit witnesses to Jesus (Jhn 14:26 and more), the believers become witnesses and Rev 1:5 calls Jesus the faithful witness, indeed Jesus is the witness to the Father all throughout John.
- The first readers are not direct eyewitnesses of Jesus, but John assures them about the trustworthiness of the eyewitnesses. And by experiencing the truth themselves, they also become witnesses.
Sent from God Another keyword. John the Baptist is sent from God, Jesus is sent from God (Jhn 5:37), Jesus will send out his followers.
- John vs Jesus John gives very clear words to the exact role of John, as different from Jesus. John is sent by God, but his role is different: is not the light, he witnesses to the light.
- Believe Another keyword is introduced “so that all might believe”. The goal of the Gospel is stated right out, as it also is stated overly clear in Jhn 20:30-31 “many other signs … these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of Go, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
- “Believing” is heavily repeated in John, 52x in Jhn, 23x in Mth, Mrk, Luk combined!, though never as a noun. “Faith” is 12x in Mth, Luk, 5x in Mrk, 0x in Jhn). Combined (faith, believe) the statistics are 52x in Jhn, 19x in Mth, 16x in Mrk, 10x in Luk.
- The goal is that “all” should believe, Jews and Greeks, the universal appeal, goal, focus of the gospel.
- Jhn 1:10-11 “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”
- Personification of the “cosmos”, here referring to humans in general. God’s created humans do not know him, recognize him, accept him – humankind in rebellion to God.
- Parallelism: A Parallelism is expressed. Does one line refer to humankind in general, and one line to the Jews in particular (his won people)? Maybe, or maybe just a more universal way to put it.
- Know Another keyword is introduced. To know God, which (remember 1 Jhn) means to love and obey him. To not know God here is not a simple, innocent absence of knowledge, it means a volitional rejection of his claims, a refusal to love and obey him, as also expressed in the word “didn’t accept him”.
- Jhn 1:12 “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.”
Human choice The refusal is general, but that doesn’t mean it is hopeless – or excusable. Individual human decision is crucial, as also expressed in the word ‘accept’. The problem is not God “to all who received him … he gave”, God will accept anyone. The problem is man.
- Children of God This term is defined immediately: “those who believed”, “those who are born of God” (another keyword).
- To be a child of God is a gift of God, but it is crucially dependent on our response to God. Humans are always God’s creation, though not necessarily his children.
- Child (Greek: teknon) means child, son, daughter. This powerful metaphor expresses: making one’s own, intimate relationship, love, care, provision, pride, representation, unchangeable relationship, adoption, legal rights, heir.
- Birth Birth is a metaphor expressing a passage, a new beginning, joy, life, a gift, but also something that happens “to one” without the contribution from the child. We do not ‘take birth’, we ‘are born’. Jesus used this metaphor first famously in his talk with Nicodemus (Jhn 3).
- With this John challenges the Jews, who think of themselves as “children of Abraham” to the exclusion of other ethnic groups.
- Jhn 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
- Jesus = Word Identifying Jesus as the Word, the Logos.
- Seen “We have seen”, an important theme, linked to the witness / sent / sign themes. The eyewitness is testifying to the truth (1 Jhn 1:1-3 “we have seen, touched, heard”). Jesus will do signs so people see and conclude something. In Jhn 9 this will be used with irony in the story of the blind man becoming seeing and the leaders refusing to see. Faith is not blind, it’s evidence based.
- Flesh “became flesh” is a clear repudiation of Doceticism / Gnosticism. God has entered the physical world, he was neither distant nor immutable. He isn’t a spirit floating about.
Lived among Literally ‘tabernacled, camped, resided, dwelt’, a clear reference to God’s dwelling with Israel in the tabernacle (Exo 40:34). Jesus is God’s presence among men. He is “Immanuel” (Isa 7:14), God with us.
- This also links to one more important metaphor: Jesus is the Temple, and every believer’s heart (1 Cor 6:19) and the church is that dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:21).
- 100% human Jesus is not only 100% God, he is also 100% human, the two essential truths that need to be held together, whatever Gnosticism might say. Also addressed in 1 Jhn 4:2-3, 2 Jhn 7. This is made into a ‘checkpoint’ of false teachers by John.
- Truth “full of grace and truth”, two more keywords.
- Salvation, becoming children of God is an act of Grace on God’s part, it is made into a reality by Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection. Jesus is the grace given us.
- Truth, linked with the witness / know / light themes. Jesus doesn’t only speak truth, he is truth. He is the ultimate revelation of God, God’s final word.
- Jhn 1:15-18 John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’” 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law indeed was given through Moses: grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”
- grace upon grace? It seems that the law though Moses was the first ‘grace’ and that ‘grace and truth through Jesus is the second ‘grace’. Moses could not see God (Exo 33:20-23) and though his face turned shiny in the presence of God (Exo 34:29). Yet Jesus’ revelation is far superior, he not only speaks truth, he is Truth, he not only knows or describes the character of God, he fully lives the Character of God. He not only is a prophet, he is a son. He not only is a human messenger, he is God himself speaking.
- Father & Son Another big theme in John is the relationship between the Father and Son (Jhn 6:46,5:19-20,6:38-39,8:28-29,8:16-18,12:44-45,17:10,17:24). They are both God, they are in unity, same goals, same character, so that to see the Son was to see the Father, to know the Son was to know the Father. Jesus has made God known. And whoever believes in Him will have life.
UPFRONT CLAIMS Jhn 1:19-51
Inquiry into John the Baptist Jhn 1:19-28
- A quite funny interaction between John and priests and Levites send by “the Jews” from Jerusalem.
- It seems a 2nd stage investigation because they verbally argue with John.
- John does not have ‘evangelical verbal diarrhea’, but is sparse with words, especially when they want to put him into their categories in Jhn 1:24 Messiah? No. Elijah (Mal 4:5)? No. The prophet (Deu 18:15)? No.
- But he knows his calling clearly and expresses it fearlessly, regardless of consequences: He is the “voice in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’” (Isa 40:3, Jhn 1:23).
- They are annoyed as this doesn’t fit their categories: “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, not the prophet?” This has no OT basis, baptism barely is mentioned in the OT, and a necessary link to being anybody special is also not from the OT. But it reveals the thinking of the time: preaching and offering baptism was not private spiritual retreat, it was potentially subversive, it was a collecting of followers, uniting them in a movement. It had a revolutionary ring, of picking up from Moses who had ‘baptized’ people in the Red Sea, brought them through the wilderness and was now ready to conquer the promised land.
- John’s testimony about the ‘Lord’ he is making the way straight for: “Among you stand one whom you do not know the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal” (Jhn 1:26-28). This is a bit provocative, they don’t know him, but relegates the problem into the future, the focus is away from John.
Declaration by John the Baptist Jhn 1:26-28, 1:29-34, 1:35
- Jhn 1:26-28 “Among you stand one whom you do not know the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal”
- Jhn 1:29-34 “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me. 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified “I saw the Spirit descending on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
- Jhn 1:35 “Look, here is the Lamb of God.”
- Jhn 3:27 “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Hopeful disciples make claims John 1:35-51
- Jhn 1:37 “Rabbi … where are you staying?” This is partially practical (to be able to find an itinerant teacher again next morning), but also a potential disciple asking for a ‘learning opportunity’ with a Rabbi in good Jewish style. It means “I want to become your disciple”.
- Jhn 1:38, 46 “Come, and see”, first a powerful invitation into life with Jesus, the second a challenge of Philip to Nathanael. Application: Discipleship means to co-live, transparent lives, everyday situations, real relationship … we need to learn from Jesus, who was the Master discipler.
- Jhn 1:41 Andrew to Peter “We have found the Messiah”
- Jhn 1:45 Philip to Nathanael “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
- Jhn 1:49 Nathanel to Jesus “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
- John has started his gospel making very steep claims about who Jesus is. Now he will write his gospel to substantiate that these claims are indeed true.
First Sign Water to Wine Jhn 2: 1-11
- In Chapter 2 John describes the first miracle of Jesus, transforming water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
- Jhn 2:11 “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” John consistently refers not to miracles but signs. What does “sign” mean? A sign points somewhere. John deliberately states that the miracles Jesus does all have a very clear and important message. They are meant to make the watchers conclude or believe something, which is usually the response described.
- There is a deliberate series of signs which John starts to count off. 1st sign (Jhn 2:11), 2nd sign (Jhn 4:54), but after that he leaves the readers to keep counting themselves.
- One way to understand the series of 7 signs is the following:
Water to Wine
Jesus = Source of Life
Disciples believed in him
New birth, born from above
Official’s son healed
Jesus = Lord over distance
Official & household believes
I am the living water
Paralyzed healed on Sabbath
Jesus = Lord over time
Jews seek to kill Jesus because he called God his own Father
Unity of Father and Son
Feeding the 5000
Jesus = Provider & Bread of Life
People want to make Jesus king
I am the Bread of Life
Many disciples turn back
Jesus walking on water
Jesus = Lord over nature
Jn 6:19, 21
Disciples frightened, relieved
I am the light of the world
Healing of man born blind
Jesus = Light of the World
Jews divided, pick up stones, try to arrest him
I am the Good shepherd
Lazrus raised from the Dead
Jesus = Lord over Life & Death
Jews plan to kill Jesus & Lazarus
I am the resurrection & the life
- Others do not count sign 5 but instead say that the resurrection is sign number 7, with sign number 6 (the raising of Lazarus) pointing to that greatest miracle of all.
- The chapters 13-17, the last evening Jesus spends with the disciples, has no signs.
First Sign Water to Wine Jhn 2: 1-11
- Jewish weddings were big affairs and could last a week or two. Jhn 2:1 “On the third day” probably indicates that this event happens 3 days into the wedding celebration.
- Weddings were therefor costly for the families. Likely the bridegroom or bride was a relative or acquaintance of Mary and her family. She knows about the wine running out (Jhn 2:3), which would have been a major shame to the family, a lasting stigma for the couple.
- The description very much has an eyewitness ring with vivid detail (the interaction between Jesus and Mary, the number of the jars (six), the purpose of the jars (purification), the volume of the jars (20-30 gallons), filling them to the brim, giving them to the steward, his comment to the groom etc.
- Mary is kindhearted and suffers with the shame of the family. S he puts some pressure on Jesus to ‘do something’. Jesus refuses to be guided by that. It seems Jesus then checks back with his Heavenly Father about this, and receives a ‘go-ahead’. Application: The legitimacy of a need and the power to do something in itself is not yet necessarily guidance to do something! This is a good reminder to all Marthas, to all those over-responsible, busy, servant hearted believers.
- This starts of the repeated theme “my hour has not yet come” (Jhn 2:4, 4:21,23, 5:28, 7:30, 8:20, 12:23,27, 13:1, 16:21,32, 17:1). God’s timing is sometimes hard to understand, yet excellent.
What is the message of this sign?
- It “reveals Jesus’ glory” (Jhn 2:11), likely meaning showing his power and care.
- Jesus acts like the Creator God here, with definite power over the physical world. The Creator God continually makes water to wine through creation, but here he does it sped up.
- Water for purification turned into wine, wiping away the shame of humans, echoing Jesus’ cleansing, saving, redeeming, guilt and shame removing death on the cross. Jesus will call wine ‘his blood’ later.
- Much in this sign resonates with Isa 25:6-7 “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear … he will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples … he will swallow up death forever”, hinting at the life, revelation, death and resurrection of Jesus.
- The steward’s comment is also significant “But you have kept the good wine until now” (Jhn 2:10). Jesus is the superior wine kept till now. Most everything about this sign resonates with other themes in the NT: water of purification, wine / blood poured out, taking away shame, overcoming death, lavish provision and care, a wedding feast to come (Rev 21:2).
First Teaching Cleansing of the Temple Jhn 2: 13-22
- Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. This is the first Passover recorded in John’s gospel (Jhn 2:13).
- Jhn 2:16 shows the Jews’ treatment of the Temple. But also shows a heart issue. The temple became a “house of trade”, it became an institution, a place of rituals, tradition, but losing its calling and purpose.
- What is the purpose of the Temple? > central place of sacrifices, forgiveness and holiness, religious life, teaching.
- How did the Jews see the Temple? > God’s presence on earth, in their midst. Slowly also the temple takes on more superstitious tones, Jerusalem considered invincible due to the temple, the focal point of national pride (Herod’s 46 year beautification, Mrk 13:1), a false security.
- This happens twice in history, during Jeremiah (Jer 7) with subsequent destruction of the temple in 586 BC.
- And now again with subsequent destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
- To speak against the temple was considered a sin, a curse by Jesus contemporaries. This is used as a false witness in Jesus trial to establish guilt, Mth 26:61.
- Jesus quotes (appropriately!) Jer 7:11 “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace / den of robbers”. The disciples remember Psa 69:9 “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
- Application: What things do we do and say in the name of the gospel, but its for our personal gain? Is our ministry and worship to the Lord become a ritual? Careful with the combination of business and ministry.
- Jhn 2:18… Jews response after Jesus drives out the traders from the temple? “What sign do you show us for doing this?” They question Jesus’ authority. to prove your authority to do all this.
- Jhn 2:19 Jesus answers “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” which is a cryptic reference to his own death and resurrection, the ultimate proof of authority, the ultimate sign. This quote will be picked up at Jesus’ trial.
- Jhn 2:21… Jesus compares himself with the temple. Jesus replace the physical temple … He becomes not only ‘God in our midst’, he becomes the place where cleansing and forgiveness is ultimately achieved. His death and resurrection is the sacrifice once and for all that purifies sin and restore fellowship with the Father. Therefore with Jesus death and resurrection the temple is obsolete.
- Jhn 2:22… After the resurrection, the disciples remembered and believed the Scriptures and the fulfillment of these prophecies by Jesus. Jesus is the Sacrifice. Jesus is the High priest. Jesus is the Temple.
Second Teaching Nicodemus Jhn 3
- One of the longest conversations recorded that Jesus had with an individual is his nightly talk with the Pharisee Nicodemus.
Who was Nicodemus?
- We first meet Nicodemus in a private conversation with Jesus, then in a meeting of the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem and finally at Jesus’ burial:
- Jhn 3:1 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.”
- Jhn 7:45-52 “The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
- Jhn 19:38-39 “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.”
- Nicodemus is called a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews and is in an important meeting of the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem. It can be concluded that he was part of the Sanhedrin, the governing Jewish council. The Sanhedrin was made up of priests and Pharisees, roughly half and half (Act 23:6).
- The gospel of John associates Nicodemus with Joseph of Arimathea, who also was a member of the Sanhedrin. Luk 23:50-52 describes Joseph as good, righteous man, waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God and had not agreed to the council’s plan and action. Joseph asks permission to take Jesus’ body and buries him in a new tomb, Nicodemus contributes large amounts of expensive spices to the burial.
- Joseph is a secret follower. Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night and speaks up very carefully and guardedly at that leaders’ meeting. This shows how much pressure they were under and how clearly the opinion of the spiritual leaders, both priestly or Pharisaic had gone against Jesus. It shows how oppressive that leadership was.
How did the Pharisees think?
- Pharisee means “separate one”, meaning “holy one” or “pure one”. Their origin was in the Maccabean era (167 BC ff), when the Jews revolted against an idolatrous Seleucian oppression.
- Pharisees were the largest, most respected and most influential group or movement among Jews in NT times. They were those who took their religion most seriously.
- Anyone could become a Pharisee. They came mostly from the normal Jewish middle class,. Yet they were socially exclusive, considering all non-Pharisees to be unclean. They despised liberal Jews, ‘sinful Jews’ and Gentiles.
- The Pharisees went from village to village and taught the law in the synagogues.
- They held Moses in great honor and were meticulous and concerned about keeping the law. They believed that if all Jews for only 24 hours would really keep the law, then the Messiah would come and put things right.
- To make sure people obeyed the law they added ‘supportive laws’. Example: the Law of Moses says: ‘keep the Sabbath day holy’. The added oral laws defined exactly what was work and what wasn’t, how far one could walk on a Sabbath, how many kilograms one could lift, etc.
- The problem with the oral laws was that they were very detailed, hard to keep and made people focus on details rather than making them focus on the principle and heart behind the law.
- Also the Pharisees considered this oral law to be as authoritative as the Mosaic Law and instructed the Jews to obey it to the letter.
- The Pharisees believed the entire OT to be the authoritative Word of God as opposed to the Sadducees who thought only the Pentateuch authoritative.
- Pharisees stressed circumcision, Sabbath observance and maintaining cleanliness laws to ensure a separate identity and practice for Jews.
- They hated and despised all Gentiles, the Roman domination, and all those who mixed or cooperated with Romans. They believed that only in keeping themselves and their people separate from the Gentiles, that God would be pleased and be gracious again.
- They believed in angels, demons, the resurrection of the body, and the afterlife, all of which put them at odds with the Sadducees.
- Resurrection included the belief that the Jews would again rise to prominence like in David’s time, as an independent nation, victorious over their enemies, ruling over the Gentiles, owning the promised land under a “son of David” king.
- They considered the priests a corrupt and politically opportunist upper class, that did not really represent God or lead the people well. They also had hesitations about how the current temple and sacrificial system was run.
- Pharisees were very committed, but also very self-righteous, proud, superior, comparing, excluding and pressuring those not like them. An over-focus on law will always result in this attitude. The Pharisees did not see a problem with this attitude.
Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus
- Jhn 3:2 “This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”
- Pharisee in general took continual offense at Jesus for his unconcerned-ness with the Sabbath and for not separating himself from sinners.
- The fact that Nicodemus, though a Pharisee and also a leader, comes to Jesus shows he is humble and truly seeking God. He recognizes that Jesus must be of God. He says ‘we’, showing that not all Pharisees or leaders disdained Jesus.
- He refers to Jesus’ origin ‘being of God’ and authority as being proven by his miracles. Jesus agrees with this logic, for example in Jhn 10:38 Jesus says about his works ‘But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father’.
- Not all would agree. Jesus is repeatedly diagnosed as ‘possessed’ because of his miraculous powers (Mrk 3:32). The power has to come from somewhere.
- He comes by night, because he doesn’t want everybody to know of his pursuit.
- He addresses Jesus respectfully with ‘rabbi’, teacher. Being most likely older than Jesus and being a leading figure himself, this is a humble and honoring address.
- It’s interesting that he doesn’t actually ask Jesus a question. He just comes to listen, to learn. Something about Jesus touched his heart and resonates with his mind, but he doesn’t know what he wants or what he needs. But he knows he needs it.
- Jhn 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
- Jesus sets the topic: Kingdom of God. Fair enough, that is exactly what Pharisees are seeking and hoping to bring about. Jesus picks up a known heart cry.
- How will the Kingdom of come? The Pharisees’ answer would have been: by law keeping, by strictness, by coercing everybody to join, by excluding those who refuse, by not associating with Gentile sinners, by keeping oneself pure and above others. This is ‘common knowledge’, this is the acknowledged way.
- Jesus’ answer is completely different, and it seems Jesus intentionally ‘shocks’ Nicodemus with his answer: “a new birth is needed”. Not a program, not a slow improvement, not a lawfulness, but a totally different and radical event.
- In today’s Christianity ‘being born again’ has become a very defined metaphor, loaded with centuries of meaning and reflection. Nicodemus had none of that.
- Why the metaphor ‘new birth’? It implies a radical experience, the beginning of a new life, a being catapulted into a new existence, something that I as a human cannot ‘make’ or bring about. Birth happens to me.
- It also stresses the individual nature of ‘Kingdom come’, birth happens individually. The kingdom is not primarily in a society or nation, it’s in me.
- Jhn 3:4 “Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
- Nicodemus is clearly shocked and confused at this answer. He asks for the meaning of the metaphor, but he is clearly floundering, he doesn’t even know what to really ask.
- Jhn 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
- Jesus does and doesn’t answer Nicodemus’ question. In one sense it is answer: this birth is something done by the Spirit.
- In another sense Jesus just keeps piling on loaded metaphors: new birth … by water and Spirit … born of above … the wind blows where it wants …
- Birth of water and Spirit could refer to a double truth: for a new life there needs to be a sovereign act of God (by the Spirit) and the willingness of the person (by water), water probably meaning the willingness to take baptism.
- Jhn 3:7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
- Jesus is fully aware that Nicodemus is not understanding, therefore he says ‘do not marvel’. But rather than a more straightforward, connecting-with-known-truth sort of answer, he keeps adding puzzling word pictures, intentionally we must assume.
- Jhn 3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
- Nicodemus is clearly lost and basically re-asks his earlier question in a wider way. He refers to what Jesus says as ‘these things’ because he has no idea how to name or think about what has been said, let alone understand them.
- Why does Jesus do this? It seems Jesus fully knows Nicodemus won’t understand right now. Jesus is shaking up his thinking, challenges what Nicodemus thinks he knows, slashes the Pharisaic ‘know it all’ attitude.
- Jesus tells him that there is so much more, that Nicodemus needs to become child-like again to understand it, that self-righteous law-keeping will not bring about the Spirit of God’s work. It’s more like a relationship, like an adventure, not so strictly defined, not so rigid, not so man-controlled, not coerced.
- Jhn 3:10 “Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”
- Jesus’ rebuke is not to Nicodemus in particular, but more to Pharisees and Jews in general. It seems Jesus knows that Nicodemus will not take this as a discouragement, rather an encouragement that with his seeking out of Jesus and exposing himself to his teaching he has already gone further than most.
- Jesus links understanding with willingness to engage. He also links understanding with the willingness to allow new evidence, to listen to testimony. Both of these most Pharisees were not doing.
- Jesus also claims heavenly authority, which Nicodemus actually affirmed in his opening statement.
- Jhn 3:13 “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
- Jesus re-defines relationship with God, acceptance by God and eternal life as all centering around him as a person, the Son that God sent.
- This in radical on any scale. It is not even on the radar of a Pharisee and it will send Nicodemus scrambling. Yet there is a pull, a truth that resonates, and it is the real goal that was behind all the Pharisaic rigor: getting right with God.
- Jesus is motivating Nicodemus to keep asking, to keep engaging, to keep following Jesus, to see that the answer is not in is what he thinks he knows. He holds out true heart relationship with God to him.
- Jhn 3:19 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
- Jesus says that it is crucial to pursue God, light, Jesus himself.
- What keeps people from understanding, engaging and responding is not lack of knowledge or societal structure, but pride.
- Pride, self-righteousness, a hiding or denial of sin are the hindrances to seeking out Jesus, and for the typical Pharisee these barriers are sadly very high indeed.
- Jesus warns of rigidity, or holding on to one’s righteousness, of the over-confidence of the spiritual elite, rather come, admit, take hold. Humility is required. A submission to God’s surprising way is required: a submission to Jesus. A child-likeness is required, a birth.
How did Nicodemus respond?
- It is not recorded how Nicodemus responded to Jesus’ words. But it is clear that Nicodemus took the challenge and kept following Jesus. The humility he exhibited to even come to Jesus helps him to keep seeking truth and engaging with Jesus.
- He speaks up for him when the priests are plotting to kill him with a very lawful and godly objection (Jhn 7:45-52): No trial can be held without having two to three matching witnesses as per the Law, referring to Deu 19:15.
- Nicodemus, together with Joseph of Arimathea stand ready to – quite publicly – bury Jesus and honor him in this way, though they are probably as shell-shocked as the other followers to witness his death (Jhn 19:38-39).
- Nicodemus is not mentioned in Acts, but as Acts 6:7 and Acts 15:5 makes clear, there were many priests and Pharisees among the believers of the first church.
- The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have traditions on Nicodemus’ life. Also Saint Nicodemus and Saint Joseph of Arimathea are commemorated on Aug 31st each year.
Some thoughts on how Jesus communicates here
- Jesus speaks very differently to different people. He knows people’s needs, people’s ways of thinking and caters towards that.
- Jesus speaks his truths in very different ways but always it is life-giving.
- Jesus does not directly answer every question. He is not always ‘Mr. Clarity’, he does not spoon-feed revelation. He is shaking-up, challenging, confronting, even – temporarily – confusing people.
- He places thoughts that keep ringing in his hearers’ minds, pictures which keep appealing to their desires, concepts that keep churning and turning in their hearts.
- Jesus doesn’t fear leaders or influential people. He is neither shy, nor deferring in his talk with this important person. He is not pleasing, not particularly accommodating, not tripping over himself to find common ground, not tuning down things so they are a bit more palatable. None of the above, – at all.
- But Jesus does also not despise this Pharisee or any Pharisees, though they are his chief opponents and turn increasingly hostile.
Third Teaching Samaritan Woman Jhn 4
- Jhn 4:5-6 “So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out from by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.”
- Samaria lies between Jewish Galilee and Jewish Judea. The Samaritan people were half-Jew half-Gentile (2 Kin 17:24).
- The Samaritans’ faith was syncretistic, a combination of Jewish worship of God and various idolatrous cults that the peoples had imported (2 Kin 17:25-34, 41).
- The Jews despised the Samaritans for being ‘mixed blood’ and for being idolatrous.
- There was continual hostility from the time the Jews came back to the area under Zerubbabel’s leadership (536 BC) till NT times (Ezr 4, Neh 4). For example: In 120 BC the Jewish Hasmonean King Hyrcanus I destroyed the Samaritan temple.
- Jews would typically avoid traveling through Samaria, but rather take the longer way through the Jordan valley when traveling the Judea-Galilee route.
- Samaritans would cheer at every passing Jew going North (face away from Jerusalem) and jeer at every Jew going South (face toward Jerusalem). Jesus faces this attitude in Luk 9:52-53, when a Samaritan village refuses to accommodate him ‘because his face was set toward Jerusalem’. Jesus in turn rebukes his disciples’ attitude who want to call down fire on the village in retribution (Luk 9:54-55).
- Jhn 4:6-8 “Jesus, tired out from by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. A Samaritan woman came to draw water … (The disciples had gone to the city to buy food).”
- This is an inappropriate situation. A man and a woman alone in a deserted place with nobody else present.
- But there is more to it. The time indication is important: It’s noon. No woman in normal circumstances does water drawing in the noon heat. This shows:
> she is an outcast, a woman of shame
> she is excluded from drawing water at morning & evening with other women
> she prefers the noon heat to the heat of other women’s comments
> Jesus knows immediately she is outcast, and she knows that he knows
- The woman seeing him is probably getting mentally ready to either be ignored by a superior religious Jew or else to face a cheap pick-up. She is probably used to both.
- Jhn 4:7 “Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”
- Jesus initiates conversation. By so doing he breaks a triple barrier in doing so: the Jew-Samaritan barrier, the man-woman barrier and the society-outcast barrier.
- He asks for help, for a service, for something she can do.
> Jesus shows willingness to receive from her.
> Jesus gives her the power to reject him and his request.
- Jhn 4:9 What is she probably thinking?
- > ‘This guy is not like the others. Why is he even talking to me?’
- > ‘This is a cheap pick-up, I’d better be on my guard.’
- > ‘This is one of those religious guys, trying to prove to himself that I’m bad.’
- “The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
- She engages in the conversation, being quite street-smart, but challenges Jesus’ motivation. In fact she is probably essentially saying:
> ‘I’m not stupid! … Don’t give me this! … I can take care of myself!’
- Jhn 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying this to you, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” > He keeps communicating, engages her further.
- > He brings up the question of his identity.
- > He challenges her thought ‘I can take care of myself’.
- > He engages her thinking.
- > He lifts the talk to philosophical or spiritual level.
- Jhn 4:11-12 “The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket … where do you get living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well …?” What is going on in her? Probably many things at once:
- > She engages further, picks up his metaphor or water.
- > ‘Sir’ may be her irony, for rich men don’t do the chore of drawing water.
- > Possibly she gives respect because she felt Jesus gave her respect
- > She engages in the question of his identity
- > She challenges his ‘big words’, ‘his pride’ and his ‘cheap pick-up’
- > She is honest enough to show desire, though she is not hopeful
- Jhn 4:13-14 “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water I will give will be-
come in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life”
- > Jesus clearly speaks on two levels now.
- > He promises: no thirst, a permanent solution, life, purity, even eternal life.
- > He wakens a desire in her outcast existence.
- > He thinks and shows her capable of understanding spiritual things.
- > Basically he offers heaven to a notorious sinner.
- > But Jesus’ metaphor is ambiguous: water / drinking means ‘sexual relations’ (Prv 5:6-8 or SoS 1:2, 5:1).
- > So this could be a really low way of picking her up, also. It seems Jesus intentionally leaves it unclear.
- Jhn 4:15 “The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here.”
- > She expresses her need and her desire.
- > She lets down her guard and actually asks.
- > She pulls the talk ‘back down’ on the natural level … to test him?
- > Maybe she expresses her shame and outcast state in practical terms here?
- > It seems that something in Jesus’ words and attitude has made her hope.
- > She challenges him: ‘okay, what really can you do for me?’
- Jhn 4:16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” This is a turning point in the conversation:
- > Jesus finally proves that this is not a cheap pick-up, he appropriately and respectfully wants the husband involved, a very decent proposal.
- > He gives her the ‘perfect honorable exit’: She can easily say: ‘yes, of course! I will’ … and never come back.
- > She could save her face easily. He almost tempts her to ‘get out’.
- > He forces her to either get honest and accept shame – or to lose the hope he offered through his attitude shown and respect given to her.
- >He risks ‘losing her’ for the chance of going deeper, of becoming real
- Jhn 4:17 The woman answered him: “I have no husband.”
- She does not choose ‘the perfect exit’, she chooses rather to ‘lose face’.
- She chooses honesty and shame over losing Jesus and the thing he offered her and the value he has given
- This answer shows that the respect and behavior Jesus has shown her has touched her heart … ‘This guy is really and truly different!’
- Jhn 4:18 “Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”
- Jesus uses a gift of the Holy Spirit called ‘word of knowledge’ (1 Cor 12:8)
- Jesus blatantly shows his ‘supernatural knowledge’ and so is proving his earlier claims about his identity “If you knew … who it is”
- He is not exactly flattering her! … Why expose her more?
- He forces her to full reality and honesty.
- In a way there is also a strong message of hope to her in this: He knew all along. And even though he knew he has been respectful to her and taking her seriously. He did know but he did not reject her for it!
- Jhn 4:19-20 “The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.”
- she is fully honest, no hiding, no escaping
- she draws conclusions: he has supernatural power, he is who he says he is.
- “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”
- She dares to ask a spiritual question, thinks about things nobody thinks she thinks about. Respect has drawn her out
- His ‘no rejection’ makes her ask: how is worship and relationship possible?
- Having been accepted, she looks for ongoing relationship with this God
- Jhn 4:21-24 “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father, neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. …”
- Jesus reveals truth directly now: Salvation, the new kingdom, the Messiah is from the Jews. But it’s not limited to Jews any more, all are included.
- All who desire will have access (Samaritans, women, outcasts … like her!)
- The Father seeks all who will worship him
- He challenges her to overcome racial hurt and hostility, to lay aside local pride, to overcome disqualifying shame and respond to him and to truth.
- Jhn 4:25-26 “The woman said to him, I know that Messiah is coming…when he comes, he will proclaim all things to us”
- She proves to have spiritual understanding and interest.
- She knows or now newly accepts that Samaritans will be included.
- “Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”
- Jesus reveals his identity, as clearly as to few!
- He is giving her living water, eternal life, indeed and right now … for he is not only a prophet but the Messiah. And he already has accepted her. And he will abolish all borders, all rejection, all disqualification, all shame.
- Jhn 4:28-30 “The woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people: Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him.”
- She goes from ‘shamed, hiding outcast’ to ‘fearless ambassador proclaiming truth’ in an instant
- She leaves the jar, has forgotten about worries and will come back anyway.
- Her shame is shame no longer, it is testimony now, it shows grace.
- She cares enough for people to let them know, though they mistreated her.
- She picks up on Jesus’ methods right away, asking an engaging question.
- She has received living water, already she is a spring of living water for others.
- Jhn 4:32 “I have food to eat that you don’t know”
- Jesus is satisfied by ‘her water’, she has given him a drink
- Principles for communication?
- The power of right attitude: giving value, importance, acceptance and respect.
- A safe environment and acceptance help people to open up enough to engage .
- engage, step by step, wake interest, raise questions, capture imagination, give truth.
- give opportunity, awaken hope, don’t force, look for response.
- don’t flatter, challenge honesty, lead to reality.
Second Sign Official’s son healed Jhn 4:46-54
- Background on the official: He is a ‘royal official’, an officer of the king or tetrarch of Galilee Herod Antipas.
- He could be a Roman, but more likely an upper class Jew, probably wealthy, connected, a Herodian, likely despised by normal people.
- Jhn 4:47 He begs Jesus to come heal his son. Why didn’t he send one of his servants to get Jesus? > this seems to be too desperate, too close to home.
- Jhn 4:48 Jesus replies “unless you see sign’s and wonders, you will not believe”, a rebuke, challenging his motivation: He wants a miracle, help, but not necessarily what Jesus has to teach. Did he expect being treated with privilege and priority by Jesus? Or did he expect to get some resentment from a ‘normal Jew’? We don’t know.
- Jhn 4:49 Being desperate he just begs or places his request again.
- Jhn 4:50 Jesus said, “Go your son will live”. The official believed the word Jesus spoke and went away.
What does this sign reveal about Jesus?
- There is a parallel here with creation (Gen 1): As God spoke and things come to existence, here Jesus speaks and the son is healed (over distance). It reveals the power of Jesus’ spoken word. His words are Spirit and life. Jesus also is the Word who was from the beginning (Gen 1:1-3) through whom creation is given life. Here he gives life to the official’s son.
- Jesus gives life, care, love, provision to every man and woman that will believe in His name, like here this official.
- Jesus’ power and authority to heal is revealed, he is in no way bound or limited by distance, rituals, circumstances.
- Jesus does care about the physical body… challenge to Gnostics that believe the body is evil.
- The result? > Jhn 4:53 The official and his whole household believed.
- People respond differently, some need longer in convincing like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. The Official here believed before witnessing the sign.
Third Sign Healing of the lame man on Sabbath Jhn 5:1-18
- Setting: an unspecified feast in Jerusalem. One of the three annual pilgrimages (Passover, Pentecost, Atonement)
- Jewish tradition: Belief that during the passover feast God will grant seeker’s dreams / requests. Also tradition around the Beth-zatha pool that an angel would stir the water occasionally and the first person in the water would get healed (Jhn 5:4 footnote). Idea of blessings at special times, like the Muslim Laila-el-Qadr.
- Jhn 5:6 Jesus approaches the man by a question “Do you want to be made well?” This may well have sounded ironic to a man lame (most likely) for 38 years.
- His answer is the expression of something that probably has circled in his mind for 38 years. Somehow there is grace, but it never seems to work for him.
- Jhn 5:8 Jesus speaks a command “stand up, take your mat and walk”, a command including healing by the spoken word, like in the second sign.
- Jhn 5:9 Jesus deliberately does this on a Sabbath. The miracle itself is considered ‘work on a sabbath’, but that might have escaped notice on a wider scale. But by the command to carry the mat Jesus sets the man on collision course.
- Why does Jesus do that? He is there for 38 years, surely a day before of after didn’t matter? Or the mat could have been happily discarded? > Clearly Jesus is not politically correct, and definitely not evading issues.
- Jhn 5:10-13 The mat promptly raises up trouble. They inquire as to who would issue such a anti-law command.
- Jhn 5:14 Jesus finds the man, deliberately exposing himself to danger / conflict. His message is interesting: “Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you”. Clearly sin can be a cause for sickness, even deformation (accident? Accident during bad behavior? Bad habit?), in this case the man himself. Jesus tells him to clean up his life.
- Jhn 5:15-16 The man uses his newly cured legs to tell the Jews that it was Jesus. Is he naive? Are they pursuing him? Is he enjoying his newfound importance? Is he annoyed at Jesus’ reference to sin? We do not know.
- It leads to a debate between Jesus and listeners.
- What does this sign reveal about Jesus?
- It reveals the authority of Jesus spoken word, that changes situations, gives new life, heals long-term illnesses / deformities. He is involved in addressing the practical, physical, medical needs of people in a real world (anti gnostic).
- It reveals Jesus grace, mercy, care, willingness to take risk for the needy individual.
- It reveals Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath, it shows the true nature of the Sabbath: it was meant to be a blessing.
- Jesus deliberately challenges stifling religious norms, even at great cost to himself.
Third Teaching Jesus’ Authority as Son of God Jhn 5:19-47
- Jhn 5:17 Jesus answers the Sabbath challenge by “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”
- Jhn 5:18 “Calling God his own Father” is offensive and is understood as the even more offensive “thereby making himself equal to God”. This calls for persecution and plans to kill Jesus.
- Jhn 5:19 Jesus is not evading the contentious issues but goes further: “the Son can do nothing on his won, but only what he sees the Father doing”. He declares himself the Son of God, dependent on God, but also endorsed by God.
- Jhn 5:20 “The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; … greater works”
- Jhn 5:21 “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.”
- Jhn 5:22-23 “The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” No path around Jesus
- Jhn 5:24 “If anyone who hears my words believes him who sent me has eternal life” … Salvation is here.
- Jhn 5:25 “the hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”
- Jhn 5:26-27 “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself and he has given him authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of man.”
- Jhn 5:28-29 ”those who have done good > resurrection of life, those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Jesus claims to be the Source of eternal life, it is by believing Jesus’ words that the Father is honored and the human is saved.
- Jesus is unbelievably provocative here, he constitutes the Jewish religion, salvation, resurrection, eternal life all around himself. The obvious question is: Where does he have the authority from to make these huge claims?
- Jhn 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge and my judgment is just … I seek to do .. the will of him who sent me.”
- Jhn 5:31-39 Jesus claims several witnesses testifying to his authority: 1 Jesus does the will of the Father, not himself. 2 John the Baptist. 3 Jesus’ works. 4 The Scriptures / Moses. According to Deu 17:6, 19:15 you need minimum two agreeing witnesses to establish a fact.
- Jhn 5:40-44 Jesus states out straight: “Yet you refuse to come to me to have life … you do not accept me”
- Jhn 5:45-56 “If you believed Moses, you would believe in me, for he wrote about me.”
- Jesus is the stumbling stone. And he makes no apologies. The truth needs to be spoken, for untruth helps nobody. There is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12), there is no other way to the Father (Jhn 14:6).
- What is the Biblical basis for authority? Knowing you are loved by God, you depend on God, do God’s work, in God’s way. You do what you say. Since it is his work, you are not independent of others. Your motivation is God’s glory and his joy, not seeking glory from men.
Fourth Sign Feeding of the 5,000 Jhn 6:1-14
- Jesus is in Galilee, the Passover is near, large crowds following, Jesus sitting on a mountain.
- Why the mention of the Passover? Is Jesus not going? Or going later?
- Passover remembers Israel’s Exodus from slavery in Egypt, the blood of the lamb on the doorpost providing protection from the angel of death, the exodus into the wilderness, God’s miraculous provision of Manna, sustaining them in the wilderness.
- There are parallels with this story in all regards: Remote place, crowds, provision of food, Jesus as real bread from heaven, his body & blood as crucial to salvation and eternal life.
- Jhn 6:5 Jesus initiates things with Philip, pointing out the need. Philip answers realistically: 6 months wages needed to provide.
- Jhn 6:8 Andrew befriends the boy with the five barley loaves (eyewitness detail!) and two the two fish. Just about every time Andrew is mentioned in the NT he introduces somebody to Jesus :-)! He seems to be a friendly, relational, trust-inspiring sort of character.
- There may well have been others, rather hiding their food, so as to escape prying eyes and neighborly claims. They get to keep what they have, but they sure miss out.
- Jhn 6:13 Fragments are collected and preserved carefully, expressing the value of the food, but also that a miracle remains a miracle. This sort of feeding will not happen daily. We would be unbelievably wasteful if it were so.
- Jhn 6:14 The people draw conclusions: “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” Likely referring to Deu 18:15 “God will raise up for you a prophet like me”, a paralleling of Moses and Jesus, as is also evident in the ensuing discussion.
- Jhn 6:15 “they were about to come and take him by force to make him king”. Jesus, realizing this, withdraws again to the mountain, and later rejoins the disciples by walking on water, meaning in a way hard to track for intent followers (Jhn 6:22-25).
- Jesus is in no way guided or driven by popularity.
- Jhn 6:16-21 The walking on the water miracle, besides being practical, also has clear parallels to the Red Sea miracle and strengthens the parallel to Moses.
What does the sign reveal about Jesus?
- Jesus is caring, aware, nurturing, generous, hospitable.
- He is the Creator, the Provider, with ultimate power over the physical world.
- He creates physical bread / fish and provides for physical needs > anti-gnostic.
- He involves people, uses and multiplies their gifts. He wastes nothing.
Repeated Theme “I am …” (“ego eimi”)
- Jhn 4:26 I who speak to you am he
- Jhn 6:20 It is I, do not be afraid
- Jhn 6:35 I am the bread of life
- Jhn 6:41 I am the bread of life which came down from heaven
- Jhn 6:48 1 I am the bread of life
- Jhn 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven
- Jhn 8:12 2 I am the light of the world
- Jhn 9:5 I am the light of the world
- Jhn 8:18 I bear witness to myself
- Jhn 8:23 I am from above
- Jhn 8:23 I am not of this world
- Jhn 8:24 You will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he
- Jhn 8:28 When you have lifted up the Son of man then you will know that I am he
- Jhn 8:58 before Abraham was, I am
- Jhn 10:7 3 I am the door of the sheep
- Jhn 10:9 I am the door, if any one enters by me, he will be saved
- Jhn 10:11 4 I am the good shepherd
- Jhn 10:14 I am the good shepherd
- Jhn 11:25 5 I am the resurrection and the life
- Jhn 13:19 that you may believe that I am he
- Jhn 14:6 6 I am the way, the truth, the life
- Jhn 15:1 7 I am the true vine
- Jhn 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches
- Jhn 18:5 I am he (Jesus of Nazareth)
- Jhn 18:6 I am he
- Jhn 18:8 I told you that I am he
- Jhn 18:37 to Pilate: You say that I am a king
Fifth Teaching I am the bread of Life Jhn 6:25-65
- Jhn 6:26-27 Jesus challenges his pursuers’ mixed motives: “you are looking for me … because you ate your fill of the loaves”. Though this works as first introduction, it not good enough to last. “Do not work for the food that perishes. Do work for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
- Jhn 6:27 Jesus makes statements about his identity: “For it is on him (the Son of Man) that Go the Father has set his seal.”
- Jhn 6:28 They kind of swallow that and ask a famous, religious question: “What must we do to perform the works of God?” This seems to be the general way to refer to the basic question ‘How can I please God?’ or ‘What does it mean to be religious?’ Today we would say ‘How can I be spiritual?’
- The Sadducees probably would have answered: Participate in religious life, in sacrifices and feasts.
- The Pharisees would have answered: Keep the law of Moses and the traditions carefully!
- Jesus answers in a revolutionary way: He redefines all religiosity as centering around himself. To believe in Jesus, to accept his claims, to obey him means to ‘be religious’, or better: means to ‘please the Father’.
- Jhn 6:29 “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
- Jhn 6:30 Upon hearing this they challenge him as to his authority to claim such a thing. They ask “What sign are you going to give us then …? What work are you performing …?” Right after feeding the 5000 this is a bit a funny question to ask. They are standing there precisely because they ate the loaves and fish.
- Jhn 6:31 They link it to Moses (they definitely see parallels here): “Our ancestor ate the manna in the wilderness” It seems they seek a permanent miracle provision on demand. It’s a bit a bargaining with a potential Messiah what benefits he gives upon following him.
- Jhn 6:32-34 Jesus cuts through the selfish benefit issue: “It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven … bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”. He corrects their over-focus on the anointed leader on earth (Moses). He also sets up his claim:
- Jhn 6:35, 48 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never by hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. This is the 1st famous “I am” statement. He defines everything around himself. It is a wide open door inclusive of willing Gentiles “whoever”.
- This “I am” statement in the context of manna and Moses also has a clear resonance with God’s “I am” statement during Moses’ call in Exo 3:14 “I AM WHO I AM … Thus you shall say to the Israelites I AM has sent me to you”
- Jesus parallels himself with revered Yahweh, the self-existent living God. Jesus is claiming to be God. He continues with strong claims:
- Jhn 6:37 “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me … anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”
- Jhn 6:38-39 “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me … loose nothing, but raise it up on the last day”
- Jhn 6:40 “all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life”
- Jhn 6:45 “Everyone who had heard and learned from the Father comes to me”
- Jhn 6:46 “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God, he has seen the Father”
- Jhn 6:50 “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”
- Jhn 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will love forever … the bread … is my flesh”
- Jhn 6:52 “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you … those who eat … have eternal life”
- Jhn 6:55 “For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink”
- Jhn 6:57 “Whoever eats me will live because of me”
- Jhn 6:62 “what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?”
- Jhn 6:59 He was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. It seems this dispute is a cut together of many disputes as it started of with people looking for Jesus. It shows that Jesus in on total collision course, and he in no way ‘positions’ or ‘tempers down’ his message. Every statement is more explicit than the one before and lands him into more trouble.
Reactions and Responses of the listeners and the disciples
- Jhn 6:34 “Sir, give us this bread always”. A clear parallel to the Samaritan woman asking for this water. Here they are still polite, interested, maybe wanting to know what he can truly do.
- Jhn 6:42 They grumble at the “come down from heaven” because they know Jesus earthly family.
- Jhn 6:52 They dispute among themselves about “eat my flesh”, about the meaning of the metaphor (eating human flesh is outrageous most nations’ morality, not just Jewish laws).
- Jhn 6:60 “This is a hard saying who can listen to it” … which is so. The question is: What does it mean? Is it true?
- Jhn 6:61 They are offended.
- Jhn 6:66 “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.” Jesus has successfully made himself unpopular, he have driven away casual inquirers, he has prevented the ‘making him king’ movement successfully. The ultimate crowd-thinner preaching.
- Jhn 6:67 Jesus addresses the disciples: “Do you also wish to go away?”
- Jhn 6:68-69 Peter answers for all with his famous words “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” The disciples are precisely those that have understood that Jesus is the one, that his claim to re-constitute all righteousness around his person is of God, however unpopular it might be..
- Jhn 6:70-71 Jesus for the first time mentions a disciple betraying him in the future. Why here? Why this now? Of course the context is people being disappointed with Jesus and turning away from him, so it fits.
- The following scenario is possible: Judas Iscariot, who does believe Jesus is the Messiah, here sees him losing popularity, momentum, followers. Maybe Judas at this point for the first time has the thought that by bringing the authorities down of Jesus, he must come out in power. Maybe Judas considers betrayal as a means to this. Maybe this thought here for the first time crosses his mind, and Jesus addresses it.
- Repeated Themes: bread of life, eternal life, believing in Jesus, Father draws men to the Son
Sixth Teaching Jesus – The water of life at the festival of booths Jhn 7
- Jhn 7:1-9 Jesus’ brothers trying to manage Jesus’ career by human wisdom “no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret”. John comments this by saying “For not even his brothers believed in him”. To go with Jesus for reasons of momentum, popularity or success is not what constitutes faith in the Biblical sense.
- Jhn 7:2 Setting is another annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the feast of Tabernacles.
- Jhn 7:10-13 The absence and presence of Jesus has become an issue of interest, contention, secret discussion, risk, fear, secret plotting.
- Jhn 7:14-31 Jesus makes further claims “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God wil lknow whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own” (Jhn 7:16-17) and “I know him (the Father), because I am from him, and he sent me” (Jhn 7:29).
- Positive responses “He is a good man” (Jhn 7:12), many who believe (Jhn 7:31), “this is really the prophet” (Jhn 7:40), “This is the Messiah” (Jhn 7:41).
- Negative repsonses Some dismiss Jesus’ claims, and also the risk “You have a demon. Who is trying to kill you?” (Jhn 7:19) even though plotting to arrest and kill are clearly going on (Jhn 7:25,30). “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?” (Jhn 7:41,52).
- Leaders Respond by attempts at arrest and plotting to kill Jesus. They deride the hesitant temple guards (Jhn 7:47-48) and belittle Nicodemus who pleads for lawful procedure (Jhn 7:51) “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee” (Jhn 7:52), wherever they take that from?! It is likely that Jonah was from an area now called Galilee. They also assume that nobody with a brain believes in Jesus and so do not realize Nicodemus’ different attitude.
- There is confusion, contention, intention, frustration, back and forth, inconsistency, lying to oneself … all visible.
- Jhn 7:37-39 In order to understand this passage here some background information.
- The feast of Tabernacles / Booths / Ingathering was celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th month (Tishri), our October. It was an annual feast where God’s protection and provision during the wilderness journey is remembered by living in booths for 7 days. It was also a celebration of harvest (olives, apples, grapes, pears) and had elaborate sacrifices. The Songs of Ascent (Psa 113-118) were sung at that time.
- Not described in Moses but practiced in NT times was a ritual of pouring water on the altar. Each day of the feast, the priest made procession and walked around the altar pouring water at the base of the altar to remember the water from the rock Moses struck with his rod, providing Israel with water. At this time prayers were offered for water for the dry months ahead to keep their agriculture going.
- On the last day of the feast, called “the great day”, there was a special ceremony, where the priest marched around the altar 7 times before pouring out the water at the altar. They cry out “Hosanna” and then recite Isa 12:3.
- Jhn 7:37-38 It was during this special ceremony, that Jesus cries out “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me. And let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”
- Again Jesus uses the setting and the elements in the Jewish feasts that are pointing to him. He promises thirst quenched and more: becoming a source of water or life to others. A beautiful and powerful picture of the believer.
- Jhn 7:39 water = life = Holy Spirit.
- What Scripture is Jesus quoting? No idea. Maybe a medley of Joel 3:18, Eze 34:25-31?
- Important Theme: The unity and purpose of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- Important Theme: The hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. Jewish leaders / Gnostics false teachers seek their own glory, love praise from men, they have a double standard, legalism (which blinds them to real needs), looking down on ordinary people “This crowd, which does not know the law – they are accursed” (Jhn 7:49) and favor those who feed their pride. They are blind and unclear in their purpose.
Seventh Teaching Jesus’ and the adulteress Jhn 8:1-11
- The earliest manuscripts lack Jhn 7:53-8:11. “Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4 they said to him…”
- Jesus is teaching willing listeners early morning in the temple premises. These are likely those with high hopes, maybe also others who are trying to find out who he really is. The scene is very public.
- Then it unfolds: A woman is dragged in by the scribes and Pharisees and made to stand before Jesus. They accuse her of adultery.
- What would a normal handling of an adultery case have looked like? We don’t know for sure.
- “They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.”
- It is theoretically possible that they just happened to stumbled across this adultery unwittingly, and that the idea to bring this before Jesus was a “happy after thought”.
- But more likely, they come up with this, because they want “to test him”. Actually, most of them are already convinced that Jesus is a fraud, worse that he is a deceiver (Jhn 7:32, 45-52) and that he must be silenced. So create a situation to find out whether here in Jerusalem in their very presence he dares to overstep the law (as they have long have had reports he did elsewhere).
- If this is a set-up, then to set this up would have involved a lot of stepping over one’s conscience: This would mean they assembled intentionally in large enough numbers. They would have to find an adultery that they could catch at a convenient hour (which means that it had been going on regularly, and they didn’t interfere, didn’t warn, didn’t counsel, didn’t prevent it). Yet with all that to catch an adultery “in the very act” as they claim would have meant stalking, waiting, observing. Not a nice business.
- Another issue is that though an adultery is by definition an act committed by two people, they let the man go and hold on to the woman. In a worst case scenario, the man acted knowing about their intention to discover them. But even if not, the Law of Moses clearly stipulates that both man and woman are equally guilty and liable to punishment (Deu 22:22). To apply a law selectively is in itself a form of injustice already.
- But what exactly is the trap they set up for Jesus with this? > The trap is that Jesus, by claiming to be the Father’s representative (which he did multiple times in Jhn 5-6), he now cannot go against God’s law. And the law says to stone adulterers. So if he doesn’t push for a stoning, he contradicts his claim of being a representative of his Father in heaven, and with that much of his earlier teaching. If he doesn’t defend the law, his righteousness and authority is in question.
- Another issue: Jesus had come to popularity at least partially by the tremendous grace and freeing acceptance that he had shown to all, especially to those on the fringes of society. By forcing Jesus’ hand to push though a stoning of the woman, the scribes and Pharisees would have accomplished at least their goal of breaking Jesus’ popularity, of putting his grace into question, of forcing him to negate his earlier behavior.
- Yet to force him to push through with a stoning is a trap in one more way: According to Roman rule, death penalties can only be given by Roman courts and meted out by Roman officials. The Jewish council was given the right to judge minor cases, but it was not given the right to pass death sentences, far less to implement them. This can be seen in Jesus’ own trial, where they cannot implement the death sentence without Pilate’s consent.
- But now: according to Roman law adultery is not illegal, it is not a crime punishable by death under Roman law. So by stoning the adulteress Jesus would become guilty of a crime under Roman law, guilty for an unauthorized killing, a full-on murder. Murder on the other hand was a punishable offense under Roman law. If Jesus pushes ahead with the stoning of the woman, he then becomes guilty of murder under the Roman law, and they can accuse him for that!
- The falseness of the position they put Jesus in also lies in the fact that the Jews have not meted out death penalties for adultery for centuries. Yes, it was God’s law originally, but they have long departed from that. God allows them to change the law if they so desire, as can be seen from the transition of Israel from an elective and representative government to a monarchy in 1 Samuel 8. God warns them and counsels them to not do that, but when they persist, he lets them do it.
- Or another example: When David commits adultery with Bathsheba (and also commands to murder her husband Uriah), he does not execute himself for it as should have been done if the original Law of God was still in place.
- Another example is Joseph, upon finding out that Mary is pregnant, he doesn’t push for a stoning, as is stipulated for the adultery of an engaged person (see Deu 22:23-24), rather he plans to dissolve the engagement without further ado and is called “righteous” for that in Mth 1:19.
- “6 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.”
- Why does Jesus not respond immediately? Why does he bend down? Why does he not face them? And what does he write?
- I think by his actions Jesus breaks the heat of the moment, the anger, indignation, the supposed logic of what needs to be done. He ensures that conviction by the Holy Spirit has time to set in, that conscience may speak.
- Most likely Jesus also uses this time also for intense prayer, for himself to know how to respond by relying on the Holy Spirit and to intercede for them to be convicted.
- What did Jesus write? Possibly it wasn’t so much for others to read, more to give time. Or possibly it was very much Jesus message: Later ancient manuscripts have additional words here: “and wrote the sins of each of them”. So many understand this passage in this way; Jesus writes with his finger the law, other laws, laws which they break and for which they do not accuse or prosecute themselves.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightener up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders;”
- They will not let go of their smart scheme, the trap is too well set. They are convinced they can catch him and are committed to do so.
- Seeing that, Jesus answers “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” With a simple, humble and profound sentence Jesus breaks the trap:
- He challenges them to search their hearts. He pounds their self-righteousness. As he had challenged earlier: “You have heard that it was said, “you shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mth 5:27-28). Surely they are not so above things! … or similar things.
- He challenges their self-righteousness and hard hearts, who let this adultery happen, who even observed and yet not prevented it, showing that they didn’t work for righteousness at all.
- He challenges their selective application of the law, demanding stoning of an adulterer, but what about all the other laws in Deuteronomy that are not kept and that nobody prosecutes anybody for?
- He challenges their uneven application of the law: Not on the man, but on the woman. Not on them, but on this woman.
- He also cuts through the tangle with the Roman law. He basically says: If you feel so strongly about it, you become an offender under Roman law, you become guilty of a murder! And of course if they did that, they would be no longer without sin, so they would have no right to judge in the first place. Another nice tangle.
- He bows down to write in the sand again. This is not a debate to be won, not a triumph to be achieved. Jesus’ goal is not a public shaming, his goal is conviction.
- Jesus’ words cut deep, laying bare their wrong motivations and dismantling their narrow interpretations. Finally some conviction comes through, they leave, maybe still in anger, or maybe in shame.
- “9 and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
- Jesus starts speaking to the woman, not as a judge, but as somebody who cares and who is truly concerned about her.
- Jesus – unlike the others – would have the moral authority to condemn because of his righteous life, but that is not what he came for. His righteousness will not condemn her, it will be made available to her by his death on the cross. He will die for her.
- Yet he is also concerned with her life: “do not sin again”. Adultery is sin, it cheats everyone, it does destroy lives. Jesus does not only free her from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin. He wants her free from the penalty and the power of adultery, free to live a godly life. Grace and holiness.
Eight Teaching Jesus is the Light of the World Jhn 8:12-59
- Not described in Moses but practiced in NT times was another ritual during the feast of tabernacles: the ceremony of lights: In the temple, the court of women specifically, 4 huge, tall golden lampstands, each with 4 branches were erected (16 lights in total), lighting up the whole city. Trainee priests were assigned to keep them alight all night. There would be singing, praising, dancing and music until morning.
- The ceremony of lights remembered Israel being led by God through the wilderness by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The light signified the presence of God. Jesus, again using this picture pointing to him:
- Jhn 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world”, the 2nd famous “I am” statement.
- Meaning? This implies Jesus being the light, the very presence of God, the revelation or guidance of God, the one to orient oneself by, the light that never diminishes. It also implies truth “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Jesus is the true representative, the authoritative revelation from the Father.
- This strongly resonates with the Prologue.
- Jhn 8:13-20 A dispute ensues about Jesus’ identity, his authority, his claims, his relationships with the Father.
- Jhn 8:21-30 Jesus predicts his going away, meaning his death, and indirectly his ascension to the Father. He elaborates on the relationship within the Trinity, his oneness with the Father.
- Jhn 8:30 “many believed in him” … though probably struggling with the offense of his claims, many see their truth.
- Jhn 8:31-32 Jesus further teaches those who are responding in faith: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Only those willing to obey will know truth. Truth, however hard, is always freeing.
- Jhn 8:33 They take offense at being called not free “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone”. This both wrong (Babylonian exile!), prideful and a false security in descent.
- Jhn 8:34-36 Jesus counters “everyone who commits sin is always a slave to sin.” All humans sin. All humans are slaves. Jesus seeks to free not only from the condemnation or punishment of sin, but from the power of sin (as with the adulterous woman). “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus shows them their need, challenges them on seeking his death (a sinful intention).
- Jhn 8:39-47 They take offense at the fact that Jesus is not impressed with the “Abraham’s descendants”. And even more so when Jesus declares the devil to be their father.
- Jhn 8:44 Description of Satan: “a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Hating life and denying truth are Satan’s major attributes. The exact opposite is God: author of life and truth, lover of life and truth. Every lie, deception or half-truth advances Satan’s agenda, every truth God’s.
- Jhn 8:48 They put a derogatory label on Jesus “you are a Samaritan”, revealing the pride and racial superiority of the Jews. It’s precisely that pride, superiority and false security that contributes strongly to the Jews rejecting Jesus.
- Jhn 8:48-59 Further dispute ending with even those who believed being offended and pulling back. Jesus makes further claims: “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death … I know him and keep his word … before Abraham was, I am.” (ego eimi) … they react by picking up stones to throw at him.
- Contra Gnosticism Jesus insistence that truth or revelation only comes in context of obedience, discipleship and being in relationship with God. Also: “whoever”, there are no special categories of humans (hychic, psychic, gnostic)
Fifth Sign Jesus heals a man born blind Jhn 9
- Jhn 9:1-34 The story of the healing of a man born blind with all its twists and turns is frustrating, amusing and tragic.
- Messianic miracles 1 healing a Jewish leper, 2 casting out the demon of a deaf person, 3 healing a person born blind
- Why does this miracle kicks up such a fuss and create such strong reactions?
- Because it happens at the time of great tension, dispute and plotting.
- Because it is a Messianic miracle, a message not lost on any Jew.
- Because it happens on a Sabbath
- The Pharisees and Jewish leaders feel they have no control over Jesus, his popularity or his followers.
- Jhn 9:2 The disciples asked Jesus “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” The general belief is that sin is the cause of such a deformity or disability. It this case this is difficult: can a child sin in his mother’s womb? > hence the referral to the parents.
- Jhn 9:3 Jesus opens up other possible reasons: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned (not meaning sinless perfection, but sin is not the cause of the blindness); he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
- Jesus came to heal and give sight to physical blindness (Isa 35:5-6, 42:6-7) but also to give sight to spiritual blindness (Pharisees).
- Jhn 9:13-34 The Pharisees investigation is so convoluted, so desperate that one almost starts feeling sorry for them :-). Their willful ignoring of physical realities borders the comic. They get so entangled that threats, superiority and anger are their only pathways left. They “drove him out” (Jhn 9:34), which contrast to Jesus accepting him. Their action shows no care whatsoever for the man, they persecute and silence the witness.
- The parents (probably used to public shame and not kind treatment by the religious) steer clear of conflict (Jhn 9:21).
- Only the blind man himself stands his ground and is increasingly confident (Jhn 9:27,30-31). He is concluding something, and concluding rightly – which cannot be said of them. Progression: He goes from “the man called Jesus” (Jhn 9:11) to “He is a prophet” (Jhn 9:17) to “Jesus comes from God” (Jhn 9:32-33) to saying to Jesus “Lord, I believe” (Jhn 9:38).
- Jhn 9:35-41 Jesus finds him. He is open, humble, willing to listen and response to Jesus “Do you believe in the Son of Man? He answered ‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him”. He has become seeing both physically and spiritually.
- Jhn 9:39 Jesus comments “I came into the world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some Pharisees react: “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus says to them ”If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’, your sin remains.”
- The Pharisees do physically see, but have made themselves progressively, willfully blind. By claiming to be seeing, that is to be right, they cut off their chance to learn or become seeing. Jesus squarely puts the guilt for their blindness with them. They are so caught up with outward obedience of the law, that they totally lose the heart of the law: to love God and love your neighbor. Legalism kills life and freedom, it separates and blinds us to the real needs around us.
Seventh Teaching Jesus is the door, the Shepherd Jhn 10
- Jhn 10:1-42 Jesus makes more “I am” statements and uses the metaphor of “the good shepherd” (Jhn 10:11,14) and “the door to gate for the sheep” for himself.
- Where do these metaphors come from? Shepherd – Ever since the shepherd David became the king over Israel the concept of shepherd and leader are intertwined, and sheep becomes the metaphor for Israel, God’s people, the king’s people, followers.
- OT passages where shepherd means leader: 1 Kin 22:17, 2 Chr 18:16 (king of Israel), Isa 44:28 (Cyrus), Isa 63:11 (Moses), Jer 49:19, 50:44, 51:23 (opposing leader), Eze 34, Zec 10:2,11:15,17 (bad leadership).
- OT passages where shepherd refers to God himself: Psa 23:1, Psa 80:1 “shepherd of Israel”, Ecc 12:11, Isa 40:11, Jer 31:10. OT passages where shepherd refers to a Messiah figure: Eze 37:24 “David … will be king over them, they all shall have one shepherd”, Zec 11:16 “I will raise up a shepherd in the land”, Zec 13:7 “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate … strike the shepherd that the sheep may be scattered”, which is quoted in Mth 26:31, Mrk 14:27 about Jesus.
- OT passages referring to followers as sheep: in context all the above and more like Eze 34:17 “I shall judge between sheep and sheep … when you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet?”
- So when Jesus uses this metaphor, there will be a lot of resonance in his hearers minds: true leadership, even Messianic leadership, them as the followers of the true king.
- Jhn 10:7-15 “I am the gate for the sheep”. Here Jesus varies the metaphor to claim the protection he provides, the legitimacy of his leadership, the true authority he has as the shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep” and “comes that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jhn 10:10).
- Jhn 10:10 In contrast to Jesus’ true leadership is the hired hand, who does not own the sheep and therefore doesn’t care enough to risk anything to save the sheep. Satan epitomizes bad leadership: he is the thief that comes only to steal, kill and destroy, the exact opposite to Jesus, who gives, gives life and abundance.
- For the hearers, the bad leaders are legalistic Pharisees and opportunistic Sadducees. For the readers it is the Gnostic teachers, who exalt themselves and despise normal people.
- Jhn 10:16 “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I just bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” This is a very interesting reference to the inclusion of other folds, in context quite clearly meaning other peoples, other nations. John’s readers would have picked up on this.
- Important also what the metaphor of sheep signals to the hearers: They are to listen to his voice, follow him, enter safety (a metaphor for salvation, relationship with God, eternal life) though him, stay under his leadership. The sheep decides whose voice it listens to > a call on the hearers to discern voices, to understand who speaks truth and follow that one. A powerful reinforcement: Jesus calls, offers, woos, but the sheep must choose to follow him.
- This discourse grows out of the healing of the blind man and ensuing conflict. Jesus had spoken to them about light and darkness, now sheep following a shepherd. The call remains the same.
- Jhn 10:22 The setting is the festival of Dedication (of the temple), a feast coming not from Moses but from the Maccabean time. It is winter. Frustrated listeners ask for a plain statement: “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (Jhn 10:24).
- Jhn 10:25-29 Jesus answers that he gave clues enough for the sheep willing to hear.
- Jhn 10:30 He makes another radical claim: “The Father and I are one”, which makes the Jews pick up stones.
- Jhn 40-42 Jesus leaves Jerusalem, well knowing the danger. The disciples also get it “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” (Jhn 11:8) and Thomas says “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (Jhn 11:16).
Sixth Sign Raising Lazarus from the dead Jhn 11
- Some count this as the 7th sign, and it is climactic indeed as a back-to-life or life-extension miracle, though only a shadow of the full resurrection of Jesus himself.
- If Jesus ‘gives life’ but can’t do anything about death, then this is of no effect, and eternal life is alo in question. Paul puts it this way: “If only in this life on earth we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor 15:19). Death is man’s last enemy (1 Cor 15:26), but Jesus Christ has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently for himself and also for all men (Rev 20, the abolishing of death).
- Ephasized themes in this chapter are “faith” (5x, Jhn 11:15, 26, 40, 42, 48) and “the glory of God” (2x, Jhn 11:4, 40).
- Lazarus, Martha and Mary were siblings living in Bethany, some 2 miles off Jerusalem. They are believers and often host Jesus, likely during the annual pilgrimages. Mary will later (?) anoint Jesus with the costly perfume.
- Jhn 11:1-17 Jesus is by the Jordan. He knowingly and intentionally (by the Father’s guidance) delays after hearing about Lazarus’ illness so that Lazarus first dies and Jesus only arrives on the 4th day after his death, when there already is a “stench” (Jhn 11:39). He is not need-driven, but on God’s timetable.
- This time element is significant: In Jewish writings describing the Jewish funeral rituals it is said that it was believed that the soul of the dead hovered over the dead body for 3 days (with a slight chance of revival), after that nothing but a Messianic miracle could bring a man back. Switzerland: still today, no funeral or cremation before 72h after death is ascertained by a doctor.
- Both Martha and Mary are sure Jesus could have healed their brother or kept him from dying if he had been on time (Jhn 11:21,32). Martha also believes that her brother will be “raised at the resurrection of the last day” (Jhn 11:24). She even says “even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him” (Jhn 11:22). But when Jesus proceeds to resurrect Lazarus here and now, she objects to the opening of the tomb because of the stench (Jhn 11:19). This is such a realistic picture of human faith, trying to assert itself, oscillating and yet failing.
- Jhn 11:25-26 Jesus claims “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they dies, will love and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”. This is a statement of faith for his own incumbent death also. By resurrection death will be abolished. In Rev 1:18 John sees Jesus saying “I am the living one. I was dead and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.”
- Jesus is showing emotion before the grave: “weeping”, “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved”, “greatly disturbed” (some translations have ‘angry’). People understand that to prove his love for Lazarus (Jhn 11:36).
- Why this emotion? Especially in the light of what he will do? Does he not know yet that this is what the Father will instruct him to do in a minute or two? Does it reveal his humanity (anti-gnostic, no immutable, distant God)? Or does he weep, feel and is angry at the pain, turmoil, separation and hopelessness death brings to humans ever since the fall (Gen 3:19)? … He is the “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3) and also the ‘merciful and faithful high priest, that shares our weaknesses; so that we may come to the throne of grace, and find help in our need (Heb 4:14-16).
- Jhn 11:41-42 Jesus prays to the Father a public, short prayer, full of faith and assurance that none of this is hard for the Father. He is less concerned at ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ but at the people getting the right message.
- Jhn 11:43 Jesus calls with a loud voice “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus doesn’t leave any loopholes for himself in case of failure. The specific call to Lazarus alone might be important also, maybe otherwise the graveyard might have emptied!
- Jhn 11:44 Lazarus is revived and walks out, though the grave cloth impedes his movement.
- Jhn 11:45-57 This miracle is super public: the whole village was at the funeral, it’s close to Jerusalem, it’s close to the Passover, this cannot and will not be hidden. Also it is a Messianic miracle, and hot news in every way.
- Jesus knew that by performing this miracle he will set himself on a pathway leading straight to his death. It could be said that he raised Lazarus by giving his own life. Of course Lazarus himself is now in danger, as the walking proof and witness (Jhn 12:10).
- The Jewish leaders’ plot to kill Lazarus shows again their willful blindness (not only not seeing the evidence, but denying the evidence, even actively removing the evidence), their absolute lack of care for people (a couple of desperate sister getting their sole security back) and even their ruthlessness (resorting to lies, threats and now murder).
Anointing, triumphal entry Jhn 12:1-19
- With Lazarus’ resurrection the clock has started ticking, things now accelerate:
- Jhn 12:1-8 Mary’s lavish gratefulness, pouring out the expensive perfume and likely whole life savings on Jesus, unwittingly anointing him for burial.
- Jhn 12:4-5 Judas’ calculating mind is offended by such a lavish generosity – or such an extravagant waste. By stealing repeatedly Judas has set himself on a pathway to deception: denying conscience, hardening his heart, feeding selfishness and deception in himself, being smug about outsmarting Jesus. Like the Pharisees he becomes a legalist who is not touched to the core by the wholehearted devotion of Mary (which is what he should be doing), but rather annoyed by it and needing to demolish it.
- Jhn 12:12-19 triumphal entry, a great crowd (many having seen Lazarus, Jhn 12:9), shout Messianic Bible verses on Jesus (Psa 118:25), calling him “King of Israel” (like Nathanael in Jhn 1:49, also crowd in Jhn 6:15), and recognizing Messianic passages being fulfilled (Zec 9:9, your king coming sitting on a donkey’s colt), they left out the part about a humble king.
- Significance: To the Jewish leaders this means only one thing: Though Jesus up to now might have shrouded his Messiah claims, now he comes to the capital, on the feast day, openly claiming and accepting the Messianic role. It’s like a declaration of war.
- Their plotting to kill Jesus stands in contrast with the days of purification before the Passover.
Greeks seeking Jesus, final teaching Jhn 12:20-50
- Jhn 12:20-36 Greek Jews or Greek proselytes to the Jewish faith has come for the festival. They seek to see Jesus, requesting Philip of Galilee (who has a Greek name and speaks some Greek, Galilee was mixed population), who in turn requests Andrew, who again gets to introduce some people to Jesus!
- Jesus understands this as a momentous and significant moment. He responds “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jhn 12:23) and this is underscored when as at Jesus’ baptism the Father speaks from heaven “I have glorified it (my name) and I will glorify it again” (Jhn 12:28).
- What exactly is so momentous? It seems the fact that now Gentile representatives seek out Jesus. Jesus says “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (alternative text: “all things to myself”). The faith in the Jewish Messiah – though so disputed in his own center – will soon spill over and reach the world!
- But Jesus is crystal clear what this means and how it is accomplished: By his death, his being lifted up on the cross. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
- It also will be the pathway his followers (of all nations, note the inclusive language) will take: “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor” (Jhn 12:25-26).
- Jhn 12:36-50 “After Jesus had said this he departed and hid from them”. This is the explicit end of Jesus public ministry. John gives a final summary, repeating many of the main themes. Jesus has witnessed to the truth by deeds, words and attitude. It’s there for the taking for those willing to see.
Farewell teachings at the last supper Jhn 13:1-17:26
- Jhn 13:1-3 “Jesus knew that the hour had come to depart from this world and go to the father. Having loved his on who were in the world, he loved them to the tend. … Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God …”
- What incredible emphasis, fully awareness of calling, intent and intentionally fulfilling calling … which is what? > foot washing, service, love, laying down his life, the cross.
- John makes is abundantly clear that Jesus, as he has embraced incarnation, the faithful sacrificial life, he now embraces the suffering, the cross, death. He knowingly, intentionally, deliberately and painfully (Gethsemane!) embraces what is coming. Jesus is in no way a victim of events out of his control:
- Jhn 10:18 “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again”
- Jhn 13:3 “Jesus … knowing that he … was going to God …”
- Jhn 13:33 “I am with you only a little time longer” … Jhn 13:36, 14:25, 14:29-30, 16:16, 17:1 etc.
- Jhn 14:30 “the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
- Jhn 18:11 “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
- Jhn 18:23 “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
- Mth 26:53 “Do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father and he will give me 12 legions of angels?
- Jhn 13:4-17 Foot washing, low, unpopular slave labor. “you also should do as I have done”. Service, even low, practical service as the climax of who Jesus is, the essence of his leadership and authority. And his disciples should embody the same understanding and attitude. Mrk 9:35 “If anyone whats to be first, must be last of all and servant of all”.
- Here foot washing is both a practical, exemplary and symbolical act of service, but really, Jesus has lived this out with the disciples for all the time they were together.
Judas Iscariot see detailed study “GOV 13”
- Jhn 12:4 Judas has been hardening his heart by continued stealing, even more so by thinking he can obviously fool Jesus. He believes in the Messiah, but it’s a worldly empire, where power-games, self-service and deception is present.
- As early as Jhn 6:70, Jhn 13:10 and now in Jhn 13:18, 21 even with an OT quote (Psa 41:9) Jesus signals very clearly to Judas, that he does know what is going on. He lets him know that he is aware of his innermost thoughts, motives and plans.
- Judas may think that Jesus’ statements are general (though he says ‘one of you’) and that Jesus is vaguely suspecting anyone. So Jesus makes this even more explicit by singling Judas out (Jhn 13:26) by offering him the bread. Jesus does this in a way that Judas will get it, without the others getting it. Jesus is making sure he knows he can’t fool Christ, but he can still come back. Jesus offers Judas the bread (which he has just declared to be “his body”), in fact saying: I know what you are thinking, I know full well but will not keep you from it. Do you really want to do it? Do you want to give my broken body away?
- Judas should reject the piece of bread – a deliberate choice which would look slightly odd in the others’ eyes (they don’t get it anyway Jhn 13:29) But he smooths over things, does not take the opportunity, rather takes the bread, … and then it says “After he had received the bread, Satan entered into him.”
- Progression: The continual and deliberate embracing of deception, and now the same choice in a climactic moment has brought about demon possession. In Jhn 13:2 Satan was “putting thoughts into his heart” as Judas had opened the door for that earlier, but he wasn’t possessed yet, now he is, whether he understands that or not.
- Mth 27:3 Says that Judas “repented” when realizing that the death sentence on Jesus would go ahead. The word for repented is used in other verses in the context of repenting unto salvation.
- It could well be that Judas, even in his demon-possessed state realizes his sin, declares himself guilty before the authorities of betraying innocent blood, and – when the authorities so not react – he gives makes restitution (throwns the money in the temple, as he can’t reach the person nor the family of the person he sinned against). The punishment that according to Deu 19:15-21 a false witness that brings a death sentence on an innocent person needs to receive is a death penalty. Since the authorities won’t judge him, he executes himself.
- For more detail see on the same website “Government 13 – Judas Iscariot”.
- Application: Respond to the truth, to conviction by conscience and the Holy Spirit. Take care and deal with areas of weakness that God shows, whether small or big.
Importance of Predictions – Peter’s denial and Jesus’ departure foretold
- Jhn13:36-38 Though Peter can’t and won’t accept Jesus’ words now (so they are of no benefit now), they will be of immense comforting value once the denial has happened: ‘Jesus knew and still washed my feet!’
- Jesus has prepared his disciples by repeatedly predicting his death, subsequent resurrection and general departure.
- What is the importance of predictions? even negative ones, like here? > creating a frame of time, of reference which helps the person to orientate themselves, to know and understand and react properly once that event happens. It comforts by revealing God’s foreknowledge, grace and sovereignty.
- Jhn 14:29 “I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.”
A new commandment—“Love one another” Jhn 13:34-35, Jhn 15:12
- Now that Jesus is leaving, what should the disciples do in the meantime? The answer is:
- Jhn13:34-35 “Love one another just as I have loved you. …By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The basis for our love is having been loved unconditionally by God. Just as the basis for our forgiveness is our being unconditionally forgiven by God.
- This is the one line summary of all the Law and the Prophets, the foundation for life in the new covenant.
- The answer is also: Abide in me. Because of the coming transition – Jesus will no longer be available as a human to hand out with and walk behind – the disciples’ relationship with Jesus will change, but not cease in any way:
Teaching of Jesus as the vine Jhn 15:1-17
- Jesus’ last of the seven (if so counted) “I am statements”: “I am the vine”.
- Background on ‘vine’: The mountain region of Judea and Samaria were suited vine growing. A vineyard was typically surrounded with protecting wall of stones to keep out animals. Vine required constant care to keep them productive. They were pruned every spring and the ground ploughed and kept free of weeds.
- Figuratively the vine symbolized prosperity and peace (Mic 4:4, 1 Kin 4:25).
- The vine also symbolized the chosen people (Israel) who instead of producing outstanding fruit yielded only wild grapes (for example Eze 15,17).
- Father = vinegrower. Jesus = vine (main tree), disciples = branches, fruit = godly character, attitude and actions in the disciples life.
- The message is: Stay connected to Jesus! God doesn’t expect us to produced fruit on our own! Abide in Christ! (= keep his word)! Abide in his love! Allow pruning! which is painful, but will lead to more life and fruit. Fruit is primarily seen in obedience to God and love for fellow-men.
- Application: we tend to spend all our effort on those not bearing fruit. Here: prune what is bearing fruit > more fruit.
- Jhn 15:12-15 It is a command, but privilege, a sign of no longer being a slave, but a friend, understanding the mind of the Father. It is a promise of fruitfulness, of significance, of doing something important and lasting:
- Jhn 15:16 It all starts and ends with God himself “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”
- 1st Division Jesus miraculous signs prove Jesus is from the Father.
- 2nd Division Disciples’ lives bearing fruit prove Jesus is from the Father.
Preparing the disciples for the transition – the advent of the Holy Spirit Jhn 14:15-31, 16:1-33
- Repeated prediction Jesus will depart
- Repeated prediction Jesus will come again (Jhn 14:3, 14:18-20, 28)
- Repeated prediction Holy Spirit will come
- Goal of this teaching is preparation, understanding, assurance, stability when things occur “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jhn 14:1,27). “Peace, I leave with you, peace I give to you” (Jhn 14:21).
- Jesus does not commend our fretting, worrying and fearing … Gal 5:22 shows that the fruit of the Spirit is peace, joy, gentleness, self control. It is not the absence of hard times or difficult circumstances, it it the Holy Spirit’s presence withing that.
Description of the Holy Spirit in these chapters:
- Jhn 14:16 He is given by the Father. Advocate, to be with us forever
- Jhn 14:17 He is the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
- Jhn 14:18 I will not leave you orphaned
- Jhn 14:26 Advocate, sent by the Father in Jesus’ name, he will teach us everything, he will remind you of all that I have said to you.
- Jhn 15:26 He will testify on my behalf
- Jhn 16:7 advantage for Jesus to leave and the Advocate to come
- Jhn 16:8 He will prove the world wrong about sin (not to believe in Jesus), righteousness (Jesus with the Father) and judgment (Satan condemned).
- Jhn 16:13 He will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak of his own but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come
- Jhn 16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
- The Spirit will be the indwelling God, revealing the presence of God in our hearts, leading, guiding, teaching, reminding, convicting, empowering, encouraging – Thank God!
Repeated theme – Relationship within the Trinity
- Another big and important these in Jhn 14-16, and really throughout John is the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity.
Repeated theme – Hated by the world
- Jhn 15:18-25, 16:1-4, 17:14-16 Prediction of coming persecution, trouble, unpopularity
- Jhn 16:33 “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome / conquered the world.”
- Reasons for persecution different lifestyle of the believers, of honoring God, therefore unpopularly contrasting persecutors do not know God, though they really think they do.
- Again: though a negative prediction, still a comforting, encouraging, steadying thing to know.
- Their salvation is secured. Jesus has overcome evil and sin and death. So that in Him, they may have peace.
Jesus Highpriestly Prayer Jhn 17
- Jhn 17:1-8 It is like a de-briefing moment for Jesus after his mission. The crucifixion is yet to be carried out, but his life mission is done in a sense. He is set for it.
- Jhn 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. John’s definition of eternal life. Know here is not ‘knowledge about’, it is relationship with God. That is eternal.
- Jesus describes how he fulfilled his mission:
- Jhn 17:4 “I glorified you… having accomplished the work you gave to do.”
- Jhn 17:6 “I have manifested your name to those you gave me out of the world. They have kept your word.”
- Jhn 17:7 “They know I am from you…and everything you have given me.”
- Jhn 17:8 “I have given them the words you gave me. They have received them…and have come to know in truth that I came from you”. Many in that time needed to be convinced of this, and so is John’s readers and so even today. They have believed that you sent me.
- Application: How sure Jesus is! How exactly he knows what he was sent to do or not to do. How exactly he evaluates! We should learn from this clarity, accountability … and peace!
Jesus prays for those who believed in him Jhn 17:9-19
- This is his disciples and many others in the crowds:
- Jhn 17:11 “Keep them in your name…that they be one, even as the Father and Son are one.” In your name = in your nature, character, attitude, truth … unity, respect, love and honor, like in the Trinity.
- Jhn 17:15 “Keep them from the evil one…they are not of the world.”
- Jhn 17:16,14 “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
- Jhn 17:18 “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them.” … to be witnesses, to spread the gospel
- Jhn 17:.17 “Sanctify them in the truth… your word is Truth.”
- Jhn 17:19 “For their sake, I consecrate (devote, set apart), that they also be sanctified in truth.” becoming like Jesus
Jesus pray for those who will believe through disciples preaching Jhn 17:20-26
- That there be Unity in the body of believers—The unity based on the Father and Son unity—the outcome is the believers as part of the Father and Son—A picture of God’s family.
- This unity of Father and Son shows that Jesus is God (Jhn 1:1). If Jesus is not God, his death on the cross meant nothing other than a tragic death of a good and innocent person (other innocent people were wrongly crucified!).
- Also Gnostics deny that Jesus is fully man claiming that God cannot and will not associate with the evil, physical world, not identify with man. So the incarnation – and salvation are all questionable, and without significance.
- The glory given to Jesus is given to believers (Jhn 17:22-23). This glory (honor) as being children of God…having the unity, peace, love as God’s children is based on the Father and Son unity. The purpose is so the world may know that the Father sent the Son…and loved them(believers) just as He loved the Son.
- Jhn 17:24 They will be where Jesus is: experiencing his glorious presence and the completeness of the Father’s love in a Father-Son relationship.
- That they will know and experience the love of the Father, with which he loved Jesus … Am I convinced that I am truly loved by the Father and Jesus and Holy Spirit?
How is all this different from Gnosticism – or combating Gnosticism?
- Gnosticism has no unity among followers because it is in essence competitive: Who as more revelation? Who has the deeper secret knowledge? Also to be in good relationship with fellow-man is not a high value, and definitely not a decisive one like in Biblical Christianity.
- Having godly character—respect, love, self control, servant attitude, makes no difference to them. You can earn salvation without it as long as you have necessary knowledge or revelation. You are your own savior by acting according to this knowledge.
- No reason to go out and preach, because most people are hychics (no salvation possible), or if there is outreach, it is more a display of one’s own spirituality.
Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion Jhn 18 &19
- Again: John makes is abundantly clear that Jesus, as he has embraced incarnation, the faithful sacrificial life, he now embraces the suffering, the cross, death. He knowingly, intentionally, deliberately and painfully (Gethsemane!) embraces what is coming. Jesus is in no way a victim of events out of his control:
- Jhn 10:18 “No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again”
- Jhn 13:3 “Jesus … knowing that he … was going to God …”
- Jhn 13:33 “I am with you only a little time longer” … Jhn 13:36, 14:25, 14:29-30, 16:16, 17:1 etc.
- Jhn 14:30 “the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”
- Jhn 18:4-5 “Jesus came forward and said I am He, you are looking for.”
- Jhn 18:7-8 “I told you that I am He.”
- Jhn 18:11 “I must do what the Father has given me.”
- Jhn 18:11 “Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
- Jhn 18:23 “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
- Mth 26:53 “Do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father and he will give me 12 legions of angels?” Main emphasis in this Chapters: Jesus voluntarily lay down His life.
- Jhn 18:12-27 Religious Trial … Jhn 18:28-40 Civil Trial.
- Jhn 18:20 Jesus “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, … I have said nothing in secret.” > this is anti-gnostic with its stress on secret, initiate only, exclusive, elite, deeper revelation.
- Jhn 18:23 “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Jesus is not a poor victim, he speaks with dignity, frankness, confidence. He is not intimidated, though he knows what’s coming.
- Jhn 18:15-18 Peter’s denial of Jesus, ‘saving his own skin’, which in contrast with Jesus voluntarily lay down His life.
- Jhn 18:28 “They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement.” Irony on John’s part and revealing how desperately they are blind.
- Jhn 18:38, 19:4,6 Pilate declares Jesus ‘not guilty’ three times (triplet), Peter denies Jesus three times (triplet)
- Jhn 18:37-38 Pilate knows he has ‘somebody else’ in front of him. His philosophical, ironic, stoic, dismissive “What is truth?” is not the right question: “Who is truth?” would be the right question. But he doesn’t really want to know, it seems.
- Jhn 19:12 Pilate caves in to the threat “Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor”. When the price gets too high, he’s rather please the emperor and yield to current pressure. Actually Pilate could easily handled this differently. Moved Jesus to Caesarea, delayed trial till after the feast, …
- Jhn 19:14 Day of Preparation of Passover, so it seems to happen the same time as the Passover lambs are being killed. And here the Lamb of God (Passover Lamb) is being killed for the sins of the world.
- Jhn 19:30 Important detail on Jesus’ death: Jesus victorious words “It is finished” show he is still there, fully aware and “He gave up His spirit” … which is blatantly anti-gnostic and anti-docetist.
- Jhn 19:31-37 “They did not break Jesus legs… blood and water from His side” … again stressing Jesus’ physical reality.
- Jhn 19:35 “He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.” John, the eyewitness to the death of Christ (now last remaining eye-witness among the 12) now speaking directly to the readers.
Jesus’ resurrection Jhn 20
- Jhn 20:1-10 Jesus resurrects on the first day of the week, which corresponds to the first day of the unleavened bread feast, where the offering of the firstfruit of barley harvest was celebrated. Jesus rose on the day of offering…as the Firstfruit of salvation through His death and resurrection.
- Jhn 20:8 “The other disciple (John) reached the tomb…went in and he saw and Believed, for as yet they did not understand the scripture that He must rise from the dead.” John, the eye-witness to the resurrection of Christ is testifying to the reality of the empty tomb.
- Jhn 20:11-29 Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene (Jhn 20:14-18), the disciples (Jhn 20:19-23), disciples and Thomas (Jhn 20:26-29). Thomas’ testimony will resonate with the readers, struggling to believe.
- Jhn 20:21-22 Jesus commissions the disciples and they received the Holy Spirit.
- Jhn 20:30-31 The Purpose of the Book and the way John selected what he wrote in His gospel, is so that whoever reads or hear this gospel “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.”
Jesus after the resurrection Jhn 21
- Jesus revealed Himself to the disciples a third time – while they are fishing at the Sea of Tiberias in a replay of events at the calling of the disciples (command to fish, huge haul after catching nothing, 153 fish (Jhn 21:11, eye-witness detail).
- Jhn 21:15-19 Jesus call Peter to feed and tend His sheep. The triple command or affirmation follows the triple denial. Jesus also predicts the way Peter would die, bound, as a martyr.
- Jhn 21:20-23 Peter still ask questions! Here he asks, how John, the disciple Jesus loved would die. Jesus replied in Jhn 21:22, “you follow me.” The command to not worry about others but to be faithful ourselves.
- John prevents false rumors spreading, which – after his death – could unsettle the faith of the believers, and he won’t be around anymore to address them.
- Jhn 21:24-25 The testimony of the non-eyewitness- who believe in John’s testimony to be the truth. Jesus prays for those who will believe through others’ testimony (Jhn 17:10ff) and John pronounces a blessing on those who have not seen and yet believe in (Jhn 20:29). Both lets the reader know that they are very much in the heart and plans of Jesus.