Notes on a Rereading of the Gospel of John
Notes on a Rereading of the Gospel of John
May 26th 2011
There is so much in the Gospel. I am only noting some things that stood out for me this time.
Jesus is a dove not a hawk; not a lion, but a lamb!
Chapter 1: 32: The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, not a hawk; and he is not the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb of God!
Jesus was called a rabbi by his disciples (38).
It seems as if Peter is the only one for whom Jesus changed his name (42): Cephas or Kephas in Aramaic, Petros, in Greek, Rocky in English. Could it be because Simeon, one of Jacob’s sons had been a real bad guy? “Simon” and “Simeon” may be different names, however.
The heavens opened and angels of God will be ascending and descending on the Son of man (51).
Chapter 2: Jesus, his mother, brothers, and disciples remained in Capernaum a few days after the marriage of Cana (12), the first of Jesus’ signs (11), packed with so many facets of the Gospel. I’m noticing the role Jesus’ brothers play this time.
Jesus cleanses the temple and replaces the temple in Jerusalem with his body (19).
“Jesus did not need anyone to testify about anyone, for he himself knew what was in everyone” (25).
Chapter 3: Jesus tells Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit (8). One has to be carried by the Spirit, like being caught in the wind, completely swept off your feet, completely moved by the Holy Spirit. It is not a spatial thing. You are sent where the Spirit takes you. It is being completely involved in the campaign for the Beloved Community. Born of the Spirit can also mean carried by the Spirit. John mentions flesh, water, and Spirit. Like the wind, the Spirit is moving air, God’s breath inhaling and exhaling heavenly love.
What a metaphor for Christ! Who is like lifting up a serpent in the wilderness, to save the sinners condemned by Moses (15). I believe it has to do with doing our deeds in the light. We do all kinds of evil deeds unconsciously. When Christ is lifted up on the cross, we suddenly see what we have done. Christ says, “Father, forgive them they know not what they do.”
One would think that Jesus also baptized according verse 3:22. But in 4:2, John says, only the disciples baptized, Jesus did not. John said that he was sent to baptize with water, “but He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (1:33).
John the Baptist says, “Jesus must increase and I must decrease” (3:30). He feels that he is like the best man at Jesus’ wedding (3:29).
“Those whom God sends speak the Word of God for [God] gives spirit without measure” (3:34).
There’s a father and son parallel like Pharaoh and Joseph: the Father loves the Son and has placed all things into his hands (35). With Jesus, however, it also includes the throne and does not except the throne as with Pharaoh.
Chapter 4: Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well, on the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph (5). The city Sychar (4) is Shechem, which Jacob had renamed Bethel.
Instead of Jacob’s Well, Jesus provides a spring of living water gushing up to eternal life (14).
The place and buildings of worship are now not the important thing for we worship God in spirit and truth (23).
Jesus says “I am,” i.e., really calling himself by the name of God (26).
When the Samaritans come because of the witness of the woman, Jesus begins winning people over into the Beloved Community, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven (35). It is a harvest where the reaper overtakes the sower of the seeds, so that the sower and the reaper rejoice together (36). The people harvest is a peculiar agriculture that grows people to be food and drink (4:36). The witness of the woman who talked with Jesus, becomes their own (42), Just like John’s wonderful witness has to become our own.
In the second sign, Jesus heals the official’s son. At the very hour Jesus spoke the Word, his son was healed in a distant place from Jesus (52-53).
Chapter 5: So first Jesus changed the water into wine, then 2nd sign/ he healed the official’s son, then for the 3rd sign/ he heals the poor old blind, lame, and paralyzed fellow lying there for 38 years beside the Pool of Bethesda, with everyone elbowing him out of the way the whole time.
He heals him on the Sabbath, which gets Jesus into trouble. But he says, “My Father is still working and I am working” (17). On the Sabbath we rest, so that God can do God’s work in us. Jesus’ Father is healing the man, because the Father works while we rest. That is how Luther understood Sundays as God’s justifying work taking place in us as we passively receive God’s changing us, justifying us with divine righteousness (5:17).
Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes (21). “Amen, amen, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life” (24). The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (25).
About John the Baptist, Jesus says, “He was a burning and shining light, and you were willing for a while to rejoice in that light (5:35). He testified to the truth (33).
Moses wrote about me (46). Abraham saw my day and was glad (8:56). “Before Abraham was, I am” (8:58). Jesus is the long awaited Son of Promise, and he is speaking through the eternal Father.
Chapter 6: The next sign, that of the Kingdom of Heaven: the feeding of the five thousand with two fish and five loaves of bread, like manna from heaven. Twelve baskets of bread, the twelve tribes are gathered after the feast and they want to make him king (15), because they understood the sign. He withdraws from them to a mountain by himself (15).
The wages for the labor for half a year are 200 denarii (7). So people must have been able to earn 400 a year.
The Sea: Jesus walks on water, ordering the chaos of the sea (19). 25-30 stadia are three or four miles (19). Thus it must be seven or eight stadia per mile.
The “I am” approaches the disciples’ boat walking on water (19-20). A miracle occurs, because when they wanted to take him on board, they immediately arrived at the shore of their destination (21). It seems they were spirited there.
The Father God sets his seal on the Son of Man, Jesus. Just believe in him (27).
The true bread of heaven comes from the Father (32). The bread of heaven is that, which/ who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (33).
They say: “Give us that bread always” (34).
The woman says, “Give me that water” (4:15).
I am – the bread of life (6:35). I am the living bread come down from heaven (51).
We are drawn by the Father to Jesus (44).
Jesus will raise us up on the last day (40).
As the prophets said, they shall all be taught by God (45).
The bread I give for the life of this world is my flesh (51).
Jesus insists on the eating of it. The living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. My flesh is true food, my blood true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood, abide in me and I in them (56). My words are spirit and life (63).
N.B. I wonder if I could go from speech-acts to speech-life in the theology of language?
Because the part about eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood offended many, they turned away from following him. Then Jesus turns around and confronts his disciples with the choice: do you also want to turn away? Peter answers: where can we go? You have the words of eternal life (68).
In chapter 7 Jesus is in Galilee, evidently in hiding because they are looking to kill him. About to come is the Festival of Booths and his brothers say to him: “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples may also see the works that you are doing. For no one who wants to be widely known (famous?) acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (4) “(For not even his brothers believed in him)” (5). They almost seem to want to get him killed. He tells them: my hour has not yet come, which means the hour of his death. He lets them go and then follows them in secret (10).
The Pharisees wanted to arrest and kill him because it was on the Sabbath that he had healed the fellow – who waited there for 38 years! Jesus argues with them, don’t you do circumcisions on the Sabbath, why not such a healing? (23) “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment,” he reminds them (24).
Jesus stands up in the middle of the festival and says, “Out of the believer’s heart, rivers of living waters shall flow! (38) John explains that he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him would receive (39). Thus the Spirit is received without measure! (3:34)
The temple police come back without arresting him. “Why didn’t you arrest him?”
They answer, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” (46)
Because he came from Galilee (52), he could not be the messiah, they argue. (I guess no one told them he was born in Bethlehem.)
Chapter 8: I really wonder what Jesus wrote in the sand of the ground to stop them stoning the adulteress? Was it their sins? “Go your way.” he tells her. “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and from now on do not sin again” (11).
I am the light of the world, from me you have the light of life (12). When you have lifted the Son of Man (me) up, then you will realize that I am (28). (I think he is referring to God’s name again. Jesus identifies completely with “I am”. To his disciples, if you continue in my word, you will know the truth and the truth will make you free (32).
I came down from God and now I am here (42). I did not come on my own, He sent me (42). The devil lies. He is the father of all lies and speaks according to his nature (44). Jesus shows their preparing to murder him relates them with the devil and all his lies, just like loves and life issue from truth.
“Amen. Amen, I tell you whoever keeps my word will never see death” (51). Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad (56”). Amen, amen, before Abraham was, I am. (58).
Chapter 9: wash in the pool of Siloam, which means “sent” (7).
Healing the man who was born blind: “This one thing I know: once I was blind but now I see (25). He is born blind, but he receives faith. Seeing and blindness are played off against each other, the blindness of the Pharisees remains at the end (39-40).
Chapter 10: It seems that the Pharisees were torn whether Jesus was crazy or not. (19-21). They say that he has a demon, because that was their diagnosis for insanity in those days.
The Father and I are one (30). I am God’s Son (36).
Chapter 11: John says Mary, the sister of Martha is the woman who anointed the Lord with expensive perfume and wiped his feet with her hair. The perfume used to anoint Jesus cost 300 denarii, that is, the wages for ¾ of a year’s work (12:5).
Mary studies at Jesus’ feet meaning she was also learning theology. But Martha speaks like a theologian, when she goes out to meet him (20) after Lazarus her brother died and Jesus is coming into Bethany to raise him.
Chapter 13: John uses the same expression from the Epistles of John: “little children” (33).
Peter is identified a liar by the crowing rooster (38).
Chapter 14: the Father who dwells in me does his works (10). (That is analogous to Luther’s saying, faith is Christ working through us.)
Only in the Word will we see Jesus (23). Those who do not believe, Christ and the Father will not come to them. It seems to be internal experience. Jesus reveals himself to those who love him and keep his commandments, not to those who don’t (23).
The revelation of Jesus comes through faith and the Word.
Chapter 15: I am the vine, you are the branches.
Chapter 16: Jesus is speaking the truth in love: I have many things to tell you, but cannot bear them now (12). It reminds me of “A Streetcar, Named Desire” where Stanley takes away all of Stella’s defenses and she goes mad. He tells the truth with hate. But then how can it be the truth?
Not only does “my hour has not yet come” refer to death, but Jesus uses the expression to refer to a woman’s giving birth to a child (21). One set of contractions brings a birth and new life, those of death, give entrance into eternal life. “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (22).
N.B. Reading the Gospel of John again and going as deeply into my understanding of Jesus, that is my checking him out all the way, I find that the truth is in him. He speaks out of the truth. But Jesus turns the tables on me and I am checked out and tested by him, his love, however, overcoming me.
Chapter 18: Such irony: they did not want to become defiled by entering the Roman headquarters: yet how defiled they were already bringing the innocent Jesus to Pilate and getting him crucified! They were uptight about missing the Passover. Maybe they had to hurry to slaughter the Passover Lamb of God (28).
These were just a few notes from this reading. There is way too much in it to note everything.