Tag Archives: The Gospel of John

Exploring the Gospel of John: 14


By the Rev. Dr. Michael Petty [Fr. Michael Petty]

St. Peter’s Anglican Church [2006]


Farewell . . . For Now (II)

John 14:1-31

1.  Readers will find the heart of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” (13:31-16:33) in 14:28, which states:  “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father.”  The subject is Jesus’ future and his future secures the future of the disciples.  Because Jesus’ future is completely secure, so is that of the disciples.  Three successive questions, each from a different disciple, punctuate this section of the discourse.   Each of the three questions provides Jesus with the opportunity to develop the theme of why his physical departure is a good thing.

2.  14:1-7: 14:1 sets the theme for this section:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled” and “Believe in God; believe also in me” are directly related.   Belief in God is also belief in Jesus and this belief makes it possible for the disciples to face “this hour” untroubled.  Jesus’ departure is good because this means that he has prepared a way to “my Father’s house” (14:2), a phrase that refers to the afterlife.  Jesus is departing to return to God and this return prepares a way for his followers.  Note that Jesus has answered Peter’s question of 13:36.  Jesus’ coming again and taking the disciples to himself (14:3) is apocalyptic language (see I Thessalonians 4:15-17) and refers not to the immediate consequences of Jesus’ death but to the ultimate consequences.   Jesus gives to the disciples the assurance that, although he is physically departing, he will come to them and gather them to himself.  Thomas’ question about the way to the Father allows Jesus to make an important declaration: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6).  The immediate context of this claim is Jewish convictions about Torah being the way to God (cf. Psalm 119:30). The force of this declaration is that Jesus is God’s way to himself, since the Son is the Father’s own Word, revelation, and life giving power.   The Son does not merely communicate accurate information about the Father but grants the power, to those who believe in him, to become children of God (1:12).  The claim, which the Son makes, that he is the only way to the Father, is not an arbitrary one.  He bases it upon the very identity of the Son.  To know the Son is to know the Father (14:7) because the Son shares all that the Father is and knows him completely.

3.  14:8-14:  Phillip’s request, to “show us the Father” (14:8) allows Jesus to again emphasize an important point:  “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9) makes the nature of the Son’s mission clear: The Son introduces people to genuine knowledge of the Father and a living relationship with him.  Through his signs and, finally, through his death and resurrection, the Son reveals the Father’s glory and character.  In the Son, the Father displays himself.   The life of the Son is perfectly transparent to the Father, making it clear that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (14:10) and that “the Father who dwells in me does his works” (14:10).  God gives this revelation – not for the purpose of allowing people to enter into a state of private religious bliss or enlightenment — but to put them into the Father’s service.  Jesus’ “departure” will enable Jesus’ mission of bearing witness to the Father to continue through the disciples: “ . . . whoever believes in me will also do the works I do; and greater works than these ill he do, because I am going to the Father” (14:12).  The works of the disciples will be “greater” — not in the sense of being more important or astounding — but in the sense of [a greater] extent (in the sense of Acts 1:8).  The ministry that Jesus undertook, of revealing the Father, will not come to an end with his death or resurrection.   It is in this light that we need to read 14:13-14.  Jesus is not promising to grant the disciples their every wish.   The promise of answered prayer presupposes that disciples are being incorporated into Jesus’ mission, in the same way in which he was – completely and self-sacrificially.   It will be the Church’s life of prayer, emphasizing her complete dependence upon the Son, that will sustain the Church in her mission of carrying out Jesus’ mission.  Here, we get the basic understanding of what the Church is, in terms of her fundamental reality:  a community united to Christ and in Christ, sent and sustained to continue the witness of Jesus — a witness to the world and against the world.

4. 14:15-31: This section introduces the crucial subject of the Holy Spirit.  Note that 14:15 connects love with obedience:  Love, here, is not a sentiment but an act of obedient service.  The “commandments” in view are to wash one another’s feet (13:14-15) and to believe in Jesus (14:1).

There can be no claim to love Jesus, apart from obedience.  It is important to notice that Jesus identifies the Holy Spirit in 14:16 as “another paraklatos.”  This implies that we are to also consider Jesus to be a paraklatos, an Advocate or Helper (in the sense that the Old Testament refers to God as the helper of Israel).  Jesus’ role has been to bear witness for God and to bear witness against the world.

It is through the Holy Spirit in the Church that this witness will continue.  14:16-17 and 14:25-26 make it clear that the Church is a creation of the Trinity, created by the Father in the Son and through the Holy Spirit and indwelt by the Trinity; through the Spirit, the Father and the Son come to indwell the Church (14:23).  While the Spirit is clearly distinct from the Son, his principle ministry is to bear witness to the Son, “to teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (14:26). What seems to be ruled out here is the notion that the Spirit will make available “new revelations” which go beyond what the Son has disclosed or revealed.   If the Father bears witness to himself, in the person of the Son, then the Father bears witness to his own witness to himself in the person of the Spirit.  By referring to both the Son and the Spirit, using the term paraklatos, this draws our attention to two distinct ways in which God accomplishes his one work.   It is precisely the presence of the Spirit, who will grant peace to the Church.  This peace is not like the world’s peace, given conditionally and as the product of compromise, but the Spirit gives peace completely and unconditionally and we acquire [receive] it, not by getting things, but by complete self-surrender to Jesus’ mission.   It is Jesus’ own peace, which is not peace in the absence of difficulty, but peace in the very presence of difficulty, suffering, and anguish.  While the ultimate consequence of Jesus’ departure will be that the disciples (and those who follow them) enter into eternal fellowship with God, the immediate consequence will be that they will see him and know that he will not leave them.  (14:18-19).

Questions for Reflection

(1) Why does it seem that we misunderstand the Holy Spirit?  How does this section of John correct misunderstandings or deepen your understanding of the Spirit?

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Exploring the Gospel of John: 12


By the Rev. Dr. Michael Petty [Fr. Michael Petty]

St. Peter’s Anglican Church [2006]

New word:  Click here for definitions:  prolepsisforeshadowingprolepsis

The Last Events of Jesus’ Public Ministry

John 12:1-50

I. The Proleptic Anointing of Jesus for Burial: 12:1-11

1. Six days before the Passover, Jesus returns to Bethany, the scene of the resurrection of Lazarus.  As we have learned (11:53), the latter event has sealed Jesus’ fate and this will be his final Passover.

2.  Mary’s action of anointing Jesus both foreshadows his death and displays the extravagant response that his self-offering calls forth.  Mary uses a huge quantity (almost a pound) of an expensive perfume to anoint Jesus.  The estimated value of this perfume is (12:5) about what an average person might earn in a year and Judas can, thus, denounce Mary’s action as a scandalous waste.  Underlining the extravagance of the act is the fact that Mary wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair.  Since Jews did not embalm their dead but rather anointed corpses with perfumes and spices, Mary effects a proleptic anointing of Jesus for burial (cf. John 19:38-42).  Mary has also proleptically kept Jesus’ final commandment that “you love one another as I have loved you” (15:12).

3.  While the text clearly labels Judas’ response to Mary’s action as hypocritical (12:6), the chief failure here is not mere dishonesty but a failure to understand the significance of what has just happened.  The devotion of Mary reflects an insight into the nature of Jesus’ departure — a departure for which Jesus will begin to prepare the disciples, in chapters 13-17.

4.  In 12:7, Jesus explicitly interprets Mary’s actions with reference to his burial. 12:8 has often been misinterpreted and taken to mean that care for the poor is not important. Actually, Jesus’ remark presupposes the continuing validity of Deuteronomy 15:11, which says that “there will never cease to be poor in the land,” which means that “you shall open wide your hand to . . . the needy and to the poor.”

5.  Jesus is under a sentence of death and now (12:10) Lazarus [also] comes under one, as well.  Ironically, it is his being brought back to life that is the cause of his death, since “on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (12:10). The possibility of Lazarus dying again serves to remind us that, while raised from the dead, he does not yet participate in the resurrection in its fullness, which is a resurrection to a life beyond death (cf. Romans 6:9).

II. Jesus’ Final Entry into Jerusalem: 12:12-19

1.  This scene confirms the decision of the Jewish leaders, in 11:53, and their decision to get rid of Lazarus, in 12:10-11.  In John, it is the raising of Lazarus that is the primary cause of Palm Sunday (though the actual day of Jesus’ arrival was probably Monday or Tuesday).

2.  John is the only gospel that mentions the use of palms to mark Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  Since the time of the Maccabees (who forced the Greeks out of the Temple and began the celebration of Hanukkah or the Feast of the Dedication), palms signified victory (cf. I Maccabees 13:51).  The welcome that Jesus receives is that of a national hero.  Psalm 118:6 provides the first part of the crowd’s acclamation:  “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Hosanna!” (12:13 is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew: “Save us!”

3.  Jesus’ own actions make clear how he understands himself to be king.  Zechariah 9:9 provides the [slightly-altered] text for the citation, in 12:15.   In the larger context, the king mentioned here will not only restore Israel from exile but will also bring a reign of peace and justice to the whole world.

4.  12:6 makes it clear that the disciples did not understand the significance of this act, until after the resurrection.  That is to say, the disciples did not understand the nature of Jesus’ kingship, until after his death and resurrection, after which it was possible to see that the cross defined the kingship of Jesus.  This comment is an indication that John’s gospel is written [in a manner that] looks back at the events of Jesus’ life, as seen in the light of his glorification.

5.  In the other gospels, the cleansing of the Temple follows Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  In John, however, this has already happened (2:13-22).  Uniquely, John connects the entry into Jerusalem with the raising of Lazarus in that, apparently, some of those who witnessed the event were in Jerusalem, giving testimony, and this accounts for the presence of a crowd (2:18).

III. The Hour Has Come: 12:20-36

1.  In this section, Jesus announces, for the first time, that his hour has now come.  The moment to which his life has been directed is now here. Three important things about this moment are made clear:

2. 12:23-26:  The necessity of Jesus’ death:  Just as a grain of wheat must disintegrate (“die”) into the ground, in order to bear fruit, so Jesus’ own death is necessary in order to produce “much fruit” (12:24).  In Jesus’ case, to reject death is to reject the fruitful consequences of death.  The saying in 12:25 has parallels in Mark 8:35; Matthew 16:25, 10:39; Luke 9:4, 17:33.  To “hate one’s life” is a Semitic expression for having no higher loyalty than preserving one’s life, all the time failing to realize that life is a gift from God.  Jesus’ action of laying down his life is a pattern that the disciples will follow:  God calls them to trust him in such a way that they are willing to surrender life, in the hope of receiving it back again.

3.  12:27-30:  Jesus’ struggle in the face of death:  This is John’s equivalent of Jesus’ Garden of Gethsemane experience.  What Jesus says here echoes Mark 14:34 (“My soul is sorrowful, even to death”), which echoes Psalm, 42:5-6:  [“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”]  

While in Mark’s account, Jesus prays that this hour might pass from him and then resigns himself to God’s will (Mark 14:36), in John, Jesus makes no such request but makes it clear that “for this purpose I have come to this hour” (12:27).  Instead of a prayer for deliverance, Jesus asks that God’s name be glorified.  God’s name has been glorified, in Jesus’ signs, and it will be glorified again, in his death and resurrection.  It is important to notice that the divine voice, responding to Jesus, is not for his benefit but for that of the crowd.   Jesus does not need a response from the Father because he already knows the Father’s response.

4.  12:31-36:   The consequence of Jesus’ death:  Jesus’ death is full of irony in that, seen from a merely worldly point of view, it appears to be a defeat for him but a victory for “the ruler of this world” (12:31).  Seen from a cosmic point of view, however, things are very different, in that Jesus’ death functions like a cosmic exorcism, through which “the ruler of this world [is] cast out” (12:31) and the world is judged.  But the action of Jesus’ death is two-fold, in that Satan is driven out while people are drawn to Jesus (12:32).  This, in short, describes God’s reclamation of his creation.  12:33 makes it clear that the crucifixion is what is being designated by the metaphor of “lifted up” (12:32).  In response to the crowd’s question, “Who is this Son of Man?” (12:34), Jesus replies, in effect, “It is I.”

IV. Jesus’ Summary of His Ministry: 12: 37-50

1.  With this section, Jesus’ public work comes to a conclusion and chapters 13-17 will involve only Jesus and his disciples.

2.  It is now clear that Israel’s response to Jesus is quite mixed, since “though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him” (12:37).  But we are not to understand this reaction, the narrator says, as rendering Jesus’ claim false. Two passages from Isaiah are cited to show that Israel’s response to God’s servant, promised by Isaiah, is precisely the response given to Jesus:  12:38 cites Isaiah 53:1 and 12:40 cites Isaiah 6:10 (in a modified form).  Isaiah 6:10 makes two things clear: that Israel’s disobedience is not beyond God’s sovereignty and that there is still hope for repentance, since the hardening of hearts is not final.   Isaiah was able to see this, since he beheld God’s glory (12:41; cf. Isaiah 6:1-5).

3.  The comment in 12:42 seems to contradict 12:37 but we soon discover that this is not the case — for the belief of the “authorities” is actually a “pseudo” belief, since they do not openly confess their belief because fear hinders them. (12:42-43).

4.  Jesus’ testimony concludes with two summary statements:  First, Jesus says that judgment is a secondary consequence of his work but that the word he has spoken is the same word that God will speak at the last judgment (12:47-49).

Second, Jesus’ testimony is in complete agreement with the Father’s will and word (12:50).

Questions for Reflection

(1) The Gospels tell us about events in the life of Jesus, not merely to offer us information, but to answer two major theological questions:

(a) Who is God (God’s nature and character)? and

(b) What does it mean to follow Jesus (the nature and character of discipleship)?

What answers does this chapter offer to these questions?

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Exploring the Gospel of John: 10


By the Rev. Dr. Michael Petty [Fr. Michael Petty]

St. Peter’s Anglican Church [2006]

Jesus: The Good Shepherd

John 10:1-42


(1)   This section clearly follows the episode of the man born blind, in John 9.  The audience is the same (9:18, 10:19), there is once again a division of opinion (9:16, 10:19), and there is a clear reference back to the healing of the blind man (10:21).  “The Jews” are leaders of Israel, who drive the man born blind out of the synagogue.  This action allows Jesus to introduce the traditional imagery of Israel’s leaders (kings, priests, prophets), which is the imagery of the “shepherd.”  Jesus sets up a contrast between false leadership and himself.

(2)   While the shepherd was a prominent symbol of leadership, beginning with Joshua (Numbers 12:27-33), it comes to full stature in David, the shepherd who became king (2 Samuel 5:2; 7:7-8).  After David, the shepherd becomes the ideal of the messianic king (Micah 5:2-4).  Ezekiel 34 draws a stark contrast drawn between Israel’s shepherds — who have not been feeding the sheep but have been feeding themselves – on the sheep (34:2-3).  God will replace such shepherds by the ultimate shepherd  — who is God himself:  “I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land . . . I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God” (34:14, 15).

(3)   10:1-6 is a mini-parable, which establishes two things:

  •  The legitimate access of the shepherd to the sheep.  Most Palestinian sheep herds were small and the shepherd kept the herd in a fenced or walled sheepfold at night.  The shepherd assumed that anyone entering the sheepfold, by means other than the gate, was a thief (10:1).
  • The intimate relationship between sheep and shepherd.  An average flock consisted of one hundred sheep and the shepherd gave a name to each sheep.  The shepherd moved the flock, by going before the flock, and by calling each sheep by name.  While not intelligent animals, sheep do not follow strangers or respond to their voices.  But they do respond to the voice of the shepherd (10:5).  10:6 points out that the meaning of this parable is not understood.  “The Jews” think of themselves as the shepherd and of Jesus as the intruder.

(4)   10:7-10 expands upon 10:1-2.  Instead of emphasizing that Jesus is the shepherd who comes through the gate, this section emphasizes that Jesus is the gate.  He embodies access to the sheepfold:  “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7).  In this way, Jesus fulfills the role of God, which Ezekiel 34:10 depicts, where God himself rescues his sheep from the devouring “shepherds.”  Just as in Ezekiel 34, this passage in John sets up a sharp contrast between the “shepherds” who “kill and destroy” (10:10) and the “real Shepherd,” who comes “that they may have life and have it abundantly” (10:10).

(5)   10:11-18 focuses on the identification that the reader has been anticipating:  that of Jesus’ identification with the shepherd (with Ezekiel 34 as the backdrop).  Jesus is the “good shepherd” (10:11) and here, the Greek word “kalos” (translated as “good”) really means “ideal” or “true.”  Jesus is the true shepherd of Israel because “he lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11).  Being a shepherd brought exposure to danger but, here, the dedication of the shepherd to the sheep is amazing and beyond expectation.  The emphasis falls on two important things:  that the shepherd’s death is voluntary (not merely inflicted or accidental) and that the shepherd’s death is on behalf of the sheep:  This is a radical contrast with the shepherds who feed on the sheep.  The solemn pronouncement “I am the good [true] shepherd” is spoken twice (10:11, 14) and, in each case, the warrant for this saying is the shepherd’s willingness to die for the sheep (10:11, 15).  Jesus’ death proceeds from two things, each of which is equally important:  his knowledge of the Father (10:15) and his intimate relationship with the sheep (10:14).

The pretend “shepherds” possess neither of these things. 10:16  “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” probably refers to Gentile believers.  The background for this is still Ezekiel 34:23 and 37:24, where God gathers a scattered Israel into one “pasture,” with its ultimate shepherd.  10:16 makes the point that the scattered Israel includes Gentiles, as well.  The result of Jesus’ work will fulfill Ezekiel 34“So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (10:16).  10:17-18 focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection as acts of sovereign freedom and forecloses any notion that Jesus is a victim.  Jesus’ death is a gift of himself (he is not simply killed) and his resurrection is accomplished by virtue of who he is (John 1:1), not given to him as a “reward” for having done well.  The accusation that Jesus is possessed (in 10:20) takes us back to 8:48, 52, while the argument that a demon possessed man could not restore sight takes us back to 9:31-33.


(1)  This section is another interrogation scene, in which Jesus is in conflict with “the Jews” (10:24).  The themes of 10:1-21 continue but some time has passed because we are told that, instead of being in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (7:2), Jesus is in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Dedication (10:22).

(2)   10:22-30 is the first part of this section.  “The Jews” now want an explicit “yes” or “no” from Jesus, about whether he is the Messiah.  Jesus has not claimed to be the Messiah, in the presence of religious authorities although, from 1:41 onwards, the issue of “messiah-ship” has come up (note also 4:25-26).  Jesus’ response to the questioning is twofold:

  • First, he says that his works answer their question (5:36).
  • Second, he says that their lack of faith is due, ultimately, to the fact that “you are not part of my flock” (10:26).  As 6:44 has made clear, only the Father can draw a person to Jesus.  The lack of clarity, in the minds of the religious leaders, is not an indication that Jesus’ works lack clarity.  In contrast to the religious leaders, those who are part of Jesus’ flock enjoy an eternal security, held by both Jesus and the Father who, ultimately, while distinct, have one “hand” (10:28-29).  In the salvation they provide and in the eternal security they guarantee, Father and Son act as one.

(3)  In 10:31-39, the point of contention between Jesus and “the Jews” is sharply made clear.  In 10:33, Jesus is accused of blasphemy, in the sense that he has made himself equal to God or has identified God with himself. This was the implicit issue in 8:58-59.  The Christian confession that Father and Son have equal status was one of the main points of contention between the Church and the synagogue.  Jesus offers a counter-argument, which draws upon Psalm 82:6, in which God addresses a gathering, by telling them:  “You are gods.”  The identity of the group addressed need not detain us here, since the simple point is that, if this group can be so addressed, how can there possibly be any objection to Jesus, “whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world” (10:36)? The word “consecrated,” of course, picks up on the Feast of Dedication (which marked the re-consecration of the Temple) and identifies Jesus as its fulfillment.  Jesus’ works make it clear that his claim is not blasphemy because his claim is true; his works make it clear that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (10:38).

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Exploring the Gospel of John: 2


By the Rev. Dr. Michael Petty [Fr. Michael Petty]

St. Peter’s Anglican Church


John 2:1-12

A Wedding, As Sign and Glory

1. In John 1:43-51, Nathanael is amazed at Jesus’ knowledge of him:  knowledge that he interprets to be supernatural (1:49).  Jesus tells him,  “You will see greater things than these” (1:50) [and it appears that what happens here is intended.]

2. The time reference in 2:1 (“On the third day”) is a bit vague -–third day counting from when?  This could be a reference to Exodus 19:11, where God comes down on Mt. Sinai on “the third day” and reveals his glory.  In this Gospel, Jesus’ actions are often presented as being parallel to significant Old Testament events.  In light of 2:11, the connection with Exodus 19:11 seems to fit since, in Exodus 19, God reveals himself for the first time to his liberated people and, in 2.11, Jesus performs his first sign for his disciples.

3. The context of this first sign is important – a wedding.  The opportunity for the sign comes at a moment of crisis:  the wedding guests have exhausted the supply of wine.  Weddings were not simply private affairs but often involved an entire village and could last for several days.  Running out of wine would have exposed the groom to a loss of honor and this was a very serious matter, in a culture bound together by reciprocal obligations.   What for us might be a failure of planning would be, for this culture, a shaming of the guests, bringing dishonor upon the host.  This is no mere faux pax.

4. The text does not tell us why Jesus’ mother (this Gospel does not mention her name) brings this to the attention of Jesus.  Does she have some responsibility at the wedding or does she believe that he is capable of resolving the crisis?  Her instructions to the servants in 2:5 are open to either — or both — possibilities.  Certainly, her command shows her to be a model of belief – she trustfully places everything under her Son’s authority.

5. We are surprised at Jesus’ brusque response to Mary in 2:4.   It is not disrespectful but it is distancing and the phrase, “My hour has not yet come” explains the distance.  In this Gospel, Jesus’ “hour” is his glorification, which takes place in his Crucifixion and Resurrection (7:30; 8:20; 12:27-28; 13:1; 16:32; 17:1).   The point is that the heavenly Father dictates Jesus’ actions  — not human requests (not even the request of his mother).   As in the case of Lazarus’ illness and death in John 11, Jesus responds to situations but he responds in his own terms.  Mary’s instructions to the servants seem to indicate that she does not expect to control her Son.

6. Jesus says, in 2:4, that his “hour” has not yet come — yet in 2:7, he takes action to solve the wine dilemma.  Has something changed?  Has Jesus’ “hour” now come?  We should probably see Jesus’ actions, not as a delayed response to Mary’s request, but as a proleptic manifestation of his “hour”– here, the “hour” is prefigured.

7. The number and purpose of the water jars in 2:6 is significant:  Six is a number indicating insufficiency or incompleteness (thus, in Genesis 1, Creation takes place over seven days).  The jars hold water for the various rites of purification.  The fact that these jars are filled with water and then transformed into wine clearly carries with it both the notion of abundance and the notion of the transformation of the old.  Jesus will bring in abundance what the Jewish rites of purification now only hint at.  In the Old Testament, the abundance of wine (always associated with God’s goodness and generosity in Judaism) is associated with the Messianic time (Amos 9:13-14; Isaiah 25:6; Jeremiah 31:12: Joel 3:18).  This is a sign in advance of what Jesus “hour” will bring about, the abundant cleansing and restoration, which is the time of the Messiah, the pouring out of God’s generous gifts.   The theme of Jesus replacing various Jewish institutions and feasts is a significant one in this Gospel.  In 2:13-22, for example, we see how Jesus fulfills and replaces the Temple.  For John, Jesus gathers together all the various threads of Judaism into a unity and brings them to their fulfillment.

8.  One can read, on several levels, the response of the steward of the feast, to the miraculous wine in 2:10 (as one can read a great deal of this Gospel on several levels).  At one level, the text makes clear that Jesus had not only saved the bridegroom’s honor but has actually enhanced it.  The best wine is served at this wedding at a time when – how shall we say it? – the faculties of the guests are impaired. What generosity!  The best has come last!  On another level, this underscores the sequence of salvation:  The best has not come first (Moses) but has been saved for the end (Jesus).  Much of the Gospel of John is devoted to getting this sequence right.

9. The context of this sign is rich with symbolism -– a wedding.  The wedding is a favored image, describing Israel’s eschatological fulfillment.  One day, God will rejoice over Israel, as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride (Isaiah 62:4-5).  Jesus also uses the image of a wedding feast to depict the coming of the Messiah in Matthew 8:11, Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 22:16-18.  Note the same imagery in Revelation 19, where we find the wedding feast of the Lamb.

10. This was the first of Jesus’ signs.  This is this Gospel’s technical term for Jesus’ deeds.  Not coincidently, the Gospel uses the same Greek word as the  Septuagint uses in Exodus 4:8, to designate the three actions that God authorizes Moses to perform, to convince Israel of his role.  The purpose of these signs is authorize or confirm belief in Moses’ vocation.

11. Jesus will perform six other signs in this gospel (making a perfect series of seven).  But these signs do not compel belief on the part of those who witness them.  This becomes clear in John 11, after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  In John 11:45-53, some of the witnesses of this sign inform the authorities in Jerusalem.  Neither the witnesses nor the authorities appear to doubt what Jesus has done — but this only has the effect of moving them to plot Jesus’ death.  Signs apparently have three possible effects, all of which John portrays:   Signs can deepen belief (as they do here), they can be met with indifference or unbelief (as in 7:1-5), or they can arouse opposition.

12. Two texts from Luke provide some illumination to this passage.  In Luke 5:34, when asked why John’s disciples fast but his do not, Jesus says, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?”  The bridegroom at the eschatological wedding is the Messiah and can one be expected to fast, when God’s salvation is being realized, in one’s presence?   In Luke 5:36-39, Jesus tells a parable about how new wine cannot be poured into old wine skins.  While some will not recognize it (5:39), the new wine surpasses the old -– the best has been kept until the last.

13. The meaning of this incident is not hidden but is rather made explicit in 2:11:  “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.”   The glory of Jesus is the glory of the Incarnate Word (1:14), a glory now glimpsed by the abundant replacement of water for purification by eschatological wine.  In a real sense, Jesus not only fulfills Old Testament expectations but also surpasses them.

John 2:13-22

“The Temple of His Body”

1. “The Passover of the Jews” (2:13) is [intended] not as a snipe at “the Jews” but has the function of distancing the reader of the Gospel from Passover, a feast that this Gospel understands Jesus to have fulfilled (see 19:31-37).

2. This event is recorded in all four gospels (Mark 11:15-17; Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-46).  John is unique in placing this event at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry rather than at the end, and his account is more detailed than those of the other three gospels.

3. One of our most significant decisions, with regard to this passage, is that of determining [toward] what Jesus’ actions in the Temple are aimed.  The presence of animals and birds in the Temple precincts was necessary, in order to fulfill the sacrifices appointed in Leviticus 1-8.   The presence of the money-changers was, likewise, necessary, in that the Temple precincts did not allow Roman coinage, which bore the image of the emperor, since the Jews understood it to violate the prohibition [against] making idols.  The money changers were a necessary presence, if Jews were to be able to buy sacrificial animals and to pay the Temple tax levied on all adult male Jews.  In light of these facts, it is difficult to see Jesus’ actions as aiming at a “cleansing of the Temple” from “commercial abuse.”

4. Jesus’ actions in the Temple appear to be “sign act,” a symbolic action familiar to the Old Testament prophets.  An example is Jeremiah 19 where, in order to announce God’s coming judgment on Israel, Jeremiah takes an earthenware jar and smashes it in public.  The smashing of the jar is a sign act, which promises what it enacts.  By interrupting the sale of sacrificial animals, Jesus is symbolically bringing the Temple’s existence to a halt and announcing its coming destruction/replacement.

5. What Jesus says in 2:16 echoes Zechariah 14:21:  “And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.”   In Zechariah 14, what is announced is a new order in which “the Lord will be king over all the earth” (14:9) and even Gentiles will go up to Jerusalem “to worship the King, the Lord of hosts” (14:17).  In this radically transformed situation, “every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts” (14:21).  The traders in the Temple will no longer be necessary — because God’s presence in Jerusalem will be such as to render everything holy and so inaugurate a new pattern of worship.  As becomes clear, Jesus’ Death and Resurrection establishes this new order of worship.

6. 2:17 informs us that the disciples “remembered” this connection  [to] Psalm 69:9.  The remembering here, as 2:22 makes clear, occurs after Jesus’ Resurrection.  This is to say that the Resurrection renders the memory of the disciples into a coherent whole:  in the light of the resurrection, their memory of Jesus’ actions took on a new significance.  Psalm 69:9 (which John converts from the past to the future tense) identifies Jesus, not merely as one who detested the Temple and its sacrifices, but as one who saw their replacement/fulfillment by a new temple and a new sacrifice.  It is zeal for God’s real temple that will cause his death.

7. In 2:18, “the Jews” (which refers to the chief priests who have charge of the Temple) demand a sign, which will show that Jesus is authorized to do what he has done.  2:20 indicates that “the Jews” understand Jesus to be making a literal claim about the Temple as a building.  This is part of a pattern, in which someone understands Jesus in a literal/worldly way and so misunderstands his meaning completely (see 3:1-15).  Jesus is not talking about the Temple as a building but rather a temple of an entirely different order:  the Temple of his Crucified and Risen Body.  The presence of God will no longer be found in the Temple for, as Zechariah 14 clearly sees, this presence will come in a new way.  The notion of Jesus’ Crucified and Risen Body as the Temple of God has a deep impact on New Testament writings (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

8. We see an indication of what this theology looks like as Hebrews 8-9 develops it.  Here, Jesus recapitulates, fulfills, and transcends the core of Judaism as Temple, sacrifice, and priesthood.  The point to grasp, about both John and Hebrews, is that we can understand Jesus only within the matrix of the Old Testament narrative.  John and Hebrews understand that Jesus transcends the core of Judaism [Temple, sacrifice, and priesthood] not because they are Jewish but, rather, Jesus transcends them God intended them to have a provisional value (note especially Hebrews 9:23-28).

9. To say that Christ’s Risen Body replaces the Temple is to say several things:  Just as Israel understood the Temple to be the locus of God’s presence in the world (not in the sense that God was confined to it but that, by covenant, God caused his Name to dwell there), so now the body of the risen Christ becomes the locus of God’s presence.  This is why there is no ‘promised land’ in the new covenant:  God’s temple is now co-extensive with creation (note Revelation 21:22-27).  This notion of Christ as the new Temple also serves as the foundation of Christian holiness.  If the Christian life is life “in Christ,” this means that we live all of life within the Temple and that there is no sacred/secular distinction (note Romans 12:1-2).  Thinking along these lines causes a radical re-thinking of the significance of human life, as becomes clear in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

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John for Everyone: Syllabus

St. Peter’s Anglican Church [SPAC]
Adult Formation – Wednesday Evening Academy
Fall Semester 2012:  09.12.12 – 12.12.12

Class:  John for Everyone:  Part One & Two

Read:  The Pause That Refreshes
Time:   6.15 pm -7.30 pm
Location:  SPAC Parish House
Leader:  Margot Payne:  marmeepayne@gmail.com   www.margopayne.wordpress.com

The Pact:  Present, Prepare, Participate:

I agree to faithfully and diligently [when it is within my power:]
·      Be present and on time every week for class.
·      Prepare for class.
·      Participate in class discussion.
Bring: Bible, John for Everyone, pencil/pen, notebook, clipboard.
Recommended:  Book of Common Prayer 1979 and  Anglican Hymnal 1982.

The Purpose: [Quote from: “The Challenge of Jesus,” by N. T. Wright]

” ‘The Challenge of Jesus’  poses a double-edged challenge:
·      To grow in our understanding of the historical Jesus within the Palestinian world of the first century and
·      To follow Jesus more faithfully into the postmodern world of the twenty-first century.”

 The Presentation:

  • Ancient: Psalms, Hymns, Prayers, Compline, Vespers
  • Sources:  Book of Common Prayer 1979 and Anglican Hymnbook 1982

Resources: Optional

  • The Gospel of John [Wiki]
  • Jewish Holidays [Wiki]
  • Origins:  CNS Documentary Services:  ISSN 0093-609X, “Fides et Ratio,”  John Paul II Encyclical [Brief Synthesis is on the last page].  Email:  CNS@nccbuscc.org, $5 pre-paid.
  • Harper Collins Concise Atlas of the Bible, ISBN 0-06-251499-7, Times Books, London, 1991.
  • Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, ISBN 0-8308-1449-3, Grenz, Gunetzki, Nordling, InterVaristy Press, 1999.
  • Music CD:  Compline:  The Shadows of Thy Wing, The Christ Church Choir, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Gloria Dei Cantores, 1999, Paraclete Press.

Fall Semester 2012:

09.12.12 Week One:

  • Logistics:  Supper, Books, Contact Info
  • Paradigms & Parameters
  • Worldviews: All Kinds of Lenses! [Box]
  • Hymn:  Immortal, Invisible

Reading Assignment: Due 09.19.12:

Blog entries [see above website]:

09.19.12  Week Two:

Reading Assignments:  Due 09.25.12:  John for Everyone:  Introduction and John 1.
Blog entries:
Reading Assignments:  Due 10.03.12
  • John for Everyone:  John 2.
  • Hymn:  Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence
  • Recommended but not required:  Exploring the Gospel of John: 2

    10.03.12  — Week Four:

    Reading Assignments:  Due 10.10.12

    Hymn:  Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

  • John for Everyone:  John 3.
  • Recommended but not required:  Exploring the Gospel of John: 3

    10.10.12 — Week Five:

Reading Assignments:  Due 10.17.12

10.17.12 — Week Six:

Reading Assignments:  Due 10.24.12: [Week Seven]

We will not meet on 10.31.12

Reading Assignments:  Due 11.07.12: [Week Eight]
Reading Assignments:  Due 11.14.12: [Week Nine]
  • John for Everyone:  John 6:  Pages 81-92 in the Commentary.  Read cross-references.
    John for Everyone:  John 7:  Pages 92-99 in the Commentary.  Read cross-references.
  • Hymnody:  “Pange Lingua” [Gregorian Chant]  See: Pange Langua
  • Recommended but not required: Exploring the Gospel of John: 7

    We will not meet on Wednesday, 11.21.12, which is the day before Thanksgiving.

    Reading Assignments:  Due 11.28.12: [Week Ten]

    • John for Everyone:  John 7  in N. T. Wright Commentary.  Read cross-references.
    • Hymnody:  “Pange Lingua” [Gregorian Chant]  See: Pange Langua
    • Recommended but not required: Exploring the Gospel of John: 7

Reading Assignments:  Due 12.05.12: [Week Eleven]

Reading Assignments:  Due 12.12.12: [Week Twelve]

12.12.12 is our last meeting for the Fall Semester.  We meet again on January 16, 2013, after Epiphany.  Check the SPAC website for details.

The Seven Signs of the Gospel of John:

[Seven days – one week of Creation]:

Jesus transforms the water into wine, at the wedding at Cana:  2.1-11

Jesus heals the royal official’s son, in Capernaum:  4.46-54

Jesus heals the paralytic, at the Bethesda pool:  5.1-18

Jesus walks on water, in the Sea of Galilee:

Jesus feeds the 5,000:  6.16-24

Jesus heals the man, who had been blind from birth:  9.1-7

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead:  11.1-45

[The eighth day – the beginning of the New Creation]:

The Resurrection of Jesus

Coming Up in the Liturgical Calendar:

The First Day of Advent:  12.02.12

Lessons & Carols:  Details:  www.saint-peters.net

Messiah Sing!  Community Sing-A-Long.  Faith Presbyterian Church, 12.06.12, 7.30 pm.

Christmas Eve Worship Service:  December 24, 2012.  Details:  www.saint-peters.net

Christmas Day Worship Service:  December 25, 2012.  Details:  www.saint-peters.net

The Twelve Days of Christmas/Christmastide/Twelvetide:  December 25, 2012 through January 5, 2013:

Twelfth Night/Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany:  January 5, 2013 [Supper at Payne Home, 6.00 PM]

The Feast of the Epiphany:  January 6, 2013

Spring Semester:  Part Two

Coming Up in the Liturgical Calendar:  For details, see http://www.saint-peters.net

Wednesday, 02.13.13:  Ash Wednesday Liturgies:  12.10 pm, 7.00 pm:  NO WED. EVENING CLASSES.

Fridays: 02.18.13 through 03.18.13:  Stations of the Cross:  5.30 pm

Sunday, 03.24.13:  Palm Sunday Liturgy


Thursday, 03.28.13:  Maundy Thursday Liturgy

Friday, 03.29.13:  Good Friday Liturgy

Saturday, 03.30.13:  Easter Vigil, 8.30 pm

Sunday, 03.31.13:  Easter Day/Resurrection Sunday

Sunday, 05.19.13:  Feast of Pentecost

Reading Assignment, due on 01.16.13:

Reading Assignment, due on 01.23.13:

  • John for Everyone:  John 11 in N. T. Wright Commentary.  Read cross-references. 
  • Jot down questions, as you read.  Bring at least one question to the Bible Study.
  • Recommended but not required:   Exploring the Gospel of John: 11.

Reading Assignment, due on 01.30.13:

Reading Assignment, due on 02.06.13:

Post-Discussion Notes:

The Greatest Commandments:

Deuteronomy 6.4-5 contains the “Great Shema,” which means “Hear, O Israel:” 

4   “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

5    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” 

 Leviticus 19.17-18: [ESV]

17    “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.

18    You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

The Clothing of Humility, Servanthood, Suffering:

Philippians 1:27-2:11 [NASB]

27  Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;  28  in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29  For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
1  Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,  2  make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  3  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  7  but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   9  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  
Mark 10:42-45 [NASB]
42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 
43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;  44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.  45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

1 Peter 5:5-8 [NASB]:

5  You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.   6  Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,  7  casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Quote:  “Everyone wants to be considered to be a servant but no one wants to be treated as one.”
We will not meet on 02.13.13 [Ash Wednesday]

Reading Assignment, due on 02.20.13:

Reading Assignment, due on 02.27.13:

Reading Assignment, due 03.o6.13:

Reading Assignment, due 03.13.13:

    • John for Everyone:  John 19 in N. T. Wright Commentary. Read cross-references.   
    • Jot down questions, as you read.  Bring at least one question to the Bible Study.

Reading Assignment, due 03.20.13:

John for Everyone:  John 20 in N. T. Wright Commentary.  Read cross-references.

Jot down questions, as you read.  Bring at least one question to the Bible Study.

Holy Week Hymnody: The Cross of Jesus

We will NOT meet during Holy Week, 03.27.13.

Reading Assignment, due 04.03.13:

John for Everyone:  John 12 in  N. T. Wright Commentary.  Read cross-references.

Jot down questions, as you read.  Bring at least one question to the Bible Study.

On Wednesday, 04.10.13:  6.15 pm to 8.45 pm:

Frances Prevatt has invited us to her home, to view the DVD film, “The Gospel of John,” narrated by Christopher Plummer.

Before the film begins, we will enjoy a simple supper of pizza and salad.


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Worldview Lens: The Halo Effect

Dear Readers,

Before autumn begins, I have one more story of summer to share with you, from when I was ten [1962] and lived in Bossier City, Louisiana:

Almost every morning, I  hopped on my bicycle and rode across three subdivisions and a corn field.

Finally, I reached the gate of the Barksdale Air Force Base, where my father worked.  From there, I pedaled over to the Officer’s Club Pool, where I parked my bike and met my friends.

[Circa 1960]

All day long, my friends and I played “Marco Polo,” jumped off the diving board, splashed each other, did somersaults, and stood on our heads.  What I chiefly remember is the laughter and the care-free hours.

My friends and I never willingly left the pool water.  However, the lifeguard’s whistle blew every hour, which meant that all the children must exit the pool and “rest” for 10 minutes.

How we resented the sound of that whistle!  We were not tired in the least!

Sometimes we bolted to the concession stand and “nourished” ourselves with French fries and a Coke, while we endured the enforced wait.

After the break, we jumped back into the pool and played, until late afternoon.  Then, I hopped back onto my bike to return home, in time for supper.

Even more delightful than the sun-lit hours were the moon-lit evenings in the pool:  I loved the reflection of the light from the lamps, both above and below the pool.

One evening at the pool, I asked one of my childhood friends:

“Do you see how the lamp-light looks fuzzy, like the moon on a cloudy night?   I mean, you cannot see the lamp itself, right?  You just see a halo?”

For this is [kind of] what I saw:

Or, if I squinted, I might see this:

My young friend looked at me in amazement and silence.  Then, she assured me that she saw no “fuzzy moon” or “halo.”

She described to me how she viewed the lamplight:

I asked every one of my young friends to describe what they saw.  Sure enough, I was the only child in the pool who saw the “fuzzy moons” and the “halos.”

I remember that startling moment, when I realized that I could not trust my own sensory perception. 

I returned home, reported the evening to my parents, and they made an appointment for me to see a professional:  a Doctor of Optometry.

The optometrist determined that my vision was distorted.  Not only was I near-sighted, I also had astigmatism, and my night vision was compromised.

There was, fortunately, a corrective:  frames with prescription lens, which arrived the week following my appointment:

[Children’s eyeglasses, circa 1962]

When I slapped those frames on my face and looked out the lens for the first time, it was a revelation:

The colors, shapes, textures, words, and numbers were now in sharp focus.  Even from across the street, I could identify people and read road signs!

 It was as if I was seeing the world for the first time.  


Almost 40 years later, in 1999, I had a similar revelation, when N. T. Wright delivered a series of four lectures in Chicago.

Stephen and I were in the audience, with over one thousand graduate students and faculty.  The national conference, entitled “Following Christ:  Shaping Our World” was sponsored by the InterVaristy Christian Fellowship Graduate and Faculty Ministry.

The four lectures formed the backbone of the this book:

Here is a quote from this book . . .

“Out of his own commitment to both historical scholarship and Christian ministry, Wright challenges us to roll up our sleeves and take seriously the study of the historical Jesus.”  [The Publisher]

. . . and a quote from N. T. Wright:

“Many Christians have been, frankly, sloppy in their thinking and talking about Jesus, and hence, sadly, in their praying and in their practice of discipleship.  

We cannot assume that by saying the word “Jesus,” still less the word “Christ,” we are automatically in touch with the real Jesus who walked and talked in first-century Palestine . . . 

. . . Only by hard, historical work can we move toward a fuller comprehension of what the Gospels themselves were trying to say.”

Here is a quote from a more recent book by N. T. Wright . . .

“Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright summarizes a lifetime of study of Jesus and the New Testament, in order to present for a general audience who Jesus was and is.  

In Simply Jesus, we are invited to hear one of our leading scholars introduce the story of the carpenter’s son from Nazareth, as if he were hearing it for the first time.”  [The Publisher]

. . . and this quote from N. T. Wright:

“Jesus — the Jesus we might discover if we really looked, is larger, more disturbing, [and] more urgent than we had ever imagined.  

We have successfully managed to hide behind other questions and to avoid the huge, world-shaking challenge of Jesus’ central claim and achievement . . . . 

. . . We have reduced the kingdom of God to private piety; the victory of the cross to comfort the conscience; Easter itself to a happy, escapist ending after a sad, dark tale.

Piety, conscience, and ultimate happiness are important, but not nearly as important as Jesus himself.” 


I will begin teaching a class tonight, at St. Peter’s Anglican Church.  Our text will be The Gospel of John and the commentary will be John for Everyone by N. T. Wright.

Click here for more details: The Pause That Refreshes!

For the objectives of the class, I am borrowing a quote from The Challenge of Jesus:

“The Challenge of Jesus poses a double-edged challenge:

–To grow in our understanding of the historical Jesus within the Palestinian world of the first century, and

–To follow Jesus more faithfully into the postmodern world of the twenty-first century.”  [The Publisher]

Coram Deo,



Filed under discipleship, The Gospel of John, theology and doxology, Worldview