Monday, February 25, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to John 16-21

Readings for this week

Monday: John 16
Tuesday: John 17
Wednesday: John 18
Thursday: John 19
Friday: John 20
Saturday: John 21
Sunday: Jonah 1

Introduction to John 16-21

Chapter 16

Jesus again says that in a little while the disciples won’t see him anymore, but the disciples are still confused as to what Jesus is talking about, so Jesus tells them that very soon the world will rejoice while they mourn. He tells them that they will grieve, but they will see him again and they will rejoice when they see him and the joy they will receive is not something that the world is able to take away from them. He also tells them that one day he will no longer speak to them figuratively about the Father, but will speak plainly about Him – and not only because Jesus has an in with the Father, but because they love and know Jesus, they also have an in with the Father… because they have met him in Jesus.

The disciples are like, “Finally! You’re not speaking in metaphors anymore! Now we know that you know all things! You know our questions before we ask them!” Jesus is like, “So you believe me now, do you? We’ll see about that. Pretty soon all of you will be scattered and leave me all alone… but I’m not alone… because my Father is with me.” 

Chapter 17 

Jesus prays that he will be glorified as the Son so that the Father may also be glorified. He says that the Father gave the Son the authority to give people eternal life. But what is eternal life? Jesus says it is to know the only true God and to know Jesus Christ whom he sent. Jesus prays, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began!” Jesus then prays for the disciple that God had given him, saying that they have helped to bring him glory, and they will need protection from the world when he is gone. He prays that the disciples will be one as he and the Father are one. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” Jesus then prays for everyone who will one day believe the message of the disciples – that they will all be one as he and the Father are one. 

Chapter 18 

After praying, Jesus crosses the Kidron Valley with his disciples and they stop at a garden. Judas knew that Jesus would go there, so he also shows up leading a group of religious leaders and soldiers to arrest Jesus. Jesus goes up to them and asks, “What do you want?” They ask for “Jesus of Nazareth” and he says “I am.” When he says “I am” the mob falls over backwards… including Judas. Then he’s like, “Who did you say you wanted again?” And they stand up and say “Jesus of Nazareth” and he says “I told you I am,” and he tells them that if its him they want then they should let the disciples go. But Peter runs forward with a sword and cuts off the right ear of the high priest’s servant – a guy named Malchus. Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Then they arrested Jesus and bound him and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.

Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in. She asked Peter if he was also a disciple and he denied it. It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus replied, “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Meanwhile, Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.

Jesus is then taken to Pilate, the Roman Governor, but the Jews refuse to enter the palace because that would make them ceremonially unclean for the Passover meal… they apparently didn’t think plotting m**der would also make them ceremonially unclean. So Pilate has to come out to them to see what in the world they want at that hour of the morning, and he asks them what the charges are against Jesus. And they say his charge is that he is a criminal. Seeing as how they can’t find an example of any Roman law that Jesus broke, Pilate tells them all to go away and settle their own problems themselves. But they protest, saying they want permission to execute Jesus.

So Pilate has Jesus brought inside where they can talk alone. Pilate asks, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus responds, “Did you come up with that yourself, or did you hear that from someone else?” Pilate’s like, “Am I a Jew? Your own people handed you over to me! What did you do?” Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Pilate is like, “So you are a king, then!” Jesus says, “You say, ‘You’re a king!’ but in fact, the real reason I was born and came into this world was to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” Pilate’s like, “Oh, what is truth anyway?” And he goes back out to the Jews to reason with them.

At this point we learn that it was traditional for a prisoner to be released once a year at the request of the people. We also learn that there was at this time a known terrorist and murderer locked up in prison named Jesus Barabbas. Pilate uses this opportunity to ask the crowd who they would like to release – Jesus Barabbas or Jesus Christ? But the crowd was like, “No! Give us the terrorist! Set Barabbas free!”

Chapter 19 

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe, slapped him in the face, and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Pilate brings Jesus out to the crowd again, insisting that there is no grounds for the death penalty. But as soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate is like, “You crucify him! I don’t want to!” The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement. John tells us that it was about noon at this point on the Day of Preparation for the Passover. Pilate says, “Here is your king!” and the people scream, “Crucify!” Pilate asks them, “Shall I crucify your king?” And the priests cry out, “We have no king but Caesar!” So finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. John says that they liked the undergarment so much that they cast lots to see which one of them would get it and that this fulfilled what was prophesied in Psalm 22.

Near the cross of Jesus stood three Marys - his mother Mary, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and “the disciple whom he loved standing nearby (probably John),” he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Later, Jesus says, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. Jesus says, “It is finished.” And he dies.

Now the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, so they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they didn’t break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. John writes that he himself witnessed this event and he is writing about it so that the reader will come to believe. He also says that all these things happened to fulfill what the prophets had said: “Not one of his bones will be broken” and “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Later, Joseph of Arimathea (who was a secret disciple of Jesus) asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He and Nicodemus come and take the body away and cover it with myrrh, spices, and aloes, and wrap it in strips of linen. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Chapter 20

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. Finally the other disciple also went inside and he saw and believed even though they didn’t understand.

The disciples leave Mary Magdalene crying at the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Then Jesus spoke her name, and she looked at him and cried, “Rabbi!” Jesus tells her not to hold on to him, but to go and tell his brothers that he is going to ascend to their Father. So Mary goes and tells the disciples that she has seen Jesus and delivers his message to them.

That evening, the disciples are hiding behind locked doors in fear, when Jesus suddenly appears. He says to them, “Peace be with you.” And he shows them the wounds in his hands and his side. And the disciples are filled with joy. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Now Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John writes that Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in his book. He also says that he wrote what he wrote so that his readers will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing they may have life in his name. This is the first ending to John’s Gospel, but another ending was added to it.

Chapter 21

In this appendix to the appendix, seven of the disciples – Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee (James and John), and two others – are back in Galilee after the resurrection of Jesus and decide to go fishing one evening, but catch nothing that night. Early the next morning, Jesus (whom they had not recognized) calls out to them from the shore: “Friends! You haven't any fish, have you?” When they reply in the negative, Jesus responds: "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." After doing so, "they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish." Realizing the identity of their adviser, the disciple whom Jesus loved says to Peter, "It’s the Lord!," at which Peter jumps into the water to meet him, while the remaining disciples follow in the boat, towing the net, which proves to be full of 153 large fish. At the time of the composition of this Gospel, it was believed that there were 153 different kinds of fish in the world. The writer is making a point when he says that the disciples caught 153 fish – they will be “fishers of men” to all the peoples of the world. Everyone is included!

Jesus cooks the disciples a breakfast of fish and bread over a charcoal fire. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Jesus then goes on to say that one day, when Peter is an old man, he will stretch out his hands, and someone else will dress him and lead him where won’t want to go. Jesus is saying that one day Peter will be crucified, too, and according to church tradition, Peter was in fact crucified… upside down even. And Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me!” Jesus and Peter were walking along the shore, and Peter turned back and saw the Beloved Disciple following them, and he asked, “Well, what about him?” Jesus is like, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what’s it to you? You must follow me!” John then writes that because of these words Jesus spoke, a rumor arose among the early church that the Beloved Disciple (probably John) would not die, but John points out that this wasn’t what Jesus actually meant.

The writer (probably John) then reveals to the reader that he himself is the Beloved Disciple, and that he witnessed and heard all these things himself, so the readers should be reassured that they have heard the truth. The Gospel ends a second time with these words: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to John 9-15

Readings for this week

Monday: John 9
Tuesday: John 10
Wednesday: John 11
Thursday: John 12
Friday: John 13
Saturday: John 14
Sunday: John 15

Introduction to John 9-15

Chapter 9

One Sabbath day, Jesus and his disciples see a man born blind, and the disciples want to know whose sin caused him to be born blind – his own or his parents. Jesus thinks this question is ridiculous, and tells them that it wasn’t anybody’s fault that he was born blind, but rather it happened so that God might be glorified in him. Jesus spits in the dirt, makes some mud balls, sticks them on the man’s eyes, and tells him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man does so and is healed.

Later, the Pharisees find out that Jesus healed this guy on the Sabbath, so they drag the guy in for questioning. The man tells them that he thinks Jesus is a prophet. They bring the man’s parents in to identify him and to confirm that a miracle actually took place. They confirm that the man is their son, but claim they don’t know who healed him or how it happened. They were afraid they might get kicked out of the synagogue if they repeated any of the rumors they’d heard about Jesus being the Messiah, so they said, “Why are you asking us questions? Talk to our son – he’s a grown man!” They put the man under oath and ask him if Jesus is a sinner. He’s like, “I don’t know if he’s a sinner or not! All I know is this: I was blind! But now I can see!” They then tell him to tell them exactly what happened. He’s like, “I told you already, but you weren’t listening. Do you also want to become his disciples or something?” They then began throwing insults at him, and they tell him he would be far better off being a disciple of Moses like themselves rather than being a disciple of Jesus. They add, “We know where Moses came from, but we have no idea where Jesus is from!” The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They then accuse him of being a sinner since he was in the womb and they throw him out.

Later, Jesus finds him and says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man says, “Show him to me and I will believe in him!” Jesus says, “He’s the one speaking to you right now.” The man believes and worships Jesus. Jesus says, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” But the Pharisees just scoff when they hear this.

The miracle of the blind man is remarkable in two respects: firstly, that although there are other accounts in both the Old Testament and the New of the blind having their sight restored, this is the only time someone born blind was given sight for the first time. Although the biblical text does not explicitly say so, the traditional interpretation is that not only was this man born without sight, he was born even without eyes. Jesus' act of making clay is an act of creation (creating eyes where none were before), a repetition of the first act of the creation of man in Genesis 2:7. This indicates the traditional Christian teaching that in the act of salvation Jesus makes his disciples a "new creation." The second remarkable aspect of the miracle is that not only did Jesus give the man physical sight, but he bestowed upon him spiritual sight as well. In the blind man's dialogue with the Pharisees, he holds his own in the dispute, engaging in reasoned theological discourse as though he were educated. 

Chapter 10

Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them. The image of the shepherd brings together several aspects of Jesus' identity. First, leaders were often called shepherds. Good leaders were those who cared for people, in contrast to the negligent leaders or shepherds who did not. Jesus fits the role of a good shepherd by caring for others (see Ezekiel 34:1-2). Second, the good shepherd was an image for the Messiah, who was to rule over the people of God. Here Jesus identifies himself as the one in whom this promise is fulfilled (see Ezekiel 34:23). Third, God was known as the best of shepherds, who gathered and nurtured the flock. As the good shepherd, Jesus is the one in whom God comes to God's people (see Ezekiel 34:11-12). Jesus also says that the principal trait of the good shepherd is laying down his life for the sheep. This occurs when Jesus lays down his life in crucifixion. By dying, Jesus reveals the lengths to which he will go to provide life for others.

This is one of the seven "I am" sayings in John's Gospel. Since the expression "I am" recalls the name of God, who is the "I Am" (Exodus 3:14), these sayings emphasize that Jesus is God's Word in the flesh. Jesus also claims to be the gate by which the sheep enter the fold. Those who do not enter by the gate are there to steal and kill and destroy. They are there to harm the sheep, but those who enter by the gate are God’s own. Jesus also says that the sheep will always recognize the voice of their shepherd, and they will come to him, but they will not respond to the voice of an impostor. This is true of both physical sheep in the pasture, and it is true in a spiritual sense with Jesus and his followers. When the people hear him talking about sheep, they think he must either be a lunatic or demon-possessed… but a few people defend him, saying that demon-possessed man could never be able to heal a man born blind.

Later that year, during the Festival of Dedication (Hanukkah), the Jews ask Jesus how long he is going to keep them in suspense. They thought that he might be planning to start a messianic revolution on the anniversary of the Great Maccabean Revolution. They say, “Tell us if you are the Messiah or not.” And Jesus says, “I did tell you, but you didn’t believe me.” And he starts comparing himself to a shepherd again, saying that his true followers will recognize his voice (the people still didn’t understand who he was in their Maccabbean expectations of him).

Jesus then proclaims, “I and the Father are one!” His opponents picked up stone to throw at him, and Jesus asks, “For which one of my good deeds are you about to stone me?” And they say that they’re not stoning him for the good things he has done, but because he just committed blasphemy. Jesus then reminds them that in the Books of the Psalms, God himself had referred to his people as “gods.” Jesus is like, “If that’s what God says about his people, then how much more appropriate is it to say that about the one whom God has set aside as his very own and sent into the world?” He asks, “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days, and many people came to him and said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.”

Chapter 11

Jesus is informed by messengers that Lazarus is ill, and that his two sisters are seeking his help. Jesus tells his disciples, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Jesus then delays for two days. The disciples are afraid of going back to Judea, but Jesus commands them to go with him, stating, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe." Thomas then proclaims, “Let’s go so that we may die with him!” Jesus waits to show up until after three days have passed, when Lazarus is now “legally dead” – the point of no return

When they arrive in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days. Before they enter the town, Martha, a sister of Lazarus comes to meet them and tells Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." But Jesus assures her that her brother will rise again. Martha says, “I know that he will rise again – in the Resurrection at the Last Day. Jesus proclaims, "I am the resurrection and the life! He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die! Do you believe this?" Martha affirms, "Yes, Lord! I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world!" This is only the second time (after Nathanael) that someone declares Jesus as Son of God, and the first time someone equates him as 'Messiah' and 'Son of God' together. The only other time this happens in the entire gospel is in the explanation the author of the Gospel gives for writing his Gospel as the very end.

After entering the village Jesus is met by Mary and the Jewish people with her, and upon seeing their grief and weeping, Jesus is 'deeply moved'. Then, after asking where he was buried, the shortest verse in the four Gospels is found - "Jesus wept." After that, Jesus ask for the stone of the grave to be removed, but Mary interjects that there will be a smell. To which Jesus responds, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” After saying this, Jesus screams, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." 

The miracle of the raising of Lazarus, is the climax of John's “Book of Signs.” It explains the crowds seeking Jesus on Palm Sunday, and leads directly to the decision of the High Priest Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin to plan to kill Jesus. Caiaphas ironically prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 

Chapter 12 

Jesus is staying with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany six days before the Passover. During a meal, Mary comes to him and pours a pint of pure nard (perfume) on Jesus feet and then wipes his feet with her hair. Judas gets mad and yells, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages!” But John writes that Judas only said this because he loved money and not because he loved the poor. He also says that Judas was like in charge of the group’s money, and he used to help himself to the moneybag whenever he wanted. Jesus tells Judas to leave her alone because she has saved this perfume for the day of his burial. He adds, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

The next day, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, and the crowds follow him with palm branches and praise him, shouting, “Hosanna!” John writes that all this took place to fulfill what the prophets had said, but his disciples didn’t realize this until after Jesus was glorified. The crowds followed Jesus because he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and the Pharisees shook their heads and said, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

There were some Greeks visiting the city, and they asked Philip if he could take them to see Jesus. Philip took them to Andrew and Andrew took them to Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Suddenly, Jesus confesses that he is terrified over what is about to happen to him, and he’s like, “What should I do? Should I tell my Father to save me from the hour at hand?” But then he cries out, “No! It was for this very reason I came to this hour!” And instead of begging his Father to save him, he cries out, “Father! Glorify your name!” Suddenly, a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have glorified it! And I will glorify it again!” The crowd that was there and heard the voice said it had thundered, and others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus tells them that the voice was for their benefit and not his, because the time has come to judge the world and to drive out its prince. He adds, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John says that he said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

The crowd said, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. John says that even after all the miracles Jesus had performed, the Jews still didn’t believe in him, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy about them. John also says that there were actually many religious leaders who believed in Jesus, but they didn’t admit it because the Pharisees had threatened to throw the followers of Jesus out of the synagogue.

Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me! The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me! I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness!” He adds, “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” 

Chapter 13

Jesus celebrates a Passover meal with his disciples, and John tells us that Jesus knew that the Father had handed all power over to him and that it was time to return to the Father. John also mentions that the devil had already given Judas the idea of betraying Jesus. Jesus gets up from the meal, wraps a towel around his waist, and begins washing his disciples feet. It was customary at the time for servants to wash the feet of the guests of the meal. Jesus tries to wash Peter’s feet and Peter asks him why he’s doing this. Jesus tells him that he will understand why later. Peter objects, but Jesus tells him that unless he lets him wash him he will have no part in him. Peter then declares that Jesus shouldn’t only wash his feet, but the rest of him as well. But Jesus tells him that people who have already bathed only need their feet washed. He tells the disciples that they have been cleansed… except for some of them… because he knew that Judas was plotting against him.

After Jesus is done washing their feet, he puts his clothes back on and returns to the table. He tells them that they should follow his example and wash each other’s feet just as he washed their feet. He adds, “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Jesus then reiterates that one of the disciples… one who shares this bread with him… will betray him. He says that this is to fulfill what was predicted in Psalm 41. He says that he’s telling them what is about to happen so that they will believe in him… because whoever accepts him accepts the One who sent him. Jesus then becomes very agitated and repeats that one of them will betray him. The disciples then begin to wonder which one of them he is talking about. The text says that “The disciple whom Jesus loved” (probably John) was sitting next to Jesus, so Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus who he was talking about. Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” He gave it to Judas, and the text says that as soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

After Judas leaves, Jesus declares that because he himself has been glorified, God is glorified; and when God is glorified, he himself is glorified in God. He warns them that he will be with them for only a little while longer, and they are not able to go where he is going. Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Peter asks, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replies, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asks, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!” Then Jesus answers, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” 

Chapter 14 

Jesus says to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

What Jesus is saying here reflects aspects of ancient marriage practices, where the wife moved in with the husband in an insula – a house added on to his parents’ house. Each son would add a few rooms to the house so that multiple generations, aunts, uncles, and cousins all lived in the same complex. Girls married at around 14 or 15 and the husband would have been in his mid-20s. His family would pay the “bride price” or dowry. The husband would go home to prepare a place for her — which may take months or years. During this time, she was one who was “bought with a price.” Paul’s similar words to the Christians were much like a groom’s words to his fiancĂ©e. The bride did not know when her groom would come for her. She just had to be ready. When the insula was finished, the groom and his friends would go to get his bride. They would gather in the courtyard, the man took the woman into their home and consummated the wedding. The best man would stand outside the door and announce when they were married (when consummation occurred). This would trigger a long celebration with family and friends. This is also where John the Baptist had come up with the parable of Jesus as the groom and himself as the best man, when John says that his “joy is made complete” at the “coming” of Jesus as the bridegroom.

Thomas pipes up and says, “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus is like, “Don’t you know me, Philip, after all this time?” He tells Philip that he has already seen the Father because he has seen the Son. Jesus also says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Jesus adds, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” But Jesus tells him that all who love him will know him, and he and the Father will come and make their home with them. He adds, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Around this point, Jesus gets up from the table and they all leave. 

Chapter 15

Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned… My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other… If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first… If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also… Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”

Jesus adds: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine.”

Monday, February 11, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to John 2-8

Readings for this week

Monday: John 2
Tuesday: John 3
Wednesday: John 4
Thursday: John 5
Friday: John 6
Saturday: John 7
Sunday: John 8

Introduction to John 2-8

Chapter 2 

The second chapter of John begins with the miracle of Jesus turning the water into wine at a marriage at Cana. He is attending a wedding with his disciples and the hosts run out of wine. His mother is also there and asks him to help. He seems annoyed that she would ask him for a miracle and says that it is not his time yet. Nevertheless, she still tells the servants to do whatever he asks, so he tells them to fill up the empty wine containers with water…which miraculously turns into wine. Afterwards, the headwaiter of the wedding tastes it and remarks to the groom that they have saved the best wine for last. John tells his audience that the water was there for the Jewish rite of purification. According to John, this was his first miracle (in Cana). According to the hypothesis of the Signs Gospel, this miracle was originally in that document. 

Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, the first of three in John, the others being John 7, where he goes to the Feast of Tabernacles, and the final Passover during which he is crucified. He enters the Temple courts and sees people selling livestock and exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market! John says his disciples remembered Psalm 69:9, "zeal for your house will consumes me," perhaps a bit of wordplay interposing the ideas of "demanding all my attention” and “leading to my destruction." Whether the disciples remembered this during the incident or afterward is not clear. 

He is asked to perform a "miraculous sign" to prove he has authority to expel the money changers. He replies, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The people believe he is talking about the official Temple building, but John states that Jesus meant his body, and that this is what his disciples came to believe after his resurrection. John then says that during the Passover Feast Jesus performed miraculous signs, but does not list them, that caused people to believe in him, but that he would "not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men." Perhaps John included this statement to show Jesus possesses a knowledge of people's hearts and minds, an attribute of God. 

John mentions the incident with the money changers as occurring at the start of Jesus' ministry, while the synoptic gospels have it occurring shortly before his crucifixion. Some scholars insist that this instead shows that Jesus fought with the money changers twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of his ministry. The incident in the synoptics occurs in Mark 11:12-19, Matthew 21:12-17, and Luke 19:45-48. Perhaps John has relocated the story to the beginning to show that Jesus' arrest was for the raising of Lazarus in John 11, not the incident in the Temple. 

Chapter 3 

The first part of the chapter begins with Nicodemus, said to be a member of the ruling council, secretly coming at night to talk with Jesus, whom he calls Rabbi. Jesus' "miraculous signs" have convinced him that Jesus is "...from God." Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again” to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus has known this his whole life, but he wants Jesus to take the answer in a different direction, so he’s like, “Born again? What’s that supposed to mean, anyway? How can I crawl back up into my mother’s birth canal?” 

And Jesus is like, “Don’t play stupid with me, Nicodemus. The case has always been that you must be ‘born again.’ That’s what I’m all about. The reason God sent me into the world was so that my death would bring new life to all the world. I’m going to be lifted up on a symbol of death, just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert – in order that you may experience new life, rebirth, resurrection.” Jesus says that God has sent his only son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save it. He says that the Light has come into the world, but that people have loved darkness more than light because the darkness obscures their evil deeds. But those who live by the truth will step into the light. 

In the second part of the chapter John contrasts Jesus' talk of being born again with a scene of Jesus baptizing. Jesus goes into Judea with his disciples and baptizes. John the Baptist is also baptizing people nearby, at Aenon. John's disciples tell John that Jesus is also baptizing people, more than John it seems. John replies that "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less." He finishes by saying "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." This passage is meant to show John's acceptance of Jesus' superiority as well as a further emphasis on belief in him as the path to eternal life. 

Chapter 4 

The Pharisees learn that Jesus is baptizing more people than John the Baptist, although it says that " fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples." Jesus learns this, leaves Judea, and returns to Galilee. Jesus then goes to the Samarian town of Sychar, and rests at Jacob's Well. His disciples go into the town to get food. While Jesus is waiting for them, a Samaritan woman comes to the well and Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman is surprised and says that Samaritans and Jews do not associate. Jesus responds that if she really knew who he was, she would have asked for the "water" that Jesus was offering. "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman asks for this "water" and Jesus tells her to go and find her husband and bring him back. The woman states she has no husband, and Jesus says that in fact she has had five husbands and is now living with a man who is not her husband. She then believes that he is a prophet. 

Jesus then teaches her about worshiping God, how it has been done in the past, at certain locations, and how it will be done properly in the future. "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." The woman then says that the messiah will come and explain all. Jesus declares that he is the messiah. 

His disciples return and the woman returns to town, tells people that Jesus knew all about her, and wonders if he is the messiah. The people decide to go and see for themselves. The disciples meanwhile try to give Jesus some food but he refuses, saying that his food " to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." The people from town come and Jesus talks with them and they convince him to stay for two days teaching. His words convince them that he is "...the Savior of the world." 

Like the story of Nathanael sitting beneath the fig tree, this story also brings to mind the life of Jacob. This story takes place at Jacob's Well, and like Jacob, Jesus offers the young woman he finds there water... though not of the same variety. Now the Samaritans were, of course, half-breeds, being the descendants of Jews who’d intermarried with non-Jews. They continued to honor God, but they were banned from the Temple because of their lineage. Therefore, they’d kept the Torah, but treated Mt. Gerizim, in Samaria, as the place of the true temple. When the Jews overthrew Seleucid rule and gained a brief period of independence under the Hasmonean dynasty, they destroyed the Samaritan temple — making relationships between the temples all the more hostile. Thus, the Samaritan woman initiated a discussion about the proper place to worship — a question that would have been of intense interest to most Jewish rabbis. God may only be worshiped in Jerusalem! 

Jesus declares that in the new age, it will no longer be about worshiping in a particular place. Worship won’t be a matter of geography. Rather, the true test of worship will be whether it’s “in spirit and truth.”

Jesus then travels back to Galilee where the people welcome him. He goes to Canaan where a royal official asks him to heal his sick son. Jesus seems annoyed because people only seem to believe in him if he performs miracles. Nevertheless, Jesus says the boy will be healed. The official goes back home to find his boy well again. According to John, this is Jesus' second miracle (after Marriage in Cana).

Chapter 5

Jesus goes to Jerusalem for a feast. At the Pool of Bethesda he sees a paralyzed man. The ruins of the Pool of Bethesda are still standing in Jerusalem. Later editions of John’s Gospel state that an angel of God would come and stir up the water of the pool on occasion, and that the bubbling water had the power to heal people. This is why the paralyzed man was there in the first place. Jesus tells the man to pick up his mat and walk. This takes place on the Sabbath, and Jewish religious leaders see the man carrying his mat and tell him this is against the law. He tells them the man who healed him told him to do so, and they ask who that was. He tries to point out Jesus, but he has slipped away into the crowd. Jesus comes to him later and tells him, "Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." The man then tells the Jewish religious leaders it was Jesus who healed him.

People begin to persecute Jesus because he is working on the Sabbath and comparing himself to God. Jesus responds that his power comes from his Father, and that he has been given the power to judge men from the Father. This power is granted to the Son because he is the Son of Man, presumably meaning that because Jesus is fully human he knows all that is to be known about men and so can accurately judge them. He then speaks of the future when the dead will rise and the righteous will be given life and the evil condemned. 

Jesus then talks of John's testimony about him. He also says that people study the scriptures hoping for eternal life, but that the scriptures speak of him, and people still refuse to come to him for life. People accept people who preach in their own name but not in one who comes in the name of the Father. "How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?"

He then speaks of Moses as the accuser of humanity. "But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?"

These teachings of Jesus are almost only found in John. In the Synoptic Gospels Jesus only speaks of himself as the Messiah in such a straight forward way at the very end, shortly before his death. All this occurs in Jerusalem, whereas the Synoptic Gospels have very little of Jesus' teachings occurring in Jerusalem and then only before his death.

Chapter 6

At the beginning of this story, John mentions that the Jewish Passover Festival would soon take place. Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee, but the crowds follow him around the lake because he had previously healed them. Jesus and his disciples go up on the mountainside and Jesus asks Philip for suggestions on where to buy bread to feed all these people. Philip says, “It would take half a year’s wages to pay for everyone to just get a bite!” Andrew’s like, “Here’s a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but what good will that do?” Jesus has the crowd sit down on the grass and he gives thanks and distributes what food they have to the crowd. By the end of the meal, the whole crowd of over 5,000 people has had enough to eat and the disciples pick up twelve basketfuls of leftovers. After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” The Prophet refers to the promise Moses had made that another person like himself would arise to lead Israel. Jesus knows that the crowd is about to declare him King of Israel and start a revolution, so he runs off and hides in the mountains.

That night, the disciples get back in their boat and cross back over the lake without Jesus. But the wind starts blowing hard and the water gets very rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

The next day when the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into some boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus says, “You’re looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Don’t work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 

They then ask Jesus for a sign, and they hint not so subtly that they would prefer another bread miracle… like Moses did with the manna in the desert. Jesus said to them, “It wasn’t Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." He adds, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” 

Then the Jews get cranky and they say, “How can this guy say he came from heaven? We know who his parents are!” Jesus tells them to stop grumbling, and says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” But this made the Jews even angrier, and they were like, “What’s this cannibalism nonsense he’s blabbing about?” 

Jesus declares that everyone who doesn’t eat his flesh and drink his blood is dead. So many of Jesus’ disciples were offended by this that they stopped following him and left. Jesus then turns to the twelve disciples and asks them if they want to leave too. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

Chapter 7

After this, Jesus hangs around in Galilee because he wants to avoid the Jewish elders in Judea who wanted to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him. But Jesus tells them that his time hasn’t come yet, and they go on up without him. After they leave, Jesus actually does go up for the festival, but he does so in secret, and he listens to all the rumors that the crowds are whispering about him there – some people say he’s a good man, and other people say he’s a liar. Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach.

The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." He then accuses them of breaking the law Moses gave them by trying to kill him. They accuse him of being demon-possessed, and are like, “Who do you think is trying to kill you?” Jesus reminds them of how shocked they were the last time he performed a miracle there because he had done it on the Sabbath. He then points out that they care more about making sure they’re boys get circumcised than they do about the healing of a cripple… even though both events took place on the Sabbath. And Jesus is like, “How is circumcision better than healing a whole person?” The elders ignore him, so the people begin to wonder if the elders are actually considering that Jesus might be the Messiah after all. But they are also confused because they believe that when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from… and they know where Jesus is from.

Jesus then starts shouting in the Temple courts, “Yes! You know me! And you know where I’m from! I’m not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true! You don’t know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me!” At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Still, many in the crowd believed in him, and they said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?” The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him, so they sent temple guards to arrest him. Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” The people were confused by this and were like, “Where’s he going? Is he going to go teach the Greeks now?” 

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. The crowd was divided – some people thought he was the Prophet, some thought he was the Messiah, and others thought he was a fraud and wanted him arrested. Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

Chapter 8

In your Bible, when you come to chapter 8 in the Book of John, you’ll probably see a special note at the beginning. This is because the translators want you to know that the earliest known manuscripts of John’s gospel as well as many other ancient witnesses did not originally contain John 7:53—8:11 – the story of the woman caught in adultery. This story was a late addition to the Gospel. It was likely a part of the early church’s oral tradition about Jesus that wasn’t committed to writing until after all four gospels were written. But the story was just too good not to include in one of the gospels so they decided to add it in. Some churches began adding it as special bonus material at the very end of both Luke’s and John’s Gospels as a sort of appendix. Other churches included it between the stories of the fig tree and the last supper in Luke’s Gospel. But eventually the church as a whole landed on including it right at the beginning of John chapter 8.

Jesus goes to the Temple early in the morning to teach, and after he arrives, the Torah-teachers and the Pharisees bring to him a woman that they caught in the act of adultery. Note that they didn’t bother to bring the man as well. They remind Jesus that Moses commanded that such a woman be stoned to death, and they demand Jesus give his opinion. 

Jesus’ first response when the woman was brought to him was to bend over and write with his finger in the dust. He continued doing this, even as they questioned him. Which begs another question –what did he write? However, it is the very act of writing in the dust itself that is the point here… because it brings to mind the words of the prophet Jeremiah: 

Which begins…

"I the LORD search the heart
and examine the mind,
to reward a man according to his conduct,
according to what his deeds deserve.
Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay
is the man who gains riches by unjust means.
When his life is half gone, they will desert him,
and in the end he will prove to be a fool." 

And the passage ends with…

"A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning,
is the place of our sanctuary.
O LORD, the hope of Israel,
all who forsake you will be put to shame.
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust
because they have forsaken the LORD,
the spring of living water."

So, from the verses surrounding the phrase “written in the dust” what can we conclude?

Well, we don’t know for sure what Jesus wrote, but based on the reference to Jeremiah, some scholars believe that Jesus was writing down the names of the people standing around him. But even if he wasn’t, the simple act of writing in the dust would have called the Jeremiah passage to their minds.

And what does Jeremiah say is the sin of those who have turned from God?

He says it is “the man who gains riches by unjust means.” 

And so, after writing in the dust, Jesus tells the men: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her…” Which in the context of stoning someone, would be, “If any one of you is without this specific sin…”

But which sin is Jesus referring to? 

Possibly the sin of injustice – which is what Jesus was referencing when he wrote in the dust. 

However, it may also be the sin of adultery – since it is reasonable to assume that the men who caught her in the act were somehow complicit in her crime. If she was a prostitute, what were they doing spying on her? Also, why did they choose only to prosecute the woman and not the man as well? What kind of justice is that? Unless, of course, they themselves were engaged in the soliciting… 

Again, when someone was stoned, the two witnesses who saw the sin were the ones who were traditionally supposed to push the sinner off the cliff before everyone else dropped rocks on them. How would they have witnessed this secret sin if they themselves were not somehow participating, either actively engaged or as some sort of peep-show?

At this point, the men begin to slowly slip away – the oldest and supposedly the wisest leaving first, followed by the youngest. And then, when Jesus is alone with the woman, he gives her his ruling, as well. Without any witnesses as accusers, she had no one to condemn her. And so, Jesus sent her away, telling her not to sin any more.

Later Jesus speaks to the people in the temple near where people put their offerings, and he says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” When Jesus says he is the Light of the World, he referring back to passage from Isaiah the Prophet, which says: “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

What Jesus is doing here is claiming himself to be “Israel.” Israel had been charged by God with the task of being the light to the nations, but as we know from Israel’s history they more than often failed miserably at doing this. So Jesus is essentially saying, “I am the true Israelite. I can fulfill the role God gave to Israel to be a light to the rest of the world, and to show the world what God is truly like.” And so Jesus declares that those who follow him, rather than following the corrupt Pharisees, will be able to walk in the light.

And the Pharisees challenge his testimony, claiming he is his own witness. And Jesus says even if he is his own witness, that’s not a problem because his father whom they claim to know but obviously don’t is the one who sent him. And he says, “In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 

Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” And the text says, “no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.” The Pharisees had previously given orders to the Temple guards to go arrest Jesus, but even the guards were so amazed by his teachings that they refused to do so. The people hung on his every words.

Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This makes the Jews wonder if Jesus is threatening to commit suicide. So he continues, “You are from below; I am from above. And I told you before you will die in your sins if you do not believe in me.” “Who are you?” they asked. And Jesus says, “I’ve been telling you all along! I speak to the world the words of the one who sent me, but I don’t have any good words for you… They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” And John tells us that even as he spoke, many believed in him. 

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But they then suddenly become offended by what Jesus is saying, believing he is making a mean slavery joke about them. And they’re like, “Set free from what? We’ve never been slaves! We’re Abraham’s children!” Jesus replied, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”

The people, and especially the Pharisees, recognized that Jesus taught with great authority, but his words of truth were offensive to them, because he was calling them out on their own shortcomings and sinful choices. Jesus, being the true Light, has exposed the darkness in their hearts. And this makes them mad. In this light, we can see the truth. The truth is that they were not truly obedient to God the Father as Jesus was. And Jesus tells them that they have been listening to another father – the father of lies. And they say, “Abraham is our father!” And Jesus responds: “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you’re looking for a way to kill me... Abraham didn’t do stuff like that. No. You act like your true father.” But this they find even more offensive and so they start shouting, “How dare you call us bastards! The only Father we have is God himself!” Then Jesus says to them: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. Do you not get what I’m saying? You belong to your father, the devil, and all you want to do his to please him. He was a murderer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth… you don’t believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? But if I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? …The reason you can’t hear God is because you don’t belong to him.” 

They then call Jesus a demon-possessed Samaritan. See, because their hearts were hard they couldn’t respond well to these hard teachings that Jesus was offering to them. Instead, they show the true nature of their hearts, by responding to the truth of Jesus with lies and slander and insults. And Jesus says: “I’m not possessed by a demon. I simply honor my Father… and you dishonor me. I’m not seeking glory for myself… but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. I tell you the absolute truth, whoever obeys my word will never see death!” At this they exclaimed: “Now we know that you’re demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death! Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” And they said to him, “You’re not even fifty years old… and you claim to have seen Abraham!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” That did it—pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple.

It is at this point in the conversation – more of an argument really – that Jesus makes one of his seven famous “I am” declarations that appear in John’s Gospel. Since the expression "I am" recalls the name of God, who is the "I AM Who I AM" (see Exodus 3:14), these seven “I am” declarations emphasize that Jesus is God's Word in the flesh. Also, the fact that John uses seven of them (John likes the number seven a lot; e.g. the seven signs of Jesus, the seven titles/names of Jesus, etc.) further emphasizes that Jesus is the Son of God, as the number seven was associated in that culture as being tied to God and his perfection, holiness, and his absolute and complete nature.