Sunday, February 08, 2015

Reading Through the Gospel of John #2 (5-12)

John ChartI am continuing to read through the Gospel of John accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today,edited by John Stott. The 4th volume is entitled The Message of John: Here Is Your King!, by Bruce Milne (as always his quotes are in blue font below). The Gospel of John is a more reflective, thematically organized (not chronological except in the Passion section) treatment of the life of Christ. Each time I read John I am more impressed with the artistry of the structure and poetic nature of the book. John uses the structure, as well as the content of the words, to get across his message. This section concludes the large section (1.19-12.50) about Jesus’ public ministry in which John confirms through Jesus’ teaching and seven sign miracles that Jesus is the only God, the Creator of everything, who is the ultimate revelation of God. The only proper response (and John shows how rare this response is) is to become a committed follower of Jesus. (Discussion of chapters 1-4 is in the previous post)

Jesus teaching in relation to his third sign shows that he fulfills the Sabbath to bring in the kingdom and give rest to believers and judgment to unbelievers. His healing of the paralyzed man on the Sabbath shows that Jesus fulfills purpose of the Sabbath by bringing rest from sin and its effects. He says that he has authority over the Sabbath because He is doing the work of the Father and shares the authority of the Father to grant life to believers and condemn unbelievers. This is validated as true by the witnesses that validate Jesus’ kingdom authority: John the Baptist, the Father (miracles), and the scriptures (Moses). So he should be believed. 5.1-47

Chiastic Structure of John 1-12Jesus is asserting that his ‘work’ of healing, which led to a breach of their oral tradition, was a work of mercy which imitated the gracious Sabbath work of God. Implicit in the claim is a self-consciousness of the most audacious and revolutionary kind. Jesus is claiming a unique identity with the Father, a fact not lost on his hearers (18), which provokes their hardening commitment to eliminate him. 5.1-15, 97

Jesus concedes that the Jewish leaders diligently study the sacred writings (39), but their study is unfruitful because the student is not looking for Christ in the Scripture. It is not the Scriptures as such, or mastery of them at the literary level, which will give eternal life (39). The Son alone gives life, but he is met in the Scriptures. 5.38-40, 101.

In chapter 6 John shows that Jesus fulfills the Passover by inaugurating a new “chosen nation” for whom he can meet every need and defeat all opposition and so response to Jesus determines eternal destiny. His feeding of the 5000 shows that he is the “new Moses” who will lead the new nation and supply its every need. His walking on the water shows that He has all power and can defeat all enemies of the inaugurated kingdom. Jesus' then identifies himself as the “bread of life” who provides all the resources needed for eternal kingdom life, given by the Father, which must be received by faith to be effective. However, The response of most people to reject Jesus shows that they have not been chosen or enabled to believe by the Holy Spirit in contrast to the “eleven” that follow Jesus. 6.1-71

Jesus regularly tests his people. We cannot simply ‘amble along’ with Jesus, for he is concerned more for our growth than for our comfort. To walk with Jesus means climbing... He will take us, break us as need be (Mk. 6:41), and offer us to the Father as in his hands the miracle is repeated, the resource multiplied, and a multitude fed.
The key, beyond our believing in God’s ability and will to use us, lies in the wholeheartedness of our surrender to him
. 6.1-15, 106–107.

The last word does not lie with the world, no matter how threatening its manifestations. Jesus still comes walking upon the waves, and in a recovered experience of his presence, the church, for all its internal failings, may yet sweep upon its way, and at the last be carried by its triumphant Lord on to that ‘eternal shore’ for which we are destined.  6.16-24, 109.

His broken body, and blood poured out, on the cross, need to be personally appropriated in an act of faith in Jesus which is akin to the personal act of eating food (53–57). This will produce a communion between Christ and his believing disciple parallel to the communion of Father and Son, which underlies the salvation that the Son will offer, the eternal life which will triumph over death (54, 58). 6.52-59, 113.

Being a true believer will mean following him loyally when his truth is hard to understand and even harder to apply, when his claims seem largely contradicted by tangible realities, and when the multitudes turn away from him and we find ourselves part of a small and ostracized minority. 6.60-71, 115.

Jesus fulfills the Feast of Tabernacles as the “light” (shekinah presence of God) to which people must respond with the open eyes of belief or reject with blind eyes. Chapter 7 contains Jesus' initial teaching at the feast. The response to Jesus is mixed, as his brothers and the Jewish leadership typify unbelief though some believe, as Jesus waits for the time of full revelation of who He is. He claims that the Law of circumcision supports His authority to heal on the Sabbath because it is a miraculous healing of the whole man and responds to unbelief by claiming that the Father sent Him. Jesus then claims to fulfill the water ceremony by his promised provision of the Spirit which is also met with a mixed response, including hostile rejection by the Pharisees.  7.1-9.41

Hunger for spectacular signs is the enemy of real faith, since it leaves the fallen, self-centred heart untouched and unrebuked.  7.1-13, 117.

(Jesus') action was in fullest accord with the healing and redeeming purposes which lie at the heart of the old covenant. Thus, far from being the enemy of Judaism and the law, Jesus is, in fact, the one in whom the historic purpose of Judaism is affirmed by being fulfilled. 7.19-36, 119.

It is deeply moving to visualize the Saviour standing in the temple among the crowds of pilgrims, probably in the proximity of the altar where the water from the Pool of Siloam was poured each morning, calling on all who would to come to him and to receive the life-giving blessing of the Spirit. 7.37-39, 120.

The Spirit is bound in the closest possible way to Jesus. The Spirit is given in the context of the glorifying of Jesus, and it is ever so. The heart to which the Spirit is largely given is not the heart that hungers for personal manifestations of power or Holy Ghost ego trips, but the one which yearns and thirsts and pleads for the glorifying of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7.40-52, 123.

External textual evidence and literary evidence indicate that the incident with the adulterous woman (John 7.53-8.11) is not part of the original text of the Gospel of John. Thematically and literarily it belongs better in the Gospel of Luke. However, Milne sees it as the chiastic crux of the feast cycle. I would not agree with that, but would see the story as portraying a real act of Jesus from which we can learn about God's grace.

Jesus is confronting us, however, with the need for consistency in passing judgment. The sword of judgment is double-edged. In judging others we judge ourselves, and an unwillingness to pronounce judgment on ourselves undercuts our right to pronounce it on others...God’s call to all of us, all of the time, is to live holy, godly lives. Any deviation from that should concern us, as much in ourselves as in others. 8.1-11, 125.

Continuing his teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus claims to be the “light of the world,” the perfect revelation of God the Father, sent from the Father, which will be validated by his crucifixion and resurrection. He claims that his teaching is ultimate truth and adherence to this truth determines who will be the true inheritors of Abraham’s covenant. The response of unbelievers proves they are not of God through their murderous actions while obedience to god determines who the real followers of God are.The Jewish response is to claim that Jesus is demonic, but he reasserts his claim to be from God and to pre-date Abraham 8.12-30

The secret in Jesus’ case was his total submission to the Father’s will—I always do what pleases him (29). Authority is the child of obedience. When we reflect a like submission we shall be able to testify as he did, The one who sent me is with me (29), and others will know that it is so, and be moved, as some were at the feast, to put their faith in him (Jesus) (30). John 8.12-30, 131.

This ‘free’ person is a myth who never existed and who never will. We are radically, incurably and eternally dependent beings who were made to serve. Our freedom is not the freedom to do as we want, but the freedom from being controlled by our fallen hearts to do as God wants. 8.31-47, 134.

To a generation conscious of the brevity of life, and in a culture where time is replacing money as the commodity of highest value, we feel constantly threatened by time’s flow. It runs through our fingers and escapes us no matter how frantically we try to fill it and hold it back. But Christ has all time in his hands; and as we rest our lives in him our fragile, ephemeral consciousness finds meaning and permanence. 8.48-59, 136.

There is almost nothing we will cling to with greater vehemence than the props by which we bolster our self-image. (“No amount of contrary evidence seems to disturb humanity’s good opinion of itself.” Reinhold Niebuhr), 135.

The Healing of the man born blind is the sign that validates Jesus' teaching at the Feast of Tabernacles and shows that Jesus has the power to remove spiritual blindness so that people can believe in God and perceive truth. It is proof that he is the “light of the world,” but even though the Pharisees investigation validates the miracle, they refuse to believe in Jesus. The blind man responds to Jesus in faith, proving that he has spiritual sight, while the Pharisees continue in unbelief proving that they are spiritually blind.  9.1-41

There is a dimension in suffering which defies all ‘explanation’. In a fallen world, exhaustive explanations are in principle not available. The nearest we come to plumbing the mystery is at the cross, and even there a ‘why?’ could not be suppressed (Mt. 27:46). ‘We can “make sense” of a dark world only by believing in the one who came to be the “light of the world”.’ 9, 138.

(The Pharisees) are concerned with the finer points of the law and what constituted a breach of it. The man is concerned with the overwhelming reality of his healing. Now he can see, life has been totally transformed. The encounter at this point is a classical expression of the clash between the theoretical and the experiential worlds; not for the first or last time the experiential wins hands down. John 9, 141.

Whenever we find ourselves valuing the letter of God’s law above its spirit; whenever we find ourselves unable to rejoice in the saving and renewing of lives simply because the instrument used was not someone who dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s of our theological group; whenever we lose the daily, hourly sense of joy in the grace of God by which alone we know him and live before him, then we need to beware. ‘Lord, is it I?’ The only security against Pharisaism is grace. John 9, 142

Jesus uses a shepherd illustration to claim that he is the one who comes from the Father and will fulfill the Feast of Dedication by providing entrance into and the safety and caring of the kingdom to a mixed response. Jesus fulfills image of God as Shepherd by being the Divine king who provides safety and security to all believers who recognize and follow Him and the door of entrance into life in the kingdom. Jesus will fulfill the Feast of Dedication by providing final deliverance into the Kingdom and attributes Jewish unbelief to their ungodly nature and reiterates his claim to be one with the Father. He responds to their opposition by saying that if people are made in the image of God, how much more does he have the right to claim to be God as proven by his miracles. The Conclusion: Jesus miracles show that John the Baptist was right about Jesus!  10.1-42

Leadership, whether in political life, industry, business, or community, follows one of these two routes. Either it is directed to the self-life of the leader, or it is directed selflessly for the good of those who are led. The former is the way of the world, which leads to death; the latter is the way of Jesus, which leads to life. 10.11-15, 149.

But, like the election of Jesus, our election is always to service and sacrifice (cf. Is. 42:1, 6f.). To receive his grace is to be committed to the sharing of the message of that grace with all the world. The chosen are the commissioned. 10.24-30, 154.

John now records the ultimate public sign (resurrection of Lazarus) to show that Jesus is the Divine bringer of kingdom resurrection and life with the result that the Jewish leadership begins a plot to kill him. Jesus explains to the disciples that he is going to Bethany to raise Lazarus so that they would believe and God would be glorified. He explains to Martha that he is the Divine bringer of resurrection and life. He meets Mary at the tomb and mourns for Lazarus. He then raises Lazarus from the dead as a sign to everyone there that He is the Divine One sent from the Father. The Jewish leadership responds to the miracle by plotting to kill Jesus. 11.1-57

This story teaches us two things about God’s delays. The first is that they are inevitable. Since we are mere finite creatures, we are necessarily largely unaware of the circumstances which surround the events taking place in our lives and those of others, as well as the consequences which result from them. Only God is omniscient...The second point about God’s delays is that they are not final. He will come, in his own time and way. No doubt that will frequently be later than we would have chosen. 11.1-17, 160.

In Mary’s grief he sees and feels the misery of the whole race and burns with rage against the oppressor of men. It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he had come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but that is incidental—his soul is held by rage, and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words, “as a champion who prepares for conflict”.’ 11.17-37, 165–166.

Death is inevitable for all of us, but Christ has won the victory over death, and shares that victory with all who repent and believe in him as their Saviour and Lord. To respond to Christ’s invitation is to surrender our independence. But to ‘die’ in this sense is to begin to live. As for Jesus, so for us, death leads to resurrection. 11.38-44, 172.

John 12 OutlineJesus is presented to the nation as the King of Israel, Savior of the world, and the Son sent from God who glorifies the Father through his perfect obedience to die as the Passover lamb, to whom the proper response is full commitment to his program in order to share in his glory. Mary represents the exemplary response of total passionate commitment to Jesus in contrast to Judas’ hypocritical response. Jesus is presented as King who will bring in the “new age” but the response of the people, and even Jesus' disciples, is inadequate belief. The crowd’s belief is inadequate because their spiritual blindness keeps them from understanding who Jesus really is, as predicted in Isaiah. The Greeks response is good, but too early because Jesus has not yet been glorified through death and resurrection but this Gentile mission will be successful. The main point: The right response to Jesus is belief (total commitment to Jesus) and obedience which is the basis by which God will judge everyone. 12.1-50

The cross must control every aspect of the disciple’s life, including alms-giving. Jesus is not presenting us with the competing loyalties of ‘spiritual’ versus ‘material’ giving. It is a prime case of both/and, rather than either/or, with each at the proper occasion, and all in the light of the cross...Our giving to the poor, or for the preaching of the gospel, is finally sterile if motivated in either case from a desire to attain merit before God. What Jesus brings is the radically new motivation of gratitude. 12.1-11, 177–178.

The coming of the King therefore produces the conflict of the kingdoms; light confronts darkness, life encounters death. For the coming of the King means the usurping of our rebel kingdoms, and the denial of our sinful independence. In its starkest terms, it means that we face death before we can know life. John 12.12-19, 182.

Faith in Jesus involves dying to all the blandishments and attractions of this passing world order. To follow Jesus as Lord and King means ceasing to follow the lords and kings of the world. Milne, John 12.25, 187.

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