Friday, February 23, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #2 (1.19-5.47)

JohnWith this post we begin reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. The Gospel of John portrays Jesus’ ministry as a progressive revealing of the glory of the Divine Son of Man and Son of God in the words and acts of Jesus of Nazareth. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

This glory of Jesus as the Divine Son of God begins to be revealed in the first few chapters of the Gospel. The first witness to Jesus' glory is John the Baptist. He testifies to the crowd and delegation from Jerusalem that he saw the Spirit descend and rest on Jesus. Jesus is the pre-existent Coming One, the Son of God, Son of Man, and Lamb of God. John directs his disciples toward Jesus, which is what a true humble disciple of Jesus should do. Andrew and Philip typify good disciples who stay in the presence of Jesus and direct others to Him. The conclusion of chapter 1 (v.51) is critical to the message of the book. Jesus fulfills what Israel (Jacob) was supposed to do. Jesus will connect heaven and earth and be the One who will provide God's covenant blessing to all the world. The key is to hear Him and stay in His presence.

John the Baptist is true to his task, for he is testifying to the light (cf. 1:7). Even when he is asked to testify concerning himself he points to Jesus. Thus he is a model of humility, a key characteristic of discipleship in this Gospel. So the Baptist himself is a lamp (5:35), both shining on Christ and exposing the ignorance of the opponents. We find in him a powerful example of humility, single-mindedness and witness. John 1.19-34, 66

These disciples, who will shortly be so full of words, opinions and activity, are characterized at the outset by a desire for the presence of Jesus more than for answers to questions. Their immaturity will become evident immediately, but the crucial issue in discipleship is not whether we are mature but whether we desire to come and see and then abide in the divine presence, the only source of eternal life and growth in grace and truth. John 1.35-51, 72

Chapter 2 begins John's account of how Jesus revealed His Divine glory in action. At Cana, Jesus shows that He is the one who brings in the "new wine" of the coming kingdom, which is pictured in the OT as a wedding banquet. Jesus reveals God's gracious generosity in the over-abundance of wine provided. In the confrontation with the Jewish leadership in the temple, Jesus reveals His body as the "new temple," the place where God and people can come together in relationship. The confrontation also prefigures the opposition that will result in his sacrificial death which makes this relationship possible. Jesus is working on His Father's timetable and plan to show God's glory to the world, which the disciples will only understand after the resurrection and ascension.

The glory is also evident in the graciousness of this event, as the prologue has prepared us to notice (1:14). In response to a humble request Jesus provides wine in abundance, over 100 gallons. Here is a free, full, extravagant outpouring, and it is precisely the Son of God’s gratuitous, gracious generosity that is the glory revealed in this sign. John 2.1-11, 80

The death of the Son of God in Jerusalem at the instigation of these Jewish opponents during a later Passover is already referred to here in the opponent’s first provocation at this earlier Passover in Jerusalem. By including this event at the outset of the story and bringing out the themes we have noted, John shows the glory of the cross shining through Jesus’ life from the start. The divine gracious love is crucial to Jesus’ life, and it is at the heart of this story, both in the reference to his death and in his gracious teaching of those who will become his opponents. John 2.12-22, 85

The events in Cana made it clear that Jesus only takes his cues from his Father. In this sense Jesus does not entrust himself to anyone. He is present to all with God’s love, but he is also detached from all in his attachment to God. John 2.23-25, 86

In John 3 Jesus reveals His glory to two people who have been insiders, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and the disciples of John, but neither really understand. Nicodemus confuses physical and spiritual truths. Jesus is saying that, just as one has a physical birth, one must also have a spiritual birth (from above) to have eternal life. Jesus is the One who comes from above, reveals God's love through the cross and is the only one who can provide this eternal life to the one who trusts in Him. John's disciples also fail to understand this and are jealous of Jesus' popularity. John sets them straight that Jesus is superior because He came from above, while John is just an earthly man. The big point is that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God who ministers the Spirit of God to the world. Thus, response to Jesus determines eternal life and judgment. The necessary response is that of John. We must humbly trust and follow Jesus and find our joy in relationship to Him.

The lifting up of the Son of Man points us to the center of his revelation, the cross. The cross itself is a heavenly thing for it reveals the life of heaven that Jesus has come to offer us (3:15). Since God is love (1 Jn 4:8) and love is the laying down of one’s life (1 Jn 3:16), it is precisely in the cross that we see God most clearly. Jesus humbles himself to the point of crucifixion because he is God, not despite it. That God is love is the good news—this revelation is the gospel.  John 3.1-21, 91

John’s joy is in fulfilling God’s will for his life—a model of Christian discipleship. He raises the question for all who would be disciples of Jesus, Where do we find our joy? It is easy to get distracted by the pleasurable blessings of this life. We should be thankful and receive gratefully God’s blessings, but our joy’s deepest foundation is God in himself. John 3.22-36, 97–98

In John 4, Jesus reveals His glory to two people who would have been considered outsiders, a Samaritan woman and a Herodian official. These two have the exemplary faith response that neither Nicodemus nor John's disciples display. The faith of the Samaritan woman and the servant of Herod is contrasted with the faith of the Galileans who would only believe in the signs Jesus did. The Samaritan woman, though confused at first, believed that Jesus was who He said He was and brought her village to Him. The servant believed a somewhat ambiguous word of Jesus and received healing for His Son. The sign did not come until after He believed. The big point is that salvation does not come to someone because of their ethnic origin or superficial knowledge, but because they believe that Jesus reveals the loving God of heaven and His word reveals truth and provides spiritual life. This is worship "in spirit and truth."

To worship in spirit and truth means to worship as one who is spiritually alive, living in the new reality Jesus offers, referred to here as the gift of God, which is living water. For behind the earthly things are the heavenly things, that is, God himself (cf. 3:12). Worshiping in spirit is connected to the fact that God is spirit (4:24). And worshiping in truth is connected with Jesus, the Messiah who explains everything (4:25–26)...So worshiping in spirit and truth is related to the very character of God and the identity of Christ. It is to worship in union with the Father, who is spirit, and according to the revelation of the Son, who is the truth. Indeed, it is to be taken into union with God through the Spirit. John 4.1-42, 106–107

Faith is belief that God is who and what Jesus reveals him to be, the loving Father, and it is trust in this God. This official seems to have something of this faith. John 4.43-54, 115

This section climaxes in John 5 with Jesus' healing of a man on the Sabbath in Jerusalem. Jesus' defense of His authority to do so, that he is "One with the Father," sets the theme of what John is trying to show in the rest of the Gospel. Jesus tells the invalid to carry his mat, which was forbidden on the Sabbath. Jesus claims the right to do so because God is allowed to do the work of "carrying the universe" and judging and making alive, thus making himself equal with God. He does this in himself (5.26), making himself more than just an agent of God. He is the Creator God who gives life and manages all creation. To receive Jesus is now the only way to receive the Father. Jesus closes his defense by calling the Father as a witness to his deity. The Father witnessed to Jesus' identity through John the Baptist, Jesus' works (miracle) and words and through the Old Testament. The ball is now in the court of Jesus' audience. Would they respond to the witness and receive life from God or reject it and bring judgment on themselves. 

Thus Jesus is healing one who is totally unworthy, and in doing so he reveals God’s graciousness. Here we have revealed God’s love, which embraces even one who betrays him. The light of God’s glory is shining at its brightest in this manifestation of his love for his enemies. John 5.1-15, 123–124

The Father has put everything into the Son’s hands (3:35), including the most fundamental realities of human existence, the giving of life and judgment. These two activities are at the heart of everything Jesus does in this Gospel, and these verses spell out his right to such responsibility and power. John 5.16-30, 129

In Jesus’ reference to this fourth witness we have the clearest expression of the Christian view of the Old Testament (5:39). This Christ-centered understanding of the Scriptures is affirmed throughout the New Testament and throughout the history of the church. Jesus is the Word, the point of reference for all the words of Scripture. The importance of the Scripture is here affirmed, but Scripture is presented as a means to an end, as a witness to Jesus the Christ. John 5.31-47, 138

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