Friday, March 09, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #4 (9-12)

JohnIn this post we continue reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre. In Chapters 5-8 John has shown Jesus to be the fulfillment of the Torah (5) and the Jewish temple and feasts (6-8). He is the Light of the World who brings the ultimate revelation of God to his creation and chapters 9-11 present two more spectacular miracles that illustrate this. Jesus brings division between His followers and the official Judaism of his day and he begins to gather his followers into a new "flock" that is characterized by allegiance to Jesus. 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.

In chapter 9, Jesus illustrates and demonstrates that he is the Light of the World by healing a man with lifelong blindness. The OT prophesied this miracle as a sign of the New Covenant and the coming of the Messiah who remove both physical and spiritual blindness. Jesus uses clay, as God did in the creation of Adam, in the miracle to signify new creation and sends out the blind man to witness to what happened. The Pharisees reject the plain working of God in front of them and put the man out of the synagogue, showing their spiritual blindness. The separation between Jesus' followers and those of the Pharisees increases. 

Our sufferings are opportunities for God’s grace. If our suffering is indeed a punishment for sin, then it becomes an occasion for repentance and thus the manifestation of God’s grace as we are restored to fellowship with God. If our suffering is not a direct punishment for sin, then it is something God allows to happen in our lives, usually for reasons beyond our knowing, which nevertheless can help us die to self and find our true life in God. God does not allow anything to enter our lives that is not able to glorify him by drawing us into deeper intimacy with him and revealing his glory. John 9.1-23, 236–237

The Scriptures, in and of themselves, are not an infallible guide either, as the example of the Jewish opponents reveal. It depends on one’s interpretation. The Christian claim is that the Scriptures are an organic whole that make sense when interpreted in the light of Jesus the Christ under the guidance the Spirit has provided the church. The bottom line is that we need God to guide our understanding of both the Scripture and our experience. Once again we see the importance of humility and openness to God as a core attribute of true discipleship. John 9.24-34, 248

We need to realize our own utter poverty, blindness and need apart from Christ. We need to see with his eyes the desperate condition of all who have not been illumined by him, the light of the world. We need to consider before God whether there are ways we reject the evidence of our own experience because we have a faulty understanding of him and his ways. We need to consider before God whether we have God too figured out...we need Jesus to be our center of reference. John 9.35-41, 253–254

In chapter 10 Jesus reveals himself as God come to shepherd His people in a new community. He is qualified to do that because he has come from the Father as the full revelation of God's salvation and he will give his life and "take it up again" as the good shepherd to provide that salvation. The requirement to be part of that community is to "hear his voice" and respond by following him. The chapter ends Jesus’ public ministry with a very clear claim by Jesus to his shared Deity with the Father. John returns to his introductory idea that Jesus is one with the Creator who fulfills the Torah and brings the promised full salvation and revelation of God himself in human form. 

The Jewish leaders have rejected Jesus on the basis of their knowledge of God and his ways. They have expelled the man healed in chapter 9 from the people of God on the basis of his confession of Jesus. They believe they have consigned the former blind man to death, that is, to separation from God and his people. But Jesus has found him and incorporated him into his own company. John 10.1-10, 258

This new community is based in his death (10:15). The very pattern of life in this new community is that of life laid down for one another, a cruciform life. The possibility of such a life and the power for such a life come through the life of the Son of God poured out on the cross, thereby uniting God and mankind by taking away the sin of the world and revealing the glory of God. John 10.11-18, 263

Jesus does not claim to be Messiah in their understanding of that term, but all of his words and deeds have been those of the Messiah in truth. But the Jews were not expecting a messiah who shared in God’s divinity, and thus these opponents could not see his messiahship and were scandalized by his claims to equality with God. John 10.22-42, 271

In John 11 we see the climax of Jesus' miracle signs which point to Jesus as being the One who brings life and light. Jesus links the raising of Lazarus to the healing of the man born blind when he says that both happened to reveal God's glory. This ultimate sign done by Jesus shows that he is the one who will bring in the "age to come" with its great eschatological resurrection, judgment and an eternal life that begins in the present. Faith in Jesus is the key to being part of the people of God who experience eternal life now and in the incorruptible bodies of the future. Jesus is one who defeats death and sin and thus provides life.

In all that Jesus does we see the glory of God (1:14), for we see God’s love and life-giving power. Now, in the raising of Lazarus, we will have the most spectacular manifestation of this glory. God is the one who brings life to the dead out of his love for those in such need. This is the heart of the Gospel. John 11.1-16, 279

Jesus’ claim is mind-boggling. He says it is faith in him that brings one back to life at the resurrection at the last day. He is the ground of eschatological hope. But then he goes even further. “I am the life”: and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (v. 26). The life that comes through believing in Jesus is not interrupted by physical death...By taking humanity into Himself He has revealed the permanence of man’s individuality and being. But this permanence can be found only in union with Him. John 11.17-44, 286

Each aspect of the Gospel needs to be in place, or some deformed shape will emerge. The period of the New Testament saw the articulation of a variety of ways to express the Gospel, with the Holy Spirit guiding and protecting. The unity and diversity we now have in the canon provides a composite shape to the faith that is a guide to the truth of the Gospel—that is what “canon” means. John 11.45-54, 297

John 12 ends John's account of Jesus' public ministry. In this section we get a picture of what real and false disciples look like and a final summary of Jesus' teaching and a call to respond. Mary's extravagant anointing of Jesus for burial typifies the kind of worshiping disciple desired by God, while Judas' selfish money-loving attitude is condemned. The climax has come and God is about to be glorified through Jesus. The response to Jesus will determine one's judgment. Even when God speaks in the thunder only the true disciples understand. Though the crowd follows Jesus, they do not fully understand him. There are also others who believe him but will not follow him openly because they fear the opinions of others. These are also inadequate responses. The true disciple will believe Jesus and follow him in self-sacrificing love. This is the full revelation of God and also will reveal who his followers are. These are the ones who live out and will inherit eternal life.

The Good Shepherd is indeed gathering his flock from the whole world (10:16) in fulfillment of the prophecies of the universal messianic kingdom such as those found in Zechariah and Zephaniah. Jesus continues to form his community apart from the official structures of Judaism. John 12.1-19, 308

It is precisely the victory of the cross that enables the believer to hate his life in this world and keep it for eternal life (v. 25). Believers can claim the defeat of Satan at the cross, and they can effectually break his spell through union with Christ and, by God’s grace, through focusing attention on God and detaching attention from that which is not of God. As one is united to Christ one comes to share in his own life of sacrifice. John 12.20-36, 316

God’s sovereign action is never a violation of our moral responsibility, for such determinism would turn us into robots and preclude love and relationship. “The divine predestination works through human moral choices, for which men are morally responsible," as is made clear in the next section (12:47–48). But the human responsibility never violates the necessity of divine grace.  John 12.37-50, 323

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