Monday, March 19, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #6 (18-21)

JohnIn this post we conclude our reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre.Chapters 18-21 conclude John’s Gospel with an account of Jesus’ passion, resurrection and  commissioning of the disciples. God’s glory is revealed through the incarnate Jesus and will be revealed through the church which ministers Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  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.

Chapter 18 begins the final section of John and provides the climax of the Gospel as Jesus reveals the Father most completely in his self-sacrificial death and renewal of creation made possible through the victory of his resurrection. In the arrest of Jesus, John portrays Jesus as being in control of the situation, as his powerful word knocks the arresting force to the ground and protects his followers. Jesus clearly lays down his own life. John then moves to the trial before Annas. Again, Jesus boldly confronts Annas as though he were the one on trial. John emphasizes Caiaphas' statement that it is better to for Jesus to die on behalf of the nation. John also contrasts Jesus' testimony with that of Peter. Peter fails because he does not stay close to Jesus.

In the half-light, separated from Jesus, Peter encounters temptation for which he does not have the resources to resist. The only hope for any of us in the time of temptation is to remain close to Jesus. John 18.1-18, 432

Jesus has completed his witness by word. There remains only the climax of all his ministry as he witnesses to the Father through his death, resurrection and ascension. It is now up to those who have heard him to bear witness to him. Such remains the case today. His abiding presence remains with believers, but those who abide in him are to bear witness to him before the world. John 18.19-27, 433

Next Jesus is taken before Pilate for trial (18.28-19.16) This section is an elaborate chiasm in which Jesus' kingship is emphasized. In the center of the chiasm the Roman soldiers mockingly crown Jesus king and pay homage to him.

  A Outside (18:28–32) The Jews demand Jesus’ death
     B Inside (18:33–38a) Pilate questions Jesus about kingship
       C Outside (18:38b–40) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; Barabbas choice
          D Inside (19:1–3) Soldiers scourge Jesus
       C´ Outside (19:4–8) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; “Behold the man”
     B´ Inside (19:9–11) Pilate talks with Jesus about power
   A´ Outside (19:12–16a) The Jews obtain Jesus’ death 435

The point is that both the Jews and Gentiles reject the king who came from God and is there to bring God's kingdom from heaven to earth with truth and love. Ironically, that very rejection will be used by God to bring in his kingdom, defeat sin and death and the powers of evil, and gather the community of Jesus who will spread the kingdom throughout the world. Some of those who are part of the rejection will become members of the kingdom (Acts 2). Jesus' bold, but loving, behavior before the Jewish leadership and before Pilate demonstrates the kind of kingdom Jesus brings and provides the example for believers who will be persecuted.

Jesus says that he came into the world not to be king of the Jews, but to testify to the truth. This language makes obvious the contrast between his identity and mission on the one hand and the falsehood of his opponents on the other. “He is the king of Truth, and He manifests His royal power not by force, but by the witness He bears to the Truth.” The truth he refers to is the truth of God. John 18.28-40, 442

Pilate’s fear is quite justified. He will be held accountable to God for how he exercises his authority. His sin may not be as great as someone else’s, but he is in fact sinning. Furthermore, this indictment of Pilate implies something about Jesus’ own identity and role, for he is claiming to know God and God’s will. Indeed, Jesus himself is the point of reference for sin in that to reject him is sin (16:9) and to receive him is to obey God. John 19.1-16, 452

19.16 begins John's "amazingly brief" account of Jesus' crucifixion. John continues to emphasize the revelation of God's glory through Jesus' self-giving death on the cross. He is the king who brings in the kingdom through his self-sacrifice to take on the full human experience of sin, death and evil and defeat it on behalf of the world. He is the righteous sufferer who willingly gives up his own life and fulfills scripture. In his death, He creates a new community that will follow his self-giving example.  

Jesus was forming a new community around himself...This community is the fruit of his death, for it will be the locus of the divine life on earth. The divine life is characterized by love and therefore requires a community to express itself. The life of the community derives from Jesus’ own giving of himself, and in turn such self-giving is to typify the community itself. Jesus’ death is both a revelation of the love of God and an example of such self-giving love. Such love is only really possible when sin has been taken away, since the essence of sin is a false self-love that prevents one from sharing in the life of God, which is love. John 19.16-30, 461–462

Jesus has no ancestral tomb but rather has begun a new family of those born from above who will never die (11:26). John 19.31-42, 468

John 20 begins the account of Jesus' resurrection appearances which provide the climax to his revelation of God's glory. There are 5 encounters with the resurrected Christ that enlarge the disciples' understanding of who Jesus is and increase their faith. These real experiences of the risen Christ will provide the basis for the gospel and the future faith of those who will come to Christ. In the first scene, Mary Magdalene and two disciples come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away and the empty grave clothes. They know something significant has happened but they do not fully understand. When Mary comes back to the tomb she appears and speaks to her. She is the first one sent out as "a disciple to the disciples" to tell the good news of the resurrection. Jesus next appears to a group of the disciples and announces to them the "shalom" and joy of the salvation that has come. He "breathes" (an act of new creation) the Spirit on them, empowering his commissioning of them to witness to what has happened. Finally, he appears to Thomas who makes the climactic confession of Jesus as "my Lord and my God." This confession is the goal of the church's witness and was John's purpose in writing the Gospel. 

In his resurrection appearances Jesus continues to reveal the glory of God by manifesting the grace and love that characterize God. This love is seen in the gentleness, care and humility with which he deals with his disciples. This section contains a series of encounters with Christ that show him overcoming a variety of barriers to faith, including ignorance, grief, fear and doubt. John 20, 471

The message Jesus gives Mary shows the christological basis of the new relationship. “Because God is Jesus’ Father, he is also their Father; because he is Jesus’ God, he is also their God. They are taken up into the fellowship that unites Jesus and the Father.” Jesus is the point of contact between the disciples and the Father. The Father is the Father of the disciples in this new intimacy precisely because he is Jesus’ Father, for the disciples are now Jesus’ brothers. John 20.11-18, 477–478

Thomas confesses Jesus as God when he sees that the crucified one is alive. It is in the crucifixion that God himself is made known, for he is love, and love is the laying down of one’s life (1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). But God is also life. In John, this God is revealed perfectly in the death of the Son, but this death would be nothing without the life. When Thomas finds death and life juxtaposed in Jesus he realizes who the one standing before him really is. John 20.24-31, 485–486

The final chapter of the Gospel of John records an appearance of the risen Jesus to a group of disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus appears to them on the shore when they are in a boat fishing on the lake. They have caught nothing but Jesus tells them to cast their nets to the right of the boat and they get a huge catch of fish. Jesus then provides breakfast for them. It is again a picture of the abundance that Jesus provides and a reminder that they can do nothing without him. Jesus then talks with Peter to forgive and commission him. Jesus performs "painful, but necessary surgery" on Peter's pride to prepare him for the task of self-giving leadership that will model the character and actions of Jesus. The Gospel closes with a statement of the truth of the events related by the those who witnessed it. The glory of God has appeared on earth in human form in the person of Jesus Christ and this is truly good news to those who believe and commit themselves to him. 

Jesus now appears to another partial gathering of the group, an appearance that reveals the same key characteristics as were manifested throughout the ministry, namely his lordship, his servanthood, his character as gracious giver of abundance and his love. He has met his disciples at a point of failure and revealed himself as the awesome Lord of creation who cares for them. John 21.1-14, 493

Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd and now he commissions Peter to care for the flock that belongs to Jesus, for they are my lambs … my sheep. The community has already been established, and now Peter is given authority, though of a particular kind. The key qualification for this task, as this chapter indicates, is a love for Jesus that is characterized by humility, dependence and obedience. John 21.15-23, 496–497

Jesus is the very presence of God come into our midst. All authority has been given to him, and judgment is in his hands. He is quite strict regarding obedience, but he is full of mercy. He has revealed the Father, overcome the prince of this world and taken away the sin of the world. He also washed his disciples’ feet and served them breakfast. No human being has ever dreamed up such a God—we have a hard enough time remaining true to the witness he has left us through his servants, in particular, through John, the Beloved Disciple. John 21.24-25, 501

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