We are studying ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ the Gospel according to John in our Tuesday Morning Bible Seminar. Instead of “In the beginning was the Word,” we started appropriately at the end with chapters 20 and 21 because we’re in the Easter Season with the post-resurrection appearances. We then went to the beginning with Gospel John's awesome Prologue and the baptismal scenario where John the Baptist acclaims Jesus as “Lamb of God” and John’s disciples follow Jesus. Andrew is first, and to use a modern evangelical notion, “brings his brother Simon to Christ.” That’s the purpose of the gospels anyway, isn’t it.
Yesterday morning we finished chapter 2, where like a teenage boy who dreads being made the center of attention, Jesus expresses frustration with his adoring mother at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. “Motheeerrr!!!” then does as she hopes anyway, his first “sign” as he turns the water into wine. As the story has it, the wine he creates is perfectly divine, the best.
All four canonical gospels are fun to study, Mark my favorite, John a close second, maybe because it’s such a contrast to Mark and the other synoptics. Besides the immediately obvious such as Jesus’ long discourses in John, and that John opens with the Prologue of the Word before going to the baptismal scene, instead of with a nativity narrative as Luke and Matthew do, John’s post-resurrection memories are different. And of course, there’s “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” who is not mentioned in the synoptics, and the raising of Lazarus (Lord, he whom you love is ill). Driving moneychangers out of the Temple appears right up front in John but all the way at the end in the synoptics, and the two stories (two because Matthew and Luke have Mark as their source) Mark and John have different precipitating causes for the Judeans to crucify Jesus.
Most notably to me, each gospel writer has a different agenda, each at a different time and place and for different audiences, Mark and the synoptics proclaim a traveling preacher and compassionate healer, while John proclaims Logos the creating Word.
I see two distinctive features in John, both peculiar to his story.
One is that instead of just happening on a scene and doing a miraculous work of power as an act of compassion, John has Jesus doing semeia, “signs” purposely so that people will realize who and what he is, including identifying him as the prophet of whom Moses spoke in Deuteronomy. Also to an extent, the gospel writer counts them for us, eg, “this is now the second sign that Jesus did ...” to make sure we're paying attention.
The other feature is Jesus’ deliberate and astonishing use of the sacred Name I AM in referring to himself. I am the good shepherd, he said last Sunday. This coming Sunday he will say I am the vine. Variously he says I am the bread. I am the living water. I am the way, truth and life. John’s gospel has Jesus tying himself to God in metaphors that unmistakably identify himself with I AM, the deity who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. We’ll explore that a bit at next Tuesday’s gathering.
Not to mention my own agenda of rescuing Lazarus from oblivion and restoring him to his rightful place as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
What? Lazarus the beloved disciple?
Weren't you listening? I said not to mention it.
Walk along E. Beach Drive this morning, looking past Redfish Point.