Johannine Notes (MAPAC)
Introduction: Jesus for John
Jesus According to St. John
It is not easy to enter the 4th gospel. It has a language style of its own. Sometimes it looks abstract and philosophical. But when entering the 4th gospel, we go out changed! There is a discovery about Jesus. Jesus has many features in the 4th gospel. Let us look at some.
“He dwelt among us”
- There is a word that allows a summary of the 4th gospel. It is a tough word to understand. It is more appropriate in theology than in bible study proper. This is:Incarnation. The entire 4th gospel seems to develop this theme.
- John shows how the Son of God “dwelt among us”. John, among all the gospel texts, is fascinated with details—like the poor of five doors, fingers on the wound, particular names like Nicodemus, etc. This is John’s way of indicating that Jesus really “dwelt among us”.
- John calls Jesus “Word”. It is the Greek word ''logos''—the Word of God. The OT uses this to show the creativity of God. John uses it precisely to show that Jesus existed in God before the beginning of the world. Jesus is God! John might have a double intention with the word “Word”.
- He might want to show that the coming of the Word is an event that has the same importance as creation. And so, secondly, John might want to show that Jesus re-creates the world. It is God himself, the creator. Notice how John gives a demonstration of the start of Jesus’ ministry very similar to the inaugurating week of the creation of God (1/19 - 2/12). John evokes the Creation of the World in seven days.
- John highlights the coming of Jesus by the image of heavens opening—an image dear in the OT. "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man." (1/ 51). Jacob’s ladder is also standing. The reader is invited to climb and approach God.
- Jesus, in John, is impressive and demanding. Yet, in addition to what Jesus says and does, John also gives his comments to show that Jesus is also a man close to us.
The Lord of Desire
- ''What do you seek?'' In the account of John, Jesus would at times enter the picture by asking questions. His first words are very crucial. “What do you seek?” (1/38) Jesus is talking to two disciples in the company of John the Baptist. The same question returns later.
- When Jesus is arrested he asks, and he asks twice, the same question (18/4 ; 7). Then with Mary Magdalene, he asks the same question (20/ 15). But notice that before it was “what do you seek?” and later becomes “whom do you seek?” Of course the answer is Jesus. It seems that Jesus has a strong sense of what is in the desire of those who come to him. Jesus knows too well the satisfaction of the desire. It is Jesus himself.
- Jesus really likes to ask questions in the 4th gospel. See 2/ 4, 3/ 9, 18/ 38. If Jesus asks such questions, the field of questions is vast. Jesus has the reply to the vast and deep questions: ''I am the way, the truth and the life”…”whosever comes to me shall not thirst”…”I am the resurrection and the life”.
There is no Jesus without the Father
- In the 4th gospel there is such a strong and explicit statement that Jesus is the one sent by the Father. Jesus is in deep link with the one who sends. “I live because of the Father” (6/ 57). Jesus does nothing but the will of the Father.
- Note that the 4th gospel ends with a powerful statement: ''My Lord and My God” (20/ 28) said by St. Thomas. It was Thomas who verified the incarnation-passion-resurrection of Jesus by putting his finger on the wounds. What the Prologue started is confirmed by Thomas, the witness of the resurrection.
There is no Jesus without Witness
- For John, Jesus is the company of all his life. John must have meditated the gestures and words of Jesus. He likes to put Jesus with others. Jesus, in the 4th gospel, continues to invite witnesses. John wants to say that without any witness, Jesus would be powerless. John puts a lot of weight to witnessing.
Jesus gives to our spirit the Spirit
- John gives value to the Spirit of Jesus. It is part of the plan of John himself: tell a story of the Incarnation of the Word of God in all points of impact. When Jesus leaves, he gives us his Spirit. Jesus remains in Spirit.
first lessons in 4th gospel
Personal Work on the 4th gospel
Prologue (1/1-13): this is a hymn.
- It is a summary form for the whole 4th gospel. The Word goes down—“incarnates” to the human level. What is the invitation in the hymn?
- This looks similar to the Genesis story of creation…”in the beginning”. But now it includes the Word. The Word is uncreated—pre-existing up to the “beginning” before creation. In fact creation took place thanks to Word. Notice that it is not just about “creating”. It is also about “giving life” which is in “wisdom”. Can you see it in the prologue?
- What is the source of wisdom and light in this hymn?
- What is the life supplied? (Note, what was the first creature of God in Genesis?)
- The prologue is a summary of the 4th gospel. Show àThe prologue wants to discusswho is Jesus. à The prologue wants to show incarnation. à The prologue wants to show that the incarnate light will be rejected à The prologue wants to show that Jesus will also be received.
- There is a new covenant that takes place. What is this new covenant? How is this new covenant present?
- What could be the difference between the covenant with Moses and this new covenant? (Hint: Moses did not see God).
- Try to show that 1/1-18 is a summary for the whole 4th gospel.
Part 1: Jn1/19-12/50
Introducing Jesus 1/19-2/11
- The section 1/19-2/1 seems to have a time setting of one week! Can you see the whole week? (Hint: notice “the next day”…”on the 3rd day”…Count the days, they form a week!)
- Check it out: what happened on the first day? on the second day? on the third day? … on the 7th day was the Cana story!
- It is interesting to see how the “beginning disciples” view Jesus. There is a movement shown by John the evangelist.
- Already even here in 1/19-2/11, there is hostility against and acceptance of Jesus. Can you note them down? But the whole story ends with 2/11: “…manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him”. So Jn1/19-12/50 ends well.
Institutions replaced (2/12-4/54)
- Why do you think the 4th gospel puts the Temple issue here? It would be “too early” for the synoptic gospels, but not for the 4th gospel.
- There is the institution of the Temple. Now it is replaced. What replaces it?
- Then comes the Nicodemus story. This story is about the institution of the “chosen people”. This institution is replaced. How could the Nicodemus story show this replacement? (Notice the difference between “born of flesh” and “born of spirit”).
- The story continues: in pagan territory! After replacing two institutions, Jesus is in a pagan place—in Samaria! What do you think? Why is this happening…what could be the strategy of the story?
- The Samaritan women, even if she is “pagan”, resembles a lot John the Baptist! (Hint: “decrease” while Jesus increases).
- Notice 4/43-54: This ends the section 1/19-4/54. Here there is restoration of life. What do you think? Why end this way?
 …there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Beth-za'tha, which has five porticoes.
 In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed.
 One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
 When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, "Do you will to be healthy?"
 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me."
 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."
 And at once the man became healthy, and he took up his mat and walked around.
Now that day was the Sabbath.
 So the Jews said to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your mat."
 But he answered them, "The man who made me healthy said to me, “Take up your mat, and walk.'"
 They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, `Take up your mat, and walk'?"
 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had went out of view, as there was a crowd in the place.
 Afterward, Jesus found him in the sanctuary, and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse happens to you."
 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
 And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.
 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working still, and I am working."
 This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.
- Before starting, tell the group your view of the story. What happened—as you see it?
- The setting is a feast. It is in Jerusalem. In the city is a pool beside which there is a “shade”—or five porticoes. In there, there are many sick. Among the many, one of them is a man ill for 38 years. Jesus could see the many sick people. They are a multitude. They are plenty. But Jesus focuses on one of them—the man ill for 38 years. Now 38 years ill is a long time. It is such a long time.
- What could be our immediate reaction when we think of Jesus in front of the many sick people? And yet, here is his focus on just one among them. He knows the condition of the ill man. He knows that he had been lying there a long time. As he looks at this one single individual, what do we expect Jesus would do? What would heautomatically do—as our expectation would put it?
- Does Jesus do what we expect he would do? Does he do what we might expect?
- What does Jesus do? He asks a question. See Verse 6. Pay close attention to the question. Be careful, we might give it a usual interpretation. Try to translate the question in your language—and be as detailed as you can. Notice that the question is given at the moment when Jesus “looks and knows” what is the situation of the ill man. The question is related to what he sees and knows.
- Pause for a while. What is it that Jesus sees and knows at this point? He is watching the ill man. As he watches the ill man, his mind is running. His mind connects well with the real situation of the ill man. See if you can describe what is running in the mind of Jesus. You do not have to go very far because the situation of the ill man is there.
- How does the sick man answer? His answer has two parts. Note the parts. Note them well. Is he answering the question of Jesus? Compare the two parts of the response. What do you notice? What is your impression of the answer of the sick man? He has been that way for 38 years! He has been sick for 38 years and he has been “living in his reply” for 38 years.
- Suddenly, Jesus makes a command. See verse 8. Take note of the command. It has three parts. Verse 9 “mirrors” the command. “Rise” results in “becoming healthy”; “take up your mat” results in “picking up the mat”, and “walk” results in “walking around”. What do you notice? Elaborate well what you think.
- The setting is a Sabbath day. During Sabbath, there are things people should not do and one of them is to walk around carrying a mat. It is not lawful.
- The “Jews” accuse the now healthy man. The man replies. Is he answering the question? Note that the reply has two parts. The answer reveals the reply given in verse 7. The man replying in verse 7 is the same man replying in verse 11. What do you see? (The man in front of Jesus behaves as the man in front of the “Jews”. Can you notice?)
- Look at the first part of the answer. What do you notice? It reveals the reply given in verse 7. The man replying in verse 7 is the same man replying in verse 11.
- Look at the second part of the answer. Is the man accurately reporting what happened to him with Jesus? Notice that the man avoids mentioning something. Why do you think is he avoiding it?
- The “Jews” ask the man a question. Does the man answer? He just seems to move out. Where does he go, we are not sure. Verse 14 tells us that he is found in the temple. Before going to verse 14, verse tells us something about Jesus immediately after the man stands and walks. What do you think Jesus did after the man stood, picked up the mat and walked? We might expect that he would do something—like say something to the healed man. But Jesus does not do it. What do you think is the reason? (Remember that a miracle is always associated with “kingdom”. Do you see this here?)
- Go to verse 14. Jesus is in the temple. Well, it is more than just the temple. Where exactly does Jesus see the man? What could this say about the man? Who is he and what kind of a man is he?
- Notice what Jesus says. He uses the word “sin”. It is “missing the mark”. Jesus says, “Do not miss the mark again”. Jesus seems to be telling the man that at the first time they meet the man was “missing the mark”. (Miss the mark: not being faithful to who I am and to what I was made for). What do you think?
- Already, having missed the mark, the man was already in a miserable situation. Now Jesus says that he should not repeat it, so that things will not get worse. Already things were so bad…so things need not get worse. But notice what happens next. Look at verse 15. What does the man do…after having known “it was Jesus”. What is the consequence of this act? Verse 16 tells us…something worse happens. It happens to whom?
- Worse? Look at verse 17. Jesus here is talking about he and his Father “still working”. If something worse happens, it is happening to whom?
- Verse 18 tells us why Jesus is sought by “Jews” who want him killed. It is not just a question of Sabbath but of identity.
- Appropriate the story to your life. Do you see the “ill man” in you and in your life?
Bread of Life Chapter 6 of John
Bread of Life
Chapter 6 has parts: multiplication of bread, crossing the lake, and the discourse on bread of life. It ends with a crisis…but with discipleship.
The miracle (Jn 6/1-15)
- Observe the time and place. Jesus goes to the other side. A desert place he will go to. Pagans live there. Jesus is followed by a crowd. Looks like….the Moses story!
- Jesus dominates the situation. He even puts Philip to a kind of “exam”.
- There are many herbs in the mountain. Grass. So Jesus makes people sit. Looks like Ps 22, right?
- Notice: 5,000 persons and only 5 bread pieces and 2 fishes. See 2Kg4…the story of Elijah. He fed many people too.
- In the 4th gospel, there is mention of 12 baskets…looks like 12 tribes. There is so much to eat…more than enough.
- Look at Dt 18/15: “a prophet like me”. The story looks like this expected prophet is here. A big timer? No, not in the eyes of Jesus. He has to explain later.
Bread from heaven (Jn 6/25-40)
- The crowd follow Jesus. They saw a miracle—otherwise, why follow? But why follow, by the way? Due to signs and wonders! Jesus explains what is behind. The Son of Man gives life. Eternal life.
- The crowd cannot understand. But the reader might think of Jn 3/15: that whoever believes will have life eternal!
- A discussion takes place. Jesus replies: it has to be about faith. Faith is the best work! Have total confidence in God and whom God sends…this is before all other things. Confidence. Source of life.
- The crowd…well, they want more signs like that which happened in the desert with their fathers. Jesus just gave them food to eat…their memory is short.
- So Jesus explains that the bread is not just the physical bread. It is bread from heaven…and he is the bread from heaven.
- Jesus is not just the new Moses. Jesus is the same one who says, “I am I am” during the burning bush event! Jesus is the living word of God.
Bread of Life (Jn 6/41-51)
- Remember in Moses’ story, the people complained. Here the crowd is shocked…it cannot see how this man son of Joseph can have the mark of God (Jn 6/27). Jesus explains.
- He relies on a classical notion of Word of God and food. Remember Amos? (See Am 8,11). Jesus is the best who can explain what he is saying, he knows the Father! (Jn 1/18).
- Jesus then declares: “I am the bread of life”…that ego eimi. In the end, he speaks of eating him! This provokes.
Bread and flesh (Jn 6/51-58)
- Jesus is the bread from heaven…he gives his flesh! Remember the prologue? Jesus insists on the eating of his flesh and drinking his blood…it shocks his listeners. Jesus is incomprehensible. But what about the reader from the community of John? The flesh and blood reminds them of the sacrifice of Jesus. The gift of self!
- The crowd has great difficulty. The words of Jesus cannot be assimilated. He who is eaten gives his life. He gives eternal life. By absorbing Jesus, the disciple remains in Jesus and Jesus remains in him/her.
- Remember the first time the disciples met Jesus? They asked about his residence. “Come and see” Jesus replied. The disciples stayed--remained (see Jn 1/38-39). What glory they have received.
- The discussion ends with a comparison. Life circulates between Son and Father…between Jesus and disciples. The circulation of life has its source in God. Through Christ, sent by the Father, life descends from heaven and given to men/women in abundance!
- This is what feeding the 5000 means! Abundance…is more than enough. It is more than what happened in the desert with Moses. Those who ate in the desert died still. Whoever eats Jesus Christ lives forever!
Crisis (Jn 6/60-69)
- Jesus ends his “talk” in the synagogue at Capharnaüm. Well, we see people who cannot anymore walk with Jesus. It is too much for them! A break is made—a real break. Two groups are separated—those who leave and those who remain.
- Jesus does not seem surprised nor eager to bring people back. You want to go…go! But he asks his disciples…how shocked they were.
- Ok, so there is a break. Many leave. Peter takes the center post…he does the speaking. He speaks for “we”. He seems to make a Christology here. The Holy One of God cannot be abandoned.
How does the story strike you?
- In Greek "egô" is the subject pronoun. It is in the 1st person, singular. Remember your grammar? It may correspond to the English “I”. How do you say it in your language?
- It is not to be understood in the negative sense…like “egô” of egoism. No! It is not about that. In the synoptic gospels Jesus rarely says “egô” or “I”. But in the 4th gospel, Jesus uses this frequently.It must have a special meaning here. Jesus, in the 4th gospel, says “egô” and sometimes he adds a verb to it, especially the verb “to be”. In Greek it is eimi. So “egô eimi” would mean “I am”.
- Jesus thus reveals himself as the bread of life: “I am the bread of life” (6/35) ; "I am the light of the world" (8/12) ; "I am the door" (10/9) ; "I am the good shepherd" (10/11.14) ; "I am the resurrection" (11/25) ; "I am the way, the truth, the life" (14/6), etc. Check the concordance.
- " I am " is used seven time in “absolute sense”. It means “without attribute”. Let us look at an example. Jesus would say, “before Abraham was, I am” (8/58). According to a Church Father, John Chrysostom, it signifies continuous existence, irrespective of all time. From all time…co-existent with God… “I am”.
- There are times when the Bible translates “egô eimi” as “It is I”. This translation has the same meaning for “egô eimi”—“I am”. Remember when Jesus walked on water, and he says “It is I, be not afraid” (6/20). It is still “egô eimi”…be not afraid.
- At the time of the arrest of Jesus, he would say "egô eimi". He would say it twice to those coming to take him (18/5 and 8). The narrator re-takes it in verse 6.
- We might be saying this “egô eimi” to people around us. When someone calls us by phone and asks if it is really you, “egô eimi”, we reply. If we meet someone we have not seen for a long time, that person asks if it is really you. We reply “egô eimi”.
- In the way Jesus uses “egô eimi” there is a more significant weight. It recalls the revelation of God to Moses when Moses asked who he was, what name he had. “I am, I am” was the reply of the Lord God. To put it in Greek, it would sound like this: “egô eimi”… “egô eimi”. It should not be a surprise that when Jesus says “egô eimi”, it is like a “theophany”—God showing. So the guards and soldiers fall (see 18/6).
- The "I am" is used uniquely by Jesus in the 4th gospel. Note that when John the Baptist had to say “I am”, he had to be clear who he was not: “I am not…” When the listeners were insisting about his identity, he said est “egô”—“I”—but without the eimi (see 1/23) The reason why John did not say “egô eimi”—“I am”—was to mark the difference between him and Jesus.
- There is one time when someone says “egô eimi”. See Jn 9/9. Look at the text.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him. We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar, said, "Is not this the man who used to sit and beg?" Some said, "It is he"; others said, "No, but he is like him." He said, "I am the man."
- Share in the class why you think this man is allowed by the 4th gospel to say “egô eimi”. (Hint: see 2 Kings 5:10-15)
The healing was not effected until the man obeyed Jesus' command: Go . . . wash in the Pool of Siloam (9:7). Why didn't Jesus just heal him on the spot, as he did others? Why send a blind man, in particular, on such a journey? There must be something involved here that contributes to the revealing of God's work. Perhaps the man's obedience is significant, revealing that he shares a chief characteristic of Jesus' true disciples. Like Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5:10-14), this man obeys God's command to go and wash and is healed. Also like Naaman, he is able to bear witness to God as a result (2 Kings 5:15). But John's parenthetical note that Siloam means Sent (v. 7) suggests more than the man's obedience is involved. References to Siloah, the stream associated with the pool of Siloam (Shiloah in Gen 49:10 [NIV margin]; Shiloah in Is 8:6), were seen as messianic (Genesis Rabbah 98:8; Gen 49:10 in Targum Onqelos; b. Sanhedrin 94b; 98b). This fits with the emphasis in John's Gospel on Jesus as the one sent from the Father, including such an emphasis in the immediate context (8:16, 18, 29, 42; 10:36). Thus, both the healing itself and the details involved point to Jesus as the Messiah. Here is an example of the triumph of the light over the darkness (1:5).The Man's Neighbors Raise Questions (9:8-12) The crowd had a hard time identifying Jesus (chaps. 7--8), and now they are divided in their recognition of this one whom he has healed (9:8-9). The man uses the same language Jesus has used to identify himself, ego eimi, though here it does not allude to the divine name but is used as an identification formula: I am the man (v. 9; see comment on 6:20).
Lazarus story in Jn11
Situation and persons (Jn 11/1-5)
- There is the presentation of the family of Bethany. Then the illness is mentioned. Then there is the mention of “love” (v.3 and 5).
- Love? Jesus loves Martha and her sister and Lazarus. But when Jesus hears of the illness of Lazarus, he “does nothing” for two days! In fact Jesus seems to take it easy when he says "This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it."(11/4) Jesus is saying that the illness will not kill Lazarus.
- But what happens? Lazarus dies. The reader might be agitated here and say, “Jesus should not just be speaking and doing nothing…he should be doing something to save Lazarus from dying!” This is even suggested here: Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”.11/21) and “Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (11/32).
The dialogue between Jesus and the disciples (Jn 11/6-16)
- So…anyway…Jesus moves to Judah with his disciples. But before even moving there is a dialogue. The dialogue looks “hot”…marked by misunderstanding. Jesus speaks of “sleep”… and then “waking him up”. The disciples think of “recovery”. But Jesus means “death” by “sleep”. Are they not a bunch of complicated persons? Anyway…
- Jesus makes it clear that “Lazarus is dead” (11/14). And he even adds, “I am glad that I was not there” (11/15). Jesus is glad? Imagine how the disciples would look at Jesus.
- There is another “misunderstanding” between Jesus and the disciples. There is talk of death—Jesus risks getting killed if he goes to Judah. Then speaks Thomas—with a dramatic note—saying “"Let us also go, that we may die with him." (11/16)
- So two things are involved in the dialogue: Lazarus asleep/dead and Jesus’ risk of getting killed…including the disciples’ risk.
- Does Jesus put his disciples at risk? He is the “good shepherd”, he gives his life to save the troop. Later on in the story, when Jesus will be taken captive he will tell his adversaries, “Let them (the disciples) go” (18/18). The evangelist will add “This was to fulfill the word which he had spoken, "Of those whom thou gave me I lost not one." (18/9).
Jesus and Martha meet (Jn 11/17-27)
- Not yet inside Bethany (v. 20) Jesus is met by Martha. Mary is sitting in the house where there is a wake. What happens in the dialogue between Jesus and Martha? Jesus speaks of the resurrection. He even presents himself as resurrection and life. He identifies himself: Ego eimi.
- Martha shows her faith in Jesus. She affirms: “And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." (11/22). She has hope that Jesus will bring Lazarus to life. Then, by an act of faith, Martha confesses: "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world." 11/27).
Jesus, Mary and the Jews at the wake (Jn 11/28-37)
- Martha tells Mary that the Master calls her. Immediately, Mary who was sitting stands to meet Jesus. Notice what happens next. The group of Jews follow her. Why? They are supposing that she is going to the tomb to weep there. (Is this not typical of many people?)
- But she does not go to the tomb. She goes to Jesus. She tells Jesus the same statement of Martha, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (11/32).
- But Mary is different from Martha here. She says nothing more. There is just a lot of crying going on. Jesus asks about Lazarus. The crowd replies: “Lord, come and see” (11/34). Funny that this is a “trade mark statement” of Jesus. Here it comes from other people—come and see the dead. Come and spend time in trouble. They invite Jesus to have an experience of “wake”…and death!
- Notice the question—“where”. Notice the reply, “Come and see”. Sinister! Jesus who is life is invited to see death!
- As for Jesus, his question “Where did you lay him” (11/34) interrupts his own inner trouble (v. 33,35 and v. 38). Hey, did he not just say he was glad not to be there at the time Lazarus died? Now he is crying! Maybe it is not just about the death of Lazarus. The verb “troubled” is also found in Jn 12/27. Could Jesus be seeing his own death?
- The Jews interpret this crying. Anyway…Jesus knows he will give life back to Lazarus, yet he cries. The crowd states that there must be strong friendship between Jesus and Lazarus…and sarcastically they say "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" (11/37).
Jesus in front of the tomb of Lazarus (Jn 11/38-44)
- Jesus asks that the stone be moved. Martha intervenes. Lazarus smells already, it is the 4th day (v. 39). Wait…is this not referring too to what happens in the resurrection of Jesus? Three days he stays in the tomb…the fourth day will mean he smells, rotting and decaying.
- The evangelist may be thinking of parallels here!
- What is important at this point is that the words of Jesus will be put to light. All signs of death are there, present….decay and smell. The words of Jesus will give life. Jesus calls Lazarus…by name! Jesus makes his voice strong! (v. 43) Perhaps the evangelist was thinking of the strong voice of the Lord God in Sinai when giving the Torah (see Dt 5,22).
- “The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”(11/44). Lazarus is now free from death. He leaves the tomb…alive! What would we expect to happen? Fiesta! Jumping for joy! Alive! Alive! Bravo!
- But there is none of this. Instead what do we notice? “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him” (11/45)
- So the story focuses on the words of Jesus…words that give life. The perspective of the story is not about the joy of the family of Bethany but the listening to the words of Jesus and being attentive to his gestures. See what Jesus does…and believe in him.
The Lazarus story is turning point between "Sign" and "Glory" parts of the 4th gospel
A Theological Reflection about the Rising of Lazarus
- The story can be seen as an “opening” to the passion story. The rising of Lazarus is a kind of “inclusion” with the resurrection of Jesus. Some aspects of the Lazarus story are in the resurrection story: the stone is Jn 11,38 is in Jn 20,1. Jesus asks the stone to be removed in Jn 11,39 has its parallel in Mary Magdalene seeing the stone removed in Jn 20,1. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Lazarus goes out with his face wrapped with cloth in Jn 11, 44 has its parallel in Jn 20,5-6 where Peter sees linen cloth.
- Immediately after the Lazarus story we read about the “meeting” of priests and Pharisees who plan to kill Jesus (Jn 11, 47-53). The again Lazarus is mentioned (12/1). Lazarus seems quiet. Then nice and expensive perfume is poured. Jesus sees that as a gesture linked to his burial! Here Mary is not embalming a dead body but a living body.
- The story of the rising of Lazarus plays a role—a turning point role—in the development of the 4th gospel. It is the “height” of the part of the 1st part regarding the “Signs”. It offers a solemn conclusion to the series of signs.
- The Lazarus story is also a starting point to the coming Passion and Resurrection story, the part of “Glory”. With the Lazarus story the reader has a perspective on the next part of the 4th gospel.
- The Lazarus story is the “height” and “summit” of the public life of Jesus who is “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11,25). There is no more need to wait for a future! The resurrection is Someone encountered already, here and now. Just believe.
- The Lazarus story is the introduction to the next part regarding the Passion-Resurrection. It gives meaning to the fact of death—that death is not defeat. Illness is not defeat. The illness of Lazarus looks like an “impasse”. But here is Jesus who opens up the future.
- The death of Jesus is an opening to the impasse of death—there is resurrection. There is future. The death of Jesus (and Lazarus) opens up to the glory of God. This glory is the fullness of the manifestation of love (Jn 11,4; see Jn 13,1).
washing the feet
The washing of the feet in Jn13
- Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. In doing this he shows himself as part of the tradition well in the Bible. It is a gesture that inaugurates a series that will come next. Remember that there was, in the OT, a washing of the feet already.
- Abraham proposed to his three visitors in Mambre. Inviting them to his tent, Abraham said: “Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Gen18/4). The three came to announce what will happen next: Abraham and Sarah will have a child…at their old age!
- What is washing of the feet? What could it mean? It is a task done by a servant. “Let a little water be brought”, a command given to servants. It is a command given by the master.
- To have the feet of visitors washed is to show that the visitors can “feel at home”. Come and stay as if this too is your home. Someone lets the feet of visitors washed because one is the master of the house receiving visitors. We read in 2Sam.11/8: “Then David said to Uri'ah, ‘Go down to your house, and wash your feet.’ And Uri'ah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king”. In this gesture, David is like saying “we are equal”.
- The master receives the guest as his “equal” and the guest acknowledges that the master is also their equal. Abraham had the feet washed and finds himself situated in the same rank as his hosts.
- Jesus puts together in himself the servant who will do the humble task and the master who decides to welcome. He underlines strongly this aspect to Peter. “If I do not wash you, you have nothing to do with me”.
- Here is the old and deep sense of the gesture that is actual in Jesus. The disciples are made children with him as Son, they are to inherit with him as inheritor. It is about staying in the house of the Father that Jesus received in sharing: “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn14/2-3).
- Jesus welcomes his disciples as his equal. He calls them “friends”, and later, in the morning of the resurrection, Jesus calls them “brothers” (see Jn20/17). Consequently, the disciples can consider Jesus as one of them too. Jesus, the Son of God, manifests by his gesture the point in which others participate in him—in his divinity—and thepoint in which he is also part of humanity. This is a very Christological gesture!
- Is the washing of the feet a service? Yes, but in the biblical sense. Notice that in the story nobody commanded that the feet be washed. The disciples did not command Jesus to wash their feet. Peter felt awkward.
- Jesus, in a way, is serving the Father whose project is “for the good of all and for their salvation”. Jesus makes himself one of us—he goes down—to make us participate in the life of the Father.
- The gesture is simple, the truth is revealed. God is “at our feet” so that we can be with him, in him, like him.
Vine and Vinedresser
Vine and Vinedresser
- At the end of chapter 14 we read Jesus saying: “Rise, let us go hence.” (14/31). It ends a section of John’s gospel. Then begins a new section.
- From the first verse of Chapter 15 Jesus takes the image of the vine (15/1-11). There is an accent given on joy. In the next section (15/12-17) we read about the command of love—and it is about mutual love. In the third section (15/18 – 16/3), Jesus speaks about the hatred of the world. Starting with 16/4 we read Jesus speaking of the “hour”.
Reading the whole part
- Let us look at the notion of the vine (15/1-11). Notice that before this Jesus has just spoken of his departure. Now he tells his disciples that they may stay with him—remain with him in communion.
- In the center of this discourse is the section on mutual love (15/12-17). It is a re-take of the new command already affirmed in Jn 13/34 (after Judas left). The disciples are called to produce fruits is linked with the talk about the vine.
- In the last section (15/18 – 16/3), Jesus talks of the difficulties that the disciples will meet in the world. Jesus prepares them to stay faithful in persecutions.
- There is insistence on the “I” of Jesus united with the Father and the “you” of the disciples. The last section mentions the “world” as “persecutor” of the disciples. But then there is the Paraclete who will link the Father with the Son and the disciples.
Let us look at the flow of the text
- In the allegory of the vine there are “equivalents”: Jesus is equivalent to the vine. He presents the Father as the vinedresser (the one who prunes), the disciples as branches. There is a vital link between Jesus and the disciples (vine and branches) and an independence between Father and Son. Independence does not mean “individualism”. Outside the image of the vine Jesus insists on the love between Father and Son: “As the Father has loved me” (15/9).
- Jesus is not just “vine” but also “the true vine”. Note the article “the”. It signifies something unique and united—one—in Jesus. There seems to be no other “true vines” outside Jesus. By saying that Jesus is “the true vine” the 4th gospel emphasizes the realization of God’s promise. It has been said often: the Word is “the true light” (1/9); Jesus “the true bread from heaven” (6/32); the judgement of Jesus is “true” (8/16); etc.
- The vinedresser does two things: The vinedresser casts off and cleans. (Literally: purifies). He “prunes”. He removes the sterile branches so they will not bear sprouts. He conserves those that will bear fruits so that they can bear more fruits. To dress the vine is not to destroy it, it is to allow it to have more fruits in abundance—life in abundance. This leads to the cross—which the disciples themselves will undergo.
- “Fruits” here recall creation. When God created the plants and herbs he gave them the change to bear fruits (Gn 1/11-12). The animals and humans were called to multiply. All that is created has the chance to give life—as its turn. The life given by God carries in it the germs of life. The creation of God is “good” and it produces fruits…Life that gives fruits is a “blessing”. Jesus shows his disciples that it happens by the union of the disciples with him.
- Notice the mention of “remain” so frequent. (ten times in 15/1-10, once in 15/16 with “your fruit” as subject). To “remain” is very important. To remain is not a supplement of “beside” or “with”. It is be in. The verb is not just about “resting”, like a vase on a table. It marks intimate union with Jesus. It marks reciprocity with Jesus. The disciple is “one” with Jesus as Jesus is “one” with the disciple.
- After having put the accent on the relationship between him and disciples, Jesus invites them to mutual love. It is love measured according to how Jesus loves: “…as I have loved you” (15/12). Saying that there is no greater love than giving up life for friends, Jesus gives a key to understanding the cross. He invites his disciples to take the path of Golgotha after the experience of Easter and the coming of the Spirit.
- The disciples are not slaves made to follow an order. The relation between Jesus and his disciples is not about “superior” and “inferior”. They are friends of Jesus. He shares with them what he knows from the Father. Jesus chooses them to be his friends “…so that you bear fruit and that your fruit remains” (v. 16). Authentic love is that which wants the good of the other person. This means avoiding “owning the other person”…so that the other person is free to respond with friendship.
- In the last section Jesus introduces “the world” and its hatred. Jesus would himself encounter this hatred. The disciples too. The world is not, in-itself, “bad” or “evil”. The disciple does not need to hate the world in return. So what would the 4th gospel mean by “world” here? It refers to the humanity that has known Jesus and has rejected him. The disciple is invited to love. The disciple cannot hate this or that person. Rather, we see that the disciple is called to love and to welcome Jesus. The coming of the Paraclete, the “Spirit of Truth” (v. 26) witnesses in favor of Jesus in contrast with the hatred of the world.
The Passion in the 4th Gospel
The Passion of Jesus
Reading Jn 18/1 – 19/42
- The Passion story, starting in 18/1, has many elements common with the synoptic gospels. But the 4th gospel has plenty of originalities of its own. During Holy Week we hear the full story of John’s Passion account. Then we have feasts that come from the Passion scene: Sacred Heart (19/31-37) and Christ the King (Jn 18/33b-37).
- In the Passion story of the 4th gospel Jesus looks like he is so free and so “above” everyone else. It is as if he is exempted from the events. But we need to see also how human Jesus is here. The 4th gospel is the only account that say “ecce homo”—“here is the man” (19/5). If Jesus is free, he is free as human and not as angel.The Passion story of the 4th gospel has five major scenes: (Notice the A-A’, B-B’ and C)
- – A 18/1-12 : Jesus is arrested: (where: garden) – B 18/13-27 : Jesus faces the High Priest (where: in the court of the High Priest). Included here are the denials of Peter. – C 18/28 – 19/16a : Judgment of the “king of the Jews” before Pilate (where: Pretoria). – B’ 19/16b-37 : Crucifixion (where: Golgotha). Include here the disciple who Jesus loved. – A’ 19/38-42 : Burying Jesus (where: garden)
- Now, A and A’ correspond with each other. In Matt-Mk, the arrest of Jesus is in Gethsemane on Mount Olives. In John it is in the garden of Kidron. Scene A, which is the arrest, Jesus is seized then bound—or tied by the guards of the Temple and Roman soldiers (18/12). In A’, Jesus is also bound, now in linen cloths in a garden not named (19/40). As for the burying in the tomb, the synoptic accounts say that the body of Jesus is put in a tomb carved from rock. They do not show any garden. In the 4th gospel, John makes clear that the tomb is new and it is in a garden.
- Scenes B and B’ do not happen in the same place. But there is something common with them. They have a mention of a disciple playing a concrete role in front of Jesus. Notice that Peter and John, the beloved disciple, are mentioned. They are put in contrast. In scene B, Peter denies he is disciple. In B’, the beloved disciple hears the last words of Jesus, receives the mother of Jesus and stays at the cross to be witness.
- Then we see the central place of the judgment in front of Pilate, in C. Here Jesus presents himself as “man”. He will be condemned as “king of the Jews”. His kingly characteristic is highlighted, which is in line with the plan of God.
- In the arrest (18/1-11), two groups confront in the garden: Judas and his company and Jesus and his disciples. Judas is no longer in the group of disciples. Notice that after verse 3, Judas disappears—he is not mentioned anymore. The band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, arrive with lanterns and torches and weapons (v. 3). They need lanterns and torches to see the “light of the world”.
- Peter and Jesus come next in the story taking place at the court of the High Priest (18/12-27) Unlike in the synoptic accounts, for the 4th gospel Jesus and Peter are in the same location “in the court”. The interrogation to Jesus is parallel-contrast with the interrogation with Peter. Jesus seems to be clear with his identity in front of the High Priest who is passive. Peter loses his identity with his “I am not”. While Jesus, who is tied, looks free, Peter who is not tied looks like a prisoner.
- Jesus looks like someone who talks a lot and is very direct. The verb “said” is mentioned a lot, and it is reserved for Jesus (see v. 20, 21 and 23). Jesus seems to be speaking not just in the past but speaking at all time. Note that he speaks publicly to the world, just as he has taught in the synagogue and Temple. In fact, “I have said nothing secretly” (v. 20). He speaks for all and at all times. His words stay at all times. (The Greek verses are indication of these, according to experts).
- Jesus is the only person who has the credible words and gestures. He keeps his words.He seems to be the one who is leading the conversations. He even asks “why”. He does not get the right answers. He puts to question the High Priest who has nothing more to say. Caiphas has said all—in a prophetic manner even—without knowing it—after the rising of Lazarus (see 11/50). Peter seems he loses his capacity to speak. Jesus alone has the words and the last word.
- The episode ends with a double question—without answer. “If I spoke evil, show where I said evil. But I spoke well, why strike me?” (v. 23). This “finale” opens up to an question opening to the sense of the death of Jesus. No accusation at all can justify the violence towards him. Jesus, thus, did not speak evil. He is the innocent condemned.
Meditation on the Passion--Part One:
"Behold the man!" 19/5
Introduction: Let us reflect—or better—“meditate” around this
- "Behold the man!" …these words of Pilate, while showing the wounded Jesus, are words of “revelation” in John. In Mark there is something similar where the Roman centurion, at the cross, would say “truly this man was the Son of God”. In John it is by the mouth of Pilate the Jesus is designated as really “the Man”. The Man: the unique Son of God, the Word incarnate, God. A few verses after Pilate will say, “here is your king”.
- The Passion story of the 4th gospel is a story of revelation—a unveiling of the identity of Jesus. The passion story is like a light shining out on the mystery of Jesus and salvation.
- The 4th gospel was written much later—later than the time the other gospels were written. It took much time to contemplate Jesus before writing happened. The 4th gospel must have been fruit of prayer and meditation. We can sense this in the style of writing—a “slow” style, deep and inviting. We feel like we are in the footsteps of the disciple Jesus loved.
The glory and the cross:
- A great, yet humble and solemn moment is, at the same time, the moment of elevation and glorification. A little bit after the “perfume story” at Bethany, we read Jesus saying, “The hour has come when the Son of Man must be glorified. In truth, in truth, I tell you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it stays alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit” (12/24).
- Jesus adds, “"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour” (12/27).
- So the glory is actually linked with the cross! The way the 4th gospel presents the passion suggests that the “hour” has come—the hour of glory. This is the hour where, indeed, “God is love”. We read: “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13/1).
- Try translating this in your language, and maybe it will sound like this: “he loved them to the extreme”. Love and the passion—both indicate the freedom and choice of Jesus. The passion becomes the accomplishment and revelation of what it means to love! Jesus reveals the face of the Father who is love.
- The passion story of the 4th gospel does not show too much the agony and pains underwent by Jesus. This is, perhaps, to emphasize something else: it is to emphasize the gift of self. More precisely, his death will have an inevitable result: “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself” (12/32). We can, indeed, read and meditate the passion story in this light. “In this we have known love, that he gave his life for us” (1 Jn 3/16). Now all of us are drawn together as brothers and sisters—we are all assembled in Christ.
- Again, please read the passion story of Chapters 18 and 19.
There was a garden
- “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered” (18/1). The arrest of Jesus took place in a garden. It is also in a garden where a gran of wheat has to fall and die. Jesus would be buried in a garden.
- As we shall see later, it is in a garden where Mar Magdalene will meet the Lord who, at that point, would look like a “gardener”.
- But wait! What does “garden” remind us of? Is it not that the Adam and Eve story occurs in a garden? Now we find Jesus—the “new Adam”—the one who is to die, be buried and rise again in a garden context. It is in a garden that the New Adam wants to be seen obeying because the first Adam was disobedient in a garden.
The other side
- “He went forth with his disciples across the Kidron valley”. In the Kidron was a garden. There Jesus, with the disciples, entered.
- The passion story, as we shall later see, is a story where Jesus is put on a throne—he is to be made king. He is to hold power, authority and judgement in front of the deeply disturbed Pilate. From the start of the story John gives us an idea of what the passion will be like: “a torrent”—just like the riven of Kidron.
- There is something in this river that reminds us of the David-Absalom story. Absalom wanted to capture his father David, so David had to cross the Kidron. At this point David placed himself confidently and totally in the hands of the Lord God: “behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him” (2 Sam15/26). A king, David, prepares by going through Kidron. Now we see Jesus also preparing himself—and this time he is to say to Pilate, “"My kingship is not of this world” (18/36).
He went out
- “…he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley….” Jesus “went out”.
- Later we read that Jesus “went out” again. When Jesus saw Judas and his group coming, we read: “Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came out and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" (18/4). Jesus came forward—went out.
- Then much later, after Jesus passed thought the whips of the Roman soldiers, we read that he went out again: “So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe” (19/5).
- Then at the time he was to carry the cross, we read: “So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross” (19/17).
- In the synoptic gospels we read that Jesus was “led out” by others. In the 4th gospel Jesus “went out”. This gives us a different picture of Jesus. He went out himself, in full freedom and choice. Now, think about this going out. It can recall the washing of the feet too!
- In the story of the washing of the feet we read that Jesus “rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel” (13/4). What freedom and what choice! What movement and certainty in what he wants to happen! Jesus is presented as someone who has no second thoughts about his destiny and mission.
- Who is this Jesus? He is someone who comes out from God—the one sent by God. He is the one whose main food is not rice, not ice cream, not chapatti, not adobo….but: "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (4/34).
- In the 4th gospel wee see this movement of “going out” to do a mission, to do a work, to accomplish the Will of the Father. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (1/14). The Word went out to be human. The movement to go down into human condition is a “going out”.
- So the hour has come: “his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father” (13/1). This hour when he is to go to the Father is at the same time the hour when he also “goes out” of the Father! Both movements happen at the same time. This is the most sensitive moment—the most dramatic moment—where the Father is so engaged with the Son. This explains what happened when Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus replied: “Who has seen me has seen the Father” (14/8-9). In Jesus who moves towards the passion is the Father too who moves to the passion.
Meditation on the Passion Part Two
"Behold the man!" 19/5
The light and the dark
- “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, "Whom do you seek?" (18/4). Here is the movement of the incarnation. Jesus comes out—and it means he is taking the risk. It is the risk of being with us—dwelling with us. It is the risk that the incarnation had to take, for it means the risk of rejection and betrayal. We go far from him, we go far from his love. We are caught in the prison of hatred and sin. Jesus goes out and offers himself, he exposes himself and opposes his love against our violence.
- Such an act must be a “shock”. Who dares go out and risk? “When he said to them, ‘I am he’, they drew back and fell to the ground” (18/6). The people who came to arrest Jesus are faced with the bright truth, so they could not seize it. In the prologue of the 4th gospel we read: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1/5). There is a struggle between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood.
- The passion story of the 4th gospel shows this struggle. In fact, John goes to the extreme of “paradox”. Why? He who appears in the night of Friday becomes the victory with light over the dark. It is an accomplishment.
- Judas betrays Jesus in the night. By taking distance from Jesus he is really in the night—in the dark. The soldiers themselves are in the dark. They come with lamps and torches. If they knew the true light, they do not need these. Their fear when Jesus says “It is I”—ego eimi—indicates that this man Jesus is not who they expect. It is the calm and peace of Jesus that shines! How they would have preferred a violent and aggressive Jesus. No! They do not get what they want.
“Whom do you seek”
- Notice that Jesus is under arrest…yet he has the guts to ask questions…like he is the one with “no fear” and the soldiers are the ones with so much fear. The main question, “Whom do you seek”, sends each one to one’s own search—the searching that is intimate to everyone. Indeed, is it not true that in the heart of everyone is a search for “someone”?
- The question is not new. It has been asked to the disciples before they finally decide to follow Jesus and remain with him. God asks each one a question that—if one is not deaf—opens in the heart a space or an unexpected horizon. The heart is opened to a truth—a meaning of life that, up until now is not noticed.
- Indeed, what is fascinating in the question is that he who asks it—Jesus—is the answer! Whom do you seek, if not Jesus himself. “Come and see”.
- We might need to listen to this question, we ourselves. “Whom do you seek”. Many, in the gospels, have allowed themselves to be touched and seized by the person of Jesus. It may be enough to “get exposed” to the light of Jesus and admit the need for him.
- The soldiers and guards coming to capture Jesus remain deaf and blind to the depth of the question. They stay at the surface and reply: “Jesus the Nazarean”. They could not even say “You”. For maybe, the answer is given when we dare say “you”—because a face-to-face is recognized. But not with the soldiers and guards, they have fear of the face-to-face with Jesus.
- To those who want to arrest him, Jesus says “It is me”…“Iam”. This is an echo of what we have seen before—the “ego eimi”. Remember Ex 3,14 where the Lord God gave his name. Moses removed his sandals. Here we see the soldiers fall in shock. In this hour where Jesus reveals himself—“I am”—he is not anymore mysterious and masked. He is presented in full light!
- The “I am” of Jesus given during the arrest unveils his divinity. It is part of the whole chain of the “I am” statements: I am the door, the good shepherd, the light of the world, the vine, the truth, the way, the life…etc. All these are encapsulated in the passion storyand in this “I am” of the passion story. Now Jesus has nothing more to say—he is already the Word who manifests and can be seen and touched.
“I told you that ‘I am he’; so, if you seek me, let these men go’” (18/8)
- We might say that Jesus fulfills his call as “Good Shepherd” here. The Good Shepher gives life for the sheep.
- Jesus comes in between the soldiers and guards and the disciples. He is just like the Good Shepherd who protects the domain of the sheep (Jn 10). Jesus is he who exposes himself for the other. Remember what he said: “I am the door…I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (10/9 and 10/11).
Jesus and Peter
- Jesus says “I am” many times. Peter would say “I am not”. Peter, as we know, is the excited man who says he will follow Jesus anywhere and anytime. But now he falls apart…throwing himself out of the window.
- “‘Are not you also one of his disciples?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’” (18/25). Peter denies that he belongs to Jesus. By doing this Peter denies his own identity. He ceases to exist. To live outside the truth—to live outside “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”—is not to exist at all. Peter knows this himself. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (6/68-69). Now Peter if affirming that he is living outside Jesus—“I am not”. He is outside the words of eternal life, outside the Holy one of God!
- Judas would prefer the lamps and torches rather than the bright light of Jesus. While Jesus replies to the accusations of the High Priest, Peter is contented with the weak heat of the campfire.
- He is, however, unlike Judas. At the moment when the rooster crows, Peter realizes the gift of “sorry” and pardon. Jesus himself goes to look for Peter and will later ask Peter—three times—about Peter’s love. Peter will later see that love heals all denials.
- “So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him” (18/12). The arrest is now completed. The 4th gospel notes that Jesus is tied. It also tells us that at the 6th hour Jesus will be crucified. Jesus goes out to carry his cross.
- These details can make us think of Isaac. He is the only son of Abraham. In Gen 22, he goes up with his father for sacrifice on the mountain. There was wood for the sacrifice…but no animal to slaughter. Finally, it was Isaac to be sacrificed. Isaac became, in the Jewish tradition, figure of obedience to the father.
- The evangelist John knew this story and knew the place of Isaac in their tradition. Looking back at the Hebrew writing on Genesis, John found a meaning to the passion of Jesus. Jesus, also, is to be delievered up the cross. He assumes the figure of the Paschal Lamb. This lamb’s blood is to be springkled on the doorways of the Hebrews the night before the Exodus (see Ex 12). It is blood to save people from death. Now, in the 4th gospel, we see again this symbol. Remember how the early parts of the 4th gospel show Jesus: The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Already, at that early stage of the 4th gospel, the Passion is already in view.
- In a sense, Pilate himself would be like John the Baptist when he declares: “Behold the Man” and “Behold your King”.
“Behold the Man”
- The words that the 4th gospel puts on the lips of Pilate shines out. It is “behold the man”…and this time it is a man wounded by whips and crowned with thorns. In extreme fragility the Incarnation is presented in Jesus. Here God makes himself known.
- Well, Pilate showed this man—“behold the man”—with irony and mockery. The crowds are made to realize that this man is nothing to be afraid of. The Christ of Pilate is not a man to be afraid of. He is a man to complain about! “Behold the man” is like making a kockery of Jesus…Pilate is complaining because of the trouble the Jews have been giving him, not allowing him to sleep well.
- The evangelist, John, wants the reader—like us in MAPAC—to see things differently. Look at what happens. Jesus goes out wearing a crown of thorns. He goes out. He is in charge of the situation, he takes the initiative, he is the one who decides on his moves. He who comes from God returns to God.
- The exposition of Jesus under the mask of the caricature say something still about the real king in him. His kingdom is shown “un-globalized” or “un-worldly”. So we read: “My kingship is not of this world” (18/36). The situation is full of caricature and mockery, yes. It is under the power of Pilate—power of the world. Jesus shows how he is able to question that power based on strength, violence, intimidation, telling lies and seduction.
- “Behold the man”…then “behold your king”. In a way it is “ephiphany”. It invites the reader—like us—and look at what is happening: see Jesus in his true kingship. The evangelist John helps the reader see things this way. In the story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman we read: “So the woman left her water jar, and went away into the city, and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’” (4/28-29). In the story of the man born blind we read the healed man saying: “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes” (9/11).
- What we have here are indications of showing the mystery of the Incarnate Word—behold the man is the Word made flesh. He is now manifest.
- We see in the 4th gospel the invitation to contemplate in this man Jesus—see in him the “Word”. It is an implicit response to the main accusation against Jesus by the religious authorities: “you, human, you make yourself God” (10/33). Finally the authorities would say: “We have a law, and according to this law he should die because he makes himself son of God” (19/7).
- Yes, for the religious authorities this is a scandal. But for the believer this is the good news—the “Gospel”. In Jesus it can be seen that the human is capable of divinity! The thirst in each of every human person is a thirst for the infinite; this thirst is not destined to fold up. An opening happens and the thirst finds what it look for: a covenant with God. “If you knew the gift of God” (4/10), Jesus said to the Samaritan woman.
- “Behold the Man”: under the light of faith the human merits God even if disfigured by suffering. In the heart of the mockery, hatred, violence and clamor for death can faith still see the light of truth?
- Who has seen Jesus has seen the Father. Behold the Man. Jesus is now so exposed. The Word became flesh and is now in our midst.
Return to the Garden
- He who claims to be light of the world, is he not now shut off?
- Yet, it is in the night that Jesus is found in the garden. It is in the daytime that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea come to place in an other garden the crucified body of Jesus.
- It is nighttime when the light is rejected. It is daytime with new disciples with fire in their hearts, a flame of love enlightened by the source of all light: “The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (1/9-12).
- Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea are the first to see this light. The Spirit of Jesus is placed in the heart of the new disciples.
Resurrection stage: Mary cries at the tomb
- Mary Magdalene cries; she does not realize who she is talking to. This chapter of the 4th gospel is mysterious.
- The 4th gospel is quite different from the synoptic gospels. John likes to put the names of people in his list—and the names are on “first name” basis. See: Nicodemus, Lazarus, Simon-Peter, Martha and Mary, etc.… In the 4th gospel these individuals look “blank” and “unachieved”. Their encounter with Jesus produces an effect that we, readers, can notice at once. It is like a encounter with Jesus “fills in the blank” of a life. We can see this in Mary Magdalene. She comes to the tomb searching for the body of Jesus.
- Why? Why does she go to the tomb? And she goes alone…it is still dark. It is, indeed, early morning, but it is still dark. This double precision indicates something symbolic: darkness is about to end, although it is still dark. We know that Jesus is light: “The Word is light” (1,9); “I am the light of the world” (Jn 9,5). To be far from Jesus is to be in the dark. When Judas betrayed Jesus it was night time.
- To say that Mary comes to the tomb early in the morning, we have an idea of the love of Mary. It is a love that does not wait—like staying in bed during morning. Mary rises early.
- Notice that the story revolves around one person: Mary of Magdala. She goes to report the missing body: “"They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him" (20/2).
- Think about this. She says that “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb”. No, she does not say, “they have taken the cadaver out”. Might it be that she is living in hope? Of course it is too much to say that she already knows the resurrection. But she is like all of us—knowing that love is beyond death. “If I love you, you will not die”, as one philosopher said.
- Mary Magdalene, in a way, is not totally in search of a cadaver. She is moved by love. Jesus, for her, is always “the Lord”. She looks for Jesus—and does not find him. The stone is rolled. This immediately makes her conclude that Jesus is gone—disappeared. The tomb is empty. Notice, Mary does not go in to check. Her fist move is to inform at once the disciples. Might it be that she had this sense of the empty tomb—an emptiness that is still “hopeless” at this point but hopeful too? Mary tells the disciples: “we do not know where they have laid him”. Note well, she says “we” and not “I”. Might she be expressing a fear that is not hers individually but already community?
- Actually, just think about it. Mary Magdalene has no big task to do…she comes to the tomb for no role or function to accomplish. In the 4th gospel she is simply there. She has no official plan. This is different from the synoptic gospels where the women visit the tomb for an official function to embalm the body. In the 4th gospel, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus do this task: “They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews” (Jn 19,40).
- The coming of Mary to the tomb is done freely…absolutely free. "Being there" is enough. The two other disciples go away. Mary stays. She stays in search for her loved one. She expresses her pain in front of…absence of the Lord. Angels ask her why she cries. Two angels are in two extremities (like in the Ark of the Covenant through which the Lord God spoke to his people…see Ex.25/17-22).
- The presence of the angels does not shake Mary. She is not at all showing surprise or delight…she is in deep pain. Her mind is not focused on this spectacle of sign: that there are angels right in front of her. The most important for her is Jesus…and he is gone.She is not there for any spectacle...and no spectacle is taking her mind from her search for Jesus.
- She is at the tomb simply to be there. Ok, so earlier she says “we do not know where they have laid him”. Now she is saying, “I do not know where they have laid him” (20/13). Before she says, “the Lord” and now she says “my Lord”.
- She has signaled to the community already. Now she is one her own, and she is now in her personal corner. Community is necessary, but its does not remove the personal, private and intimate. Community does not remove the concrete personal experience with Jesus. “The Lord” is of the community. “My Lord” is mine. They are not two worlds apart, but they show the ways by which we relate to Jesus. Jesus is Lord of all…but he cannot be Lord of all if he is not Lord of each one too. Love asks for a personal relationship—it is not just a “block” and anonymous activity.
- So we have, in the 4th gospel, a picture of an admirable person who carries with her “pure” love. She is a “lover” who brings all the way to the “max” her mourning. Clearly we see also a “woman’s intuition”. Normally—or habitually—visits to the dead happens with calm and silence. Time has “ended”. (Have you ever had the chance to visit a cemetery?) But the case is different with Mary. Seeing that the stone has been rolled away she does not plunge into the world of despair and depression. What does she do? She runs back to the disciples and informs the disciples about what she has seen.
- She has seen the absence of the Lord and the empty tomb. This movement of informing the disciples has become a cause of movement of the others. It is a contagious move. “Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb” (20/ 3).
- Peter, the beloved John and Mary all run back to the tomb. They do not yet realize what exactly has just happened. They do not yet realize that the Father has risen the Son. They still do not realize that Life has just “erupted” in the world of death. Mary, the first to see the empty tomb, will be the first to see the risen Jesus.
- Could she sense that the impossible can happen? Maybe she is slow to “read the signs”. Already two angels are in the tomb; they talk to her (see v. 11-15). But deep in her are memories of Jesus. These are memories of the Jesus she knew. Where is he now? It is not enough for her to say that the Lord disappeared. My Lord disappeared. So her search is also personal and deep. She seeks…even if she does not know where to seek. While the two disciples—Peter and Beloved John—return to their places, Mary stays. She seeks without knowing what to do and where to look. She stays. She remains…. This “remaining” allows her to encounter him who she loves.
- The meeting with Jesus is strange. Mary is like blinded. She might have wanted to touch the body earlier. Her memory of the living Jesus is still in her. She does not see the signs of the mystery that is already unfolding in front of her. Two angels are in the tomb…clearly a sign. The presence of Jesus is also mistaken for a gardener.
- Jesus asks her not only why she cries but also “Whom do you seek?" (20/15). This question is very familiar already. It is a good question because Mary really seeks someone—a “whom”. The question may mean: which person are you looking for. Mary searches for someone—he whom she saw die on the cross: “…standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag'dalene” (1925). She seeks for one who might have been taken…Perhaps he is nowhere now. Such a pain to think this way.
- In reality, he is no longer there. The dead is no longer in the tomb. The crucified is risen…in reality. He is alive and can never be found “taken away”. She, Mary, will never find him—in the way she might expect.
- Where does Jesus stay? He is no longer in the tomb. He is here, right next to Mary! She has her ideas of how Jesus would look like—post-crucifix and now taken away.
- “Whom do you seek?” This leads Mary to a different context—a context where she cannot have her hold, her control and her possession. She has to understand the resurrection. It is a matter of encountering Jesus and not “acquiring” Jesus.
- Might we not say that “love is blind”? This blindness of Mary might be this! Mary’s memories of Jesus is in the time warp of the past—the time she knew Jesus in earthly condition.
- Jesus appears to Mary—but not in front of her. Mary is facing the tomb (20/11), Jesus is behind her. Jesus is opposed to the tomb! Mary has to turn. She thinks she meets the gardener. She still needs a conversion to really face Jesus. She turned to Jesus—or she is “turned” to Jesus. She turns away from the tomb when she hears her name. Now she must turn away from the gardener. Life has to be in front of her—and the domain of death and emptiness will be behind her.
- What element must she have to recognize Jesus? Actually it is her name. It was pronounced well…it is how Jesus has always called her! The good shepherd knows his sheep well, and he calls each by name (see Jn 10/3-27). Mary recognizes Jesus when he calls he by name! The sign that allows to recognize Jesus is in a personal relationship—when we can call each other by name.
- Jesus could not look anything else. At this point Mary realizes the mystery. She welcomes the mystery. “Rabbuni !”, she replies. "Rabuni" is a “nicknaming” of “Rabbi” or teacher. It is a sign of affection and familiarity. Mary recognizes her Lord, she is now in front of her as a disciple to whom Jesus will give a mission.
- Mary’s search for a dead body has now ended. She will now have to start learning to live with Jesus in another way! It is now a new relationship. So we see Jesus teaching her: “Do not touch me” (v. 17). This really means: "do not touch me anymore" or more precisely, "stop touching me". It is an invitation to a new way of relating. Mary might still want to “take away” Jesus. She now see him alive. There is no possessiveness possible. She will have to be a “messenger”—it is her mission that she will have to “touch”.
- Respect the distance: do not touch me anymore. Communion is ok, but no confusion. Love does not imprison. The victory over death does not anymore imprison us. It puts us away from imprisonment and slavery. No more manipulation and sleight of the hand relating. The victory over darkness and forces of death that chain us and prohibit us from authentic relationship is now finished. Distance…but desire still the presence! Love, if it is risen, makes us seek proximity AND DISTANCE. It is about speaking and going into silence. It is about hugging yet separating!
- Mary is one of us. The 4th gospel makes this clear to us—readers. Each one of us, as each of us reads the text, could recognize the experience of Mary. She is a model—an ideal of belief and faith. Mary is dazzled by Jesus. She has accompanied Jesus and she has seen the fidelity of Jesus towards her.
- Let this Mary of Magdala be the woman at the tomb. She is the Mary of the 4th gospel. She teaches us to overcome the transitory vision of the world! She shows us how to open up with an attitude of listening.
- We are invited to be inspired by Mary Magdalene—follow her in the time surrounding the beginning to the Church. If we have great difficulties with our lives today as Christians and as faithful followers of Jesus, we can look at Mary Magdalene—invited to encounter Jesus anew in obedience to his word.
First Letter of John
- John 1 is written in a way of being “witness”—or better “eyewitness” of the life of Jesus (1/1-3). It opens with a “preamble” (1/1-4) recalling the Prologue of the 4th gospel. Ideas are very similar with the 4th gospel. The epistle is very similar to the 4th gospel. Language is same, the way of thinking is same; there is the same religious sentiment regarding communion with God. God, the Son of God, the sons of God, faith, love of God and others are all there together. There are repetitions from the 4th gospel.
- Filledwith teachings of the Master, the disciple is brought to heights of life where the life with God is put to contrast with the life in the world. One can be either in the light or in the dark; in truth or in lie; one loves or hates; one is either dominated by God’s love or the world’s love; one is child of God or child of the devil; in life or in death. These “antitheses” are also in the 4th gospel (see 1/5, 9-11 ; 3/19-21 ; 8/12 etc.)
- In both epistle and 4th gospel these themes are so similar: live, eternal life, light, truth, “do sin”, vice, justice, be of God or of the world, being born in God, remaining with him, keeping his words and his commandments, see God.
- There are same styles in writing. For example to declare and not to deny (Jn 1/20); to lie and not to practice the truth (1Jn 1/6), etc.
- The teachings of both the 4th gospel and the epistle coincide: Jesus-Christ is the Word, he is the life of God manifested (1John 1/1, 2 ; compare with John 1/1-4, 14); Jesus is the unique Son of the Father (1John 4/9 ; John 1/18) ; to love God we keep his commandments (1John 2.4-6; John 14.21-24); and of course there is the new commandment of fraternal love (1John 2/7-11 ; 3/14 etc, compare with John 13/34); recognize or deny the Son—it is to recognize or deny the Father (1John 2/23 ; 4/14, 15 ; compare with John 5/23 ; 8/19 ; 12/44 etc; 14/6, 7); The Spirit gives knowledge (1John 2/20, 27 ; compare with John 14/26 ; 16/13); the world does not know God nor his children (1John 3/1 ; John 16/3 ; 17/25); to sin is to obey the devil who is author of sin (1John 3/8 ; John 8/44); God showed his love by the gift of his son (1John 4/9 ; John 3/16); the Son shows his love by giving his life (1John 3.16 ; John 15.12-14) ; in him we have victory over the world (1John 5/4, 5 ; John 16/33); whoever has the Son has life (1John 5/12 ; John 3/36); our prayers will be answered (1John 3/22 ; 5/14 ; John 14/13 ; 16/23) ; and the goal of the author is the same in both 4th gospel and epistle (1John 5/13 ; John 20/31).
- Yet we notice some divergence…and this makes some experts as k if the author of the 4th gospel is the same as the author of the latters. There are words that are in the letters but not in the gospel story: message (1John 1/5 ; 3/11), promise (2/25),communion (1/3, 7), iniquity (3/4), justice (3/7) ; conciliation pplied to Christ to show his role as redeemer (2/2 ; 4/10) ; unction (2/20, 27) and seed (3/9) of God. In the letter, Christ is called our advocate, paraclet (2.1); but this is a word applied to the Holy Spirit in the 4th gospel (14/16). The letter is close to Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 8/34). The letter also mentions “spirit of truth” (5/6); while in the 4th gospel Jesus is the truth (John 14/6). If we compare the letter to the 4th gospel—according to the “preamble” of both—the .idea of “Word becomes flesh” is very developed in the gospel account. In the letter this idea is still undeveloped. The letter also speaks of the end of the world, the coming of an anti—Christ, and there are people animated by his spirit (see 2/18 and following and 2/28). In the 4th gospel, there are ideas about the end but they less developed (5/28, 29 ; 6/39, etc.).
- There is, however, a general agreement among experts that the author of the 4th gospel is the same as the author of this letter. The questions they ask is the date in whioch the texts were written. Some suggest that maybe the letter was written earlier than the 4th gospel.
- Let us accept the agreement: same author. (We are not in the position to join the very technical arguments).The author of the letter—which is John—shows signs of being witness of the life of the Son of God (1/1-3).
- But was this a “letter”. There is no “hello” and no “address to”. It is composed of meditations. But John makes it known that he is a man the exercises his work as witness of Jesus-Christ (1.3). The author is like a father writing to his children. He composes his text like a letter (2/1,12, 13). When he writes about false teachers and the anti-christs, he is writing like to a precise group. Experts notice that details are close to the situations in Ephesus and other churches in Asia Minor.
10. John wants to combat false teachers, warning about their influence (2/18-29 ; 4/1-6). He says that the false one are separated from the church (2/19). Then he gives the impression that the churches are convinced of what he is saying: “You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (4/4).
11. What is going on with these “false” people? Some experts think there are docetists (people who think that Jesus is purely divine and not human. So John insists: “…every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God” (4/2). There are those who say that Jesus was just human but on baptism received a divine spirit. So the the “false” teachers would deny that Jesus was the Christ (2.22). They would say that when Jesus was on the cross, the divine Christ in him left already.
12. But this issue is not so big in the letter. It seems that John has a simpler goal in his letter. He wants to write about the development of Christian life. John insists on obedience to God and the practice of fraternal love. These are necessary for redemption (3/19).
13. Life, according to John, has manifested. This is announced so that those who hear and accept can live in communion with each other. This communion is with the Father and the Son, Jesus-Christ (1/2-3). The communion with God through Jesus-Christ is source of true life—eternal life—and it is in our redemption. So John wants his readers to take this seriously: “John, to the seven churches in Asia: ‘grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come….’ (1/4).
14. There can be obstacles to this: sin, love of world, false ideas about Jesus Christ, hatred against others. There are conditions to be met to combat these: holiness that allows us to remain in God, because God is love. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love” (4/8).
2 John and 3 John
- The two short letters have things in common. They were likely written in more or less the same time. Although traditionally attributed to John the apostle, these letters were probably written by a disciple or scribe of the apostle. He writes to those love the truth (see 2Jn.1/1 ; 3Jn.1/1). He is happy that his children walk in the truth (see 2Jn.4/1 ; 3Jn.4/1). He expresses at the end of each letter the hope to to speak face to face his readers (2Jn. 1.12 ; 3Jn. 1.13, 14).
- 2John is written to a “chosen Lady” which is the Church he writes to. John wants the children—members of this community—to love one another especially because some really walk in truth see 1/4-5).
- John tells the community to be careful, to keep the command and not to be led away from the truth that Jesus is incarnate in human body. Finally John greets the “chosen Lady” and the greetings include that from the “chosen sister”.
- This letter is not so much a theological discussion. It deals with problems within the church. The themes of love and truth are used to advice how to live. The “Presbyter”—the “old one—encourages community members to show their faith through love and acceptance of the historical truth about Jesus.
- Theere is false teaching going on—it is a “spiritualizing christology”. It is a false belief about the incarnation and death of Jesus the Christ. The letter forbids hospitality toward unknown or "progressive" Christians.
- This “Presbiter” is a title that the author gives himself. He is “an old one”. The growth of the Church is his task and be careful, he would say, so as not to lose the fruit of the work (2Jn. 1/8). This author writes with authority, he is someone who walks in truth and in witness of the truth (3Jn. 1/2, 3 ; 2Jn. 1/1-4 ; 12). He is sure that he is really in the turh (3Jn. 1/12).
- During his visits to the Churches, he is not just “visitor” and “teacher”, he is also judge (2Jn. 1/12). He can threaten and punish! (See 3Jn. 1.10).
- Is this really John the Apostle? Is this really John the evangelist? Well, experts say that the fact that the two letters have been accepted as “canon” means that the early Chuirch may have recognized the author. The ministry of John was very influential in Asia Minor. So it might really be him—or someone very close to him.
Book of Revelation Part One
Book of Revelation Part One
- The Christian, unlike the Jew, does not wait for the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah—Jesus Christ—has already come. The Christian instead contemplates the cross and resurrection of the Savior. Already the gospels and the Acts are enlightening enough. But we cannot avoid asking questions in our life pilgrimage. “Until when?” we might ask with the book of Revelation. “"How long will it be, holy and true master, before you sit in judgment?” (6/10). The question about the future is a valid question, and even the early Christians were raising it.
- The book of Revelation seems to offer a meditation on this future. Already from the very start of the book an announcement to the servants of the Lord is made regarding what will soon happen. (1/1 compare with 4/1, for example). The book is so concerned with the return of the Lord—a return that will elevate his reign to perfection (see 1/7 ; 22/17, 20).
- Looking at the future this way, Revelation brings consolation to the Church on trial. The book announces the judgments that God will make over the hostile world—the world that persecutes the Christians (see chapters 6, 8, 9 ; 14/6-20 ; 16, 17, 18, 19). The book gives a picture of the triumph of the elected ones and the final victory of Christ (see chapters 7 ; 14/1-5 ; 19/1-10).
- In the book of Revelation the Church is presented as led to very cruel sufferings yet led to praise to the Lord. The Church knows that the Lord is strongest of all. The Church greets the day where the destruction made by sin is repaired; the communion between God and people is established again; the fallen human being will forget the pains cause by sin (see 2/7 ; 22/1-5).
- The end of the book of Revelation corresponds to the beginning of the book of Genesis. It is like the “cycle” is achieved. Evil is conquered. Justice and mercy win. All the mysteries of life will be explained. All is accomplished. The manifestations of God are closed.
The literary style by which the book is composed
- There are many symbols in the book. The revelation is not something that is happening immediately. The end of time is presented as an event to happen—and symbols are used to show this. The scenes about the Kingdom’s achievement do not just happen on earth, they happen also in heaven.
- The scenes come from the invisible world that human eyes and human language cannot see and express (1Cor 2/9 ; 2Cor 12/3, 4). This is why John see the images that have spiritual sense. What is important is not the external detail but the deep meaning. The Lord does not present himself as he is but with features that symbolize what he will do.
- He appears from the start of the vision (1/9-20) as very strange and later as a lamb on a throne—the redeemer and king (5/6). In other parts he is a warrior on a white horse clothed with a cloak colored blood. He is judge and executioner. The heaven opens constructed on the temple of Jerusalem. The members around God’s throne are so hard to even draw. The same is with the symbolic figures representing the Church and the powers of the world—fighting. The beast with seven heads and ten horns is the Roman empire. The prostitute sitting on the beast is the Capital, Rome. A battle takes place (see 16/12 etc.) and something strange happens up the sky and on earth (see chapt 12). These show the crises that cross the reign of God.
- Note that the language is mainly borrowed from texts of the Old Testament: Mount Sion and New Jerusalem descend from heaven, and they are refuges of the redeemed; Megiddo is the place of battle that is decisive (16/16) ; Israel and the twelve tribes show the Church (7/1-8; 14/1 etc); Babylon on the Euphrates is Rome (chapt. 17 and 18.). The catastrophes affecting people resemble the plagues in Egypt.
10. Then there are the symbolic numbers. The meanings are not easy to determine.
11. The book of Revelation is “one of its kind” in the New Testament. Indeed, Jewish and Christian literatures have analogous writings too. But there is something in Revelation that makes it unique. Experts notice the coherent style, the sober style, the depths of meaning. The author says that his visions were given by God. In other literatures the author would be unknown or with a “patronage” name: Henoch, Moses, Elijah, Esdras, etc.
12. By naming himself, John is more of being in the prophetic tradition. The task of the prophets, if you remember, is to bring God’s message to the people and help people re-establish their nation and wait for the Messiah. The book of Daniel is filled with consolation in the heart of a persecuted nation. John was taking from many of the prophetic books, like Daniel. Many of the visions in the book of Revelation are borrowed from ancient prophetic texts. (Some experts would even think that maybe John was borrowing from myths of neighboring nations).
13. Borrowing from the prophetic tradition, John was not exactly in ecstasy. The visions were not exactly “immediate”. But we should not say they were false. John was filled with images borrowed from Ezekiel, Zacharia, Daniel. But, taking from theology of inspiration, the visions were inspired. The Holy Spirit strengthened the faith of John and made John see that the little people who are persecuted will win against the evil powers crushing them.
Book of Revelation Part Two
Book of Revelation Part Two:
Summary of the Book
- Chapter 1: Blessed is any who reads and hears the words of the prophecy. The time is near—the end is near—happy are those who eed the things which are written.
- John is in the spirit on the Lord's day. He hears a voice commanding him to write down what he sees and send it to the churches. He sees seven golden candlesticks and the Son of Man. His hair is white as snow, eyes like flames. In hand, seven stars. Out of his mouth come a two-edged sword. He explains that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the candlesticks are the seven churches.
- Chapters 2 & 3: John writes to the churches and implores them to be faithful, lead life simply and delete wickedness. He knows their hearts and weaknesses and speaks to each one’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Chapter 4: John is taken before the throne of God, twenty-four chosen ones, and four Creatures covered with eyes, front and back. One looks like a lion, the second an ox, the third a face of a man and the last an eagle in flight. They give glory to God.
- Chapter 5: At right hand of One on the throne is a scroll with seven seals. The lamb is found worthy to break the seals and open the scroll.
- Chapter 6: The lamb opens the seals: 1st Seal: Creature cries out; "Come foreword" A white Horse, it's rider has a bow and is given a crown. He rides in victory, ready to conquer again. 2nd Seal: Second creature cries out. A red horse, with rider given power to rob the world of peace: Given a sword; 3rd Seal: Third creature cries out. A black horse. Rider with pair of scales in hand. Expensive Food. 4th Seal: Fourth creature cries out. A sickly green horse. Rider is Death. These are given authority over a big part of the Earth to kill with sword and famine and plague and the wild beasts of the earth. 5th Seal: The martyrs cry out for justice. They are told to be patient. 6th Seal: Violent earthquake: Sun turns black: Moon turns red. Stars fall from the sky. Sky disappears. Mountains and islands ripped from their base. Rich and poor hide in the mountains and caves. They cry out to mountains to fall on them and hide them. The great day of vengeance has come. Who can withstand it?
- Chapter 7: Four angels control the four winds so no wind blew. They are told not to release the winds until the seal is put on foreheads of the servants of God. 144,000 will be marked, 12 thousand from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. He is suddenly surrounded by a huge crowd—very big in number. These are the ones who have survived the period of great trial.
- Chapter 8: 7th Seal: Thetre is silence in Heaven for about half an hour. Seven angels are given seven trumpets, 1st Trumpet: Hail and fire mixed with blood. One third of the land and plants are scorched. 2nd Trumpet: A flaming mountain is cast into the sea. One third of the sea turns to blood, one third of the sea creatures are killed, one third of the ships are destroyed. 3rd Trumpet: A huge burning star crashes down. One third of the rivers and springs are polluted. Many people die from drinking this bad water. "Wormwood" is the star's name. 4th Trumpet: One third of the sun, moon and stars were hit hard enough to be plunged into darkness. The day lost a third of it's light, as did the night.
- Chapter 9: 5th Trumpet: A star falls from the sky to earth. It is given the key and opens the abyss. Smoke pours out. Out of smoke comes locusts as powerful as scorpions in their stings. They are told not to harm plants or any living things except those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Tortures them for five months. They wish for death but will not find it. Description of locusts: In appearance the locusts are like horses equipped for battle. On their heads they wear something like gold crowns; their faces are like human faces but with hair like women's hair. Their teeth are like the teeth of lions. Their chests like iron breastplates. Their wings make a sound like the roar of many chariots and horses charging into battle. They have tails with stingers like scorpions; in their tails is venom to harm men for five months. Acting as their king was the angel in charge of the abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon and in Greek Apollyon. 6th Trumpet: The first woe is passed, but two more to come. A great voice says, "Release the four angels who are tied up on the banks of the great river Euphrates: " The Angels are released. It is precisely the hour, day, month, year for which they had been prepared to kill a third of mankind. Their cavalry troops have two hundred million soldiers. Description of horses and riders: The breastplates they wear are fiery red, deep blue and pale yellow. The horses' heads are like heads of lions and out of their mouths come fire and sulfur and smoke. One third of mankind is killed. Those who survive do not repent.
- Chapter 10: Another mighty angel comes down from heaven. He holds a little scroll which has been opened. His right foot is on the sea, left foot on the land. Angel and seven thunders cry out. John is told not to write down what seven thunders said. He is told there will be no more delay. When the seventh angel blows trumpet, God's plan will be accomplished in full. John is told to take the scroll and eat it. It tastes sweet in the mouth but sour in the stomach.
- Chapter 11: Told to measure God's temple and altar and count those who worship there. Exclude the outer court for it has been handed over to the Gentiles who will crush the holy city for forty two months. Commission two witnesses to prophesy for those twelve hundred and sixty days, dressed in sackcloth. Fire comes out of the mouth of the witnesses to any one who tries to harm them. They have the power to close up the sky and not allow any rain to fall during that time. Also can turn water into blood and afflict earth with any kind of plague. When finished a wild beast comes up from abyss and wages war against them. Their corpses will lie in the street of the city where their lord was crucified for three days. People all over the world will celebrate and stare at their corpses for three days and refuse to bury them. After three and a half days witnesses rise. It terrifies all who see The 4th Trumpet-The Cloisters Apocalypse: early 14th century manuscript- Click for larger imagethem. God assumes them into heaven on cloud. Suddenly, there is a violent earthquake. One tenth of the city is destroyed. Seven thousand people are killed, the rest repent. Second woe is passed. Third to come. 7th Trumpet: Loud voices call out that the kingdom of the world now belongs to the Lord. God opens the temple in heaven and can be seen the Arc of the Covenant. Lightning flashes, thunder, earthquake, hailstorm.
- Chapter 12: A great sign appears in sky, a women clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of seven stars. She is with child. Gives birth. Another sign, a great dragon, flaming red, with seven heads and ten horns. On his head, seven diadems. His tail swept a third of the stars from the sky and hurled them down on the earth. He waits for child to be born so he can devour it. The child is born. It is a son, destined to shepherd all nations with an iron rod. The Child is taken up to God and the throne. The woman flees to the desert to special place prepared for her for twelve hundred and sixty days. War breaks out in heaven. Michael and his angels battle with the Dragon. The Dragon is hurled down to Earth with his minions with him. The Dragon pursues woman in the desert. She is given wings of a giant eagle where she can fly to her place in the desert for three and a half years. The Dragon spews a torrent of water to search out the woman, but the earth opens and swallows the water. Enraged by her escape, the dragon goes out to make war on the rest of God's people. He took up his position by the shores of the sea.
- Chapter 13: A Beast comes out of the sea. It has ten horns, seven heads containing diadems and blasphemous names. Like a leopard, but paws like a bear and mouth like a lion. It is given power, throne and authority by the Dragon. One head was mortally wounded and healed. In wonderment, the whole world followed after the Beast. People worshipped Beast and Dragon. Their authority to last only forty two months. Granted authority over all people, nation and race. Worshipped by all those who do not have their names in book of life. Let him who has ears heed these words: If one is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes! If one is destined to be slain by the sword, by the sword he will be slain! Such is the faithful endurance that distinguishes God's holy people.'Wormwood'-The Cloisters Apocalypse- Early 14th century manuscript-Click for larger image A Second Beast comes up out of the Earth. It used the authority of the first Beast to promote its interests by making the world worship the first beast whose mortal wound had been healed. Performs great miracles, leads astray Earth's inhabitants by telling them to make an idol of first Beast. Life is given to the image of the Beast, and the power of speech and the ability to put to death anyone who refuses to worship it. Forces all men, rich and poor to accept a stamped image on right hand or forehead. No one allowed to buy or sell anything unless first marked with the name of the beast or the number that stood for it's name. A certain wisdom is needed here; with a little ingenuity anyone can calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number that stands for a certain man. The man's number is six hundred sixty six.
- Chapter 14: The Lamb appears with the 144.000 faithful. Angels warn against accepting the mark of the beast. The Son of Man appears with sickle and harvests the Earth. He harvests the grapes of God's wrath. They are taken to a wine press outside of the city. So much blood pours out that for two hundred miles, it is as deep as a horse's bridle.
- Chapter 15: Seven angels holding seven final plagues that would bring God's wrath to a climax. Given seven bowls containing God's wrath.
- Chapter 16: The Angels are told to go pour out bowls of God's wrath on the Earth. 1st Bowl: Boils on men who accepted the mark of the beast. 2nd Bowl: The sea turned to blood like a corpse. All sea creatures die. 3rd Bowl: Rivers and springs turn to blood. 4th Bowl: Burned men with fire. They do not repent. 5th Bowl: Plunged into darkness. 6th Bowl: Poured out on the great river Euphrates. It's water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings of the East. Three unclean spirits come from the mouth of Dragon, Beast and False Prophet. They perform miracles, and assemble the kings of the Earth for battle. Be on your guard! I come like a thief. Happy is the man who stays wide awake and prepared. Devils assemble the kings in a place in Hebrew called Armageddon. 7th Bowl: Loud voice says, "It is finished." Suddenly, the worst earthquake ever. The Great City is split into three parts. Other Gentile cities also fall. God remembers Babylon the great, giving her cup of His blazing wrath. Islands, mountains disappear. Giant hailstones fall.
- Chapter 17: Babylon as harlot on a scarlet beast. I will explain to you the symbolism of the woman and of the seven headed and ten horned beast carrying her. The beast you saw existed once but now exists no longer. It will come up from the abyss once more before going to final ruin. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits enthroned. They are also seven kings. Five have already fallen, one lives now and the last has not yet come, but when he does come he will remain only a short while. The beast which existed once but now exists no longer even though it is an eighth king, is really one of the seven and on his way to ruin. Ten horns represent ten kings which have not yet been crowned. They will bestow their power on the beast and fight against the lamb. The ten kings will turn against her and destroy her.
- Chapter 18: Another angel comes to Earth, Calls out: "Fallen is Babylon the great." Kings lament. Merchants lament. Sailors lament. Saints, apostles, prophets rejoice.
- Chapter 19: There is loud singing of victory from Heaven. John falls at feet of a great angel. He is told to get up, worship God alone. Heaven opened up, a rider on a white horse emerged, his name was "The Faithful And True" Justice is his standard. His eyes are like fire. The armies of Heaven are behind him. The armies do battle with the Beast. The Beast is captured, along with the False Prophet. They are hurled down into the fiery pool.
- Chapter 20: An Angel comes down with a huge chain. It seizes dragon and chains him up for a thousand years. He is thrown down into abyss and held for a thousand years, after which he is to be released for a short time. John saw the spirits of those who had been martyred for Jesus or had not received the mark of the beast. They reign with God for a thousand years. This is the First Resurrection. After one thousand years, Satan will be released. He will seduce all nations of the earth for battle and muster troops of Gog and Magog. He invaded the country and surrounded the holy city where God's people were encamped. Fire comes down from Heaven and devours them. The Devil is thrown into a pool of burning sulfur. All living and dead are judged.
- Chapter 21: New Heaven and Earth. Jerusalem as the bride of the Lamb. No more tears, pain or mourning.
- Chapter 22: City of God. Trees bear fruit 12 times a year. God shall give them light and they shall reign forever.
- There are many interpretations of the book. Let us look at some of them.
- There are many interpretaiotn but these can be put under three categories according to subject matter and two categories according to general plan.
The three categories according to subject matter:
- There are those who see in Revelation a prophecy of the history of the Church since Christ until his coming again in glory. This category can be called “historical”. It was a view used for a long time, but now it is abandoned.
- Many theologians see that the subject matter of Revelation is the return of the Lord and the events that come before that return. Interpretations on this line would say that starting chapt. 4 the visions are about the end of time. So this category can be called “futuristic” or “eschatological”.
- There are interpretations that prefer to be critically exegetic. These would like to see what the author himself—John—is saying; what is his point of view. John with his community was still waiting for the return of Jesus—and it might come soon. Looking at the events happening around him, John expect the coming soon (see 1.1). The prophecy of John is limited according to his historical time. The worldly power opposing Chrsit and the community is the Roman empire. The visionary in the book expects this empire to fall soon (see chapts. 17-19)…and soon Jesus will return.
The two categories according the the general plan
- One might say that the book is organized chronologically—in sequence of time.
- Another way would be to see the book as a set of symbols that design the fate of humanity from the start of Christianity to the end of time. In this case, the book is like a spiral or circle after cirle: from one circle to another—say a set of symbols then another set of symbols—the reader contemplates the phases of the kingdom.
Some interpretations over the centuries: Eusebius, Origene, Denys of Alexandria, Andrew of Caesaree, Ireneus and Hyppolitus…these are some of the earlies names that have tried their interpretations about the book. Some were very “spiritual” and others were more interested in the political situation they were in.
- Victorin, bishop of Pettau, and martyred in 303, had very realistic views, for example: the beast of chapt. 17 is emperor Nero returning from hell and using a false name. He becomes king of the jews and imposes the Moses law to the Christians.
- 13. One interpretation became influential in understanding the book. It was by Tichonius. This one went contrary to Victorin. It was a more spiritual interpretation. For example: the reign of 1,000 years in chapt. 20 is the period between the moment when Christ was here and the return in the future. Tichonius thought that Christians will suffer a lot first. Many will be calling themselves Christians but there will be those who are “true”. The true ones will separate and be saved. Those who refuse will have no time to repent, they will be eaten away. Tichonius gave an interpretation that will influence many other interpretations later on…and for many years.
- 14. It was only in the 1200’s when the Abbot Joachim of Florence will give a new approach to the book of Revelation. He would say that world history is divided into three phases: the phase of the Father, the phase of the Son and the phase of the Holy Spirit.
- 15. In the Old Testament we see the phase of the Father. With the phase of the Son, there will be 42 generations involved (which is Joachim’s interpretation of Matt 1/1-17). In Rev.11/2 we read “42 months” (symbolizing the generations) also and will extend for 1260 years symbolized by 1260 days in Rev.11/3. So after 1260 years, a new era will appear.
- The phase of the Holy Spirit will be 1,000 years and during this time there weill be many ascetics. Many will take the vow of chastity, taking inspiration from Rev 20/6 ; see 14.4. The Christian will be reformed.
- This may sound complicated, but Joachim was lucky: during his time there was a lot of corruption among the clergy and two big religious orders emerged: the Dominicans and the Franciscans. These contributed to Church reform. Joachim was fighting against Church corruption and saw in Revelation his own struggle. So what he wroter about the book became influential among many new people who sought reform.
- Then many years later, a certain Nicolas of Lyr (in 1329) saw in Revelation the end of a political era, the fight against heresies, and eventually the Crusades. This interpretation became influential in interpreting even the fight against the Muslims.
- Some Protestant theologians, like Francis Lambert of Avignon (in 1528) thought that the Pope and the Muslim Turks were anti-Christ.
- Catholic theologians felt the need to modify interpretations. (Why? Because the view about the Pope was getting more negative). The Catholic theologians refused to see in the book of Revelation a history of the Church. In fact, good biblical exegesis emerged. The Jesuits were one of those who started a strong biblical exegetical studies of the book. So one of the views saw the book of revelation as the experiences of the early Church during the time of John. It was the time of struggle against the synagogues. It was the time of struggle against Rome. The angel who bounds Satan in chapt. 20 might be emperor Constantin, the first Christian emperor.
- Later in 1688 a certain Bossuet interpreted the book as a struggle of the Church against Rome. Catholic biblical studies really followed this line.
- By the late 1700’s and 1800’s, there was a general agreement to see the book of Revelation as a result of the circumstances of the Church during the time of John. Sure, it was written and made fit for all time, but do not forget the moment it was written..
- It became generally accepted that the historical conditions of John’s community was projected to the future by arbitrary interpretations. Actually, John was attempting to console his community and make their faith stronger. True, at that time there was a strong belief that Christ would soon—very soon—return. So the community had to be well prepared even in the middle of struggles. Later improvements in Biblical studies made some theologians say that the book of Revelations is still prophetic. It is about the historical conditions of John’s community, but the book is not enclosed only in that period. There are still struggles in the Church…and the book has something to say about these too.
- The book of Revelation is about the victory of Christianity over Rome. There are symbols about the future, sure, but they speak of the coming ruin of the empire.
- 25. How then do we manage this expectation of the return of Jesus…when it does not come too soon, it seems. John was part of this mentality. See the book as an encouragement. Waiting for the Lord is not beyond a life time. We wait and hope it is “near” or better “at hand”. It is not us who will say when exactly is the final return…but in our lives, it is happening already.
- 26. If there are points about the futre not accomplished in the book of Revelation, it is not to remove the authority of the book. It is enough to admit that the book was inspired and the Church really is victorious. No dragon and no beast can destroy her. The name of Jesus will not be deleted.
- 27. The book can continue to be a book consoling the readers. Hope can go on and on. This is what the book of Revelation can teach.
Can we love and forgive as we should?
- Can we love and forgive those who really hurt us A LOT? The question gets crucialwhen we cannot repair. Look at the artist who lost his arm. He cannot get that arm back. Think of death in the family due to the violence done to him. The person is dead—gone. Think of the big loss of property in cases of land stealing by politicians. Look at lost opportunities of a young man or woman because of the cheating of someone else? Think of the damage done to the family by a father who turns to adultery and abandons the household. What can we really do?
- Let us face it. Jesus demands forgiveness without limit—without conditions. This is a revealed truth. It is tough especially when we recognize that we do not have the guts to really forgive. But let us approach this question courageously.
- Let us think about hell—for a while. Do we want people to go to hell—in hades or worse in gehenna? As disciples of Jesus, might we not want to say: “that I hope for all—that all live happily and eternally happy”. Can we not hope that everyone will be forgiven? Can we hope that the people who have really damaged us can still find their way to heaven?
- In what name can we refuse hope for others? If I hope for myself, can I refuse hope for others? To accept the invitation of Christ to forgive and hope for the best happiness in others—including the person who really hurt us—is to accept that we are disciples of Christ. Let us try not to prohibit hope and forgiveness. We have a model: the story of Jesus and Peter in the 4th gospel—the account of John.
- Let us read: Jn 21/15-19. 15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep.18 (Note: The first two love refers to “love” as such. The third “love” has something to do with “friendship”. So we might say that in the third question, Jesus is asking: “are we friends”?)
- This is a story about Jesus and Peter meeting at the lake. Jesus is risen. Peter, during the passion, denied Jesus—three times. Note how Jesus calls Peter: “Simon, son of John”. This time it is not “Peter” or “Rock”—the title given. No, this time Peter is not called by his title but by his “first name”. Forgiveness is given not to a person with a title but to the whole person himself. This is a deep forgiveness.
- Note that verse 15 has the verb “love”—do you love me? The same is in verse 16. Both use the verb to indicate “strong love”…or the “should love”. Jesus used this same word when he said that great love is to give life for friends.
- In verse 17, Jesus uses another word for love—this time a “soft one”—and it is love of friends…or the “as-I-can-love”.. So the first type of love is “love”, “you should love”, period. The second type of love is “love-as-I-can”. So in verses 15 and 16, Jesus asks about “should love”. Love Jesus as you should. Peter seems to say he can reach that level—he can love Jesus as he should. Do we not also say this--we should love Jesus? Do we not hear this during, for example, homilies in the mass?
- But when Jesus asks, in verse 17, about “love-that-you can”—or friendship—Peter lowers himself down. He remembers that he failed in the should love when he denied Jesus. He fell three times. No, he could not love as he should.
- But Jesus asks Peter: “are we friends”. It is like Jesus also lowering the standard of love: “Peter, do you love me as you can?” No, it is not: "Peter do you love me in the ideal way?" Rather, “Peter, are we friends?” Jesus is saying something like this: "Peter, you denied me three times. So the ideal-should-love is really tough, I know. But how about friendship, the love that you can, yes, how about that? You are ready for that, right?"
- Simon, son of John, recognizes the level that Jesus assumes. Yes, he can love as he can. He loves to the best of his abilities and limits. Maybe the should love is tough going…but why not the “as-I-can-love”? This is not impossible. Jesus knows it well. There are zones in what we can--and how far we might apply the "should love".
- Jesus seems to be more realistic than us! We can be hard on ourselves...but not Jesus. If we are hard on ourselves, we might be making an illusion of our love. This is why we see Jesus a bit more realistic than us. Funny eh?
- Note one more thing. After this talk of Jesus with Peter, Jesus concludes that one day Peter will die for Christ. Finally, Peter will love Christ as he should. It will be the love of the higher order. By “loving-as-I-can”, we can arrive at “loving-as-I-should”.
- At times we hear reproaches saying that “we do not love enough” or that “we shouldlove”. Of course, it is true that we should love. But Jesus seems to be more realistic. He recognizes how far we go. He calls each one according to how one can…and lead each one to loving how one should. It may take time.
- Someone once said that loving is also like putting money in the bank. Slowly...slowly...it grows. If we fail at one time or another, just keep on "depositing". Let it grow. Well, the image is not very accurate, but it can help.
- Forgiveness and love are what might help us move on. Take it easy tough...it really takes time.