Posts Tagged ‘John’

Though we would never willingly hire its services, grief is an accomplished unifier.

One of the ways that Jesus’ experience takes in that of pained humanity is his acquaintance with grief, and of its adoptive requirements.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25–27 ESV)

The ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ is likely a humble self-depiction of the Fourth Gospel’s author. Some strength of friendship, very close to sibling affection, linked Jesus and this man in an almost family way. Among Jesus’ dying words from the cross comes this formalizing of family, produced not by biology’s traceable accidents but rather by the unforeseen sinews of friendship that link friends more closely than brothers, and occasionally draw a weeping mother into its awesome web. (more…)


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Jesus’ claims the ultimate solidarity with those whom he calls ‘my sheep’.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John 10:11–13 ESV)

It is possible to imagine that even the most responsible hired hand would practice the craft of shepherding with excellence.

But not at the cost of his life. (more…)

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Misplaced certainty leads to the most regrettable errors.

Jesus’ teaching moved the hearts and minds of the masses. They had heard nothing like this, so compelling it stirred the deepest longings, so clear it seemed a window into truth, so accompanied by power that it must have come from God himself.

Yet they knew their facts, and those facts left no room for Jesus. (more…)

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Jesus performed surgery with questions.

The gospels describe him wielding the interrogative like a scalpel. At first sight, these can sound like stupid questions. No doubt onlookers scoffed. He must have known this, yet he pressed into his surgical task with uncommon persistence. (more…)

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One wishes we had more of the Baptizer’s words.

What we have makes him sound a little like a provider of set speeches. Every syllable seems burdened with meaning, adding up to become sentences that are always profound. One wonders what his smaller talk was like. (more…)

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If the conceit of the modern mind is that God is inaccessible to rational investigation, then the self-flattery of our post-modern moment is that I will define for myself who my god is to be.
Both fail to align with the biblical witness, which portrays a God who speaks. For the hungry of heart, this may be un detalle pequeño e importante.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1–2 ESV)

The Gospel of John’s opening declaration—redolent of the Hebrew Bible’s majestic creation narrative—is that God was forever poised to express himself. The Word was with God long before our ears existed to hear. Indeed, John dares to claim, the Word was in some way God.

The modern mind reels, for it so seldom hears God speak. The post-modern mind quakes, or ought to, because if this is true then it does not have the first word and is likely also to lose the last.

A cast of scholarly mind that understood this divine logos to represent a divine rationality deeply impressed upon creation has been largely superseded by a more hebraic understanding that the Word denotes expression, communication, the taking of initiative in relationship. This is almost certainly correct.

Perhaps this bit of solemn poetry is merely that, a religiously intoxicated howling into the dark night’s air. If so, the most that can honestly be said for it is that it is somehow appealing in its archaic sentimentality.

Or maybe this is, as the author of the gospel called John seems to want to claim, the truest thing that he knows how to say.

In that case both our modern silence and our post-modern self-fascination are symptomatic not of the Word gone mute, but rather of our hardness of hearing. This ought to strike us both as deeply threatening and as profoundly promising.

For if the Word speaks still, then we may soon find ourselves hearing.

We would not be the first to plead expectantly for ears to hear.


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A part of the beauty and utility of biblical faith lies in its correctibility.

The tradition’s best protection against appealing fantasies lies in its deep commitment to reality.

The Fourth Gospel narrates Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his disciples with ample doses of conversation. Jesus engages Peter, for example, in a poignant, painful, and empowering three-part exchange that centers around question, defensive answer, and prescribed conduct:

* Jesus: Peter, do you love me?
* Peter: Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
* Jesus: Then feed my sheep. (more…)

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One stumbles easily into the mistaken impression that following Jesus is a way of ‘becoming religious’. The understandable misapprehension that the job is to figure out what to say, what not to say, and when, can be forgiven if it does not persist and therefore become an obstacle to laying hold of the reality.

The gospels present us with the fortunate example of Thomas, who didn’t understand what Jesus was getting on about, and said so.

(Jesus said:) ‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

The Fourth Gospel makes hay on initial misunderstanding and its elaborate correction by Jesus. Usually, as here, Jesus’ disciples play the foil. (more…)

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Contrary to an attractively sentimental reading, John’s account of the miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee is not about Jesus’ common touch, Mary’s maternal affection, or the Master’s interest in the details of our lives (the embarrassment of an under-stocked wine cellar on wedding day, for example).

The event is, for the writer of the Fourth Gospel, neither a personality profile in narrative format nor what we might call a simple ‘miracle’ nor even a ‘problem’ now shifted to the ‘problem solved’ column. It is a sign. Indeed, it is for the writer nothing less than the first of Jesus’ signs. (more…)

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One might imagine that knowing Jesus were a matter of mastering certain details. His antecedents, his persona, his intentions, his purpose.

Contrary to subjectivity’s noisy heralds—for they are legion—these matters are indeed essential to knowing him, to knowing anyone. The elevation of ‘relationship’ and ‘experience’ as self-evident and absolute priorities is, one hopes, a passing fad. Yet it will cause heavy casualties before its demise. One must know some facts if one is to truly know a person. This once did not require statement and we’ll get there again or civilization will have passed us by entirely.

Yet John’s gospel reminds us of the relational, moral character of knowing Jesus. Revelation, though it bears myriad and critical facts, is not an abstract process. It occurs as Jesus and his followers relate responsibly and—in our case—obediently to each other. (more…)

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