Sunday, 20 March 2011

John's gospel

Yes - all of it!

Looking at today's lectionary reading (Jesus & Nicodemus - John ch 3) in context yesterday I realised something about the 'shape' of John's gospel that I don't think had hit me before.
i knew about John's use of the symbolism of water.
I knew about the 'signs' that John draws attention to - the wedding at Cana, the healing of the man born blind, raising of Lazarus, etc (7 of them, if I remember correctly).
But what I don't think I'd noticed before was the recurring conflict:

John begins by setting his stall out in the prologue - he is clear about who Jesus is: and equally clear that John the Baptist in NOT the Messiah. Then comes the first 'sign' (wedding at Cana) followed immediately by Jesus overturning the tables; the conversation with Nicodemus, followed by an argument about baptism; the woman at the well, the second sign (healing of official's son) & third (healing of the man at the pool of Bethzatha), followed by an argument about healing on the sabbath & statements about Jesus' authority; the fourth sign (feeding 5000) & fifth (walking on the water), followed by 'grumbles' about Jesus saying he is the bread of life & a real weird interlude about Jesus' brothers trying to force him into the open at the festival of shelters (ch 7) & Jesus' teaching there, followed by the much better known story of the woman caught in adultery & more conflict, concluding with people picking up stones to kill Jesus (end of ch 8); the sixth sign is the healing of the man born blind (again, on a sabbath), followed by the Pharisees investigating the event, Jesus teaching about 'the good shepherd' & the rejection on Jesus & more threats of stoning; the seventh sign is the raising of Lazarus, followed by more talk of 'the plot to kill Jesus', the annointing at Bethany, a plot to kill Lazarus, & then the triumphal entry into Jerusalem & the last week of Jesus' life.

It seems to me there is a constant ebb & flow of signs of Jesus' identity & people 'believing in him' with the opposition to Jesus. Given that John himself says (20: 30) that the purpose of the gospel is that people will put their faith in Jesus as Messiah & have eternal life, perhaps it is not surprising that John won't let us sit on the fence about Jesus, but forces a choice - Jesus is the son of God to believe in, or Jesus is a heretic to be eliminated.

One of next weeks services is an all-age service, and I'd really like to get people thinking about these different 'episodes' and how John tells the story and forces us to choose.

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