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Here, in John 5, a man disabled for 38 years and daily frustrated by not being able to jump into the pool and receive healing is healed by Jesus on the Sabbath. This man is a negative paradigm of initial discipleship. We shall study an example of a positive one in the blind man healed in chapter 9. The rest and most of the fifth chapter of John is about different understandings of Sabbath, charges against Jesus, and how Jesus witnesses and glorifies God. In 5:30 Jesus claims his deity and emphasizes his obedience to the Father’s will as his perfect agent (shaliach). The Pharisees misunderstand Jesus as blaspheming and claiming equality with God while Jesus explains that he is merely doing what he’s seen his Father do; he has been given all authority by his Father (life-giver and judge). The Father’s works are also his witness, just as Scripture itself (Old Testament) and John the Baptist. The Pharisees see only the breaking of a law; Jesus shows compassion to the man but the man falls away after initial obedience. Jesus is a model of discipleship for us – he seeks glory only from the Father, spurns human glory, and is completely obedient and submissive. This is another chapter full of Johannine theology (the Jesus sayings) and high Christology where we see the close relationship between the Father and the Son, a perfect unity of love between God the Father and the “only begotten” Son of God. Incidentally, Qumran’s Copper Scroll provides corroboration of Judean awareness of the Bethesda pool, prior to 70 CE – the Bethesda pool is where the healing in this chapter took place.
In this extended dialogue with the Samarian woman, an outcast, Jesus breaks many barriers: socio-ethnic, gender and moral. He does this because it is the Father’s will. The harvest is always ready – people are ready to hear about Christ. There’s a question here for us: How do we witness? The Father is seeking true worshippers who will worship him in spirit – unorthodox faith in God goes beyond the faith of rituals or mere outward practices. This chapter has the familiar misunderstandings and preoccupations of people with materials things (water to drink, food to eat) while Jesus is focused on spiritual realities. The heart of the Samaritan story is in 4: 23 – 24. Outward markers such as gender, ethnicity, status, are immaterial to God – he seeks those who worship him truly, from their inmost heart. The remote healing of the Galilean aristocrat’s son is another sign: Power of Jesus to snatch a life from the jaws of death. Again, God is looking at the heart of faith offered to him not the outward markers of the person and faith in Jesus rejuvenates – gives us life, right now.
Nicodemus, elite, open-minded, comes to Jesus because he has questions. Jesus’ answers puzzle him: “you must be born again … born of water and Spirit … born of the Spirit … to see the kingdom of God.” Most famous verse in John 3: 16 reminds us Jesus, who has the authority from the Father to give spiritual life, did not come to condemn us but to show us God’s love. We self-judge ourselves when we do not believe in Jesus. Saving faith comprises of believing and obeying; such a faith gives us eternal life, which we enjoy in advance, now, because of our union with Christ. John the Baptist exalts Christ and is a model witness for us. Finally, 3: 31-36 is Johannine theology and consummate (high) Christology.