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Now, in Spring, through our study of John, chapters 17 – 21, we’ll continue to see how Jesus draws attention to the Father and performs the last and most glorious sign. Jesus demonstrates for us what Christianity is really all about: self-surrender, self-death, submission, obedience. These are words that we, and our culture, don’t really like to hear and aren’t comfortable with at all – after all, we’re totally into “rights” and asserting especially ours, aren’t we? Here’s a review of what we’ve been learning so far:
One way we’ve been studying John is by looking at how it is all about “belief” – What do we believe? How do we believe? What brings us to belief(s)? What increases our ability to believe and conversely how are they negatively affected? We examined the different types of “faith” we see exhibited by different characters in John: signs-faith by the people who come to belief in Jesus because they see the signs – miracles – Jesus does. Then the signs lead them on to greater belief as in the case of disciples or those healed or they fall off. Here’s a small review of what we’ve learned so far about the Book of John.
- Entry points for belief in Jesus – belief is allegiance to Jesus – allegiance is following Jesus – what does it mean to know, believe, and receive Jesus? Means to experience Jesus in our gut, in our brains, in our lives, right now.
- John is also a Book of Signs (the many signs that show Jesus is God) and a Book of Glory (about Jesus revealing his glory and the glory of his Father)
- Sign #1 – Jn. 2: 1-11 – water into wine – bold faith –model for faith is Mary, Jesus’ mother
- Sign #2 – Jn 4: 43-54 – remote healing – unorthodox faith – model for faith is the Royal official
- Sign #3 – Jn. 5: 1-9 – disabled man walks – this lame man is a negative paradigm of discipleship, he is a model of signs-faith – initially believes but then falls away and does not persevere when Jesus invites faith 5:14-15 but rather betrays him to the Jews – prefiguring analogous acts of betrayal
- Sign #4 – Jn. 6: 1-14 – feeding of 5000 – abiding faith – Philip and Andrew fail Jesus’ test as they focus on purely natural, materialistic terms; Jesus also summons the crowds and his disciples to a higher level of commitment and ultimately this alienates many. Abiding faith vs. sign faith is a critical motif in John’s soteriology – 6: 2 – it is not those who begin to follow Jesus but those who persevere who remain his disciples – 6: 60-70. Our models for abiding faith are the disciples who become the apostles.
- Sign #5 – Jn. 9: 1-7 – Blind man sees – Christian faith – Jesus demonstrates he is the Light of the World by healing the blind man. The opening of eyes was a natural expression for receiving sight – cf. 2 Kings 6: 20; Isaiah 35: 5; 42:7 or for being able to see more clearly (Genesis 21: 19, Luke 24: 13). It also applies to receiving spiritual vision – revelation from God. This blind man contrasts positively with the Jewish leaders and elite as a man who is open to God – he is our model of faith – a positive paradigm of discipleship.
- Sign #6 – Jn. 11: 1-45 – Lazarus raised to life – Bold faith – Martha; Salvific faith – Martha; Courageous faith – Thomas; Jesus is a model of obedience and surrender – demonstrates dying to live (self-death) Self-death is when we put others first, before ourselves.
John Chapter 15: 1-11 – Connolly (17) Title: The Secrets of the Vine – Lecture Title: Abiding Faith (Obedient Faith)
Jesus is the vine; God, the Father is the vinedresser; disciples (we) are the branches. Abiding faith is faith that is filled with the mutual indwelling, the coinherence of Christ and his people. Christ lives in us – this is grace and will. “Charis is grace, the given passion that flows from the self offering of Christ and is given that we may learn to love.” We will, choose freely, to follow Christ.
Side note: Grace is beyond our control – its grace of God – but our free-will is indeed under our control. We could get totally philosophical and say that will isn’t either but I think we modern people won’t seriously accept this :).