Lectionary Year A
April 21, 2002
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(RR)Nestle-Aland indicates that the pericope immediately preceding the text is John 9:39-41,
but I believe that it should be vv. 35-41. The Nestle-Aland choice does provide the transition and link to the next section, but does not tell us who Jesus is talking to and why there seems to be so much controversy. It also falls short of making a definite point that forms the basis for the controversy, parables, dialogue and discourse that forms the theme for the next section.
In vv. 35- 41 Jesus discovers that the blind man to whom he restored sight and seeing,
has been rejected and thrown out of the synagogue by the Pharasees and Jews. Jesus asks the once blind man if he believes in the Son of Man, and he responds to Jesus that if Jesus will tell him who the Son of Man may be, he will believe. "Jesus said to him, You have seen him, and the one speaking, that one he is." (My translation) The man responds, "Lord, I believe" and worshiped him. The pharasees did not believe and rejected the man throwing him out of the synagogue. We can now relate to the nature of the statements that comprise the transition in vv 39-41.
Jesus says that he came into the world for judgment to restore sight to those not seeing, and to those who believe that they see will become blind. The Pharasees nearby who overheard his comment to the once blind man, challenged Jesus by asking him the question, " Are we also blind?" Jesus responds, "if you were blind, you would have no guilt." You say, " We see, your guilt remains."
The Nestle-Aland text shows the pericope that follows the text is vv. 11-13, and I have struggled with this designation as the pericope that follows the text. In fact, I could support that the text should be expanded to include verses 1-21. They all deal with the (Good Shepherd) but after a close and labored inspection, I have decided to go with the text as verses 1-10 because these verses identify the "Good Shepherd". The identity is revealed, even if it is to identify the shepherd by a comparison of what the shepherd is not ( This is similar to an effort to describe who God is) in these verses.
The pericope that follows the text then becomes vv. 11-21 rather than 11-13, because these verses describe what the Good Shepherd does for "the" sheep of the fold as well as those not of the fold. This includes the voluntary giving up of his life, a voluntary act of love, for the sheep. All of the themes used to identify the shepherd in the text are developed and expanded to the ultimate. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who is God incarnate, the Gate for the sheep, the Gate, and the way to Salvation. Jesus came to save by the ultimate act of love in giving freely of ones life in sacrifice for the sheep that they might have life.
Jesus, the Shepherd is also the way, to be followed to enter Salvation and life to the full. It is in believing and following that we are in relationship with Jesus and come to know him. This relationship is like the one between the Father and Jesus as the Father knows Jesus and Jesus knows the Father.
We discover the identity of the gatekeeper as a hired hand (hireling) who will run away at the first sign of danger from the approaching wolves.
In verses 19-21 we discover that the Pharasees and Jews to whom Jesus is speaking are divided, but there must be believers because there is a division among the group. Some are saying, "He possesses a demon and is out of his mind. Why you listen to him?" ( My translation) Others are saying that if Jesus is possessed by a demon, could a demon open the eyes of one born blind? This is the other bookend of the text. The preceding pericope of the text deals with the failure of the Pharasees and Jews to believe the blind man whose sight had been restored by Jesus. The pericope closes the text by showing that some like the blind man could not see. They now like the blind man can see, and do believe. Could one possessed by a demon open the eyes of the blind?
The pericope prior to the one in question is the story of the man born blind.
Jesus finds himself in dispute with the scribes and pharisees. It is
conceivable, even probable, that the theives and robbers Jesus is talking
about are these same men. Like the unfaithful shepherds of Ezekiel 34 and
God is the only true shepherd and will send a man of his own choosing to
lead his people. Much like the choosing of Joshua.
B.Organization of the Compositional Whole
I. The Prologue (1:1-18)
II. The Witness of John the Baptist and His Disciples (1:19-51)
III. The Public Ministry, Signs, and Revelation of Jesus from the Father (2:1-12:50)
IV. The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (13:1-20:31)
V. Epilogue and Conclusion (21:1-25)
The first section of the Gospel of John sets the stage for the entire book. Jesus is God
incarnate, and through God's magnificent Grace and love for us through Jesus, God is visible to us and if we believe, can become children of God not of flesh. Jesus is the way and the means through this life to eternal life, Salvation in heaven with God, as a child of God. God loves us that much. It is God's love for us, God who is the Shepherd, and God who wants us to know God and to be in relationship as the sheep are in relationship with the shepherd. Jesus is the act of God's grace and love who is sent to provide that relationship and through him, know God. Jesus is the gate, the means through which we enter heaven. But Jesus is also the way we are to follow as we prepare to enter the gate and heaven. Like the sheep of the fold, we have total trust that our Shepherd will provide for our every need while protecting us even to the point of giving his own life that we might have life. It is in the following that we are in relationship with Jesus and therefore come to know God. It is in this relationship that we learn the Love that God has for us through Jesus, but most importantly, we learn and know the love that we are to have for one another.
The middle section of the book, "The Public Ministry, Signs, and Revelation of Jesus from the Father," includes those acts of love by Jesus that established his identity, light, and revelation that he was God incarnate who was sent to show the children of God the way and means to Salvation. It has allowed them to know God and God's grace which was available to them through their faith, believing that in and through Jesus was the way the truth and the life (light). It was through faith alone that all in heaven was available to them. The controversy dialogue throughout this section with the Pharasees and Jews was the means the evangelist used to emphasize the importance of seeing and believing in Jesus.
The Pharasees and Jews had eyes but could not see. They thought that they were seeing but in fact were living in guilt because they were blind and could not see the light and truth through Jesus. Jesus is the light that overcomes darkness or evil. Jesus is the "Good Shepherd" who calls the sheep by name. The sheep know his voice and will follow. The sheep will not follow strangers who do not enter by the gate, are thieves and robbers and who want to kill and destroy them. The sheep will run away from them. The sheep are in relationship with the shepherd and know the shepherd through that relationship. Jesus is the gate and the gate for the sheep. I have already stressed this importance from a theological perspective. And we also know as sheep of the fold, that even to the point of death, our shepherd will protect and provide for us.
The remainder of the book accounts for the Glory of Jesus by his passion, death and resurrection. It also includes the appearances of the resurrected Jesus.
C.Issues of Authorship
After reviewing many commentaries and sources on the book of John, I must conclude that none of the scholars or sources can state beyond a doubt that any one person wrote the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John. Earliest sources credit the authorship to John, a disciple, and Son of Zebedee. Irenaeus (ca. 180-200) says that the Gospel of John was written by the disciple who reclined on the chest of the Lord, and was published in Ephesus. In light of all the criticism and statements to the contrary which conclude by saying that it is not possible to affirmatively state that John wrote the Gospel of John, I will honor the credit that has been passed down through more than a thousand years of histroy that John, the Son of Zebedee wrote the Fourth Gospel.
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