Lectionary Year A
May 19, 2002
John 20:19-23 or 7:37-39
(JFC) A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
There was great division among the people at the festival. Jesus was
definitely the "hot topic." Some wanted to believe that he was the
Messiah, but their fear of the Jews and their uncertainty about the origin
of the Messiah prevented them from making outright professions of faith.
Even Jesus' brothers, at the beginning of chapter 7 ridicule him and give him
suggestions as to how he ought to proceed. Jesus answers that his time has
not yet come and that he will stay away from the festival. Nevertheless,
he goes in secret, only to reveal himself by teaching in the temple,
claiming the place traditionally associated only with the great teachers of
Ironically, the officers sent to arrest Jesus fail to follow through
with their task. It's not that they were afraid of the crowd, as the Jews
sometimes were, but rather that they were impressed by Jesus' teaching.
Becoming Jesus' follower then, as now, is made difficult by our
preconceived notions that prevent us from allowing our hearts to lead us.
Many of us can say, as with the crowds in Jerusalem, "He's not what I
expected, but he is authoritative. His teachings and his witness are
indeed compelling. If only I could let go of this nagging doubt!"
An interesting point can be found in Nicodemus' ongoing conversion in
vs 50. Nicodemus wanted to give Jesus a fair hearing indicating not only
his own interest but his concerns that the Council had been consumed by
their anger against Jesus and were now neglecting even their own laws in
their pursuit of Jesus.
I am reminded of Paul's insistence on his Roman citizenship and his
right for a fair trial in Acts 22:25.
In what ways are we so consumed with our own sense of righteousness
when we are convicted in our own hearts of our sins by the Holy Spirit?
Was this what was happening to the Jews who wanted to kill Jesus?
John 20:19-23 or 7:37-39
(TD) B. ORGANIZATION OF THE COMPOSTIONAL WHOLE
John's differences with the synoptics: no account of the birth of Jesus,
baptism, temptation, Last Supper, Gethsemane, or the ascension. No parable
stories or healings of demoniacs. In John, Jesus' speeches are often a
whole chapter long.
The facts of the life and ministry of Jesus are different in John. The design
of the gospel as a whole is stated by the author in 20:31. Therefore, what
is told in this account of Jesus' life and ministry reveals Jesus as
Messiah, Son of God. God is revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus provided
access to God in ways never before possible. The frequent "I am"
statements by Jesus in this gospel are a radical claim that Jesus is God
The structure of this gospel is often broken down into two parts:
Chapters   1-12 the book of signs
Chapters 13-20 the book of glory
C. ISSUES OF AUTHORSHIP
This gospel was known in Egypt by 100 A.D (from P52). Its first commentary
was written by Heracleon around 150. John was most likely written at
Ephesus, also maybe Antioch or Alexandria. This gospel is an anonymous
document. Tradition claims (Irenaeus) the author as John the "Son of
Zebedee", the apostle. Many scholars believe it was composed by a disciple
of John who recorded his preaching. The author was a Jewish Christian who wrote for
and in a Jewish Christian community in conflict with synagogue authorities.
The vast majority of converts were now from Hellenistic not Jewish
backgrounds. A crisis may have precipitated the writing of this gospel:
possibly the "putting out of the synagogue" or excommunication as heretics
for those who practiced alternative forms of Judaism (e.g. belief in
Jesus). There are certainly Greek and Gnostic influences in 1st century
Judaism. The work of Philo is one example. Shades of both these influences,
consistant with the religious diversity of the 1st century Mediterranean
world, can be seen in John's writing.
(Kummel, Intro to the NT, pp. 168-174)
a. Beginning with Irenaeus, many have thought the author to be
John son of Zebedee, "the disciple of the Lord", who published
the Gospel in the first century A.D. while in Ephesus.
b. Many modern commentators doubt this, pointing to lack of
coverage in the fourth Gospel of events involving the sons of
Zebedee which are prominent in the Synoptic gospels.
c. Who knows? Kummel argues that the only fairly certain thesis is
that the author at least had close contact with a Palestinian
Christian who had had some kind of participation in the Passion
history of Jesus.
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