INTRO We have looked at the community that gave rise John’s Gospel – a predominantly (but not exclusively) Jewish community in Asia Minor, familiar with various aspects of Jewish life and history (but not as embedded in Jewish traditions as Matthew’s community). We have looked at the main thrust of Johannine theology – Jesus is the Flesh (incarnation) of the Eternal Word, what might be called ‘High Christology’. And therefore it is a consistently ‘Victorious’ or ‘Sovereign’ Christ/Messiah who sacrifices himself, rather than being the helpless victim. And we sketched out the basic structure of the Gospel – the famous Prologue stating this ‘High Christology’; the Book of Signs (Jesus’s ministry and growing conflict); the Book of Glory (Last Supper and the discourses, the Passion, Death and Resurrection, the giving of the Spirit for Mission); and an Epilogue.

[1] The Book of Signs Firstly, the gathering of the disciples – in common with the Synoptics. Jesus does not act alone, even as His Divine origin sets him apart as unique. It seems that Jesus is closely associated with John the Baptist, possibly begins as a disciple of John. There is no public ‘baptismal scene’ (unlike the Synoptics), but a key figure of Israel (John the Baptist) recognises and points Him out to others as the long-awaited Messiah – the One ‘on whom the Spirit rests’ (John 1: 32-33), the ‘Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1: 29). The anointed One who will be the Lamb of Sacrifice – not just for the Chosen People (Moses and the Exodus) but for the whole world! Disciples need time to come to terms with this – to leave (grieve?) John the Baptist (whom they thought was the Messiah?)  and recognise the confirming ‘Signs’ that Jesus is the Christ – ‘Come and See’ Jesus invites (to Nathaniel – ‘you will see.…’). Spend the day with me. 

a – Importance of the First ‘Sign of Glory’Marriage Feast of Cana (John 2: 1-11). ‘Glory’ – a sign of God’s presence and action, more than human agency. Mary (unnamed in John’s Gospel) is portrayed as the one who believes in Jesus (she does not reappear until the Cross). Jesus reluctance to accede to his (unnamed) mother’s request – the Father’s Will, not anyone else’s. Cana – near the place of the first Renewal of the Covenant after the Hebrews entered the Promised Land, under Joshua; water into wine – super-abundant wine – a sign of the Messianic Banquet of the ‘End Time’ (the ‘Eschaton) (Isaiah 25: 6-9). A Sign to whom? Not public but to the disciples – part of their ‘come and see’, deepening their faith in Him as Messiah.

Immediately followed by the first Passover journey to Jerusalem (John 2: 13-3: 36). Conflict and controversy from the beginning! Only John’s Gospel places the ‘cleansing of the Temple’ at the beginning of Jesus ministry. This is an assault on not only the abuse of the Temple (buying and selling of the animal sacrifices – exchange of Roman coins for Temple currency – challenging profit and injustice in the dwelling of God), but more fundamentally signalling that now the eternal eternal Lamb of God has come there is no need for sacrifices, now the Temple of God is in human flesh (the Word made Flesh) no building is greater than the human person who is the Temple of divine presence. Radical act, massively counter-cultural. Jesus speaks of His Resurrection (remember this is not a record of Jesus words but the Johannine Christian community proclaiming its faith!).

Followed by dialogue with senior Jewish leader – Nicodemus member of the ruling Council – the Sanhedrin – a call to radical change – not only an individual reborn, but the People of the Covenant ‘reborn’ in the Covenant’s fulfilment in Christ. The returns to Galilee (Cana) via Samaria – new disciples gathered

b – Second Sign – Healing of Royal Official’s son (John 4: 43-54) – similar to the Synoptic Gospels story of the healing of the Centurion’s son (Matt) or slave (Luke), but in John is a Jewish Official in Herod’s Court. Healing leads to faith (whole household comes to faith) gathering more disciple. Emphasis on recognition of the Word spoken by Jesus leading to Faith.  Healing as a sign of Resurrection and New Life – attentive to the body not just the ‘soul’. Jesus at first appears to refuse request faith must not depend on miracles, but on beholding Jesus!

c – Second Festival in Jerusalem and Third Sign – Healing of lame man by the Pool (John 5: 1-18) ‘Do you want to be healed’? Healing as transformation and re-birth – Pool ref to Baptism.  Breaking the Sabbath rules – controversy.

d – Return to Galilee – Feeding of 5000 – Fourth Sign (John 6: 1-15), followed by discourse on Word and Eucharist – the Word made Flesh (John 6: 22-71). Who really believes? 

AFTERWORD What signs are we offering the world that Jesus is Risen and a New World is being created? Are we a community characterised by our love for another (Marriage Feast)? Are we a healing community, a Field Hospital parish where the broken, hurting, despairing and wounded know they can come, find unconditional welcome, be held, healed and become more whole and human (The Official’s son)? Do we have the courage to risk reputation and respectability to become counter-cultural in serving and healing, to ‘break the rules’ when Divine Compassion bids us (the lame man by the pool)? Are we as the people of the Eucharist, the broken bread, breaking bread of hope and food and justice with the hungry of our area and our world (Feeding the Five Thousand)? Are we a community of the Signs of Christ alive among us?


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