EASTER READINGS – JOHN – SESSION 17

INTRO We come this evening to the last reflection on John’s Gospel as we explore the burial of Jesus and the Resurrection Appearances (John 19: 38 – 21: 25). The ‘lifting up’ on the Cross is the ‘Hour of Glory’ for the Johannine communities, so the Resurrection scenes in John is the unfolding of this Glory, enabling the disciples to recognise the Glory and come to the fulness of faith and awareness. As always with John, the themes of the Gospel are gathered up and repeated in new and fresh ways.

[1] The Burial (John 19: 38-42) Two ‘secret’ disciples, Joseph of Arimathaea  and Nicodemus come to Pilate to claim and bury the body of the crucified One. Nicodemus had originally come to Jesus by night early in Gospel – a member of the ruling Sanhedrin he reappeared in gently trying to defend Jesus, reminding the upholders of the Law that they were breaking their own Law by not giving Jesus a chance to defend himself (John ). John emphasises the two ‘secret’ disciples and their past fear. Now at the end they come more openly – both he and Joseph find courage in the ‘Lifting up’ of Jesus. His Victory has begun among his fearful disciples! They wrap his body in linen clothes and spices (aloes and myrrh – the latter being the gift brought by the Wise Men in the infancy narrative of Matthew 2: 11), the linen clothes invoking the story of the Raising of Lazarus (John 11: 44)  John also speaks of the garden (and later we hear how Mary of Magdala mistakes Jesus for the gardener). The Crucifixion take place next to a garden – the garden of death is transformed into the garden of New Life. Is there an echo of the Garden of Paradise in Genesis (Genesis 2: 8) for with the Victory of Christ is the ‘renewal of all things’ (Rev 21: 5-6) by Christ Alpha and Omega – the work of New Creation (completed, ‘accomplished’ – in the Risen body of Jesus) has begun in the world. 

[2] Jesus is Risen! Alleluia! (John 20: 1-29). While the Synoptics emphasise the Women disciples who come to the tomb and are the first to hear and carry the Good News, John abbreviates this part of the account – Mary of Magdala appears to come alone discovers the empty tomb and the stone rolled away (Lazarus John 11: 38-39)  and runs in distress  to Simon Peter and the ‘beloved disciple’ – and it is their entry into the tomb that is emphasised at greater length. Johannine account speaks of the Church represented by these two who first ‘see and believe’. Only after they have left does Mary encounter her beloved Jesus, risen from the dead. Three times she asks where ‘they have put him’ – suggesting fear of the Jewish authorities as well as her yearning to be reunited even with the dead corpse of her ‘beloved’. John stresses repeatedly the fear of the community of disciples – destined to be transformed into courage by the imparting of the Spirit! At another deeper level, twice already the Gospel has revealed where Jesus is – with the Father in Glory. Peter and the beloved Disciple run to the tomb – these two motivated by such love (as well as Mary) – love draws them to the emptiness and to discover the fulness. Love precedes faith, love enables them to believe, love enables them to see the emptiness in a new way – glimpsing Resurrection fulness! Here is the Johannine community experience of encountering the Risen One among them in the midst of disbelief and persecution that they endure because they love! Love is the power of Resurrection. The faith of these three disciples is in sharp contra=st to the doubt and disbelief of Thomas (who had separated himself from the community (John 20: 24). Mary, alone, sees Jesus, thinking him a gardener – evoking Adam in the garden of Paradise, Jesus the New Adam working a new Creation, a new `Paradise’, a New Heaven and a New Earth. The importance of the garden/gardener theme in the current crisis of Global warming and Climate Change bringing such ecological harm that we must heal. Mary does not recognise Him until He calls her by name – like the Good Shepherd who calls each of his sheep from the security of the sheepfold into the risky but safe place of following the Shepherd (John 10: 3-5 & 16). She wants to cling to the One she loves so much – but he forbids her, because this is only part of the story for He has not yet ascended in Glory to His Father (receiving the ‘glory’ that he had before the world began – John 12: 28 & 13: 31-32 ). This is also Mary’s healing into a new and freer life – Jesus, the Risen Truth sets her free, free indeed! Free to fulfil her apostolic mission of telling the Good News.

[3] Jesus appears to the Apostolic Community (John 20: 19-29). Again John remarks on their fear, locking them away from the world. He greets them with ‘Shalom!’ – the Peace he promised at the Last Supper (John 14: 27), the same Peace they are to bring to their world. John also emphasises repeatedly the showing of the transformed wounds to the disciples – the assembly and then to Thomas. These wounds that are now healing of their fears and healing for a wounded creation, wounded lives. Then comes the breathing of the Spirit and the sending in Mission (again – because first at the ‘Lifting Up’ on the Cross) – a mission to forgive and heal, to open doors. Strange words about ‘retaining sin’ – the double formula echoing Jesus at Caesarea Philippi Matt 18:18), but for me a warning against retaining sin because it continues to be destructive until disciples embrace the sin with mercy and pardon as does Jesus from the Cross. The Church as a Sacrament of Unlimited forgiveness – unlimited Freedom for Love. The Jesus returns a week later when Thomas is with them. Again the journey into Faith,  to belief in Jesus, so often expressed in the Johannine account – doing the work of God is to belief in the One the Father has sent – ‘at last you believe’ (John 6: 29). The Apostolic Church is called to overcome all fear and reach out and touch the wounds of the world. 

[4] The Epilogue (John 21: 1-25) This final chapter is so clearly a later edition, constituting a second and additional conclusion to the Gospel (like Mark ch 16: 15-20). Peter is the central figure throughout this chapter – he suggests fishing in Galilee, he runs through the water from the boat with the heavy catch to the charcoal fire with bread and fish cooking, he affirms his love three times after his three fold denial and he is entrusted three times with shepherding the flock. There are strong parallels between Luke’s great catch account and John’s, with differences of chronology. Replaying past events of their calling and their denials, he heals thier  betrayals, denials and desertion and entrusts them again with the Great Commission as missionary disciples.

AFTERWORD Surrender our fears of Mission; Love is paramount to our witness and to being the Church – what signs do we give for the world to believe!  

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