Study Guide for Next Week, John Chapters 13-17, appears at the end of the Sermon.
Study Guide for the Gospel According to John, 7-13
Misunderstanding and Double Meaning: One of John’s stylistic features is having Jesus use figurative language to explain something “that comes from above,” and having that language misunderstood by the hearers. Think of Nicodemus’ take on ‘born from above/ born again,’ and the Samaritan woman’s take on ‘living water,’ in his crucifixion Jesus is ‘lifted up’ and ‘glorified.’ The reader sees the layers of meaning because he/she is a believing Christian already.
Jewish Festivals and Jesus as Their Replacement: Beginning in Chapter 5, Jesus attends Jewish feasts (Sabbath, Passover, Tabernacles, Dedication (Hannukah)), and does something at each one that replaces a significant aspect of the feast. 5:1-47, Jesus heals and give life on the Sabbath; 6:1-71, Jesus multiples the loaves and fishes at Passover, giving a discourse on the Bread of Life; 7:1 to 10: 21, Jesus replaces the water theme of the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) with the living water flowing from himself, and the theme of light by claiming to be the light of the world; 10: 22-42, Jesus claims to be the one the Father has consecrated and sent into the world, replacing the dedication of the altar in the Temple.
I AM: In 8:58, we hear one of Jesus’ most awesome statements. What is his claim? Why does it bring such controversy?
The Man Born Blind: A pastor friend of mine wants to turn this story into a Broadway musical. How does this story highlight some of the themes we’ve already mentioned in John’s Gospel? Would you call this man a believer in Jesus? How might his faith journey reflect the journey of the community to which John is writing? Your own experience? Your community’s experience?
The Good Shepherd: John does not use parables for Jesus to explain about heavenly things. Could these images take their place? To whom are these metaphors directed? If division about Jesus and his saving work within the Johnannine community is an issue, might these metaphors have something to offer them?
Mary and Martha: What do you already know about these women? How does this story fit with the Luke (chapter 10) story about the sisters?
Martha’s confession: What other believer states that Jesus is the Messiah?
Raising Lazarus: In this story we have another example of Jesus’ deep emotions for those he loved. What other story(ies) in John tells you about Jesus’ friendships and loves?
This story itself is so human, with all the sights and smells and tears and questions that accompany the death of a loved one. In “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Martin Scorcese portrays Jesus reaching into the tomb to pull Lazarus out and almost getting pulled in himself. Do you think this foreshadowing of Jesus’ own impending death might be right on the money according to John?
Raymond Brown: “Lazarus will die again – that is why he emerges from the tomb still bound with the burial clothes. Jesus comes to live an eternal life impervious to death, as he will symbolize by emerging from the tomb leaving his burial clothes behind.”
Anointing Jesus: How is this story different from the ones you have heard (Mark 14: 3-9, Matt 26: 6-13) before? How is it the same? Is John’s point different than the others?
Caiaphas: another example of a double meaning?
My Hour has Come: Several times Jesus has mentioned that his hour has not come (2:4, 7:30, 8:20), now when he meets these Gentiles, he acknowledges that this has changed.
My Soul is Troubled: John has no scene of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. Would you consider this a parallel?
15th Sunday after Pentecost
September 9, 2012
John 6:26-39; 8:12-13 and 48-59; 10:7—11 and 14-17; 11:17-27
When Moses stood before the burning bush in the desert and God insisted that he go to free his people from slavery under Pharaoh, Moses demanded the name of the One who was sending him. If he didn’t get the name right, how would they ever believe he bore God’s message? “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, ‘thus you shall say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you.” This is the name that is so sacred that it is always abbreviated, THE LORD.
In John’s Gospel alone is that sacred name used by Jesus to name himself and to describe what it is that he brings from his Father. The first time as a Greek student, you read the story of Jesus walking on the water, you are still in your first or second week, limping along to translate from this nearly undecipherable writing your own. You are reading along, and you come to the phrase, ego emi, which you realize with a shock translates as I AM. Holy Cow! Jesus is claiming to be God! Out of all the struggles to understand the text, suddenly the Evangelist reaches out to you.
So I want to read through the I AM sayings this morning because the imagery they summon up is Jesus’ claim to be the one sent from above, the One for whom their whole race has been waiting, and as is stated in the prologue, the One who has come to all who see him as God.
“I AM the Bread of Life:” Those who come to find Jesus after the miraculous feeding of so many quote Psalm 78 to him “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus turns that quotation around just like any good preacher and lays out the message he wants them to take away. I am the bread of eternal life, and if you trust that I bring the true message from God then you will have this life. He goes on in verse 51 to say “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Read Chapter 8: 12-13, and 48-59
I AM the light of the world:” Let me quote to you from John, Chapter 1, vs 4 and 5. “What has come being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jesus’ claim is refuted ferociously by the religious authorities who hear his audacity. They argue that he is mad, that he comes without credentials of birth or academic training. Once again we see that Jesus is talking about one kind of reality – his unique Son-ship and message for the world about how God loves the world, and the authorities are talking about another kind of reality. And so they bring up their credentials as children of Abraham, which Jesus also refutes by accusing them of failing to live the faith that was Abraham’s righteousness. With Jesus’ statement, “before Abraham was, I AM,” they are ready to murder him on the spot.
Read 10: 7-11 and 14-17
I AM the gate; I AM the Good Shepherd: the first image they have found of Jesus in the caves where Roman Christians worshipped is that of a shepherd with a sheep over his shoulders. We have already talked about how this ancient symbol of leadership was used throughout the Hebrew Bible and into the Gospels. Matthew and Luke tell us the parable of the Lost Sheep and the man who goes out after the lost one so that all may be gathered and no one may be lost. Here Jesus goes right to the heart of the image. He is the entry into the sheepfold, he alone guarantees its safety. He is the one to whom each sheep belongs, nor will he let any of them be hurt or threatened. He is willing to give up even his life for the life of his flock. That is why the Father loves him and can trust him, because he is willing to give all for the lives that are so precious to the Father.
Read 11: 17-21
I AM the resurrection and the life: Lazarus has died. It was dangerous to go to Bethany, and Jesus’ disciples know they are taking their lives in their hands by going with him. But Jesus’ love for his friends is stronger than his fear. He knows his ‘hour has not come’ and he is ready for this final dramatic sign of his public ministry. You can imagine the drama of the scene when Jesus arrives: friends are wailing in sorrow, Mary and Martha nearly collapsed with grief. They begged Jesus to come, and now it’s too late to save Lazarus. But Martha still believes that Jesus can do whatever he wishes, and she trusts that she will see Lazarus again. Her confession is one of only two of Jesus’ followers who say that they believe he is the Messiah. Her faith is a ringing testimonial of one who has heard the things from above that Jesus has been teaching and trusts that God is at work in him to save the world. After all the argument and wrangling of those who want more proof and still cannot hear, it is a blessing to hear the confession of one who has seen and heard and believed.
I AM is the name of a God who is living and active, One who cannot be nailed down with a handle. I AM still has the power to reach out across the millennia and through the words on the page to touch each of us who reads that name with its power to create, its power to destroy, its power to heal, and its power to stop us in our tracks and turn us around. I AM still has the power to grant life to all who believe that it is a God who gave everything to be with us and who asks us to give everything in return. When we believe that the light we know has overcome all darkness, when we believe that the Shepherd we know guards the gate, when we know believe that Jesus is the way to the awesome God who loves us, we have life that can never be taken away from us. We need never fear, for we are always in the hands of the One who came as I AM.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Study Guide for Next Week: John 13-17
The Book of Glory: Chapter 12 presented the end of Jesus’ public ministry. What follows is dialog with “his own,” as his “hour” is come and he prepares to be “glorified.”
Now before the Festival of the Passover: John has Jesus’ final meal with his friends happen on the eve of the Passover. Different from the Synoptic Gospels. Does this change the way you see Jesus’ sacrifice?
He Washed Their Feet: Like the story of Lazarus, this story has a tenderness and heartbreaking quality that seems unique to the Fourth Gospel. You can feel the impending crisis looming over their future. Feet carry special significance in Middle Eastern cultures, note their use as examples of both perfidy and love.
His Hour: Jesus has been telling us that ‘his hour has not come,’ now it has arrived. But it is about his ‘going to the Father,’ that parabolic movement that has been pictured so prominently in John.
He Loved Them to the End: What Jesus models in his washing of their feet is his final act of love, his ‘being lifted up’ to wash away the sins of the world.
Do You Know What I Have Done: Jesus redefines honorifics like ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master’ and ‘Lord’ by modeling the leadership that does the lowliest tasks of a slave. Where else in our Gospel readings have you seen this kind of leadership proposed? How is this story the same? Different?
The Devil: We are introduced to Jesus’ betrayer in this section, and the reason he is able to sit at a meal with the one he betrays.
A New Commandment: Not #11, but as the beginning of a new age in which God and God’s people are now joined through Jesus’s death and resurrection and acts of love in response to his love.
Many Dwelling Places: ‘God’s House’ is a familiar image in this culture, but Jesus declares that he alone is the true and living ‘Way’ to that destination. Walking with Jesus through all that life offers is the path to God’s House.
Another Advocate: “Parakletos” is the Comforter, the Advocate, God’s Holy Spirit, who ‘abides’ with them after Jesus’ departure. “I will not leave you orphaned…The Spirit, whom the Father will send…will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you.” What is your experience of God’s Spirit reminding and teaching you about Jesus’ presence and work in you?
Vine and Branches: The images of Jesus-bread, shepherd, vine-seem to serve a similar purpose to his parables in the Synoptics. This is a familiar OT reference, see Isa 5:1-7, Jer 12:10, Ezek 17: 6-10. The image of our connection to this ancient and ‘true’ vine is a wake-up to our rootedness and our fruitfulness.
Friends: “You are my friends if you do what I command you…that you love one another.” In all the NT writings we see controversy and discord addressed within the communities. It seems true of John’s community also. Is this command one that still speaks to believer’s actions toward each other within their church?
He Looked Up to Heaven and Said: There is no prayer in Gethsemane in John, rather we overhear Jesus’ meditation on the meaning of his death as his ‘glorification.’
That They May Know You: “This is eternal life,” says Jesus; knowing the truth about God through Jesus is the key to life in God forever.
That They May Be One: In John, Jesus is described as saving, gathering, uniting those who have been scattered, lost, and live in darkness. Jesus sees his ‘friends’ as sharing the divine life that he shares with the Father, and that this is the gift we get from believing in him and the completeness of his work as the Word who comes to us and returns to God.