The Study Guide for Next Week’s reading, John Chapters 18 and 19, follows the Sermon
Study Guide: The Gospel According to John, Chapters 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.
September 16, 2012
John 13: 12-21 and 31-35; 14: 15-20 and 25-27; 15:1-11; 16:12-14; 17:6-12 and 20-21
Gospel Reading John 13: 12-21
This section of John’s Gospel is unique. Rather than hearing Jesus pray in the garden, we are present at his final farewell discourse with his disciples. It is a poignant moment, and one in which all of the teaching and experience that he has shared with them are crystallized into what he wants them to remember. These words are for us, too, especially when we feel as if God is far away or has left us on our own.
You’ve heard the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples in the middle of dinner on that night before Passover, that night in which he recognizes that he himself will become the Passover lamb. It is a story so heavy with love and meaning that it catches my throat with emotion every time. “Do you know what I have done,” he asks? He’s turned upside down the whole scheme of titles of honor and what leadership looks like. He is about to go off to the cross – what the Evangelist continues to call his ‘glorification’- to show how God chooses to show all the glory of love in the act of One who could have made perfect the hearts of all believers without lifting a finger. Instead of deeming humanity perfect and making us follow along in God’s will for us to love and serve, God chose to let us loose to reject that love and fix our hearts on our own wants and needs and desires. And God spent millennia wooing humans into seeing that love. Given the choice of blasting humanity off the face of the earth, God chose instead to win us through forgiveness, through blessing, through washing our humblest parts, through facing down the evil that had won us away and burying it once and for all.
There is such tenderness in these words. He knows that their hearts will be broken, that they hear his words but that they cannot really understand what’s about to happen. Little children he calls them. And us. Sometimes it’s so hard to understand what’s really happening in your life, to trust that God is still at work to hold and love you. When everything you expect crumbles away before you, you can’t imagine that God would allow you to bear such pain. “You will look for me, but where I am going you cannot go,” Jesus says. He is on his way also through pain to show that God never abandons us, and indeed that what God has in store for us is often more gracious that what we had in mind. But first comes the pain. And so he gives them to each other to love with the love that God also shows us in Jesus life among us, and death at the hands of those who hated him for shaking up their image of God. It is in how we live that love for each other that God is still present with us, says Jesus.
Read 14: 15-19 and 25-27
“Advocate” is one of those words that is hard to translate into English, and so you have probably heard several different translations of it: the Revised Standard and New RSV say ‘another Advocate’ implying someone who pleads for you; New International Version uses ‘Counselor’ implying someone who advises you; King James Version uses ‘ Comforter’ implying someone who accompanies you through suffering. NRSV also suggests ‘Helper’ as an alternative, implying that this One will give you the kind of help that Jesus himself might have offered.
Several commentators prefer to use ‘Paraclete’ directly from the Greek to encompass all of these functions as the presence of the Spirit of Jesus that remains with and among us. There are several ‘Paraclete’ verses in this section of the Fourth Gospel, referring to it as “the Spirit of Truth.” It is this Spirit that will speak to us in every new generation of the truth embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus, who is, himself “the Truth.” “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” This will be hard to believe, but we who have heard the story of the resurrection can believe it. We have witnessed how God’s promises never fail, even the ones that are the hardest to believe.
Read 14: 25-27
The Holy Spirit will remind you of all that Jesus has promised. We talked a few weeks ago about the role of remembrance in our life of faith. We remember what was promised to us, and in remembering, we experience again God’s promises. That is the work of the Spirit of Truth, to open your eyes to the presence of God in the midst of joy and sorrow, and connect you with the blessings of that moment. And so through that truth of who we are and where God is, Jesus leaves us peace – not the momentary lack of strife, or the temporary calm between struggles, but the deep peace that comes from knowing that we are held forever in God’s love and that nothing can snatch us out of God’s hand.
Read 15: 1-11
Although there are no parables in John, still the Evangelist shares images with us that reveal important aspects of the relationship between God and us. The vine imagery is so rich in Israel, as we have mentioned in the past. So God as vintner and God’s people as the vine is familiar. In the same way the image of vine and branches summons up the tree of life, so prominent in the Middle East, and early Christians thought of this tree as the cross which blossoms forth with new life for all. The roots of this tree as Jesus envisions it are deep in God’s love, with life flowing forth for all who are connected to it.
There’s a lot of ‘abiding’ going on here; and if you remember, it is the same verb as the Word of God living or dwelling among us. It is the deep attachment that brought God to us in the form of Jesus to be one of us. It is an attachment, says Jesus, that will transform us into those who live out the love that dwells in us, and that will not only bring us whatever we need to live out that love but that will bring joy to God and to us.
Read 16: 12-14
I can’t imagine myself sitting at this dinner listening to Jesus. I think I would be fiddling with the napkin, filled with foreboding, confused and thinking “what the heck is he talking about?” And so he stops. There is so much more to say, but he’s going to have to leave it to the Spirit, the Paraclete to befriend these confused disciples – and us – to remind them of the deep love that will be unfolding before them in the events that will frighten and horrify them before the next day is done. And once again, Jesus reminds them that what they hear from him are the very words of God, given for their care and into their care, and that God is glorified through the love that they share.
Read 17: 6-12
All of Chapter 17 is called “Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer.” He lifts his eyes to heaven and we overhear his prayer for those who are still at the table with him. He prays for their protection from a world that rejects him and will reject them, too. He lifts up their trust and their belief – they are the ones who have heard the truth and believed it. They were entrusted to him, and now he has to leave them on their own. Jesus imagines that they will be welded together into one, as he and the Father are one. “While I was with them I protected them…and guarded them and not one of them was lost.” In the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people, the disciples are instructed to gather up the fragments that none may be lost. This is so important to Jesus, that none may be lost and that all will be one. And why?
Read 17: 20-21
This is the key to all that the writer of the Fourth Gospel wants to give his community, and us who will read these words centuries later. That we will know the truth about who Jesus is and that we will believe that he came from God to dwell with us for a little while. That he was glorified by being nailed to the tree that gives us life. That we will be one with him, and with God, and with each other. That we will be able to speak about what we have witnessed in this Word and in the Spirit’s presence with and in us. That we will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.
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: Gospel of John, Chapters 18 and 19
The Passion Narrative: The story of Jesus’ crucifixion follows the same four “acts” as that of the Synoptic Gospels: Arrest, Trial before the Jewish High Priest, Trial before Pilate, Crucifixion and Burial. There are a few interesting differences:
Arrest: Jesus and his disciples go across the Kidron to an unnamed garden. There is no prayer to the Father here, that ground has already been covered in Chapter 12: 27-28. Here he is eager to “drink this cup that the Father has given me.” The garden scene here centers completely on the arrest.
Judas and Jesus: Judas leads a squadron of the Pharisee’s men, and Jesus comes out to meet them, asking “who are you seeking?” Sound familiar? When they tell him they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, note his answer: I AM. Note the power of that name.
Disciples: Do Jesus disciples abandon him? Also notice how Peter gets to the courtyard outside of the place where Jesus is on trial.
Interrogation by Annas: How is this story different from the Jewish trials of Jesus in the Synoptics?
To avoid ritual defilement: Remember that John places the “last supper” on the night before Passover. How does that timing place the narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion in a different frame?
Trial before Pilate: This is a much more developed scenario than the other Gospels. Only John explains why the Jewish leadership has to bring Jesus to Pilate and why Pilate agreed to a death sentence, thought he thinks Jesus is innocent of any capital crime.
Jesus’ Kingship: This is the real issue in both the Jewish trial and the Roman one. Why is it important in the judgment he receives? How is the Jewish understanding of what that would mean different than the Roman one?
Are you the king of the Jews: Pilate’s dull questions take the place of those of the Jewish authorities who have been arguing with Jesus all along, showing that John’s treatment of “the Jews” is not really a form of anit-Semitism. Pilate also represents the world that refuses the truth about God and itself.
Here is your King: Some translators say that Pilate seated Jesus on his judgment seat; see if there’s a note in your text. This is his last attempt to save Jesus from death, but it doesn’t work.
We have no king but the Emperor: The leadership that rejects Jesus’ kingship makes this true. They have in fact chosen the Roman leadership over the leader sent by God.
The King of the Jews: The whole of Jesus’ encounter with Pilate is ironic, new for this Evangelist. The final irony is that Pilate does indeed give Jesus the title of King in all its Imperial splendor.
Standing near the cross: Who is at the cross with the awake and aware Jesus? Jesus’ mother represents the closeness of Jesus and his community, as she is present at his first ‘sign’ and at this last.
It is finished: Jesus gives up his spirit when his work is complete. He is in charge to the end.
That the Scripture might be fulfilled: How many of the things that happen to Jesus at the end are done for this reason? Why would unbroken bones be an important fulfillment?
The Eyewitness: The writer? This self-reference only happens in John’s Gospel. He is a witness to the truth that you might believe.
Nicodemus: A surprise ending? The one who came by night, now comes in the daylight to bury Jesus’ body. John does not say that the tomb belonged to Joseph, but gives us the impression that this act of burial is a ‘coming out’ of both Nicodemus and Joseph.