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See Back to Galilee (2012)
In beginning Jesus’ Galilean ministry as outlined by John, I will begin where the Synoptics put Jesus at the end of this ministry:
The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was
coming to Jerusalem. 13
So they took branches of palm
trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
King of Israel!”
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
“Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
your king is coming,
on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was
glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and
had been done to him. 17
So the crowd that had been with
him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead
continued to testify. † 18
It was also because they heard
that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him.
Pharisees then said to one another, “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the
world has gone after him!”
The reader may be helped, too, by the introduction to John provided in the New Revised Standard Version, making clear the special theological character of this book:
Gospel According to John
fourth Gospel explains the mystery of the person of Jesus. Like others among his
contemporaries, yet also unlike them, he stands above them in unique, solitary
grandeur. Whence this uniqueness? The Evangelist takes us behind the scenes of
Jesus’ ministry, giving us a glimpse into his eternal origin and divine
nature. He was unique because “he was in the beginning with God,” active in
creation, the source of light and life (John 1.2–4). Hence, when he became
incarnate in human flesh, he made known the eternal God, whom “no one has ever
seen” (John 1.14; John 1.18).
do the other Evangelists, the author records real events, but he goes beyond
them in interpreting these events. He uses symbolically a number of terms drawn
from common experience - bread, water, light, life, word, shepherd, door, way -
to make the significance of Christ both clear and gripping. After a magnificent
prologue (John 1.1–18) he sets forth Jesus Christ as the object of faith (John
1.19–4.54), depicts Christ’s conflict with unbelievers (John 5–12), his
fellowship with believers (John 13–17), his death and resurrection (John
18–20), and concludes with an epilogue (John 21). A large part of the Gospel
consists of discourses of Jesus. These discourses are not individual sayings (as
in the Synoptic Gospels), nor even collections of sayings (as in the
Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5–7); they develop a particular theme.
Furthermore, it is characteristic of the Johannine discourses that Jesus is
interrupted by questions or objections from the hearers - something that never
happens in the other Gospels.
first half of the fourth Gospel contains accounts of seven miracles of Jesus,
though the author knows that Jesus had performed many others as well (John
20.30). John’s word for these wondrous deeds is “signs,” because they are
here regarded as symbols of Jesus’ teaching or as a revelation of his glory
(John 2.11). Their purpose is to evoke faith on the part of those who witness
them (John 2.23), beginning with the disciples (John 2.11).
conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees reported in the Synoptic Gospels
is given marked attention in John (for example, John 8.31–59; John
10.19–39), and the expression “the Jews” (which should not be understood
as a condemnation of Jews in particular or in general) virtually becomes a
technical term for those who reject Jesus. These features no doubt reflect the
heightened antagonism that developed in the latter part of the first century
between church and synagogue, with mutual recrimination arising.
the Synoptic Gospels preserve the sayings of Jesus in words closer to
their original form, the fourth Evangelist employs more freely his own modes of
thought and language in reporting and interpreting the teaching of Jesus. The
fact, however, that this Gospel was soon placed side by side with the Synoptics
indicates that the early church realized that Jesus’ promise, as reported by
John (John 14.26), had been fulfilled, “The Holy Spirit . . . will teach you
everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
wrote this Gospel? Tradition says it was the apostle John. Many scholars,
however, think that it was composed by a disciple of John who recorded his
preaching as Mark did that of Peter. In any case, when the Gospel was published
near the close of the first century, the church accepted it as authentic and
apostolic testimony to Jesus (John 21.24), written that readers might “come to
believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,” and thus “have life in
his name” (John 20.31). (For the literary genre of the Gospels, see
“Introduction to the Narrative Books.”)
Alfred Edersheim points out, “the fourth gospel became, not the supplement,
but the complement of the other three” (39, 1993 Hendrickson Publishers). He
goes on to say the following about its clearly Hellenistic flavor:
is no other gospel more Palestinian than this in its mode of expression,
allusions, and references. Yet we must all feel how thoroughly Hellenistic it
also is in its cast—in what it reports and what it omits—in short, in its
whole aim: how adapted to Hellenist wants its presentation of deep central
truths; how suitably, in the report of His Discourses—even so far as their
form is concerned—the promise was here fulfilled, of bringing all things to
remembrance whatsoever He had said (John 14.26).
It is the true Light which shineth, of which the full meridian-blaze lies
on the Hellenist and the Hellenic world. There is Alexandrine form of thought
not only in the whole conception, but in the Logos, and in His presentation as
the Light, the Life, and the Wellspring of the world.
But these forms are filled in the fourth Gospel with quite other
substance. God is not afar off,
uncognisable by man, without properties, without name.
He is the Father. Instead of a nebulous reflection of the Deity we have
the person of the Logos; not a Logos with the two potencies of goodness and
power, but full of grace and truth…
St. John strikes the pen through Alexandrianism when he lays it down as the
fundamental fact of New Testament history that ‘the Logos was made flesh’”
Even more strongly, I would argue that John understands the destiny and outcome of realizing the Kingdom of God in the present world; he understands the full impact of Jesus’ new and universalized Kingdom of God. To read John is to understand what the events in Jesus’ life means for humankind; moreover, the book of John is consciously structured to pronounce upon this meaning.
Given the full significance that the Gospel of John is an interpretation of the acts and sayings of Jesus, I will first provide the reader with chapters from the Revised Standard Version. I will take some liberty with dividing chapters into sections followed by commentary.