Biblical Commentary

John, Chapter 2

The Wedding at Cana

  • The only place we find this story is in the Gospel of John. It is Jesus’ first miraculous sign. What’s Jesus’ relationship with his mother? Jesus sounds quite short with his mother, but she does what he says. What is the tone of their conversation with each other? There’s a differentiation between Jesus and his mum– she is treated no differently than anyone else, she is treated and behaves (later in the gospel) as a disciple rather than a mother. “On the third day”– puts us in the context of the resurrection because John is writing after the fact. This Gospel is likely written by the same person that wrote Revelation, so it is full of symbolism. The “third day” is always the day something significant happens, the day that the Lord does something for everyone. Reference Exodus 19:10-11. The third day would be Tuesday. Most Jewish weddings happen on Tuesday because it’s a double blessing day– the third day of creation when God said “it is good.” This is the 7th day in John’s account of events. There’s a sense of something new happening here, a scene of real abundance, six empty and dry jars (symbolism: the Jewish tradition has run dry), and Jesus fills them up. John always writes with symbolism and clues that are connected to Old Testament text. The chief steward– doesn’t know where the good wine came from, the steward is the master of the feast, he officiates but is not part of the planning of the event. “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”– (ref. Isaiah 62– the wedding is a source of healing, in the prophetic text it’s about God’s relationship with the people and the healing of the relationship)– if we read this as symbolism as the important here then Jesus is referring to his death and resurrection (which he mentions at the end of the chapter) and not the time of performing miracles. Mary is talking on one level, and Jesus is talking on another level. Wine is sign of abundance. The wine story points to the abundance that will be brought be the resurrection. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs… revealed his glory”– a recurring theme is his glory in the gospel. Jars– jars are symbolic of rituals, ritual run dry– a confrontation with the authorities, as well as in the story of Jesus cleansing the temple.

Jesus Cleanses The Temple

  • A really quick jump from the wedding in Galilee in the north, to Jerusalem in the south. The population of Jerusalem at this time tripled, it was a busy city, Roman guards stationed at the gates of the city to keep order. Here’s the first signal that there’s going to be an ongoing tension with the authorities in Jesus’ ministry. He’s caused a riot almost– people are sure to be grabbing for the money (imagine the streets of Haiti, and the priests who say you have to buy sheep form them or there’ll be a voodoo curse), opening the pens of the animals and being a stampede. It’s time of a lot of money flowing into the temple. High priests had large houses surrounding the temple (recent archealogical finds). “Whip of cords”– the synoptics don’t say this, John’s gospel says “whip.” This is the history of the second temple– it’s been corrupt almost from the beginning, it’s 46 years since Herod rebuilt it, in grand Greco-Roman style, the wealth gap was growing, this is Wall Street, the central bank that’s exploiting the people. Psalm 69:8-9– “zeal for your house”– refers to the connection to the Psalm and the tradition, referencing Jesus’ critique of the tradition, a spirit of alienation, he’s inaugurating something new (second half of this passage). Jesus challenges the temple, the rites that have become empty, and is promising to build something new, a new community of discipleship. “After he was raised from the dead”– John is writing in the 90s AD and looking back, has 20-20 hindsight to recount the story. The first account of this story was written by Mark during the years of the destruction of the temple. The temple isn’t finished even after 46 years of believing it. The word used for “cleansing” in this passage actually means “exorcism”– Jesus is exorcising the temple.

Overall narrative flow– an intimate way of sharing miracles as opposed to how he shares miracles with the masses, there is a prophetic judgment coming on a religious institution that has run dry, and Jesus displays (in the wine) the abundance that is coming, and the sense of community that will be built.

John Chapter 3

Nicodemus Visits Jesus

  • Verse 24 leads into 3:1– it is referencing the same man in the Greek text. One leads directly on from the other. This is the second mention of the Pharisees, the first is in 1:24. There are passages here that sound Platonic– the world of the spirit and the world of the flesh. Nicodemus is a Pharisee and ruler of the Judeans, likely a Sanhedrin, would be involved in some of the legal side of things. Verse 1, “Jews”, is more specific in the Greek– a leader. Why does he visit Jesus in the night? Is he hiding something? Followers of Jesus are struggling primarily with the Pharisees at this time. Is it possible that some Pharisees would become followers? Nicodemus addresses Jesus as “Rabbi”– uses it as an opening so that the conversation can go deeper. “The kingdom of God”– this is the only place John speaks of the kingdom. Other Gospels speak of the kingdom, John doesn’t usually. Things above (also see Colossians 4)– spirit and earth, duality. How do we make sense of this? Flesh (sarx) a way of being in the world that’s bound to material things, power etc, and spirit is being focused on the better things in life. This is speaking of the Jewish concept of duality, but not the Greek duality, which states that the body is the prison of the soul to be escaped. The Jewish are two aspects of the same person. Being born of water and spirit would have to do with baptism into discipleship of the community. We do read some sincerity on Nicodemus’ part– genuinely intrigued by Jesus, what He’s teaching, and what’s going on. Verse 8– “the wind blows”– an emptying out of yourself, who knows where the Spirit is going to lead you, be open to it, let it take you, be natural, as the world is, let God control the swirl and see where it takes you. John 3:16– in a Jewish context, to be born again is to be baptized into the ways of the community, “belief in him” (Greek for “belief” here means “faith) is more about trust and following Jesus’ way. Verses 11-15 are mind-bending because they speak of what has already happened in the present tense. It’s like a big time bending passage. Verse 11, also see 1 John. Verse 11, “we” is again speaking of the community and His followers. “Power” is a word used throughout verses 1-9– where do you get the power to do these signs? “Eternal life”– what does John mean here? Eternal life means that we do not fear the earthly powers, don’t need to store up belongings and money, and hoarding, we’re empty and we can simply be. Then the forces of death are not that strong. The life of the spirit is so much stronger. Eternal life is the transformation of our life in the now– to live in an eternal manner, present everywhere, lived now. Verse 17– it wasn’t God’s intention to condemn the world, but it’s a reality of reaping what you sow, this is not God condemning people for not understanding, it’s just a reality of living your life correctly will give you an eternal type of life.

Jesus and John The Baptist / The One Who Comes From Heaven – John Chapter 3:22 -4:2

  • John is not written in chronological order. He is focused on the theology first rather than the history first. “Jew” when John uses the word in the original language, it’s meaning is “temple personnel.” John and a Jew discuss the rite of purification (traditional) and the baptisms that John and Jesus are doing (the new rite). There is a tension here between the traditional and the new. This may be the only account we have of Jesus actually doing baptisms. Verse 26 “to whom you testified” refers to the earlier passages of Jesus’ baptism by John and the Spirit descending upon him, and testifying to who he is. Verses 29 and 30: we return to the wedding imaginary, we read previously in the wedding at Cana. Bridegroom: Jesus. John: friend of the bridegroom. Bride: the church/the people. Why is the true discipleship community is referred to often as “the bride” of Christ. Is it because a wedding is the most joyous time in the community. “The bride”– this is how God sees us, as a beautiful bride, radiant, to be celebrated, the most beautiful thing that the groom has been waiting to arrive, and then the bride accepts and walks towards the groom (Jesus/God). Verse 30: he must increase, and I must decrease– this is like the best man in a wedding taking centre stage as the wedding is prepared, and then the groom arrives and the groom becomes the centre of attention, and the best man steps back into the background more. Here we see John recognizing the time where he needs to step aside and pass on the movement the next generation (think of our modern context and mentoring a son/daughter or a congregation member well, in the correct way, until its time for them to increase and take over, carry on the tradition and the teaching). Verse 31: “from above and is above all”– Heaven is a place all around us, “above” is more about the authority and nature of Heaven rather than a western dualistic way of thinking about location above us. Verse 31: possible meaning – “the one who comes from above” = Jesus, “the one who is of the earth” = John. Which leads into the following verses about God/Jesus’ authority being higher than ours. “Comes from above” could be who comes from a position of more knowledge and wisdom, rather than a place. Here John could use “above” metaphorically rather than literal. In the West we often take what was written metaphorically (e.g. Revelation) and try to make it literal, and often the reverse where we take the literal (e.g. the Sermon on the Mount) and make it metaphorical. Also, think of space and the earth– we are in space, we are “up there” already, and in space there is no “up, down, left and right”, there is no direction. This “up/down” concept comes from our Western Platonic hierarchical structure placed in our brains. In modern times, our understanding of space is more Biblical in understanding– that there is no up/down in space. In Western thinking “above” we also think of supremacy, and this is not the controlling/supremacy that our empire-thinking in the West relates to– that white people, or European people could be superior to others. Verse 36: “Gods wrath” is a verse that can be used in a fire and brimstone kind of preaching. But I tend to think of God being upset that the bride is doing something that is not good for her. Verse 36: “eternal life” is about fully living now in the present. Experience the consequences of your choices– good or bad. Bad choices lead to an upset God who really wants you to be living fully, happily, etc. “Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life”– is not a controlling verse, it’s a simple cause/effect of how the universe is created, if you don’t follow the good path you will naturally reap the consequences.
  • Quote of the day from Bryan Jon: “In reality, no one has any authority over them other than what authority you give them.”

John Chapter 20:19-31

  • John was written almost 100 years after Jesus. The first time Jesus says “Peace be with you.” it must take away the shame the disciples are feeling for hiding. Jesus says “peace be with you” three times in this passage– the disciples need a lot of reassurance and Jesus is there to give it to them. Thomas, earlier in John, had said “let’s die with the Lord” (paraphrase), and now he’s doubting– this to me shows the shifting nature of faith, it wavers sometimes. Jesus makes himself vulnerable as a leader here, he actually has them touch his wounds– he must have revealed his body to them, let them touch his skin. This is connection, real connection, and as pastors this is what we must risk. Verse 23: forgiving– this a statement of how the world works, not doctrine or dogma, not that we have divine right to forgive, it’s just that when we forgive sins are forgiven, very straight forward. This whole passage could be preached on any of these: 1. peace, 2. faith, 3. Thomas, 4. doubting, 5. connection/community.
  • Doubt/Unprocessed trauma/no touch (neglect), bad touch (abuse), fear, suspicion, doubt, anxiety, cynicism, nihilism, inwardness, fantasy/abstracti0n/attachment disorder/lack of community. Fantasy results in spiritualizing/hopes for Christ’s second coming, etc. this is the most worrying of positions on the scale from Doubt to Faith, because you’ve given yourself an escape hatch. One of the fetishes is end times.
    • ^opposite/correlated^
  • Faith/Trust/Processed trauma/Good touch/in touch/I believe in you/resilience/community/confidence
  • Fantasy/abstraction is daydreaming, and it is different from aspiring to actualize your dreams/goals, because it is not rooted in reality.
  • ‘Inquiry’ is different than ‘doubt.’ Inquiry is actually strong faith and robust relationship.

John, Chapters 4:43 – 5:18

Jesus Heals an Official’s Son, Chapter 4:43-54

  • Jesus is typically not welcomed in Judea. He is welcomed in Galilee, where Nazareth is. A royal official– a powerful man with authority in the region, probably connected to the temple, a lesser ruler himself perhaps. He is a slave owner. (Of the population, a third were slaves, a third were freed slaves in the Roman empire.) Verse 48: “you” here in the Greek is the plural use of “you” (i.e. you people). What is Jesus’ tone of voice here? Sarcastic? Annoyed? Just as a fact of matter? Verse 53: he believes and the whole household follows, it’s a much more patriarchal and communal system, where the head of the household converts and the whole household therefore does so as well. Since he’s a royal official its likely to be a large household. Second sign– the first sign was the water into wine in Cana. In verse 46 he comes again to Cana to perform this second sign/miracle. Jesus has gone to Jerusalem, to Cana, to Jerusalem, to Cana, and back to Jerusalem in Chapter 5. We do not know if this was within days, or weeks, or months. More likely that it’s the latter– over some time.

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath, Chapter 5:1-18

  • They were expected to go to Jerusalem for festivals. Now we’ve shifted from being out in the country in Cana, back to the city of Jerusalem, near the Temple with a bunch of invalids lying around outside. This reads to John Nelson as a condemnation of the community– if your community is healthy people will be, but here in the text we’re surrounded by the law of Temple and a bunch of people ill. There’s no-one to put the man in the pool– a very individualistic society– no-one is looking after the other person that needs help. Often in John’s text, if there is something mentioned that seems out of place, then it usually relates to something in the Old Testament text or has some significance. e.g. ‘five porticoes’ or ‘thirty eight years’. Five is the Torah, the law– this is one possibility of the significance. Thirty eight– might be a reference to Deuteronomy 2:14 (a time of wandering for thirty eight years). “Do you want to be made well?” – restoring the man’s dignity. Verse 8– “stand up”– restoration of dignity, resurrection significance. In this context, does the Temple want people to be made well? Jesus is restoring the dignity, health and wholeness to the people. Notice again, that there is a story here that involves water and life and health– an ongoing theme throughout John that we’ve read so far. These pools were probably much more Greco-Roman in style, since this is the rebuilt temple of Herod. Verse 9– now we find out it’s the Sabbath. The Temple people are concerned with carrying a mat on the Sabbath. Is this important? Not to Jesus. Verse 12– “the man who made me well told me I could get up and walk”– he’s absolving himself and the temple people will wander who was the person that gave the invalid the authority to get up and walk. For Jesus to be making people well, this is taking money from the Temple, cutting off the Temple’s ability to get the money for the healing. Verse 14– Jesus finds him again, and tells him not to sin again, so that nothing worse happens to him– this is present tense, quit sinning. We do not know what this sin was, probably something attached to the temple system, as the man seems to be back into his old ways within the temple. Jesus comes across him again and tells him to stop, for the man’s own benefit and health. Verse 15– now the man tells the temple officials who it was that healed him. Again he absolves himself a second time. He shifts the blame to Jesus, and Jesus gets persecuted. Is this the sin Jesus was referring to– a betrayal of Jesus, of fitting right back into the system, a denial of Jesus. Even though Jesus knew this, he still helped the man within the system. Then Jesus comes in conflict with the Temple, because he’s claiming a direct line to God without the temple as the facilitator. For Jesus, following the spirit of the Sabbath, was healing, communal well-being, restoration, health– it’s a different kind of work, it’s not work for the system.

John 5:9-47 – The Authority of the Son & Witnesses to Jesus

  • Trials of those times were based on the trustworthiness of the witness rather than the facts, like trials today. So, Jesus is establishing his trustworthiness in the early verses. This a clash of legitimacy and authority and trustworthiness and character– Jesus, the Son, verses the Pharisees and Saducees who are focused on Moses’ law. This whole passage is about the tension of law and grace. The scribes are representing the law. Jesus is representing God’s grace. Verse 20: “loves” here is the brotherly love philea used here. Jesus as the Father’s apprentice, following the Father, being guided by the Father, so that amazing works are shown to the people, and even Jesus himself (“and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished). Verse 21 and 22: the power attributed to God in Hebrew is the power of creation and judgement. Both of these are spoken of here. Verse 24– here’s the grace, this is not legalistic, this is the grace of turning your life over to God’s ways saves you, and you pass from death to life, right now, right here. Verse 28 and 29: this can be both/and about a physical resurrection and/or spiritual, this is a call to live properly in relationship with God, wherever you are at in life/death, this a call to righteousness in a wicked context, and always comes back to how are we living in the midst of these times. “Claims of benevolence”– we can promote our deeds as having some kind of good in it, we can spin it well, but really deep down, do you know if your intentions are good. Hitler had a claim to benevolence, a CEO might have a claim to benevolence– maximizing profits for the good of all. Claims of benevolence is people masquerading as good, but really aren’t. Verse 30 and 38: the deep down knowing what is right (following the universal truths, God’s way) and doing that. And that is why Jesus is just here, because he is not doing what is right by him, he is doing what is right by the universal truth, God’s way, that’s why he cannot testify about himself. It’s the universal truth that must testify about him. It’s a radical message that Jesus is giving them here. Jesus says you haven’t seen God, but in my ministry you will see God revealed. This is quite a claim on Jesus’ behalf. These versus sound like Jesus is a real narcissistic and megalomaniac, but Jesus keeps saying that this whole thing is not from him, it’s from God and the Spirit and the universal truth. He is not being egotistical here, although it would be very easy to read it that way if you focus on just these words and not the whole message. Verse 39-47: “Yet you refuse to come to me to have life” could be speaking of “coming to me” as coming to a way of life that God represents, the universal truth, that Jesus is living out, not Jesus himself. And that’s why in Verse 41 he does not accept glory from human beings, because it’s not people with claims of benevolence that show the universal truths, it’s the universal truth that is the witness, and represents the glory, it’s giving glory to the universal truth. Why Jesus accept this glory, when the glory is not to be given to him, it’s to be given to the universal truth, what the Father represents. Jesus is just living the universal truth, give the universal truth the glory, not Jesus.

John Chapter 6 

Feeding of the Five Thousand, John 6:1-15

  • Sea of Galilee / Sea of Tiberias – The synoptics refer to as a sea. ‘Sea’ echoes the crossing of the Red Sea. Extra biblical accounts refer to it as a lake. named after the emperor Tiberias. Tiberias was a prominent Greco-Roman city, built by Herod Antipus, in the region, a new city, one of the main trade routes. The story takes place around the year 30 CE. It was built upon a necropolis, an old city of the dead, just the location of it makes it unclean according to Jewish law. That would make anyone living there automatically unclean. What would attract such people to live in Tiberias then? They are under Roman rule in this city– does ‘salvation’ mean to the Jews liberation from the oppressive Romans, yes, this is a part of it. The other part of salvation is about the way they live.
  • Here again we see the people relying on miracles before they believe in Jesus.
  • Verse 5– “Where are we to buy the bread…”, Jesus is testing here. Exodus 20:20– Moses tells the people not to be afraid, God is testing you. There is also the theme of testing in the passage about are the people going to be content in the roaming in the wilderness with what God provides.
  • A large crowd of 5,000 following him because of the signs he had been doing. Poor, destitute, impure and enslaved people materially. Jesus is looking for a deeper faith than in his signs. This is a passage all about the poor and God providing for them. Unless you are poor you really don’t know how these people feel. Unless you are poor you don’t understand what they are thinking.
  • Verse 7– addresses Philip. The only time Bryan Jon knows that Philip is addressed. Philip shows his doubt. Andrew tells Jesus that there is a boy here with food– this shows to me that Andrew sees a glimmer of hope.
  • This is the first time we see God feeding the people in the New Testament (fact check this). How do you literally take such a small amount of food and feed so many people? There is significance in the numbers in the passage– 5 loaves, 2 fish and 12 baskets of leftovers. The 12 baskets refers to the tribes of Israel. 5 is usually tied to the Pentateuch, the law. 2 fish– the tablets and giving of the law, but John has not come across this explanation, we do know what the 2 signifies. Does it signify Adam and Eve (my thought and wondering).
  • Barley signifies that the people are poor because normally they would be eating wheat bread. These people are desperate. At the time of the Passover they should be in Jerusalem, but we conjecture that they stayed back because they were poor, to fend for themselves, a lot of them hanging around Tiberias resorting to begging, who had stayed around to check out this Jesus figure and perhaps gain some hope. Jesus invites them to a fertile region, to lean back (sit down in the Greek), and enjoy a communal meal together. These people are materially enslaved by the system but also psychologically.
  • Verse 10– sit down, this is recline and relax, we’re going to have a meal together, in the Greek it’s sit back and prepare for a communal meal, and this is calming them down also. Bryan Jon has eaten meals with people of this area of the world, when they eat they lounge, they lie back and relax.
  • Was it 10,000 plus people? Because in those times only the men were counted– 5,000 men, plus 5,000 uncounted women and children.
  • How does this amount of food feed 5,000 or 10,000– this is a teaching moment, that when sharing a little goes a long way, much further than when you are one person just trying to feed yourself. Example, the Finkhaus groceries, only a little more money feeds 7 people rather than just 1 person. Community spreads the wealth, saves resources, makes food go further. Jesus is trying to teach the people how to live, and us. The story of how to live has been lost in the rulers of the time, this is period and system of extraction and indulgences. The stories get lost and Jesus brings the stories back and gives them deeper meaning.
  • Verse 4: the Passover was near. In John’s narration it does not seem to be the same Passover at the time of his crucifixion. This is probably a different Passover. Normally in the synoptic gospels the time of Passover is usually the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • Mount Tabor is close by, verse 3 and verse 15 where Jesus withdraws to the mountain. Had a great deal of grass in the place, verse 10. This is signaling fertility in the region. Exodus 19– the Israelites reach Mt. Sinai. Passover is also connected to the Exodus text.
  • Verse 9– the child has food and shares. Perhaps other people had food also, and this is how they are all feed, but only after the child sets the example for the rest of the crowd to share what they had also. This is just a theory. We do not know. These people are ordinarily desperate and hoarding what they have to themselves, making sure that they survive and have food. Jesus and the boy sets a different example. Sharing provides for more/many.
  • Verse 11– distribution, sharing, jubilee, re-distribute, it’s a teaching moment– Jesus is teaching them how to share again. Jesus invites them to site down, lie back, relax, and share– it’s teaching in a very bodily way how to be community again. This is community building.
  • Verse 12– when they were satisfied they gather up the remaining food. 12 baskets– signifying the tradition of the tribes of Israel.
  • Verse 15: the Jews were coming to force him to be king. Jesus is not going to get to his rule that way, He is envisioning a different kind of kingship of course. He’s not going to attain His kingship by earthly means, so he withdraws.