Monday, January 9, 2017

John 1:29-42

This passage occurs in the Epiphany season of the Revised Common Lectionary (Year A), most recently January 15, 2017.
Summary:  John's narrative is very basic to read...because he only uses about 30 words in 14 verses!  He invites us into the world of the Old Testament, he invites us to follow Jesus, and he also invites us into witnessing ourselves to the lamb of God.  Speaking of the lamb of God, what is John getting at here?  There is no lamb in the OT who takes away the sins on the day of atonement.  The main lamb in the Old Testament is the passover lamb, which has nothing to do with sins!  John's creativity, hopefully, inspires our preaching and teaching.

ερχομαι & οραω (1:39; 1:46; 4:29; 11:34, 19:33; 20:8 "Come and see")  These two verbs come together s number of times in John's Gospel.  A quite impressive list actually: 
A) When Jesus begins his ministry
B)  When the woman at the well returns to her hometown to invite others (different cognate for "come");
C)  When they bring Jesus to Lazarus' tomb
D)  When they find Jesus on the cross
E)  When they come to the empty tomb. 

John's Gospel invites us to come and see again and again, ultimately even the resurrection (20:8).

αμνος  (1:29; 36, "lamb").  The imagery of "lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" often makes us think of animal sacrifices in the Old Testament.  However, the main sacrifices on Yom Kippur (day of atonement) were not lambs, but a bull and two goats!  In fact, other sin offerings (Lev 4&5) are not lamb offerings but again bulls and goats.  I am sure that many other summaries would be better than this one, but the lamb was used in OT times for sacrifices in the following manner:
Daily offerings (Exodus 29):  To please the Lord and welcome his presence
Lepers (Leviticus 14):  To cleanse the lepers by its blood
Passover Meal (Exodus 12):  To protect the Israelites from the angel of death by its blood marking the door panes.

A lamb could be used a burnt offering, a type of sin offering, but we are getting further afield here.  The point of this discourse is to say that in the Jewish sacrifice model of the Old Testament, you do not find a theology where a lamb is constantly being used to take away the sins of the individuals.  Isaiah 53 develops the idea of the suffering servant as a lamb led to slaughter, but again the point here is that one cannot simply draw a nice line from OT sacrifice to Messiah predictions to Gospel of John.  Okay, you can, but it is not so simple.

More deeply, I do not think the Gospel of John is advocating an angry God who slaughters Jesus to be happy.  I think John is riffing on Old Testament themes here, but the connection between Lamb of God, Jesus and "taking away" the sins of the world, moves far beyond what the Old Testament was prepared to acknowledge.  Is this a problem?  Not for this Christian.  I just want to point out that John 1:29 is probably not a good time to bring out angry God needs a Jesus animal sermon.

μαρτυρεω (1:32, "witness")  This verb appears 33 times in the Gospel of John!!  It means to testify.  It came to take on the connotation of "martyr" as people began to die for testifying to the truth.  Stephen is often considered the first martyr (Acts 7 and 8), but it is worth remembering that John the Baptist also died.
Cheap sermon insight:  3+3=6.  Bad number.  Needs one more witness to be complete.  That witness is you.

επαρυριον (1:29, 1:35, 1:43, "tomorrow")  This little word appears three times in this section.  It is kind of a nice progression.  The first day Jesus is pointed out to the people.  On the second day, the people begin following Jesus.  On the third day they begin to invite others.

Grammar note: 
The present tense often connotes continuous action.  This can create some great insights but also make the narrative illogical.  For example, in verse 1:43, Jesus goes to find (ευρισκω; present tense) Philipp.  In the narrative this makes no sense that he "continually is finding" Philipp.  On the other hand, it does make sense  in theological terms that Jesus always is finding Philipp!  Then Jesus is saying (λεγω in the present), or really "continually saying" to Philipp, follow me.  This could make sense in both the narrative and in theology.  In fact, even the verb for follow (ακολουθεω), is in the present, meaning Jesus intends for Philipp to keep following him.  This all works out great on a theological level, but it pushes the narrative to the limits.  This is especially true when these verbs are used in the present tense in verse 41, when Andrew finds his brother to tell him about Jesus.  Is Andrew also continually finding Jesus and continually telling Peter about Jesus?   It was ingrained into me the "continuous" nature of the present tense.  This can create some great theological insight, but we cannot completely rest on it because authors often stretch the tenses more than we might expect.

John 1:41
ευρισκει ουτος προτον τον αδελφον τον ιδιον Σιμονα και λεγει αυτω  ευρηκαμεν τον Μεσσιαν ο εστιν μεθερμηνευομενον χριστος
John 1:41:    He first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed).

We divide by punctuation and conquer: 
1)  ευρισκει ουτος προτον τον αδελφον τον ιδιον Σιμονα και λεγει αυτω
We find the subject and verb:
ευρισκει:  he/she/it finds - main verb
ουτος:  he -- subject!
προτον:  adjective in accusative case as an adverb: "first" or really "firstly"
τον αδελφον τον ιδιον Σιμονα:  His own brother Simon
και λεγει αυτω:  Another sentence:  "He is saying to him."
   Tricky to recognize this as another subject and verb combo, but the familiarity of the verb should make it possible.
2)  ευρηκαμεν τον Μεσσιαν
We have found the Messiah.  We is implicit in the verb.
3)  ο εστιν μεθερμηνευομενον χριστος
who/what/which is translated Christos.  Notice the o has a an accent and rough breathing accent, which means it is a relative pronoun.
So this sentence can almost be read word for word, once you divide it up.  The complicated part, as a we discussed in the grammar review, is translating the present tenses of the verb.

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