Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John 7:37-52

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4, Lenten cycle, most recently Feb 23, 2014.

There are a number of preaching directions that examination of this text offers.  I think the biggest however is not simply a Greek work, but a Hebrew festival, namely, the feast of Tabernacles.  Jesus turns it all around!

Key words (by key I mean I found them interesting):
κοιλια ("stomach" or "womb" 7:38)  Elsewhere in John and throughout the Gospels/Acts, this word refers to womb.  (See John 3:4 and the first encounter with Nicodemeus or Luke 1:41).  In this case, it cannot be womb because Jesus isn't just talking about women; in fact, the possessive adjective here is "his"; "his womb" doesn't make sense.  But what does make sense is "belly", certainly not heart (NRSV).  This however, doesn't sound so good:  "Out of a believer's gut will come living waters."  But there might be something there to preach on!

χριστος ("Christ", 7:41)  Just a simple reminder that messiah in Hebrew = christ in Greek = anointed in English.  Calling Jesus the Christ is a huge confession of faith.  But it is also an interesting play on cultures and languages, where "Messiah Joshua" becomes "Jesus Christ" if not "Joshua Christ" a mismash of cultural terms, which is happening again and again in John's Gospel.

σχισμα ("schism"; 7:43)  Alas,  there is division because of Christ.  Always was and will be until Jesus comes again.  See note on feast here

εορτη ("feast"; 7:37).  This term appears a great deal in John's Gospel.  John 2:23  Feast of Passover
John 5:1  Feast, perhaps Pentecost
John 6:4  Passover
John 7:2  Tabernalces
John 10:22 Hannakah
John 11+ Final passover of Jesus

In John 7, the focus is on the tabernacle.  This concluded, on the last and great day, with a procession involving the proclamation of Psalm 118:25
"Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!"

This perhaps gets at the heart of the division around Jesus.  What is success?  What do we want Jesus for?  What do we want for a Messiah?

A number of other preaching directions also come about reflecting on what else is happening during this festival:

During Sukkot, two important ceremonies took place. The Hebrew people carried torches around the temple, illuminating bright candelabrum along the walls of the temple to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles. Also, the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the temple where it was poured into a silver basin beside the altar. The priest would call upon the Lord to provide heavenly water in the form of rain for their supply. During this ceremony the people looked forward to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Some records reference the day spoken of by the prophet Joel.
In the New Testament, Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles and spoke these amazing words on the last and greatest day of the Feast: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." (John 7:37-38 NIV) The next morning, while the torches were still burning Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 NIV)

Textual criticism:
The actual reading of John 7:39 regarding the "coming" or "existenance" of the Spirit is really interesting.  There are three to four common ways the ancient texts read:
"the spirit was not yet"
"the Holy Spirit was not yet"
"the Holy Spirit was not yet upon the them"
"the Holy Spirit was not yet given"
The reading "the spirit was not yet" has the best internal evidence, but a number of the manuscripts line up behind the final two readings.  Many of the readings have corrections suggesting that many were not comfortable with the original!  Therefore, I agree with the NET assessment (which uses the "not yet given") translation
"Although only B and a handful of other NT MSS supply the participle dedome,non (dedomenon), this is followed in the translation to avoid misunderstanding by the modern English reader that prior to this time the Spirit did not exist. John's phrase is expressed from a human standpoint and has nothing to do with the preexistence of the third Person of the Godhead."

Back to me:  In John 1, the Spirit is already existing (John the Baptist sees it).  So I don't think we can really argue that the Spirit doesn't exist in John's Gospel before the resurrection.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

John 6:35-59

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4, Lenten cycle, most recently Feb 16, 2014.

Here is a link to another John 6 post on the bread of life:
The themes of John 6 manifest themselves in every portion of the chapter.  This conclusion just drives home a few points, again, stated in the rest of the chapter (if not the whole book!).  A few ideas for sermons:

- eternal life is a present (its a gift):
        Jesus says that he will give διδωμι (6:51) the bread of life.  Everlasting life is a gift.

- eternal life is present
       The verb εχω ("have", 6:54) is in the present tense:  "The one who eats/drinks HAS eternally life CONTINUALLY" is how this passage should read.  There is a dimension of eternal life that includes the resurrection of the dead, but this is not when life begins.
       I think also worth dwelling on here is that the eternal life comes through the flesh and blood, the bread and the wine.  Jesus uses earthly things, even broken things, to give eternal life.  To get to eternal life, we've got to get into earthly life, to put it another way.  Much to ponder and many directions here for a sermon!

- eternal life is a presence
        Jesus says that those who eat μενω ("abide", 6:56) in him.  This is a key theme in the Gospel of John, in fact, one of the opening questions -- where are you abiding? (John 1:38).  Eteneral life is the same thing as staying with Jesus.  So what does eternal life look like?  Well, it looks/feels like that amazing feeling of knowing that we are in the presence of God.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

John 4:46-52

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4, Lenten cycle, most recently Feb 9, 2014.

Summary:  Did the faith produce the healing?  Well, the Greek suggests that belief in Jesus' word only comes after the boy has been healed.  In this way, the word produced both the healing and the faith.  On the otherhand, the father demonstrates his faith by going to Jesus in the first place.  I don't think this story solves this age old conundrum.  I don't think it is meant to be solved.  What I find more interesting is that Jesus never proclaims the son healed; rather he says the son is alive.  I think there are many cases where are ministry isn't about offering people the healing they want, but giving them life, amid grief and illness.

Lastly, I cannot figure out why "go down" appears three times in this passage.

Key words:

βασιλικος ("royal", 4.46)  This adjective is related to the word for king.  The NET Bible claims this official must have been related to or working for King Herod.  The suggests that the person going to Jesus is willing to engage in risky business.  While Herod has not set out against Jesus, Jesus has already upset the temple in Jerusalem and shortly will have people coming after him to kill him.

ζη ("live", 4:50, 51, 53, present tense for of ζαω)  I don't know how the translators mess this one up.  Every single time the verb is in the present tense:  You son is alive.  There is nothing future about it.  Jesus says and it is so.  This is really important because it shows that the healing is not based on the faith of the person.  When is the healing accomplished.  When Jesus says so.  Why?  This question is not answered here.

ηρωτα ("ask" imperfect form of ερωταω, 4:47)  The man continually is asking for Jesus help here; a sign of faith or despiration?

ιασηται ("heal" aorist form of ιαομαι, 4:47)  This verb is not as common as I expected in the Gospels, a few times here and there, mostly in Luke and only once in Mark.  It comes into English as psychiatry. I think it is a deep question:  Is it our mission, or Jesus' mission, to offer healing?  Healing is almost always thrust upon Jesus, the only exception being his command that the disciples go and heal (Luke 9.2).  Even here it comes after the proclamation of the Word.  To put it another way, healing (and the sick) will come with the proclamation of the Word.  The words intnetion is not healing as we see it, but life.  I think this opens up more doors -- what is living?  How can be sick still have life?  In fact, the text next says he was healed of all his problems, just that the fever left him, he was better and he was living.

πιστευω ("believe", throughout this section, including 4:50)  This verb means trusting.  In this case, trust doesn't produce following Jesus, it creates a situation in which someone can walk away from Jesus.  Again, most times we think of trust as creating a situation of moving closer to Jesus, but in this case, the faith creates a situation of letting go, letting go of his anxiety about his son, letting go of his need to be next to Jesus.

καταβαινω ("come down," 4:47,49, 51)  Okay, I cannot figure it out.  This word appears three times in this story.  It appears big time in John 6 (the true bread from heaven).  And then it stops.  It is as if the incarnation reaches its high point in John's Holy Communion story (chapter 6) and then he is done going down.  I'd like some more thoughts on this.