Wednesday, May 13, 2020

John 14:15-21

Summary:  Typically I have preached on the Acts 17 passage that matches up with this.  However, I would offer that this passage carefully shows that the work of Jesus and the Spirit are far more similar than we typically describe.  Still working on how this fleshes itself out into a Sermon -- likely the Acts passage puts this on display!  I wonder if the Acts passage shows this Spirit at work, as we bear witness to the truth.

Key words
αλλον (form of αλλος, meaning "another", 14:16)  By using the word "another" Jesus here identifies himself with the work of the Spirit.  The Spirit's activity will be the same as Jesus.

παρακλετος (literally 'paraklete', meaning "counselor", 14:16)  I've done a longer posts on this word, you can read about this here:  Key nuggets
  • Paraklete is often translated "advocate"; this is very "cold" translation of this term.  The idea is for more intimate in John's Gospel
  • When advocacy is done by the Spirit, it is not protecting us from God's judgment, but rather giving us words of witness before the world.
η ("he is", forced into a subjective voice by the ινα clause).  My point:  The father intends to be with us.  Why I argue this, against the NIV translation that the Spirit will be with us?  The subject of the main sentence is "the father" as in the "the Father will give you another paraklete."  The subordinate clause, "in order that he might be with you forever" does not have a new subject in Greek.  The subject is included in the conjugated verb, "he/she/it is."  It does not make sense to me that the subordinate clause would get a new subject.  Jesus is making the point that the Father will still be with us through the Spirit.

What is at stake here?  Too often we have a bad Trinitarian formulation in that God the Father is mad, God the son is bloody and God the Spirit is somehow arguing to God the Father that God the Father's judgment is all wrong.  Jesus is saying that God's Spirit will continue the work Jesus has done, to bring humanity back to God.

αληθεια (it adds an ς in the genitive case, means 'truth', 14.17)  First, I consider it ironic that the comforter is one who brings truth.  Typically truth and comfort do not go hand in hand!  Second, it is worth noting that Jesus just proclaimed himself the way, truth and life.  Now the Spirit is the vessel of truth.  Again, connecting the word of the Spirit and Jesus!

υμιν (you plural in dative form, 14.17 and 14.20)  Throughout this section, the you is always in the plural:  "All y'all will live."  "I am with all y'all."  This is especially worth noting when Jesus says "I am in you."  Typically we hear this in an inner-personal way -- Jesus is in my heart.  Yet this construction:  "εν υμιν" (20) should more be translated "among you."  The evidence of Jesus is not found within our own heart, but within the whole community.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

John 14:1-14

This passage occurs during the Easter Season in the Revised Common Lectionary, year A, most recently May, 2020.
"I am the way, the truth and the life."  These three words tempt us to make Jesus an abstraction, a philosophical deity.  Yet the philosophical God always disappoints in times of trial and suffering.  For God's alleged goodness and power do not make sense alongside the suffering we experience.  I think the COVID situation is challenging all of us to consider our words:  Who is God and what can we say about God in times of suffering.  Jesus invites us to look away from speculation about who God might be and look to him to discover who God is.

Key Words
ταρασσεσθω ("troubled" or "grieved", a form of ταρασσεσθω, 14:1). 
This is what I wrote in earlier:
Jesus himself will be grieved in John 12:27 and 13:21.  Here though he tells the disciples not to grieve.  Perhaps this a beautiful example of the communicatio idiomatum (the exchange of properties between God and man in Jesus Christ on the cross, often called the Glorious Exchange by Luther).  Jesus takes on our grief so that we don't have to grieve anymore. 
This is what I write now, in light of the COVID situation:
While my previous post is theologically interesting, I would struggle to tell people that Jesus grieves in our place so that we do not have to.  Grief is necessary and I would rather let people hear permission to grieve.  Of course, Christ comforts us and leads us besides still waters.  But weeping over what is lost is not a bad thing.  So I would lean into the translation of this verb as "be agitated" or "troubled."  Jesus takes on our agitation so that we don't have to be!!  That is something more akin to what I like.

πιστευετε ("believe" or "trust" 14:1).  This is second week of Greek 101 vocabulary.  Yet a few things
a)  In the Gospel of John, faith is never a noun, but is always a verb -- believing.  Faith is always an act, never a concept! 
b)  This not necessarily a command.  The indicative and imperative forms of present tense 2nd person verbs are the same.  It could just as easily read:  "You are trusting in God and trusting in me."
c)  It is a plural command.  It is for the whole community, not just the individual.

οικια - μονη  ("house" and "rooms" 14:2)  This is a translation trap.  A μονη does mean a dwelling place and does come from the Greek for dwell/abide, μενω, a word of great importance in John's Gospel.  However, if one translates it as "dwelling place" it sounds so abstract!  οικια does not mean mansion (as in my Father's house has many mansions), but I suppose if God lives there, it is a big house.

It is interesting too, that later in this chapter, Jesus refers to the disciples as the dwelling place of God.  Perhaps Jesus is saying here that in the Father's house there are many dwelling places not because there are rooms in the hotel (or mansions in the suburb development) but because we have God dwells in the hearts of the believers.

εγω ειμι (I am, 14:6)  When Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life" he includes the subject, the pronoun "I."  He says, εγω ειμι.  The word εγω is unnecessary because ειμι means "I am."  Normally the use of a pronoun with a conjugated verb is simply done for emphasis.  To be translated "I, I mean I, am the way." 

Something else may be going on here though!  In the OT, God will also use the phrase εγω ειμι to name himself.  Like in Exodus 3:14  "I am who I am" begins with εγω ειμι. Often times in the Gospel, Jesus seems to refer to himself as God by calling himself εγω ειμι.  Like in Matthew 14:17 Jesus tells them not to be afraid as he walks across the water, for "It is I" or in Greek: εγω ειμι.  Peter responds by calling him κυριε, which means Lord, another name for God, and then Peter follows him out of the boat.  In John 18:6, when Jesus refers to himself as εγω ειμι, all the soldiers fall in reverence, because Jesus is declaring himself God.  So, what about John 14:6 and the other εγω ειμι sayings in John, of which there are many?  Are these all declarations of Jesus divinity?  Yes!  John does play on this ancient name for God, but in Jesus Christ we continue to discover anew God's identity:  Here, the way, truth and life.

αρκει ("satisfy," form of αρκεω, 14:8)  Philip earlier complains that a huge amount of bread wouldn't be enough to satisfy the crowd; now he claims that seeing the Father will satisfy him.  Obviously Phillip doesn't get it!

εωρακως ("have seen," form of οραω, 14:9)  Jesus says that if they have seen him, they have seen the Father.  What have the disciples seen of Jesus
- Weeping over Lazurus and the grief in the community
- Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey
- Being worshiped by a woman
- Giving bread to his betrayer
- Washing his disciples feet
This is God!

εργα ("works," 14:12)  Yes folks, faith does make works.  It is worth pointing out that here, there is no subjunctive in this sentence.  Simply, the one who is believing will do works