Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘John’ Category

In yesterday’s review of D A Carson’s The God Who Is There I mentioned being struck by the echoes of Exodus 32-34 he found in the prologue to John’s Gospel, specifically John 1:14-18.  For those interested, I’m listing the 5 he discusses on pages 111-117.

1. Tabernacle & Temple: John 1:14 states, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  “Made his dwelling” can also be literally translated as “tabernacled.”  In the next chapter of John (2:19-21) Jesus refers to Himself as the Temple.  The choice of wording in both places is not accidental, as the Tabernacle and Temple were where God’s presence dwelt.

2. Glory: John writes in v14, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son.”  This recalls Moses’ prayer, “Now show me your glory” (and Moses only sees the “backside of his glory,” to use a Caedmon’s Call lyric).

3. Grace and Truth (Love and Faithfulness): John, again in v14, describes Jesus as “full of grace and truth.”  When God passes by Moses, who is hiding in a cave, he is described as “abounding in [or full of] love and faithfulness,” (the bracketed portion is Carson’s insertion) which could also be translated “grace and truth.”

4. Grace and Law: In vv16-17, John writes, “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  This recalls the given of the law to Moses (which first happens in Exodus), which was a gracious gift, but surpassed by the grace that comes through Christ.

5. Seeing God: John writes in v18, “No one has ever seen God,” which recalls Exodus 33:20, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”  The implications for Jesus’ divinity are strong.  This shouldn’t be a surprise, of course, because John already said the “Word was God” (v1) and “the Word became flesh” (v14).  Jesus is God in the flesh.  This is why Jesus can later say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9).

It would be a fun exercise to sit down and come up with all the echoes of the Old Testament in John’s Prologue (1:1-18) as there are many.  While his discussion was relatively brief, Carson encouraged me to think more deeply as I read through these familiar passages and look for ways the writer is pulling from the Old Testament.

Read Full Post »

Considering Lazarus

During a recent discussion in our church’s training school, I commented that in all of Jesus’ parables, he never once names any of his characters.  The people are always generic:  son, servant, master, builder, Samaritan, etc.  I was quickly corrected, however, and reminded that there is one parable wherein Jesus names some of his players.  The parable is found in Lk. 16:19ff, and is commonly called “The Rich Man and Lazarus.”  You can read the full text here.

Why is Lazarus named in this parable?  Tim Keller makes the claim that Lazarus’ name is significant in that it makes the contrast between Lazarus and the rich man all the more stark:  the rich man, who by earthly standards is ‘somebody,’  has no name in the parable, whereas Lazarus, a poor man (‘nobody’), has a name.  Even more, Lazarus means “God is my help.”  Perhaps this suggests, however subtly, that the rich man is one who trusts in earthly status (i.e., wealth) for help.  Jesus is speaking among Pharisees, after all (c.f., 15:2, 16:14), whom Luke reminds us are lovers of money (16:14).  We should also note that Biblical names very often speak to the character and identity of the individual.  The poor man’s character and identity are wrapped up in God, whereas the rich man has no character or identity outside of his wealth.

Jesus’ parable ends with the Rich man’s plea to Abraham to raise Lazarus from the dead so he may warn his brothers of their impending judgment.  Abraham’s reply is that “If [your brothers] do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if somebody rises from the dead” (16:31).  I had always taken this verse to be foreshadowing Jesus’ own death and resurrection.  Says Jesus,  “You Pharisees are so hard of heart that even if I rise from the dead, you won’t believe me.”  Fast forward to Acts 4, and you can almost hear Jesus saying, “See?”

But perhaps v.31 is referring to the actual  Lazarus whom Jesus did raise from the dead (Jn. 11:38-44).  Note again the response of the Pharisees:  Not only do they want to kill Jesus (11:47-53), but they want Lazarus dead, too (12:10).  The resurrection of Lazarus is certainly a hinge point in John’s gospel, not unlike Peter’s confession in is a hinge point in Mark (Mk. 8:27-30).  Both are centerpieces in their respective gospels, and mark the beginning of Christ’s road to the Cross.

Because of the importance of Lazarus’ resurrection in John’s gospel, some have wondered why the synoptic accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do not include it.  It has been speculated that one of the reasons why the synoptics do not mention Lazarus is precisely because of Jn. 12:10, i.e., Lazarus is a marked man.  Since the synoptics could have circulated when Lazarus was still alive, the writers engaged in a “witness protection program” of sorts.  John, which is widely believed to have been written later than the synoptics, retells the story because by then Lazarus is dead.

The conservative exegete in me wants to limit the importance of Lazarus’ naming in the parable to a literary device created to contrast his character with that of the rich man.  This stays closest to Luke’s text and immediate context.  I am more cautious about taking v.31 to refer to the real Lazarus simply because it requires some speculation, however well-informed.  We could also play the “both/and” card here, and make the claim that v.31 refers to Lazarus and Jesus.  Thankfully, the referrant of v.31 brings little to bear on the point(s) of the parable itself, so I’m ultimately content to let it rest there, and perhaps add it to my list of questions to ask the Lord when I meet Him face to face, or at least to the list of reasons why I need a good commentary on Luke.

Read Full Post »

The Feeling in the Upper Room

When I was 27, I had surgery on my left kidney.  On the day of the operation, I was nervous for what lay ahead.  I recall being in the prep room with my father, about an hour or so before they were going to take me away, and the mood was heavy and sober.  Even though we both had faith in the Lord, it was an anxious moment:  What would happen?  Would I make it?  Would I suffer much?  Would there be complications?  Our anxiety was understandable; it was major surgery, after all.  Still, consider the environment:  Here I was, in an American hospital, where several highly trained, highly skilled doctors and nurses were committed to preserve my life, and ease my suffering.  A whole team of men and women who devoted their lives to study would do all in their power to make sure that no harm would befall me.  To boot, I was surrounded by technology unimaginable even a few decades ago; the product of countless millions of hours of research, development and testing all aimed at ensuring my safety and health. Even more, my father and pastor were with me; standing with me to pray for me and comfort me through this trial.  Even more friends and family stood with me in prayer in their homes.

Contrast this with Jesus’ situation in Jn.13-17.  Here, in His well known final discourse, He shares the passover meal with His disciples.  He is hours away from his own “procedure.”  He anticipates being put into the “care” of individuals committed to ensuring that he suffers as much as possible.  Their aim was to do all in their power to ensure that he dies a horrendous, humiliating, and excruciating death.  Their training was geared towards that end: to harm, hurt, humiliate and kill.  If my soul was sober and troubled before my operation, imagine the trouble He felt in his soul as He had that ahead of him.  Yet, in that place, among the people who would desert him, he serves them (Jn. 13), speaks comfort and peace to them (Jn.14:1; 16:33), and prays for them (Jn.17).  That, friends, is our amazing God.

Read Full Post »