Tag Archives: John

continuing the conversation: The Only Way?

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Yesterday morning John preached on the question of whether Jesus is the Only Way…we read from the gospel according to John, chapter 14: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

There are lots of questions embedded in this one question. Are people who aren’t Christians going to hell? What about people who faithfully follow other religions? What about people who demonstrate what we might call Christian life (love, compassion, helping, etc) but don’t believe in Jesus? What does “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” mean?

John talked about the idea of the Jesus Window–that Jesus is a window through which the light of God shines on us and a window through which we can see God. If there are many dwelling places in God’s house, that also likely means there are many windows. What do you think of this idea? John went on to say that he believes the Jesus Window to offer the fullest view of God and to let the most light in. What are your thoughts?

At 9:00 the song after the sermon was called “Cannot Keep You”–how does this song help or hinder your pondering of this topic?

Click the “comment” link to join the conversation with your ideas, thoughts, prayers, and questions about this topic!

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with the Word online Bible study: I hear, I see, I learn

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John 1:35-39

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

What do you hear in this story? What stands out for you and catches your attention?

Why do you think John’s disciples abandoned John and started following Jesus? (Can you picture the scene? John and some disciples hanging out, maybe on the edge of town, maybe on the path down to the river…a guy walks by, John exclaims, and the two disciples start walking off down the road behind Jesus!)

Why do you think Jesus asks “What are you looking for?” What are the disciples looking for? If it were you, what would you be looking for?

Why did the disciples ask “where are you staying?” It seems like a strange thing to ask. If you could ask Jesus a question, what would it be?

“come and see.” That’s the heart of the matter, isn’t it? The disciples came and saw…and stayed.

How do you hear, see, and learn? What stands in the way of your hearing, seeing, or learning? What obstacles keep you from coming and seeing and staying?

Psalm 119 says “with my whole heart I seek you”–which sounds like what these disciples did. They were seeking God, and so whole-heartedly that they left the known, their beloved rabbi, at the hint of one who could bring them closer to God. How do you seek God? With your whole heart? half-heartedly? accidentally?

Whatever the status of our seeking, Jesus asks us to “come and see.” How will we do that today?

Bible in 90 Days: Day 75

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BiND:  Day 75

 

Today we cross a strange line in our reading.  We finish Luke’s gospel, but instead of going directly to its sequel (Acts), we hop over into John, whose writing and focus and context are very different. 

In the end of Luke we see Jesus again as very human, showing emotions such as sadness, anxiety, and compassion.  We also hear him say, in the face of violence, “no more!”  And then, after the resurrection, we read the stories that in many ways characterize the church today, especially the Emmaus Road story.  The disciples don’t know what’s just happened, and they don’t recognize Jesus when he comes to walk beside them, but at the table they get just a little glimpse before he’s gone—and that glimpse is enough for them to rush back and testify to what they have seen and heard.  Isn’t that just how we are?  We don’t always recognize Jesus even when he’s walking alongside us, but at the communion table we get a glimpse of Christ and of the kingdom of God, and that little taste is enough to empower us to share the story. 

 

And then we turn the page and find ourselves reading John.  Again, “John” is a name that was attached later to an anonymous writing, and tradition holds to be the name of the “beloved disciple” who is mentioned a couple of times (though never named, and always written about in the third person).  Just as Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote from and to their own contexts, so does John.  We talked about sources:  the vast majority of scholars agree that Mark was written first, then used as a source by both Matthew and Luke, along with a source scholars call “Q”—material found in both Matthew and Luke but not Mark (implying that there must have been a document or a body of work from which they could both draw, since they are often word-for-word the same).  Then both Matthew and Luke had their own sources as well, generally called “M” and “L” (how original).  John, however, is different.  He does not appear to have had any of these sources, and his writing about Jesus overlaps very little with the synoptic gospels.  (synoptic comes from two Greek words that mean “seeing together.”)  So John reads very differently from the first three, and he portrays Jesus differently as well.  John is concerned with refuting Gnosticism (the idea that special secret knowledge is the key to salvation), though in the process he often sounds like a Gnostic himself.  He writes mainly theology, not history.  He presents a Jesus who works few miracles and tells few parables, but spends a lot of time in extended theological discourse.  John is also the most “greek” of the gospel writers—his language use is easy to understand yet sophisticated, his writing style is similar to that of the greek philosophers, and he is pretty clearly writing in the late 1st century to a community of probably mostly gentile Christians.  He also presents a very high “Christology”—understanding of Jesus—which is primarily about Jesus’ divinity, whereas we saw, for instance, in Mark, a lot of humanity.  This is one of the reasons having all four gospels, all four portraits of Jesus, is important:  we get a balance, a variety of perspectives and vantage points, a variety of understandings, all of which capture part of the story but, because God can’t be captured in words, not all of it.  There are other gospels, mostly written much later, that didn’t make the canonical cut—if you’re interested in reading some, I have a collection in my office, so just ask!

 

John opens with a beautiful rhetorical move that is beloved by many:  “in the beginning was the Word”—the logos, the divine word/logic.  God’s logic has come into the world.  God’s Word (with a Capital W), has been made flesh.  In the beginning of Genesis, we see God creating with a word, and now the Word is living among us, re-creating.  It’s one of the most beautiful expressions of who Jesus is that we have in our tradition.

 

You may have noticed that one of the first things Jesus does is have a Temple Tantrum—right at the beginning of his ministry.  In John, Jesus is out and about for three years, whereas in the synoptic gospels he’s out for just one year.  So we have a clue about how John views Jesus, right in the opening pages.  In the other three gospels, the Temple tantrum is the last straw that leads to Jesus’ arrest.  In John, though, it’s just the beginning—an announcement of who he is and what he’s come to do.  (Important note:  Throughout John the phrase “the Jews” comes up over and over.  This has often been used to create and foster anti-semitism, and it’s important to remember that Jesus and his followers were all Jews.  “the Jewish religious leaders” is a better translation in the context of the greek and the socio-political-religious situation of the day.) 

 

What else did you notice as you finished Luke and started on John today?

photos are:  a 2000+ year old olive tree in the garden of Gethsemane; some friends standing in the “Upper Room” in Jerusalem, wondering if Jesus and the disciples really celebrated Passover in a neo-gothic room built of cement on the second floor of a large building; a page of John from the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest known manuscript of the Bible–this page is the only one remaining at St. Katherine’s monastery at Mt. Sinai (for which the codex is named) because the others have been taken by the British Museum and promised back but never returned; and a scale model of the Temple, part of a scale model of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, just outside the Jerusalem city limits.